Ka ʻiliʻili hānau o Kōloa; ka nalu haʻi o Kāwā.
The reproducing pebbles of Kōloa; the breaking surf of Kāwā.
ʻIliʻili hānau o Kōloa (Birth Pebble of Kōloa) is the mother of rocks for Kaʻū district, referring to the porous pebbles found especially at the beach of Kōloa, Kaʻū district, on Hawaiʻi Island.
Such stones were supposed to grow from a tiny pebble to a good-sized rock and to reproduce themselves if watered once a week. Care had to be taken lest they be stepped upon or otherwise treated with disrespect.
Hence they were carefully wrapped in tapa and laid away on a high rafter of the house. At a child’s naming day or on other special occasions such as marriages, wars, and fishing expeditions they were taken down and arranged on ti leaves, together with awa root, upon a mat or table and their wisdom and blessing invoked.
Afterwards some member of the family would have a dream favorable or unfavorable to the project in hand and this was regarded as sent from the god. (Beckwith)
These are beach worn pebbles. The interest attaching to them is derived from the belief still held by many natives with whom Emerson conversed with that they are of different sexes and beget off spring which increase in size and in turn beget others of their kind.
The males are of a smooth surface without noticeable indentations or pits. The females have these little pits in which their young are developed and in due time separate from their mothers to begin independent existence.
The ‘male’ stones are gray, basalt beach-worn pebbles having no pits or cavities. Most are flat and about an inch in size. The ‘female’ stones (a little bigger) are of the same material; however, they have small pits or cavities within which are very tiny basalt pebbles.
The “children” that are not in the “female” cavities and a less than an inch long. (Bishop Museum)
William Ellis tells the following account from his brief visit there in 1824:
“We had not traveled far (from Hīlea) before we reached Nīnole, a small village on the sea shore, celebrated on account of a short pebbly beach called Koroa (Kōloa)”.
“(T)he stones of which were reported to possess very singular properties, among others, that of propagating their species.”
“The natives told us it was a wahi pana (place famous) for supplying … the stones for making small adzes and hatchets, before they were acquainted with the use of iron”.
“(B)ut particularly for furnishing the stones of which the gods were made, who presided over most of the games of Hawai‘i.
“Some powers of discrimination, they told us, were necessary to discover the stones which would answer to be deified.”
“When selected they were taken to the Heiau, and there several ceremonies were performed over them. Afterwards, when dressed, and taken to the place where the games were practiced, if the parties to whom they belonged were successful, their fame was established”.
“(B)ut if unsuccessful for several times together, they were either broken to pieces, or thrown contemptuously away.“
“When any were removed for the purpose of being transformed into gods, one of each sex was generally selected; these were always wrapped very carefully together in a piece of native cloth.”
“After a certain time, they said a small stone would be found with them, which, when grown to the size of its parents, was taken to the Heiau, or temple, and afterwards made to preside at the games. We were really surprised at the tenacity with which this last opinion was adhered to”.
“Koroa [Kōloa] was also a place of importance in times of war, as it furnished the best stones for the slingers.”
“The natives told us it was a wahi pana (place famous) for supplying the black and white kōnane stone.”
“We examined some of the stones. The black ones appeared to be pieces of trap, or compact lava. The white ones were branches of white coral common to all the islands of the Pacific.”
“The angles of both were worn away, and a considerable polish given, by the attrition occasioned by the continual rolling of the surf on the beach.” (Ellis)
The ʻiliʻili from Kōloa were considered the best on the island of Hawaiʻi for hula ʻiliʻili.