Kūkaniloko: What It Means as the Piko of Oʻahu
Most people, or at least many people, know that Kūkaniloko is the piko of O’ahu – the navel and the center of the island. Throughout the twelve years I have been researching precontact astronomy at Kūkaniloko it was apparent that bigger ideas, things like the structure of space and time – wā and kā – and matters of gender relations, the several recognitions of ao and pō, and other philosophical or metaphysical ideas were embedded in Kūkanilokoʻs astronomy. The piko-ness of Kūkaniloko has been very much at the core of the data that led to the realization that precontact astronomy at Kūkaniloko was much more than sun stations, star rises and sets, calendrics, and navigation.
The Pukui and Elbert dictionaryʻs definition-translation of piko includes navel, umbilical cord, figuratively blood relative, genitals; the summit of a hill or mountain; crest; crown of the head; end of a rope; border of a land; center, as of a kōnane board; place where a stem is attached to a leaf; bottom round of a carrying net; thatch above a door. What is a center?
A center is a midpoint.
It is an axis around which something revolves or rotates.
It is the source of an influence, an action, a force.
It is a place, person, or thing that is the most important for an activity or condition.
It is the source from which something originates.
It is the core of a thing.
It is a point of mediation between opposites.
The center mediates between/among things. Between male and female, between stars, between sun and stars, between ao and pō, between earth and sky.
Kūkaniloko is at the center of the island of O’ahu.
The center doesnʻt need balance. Everything else does.
But for the center to be a center there have to be at least two things to be at the center of.
In the case of our astronomy thatʻs both simple and complex.
Itʻs simple because the sun and every star has a rise in the east and a set in the west.
Itʻs complex because when more than one star or more than one sun station is included, relationships between/among the stars and the sun stations are created and evident.
These relationships must also be referenced by the center.
The center is the point at which balance occurs.
The graphic below shows how the solstices and equinoxes are balanced – centered – at Kūkaniloko.
The graphic below shows how star rises and sets are centered at Kūkaniloko.
Any place can be understood as centered by star and sun rises and sets. What makes Kūkaniloko unique is that the landscape markers for the sun and stars at sunrise and sunset are named for those celestial events as though they were visible from Kūkaniloko. In that way not only are the stars centered at Kūkaniloko, but so, too, is the the geography, the island. (A landscape marker is the place on the land at which or over which the rise or set of celestial object – a star, planet, constellation, asterism, the sun, the moon – makes its first rise after a period of absence or sets for the last time before a period of absence begins.)
Why was it – and is it – that a particular place functions as a piko, as a navel and center? There are several reasons. One is the importance of a cultural and political nexus, a center of cultural and political importance from which information, such as periods for resource acquisition or cultural recognition of political/religious import such as the birth of high-ranking infants or periods of religio-political observance. Kūkaniloko provided a center for both. But it was also a knowledge center, an educational center, and a spiritual center for O’ahu. These three things are really one thing – knowledge, education, and spirit are an undivided whole, interdependent and interrelated. What is knowledge in the absence of learning-teaching-education? What life does knowledge have in the absence of spirit?
A center is, of course, at the middle. It is the middle of a single object that has two ends or sides. It is the middle between two objects, or moments in time, or places.
The middle is wālua – wā, time, space, the interval between moments in time and/or places is space – and lua – two.
So we have already entered the metaphysical and spiritual realm of the center.
A piko is a center, a maka (eye), an ‘ōnohi (eyeball), ka ‘i’o (the heart of a matter the essence of a thing or a place), the iho (axis), the ku’ina (the center that joins things).
As the piko of O’ahu, Kūkaniloko represents, well – pikoness. By “pikoness,” I mean the inclusion of all the senses of piko – geographical, metaphysical, spiritual, biological, astronomical, and personal. But of especial importance is the sun – Kāne, the source of wisdom, knowledge, insight, and intuition.
The human body – yours, mine, everyoneʻs – has three pikos.
