Kane Keia! Wahine Kela! — Aunty Lucia Revisits the Kumulipo

Balinese Batik — Artist: Unknown

I study hula with Kumu Patrick Makuakāne at our halau, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu. Last week I attended two lectures, one on the kuahu and one on the Kumulipo, given by Lucia Tarallo. Aunty Lucia is a scholar of pre-contact Hawaiian culture and one of kumu’s most influential mentors. Between Aunty’s rich storytelling and the pull of the full moon, I awoke in the middle of the night to process this layer of my learning journey.

* * * * *

I roll to my right and meet the neon gaze of the clock across the room. It’s 2:33 a.m. Little J lies next to me, breathing deeply, clutching his stuffed puppy, Sniffles.

Why am I awake? I have no idea.

I flop onto my back.

Slowly at first, words tumble through.






Phrases and whole sentences find their way to me. I resist at first, bemoaning this interruption to much-needed rest. I attempt to push the thoughts away. Until I remember to soften and to allow.

I lie open, witness to the stories weaving themselves in my consciousness.

Lucia Tarallo.

The kuahu.

Not an object for the purpose of worship but a sacred space mindfully constructed to call in beloved ancestors and protective energies. Layered with items from nature, representing the male principle and the female principle.

The female principle, the Sacred Feminine. The class of energy ignored altogether or cast downward in the hands of patriarchy and through dogmatically religious eyes.

In the spaces between Lucia’s words the voice of Earth Mother Haumea rings out and through the din of his-story. Haumea steps forward, invites us to awaken to the imbalances of the female principle and the male principle rampant on this planet. Our very survival depends on it.

When will we answer her call?

Kumulipo, a creation chant. More accurately described, a nature chant.

Here again, patriarchy and foreign spiritual beliefs lay their heavy hands on sacred Maoli practices, coloring pre-contact Hawaiian culture through European lenses. Silence and misinformation lie strewn in the wake of ignorance and disrespect. Denying the most raw and essential aspects of procreation perpetuates a sterilized narrative stripped of the potency inherent in both female and male forms.

Previous translations of the Kumulipo trace the beginning of life to a singular male figure, ignoring the necessity of female energy in procreation. The title itself, “Kumulipo,” (attached to this chant by someone other than the original poet) specifically represents the male principle. But where is Pō ̀ele, the female principle? How does she fit into the story?

Aunty Lucia has an answer — the dual forces of male and female are ever-present in every thing and every one.

The Maoli identified, appreciated, and respected the harmonious dance between the male principle and the female principle for nothing could exist without their coupling. They also understood the intimate interconnection between themselves and nature, conscious of their impact on the environment and the sustenance it provided for them. Observing and honoring nature’s cycles, the Maoli hunted and gathered in accordance with seasonal rhythms that ensured sustainable abundance.

Beyond earthly concerns of survival and stewardship, the Maoli also acknowledged their connection with the unseen and intangible. Like the creatures and plants around them that sprouted, died, and returned again, so did they. All emerges through an energetic portal and returns through this portal. In this way, All is bound together.

Why are these stories relevant? To hula students and to people beyond our halau?

Reflecting on Maoli culture can inspire us to observe our current world, both inner and outer, more consciously and to discover where the Maoli approach to life may offer insight in improving our current states of being.

As the stories Aunty Lucia shared weave themselves in my consciousness, questions bubble up and rise to the surface, inviting me to soften, grow, and answer my kuleana. Perhaps they might be of help to you as you navigate your journey.

Where do we witness imbalances of the female principle and male principle? Inside of us? And the world around us? How do we cultivate harmony where we find imbalance?

To what degree do we live our lives unconsciously, defaulting to our conditioning? To habits of thinking and doing? To the shoulds and have tos?

While consumption is necessary for survival, how much is “enough”? How much is “too much”?

From the most seemingly insignificant acts to the more profound life changes, what can we consciously do each day to contribute to the well-being of All?

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