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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, January 14, 2005

Hawaiian way is to let moon guide planting

 •  Home & Garden Calendar

By Duane Choy

Not to put you in quiz mode, but which of these is not a typical response to the full moon in Hawai'i?

  1. "That is so beautiful!"
  2. "I can see my shadow from the moonlight!"
  3. "Look at the rainbow around the moon!"
  4. "It will be a good time to plant fruits!"

If you answered A, B or C, you're probably new to the Islands. If you answered D, you fell for a trick question, because the real answer would be "none of the above."

There is more to the moon over Hawai'i than just our gorgeous evenings. For years, Hawaiians have used the 29.5-day cycles of mahina (the moon) to determine, among other practices, when to plant crops.

The full moon rises over Central Union Church. The Hawaiian calendar was lunar, and there were good and bad times for planting.

Advertiser library photo

The Hawaiian moon cycle is divided into three anahulu (10-day weeks). The first night of the cycle is the night after the new moon.

To help explain, I've taken some of the following information from David Malo's "Hawaiian Antiquities" (an 1898 work republished by the Bishop Museum), Martha Beckwith's "Kepelino's Traditions of Hawai'i" (a 1932 work republished by the museum) and Edward and Elizabeth Handy's "Native Planters in Old Hawai'i."

• First week: O'onui, "growing bigger."

Hilo ("faint," "slender," "wispy"), Night 1: Foods maturing underground will "hide" and may be small like the moon.

Hoaka ("crescent"), Night 2: A good day for planting, according to spiritual beliefs.

Ku Kahi, Night 3: The ku days are believed to be good for planting 'uala (sweet potato), kalo (taro) and mai'a (banana) because the plants will grow "upright" or "erect" (ku) in the lepo (soil).

Ku Lua, Night 4: Plants grow 'upright' or 'erect' (ku) in the lepo (soil).

Ku Kolu. Night 5 of lunar month.

Ku Pau, Night 6 of lunar month.

'Ole Ku Kahi, Night 7: An unproductive period, according to Hawaiian lore. 'Ole means "nothing," "without." The 'Ole Ku days are 7, 8, 9 and 10; these are the bad days for planting. Days 3, 4, 5 and 6 are the Ku days, which are good for planting.

'Ole Ku Lua, Night 8: Farmers generally dislike this day for planting.

'Ole Ku Kolu, Night 9: The farmer thinks little of this day, according to tradition.

'Ole Pau, Night 10: Pau means "end," so this time is considered to be unproductive.

• Second week: Poepoe, "round."

Huna, Night 11: Root plants are favored by the farmers because they will flourish, hidden (huna) under dense foliage like the ipu (bottle gourd) that hides under its leaves.

Mohalu, Night 12: The night for flowering plants, especially the ipu, mai'a and kalo.

Hua, Night 13: Hua means "fruit" or "seed" and it was believed to be bountiful on the 'aina (land) and kai (ocean).

Akua, Night 14: All things reproduce abundantly (ho'oakua). Offerings are made to increase growth of plants and food (mea'ai).

Hoku, Night 15: This was the fullest moon of the month — a day well-liked by farmers.

Mahealani, Night 16: The "calendar" full moon. Plants will be prolific and large if they are planted at this time.

Kulu, Night 17: Good time for potatoes and melons. The banana's sheath drops off on this day, exposing its new bunch.

La'au Ku Kahi, Night 18: Good time for planting mai'a. 'Uala, melons and ipu run to woody (la'au) vines. A time for gathering medicinal herbs and their preparations.

La'au Ku Lua, Night 19: A day much esteemed by the farmer, as the second of the three la'au nights. The moon has waned, and its sharp points (the ends of the moon) can be seen once more.

La'au Pau, Night 20: A day for planting in general.

• Third week: Emi, "decreasing.

'Ole Ku Kahi, Night 21: Farmers use this time for weeding.

'Ole Ku Lua, Night 22: Planting days for potato slips, banana suckers and gourd seed. Handy and Handy: " 'Ole days are not good for either planting or fishing.' "

'Ole Pau, Night 23: Last 'ole night.

Kaloa Ku Kahi, Night 24: The time for planting those with long stems, long vines or long leaves, such as the mai'a, ko (sugar cane), wauke (paper mulberry) and 'ohe (bamboo). Hala (pandanus) will develop long leaves, desirable for weaving, if planted at this time.

Kaloa Ku Lua, Night 25 of lunar calendar.

Kaloa Pau, Night 26 of lunar calendar.

Kane, Night 27: Sacred to the god Kane. Prayers devoted to health and food.

Lono, Night 28: Farmers plant melons and ipu (bottle gourd), for they are kino lau (the embodiment) of the god Lono.

Mauli, Night 29: Uli means dark and reflects rich, dark-green vegetative growth. A good night for planting.

Muku, Night 30: The new moon; the end of the moon cycle. Mai'a will fruit bunches one muku long (a measurement from the finger tips of one hand to the opposite elbow, when both arms are extended to the side). Kumula'au (trees) and ko will prosper but not recommended for 'uala.

This is a very abbreviated summary of the Hawaiian lunar calendar.

So, the next time you cast your gaze skyward to the moon, let the celestial night become your daytime planner.

Duane Choy is a volunteer coordinator and heads docent training for the Honolulu botanical gardens. Reach him at hbg@honolulu.gov. Foster Botanical Garden, 50 N. Vineyard Blvd., is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For more information about the garden, call 522-7066.