The Pukui and Elbert dictionaryʻs definitions of piko include the umbilicus, the genitals, and the crown of the head. The piko on the crown of the head is the part of us closest to the sun, to Kāne. The piko between our legs, our ma’i, genitals, is the piko closest to Papa, Mother Earth and the sky below the earth. The piko we have in the middle, our umbilicus, our belly button, connects the piko above to the piko below. The three pikos – the crown of the head, the belly button, and the genitals – form the axis of our bodies.
We can think of ourselves, our bodies, as a post, as an axis that runs from the manama (the juncture of the skull plates called the fontanel in infants) at the top of the skull through the center at our belly button to the maʻi, the genitals. And we can consider the meaning and effect of our body when it is at the piko – the geographical, cultural, spiritual center of O’ahu – Kūkaniloko.
A particularly potent time is when the sun is at the zenith and its rays enter oneʻs manawa – the center of the crown of the head, the juncture of the skull plates – and through the head into the body to its central piko – the umbilicus – and from there to the third piko – the genitals.
The solar zenith happens twice a year in the Tropics, and it happens only in the Tropics, the region between the Tropic of Cancer, at 23.5° north of the equator, where the sun is at the June solstice, and the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5° south of the equator, where the sun is at the December solstice. At the latitude of Oʻahu the zeniths and take place about three weeks before and after the the June solstice and the nadirs take place about three weeks before and after the December solstice.
The May solar zenith, with Aldebaran close to the sun.
The July solar zenith
The November solar nadir with Antares close to the sun
The solar zenith, like just about everything else in Hawaiian cultural astronomy, has relationships with other celestial events or objects. Many of these relationships are partnerships. The May zenithʻs partner is the November solar nadir, and the July zenithʻs partner is the January nadir – six months, half a year, apart.
The nadir is the opposite – the complement that creates unity – of the zenith. The zenith takes place when the sun is 90° overhead. The nadir takes place when the sun is 90° below your feet.
The May zenith and November are more than partners and complements. They center the sky.
At the zenith the male (east) half of the sky and the female (west) half of the sky are united and equal in the sky above the earth. At the nadir the male (east) half of the sky and the female (west) half of the sky are united and equal in the sky below the earth.
Zenith-nadir unification of male (east) and west (female) halves of the sky.
When the May zenith takes place the sun is is close to Aldebaran, the bright red star in the constellation Taurus. When the May zenithʻs partner and complement, the November nadir, the sun is accompanied by Antares, the bright red star in the constellation Scorpius.
Antares and the sun at the November solar nadir
Aldebaran at the zenith at the time of the solar nadir
Aldebaran is female. She has among her names the name Haumea. Haumea is also Papa (mother earth), and sometimes also La’ila’i, and sometimes also Hina. As Papa she is a half-sister and mate of Wākea (sky father). Antares is male, a brother of Wākea. So they have a blood relationships, and they have roles in cosmogony/creation. They are, of course, opposites and complements because Aldebaran is female and Antares is male, but they have a special oppositeness and complementarity. They are literally opposite one another, 180° apart in the sky.
And at the November solar nadir, Antares is with the sun 90° below you, and Aldebaran is at the celestial zenith 90° above you. In that way they are united. And in the unity of opposites – complements – something productive takes place, something is created. That is an essential nature of complementarity, an essential outcome of the unity of opposites.
One of the things created by this particular unity is the third axis. Just as our bodies have a piko above at the top of the head, a piko at the center at our belly button, and a piko below at our genitals forming an axis through the midline of our bodies connecting our uppermost piko through the umbilicus to our lowermost piko, Kūkaniloko has a third axis that unites the above through the middle to the below.
The two generally known axes are the east-west axis (here you can think of the equator and of the equinoxes) and the north-south axis (approximated by Polaris and the Southern Cross). The Aldebaran-Antares axis pierces the intersection of the east-west and north-south axes. East-west and north-south are on the same plane – a two-dimensional plane. The Aldebaran-Antares axis adds the third dimension – up-down/above-below. The piko is the connection among them. We are now in a holistic universe, in a holistic world, a world that is represented, symbolized, and recreated in our own bodies.
Our bodies hold that knowledge. Even when we do not think about it or even know about it, our bodies hold that knowledge.
