Kumulipo

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In ancient Hawaiian mythology, the Kumulipo is a chant in the Hawaiian language telling a creation story.[1] It also includes a genealogy of the members of Hawaiian royalty.

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Creation chant

Many cultures have their own beliefs on how the earth came to be created. He Kumulipo means "A source of darkness or origin".[1] In some cultures, children are brought up thinking that the dark is a bad place, one to avoid. Ancient Hawaiians thought of it as a place of creation.

In the Kumulipo the world was created over a cosmic night. This is not just one night, but many nights over time. The ancient Hawaiian kahunas and priests of the Hawaiian religion would recite the Kumulipo during the makahiki season, honoring the god Lono. In 1779, Captain James Cook arrived in Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawaiʻii during the season and was greeted by the Hawaiians reciting the Kumulipo. Some stories say Cook was mistaken for Lono, because the type of sails on his ship and his pale skintone.[2] In 1889, King Kalākaua printed a sixty page pamphlet of the Kumulipo. Attached to the pamphlet was a 2 page paper which on how the chant was originally composed and recited.[3]

Years later Queen Liliʻuokalani described the chant as a prayer of the development of the universe and the ancestry of the Hawaiians.[4] Liliʻuokalani translated the chant under house arrest in Iolani Palace. The translation was published in 1897, then republished by Pueo Press in 1978.[5]

The Kumulipo is a total of 2012 lines long, in honor of Lonoikamakahiki, who created peace for all when he was born. There was a lot of fighting between his ʻI and Keawe family, who were cousins so his birth stopped the two from feuding. The Kumulipo is a cosmogonic genealogy, which means that it relates to the stars and the moon. Out of the 2012 lines, it has 16 "wā" which means era or age. In each wā, something is born whether it is a human, plant, or creature.[3]

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