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Waiakeakua: Water of the Gods

See Also...
  The Wizard Stones
  Dog Gods

Annie Harris
Kane and Kanaloa (a) came from the land of Kuaihelani (b) on a pointed cloud and arrived at Hanauma, O'ahu. Kane was a kindly god, courteous ('olu'olu) in all his ways. As they traveled about the island, Kanaloa complained of hunger and, turning to his older brother, said "O Kane! We keep on going and we are dying of hunger! Let us eat."

Kane looked about and saw that there was no water for mixing their refreshment of 'awa drink (c). He struck the earth with his staff and water gushed forth. When the two had eaten, they started on again along the highway. They had not gone far when Kanaloa wanted to eat again. The country through which they were passing had no water. As he had done before, Kane again struck the earth with his staff and water gushed forth. Wherever they stopped to rest, Kanaloa asked for food, and many were the waterholes made by Kane between Hanauma and Laeahi (d).

Photo: Laeahi

When the two reached 'Apuakehau (where the Moana Surfrider Hotel stands), they went sea-bathing, and then lay on the beach with their backs to the sun to dry. As the sun went down, they set out again to ascend Manoa valley. Passing through Kamo'ilili (Mo'ilili), they washed off the sand from their skin in the Papa'akea stream (e). Sand said to have been left by these gods was for many years to be seen there, but today it is covered over.

On their way they rested on the Keapapa hill (at the place now called Punahou) and again Kanaloa teased his brother for water and challenged his ability to produce it. Kane smiled, for he could hear the noise of water within the hill, and he thrust his staff into the ground and the water gushed forth in abundance. It has been a great blessing to the natives of that region and is said to be the source of the water on the McCullly tract. This water of Kane was called "The new spring," Ka-puna-hou (f).

The two continued their journey up Manoa to Pu'ahu'ula (g). As they stood there facing the cliff, Kanaloa asked his older brother if there were kupua (h) in that place. The two climbed a perpendicular cliff and found a pretty woman living there with her woman attendant. Kameha'ikana (i) was the name of this kupua. Such was the nature of the two women that they could appear in the form of human beings or of stones. Both Kane and Kanaloa longed to possess this beauty of upper Manoa. The girl herself, after staring at them, was smitten with love for the two gods. Kameha'ikana began to smile invitingly. The attendant saw that her charge did no know which one of the two gods she wanted and knew that if they both got hold of her, she would be destroyed, and she was furious. Fearing death for her beloved one, she threw herself headlong between the strangers and her charge and blocked the way. Kane leaped to catch the girl, but could not reach her. The body of Kameha'ikana's attendant stands there to this day, with the head down and the feet up. The mark of Kane's footprint remains where he trod. At the place where the gods stood, 'ohi'a 'ai (mountain apple trees) sprang up whose branches drooped over the surface of the water. The original trees are dead but their seedlings are grown and guard Waiakeakua, Water of the Gods.


The story of the spring and stream of Waiakeakua, the easternmost stream at the back of Manoa valley, was publsihed in Green and Pukui, The Legend of Kawelo and Other Hawaiian Folk Tales (112-115; in Hawaiian and English). Editor Martha Warren Beckwith notes: "Mr. John Holani Hao of Waialua, O'ahu, thinks that this is a fanciful story and that the name [of the spring Waiakeakua] comes from the fact that only the high chiefs were allowed to use this spring; it was kapu to others. A chief would often test the courage and fidelity of a retainer by dispatching him at night to fill a gourd at this spring. The trickle was so slow that water could be obtained only by using a footstalk of banana as trough. The fear of spirits abroad at night would daunt all but the bravest. The water when drawn was full of fine bubbles; if the messenger filled the gourd from another source, he was always detected­'Where are the bubbles?'"