And when our bodies are at Kūkaniloko, the place that is the piko of the island – the center of the island – our bodies, even when we donʻt know it or feel it or understand it – are related to and associated with, in a way replicate, the islandʻs piko.
That is a big enough idea. But it is also a part of a wider idea or set of interlinked ideas.
Our island has two mountain ranges, the Ko’olau Range in the east and the Wai’anae Range in the west. Both ranges are close to their respective shorelines, and both have a spine or ridgeline that runs roughly north-south. The two mountain ranges provide landscape markers for the rise of stars in the east and the set of stars in the west. That would not be unusual, of course. But what is unusual is that the starsʻ landscape markers include places to the east of the Ko’olau Range and places to the west of the Wai’anae Range.
The Wai’anae Range (West) and the Ko’olau Range (East), from the National Park Service
That means that precontact sky experts were so knowledgeable about the cycles of stars that they were able to name places for the rise or set of stars they couldnʻt see. Thatʻs a big deal in the world of scholarly research about culturesʻ astronomies. Most research has taken as a given that people in cultures that did not have a written language, including the educated experts of those cultures, had to be able to visually observe a star rise or set. But Kūkanilokoʻs sky experts could “see,” – that is they knew – where the rises and sets they couldnʻt see took place. In the words of one of my grad school instructors, “You mean they knew celestial mechanics?!” Yes, they knew celestial mechanics.
We can see that from the names of starsʻ landscape markers. The landscape markers indicate the rise and set of stars from the point of view of Kūkaniloko. Naming places in this way – from the point of view of Kūkaniloko – is another way the island was centered at Kūkaniloko.
This table shows the rise and set azimuth of a few stars and the corresponding compass bearing for each starʻs landscape markers.
|Star and sun station||Rise/set dates||Rise azimuth||Landscape marker||Set Azimuth||Landscape Marker|
|* Hinaieleele – Taurus/Kete/Aldebaran
May zenith (~May 13, 4.4° altitude)
Nov. nadir (~Nov 20, 6.6° alt, zenith at ~midnight)
|AM r May 24, s Nov 6
PM r Nov 21, s May 5
|74-76||81-85 Kaneholani – Kane who rules the heavens; Wākea
79 Pauao – mediator
74-80 Kaaawa – premature infant
72 Kahana – ridgepost
|284-286||278 Pohaku Lailai – Lailaiʻs rock
280-284 Kahanahaiki – small/lesser post
283-287 Keawaula – sacred premature infant
287 Puu Pueo – main purlin of house
|Ikuwa and Welehu – Antares
Nov nadir (Nov. 21, 5.6° alt)
Dec. solstice (Dec 13)
|AM r Nov 20, s May 4
PM r May 18, s Nov 2
|119||119 Halekou – house of kou, male potency
119 Kahanalii – chiefʻs work, chiefʻs place
119 Kahiakahoe – work the fireplow
|241||241 Puu Hapapa – hawk-catching stick, restore breath of Papa, 4 strata or foundations, 4 items of lumber, 4 classes; purify woman after childbirth|
|Nana – Gemini
June solstice (June 13, 5.2° alt)
|AM r June 13, s Dec 15
PM r Dec 23, s Jun 13
|58-61||57 Kaluanui – the great two
61 Makaua – We two
|299-304||301 Aukuu – long rest
292-293 Mahoe Pali – twins cliff
297 Kawaihapai – liquid of pregnancy
293 Kamananui – the great mana
|Makalii – Pleiades||AM r May 7, s Oct 31
PM r Nov 6, s April 26
|69||65 Makalii Point||291||N/A|
* Hinaiaeleele is listed as Taurus in the star lists, but Taurus as the West knows it could not have been the Hawaiian Hinaiaeleele. There were no bovines of any kind in precontact Hawaiʻi or elsewhere in Polynesia, nor were there mythical animals that resembled bovines. I understand Hinaiaeleele to be the same as the Rapa Nui Kete, a constellation consisting of Aldebaran and three other members of the Hyades. The Hawaiian transliteration of Kete is ‘eke. Both words mean basket/container.
