“Hula dancing was enjoyed everywhere during these festivities commemorating Lono. Some ancient hula chants may be interpreted as rain-making incantations. Here are several verses that refer to Hilo, one of the rainiest inhabited localities on the island of Hawaii: Hi‘u o Lani
“Heaven magic, fetch a Hilo-pour from heaven!
Morn’ cloud-buds, look! They swell in the East.
The rain-cloud parts, Hilo is deluged with rain,
The Hilo of King Hana-kahi.
Surf breaks, stirs the mire of Pi’ilani;
The bones of Hilo are broken
By the blows of the rain.
Ghostly the rain-scud of Hilo in heaven;
The cloud-forms of Pua-lani grow and thicken.
The rain-priest bestirs him now to go forth,
Forth to observe the stab and thrust of the rain,
The rain that clings to the roof of Hilo.”
(”Pua-Iani (Sky-flower) was the god who was seen as the rosy clouds of morning, a sign of rain.”)
“Laka, the goddess of the wildwood who was patron of the hula, was said to have been the wife and sister of Lana. The lines that follow are from the chant that dedicated the altar of the Halau Hula (Hall of Hula) in which the sacred and traditional hula was taught.”
“On the altar Laka was represented by a block of lama (which means light) wood covered by a yellow tapa cloth, and its decorations consisted of wild growth from the uplands …”
“… fragrant maile, orange-red and flamelike blossoms of ‘ie‘ie, deep red flowers of hala-pepe, scarlet blossoms of lehua which are like little pompoms, pinkish red mountain apples (‘ōhi‘a ‘ai) , many varieties of fern, flowers of hibiscus and hau, red-orange ‘ilima flowers, ti plants, bananas, and breadfruits.”
“According to Kawena Pukui there were five of the above which must be used without fail : (1) ‘Ōhi‘a lehua (branch and blooms); (2) hala pepe (branch and blossom); (3) maile (any kind); (4) ‘ie‘ie (branch with blossom); and (5) palapalai fern. Other foliage and flowers were used when available.”
“Possibly the origin of hula dancing, which is fundamentally a treading motion of the feet accompanied by rhythmical swinging of the hips and hand gestures …”
“… which express the words of the chant while the shoulders and head are held in poise, is to be found in the treading (hehi) of the earth in a newly made taro patch, or lo‘i (to make it hard and watertight) as described by Kamakau.”
“The day chosen for the treading was a holiday. Men, women and children attended. The owner of the patch provided beforehand an abundance of vegetables, pork, and fish. On the day of treading the new loti was flooded.”
“No one, not even the chief or chiefess, was too kapu (sacred) to tread the soil in the patch. It was a festive day-every man, woman and child decked himself with leaves and worked with all his might, tramping here and there, stirring the mud with his feet, dancing, rejoicing, shouting, reveling, and indulging in all sorts of sport.”
“This tramping and hardening of the surface was done so that the water would not sink away into the soil, but remain to circulate around the stalks of the taro when planted. The planting was done next day, for by then the mud had settled to the bottom of the lo‘i.”
“Laka is sometimes referred to as male, sometimes as female. Such contradictions are not inconsistent in Hawaiian thinking, for a nature god may be male in one form and female in another.”
“Ku-ka-‘ōhi‘a-laka is male. He is embodied in the ‘ōhi‘a lehua trees in the rain forest, and was worshiped as a rain god. He was also ‘god of the hula dance’, ‘He is the male god worshiped in the hula dance.”
“That is why the altar in the dance hall is not complete without a branch of red lehua blossoms.’ But as we have seen above, Laka on the hula altar, a block of lama wood, was a woman, the sister and wife of Lono.”
“Emerson identifies Lono (the god of rain) with Laka, Laka’s body, it is said, was the fragrant foliage of the mountains, the wild ginger, the fern, the maile, the ilima ti.”
“It is obvious that Laka, Lono’s wife, and hula dancing were intimately associated with the idea of rain and abundance of growing things.”
“Kane, with whom taro planting and the origin of taro were associated, was, along with Ku, Lono, and Laka, identified with rain.”
“In a series of prayers used at the decorating of the hula altar with greenery from the uplands: ‘On the highest pinnacle great Lono-of-Kane (Lono-nui-a -Kane) will hear.’”
“Later the prayer addresses Kane-of-Lono (Kane-o-Lono). Kane is also addressed as Kane-i-ka-pahu‘a, which may be translated “Kane-the-thruster” or “Kane-the-dancer.” Kane-i-ka-pahu-wai is “Kane with-a-calabash-of-water,” which he pours out on the earth below. This of course is “Kane-of-the-water-of-life,” who was invoked in prayers of the harvest festival.”
“Hula dances and recitatives were performed in honor of the high chief or mo‘i, and in honor of his first-born. It was the mo‘i who played the role of Lono in the Makahiki festival, and during the Makahiki the mo‘i was entertained with hula dancing and chanting.”
“We have an interesting description of a hula performed by planters, the Hula pu niu. This is a hula for farmers. It is done thus …”
“… In the evening the men are all told that they are going to farm, then in the early morning the kumu hula begins his dance, at the time of dancing there are some gourd instruments and the puniu (coconut drum) covered with the skin of the kala fish.”
“These are played at the hula and then taken to the field. Sometimes the larger instruments are taken, sometimes only the puniu, covered with the skin of the kala fish.”
“While the men work they are silent, and after they are finished they have another hula. The men go to the mountain for maile, palai ferns, awapuhi, and ‘ie‘ie.”
“When they return home, a banner (pahu hae) is taken ahead and the men walk in single file behind it. Thus they go till they reach the hula house. And because of this it is called a farmer’s hula.” (All from Handy, Handy & Pukui)