“Here is your nourishment, o gods of Wakea’s descendants. Increase the growth of the land. It is freed, it is freed, it is freed.”
~ Translated from the Makahiki chant “Kihapai o Lono” Written by Nalani Kanaka’ole
Na Huihui o Makali’i is a cluster of stars also known as the Pleaides, or the Seven Sisters. It is revered in Hawaiian tradition as the place from where the first Hawaiian people came to Earth.
In the season of Ho’oilo, at the month of Welehu (October/November), the appearance of the Makali’i cluster heralded Makahiki, a 4-month long harvest festival considered the most important time of the year. It was dedicated to honor and give thanks to the fertility and music god Lono who was identified with agriculture, planting of food crops, and rain. He was one of the four gods (with Kū, Kāne, and his twin brother Kanaloa) who existed before the world was created.
Makahiki celebrated the harvest and was a time of personal rest for spiritual and cultural renewal. It was a time when all wars and battles were ceased, tributes and taxes were paid by each district to the ruling chief, sporting competitions and contests between villages were organized, and festive events were commenced. Several of the rigid kapu (laws) were eased or temporarily set aside allowing more freedom of activity and easy celebration.
Today many of the old Hawaiian games have been revived and are played at modern makahiki festivals and other cultural events. Each year school children play ‘ulumaika (lawn bowling) and an array of other Hawaiian games such as heihei wa’a (canoe racing), uma (wrestling), pahe’e (javelin), konane (checkers), kimo (similar to jacks), o’o ihe (spear throwing), hukihuki (tug of war), and hu (spinning tops).
Makahiki games are played not only to develop skills and quick thinking, but to instill pride in Hawaiian culture and keep it alive.