Taking a closer look at a few of the stars and landscape markers shows how they help us understand the nature of piko-ness.
|Ala is road or path. A lā is of the sun.|
|Kaneilio||Nadirs||Sun, Sirius||Puu Kailio||Nadirs||Sun, Sirius|
|Kane is the god Kāne, who is the Sun. ‘Īlio is dog.|
|Ko’i is solstice.|
|Makua is parent, person(s) of previous generations, progenitor. Akua means god.|
|5||Kaaawa||May zenith, Nov nadir||Aldebaran||Keawaula||May zenith, Nov nadir||Aldebaran|
|‘Awa is a premature infant, as was born from Wākeaʻs incest with his and Papaʻs daughter. The incest caused caused Wākea and Papa to separate, after which Papa took the name Haumea, one of the names for Aldebaran.|
|Kahanaha-iki||May zenith, Nov nadir||Aldebaran|
|Kahana is a turning point, a drawing of a line. Ka-Hānā is the (ka) ridgepost (hānā).|
|7||Kamana||Dec solstice||Sun||Kamananui||June solstice||Sun|
|Mana is divine/supernatural power, empower, branch or crosspiece, rays of the sun.|
|8||Ulupo||Nadir||Sun, Sirius||Pokai||Nadir||Sun, Sirius|
|Pō is night, realm of the gods, mystery, potentiality, the realm of ancestors and the dead, the unknown, and the not yet born.|
|9||Puu o Kila||Solstices||Betelgeuse|
|Kila is a high place. Ki-lā is to aim at the sun.|
|Season change||Pleiades||Puu Kumakalii||Season change||Sun|
|Makali’i is the Pleiades.|
One pair like these might be a coincidence. Ten is not a coincidence. So why did the sky and land experts do this?
For one thing naming places on the opposite sides of the island with names that repeat one another magnifies the connection of the periphery of the island to the center. It also puts the two members of each pair in a relationship with one another – whether it is two places for one star as with Aldebaran and the awa names and the kahana names, Betelgeuse with Kāne names, pō and ‘īlio names for the sun and Sirius, the mana names for the solstices – or two (sometimes three) places for two stars. The three-place-name stars show a slightly more complex relationship. One of these is the mana names, two of which are for the sun at the solstices and the third of which is for Betelgeuse whose morning rise and evening rises closely coincide with the solstices. The other is Kahana and Kahanahalii for Aldebaran and Kahanalii for Antares. This is probably because Aldebaran and Antares are a special quality of pair – male and female high chiefs, whose union gives us the third axis, and whose work in the sky includes creating and ruling over celestial structure of space and time.
Returning to the centeredness, the piko-ness, the mediating and uniting functions and effects of the center, we can look further at the Pukui and Elbert definitions.
navel, umbilical cord,
figuratively blood relative,
the summit of a hill or mountain; crest;
crown of the head;
end of a rope;
border of a land;
center, as of a kōnane board;
place where a stem is attached to a leaf;
bottom round of a carrying net;
thatch above a door.
Navel of course is a reference to Kūkaniloko and together with umbilical cord is a reference to Kūkaniloko as the royal birthing site. But it is also not only the islandʻs navel and our individual physical navels, it is the umbilical cord that connects places and people to Papa and stars to places on the island.
Blood relatives refers to genealogy, particularly to chiefly genealogies whose blood inheritance reaches back to the beginning – not just to Papa and Wākea in the era of ao, but also farther back into the eras of pō, and, for those who accept or are willing to accept that knowledge of Io was present in precontact Hawai’i, even farther back to Io in Kolekole.
Genitals is another piko reference, to the piko between our legs, that part of us that participates in the creation of a new child. And that child is a continuation of genealogy into the future. And we remember that our genital piko is itself a product of our ancestors whose reproduction and genealogy gave life to each of us.
The summit of a hill of mountain, or the crest, recognizes the above-below, up-down hierarchical organization of the process of creation and of the culture. At a the summit, one is closer to the sun and stars, and the closer one is to the sun and stars, the greater oneʻs awareness of that connection and its meanings is. Height matters, even for celestial objects. They are at their greatest power when they are at their zenith, the highest point in their passage across the sky.
