Some Famous Sayings of Molokaʻi

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

If “Maui is the Best” then “Molokaʻi is Greatest.” That is the famous saying of Molokaʻi, child of Hina.

“Molokaʻi of the Powerful Prayer” is another great expression for this land famous for its spiritual elders:

Pākuʻi was the priest that revealed in the chant composed for Papahānaumoku, that Hina or Hinanuiakalana (see Kahakuikamoana) and Wākea were the parents of Molokaʻi. In this account by Pākuʻi, the birth of each island is recited beginning with Hawaiʻi Island to Kaʻula and extending to the atolls. Pākuʻi was from Manawai, an ahupuaʻa between Keawanui and Kahananui.

Lanikaula of Pūkoʻo is probably the most famous kahuna of Molokaʻi. His grove of kukui trees still exists at Puʻuohoku Ranch on the eastern end of the island. According to M. H. Atcherly in “Song of Eternity” (1955), Lanikaula could levitate and heat up taro leaves with internal heat from his hands.
Kaleikuahulu of Kainalu was a kahuna stationed on Molokaʻi by Kamehameha to teach genealogies to the experts of the new kingdom. This, perhaps, is the same academy established by Chief Haho of Hāna, Maui. Haho is the one who instituted the Hale Nauā which was responsible for maintaining the genealogies of chiefly families.

“Molokaʻi Pounder of Medicine” is another adage of this island imbued in spiritual power. The priestly physicians of Molokaʻi were experts in preparing various pharmaceuticals. Fearsome were the poisons of Molokaʻi – namely, the potions mixed with a powder scratched from the back of the image, Kālaipāhoa. While the priest prepared the potion, he would be praying. These sorcery prayers became well-known and added to the name, “Molokaʻi of the mature (powerful) prayer.”

“Molokaʻi the Hula Source” is a famous saying of these times. It is a festival of hula. It is also the name of the restoration project at Kaʻana, Maunaloa. The land there was laid barren although the kūpuna say that Kaʻana was once verdant and that ʻōhiʻa lehua grew atop Maunaloa, Molokaʻi.

John Kaʻimikaua coined the phrase and he is the one who started the project and the festival, and who reminded the public of the story of Kapoʻulakīnaʻu (Kapōʻulakīnaʻu). Kapo and her family came from Kahiki and she is the one who established Molokaʻi as the central source of hula.

According to Moses Manu, Kapo taught her younger sister, Nāwahineliʻiliʻi (Kewelani), the hula. As a means to separate her teacher responsibilities, Kapo named Kewelani by the names of Ululani, Laea, and Laka. Laka, however, is the name more frequently heard in song and story. She was the one who spread and taught hula throughout the islands. Thus it is chanted, “Laka is the goddess of the powerful prayer.”