A distant place lying in quietness
For Kū, for Lono, for Kāne, together with Kanaloa
“The Hawaiian Kumulipo is a genealogical prayer chant linking the royal family to which it belonged not only to primary gods belonging to the whole people and worshiped in common with allied Polynesian groups, not only to deified chiefs born into the living world within the family line …”
“… but to the stars in the heavens and the plants and animals useful to life on earth, who must also be named within the chain of birth and their representatives in the spirit world thus be brought into the service of their children who live to carry on the line in the world of mankind.” (Beckwith)
Hawaiian mythology recognizes a pre-human period before mankind was born when spirits alone peopled first the sea and then the land, which was born of the gods and thrust up out of the sea.
Gods are represented in Hawaiian story as chiefs dwelling in far lands or in the heavens and coming as visitors or immigrants to some special locality in the group sacred to their worship. The four great gods worshiped throughout Polynesia were Kāne, Kanaloa, Kū and Lono. (Beckwith)
It seems likely that the four chief gods of Hawaii, with each of whom particular plants and animals that were introduced were identified, represent distinct eras of colonization in the Islands.
It is believed that the first colonizers in the Islands were worshipers of Kāne. With Kāne are identified the taro, sugar cane, and bamboo.
Therefore, that these were introduced by the first settlers, and that it was these colonizers who established systematic agriculture in those areas that were capable of systematic development by means of irrigation.
This was primarily the windward coasts and the valley areas on leeward sides of the islands, where stream systems coming down out of rain-drenched highlands made irrigation feasible.
This would have been an era of relative quiet, one of fairly isolated tribalism, before dynastic patterns and aristocratic traditions of ambitious warrior chieftains had become established. (Handy, Handy & Pukui)
Kanaloa perhaps came next after Kāne. The banana is identified with Kanaloa. In the Islands there is an interesting traditional association of Kāne and Kanaloa, in connection with the opening up of springs.
Also in the mythological account of the creation of man, Kanaloa is associated with Kāne, although he does not appear at the dawn of creation as does Kāne. It is because of the close association of Kanaloa with Kāne that we infer that Kanaloa and the banana came into the islands next after Kāne.
With the god Kū are identified the coconut tree and the breadfruit. Neither of these was planted or utilized, within historic times in Hawai‘i, nearly as extensively as would probably have been the case had they been in the islands for a long time.
It is for this reason that the Kū people were late comers. Kū, although not regarded as lord of the ocean or particularly identified with it in any other way, was the patron of fishing.
Fishing as an organized enterprise was a prerogative of the aliʻi, and everywhere in the Pacific the aliʻi pre-empted the best fishing localities.
War rituals, in Hawaii seem to have been derived from fishing rituals, and Kū was god of war, as well as of fishing. What probably happened was that as the worshipers of Kū became numerous, and rivalry over the best fishing localities brought about predatory wars. (Handy, Handy & Pukui)
The chiefs came to realize that power depended upon population, and that population was a matter of food supply. The description for Kū as a war god was Kū-the-land-snatcher, and this became the symbol of conquest and the means of reduction of the farmers.
The only one of the four major deities in Hawaii who was traditionally a human being is Lono. His apparent historical existence lends credence to the idea that he was the last of the four to come to Hawai‘i.
Lono is identified with the sweet potato, the gourd and the hog. Lono was the god of rain and storms, and as such the ‘father of waters.’
Fresh water as a life-giver was not to the Hawaiians merely a physical element; it had a spiritual connotation. In prayers of thanks and invocations used in offering fruits of the land, and in prayers chanted when planting, and in prayers for rain, the “Water of Life of Kane” is referred to over and over again.
Kane – the word means ‘male’ and ‘husband’ – was the embodiment of male procreative energy in fresh water, flowing on or under the earth in springs, in streams and rivers, and falling as rain (and also as sunshine), which gives life to plants.
There are many prayers in which “the Water of Life of Kāne” is referred to. Occasionally, you will also see the “Water of Life” of Kanaloa, of Lono and of Kū, and even of Hiʻiaka, sister of Pele, a healer.
The old priests were inclined to include in their prayers for rain and for fertility the names of the four major deities, Kāne, Kanaloa, Kū and Lono, whose roles, while on the whole distinct, overlapped in many areas of ritualistic and mythological conceptions.
The religion of the folk-planters and fishers-was sectarian to some extent; some worshiped Kāne, some Kū, some Lono, and some Kanaloa. Regardless of all such distinctions, life-giving waters were sacred. (Handy, Handy & Pukui)
When Hawaiians prayed, in order to include all aspects of God (not to omit or offend any of the akua,) they added to the prayer the words, “E Hoʻoulu ana I kini o ke akua, ka lehu o ke akua, na mano o ke akua” (Invoke we now the 40,000 gods, the 400,000 gods, the 4,000 gods.) (Beckwith)