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«HAWAIIAN ASTRONOMICAL CONCEPTS I1 By MAUD W. MAKEMSON N T H E fragmentary astronomical tradition handed down from the I ancient Hawaiians are found ...»

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HAWAIIAN ASTRONOMICAL CONCEPTS I1

By MAUD W. MAKEMSON

N T H E fragmentary astronomical tradition handed down from the

I ancient Hawaiians are found five distinct classifications of the heavenly

bodies. The native authorities for these divisions are Kepelino, Kanalu,

Kamohoula, Laukahikupua and Kupahu respectively.

There are two general types of “star” according to Kepelino,’ the fixed

and the moving. At first glance this resembles the division of the heavenly bodies by the ancient Greeks into (a) the fixed stars, which maintain their configurations, and (b) the planets, which wander among the constellations of the zodiac. The similarity, however, is only in the nomenclature.

Kepelino subdivides the fixed stars into three groups: (a) the greater stars which include the sun, moon and Venus; (b) the stars used as guides in navigation; and (c) the Zalani, or “stars of heaven.” The second large class he characterizes as negligible: “They are many in number and are scattered over the firmament and their only reason for existence is to give a little light to earth a t night.” The sun is the chief star over all stars, the great star of the god Kane.

Its rising gives the name hikina to the east and its setting the name komohana to the west. The moon is the “great whiteness created by Kane,” called variously malama, “light,” and mahina, “white.” The moon was considered of great importance because its ever-changing phase gave names to the days of the month, and its monthly cycles provided a natural unit of time on which to base the calendar.

The third of the great stars, Hokuloa, is unmistakably Venus. This planet was variously called Hokuloa, “great star,” Hoku-alii-wahina, (‘chiefess star,” Ka’awela, “star close to the sun,” Ka-eleele-o-ka-wanaoa, messenger of day,” and Ka-hoku-komohana, “star of the west.” AS (( morning star rising before dawn, Venus served as a clock to the agriculturist. “For,” Kepelino continues, “it was customary to till the land in the early morning while it was yet cool, and when the cultivators saw the Great Star they went a t once to their farming and other labor.” As evening star, Hokuloa served as guide to fishermen, homeward bound after nightfall.

The important dual role played by Venus and her unusual brilliance account for her inclusion in the class of great stars. That Hokuloa is Venus and not some other bright planet is evident from a further note that the Great Star is close to the sun and follows the same course.

1 Kepelino: Traditions of Hawaii, edited by Martha Warren Beckwith (Bernice P.

Bishop Museum Bulletin 95; Honolulu, H.I. 1932), pp. 78-82.

A M E R I C A N ANTHROPOLOGIST 41, 1939 590 IN. S., Kepelino’s second subdivision of the jixed stars contains the navigating stars, na hoku kiai aina, “those stars which are suspended over certain lands, as Hokulei over Hawaii and Hokukea over Tahiti.” Hokulei is probably a name for Arcturus which passes through the zenith of a place in latitude 19” north. Thus for a ship approaching the Hawaiian Islands from the south, Arcturus would appear to culminate higher and higher in the sky each night until it finally passed through the zenith. When this occurred, the navigator would know that he had reached the latitude of Hawaii.

Kepelino lists eight navigating stars, reputed to have been named in honor of the steersmen of Hawaii-nui, legendary discoverer of the islands, who came by canoe from Kahiki-honua-kele, “far land reached by sailing.” The eight steersmen were skilled in observing the stars, the legend runs, and each called the star he steered by after his own name. They are: Makalii, usually interpreted as the Pleiades throughout Polynesia, although Kepelino remarks that this name was applied to more than one star and one authority identifies it with Gemini; Kiopa’a, “fixed immovable,” i.e., the North Star or Polaris which has no diurnal motion; Hokuula, “red star,” Mars or Aldebaran; Iao, usually identified with Jupiter; and Kahiki-nui, Maiao,Unulau andPolohilani.Of the last group, the first three are legendary geographical names as well as star names, and Polohilani was a king of Hawaii.

The third subdivision of the fixed stars, the Lalani, is described by Kepelino as containing “stars close to the heavens and extending from one side to the other of the heavens.” They are called ruling stars. “There is a vast number of these stars, and they shine with a tiny, twinkling light, because of their great height. In the Hawaiian stories they are said to be close to the heavens.” The name Lalani undoubtedly refers to the Milky Way.

