The Ma-ka-hi-ki, or New Year festival, in the latter part of the month of We-to-hu 1, was devoted to sports and general gambling. On the 23d day of the moon of We-le-hu, the image of Lo-no ma-ku-a2, the Ma-ka-hi-ki god, was decorated. This idol, according to Alexander3, was like a round pole, 12 feet long, and 3 or 4 inches in diameter, with a head carved at one end. A cross-stick, about 6 feet long, was fastened to its neck, at right angles to the pole, to which were attached feather wreaths, and an imitation of a sea-bird, the ka-u-pu4, was perched upon it. A long white kapa, like a sail, was fastened at the top to the cross-piece, and left loose at the bottom. There was also made a short idol, called A-ku-a pa-a-ni (god of sport) and Ma-ka-wa-hi-ne, because it was set up at boxing matches and other games.
The next night fires were lighted on the shore, all around the island, and the people went to bathe in the sea, warming themselves at the fires. This was a rite of purification, after which they all put on new ma-lo and pa-u.
The next morning the festival began, and for four days no work was permitted. Land and sky and sea were tabu to Lo-no, and only feasting and games were allowed. The high-priest was blindfolded and remained in seclusion for five days. Meanwhile all the ko-no-hi-ki (headmen) on the island had been getting ready the taxes of their respective lands, in anticipation of a visit from the long god who was now making a tour of the islands. The long god was preceded by a man carrying two long rods which he set up in the ground on arriving at the boundary of a land. The land was then under tabu or interdict, and no one could leave it until the tax was fully paid. The taxes were brought to the a-hu, and when the tax collector was satisfied, the priest chanted a prayer to Lo-no, the crowd joining in the responses, closing with the shout Au-le e Lo-no! - when the land became no-a or free, and the long idol moved to the next land.
As evening came on, the people assembled from the surrounding country to see the boxing-matches, etc., under the immediate patronage of the short god. For the next two days there were carried on all kinds of sports, such as boxing, wrestling, sliding down hill, throwing the mai-ka, foot-racing, etc., attended with general gambling and revelry.
On the fifth day, called Lo-no, the bandage was taken from the eyes of the high-priests, and canoes were allowed to go fishing for that day. The tabu was then resumed until the long idol returned, i.e., for about twenty days. On the evening of that day the Ka-Iii ceremony was performed, as follows:
The king5 with a numerous company went fishing, taking the long idol with him. On his return, he was accompanied by a warrior, expert in the spear exercise. As the king leaped ashore a man rushed forward with two spears bound with white kapa, and hurled one at him, which was parried, after which he simply touched the king with the other spear, and the ceremony was over. This was followed by sham fights, until the king put a stop to them and, repaired to the he-i-au (temple) to pay his devotions to Lo-no.
The next day the long idol was stripped of its ornaments, which were packed up and deposited in the temple for use, another year, and a white canoe, called Lo-no's canoe, to return to Ka-hi-ki in, was sent to sea, after which all restrictions on fishing and farming were removed (no-a ka ma-ka-hi-ki).
1. The ancient Hawaiians divided the year into twelve months of 30 days each. As this gave but 360 days to their year, they added and gave to their god Lono in feasting and festivity the number of days required to complete the sidereal year, which was regulated by the rising of the Pleiades.
2.Lo-no was the fourth of the four great gods that were worshiped throughout Polynesia. He had a separate order of priests and temples of a lower grade. Traditions connected with the ancient kings Lonokawai and Lono-i-ka-makahiki, seem to have been mixed with those belonging to the primeval god Lo-no. Lono-i-ka-makahiki is reputed to have instituted the games which were celebrated during the Ma-ka-i-ki festival. He is said on some account to have become offended with his wife and murdered her; but afterward lamented the act so much as to induce a state of mental derangement. In this state he traveled through all the islands, boxing and wrestling with everyone he met. He subsequently set sail, in a singularly shaped canoe, for Tahiti, or a foreign country. After his departure he was deified by his countrymen, and annual contests of boxing and wrestling were instituted in his honor.
3. Op. cit., p. 59.
4. A large black bird, the size of a turkey, found mostly in Nihoa and Kaula.
5. Alexander states that Kamehameha always caught the spear himself.
Last update January 31, 2010