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    Hawaiian Lunar Phases

    The Hawaiians were spectacular navigators, perhaps among the best in the world. Not only did they have a deep understanding of the ocean and current, but also of the stars and the movement of the moon. That being the case, it should come as no surprise that the moon plays a very important role in the lives of the Hawaiians. Each lunar phase had a specific name in Hawaiian, and were associated with kapus as well as times for planting, fishing and gathering.

    Below we present all the lunar phases along with the Hawaiian names for each phase and a brief description of what that moon meant to the Hawaiians.


    The Hawaiian word Hilo has three meanings. First, Hilo was a famous Hawaiian navigator. Second, the word Hilo can mean twisted or braided. The third meaning for Hilo is the first, or new moon, and it was derived from the other two meanings. As the slender new moon sets in the western sky it often has a twested appearance thus having the name Hilo. Also, because this is the first moon it acts as a navigator for the moons to follow.

    Traditionally it was felt that this was a good moon for deep sea fishing but bad for reef fishing and gathering of any below ground roots and vegetables.


    As with all words in Hawaiian, the word Hoaka has many meanings. The most literal meaning is crescent and this is indeed the first real crescent moon. Other meanings have to do with spirits and ghosts and it was often felt that the spirit of this moon, being the first moon bright enough to cast a shadow, would frighten fish away thus this was not a good night for fishing.

    Kū Kahi
    Kū Lua
    Kū Kolu
    Kū Pau

    The 3rd through 6th moon phases correspond with the first four nights of Ku. The end of the first moon, Kūkahi ends the kapu (forbidden) period of Ku and marks a period where typically taro was planted (Kū means 'erect', thus the meaning here is for plants to grow strong and erect). This series of four days also indicates good fishing.

    'Ole Kū Kahi
    'Ole Kū Lua
    'Ole Kū Kolu
    'Ole Pau

    The 7th through 10th moon phase names all start with 'Ole which translates into nothing or unproductive. These days were named because fishing is poor due to high tides and rough ocean. Little planting was done until the final day where the ending pau, which means done or finished marked the end of the rough weather.


    Huna means small, or hidden as well as thorned, or horned. Putting the two meanings together and we would have hidden horns which describes the shape of this moon. This is a good time for plants that normally hide, such as root vegetables and gourds. This is also a good time for fishing as the fish tend to hide in their holes.


    The 12th phase marks a sacred night to the God Kāne so fish and seaweed as well as fruits were forbidden to be eaten. However, this night was also good for planting vegetables for which you wanted them to resemble the roundness of the moon.


    Hua means egg, fruit and seed, among other things. The meaning egg refered to the near full shape of the moon. This was a sacred night to Lono and it was good luck for planting and fishing. The Hawaiians considered there to be four full moons and Hua marked the first of the full moons.


    Akua means God, Goddess as well as corpse, devil and idol. This is the second full Hawaiian moon and is near the full round shape. This was a good night for fishing. Offerings were often made on this evening to the Gods where walking about.


    The third day of the four Hawaiian full moons was believed to be the fullest moon and was good for anything that was planted in rows.


    This 16th lunar phase was the last night of the four Hawaiian full moon and was good for all types of work, planting and fishing. As you can see, the Hawaiians took full advantage of the four full moons.


    The first moon following the four full moons was considered a time to give gifts of the first harvests to the Gods and Goddesses. Fishing was also considered good during this time.

    Lā'au Kū Kahi
    Lā'au Kuū Lua
    Lā'au Pau

    The Hawaiian word Lā'au means just about any type of vegetation, trees, etc. Thus these three nights were associated with trees and plants. Planting of certain types of fruit were discouraged during this period because they would be woody instead of tender, though other types of plantings could occur. This period was also an important time for the healers to go out and locate herbs for medicines.

    'Ole Kū Kahi
    'Ole Kū Lua
    'Ole Pau

    Again we enter a series of three unproductive ('Ole) nights. During this time people avoided planting and fishing, though farmers would weed and otherwise tidy up. The final day belonged to the Gods Kaloa and Kanaloa and people offered prayers to these Gods on this day.

    Kāloa Kū Kahi
    Kāloa Kū Lua
    Kāloa Pau

    The 24th through 26th lunar phase mark the three nights of Kāloa. The first night of Kāloa continues the worship of Kanaloa from the previous 'Ole Pau night. Planting of long stemed plants as well as vines are encouraged and fishing is good through these three days, especially shellfish.


    The 27th lunar moon marks a two day period of worship to the Gods Kāne and Lono. This was a very strictly enforced kapu and most of this period was devoted to prayer to the Gods.


    The 28th lunar moon continues from the previous night of worship to Kāne and Lono, with emphasis switching to the God Lono and prayers for rain.


    This moon usually rises with daylight. Fishing was encouraged due to lower tides and marriages were often performed on this day.


    This final lunar phase finds the moon rising completely with the shaded side of the moon facing the earth. Fishing is considererd good.


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    Nene photo in top graphics by Brenda Zaun