Regarding the trickling stream, see Puku'i 'Olelo No'eau, No. 2917: "Wai pe'epe'e palai o Waiakekua," "The water of Waiakekua that plays hide-and-seek among the ferns." Some of the notes that follow are found in the original text by editor Beckwith and are followed by her initials "MWB."

(a) Kane and Kanaloa, two of the four major gods of ancient Hawai'i, are paired in water-finding activities. They also "'caused plants for the food of man to grow.'" (Beckwith Hawaiian Mythology 63). The god Kane is said to have come from Kahiki:

Holo mai Kane mai Kahiki
Holo a i'a iloko o ke kai
Ke kekele 'au i ka moana
O Haumea ke kaikuahine
O Kanaloa ia me Kane.

Here comes Kane from Kahiki
Coming like a fish in the sea,
Gliding through the ocean currents
Haumea the sister
And Kanaloa are with Kane.

(Kamakau Ka Po'e Kahiko 68)

The genealogy of Kane is variously given in Hawaiian traditions. Kamakau says Kane, along with Lono and Ku, was the god of human creation; Papa and Wakea appear twenty-eight generations later. According to Pakui, "a lineal descendant of historians from the the very darkest ages," Wakea lived with Papa and gave birth to Kane and Kanaloa (Buck 252). "The Kumulipo states that Kane and Kanaloa were born together as the children of Kumuhonua (Foundation-of-the-earth) and Haloiho (Peer-beneath). Nineteen pairs later, in the same list, Wakea appears" (Buck 252).

Beckwith says Kane was an ancestor of both chiefs and commoners, and worshiped by all social classes (Hawaiian Mythology 42), suggesting there was a classless society before the society became stratified into social classes. The different classes of Hawaiians are said to have come into existence in the generation of Papa and Wakea: the ali'i traced their ancestry to Wakea; the kahuna came from Lihau'ula; and the maka'ainana from Maku'u. These three brothers were sons of Kahiko Luamea and Kupulanakehau (Kamakau Tales 35; in the Hawai'i Loa tradition, the chiefs and priests are said to be descended from Kunuiakea, a son of Hawai'i Loa; commoners from Makali'i, one of Hawai'iloa's navigators.)

That Kane, Ku, and Lono were replacing the earth mother Papa and the sky father Wakea as the source of life and creation suggests a male-dominated pantheon was evolving to supplant an older balance between the male and the female gods. Kane, whose name means "male" and "man," came to be paired with other male gods (Kane and Ku, or Kane and Kanaloa) or joined by Kamakau and Kepelino in a trinity with Ku and Lono, rather than with a female deity (cf. the male Ku and female Hina; the female Papa and male Wakea).

Kane worship was simple, "without human sacrifice or laborious ritual. As such, it was unlike Ku worship, which was "highly ritualistic and involved human sacrifice" (Beckwith 46), or Lono worship, which was ritualized in the Makahiki festival. Although Kane was sometimes named in prayers to Ku and Lono during rituals at the heiau, offerings and prayers to him were also made in a less formal setting, at a family altar called Pohaku-o-Kane ("Stone of Kane"):

a conical stone from a foot to eight feet in height, plain or with slight carving, and planted about with ti plant, where members of a family went to pray to their 'aumakua and ask forgiveness for the broken tapu to which they ascribed any trouble that had come upon them. Here they sought protection from their family god with offerings and prayer. They came early in the morning, chewed 'awa while a pig was baking, and, when all was ready, ate under tapu, leaving no remnants and clearing away all rubbish. (Beckwith 46-47)

Kane is said to have brought kalo, the main food crop, and other cultivated plants (coconuts, breadfruit, 'awa, and wauke) to Hawai'i (Beckwith 62). A prayer to accompany an offering to Kane of kalo and 'awa leaves goes as follows (Kamakau 35):

E kulia, e ikumaumaua e ke akua,
E Kane, e Kaneikawaiola;
Eia ka lu'au, ka lau'awa mua o ka 'ai a kakou;
E ho'i e 'ai ke akua;
E 'ai ho'i ko'u 'ohana,
E 'ai ka pua'a,
E 'ai ka 'ilio.
E ola ho'i a'u i ko pulapula,
I mahi'ai, i lawai'a, i kukulu hale,
A kaniko'o, haumaka'iole, a palalauhala,
A kau i ka puaaneane;
O kau ola ka ho'i ia.
'Amama, ua noa; lele wale aku la ho'i.

