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Traditions of Oʻahu: Lunar Days

Stories of this island before high-rises, freeways and hotels, before sugar plantations and pineapple fields, before churches and the Bible.

Lunar Days

The month of the traditional Hawaiian calendar was determined by the 29.5-day cycles of mahina, the moon. The approximately 30 days of the moon cycle were divided into three 10-day weeks called anahulu. Notes on the lunar days and the activities associated with the days are from Malo (31-32) Kepelino's Traditons of Hawaii (98-112) and Handy and Handy's Native Planter (37-39).

Ho'onui: "Growing Bigger"

Moon waxing

1. Hilo (faint thread; cf. puahilo, "faint, wispy"): a good day for planting, though tubers may be small like the moon (Handy and Handy); low tide till morning so women fished by hand and men went torch fishing; first day of kapu to the god Ku; "a day of death to man as a sacrifice to others"; the "wrongdoer would be put to death"; the kapu lasted till Kukahi or Kulua.

2. Hoaka (crescent; arch over the door; Handy and Handy say the name means "faint light" or "casting a shadow"; Kepelino says the name means "clear."): good day for planting; low tide till morning; kapu to the god Ku

3. Kukahi (first Ku): moon seen in the western sky at sunset; the Ku days are recommended for planting sweet potato, taro, and banana, which will grow upright (ku) (Handy and Handy)".

4. Kulua (second Ku): end of the days kapu to Ku; a day of low tide, so people went down to the shore to fish.

5. Kukolu (third Ku): not good for planting sweet potatoes, bananas, gourds, as "they would just shoot up like coconut [trees]"; good fishing day (Kepelino).

6. Kupau (last Ku): end of the Ku days.

7. 'Olekukahi (first 'Oleku, days 7-10 mark the transition from less than half-lit moon to the more than half-lit moon): "the farmer does not plant on this day" (Kepelino); "'Ole" means "nothing," so planting and fishing may be not productive in the three "'ole" days [7-9 on the lunar calendar] (Handy and Handy).

8. 'Olekulua (second 'Oleku; Olekulua is the first quarter moon; the names for days 7-10 match the names of days 21-24 of the last quarter moon.): "farmers generally dislike it for planting"; "a good night for torching fishing" (Kepelino).

9. 'Olekukolu (third 'Oleku): "the farmer thinks little of this day"; "a good night for torch-fishing" (Kepelino).

10. 'Olepau (last 'Oleku): "it is a productive day, say the cultivators" (Kepelino). "Pau" means "end" so non-productivity is at an end (Handy and Handy).

Poepoe: "Round"

Moon round

11. Huna ("to hide"; when the moon hides its "horns" and appears more rounded): "a productive day for cultivators"; "there is good fishing" (Kepelino).

12. Mohalu ("to unfold like a flower," "to blossom"): "a good day for farmers"; "on this night begins the kapu of the gods in the heiau and everyone goes to pray inside the heiau" (Kepelino). Handy and Handy say that it "sacred Kane,the life-giver"; good for fishing.

13. Hua ("fruit," "egg"; the first night of roundess): "In the old days it was a day of prayer, but in these new days the farmers like to plant on this day anything that bears fruit" (Kepelino); Handy and Handy say it was "sacred to Lono"; "good fishing."

14. Akua ("god"; the second night of roundness): "a great moon, beautiful and well-rounded" (Kepelino). "All things reproduce abundantly (ho'oakua)"; "kapu to the gods"; offerings made to increase growth of plants and fish (Handy and Handy).

15. Hoku (full; if the moon is still above the horizon in the western sky at sunrise, it is called "Hoku ili"--"Stranded moon"; if it has set just before sunrise, it is called "Hoku palemo"--"sunken moon."): "a day well liked by farmers" (Kepelino); "good fishing" (Handy and Handy).

16. Mahe-a-lani (mahe means "to grow less distinct," "to fade"; "mahea" means "hazy, as moonlight"; after the fullness of hoku, the moon begins to wane): "a day well liked by farmers" (Kepelino); "fishing is good"; "good for all work" (Handy and Handy).

17. Kulua (E.S. Craighill Handy, with Mary Kawena Pukui, gives this day name as "Kulu," which could mean "to drop" or "to pass, as time does"): "the farmers put their trust in this day. The potato or the melon will swell large" (Kepelino). "Good time for fishing" (Handy and Handy).

18. La'aukukahi (first La'auku; during this sequence, the sharp "horns" of the moon begin to appear again): "a day rejected by the cultivator. The potato vine, melons, bananas, gourds, if planted on that day become woody (ho'ola'au) and do not form fruit" (Kepelino). Good for gathering and preparing herbs (la'au); "favorable for fishing" (Handy and Handy).

19. La'aukulua (second La'auku): "a day much esteemed by the farmer" (Kepelino).

20. La'aukupau (last La'auku): "day for planting" (Kepelino).

ʻEmi: "Decreasing," "Waning."

Moon waning

The moon begins to lose its light. The last quarter moon rises around midnight and sets around noon. Muku, the new moon rises unseen with the morning sun and sets unseen with the setting sun.

21. 'Olekukahi (first 'Oleku): "These are the days for planting potato slips, banana suckers, and gourd seed. A day of rough seas so that it is said, "nothing ['ole] is to be had from t he sea" (Kepelino).

22. 'Olekulua (second 'Oleku, the last quarter): "a good day for planting" (Kepelino). Handy and Handy say that all the 'ole days are not good for either planting or fishing.

23. 'Olepau (third 'Oleku; the names of days 21-23 match the names of 7-10 days of the first quarter moon, and mark the transition from more than half-lit moon to less than half-lit moon.): On this day begins another kapu, this one for the god Kanaloa [Kalo] (Handy and Handy).

24. Kaloakukahi (first Kaloaku): "a planting day, but the potato vine, melon, or banana will run to stem and the fruit will not develop quickly" (Kepelino). The second day of kapu and prayers to Kanaloa [Kalo] (Handy and Handy).

25. Kaloakulua (second Kaloaku): "a good day for planting crops"; the kapu that began on 'Olekupau ends (Kepelino). The "loa" days (24-26) are good for plants with long stems, long vines, long leaves, such as bamboo, banana, sugar cane, potato and yam, wauke, and hala (pandanus) (Handy and Handy).

26. Kaloapau (last Kaloaku): The "loa"-days end.

27. Kane: "a day of prayer to the god Kane." (Kepelino). Night marchers, or ancestral spirits, walked on this night. After the ancient religion was abandoned, "a good day for planting potato"; "good for men who fish with lines and for girls who dive for sea-urchins" (Handy and Handy, Kepelino).

28. Lono: a day dedicated to Kane and "a day for thanking the god Lono for the whole month past" (Kepelino). "Prayers for rain" (Handy and Handy; Lono was a god of agriculture and rain). After the ancient religion was abandoned, "a day for planting crops. The potato, melon, pumpkin, coffee, orange and all such things will blossom abundantly" (Kepelino).

29. Mauli ("ghost," "spirit"; Malo: "fainting"; Kepelino: "last breath"): "a very good day for planting" (Kepelino). "Fishing is good" (Handy and Handy).

30. Muku ("cut-off." The new moon; the end of the moon cycle. The moon is in front of the sun; its backside is lit; its frontside, facing the earth, is dark.): "a day for planting crops, a day of low tide...a day of diving for sea-urchins, small and large, for gathering seaweed, for line-fishing by children, squid-catching uluulu fishing, pulu fishing, and so forth" (Kepelino)

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Last Modified: 27-Feb-2023 16:00 HST