Hawaiian Culture, Language and Weather
"View From Maluaca-
Maui Prince Beach"
oil on canvas painting 8 x 24
HAWAIIAN HISTORY: The Hawaiian language has no comparable term for the Western notion of “weather.” Instead, the ancients used their observation of the unique relationships among gods, humans and nature to describe the forces and changes in their environment. These simple yet sophisticated perceptions of the universe made it possible for even the keiki, the children, to forecast weather conditions with ease.
Clusters of clouds or fog banks on mountain peaks indicated rain. These were called ao puaa—hog clouds—because of their billowy resemblance to well-fed hogs. In particular, ao puaa were associated with the corpulent patron of rain clouds, the hog demigod Kamapuaa. On occasion, processions of smaller “piglet” clouds, or pua puaa, would move through a calm sky and herald a storm.
Other signs of rain were seen in a mackerel sky of colored cumulus clouds or in an opening in the clouds, which Hawaiians compared to the open jaws of the swordfish.
Certain cloud shapes and colors represented dog-forms of the powerful and aggressive god Ku. These clouds, called ilio, had physical characteristics of the native dog, also named ilio—dark or ruddy and reddish, and small, long or short. Ilio carried omens that were read by ancient forecasters and cloud observers to predict future events.
Hawaiians defined cloud colors in a broad spectrum, ranging from purplish-blue to red, from white to dark black. They associated rows of clouds on the horizon with rows of sacred temple images or lines of traditional dancers.
Some clouds were used by diviners to link with departed souls, who provided guidance and foretold of things to come. Travelers paid careful attention to cloud omens before they started out on their journeys. The head of the household would sit before the doorway, offer a prayer to the family guardian spirit then gaze up into the heavens. If clouds took the shape of a house or a calabash, the traveler was assured that shelter and food would always be available. Other auspicious formations were flower, fruit and female shapes, which signaled safety and comfort on the road.
Another natural phenomenon that figured in atmospheric omens was the rainbow, which some Hawaiians saw as the red perching place of Kane, god of creation and life. The uakoko was a low rainbow, one that lay close to the Earth, whose colors were reflected in the clouds.The uakoko was a sign of trouble, disease and heavy rain.
These arcs of colored light also signaled the approach of royalty. If both bases of a rainbow disappeared into the sea, a chief was traveling by water. If the bases were anchored to the land, the chief was of low rank, one who managed the resources of a higher chief. Rainbow bases that did not touch the ground indicated the presence of a chief of godly rank—one who rose above the Earth and was protected by the gods. A vertical rainbow shaft was called a kahili and was likewise considered a sign of alii (royal) presence. Rainbows even foretold the death of a chief—by a vertical rainbow base that was broken off at the top.
Nature provided other signs: a ring appearing around the moon; mice seeking shelter in the house; whales leaping and blowing; dolphins swimming with the wind; and koae birds flying inland—all were warnings that a storm was approaching. The ancient Hawaiians carefully observed and relied upon these sometimes subtle changes in the patterns of their surroundings. Their perceptions helped them to create a harmony with their environment and a true appreciation for their gods manifested in the forces of nature. - reprinted from Maui 24/7.