It might be a good thing to share our knowledge of the lunar phases, their names, and events associated with each of the phases, according to the traditional sources. Letʻs start with the basic lunar calendar:

The Hawaiian Lunar Calendar
(Sources: Kamakau, Malo, Handy et al)

The thirty days of the Hawaiian lunar month set the tempo for religious activities of ancient Hawai‘i. The notes below describe agricultural and religious patterns associated with the lunar month in ancient Hawai‘i.

First night

The appearance of the moon in the evening in the western horizon marks this first night of the month. It is so close to the setting sun that it may escape notice altogether. This new moon appears as a "slender" or "twisted" sliver (hilo). Foods maturing under¬ground will "hide". Some feel crops planted under this moon will be small like the moon under which they started. The kapu period dedicated to Kū begins on this night.

Second night

Hoaka means "faint light" or "cast a shadow." On this night the ‘uhane (ghosts) are about and cast shadows. It is not a good time for activities. Now sufficiently distant from the setting sun that it is clearly visible after sunset in the western sky. This is the second kapu night of Kū.


Third to sixth night
These are the first, second, third, and forth nights of Kū. The cresent moon steadily increases in size, and remains in the western sky after sunset. The kapu period of Kū ends with Kūkahi (First Kū). Many farmers believe that on this night uala and kalo should be planted so they will grow "upright" (kū) in the soil. It is said that kalo planted will have a single main stalk if planted on Kūkahi, or two on Kūlua, and three on Kūkolu. Mai‘a planted during the Kū period will be tall.


Seventh to tenth nights
This is an unproductive time for ‘ole means "nothing," "without," or "unproductive." The moon is near hoʻokuʻi (zenith) at sunset. Some recommend that planting be avoided until ‘olepau which ends the nonproductive period. Breadfruit, for example, may be planted on ‘olepau. ʻOlepau also marks the end of the first anahulu (10 day subdivision) of the lunar month.


Eleventh night
It is on this night that the sharp points of the moon's horns are hidden as huna (hidden) implies. Now the moon is high in the eastern sky as the sun sets. Farmers favor root plants (e.g., uala), that will flourish, hidden under dense foliage, or ipu that hides under a thick growth of leaves.


Twelfth night
The moon is filling out, and moves to a more eastward position at sunset. Flowers planted on this night will mature with full form, as will kalo, uala, and ipu. Fruits, fish and limu were kapu for this night was sacred to Kāne, the life-giver. This night begins the kapu period called Hua.


Thirteenth night
This is the first night that the circular form of the moon shows. The first of the four Hawaiian full moons, this moon appears egg-shaped. Besides meaning egg, hua means: "fruit" and "seed" and many believe it would be bountiful on the ‘āina and kai. Ipu flourished on the land and would bear many seeds. This night is the second of the kapu Hua, and is sacred to Lono.


Fourteenth night
This is the second of four full moons and on this night, the moon is now distinctly round, and shines just above the eastern horizon as the sun sets. All things reproduce abundantly (ho‘oakua). On this kapu night, the akua are about, and offerings are made to them to increase crops or rain at heiau (ho‘oulu‘ai and ho‘ouluua). The kapu Hua is lifted on the dawn of this day.


Fifteenth night
Hawaiians consider this night's moon the fullest moon of the month. It rises at sunset and dominates the night sky until dawn. It sometimes set before daylight and was called Hoku Palemo (slipping Hoku). If this moon is seen above the horizon when daylight comes it is called Hoku Ili (stranded Hoku). Hoku kua means "lined up close together" hence root plants as ‘uala, and bananas will be prolific under this moon. Other plants will be prolific, but their fruit small. This night was good for trees in general, and for olonā.


Sixteenth night
This is the second night in which the moon rises just after sunset, and does not set until after sunrise. It is the last of the four Hawaiian full moons. Mahea means "where" and the plants grow prolific and large when planted on this night, so they are crowded, as if to ask "where is there more room for us?" This time is good for all kinds of work.


Seventeenth night
On this night the moon‘s rising is delayed until after darkness sets in. Kulu means "to drop". The banana sheath drops off this day exposing its new bunch. It is a good time for uala and ipu. This is the time for the ali‘i to offer the season's first harvest to the akua during the Makahiki.


Eighteenth to twentieth nights
This is the first, second and last lā‘au nights. On Lā‘aukükahi, the moon has waned so much that the sharp points of its horns can once more be seen. Uala, and melons (including ipu) will run to woody (lā‘au) vines. Ulu planted on these days will be hard and woody. For medicines (lā‘au) this is a time favored for gathering herbs and for their preparations by the kahuna lā‘au lapa‘au. It is a good time for planting mai‘a and other fruit, as fruit will be so big that poles (lā‘au) will be needed to support them.


Twenty-first to twenty-third nights
First, second and last ‘ole nights. As during the waxing ‘ole nights, this time is not recommended for planting or fishing. It is windy and tides will run high. Farmers use this time for weeding. ‘Ole pau marks the beginning of the kapu Kāloa period sacred to the god Kanaloa offerings are made to him.


Twenty-fourth to twenty-sixth nights
The three nights of Kāloa are good for planting crops with long stems like the mai‘a, kō, wauke, and ‘ohe for they will grow long (loa). Uala and ‘uhi will run to long vines. Hala will develop long leaves. The first night of Kāloa is sacred to Kanaloa and mild kapu are enforced, but the kapu is lifted on the dawn of Kāloakūlua.


Twenty-seventh night
This is the night that the moon rises at dawn. This and the following night (called Lono) are sacred to the akua Kāne. It is a period devoted to prayer for health and food to the akua Kāne and Lono. The kapu Kāne is a rigorous kapu. No work or play occurs during this day.


Twenty-eighth night
On this night, the moon rises only as the day is breaking. This is the second night of the kapu Kāne, and prayers to Lono for rain are common on this day. Farmers favor melons (such as ipu) for they are kinolau of Lono.


Twenty-ninth night
When the moon delays its rising until daylight has come it is called Mauli "fainting." Uli means dark and implies rich, dark-green vegetation. The kapu Kāne is lifted on the morning of Mauli. The god of health and life, Mauliola, is a Kāne god.


Thirtieth night
On this night, the last of the lunar month, the moon rises so late (and is so reduced) that it can no longer be seen in the light of day. The moon is cut off (muku). Mai‘a will bear bunches one muku long (from the tip of fingers of one hand to opposite elbow). Kumu lā‘au (trees) and kō will prosper but it is not recommended for uala.

So, if that is the basic background, what might we do with this? Well, we can add other observations that are made for particular nights and phases - things observed on land and sea in our times, to augment the patterns observed long ago. It may even be that some of the patterns observed no longer function as well in our modified landscape.

I have the clear feeling that many of us no longer look at the moon much, nor have a good feel for where it is in the sky during its 30 day cycle. Just getting back in touch with such things is good. For example, the moon is very full right now, which means that it rises in the east as the sun is setting in the west, and at midnight, it will be directly overhead.

Please share tidbits of your lunar knowledge here in this discussion.

mahalo a nui,


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