KAMALIʻI ʻIKE ʻOLE I KA HELU PŌ: MUKU NEI, MUKU KA MALAMA, HILO NEI, KAU ʻO HOAKA. #1471
Children who do not know the moon phases: Muku is here, Muku is the month, Hilo comes next, then Hoaka.
Said of one who does not know the answer to a question or is ignorant. He is compared to a small child who has not yet learned the moon phases.
Ever notice the different phases of the moon and how the ʻāina, kai, and us as kānaka respond in relation to it? We can see the ebb of the tides due to the gravitational pull of the moon. Our kūpuna were such astute observers, that they recognized the different cycles and patterns each night. The helu pō (moon phases), affected how they lived out all aspects of life, including fishing, farming, building, duties, and celebrations.
“Kamaliʻi ʻike ʻole i ka helu pō.”
Children who do not know the moon phases.
When one didn’t know the answer to a question, this remark was often made in response; they were compared to kamaliʻi (children) who didn’t know the moon phases. To Hawaiians, understanding the moon phases was used in optimizing the farming, fishing, building, and various tasks they relied on, that not knowing would be considered almost ignorant.
At Hoʻokuaʻāina, we use the moon when it comes to planting; it acts as our calendar. To keep up with the demand for kalo (which we are immensely grateful for), we have been planting two patches each month. One patch we plant around the full moon and the other patch will fall somewhere in between. The planting of this second patch is determined by when we’re able to prep it and gather enough huli. The reality is that life will not wait for us. The weeds will keep growing and the nights will continue to pass us by. But the beauty of this is that it gives us an opportunity to kilo (make observations). We can compare how the kalo grows when it is planted on the full moon versus when it is not.
The Hawaiian malama (month) is broken into three anahulu (period of 10 days). The first anahulu is named hoʻonui, this is the time when the moon is increasing in size or waxing. The second anahulu is named poepoe, this is when the moon is rounding and becomes full. The third anahulu is named hoʻēmi, this is when the moon is decreasing or waning.
Generally speaking, ʻole moons aren’t good for planting or fishing. If you look at the word itself, ʻole means without or lacking, not what you would want your kalo to be. These are great days for us to clear hau and pull weeds.
The moons we do like to plant on are anything from Hua to Māhealani. During our exchange trip to Rurutu in 2018, Uncle Viriamu also shared with us a similar practice of planting just before the full moon. Kū moons can be good for planting too. One meaning of the word kū is to stand, so it would only make sense to plant things that you want to grow tall and sit upright. Lāʻau is a general name for trees or plants, so any lāʻau moons are great for planting too.
When we first made the conscious effort to plant on the full moon a little over two years ago, what stood out the most, was how much straighter and taller the kalo stood than usual. It was as if someone had reached down and pulled it up to the sky. Perhaps just as the moon’s gravity pulls on the ocean, it also lifts the water up through the kalo plant. You don’t have to take our word for it. Test it out for yourself and make your own observations. See what the same plant looks like when planted on different moons. See which plants grow best on which moons. Let’s all challenge ourselves to learn together.
- Why was the helu pō (moon calendar) so important to Hawaiians and other indigenous peoples across the world?
- What is tonight’s moon? Is the moon in the sky right now? If not, when will it rise?
- If you notice, there are ʻole moons in both the hoʻonui and hoʻēmi anahulu. What is similar about these moons?
- Compare the Hawaiian moon calendar to the calendar we use today. What are the potential benefits of following the moon?
- Helu Pō: Moon calendar; to count the nights.
- Mahina: Moon
- Malama: Month
- Anahulu: Period of 10 days
- Hoʻonui: Enlarging, first anahulu
- Poepoe: Rounding, second anahulu
- Hoʻēmi: Diminishing, third anahulu
Hawaiian Moon Phases
View an interactive Hawaiian Moon Calendar Here:
- Hoku ili – when the moon is still in the sky as the sun rises
- Hoku palemo – when the moon disappears as the sun rises
Possible Extension Activities
Learn the Hawaiian moon phases through this chant and hand game.
Kamali’i ‘ike ‘ole i ka helu pō
Muku nei, Muku ka malama
Hilo nei, kau ka Hoaka
‘Ehā Kū, ‘Ehā ‘Ole
Huna, Mohalu, Hua, Akua
Hoku, Māhealani, Kulu
‘Ekolu Lā’au, ‘Ekolu ‘Ole, ‘Ekolu Kāloa
Kāne, Lono, Mauli Pau
Pick a crop and plant it on different moon phases. Perhaps start with Hilo, the new moon, then an ʻole moon, and then one of the full moons. Keep everything else constant so that that moon is the only varying factor. Take pictures and keep notes so that you can compare how they grow.
Keep a journal and for 30 consecutive days, kilo something. You can pick a plant in your yard, your favorite beach, or even just reflect on yourself and see how you feel each day. What changes do you notice? Does the tide sit a little higher than the day before? Do you feel extra productive on one day and less motivated on another? Make note of it!
Pukui, Mary Kawena. “ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings.” Hawaiʻi: Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication No. 71. 1983. Pukui, Mary Kawena lāua ʻo Samuel H. Elbert. “Hawaiian Dictionary.” Hawaiʻi: University of Hawaiʻi Press. 1986.
Andrews, Lorrin lāua ʻo Henry H. Parker. “A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language.” Hawaiʻi: The Board of Commissioners of Public Archives of the Territory of Hawaii. 1922.
Content on this page was written and compiled by Johanna Kapōmaikaʻi Stone and Rachel Kapule