Thus the first large class of heavenly bodies in Kepelino’s astronomical education, acquired orally from the wise men of his community, includes the sun, moon, Milky Way, planets and those conspicuous stars which served a useful purpose in the Hawaiian economic life. There remain then for the second large division all those fainter stars which had no special value other than to “give a little light a t night.” T o quote Kepelino: “0 na hoku paa o na papa ekolu, a me na hoku lewa o na papa elua,” which has been translated, “Of fixed stars there are three classes; the fixed and moving stars made two classes.” The word Zezua, here translated “moving,” is used in the teachings of Kaneakahoowaha on astronomy as recorded by Kamakau2in the phrase Na hoku o ka Zewa, translated, “the stars of space,” a Kamakau, S. M.: Znstrucliuns in ancient astronomy as taught by Kaneakahoowaha, one o f the counselors of Kamehameha I. (Thrum’s Hawaiian Annual), pp. 142-3, 1891; transl. by W.





D. Alexander from the Nupepa Kuokoa of Aug. 5,1865.

H A W A I I A N A S T R O N O M I C A L CONCEPTS I I 59 1

MAKEMSON] or “foreign stars,” to distinguish them from the navigation stars or stars ruling lands. Lewa may thus be interpreted as applying to those stars which disappear from sight when the moon is shining or in twilight, while the brighter stars and planets are still visible. In this sense they are “moving” stars. Such stars would be of no value to the steersman.

T H E CLASSIFICATION OF KANALU

A second system of classifying the heavenly bodies is found in the genealogy or ancient history of Kanalu3 and consists of eight divisions,

more than half of them obviously for astrological purposes:

1. hoku alii..............royal stars

2. hoku makaainana......plebeian stars

3. hoku hoike............prophetic stars

4. hoku kahuna..........stars for priests

5. hoku a h a............,land stars

6. hoku no ke akua.......stars relating to the god

7. hoku no ka malama.... stars for every month of the year

8. hoku kilo.............stars usually observed by astrologers No individual star names are given. Of the eight divisions, the class of royal stars is likewise found in the systems of Laukahikupua and Kupahu, and the former also lists “people’s stars or stars ruling months” as a single division. Kanalu names fourteen months, instead of the usual twelve or thirteen, and states that a year consists of “hookahi puni me eha malama,” or one round (puni) and four months (malama).

T H E SYSTEM OF KAMOHOULA4

Although it is not stated explicitly, the three classes of heavenly bodies given in Kamohoula’s System of.4stronomy and Astrology appear to be based on a division of the sky into zones, northern, middle and southern, similar to those described by Collocott6 in his paper on Tongan stars and constellations. Thus there may be a connection between Kamohoula’s three classes and the sky zones pictured by Malo and Kamakau and discussed in a previous paper.6 3 Kanalu: Genealogy or Ancient History: Kuokoa Home R d a (Chas. K. Notley and Joseph M. Poepoe, Ed. Honolulu, April 9, 1909).

* Kziokoa Home Rula: Honolulu, April 9, 16 and 30, 1909.

6 Collocott: Tongan Astronomy and Calendar (Occaslonal Papers of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum Vol. VIII, No. 4, Honolulu, 1922), p. 158.

( Makemson: Hawaiian Astronomical Concepts (American Anthropologist Vol. 40,No. 3, I

–  –  –

There are 18 names in Kamohoula’s first class, five of which belong to planets. Andrews, Bishop and Alexander are quoted on the identification of these with the bright planets, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus, but with marked disagreement. Other constellations in this class are Na Hiku, “the seven,” i.e., the Big Dipper, Na Huihui, “the cluster,” or the Pleiades, and Na Hoku Humu Ma, Aquila. Na Kilo, “the darts,” universally identified as the Belt of Orion, is also included although it is situated on the celestial equator.

Na Hoku Pa, “the inclosure stars,” is here said to be identical with Leo, no authority being given. From the accompanying sketch of Na Hoku Pa and the statement that this constellation is sometimes paralleled with the stars of Humu, Aquila, I am inclined to identify it with the head of Cetus.

