Born Was Kumulipo In The Night

Did you know that virtually every culture in the world embraces their own story of creation? They are commonly called creation myths. And while the term myth itself, usually refers to a false or fanciful story, this author in no way wishes to imply or suggest that these beliefs are anything less than what they are meant to be… man’s sacred attempt to explain how the world was formed and where humanity came from.

Hawaiian religion tells a story known as the Kumulipo (Koo moo leapo).  Early Hawaiians did not have a written history, and everything that is known has come to us in the oral form of storytelling or ‘Ōlelo (Oh lay-low) meaning the language and spoken word.  In Hawaii, it is called “talking story.”

And so it began with the first chant:

“At the time when the earth became hot
At the time when the heavens turned about
At the time when the sun was darkened
To cause the moon to shine
The time of the rise of the Pleiades
The slime, this was the source of the earth
The source of the darkness that made darkness
The source of the night that made night
The intense darkness, the deep darkness
Darkness of the sun, darkness of the night
Nothing but night.”

The Kumulipo is an 18th-century chant that tells the story of creation.  It is a genealogy record that describes the lineage of Hawaiian royalty and was created in honor of Kalaninuiamamao, the prince of the Big Island at the time of his birth.  All 2102 lines of it were passed down orally to his daughter Alapaiwahine (Allah payee wa-hinee.)

Kumulipo means “a source of darkness or origin.”  Children in the Hawaiian tradition are brought up to believe that darkness is not a bad place but rather a place of creation.  According to the Kumulipo, the world was created over a cosmic night which entailed many nights.  They believed that man came from the sea just as the seaweed, coral, shark, and fish did.

It was this chant; the Kumulipo said during the Makahiki season (the Hawaiian New Year from October/November to February/March for four months) that the kahunas (Hawaiian priest) would recite honoring the god Lono (Low-no.)

When Captain James Cook in 1779 became the first European to land in Hawaii, he was greeted by the Hawaiians reciting the Kumulipo.  They mistakenly believed him to be their god Lono because of his pale skin and the type of sails on his ship.


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