A large part of SOT involves Sage’s cultural upbringing and her embracing of Hawaiian culture, and eventually a new worldview. Here I explore aspects of Hawaiian mythology and culture including in the book in more detail. I also explore the concept of Pantheism.
Hanau ka poThe Kumlipo
The night gave birth
Hanau Kumulipo i ka po, he kane
Born was Kumulipo in the night, a male
Hanau Po‘ele i ka po, he wahine
Born was Po‘ele in the night, a female
Hanau ka ‘Uku-ko‘ako‘a, hanau kana, he ‘Ako‘ako‘a, puka
Born was the coral polyp, born was the coral, came forth
Hawaiian religion is focused on four main gods, prominently Kāne, Kū, Lono, and Kanaloa plus several other deities (Wikipedia). Ku was the god of war and prosperity. Kāne represents the god of procreation and was an ancestor of chiefs and commoners. Lono is associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, music, and peace. And Kanaloa was considered to be a god of the sea, the Underworld, and a teacher of magic.
The Hawaiian creation myth, the Kumulipo, is a chant linking the gods to royalty, the aliʻi, to humans, and to all natural things. Through the gods, mana — spiritual energy — flowed, and memorizing a family’s genealogy was a way to establish the connection between individuals and the gods. Accordingly, in many families children were taught all of the families’ ancestors. Since there was no written language, traditionally they had to memorize it. In addition, each family is considered to have one or more guardian spirits known as ʻaumākua that protected the family. In SOT, Sage’s ʻaumākua plays an important role in the story and appears at several key junctures in her journey.
SOT primarily focuses on Kanaloa as most of the story takes place in the ocean. Sage’s tutu’s belief in Kanaloa’s revenge is one of the factors motivating her to go to Thalassa. Kanaloa is seen as an enforcer in the belief that her inoa pō, the name her tutu saw in her dream, should be used and followed. As discussed in Look to the Source (Pukui et al. 1972), inoa pō are often chosen by a child’s family ʻaumakua and were seen as both a gift and a command. The name must be used; refusal could result in crippling or death and the names were seen as casting a role for the individual’s life. In SOT, Sage’s tutu names her granddaughter Hōkūlani e hoʻāla i ka moana: a heavenly star that awakens the ocean. Does she accept this name?
Through her experiences on Thalassa Sage begins to develop a new philosophy outside of Hawaiian religion which embraces the belief that all things, the physical, biological, and spiritual, are connected. These are elements of Pantheism. The philosophy of Pantheism believes that all things are linked in a profound unity. It believes that all things are interconnected and interdependent and that both in life and in death humans are an integral part of this unity that encompasses the cosmos (Harrison, 2016).
Pantheism is an ancient religious belief that is not focused on a supernatural creator, such as a single God or Gods, but rather is based on a profound respect for nature and the universe. God is the Universe and spirit is present in everything. Rock, water, wind, lichens, Neosi, and Sage. All are bound up and connected in the universe. Pantheism was the dominant belief of many philosophers and poets from Wordsworth to Whitman.
In the book, the land is covered with red, orange, and yellow lichen-like organisms (let’s call them lichens for now but they are unique). Everything has a spirit so lichens do as well and they are all connected across the landscape and seascape of Thalassa. Celtic animism believed the world was dominated by many spirits that occupied the land, the water, the trees, and animals. As such, like Pantheists, they respected and worshiped the natural world and in turn protected their sacred places. Sage’s experiences lead her to believe that all life is connected, even across the universe, a belief consistent with Pantheism. She also discovered several sacred places on the planet that she perceived as unusual.
Cultural Practices: Mālama ʻĀina
The concept of Mālama ʻĀina, which Sage embraces on Thalassa, means to care and nurture the land, both because you love it, but also so it can give back what we need to sustain ourselves and our future generations. It is both a physical and spiritual Hawaiian value. It acknowledges a symbiotic relationship between kānaka (man) and ʻāina (land) and understands that ʻāina has mana, spirit, and intrinsic value beyond its economic value (blackkoa.com). This is an extremely important concept that needs to be incorporated into our every day ethics and our natural resource policies and management practices. It is also how Sage practices in her relationship with Thalassa.
I write about Hawaiian culture and religion with great respect and humility. I honor this worldview because traditional Hawaiian values and practices are rich with purpose and have much to offer to the modern world. However, my writings are based on my limited knowledge of the subject and a brief time living in Hawaii and hence are not written with an authentic native Hawaiian voice. My hope is this book will inspire you to listen to authentic native Hawaiian voices and seek their wisdom: nānā i ke kumu (look to the source). Here are a few recommendations with more in the reference sections.
Questions for the Reader:
- What events reinforced Sage’s beliefs in her Hawaiian culture?
- What experiences developed her beliefs in Pantheism?
- Where were the sacred spots where she had unusual experiences? Places where she felt guided or connected?
- Can you spot the instances where ʻaumākua influence her decisions and behavior?
- Why did Sage adopt Mālama ʻĀina?
- Beckwith, Martha Warren. 1972. The Kumulipo A Hawaiian Creation Chant. University of Hawaii Press, 257 pp.
- M. K., Haertig, E. W., C. A. Lee. 1972. Nānā I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source) volume I. Hui Hanai, 240 pp. Online copy.
- Mālama ʻĀina. http://blackkoa.com/surfboards/malama-aina/
- Harden, MJ. 1999. Voices of Wisdom: Hawaiian Elders Speak. Aka Press, Kula, HI. 239 pp.
- Harrison, Paul. 2016. Elements of Pantheism: A Spirituality of Nature and the Universe. 3rd Edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 114 pp.
- Kupihea, Moke. 2001. Kahuna of Light: The World of Hawaiian Spirituality. Inner Traditions International, 266 pp.