From Within the Night

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

From whom came this saying, “From within the night?”

It was Kahakuikamona. Kahakuikamona was an advisor from the board of experts of the profession of kahuna. He is the one who chanted, “Hawaiʻinuiākea rises from within, from within the night.” In this famous genealogical chant, he listed the birth of the islands from Hawaiʻi Island to Kauaʻi and a little beyond. He chanted, “Born was Niʻihau, Kaʻula, Nīhoa, and that was the last.”

What about the atolls of Mokumanamana extending up to Mokupāpapa (Hōlanikū), the flat islands of Papahānaumokuākea?

For this knowledge, one needs to look at the song of Pākuʻi, one of the orators of Kamehameha. Pākuʻi agreed with Kahauikamoana in that the real birth of the islands originated in Pō (night, darkness). So, too, was their agreement as to the border between the larger islands and the atolls. He recited their names thusly:

“Born was Kamāwaelualanimoku (Kauaʻi), a kinsman was Niʻihau, Lehua was the boundary. Kaʻula was the closure of the reef islands, the bleached flat atolls of Lono.” (Fornander IV)

He goes on to recite the names of those flat, bleached islands:

“Kahakulono, Kapumaeolani.
Kapuheeua, Holatii.
Kapuheeuanui, Kahaimakana,
Kekamaluahaku’s was Kaponianai.” (Fornander IV)

Although the names recited by Pākuʻi are different from the map names of these times, this traditional knowledge comes from within Pō. Knowledge that came from within Pō was regarded as very important by our Hawaiian people.

According to Mrs. Mary K. Pukuʻi in Nānā i ke Kumu, if a person was visited at night by their deified ancestors and gave a name to a child to be born then that was a “night name.” Pukuʻi was also interviewed when she explained “revelations of the night.” She said that when a person was visited by his ʻaumakua, his ʻaumakua would leave a dream, a sign, or words of advice then that was a revelatory encounter. This knowledge from within Pō is extremely precious.

Furthermore, one epic chant of the origins of the land and people that Hawaiians should examine is the “Kumulipo.” It is said that the source of night is what gave birth to night. Furthermore, Pō gave birth to Kumulipo at night, a man. Then Pō gave birth to Pōʻele at night, a woman. These two esteemed ancestors then gave birth to all living things and forces of the world.

Their firstborn was the coral polyp and from that was created the coral. Therefore, if the saying that “a coral polyp grows to become land” is true, then it is from within the night that the flat islands of Papahānaumokuākea were born.

Hereʻs another matter, that the Kumuipo explains the relationships of all living things in Papahānaumokuākea such as the relationship between the ʻiwa and koaʻe (frigate and tropicbirds). In nature, the ʻiwa chases and scares the koaʻe that have fish in their beaks. As soon as they release the fish, the ʻiwa immediately swoops down to snatch the prize. It is said in the Third Era of the Kumuipo, lines 317 and 318: “The ʻIwa is born the parent; his child comes forth, the Koaʻe, who flies.”

Thus, when one says, “from within the night,” they mean that night or darkness is the source of deep ancestral memories and knowledge. Night represents birth as in the birth of Hawaiʻinuiākea and all of his sibling islands unto and past the borders of Kaʻula to the atolls and shoals of what is known today as Papahānaumokuākea, whose name itself recalls the birth of islands.