The crown of the head, the uppermost piko of a person, the manawa, is the summit of our body. The crown of the head is also a sacred part of the body.
The end of a rope is also a center. When you measure something, the rope is secured at the beginning of the measurement – its piko. It is also a reference to the rope or road of the sun, the ecliptic, which both begins and ends at the solstices.
We can also see the rope as the imaginary line from Kūkaniloko to the rise and set of stars and sun, centering celestial motion at Kūkaniloko.
Border of a land has multiple references. The borders of the island are the points of attachment of the periphery to the center. They are also how we orient ourselves on the land, thus how we find our center at the moment. The borders mokus, the largest land divisions within the island are also markers for stars from the point of view of Kūkaniloko, again a centering of O’ahu at Kūkaniloko that attaches each moku to the center and all of the mokus with one another at the center.
Kōnane is the Hawaiian board game that resembles checkers. That has a special reference to the Square of Pegasus. (The Square of Pegasus is addressed in another page.) But kōnane also means the bright light of the moon and to shine like the moon. This recalls the moon as Hina and Hinaʻs association with Papa and Haumea and La’ila’i. This in turn recalls creation and the advent of humankind.
Nane of kōnane means riddle. Riddle is a clever word game, but as Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi phrased it, the riddle is also the mystery of deity.[i] (Tupualegase: The Eternal Riddle, http://www.head-of-state-samoa.ws/pages/speech_tupualegase.html.)
The place where a stem is attached to a leaf refers again to genealogy, to the attachment of the periphery to the center, to the metaphors of family – including the families of gods and stars, to the dependence of the younger on the older and the connection of the present to the past.
The bottom of a carrying net refers to birth, old age, and death, as well as to the nets that carried food. A recurring theme in mo’olelo is the carrying net filled with food that Makali’i, the Pleiades, raised into the sky and the iole – the rat – who gnawed the rope from the net to release the food. The carrying net also suggests the ‘eke, the basket made up of Aldebaran and three of the Hyades, and the container that is the womb.
The thatch above a door is the last part of building a hale, a house. The building of a house repeats the constuction of the sky.
Ikuwa (Antares) and Haumea (Aldebaran) are the stars who rule the structure of space and time. The structure is perceived as a house, with posts, roofbeam, rafters, purlins, thatch, and so on – all of which figure in the names and landscape marker names of Antares and Aldebaran.
From Hawaii County, Public Works[ii]
Before a completed house could be entered the thatch over the door was trimmed and a kahuna prayed the Kuwa prayer. When the Kuwa prayer was done the house could be entered.
In Chapter 33 of Hawaiian Antiquities, Malo provided a Kuwa prayer:
“Ku lalani ka pule a keoloalu i ke akua
O Kuwa wahi’a i ke piko o ka hale o Mea
A ku! A wa! A moku ka piko
A moku, a moku iho la!
Orderly and harmonious is the prayer of the multitude to God
Kuwa now cuts the piko of the house of Mea
He stands! He cuts! The thatch is cut.
It is cut! Lo it is cut!”
In the second line Kuwa stands for Ikuwa (Antares) and Mea stands for Haumea (Aldebaran).
The names for Aldebaran and Antares tell us about some of the characteristics that relate them to the piko. These names for Aldebaran show her association with femaleness, conception and pregnancy, and with cosmogony. They also show her status as a high aliʻi and a ruler.
|Haumea||Goddess of childbirth; to organize (hang, gird, lace, tie); at times also meaning Papa, La’ila’i, and/or Hina|
|Oma||High officer of a chief
‘Oma – oven; sacrificial victim; first man killed in war; space where first man killed in war was sacrificed; small adze
|Keoma||The Oma and the ‘Oma|
|Lilioma||Blasted, as fruit; jealous
Līlīoma – to organize (hang, gird, lace, tie)
|Muakeoma||The first or senior line and future Oma/’Oma|
|Hulikahikeoma||Oma/’Oma turns at this place (the zenith)|
|Keoma-aiku||The ruling high officer of a chief|
|Kapuahi||Fireplace, oven; sacred fire|
|Unu||Altar, heiau; to draw together|
Her landscape markers reflect her names.