Humu, which is probably Altair and its two companions, lies between 6” and 10’ declination north of the celestial equator, in approximately the same parallel as the northernmost stars of Cetus. They therefore follow the same diurnal path across the heavens, as the earth rotates, and are seen in the sky a t the same time on fall evenings. I t is furthermore stated in the Home Rula that the Pa stars are sometimes paralleled with Kukuiakona, Maukuku, Keoea, Kaulumohai and others of Kamohoula’s first class.

Other conspicuous stars lying along this belt of the sky include Bellatrix and Betelgeuse in Orion, Procyon, Epsilon Pegasi, Alpha Serpentis and Alpha Ophiuchi. Among these we would expect to find the Hawaiian stars named as paralleling the Pa stars, but a closer identification is impossible.

Five of the six star names listed in Kamohoula’s second class are all interpreted by the editor as names for Sirius, the greatest of the navigation stars, which is 17” south of the celestial equator. One of these, Kauopae, is elsewhere cited as a name for Rigel (-10”). I n the same sky zone as Sirius we should expect t o find Alpha Hydrae, Spica, Deneb Kaitos and Rigel, to mention only the more conspicuous stars.

I n Kamohoula’s third class 22 stars are named. Of this number, Melemele and Polapola, said to be in the southern hemisphere and very close together, are well known Polynesian star names. This is likewise true of Makalii, of which a sketch is given, showing two triangles formed of three stars each with a bright star between them. Makalii is usually interpreted as the Pleiades, but this constellation has already appeared in class I under the name of Na Huihui. The drawing and description of Makalii fit equally well either Fomalhaut or Achernar with their neighboring fainter companions.

Among the stars of the third class are found several names of famous chiefs such as Iwikauikaua, Haloa, Keawe, Paao, Makuakaumana and

HAWAIIAN ASTRONOMICAL CONCEPTS 11

YAKEYSON] Aikanaka. The star Kane is said to have been held sacred by the old Hawaiian astrologers. T h e priests were the only ones who could see it, and its appearance foretold the death of a high chief. This description suggests an irregular, red variable star such as Mira, Omicron Ceti.’

THE SYSTEM OF LAUKAHIKUPUAE

I n the fourth stellar classification, that of Laukahikupua, the astrologer, there are three divisions: (a) royal stars; (b) people’s stars or stars ruling months; and (c) canoe-steerers’ stars. No names are given in class (a) which may either be equivalent to Kepelino’s “great stars,” or comprise those bright stars which were ascendant in the east at the time of the birth of a chieftain’s son and were thought to rule his destiny. Five “people’s stars” are named together with the month during which they were conspicuous in the east just before dawn, a t the time when the astrologers scanned the heavens for omens. T o quote illustrative fragments from the

teachings of Laukahikupua:

The astrologers were regular in their observations every morning for the wellbeing of the throne and of the people, because with them lay the question of right and wrong, of life and death, of the community. They announced the carrying out of things peaceful through their knowledge, by observation of war indications.

In our observations of Kaleikupua, the astrologer, and Kapapapa, the reliable watcher of population increase (census taker?), here they are observing the heavens as though they had the eyes of a fish-hawk. They separated properly the stars suitable for entering the uncountedstars of the astrologers,and the expert Kapapapa folk arranged certain stars for the benefit and prosperity of successive generations.

Pauloa, the people promoter, and KaweloIani, the astrologer, again chose from the remaining stars after the first selection, outside their bounds: Hokuula (Aldebaran) and Hokulei (Capella). Wives they are of Makalii (Pleiades). Kanoemakalii emerged from Hokuula and Makalii. Here are these stars set forth in their season, and when again the long year has passed, they return in the winter season.

Give strict attention to my teachings. That star standing a t the east of Hokuloa (Venus) is Kahela. I t is a star of the people, observable during the month of Ikuwa, until its close. When Kahela disappears, Kumukoa arises, the star of Hilinehu (9th

–  –  –

month).” It should be pointed out that the stars do not disappear a t the end of a month, but since each rises two hours earlier every month, they would be much higher in the sky at the end of that period. Suppose, for example, that a certain star rises in the east at 5 A.M., and is just visible above the horizon in the early morning twilight, at the beginning of the month. Rising four minutes a day earlier, it will come up at 3 A.M. by the end of the month, and will have ascended to nearly 30” above the horizon by the time the astrologers made their observations. Having thus “disappeared” from the eastern horizon, it will be replaced by another conspicuous star just rising at dawn at the beginning of the next month.



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