[Pause and receive thanks, O god.
O Kane, O Kane-of-the-water-of-life;
Here is the taro leaf, our first 'awa leaf;
Turn back and eat, O god;
May my family also eat,
The pigs eat,
The dogs eat.
Grant success to me, your offspring,
In farming, in fishing, in house-building,
Until I am bent with age, blear-eyed as a rat, yellow as a hala leaf,
And reach advanced old age;
This is the life that is yours to grant.
'Amama, the kapu is freed; the prayer has gone on its way.]

Kane was the god of life, associated with fertility, good health, longevity­and life-giving water. "'Life is sacred to Kane (ua kapu ke ola na Kane)', was the saying'" (Beckwith 46)

Kamakau says that the two gods first arrived in Hawai'i from Kahiki at the island of Kaho'olawe, then went to Kahikinui, Maui, where they built a fishpond; "from them came the water of Kou at Kaupo." Later, they "broke open rocks so that water would gush forth--sweet, flowing water--at Waihe'e and Kahakuloa on Maui, on Lana'i, at Waiakane in Punakou on Moloka'i and at Kawaihoa on O'ahu" (Tales 112).

Kawaihoa, "the friendly water," is just to the west of Hanauma where the present story begins and continues with the water-finding activities of the two gods in the Kona district of O'ahu.

(b) "One of the twelve mythical islands in the clouds controlled by the god Kane and inhabited by his followers" (MWB). Kane often took the form of a cloud, bringing the water of life (ka waiola) to the islands.

(c) 'Awa is a mildly intoxicating drink made from the root of a pepper plant; a favorite drink of the gods and chiefs.

(d) "Lae'ahi (now called Diamond Head) is erroneously spelled Leiahi [or Leahi]." [Lae is a promontory or headland; 'ahi is the yellow-fin tuna.] "Great schools of 'ahi were formerly found about this cape. Another explanation is that the promontory resembles the head of an 'ahi fish" (MWB).

(e) Papa'akea Stream may be the name of a section of Manoa stream, which used to flow into the ocean at 'Apuakehau, before the Ala Wai Canal channeled the water from Manoa and Makiki streams into the ocean between the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Ala Moana Park. (Kapa'akea is the area makai of Manoa valley, including Mo'ilili; see map of old Honolulu in John Papa Ii's Fragments of Hawaiian History, 93).

(f) See "Punahou" by Emma M. Nakuina for a different version of the creation of this spring.

(g) Pu'ahu'ula ("Feather Cloak Spring"), in upper Manoa Valley, is identified as the place where the mo'o goddess Kihanuilulumoku ("Great island-shaking lizard) lived; "she had eel, lizard (mo'o) and female forms" and is said to nourish the plants of Wa'aloa, "Long Canoe," the stream to the west of Waiakeakua in Manoa valley. Queen Ka'ahumanu, wife of Kamehameha, the conqueror of the islands, had a home at this site and died here in 1832. "Pu" is short for "Puna" or spring, and "'ahu'ula", a feather cloak, was a symbol of the ali'i (Pukui et al Place Names).

(h) "A kupua is a descendant of a family of gods and has the power of transformation into certain inherited forms" (MWB).

(i) Kameha'ikana ("A multitude of descendants") was one of the names of the goddess of childbirth, Haumea. Haumea took human form as Walinu'u (See Beckwith 281-283). According to Kamakau, Walinu'u was a mo'o goddess (Ka Po'e Kahiko 85).


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