May zenith (May 13, – 4.4° alt)
Nov nadir (Nov 20, 6.6° alt., zenith at midnight)
|AM r May 24, s Nov 6
PM r Nov 21, s May 5
|74-76||81-85 Kanehoalani – Kāne who rules the heavens
79 Pauao – mediator
74-80 Kaaawa – premature infant
72 Kahana – ridgepost; work
|284-286||278 Pohaku Lailai – Lailaiʻs Rock
280-284 Kahanahaiki – turning point, small cut, line drawn
283-287 Keawaula – sacred premature infant
287 Puu Pueo – main purlin; owl (Kāne)
Kaneholani tells us she is related to Kāne. All stars are related to Kāne, but Aldebaran has a particular set of relationships to him. Kāne and Wākea have a symmetrical relationship – that means that in some respects they are equivalent. As Papa, Aldebaran was the mate of Wākea. In some Polynesian cosmogonies she and Wākea are the parents of Kāne. In those cosmogonies it is Kāne who separated Papa from Wākea.
Her relationship to Kāne is also present at the May zenith when she and the sun are together when the sun is at its highest place in the sky. That relationship is also present at the November solar nadir, when she is at the celestial zenith at the moment Antares and the sun are together below the earth – the moment when the third axis is apparent to the sky experts.
Pōhaku La’ila’i recalls the symmetry or equivalence among Papa, Haumea, Hina, and Laʻilaʻi, and the cosmogony and mo’olelo about them. Kaaawa and Keawaula refer to the first Hāloa who was premature and stillborn, from whose burial place the first kalo plant emerged. This is again cosmogony.
Kahana and Kahanahalii refer to structure which weʻll talk about in another session, but for our purposes here the names show east-west unity through Kūkaniloko.
The place name Pauao, which means mediate and mediator, shows the centering function of Aldebaran. This centering function is the third axis, but is also the mediation between the pō of the womb and the ao into which a child is born.
Below are tables for the names of Antares and for the landscape markers for Antares:
|Lehua||Blossom of ‘ōhīa; warrior; first man killed in battle|
|Polehua||Antares in pō|
|Ikuwa||Great ruler of space and time|
|Kukulukulu||Pillar, post, to build a house; to construct, organize; to lay an oven; timber used in houses|
|Nakulu||Timber used in houses|
|Mehakuakoko||Solitary master/lord [who] arranges, puts in order, ties up strings/rope, and fulfils|
|Kahuaokalani||The foundation of heaven/sky; the regent of heaven realm; the caretaker/regent of royal enlightenment|
|Hua||Seed, testicles – maybe short for Kahuaokalani|
|Hai||To offer, sacrifice
Ha’i – border, edge; house
|Kao||The continuing appearance; the continuing piercing|
|Auhaele||The coming and going of time/eras/cycles|
|Welehu||Suspended joining/uniting of many|
|Ikuwa and Welehu – Antares
Nov nadir (Nov 21, 5.6° alt)
|AM r Nov 20, s May 4
PM r May 18, s Nov 2
|119||119 Halekou – house of kou, prosperity, male potency
119 Kahanalii – chief’s work, chiefʻs place
119 Kahiakahoe – alone at the paddle, work the fireplow
121 – Konahuanui – his big hua
|241||241 Puu Hapapa – Hawk-catching stick; half a year; breath of Papa|
The center matters. And centering matters. The center – the piko, the middle – mediates and connects separate places, times, people, and even ideas. At the center differences meet. The center connects and mediates between east and west, north and south, the two axes of the world. But the third axis, the axis evident in the relationship between Aldebaran and Antares, connects and mediates the opposites and includes other objects and times and places – seen as radiating lines from the axis.
