Hawaiian History—About the Moo Guardians/Ancestral Gods

In this excerpt from a history of Hawai‘i entitled “He Moolelo Hawaii—No na Aumakua Moo,” which means “Hawaiian History—About the Moo Guardians/Ancestral Gods,” readers learn of the mo‘o goddess Kānekua‘ana. It was to her that the heiau waihau were established along the Pu‘uloa lochs to ensure the abundance of various fisheries, and particularly the pipi, nahawele, mahamoe, and other bivalves for which ‘Ewa’s inland fisheries were famed. Among the kapu of Kānekua‘ana was that fisherpeople needed to be very quiet when going to sea to gather the pipi and bivalves. The slightest voice would cause the wind to blow, thus making the pipi and other bivalves to sink deep into the sands where they would be difficult to find.

It is because of this kapu associated with Kānekua‘ana that the famous saying of ‘Ewa, “ka i-a hamau leo o Ewa” came into being. Following the excerpt is the translation.

… Kanekuaana ko Ewa moo kiai, hilinai nui ko Ewa poe kamaaina iaia, mai Halawa a Honouliuli. Ina e pilikia ka ia, hoeu like na kanaka i na waihau e pili ana iaia, a o ka ho-a no ia o ke ahi e hoaia i ka pomaikai o ka aiona. O ka Pipi ka ia kaulana o Ewa. Aole e hala ka mahina eono e ku ai ka lala hau ua piha ka aina i ka Pipi, mai Namakaohalawa a na pali o Honouliuli, mai na kua-pa o ua a na pa akule [Pākule]; mai ka hohonu a ka papa nahawele o kula; mai kaliawa a ka pohaku ona loko a pela aku.

Aia maloko o ka io o ka Pipi momi nani, e like ka nunui me ka onohi ia; he onohinohi keokeo kekahi, ua kapaia he muhee kea; onohinohi ulaula kekahi me anuenue la, he muhee makoko ia. He liilii a nunui kekahi; a he waiwai kumukuai nui ko ia mea.

O ka Opaehuna a Opaekala kekahi ia; paapu mailoko o ke kai a na loko kua-pa a no loko puuone.

O ka nehu pala kekahi ia; piha mai ka nuku o Puuloa a uka o na Ewa, pela me na nuku awalau a pau; no laila ka olelo ia ana:

“He kai puhi nehu puhi lala
Ke kai o Ewa—e.
E noho i ka lai o Ewanui—
A Laakona—a.”

He Mahamoe kekahi ia kaulana, a he Okupe a mau ia e ae no kekahi. A ina i ike ia keia mau ia a pau alaila, eia ka olelo a na pulapula:

“Hoi mai nei ua luahine nei mai na kukulu mai o Kahiki; noho mai la paha a loha i na moomoo ana.”

O lakou no kekahi i hai mai i ke ano o na pae aina o Kahiki a me na aina e ae i ike ole ia…

…O Hauwahine, he kiai ia no na loko o Kawainui a me Kaelepulu. O Laukupu ko Moanalua; he malama lakou i ka pomaika‘i, e pale ana i na pilikia maluna o ke kina a me ka ohana…1

Below is the translation.

…Kanekuaana is the moo (water spirit) guardian of Ewa; many of the natives of Ewa, from Halawa to Honouliuli followed (believed) in her. If there was trouble with the fishing, the people dedicated her temple (Waihau) with the lighting of a fire to bring about blessings upon the land. The pipi (pearl oyster) is the famous fish of Ewa. Before six month would pass the hau branches would take hold, and the land would be filled with the pipi, from Nā-maka-o-Hālawa to Honouliuli, from the inland pond walls to the Pā-akule. From the depths to the nahawele reefs and flats. From the channel inlet to the stone-lined ponds, and so forth.

There is within the flesh of the pipi a beautiful pearl, its size is similar to the eyeball of a fish. Some are like the shiny white of an eye, and are called mūhe‘e kea. Others are shiny red, like a rainbow, and are called mūhe‘e mākoko. Some are small and others are larger, and they are highly valued.

The ‘ōpae huna and ‘ōpae kala [types of shrimps] are other fish, that are in the sea, the walled ponds, and dune banked ponds. The nehu pala is another fish which fills the waters from the entrance of Pu‘uloa to the coastal flats of Ewa. It is the same with all of the lochs (awalau). This is why the saying is told:

Nehu appear to be blown upon the sea,
causing the water to shine
It is the sea of ‘Ewa,
Dwelling in the calm of great ‘Ewa, of La‘akona”

The mahamoe is another famous fish, and the ‘ōkupe, another, and there are others. And if all these fish are seen there, here are the words of the natives of the land, “The old woman (Kānekua‘ana) has returned from the foundations of Kahiki; she dwells here perhaps for the love of her descendants…”


1He Moolelo Hawaii (Mokuna VII), Nupepa Kuokoa, May 20, 1893, p. 1.

Related Documents

Moolelo contain expressions of native beliefs, customs, practices, and history. The Hawaiian landscape itself is storied, and each place name is associated with a tradition—ranging from the presence and interactions of the gods with people, to documenting an event, or the characteristics of a given place. Unfortunately, today, many of those moolelo have been lost. Through the moolelo that have survived the passing of time, we are able to glimpse the history of the land and people of Honouliuli Ahupuaa.

Included here are a collection of narratives written by native Hawaiian authors and historians, as well as non-Hawaiian visitors and residents of the land during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The narratives document traditional lore and knowledge, customary practices and beliefs, and the importance of place names which have survived the passing of time. A number of the accounts come from Hawaiian-language resources which have not been previously available in English. Other citations revisit some of the better known historical accounts, while attempting to shed new light on them, with efforts made to place them in a Hawaiian cultural context based on a wide range of resource materials.

Transcripts and/or translations of the Hawaiian-language accounts are given either verbatim, or in summary for longer narratives, with emphasis on the key events—their association with akuaaina, and kanaka of Honouliuli Ahupuaa. The citations span the period from antiquity to the 1920s. We have elected to include the Hawaiian-language transcripts in an effort to provide present and future generations with easy access to these important narratives as a means of fostering ongoing cultural attachment to place, and for educational and interpretive purposes. In this way the kupuna speak for themselves, and pass their voices on to inspire continued knowledge of place, practice, and use of the native place names.

It will be noted that in a number of instances, place names originated as the names of notable figures—either gods, demigods, chiefly personages or deified ancestors—while other names describe events or particular characteristics of named locations.