I was looking through some of my old notes and handouts from when I took a Hawaiian class a few years ago and came across some seasonally appropriate material:
Makahiki is the traditional Hawaiian version of New Year. The Makahiki season begins with the first sighting of the constellation Pleiades, Makali’i, in late October or November and ends about four months later with the rising of the fourth new moon. It is the time when the god Lono-i-ka-makahiki reigns over the ancient god of war Kū, and the people enjoy peace and harmony. It is also the time for tax collection, thanksgiving, and feasting. There are various rites of purification and celebrations during the Makahiki season.
Once the Makahiki season ends, Lono(1) returns to Kahiki (Tahiti) and the time of Kū begins again, which is symbolic of the ali’i (chief) reasserting his power and imposing kapu (taboo) to be observed for the rest of the year.
Here is an ancient chant from the Makahiki season:
Nā ‘Aumākua mai ka lā hiki a ka lā ‘ākau
Mai ka ho’okui a ka hālawai
Nā ‘Aumākua ia Kahinakua ia Kahina’alo
Ia ka ‘ākau i ka lani
O kīhā i ka lani, ‘owē i ka lani
Nunulu i ka lani, kāholo i ka lani
Eia ka pulapula a ‘oukou, nā po’e o ka Pakipika
E mālama ‘oukou ia mākou
E ulu i ka lani, e ulu i ka honua, e ulu i ka pae ‘āina o ka Pakipika
E homai ka ‘ike
E homai ka ‘ikaika
E homai ka ‘akamai
E homai ka maopopo pono
E homai ka ‘ike pāpālua
E homai ka mana
‘Āmama ua noa.
To the ancestral deities from the rising to the setting sun
From the zenith to the horizon
The ancestral deities who stand at our back and at our front
You who stand at the right side
A breathing in the heavens
An utterance in the heavens
Here are your descendants, the people of the Pacific(2)
That we may flourish in the heavens
That we may flourish on the earth
That we may flourish on the islands of the Pacific
Grant us knowledge
Grant us strength
Grant us intelligence
Grant us the understanding
Grant us the spiritual insight
Grant us the power.
The prayer is lifted, it is free.(3)
The translation of the chant above is not my own, and as I was thumbing through the dictionary to find some unfamiliar words, it seems some poetic liberties were taken by the translator. For instance, although kīhā is translated as 'breathing' by this translator, the only dictionary entry I found defines it as 'belch.' A belch in the heavens?! Well, I guess breathing sounds better than belching, so I'll go along with this more poetic translation!
1. Lono is one of the four ancient gods brought from Tahiti and is associated with peace, fertility, and agriculture, the clustering of dark clouds, thunder, whirlwinds, waterspouts, earthquakes, and the Kona rain. This same god is known as Rongo on Rapanui (Easter Island; Hawaiian l = Rapanui and Tahitian r) and is the namesake of the Rongorongo hieroglyphic script of that island, which has not been deciphered.
2. I suspect this is altered from the traditional chant, since Pakipika for 'Pacific' was obviously borrowed from English in post-missionary times. Perhaps the original was simply moana or kai, 'ocean' or 'sea.'
3. This is a pre-missionary, or pre-Christian, ending of a traditional prayer.
Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year!