One of the landscape markers for the rise of Aldebaran is Pauao. One of the meanings of Pauao is place (pā) [of] mediation, reconciliation, peacemaking (‘uao). Thatʻs what third axis does. It mediates, it reconciles, it equalizes. It mediates and reconciles and equalizes in several respects. It joins the sky below and the sky above through the medium of the earth (honua, Papa). It joins east and west, the north and south, and the four directions at the piko, the center. It joins male and female through the axial union of Aldebaran (female) and Antares (male). It joins as equal halves the male part of the sky (east) and the female part of the sky (west) not just in the sky above the earth, but also in the sky below the earth.
The center, the piko, then, is a place of mana, a place of unity and union, a place of material and spiritual substance and essence, a place of connection and connections, a place of engagement – of insight, intuition, inspiration; of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; engagement of awareness, knowledge and realization.
The center is a multidimensional place. The center is holistic, a hologram. But the wā – the connection of past to present to future, the connection of place to place – enhances, adds to, even alters, the experience of, and the knowledge potentially accessible at, the center. And it adds a fourth dimension – time.
Hawaiian scholar ‘Umi Perkins, in his discussion of Indigenous Theory, describes its five components – (a) the concept of harmony or balance, which can be seen in the structure of Indigenous societies and could be described as dynamic equilibrium or pono; (b) the importance of place and history; (c) experience, practice, and process; (d) the holistic and collective nature of indigeneity; and (e) the cyclical and genealogical nature of time, represented by the spiral or koru.[iii]
Tongan scholars Tevita Ka’ili, PhD, and Okusitino Mahina, PhD have been developing a tā-vā (Hawaiian kā-wā) theory of Polynesian time and space.[iv] Time (tā, kā) and space (vā, wā) intersect.
Throughout Oceanic cultures the past is the time in front and the future is the time in back. This is reflected in understanding of island geography – the west – the direction of ancestors, beginnings, and the past – is the front of the island, and the east – what is yet to come, the future – is the back of the island.
Ka’ili and Mahina explain that tā/kā and vā/wā are rhythmically beaten (as on a drum) in symmetrical form in space. And that this symmetrical formation of time/space produces harmony.
Samoan spatial design scholar, Albert Refiti, PhD, said that “In Samoan thought, architecture is related to performing a material manifestation of ‘space-towards-the-ancestors,’ marked by an opening, the va. . . . This va , or co-openness, located at the centre of every gathering, every sociality, structures Samoan identity.”[v]
Throughout Oceania the sky is represented as a house, with main posts, a roofbeam, support posts, roof purlins, a door, and so on.
The names for Aldebaran and Antares show that they are main posts. They intersect with or pierce the earth as the above-below/up-down axis at the center.
As Refiti said, “Light, as knowledge and understanding in . . . is not something that comes to us from outside. Rather, it appears as a divine force emanating from . . . a centrality.”[vi]
The meeting, mediation, connecting, and centering of stars and land and all that they represent, symbolize, and mean – including cosmogony, deity, ao and pō, mana, birth and death, the structure of time and space, and socio-political relationships of the island of O’ahu at Kūkaniloko centers Hawaiian metaphysics and meaning.
[i] Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi, “Tupualegase: The Eternal Riddle,” keynote speech, Faculty of Arts Maori and Pacific Leadership Programme Dinner, University of Auckland, Centre for Pacific Studies, Fale Pasifika, Auckland, New Zealand, 2008, at http://www.head-of-state-samoa.ws/pages/speech_tupualegase.html, accessed May 25, 2017.
[iii] Umi Perkins, “Pono and the Koru: Toward Indigenous Theory in Pacific Island Literature,” Hūlili, Vol. 4 No. 1, 2007, p. 59.
[iv] ‘Okusitino Mahina and Tevita O. Ka’ili, “Ta and Va: Moana Cultures as Specific Spatio-temporal Formation(s) in ʻTime and Spaceʻ,” Association for Social Anthropology in the Pacific Working Group, 2006.
[v] Albert Refiti, “Whiteness, Smoothing and the Origin of Samoan Architecture,” Interstices, November 2009, p. 10
[vi] Refiti, “Whiteness, Smoothing,” p. 11