Four great gods with a large retinue of lesser gods came from Kahiki to the Hawaiian Islands. “Kahiki” meant any land beyond the skies which came down to the seas around the Hawaiian group. These gods settled for a time in Nuuanu Valley, back of the lands now known as Honolulu. These four great gods were worshipped by the Polynesians scattered all over the Pacific Ocean. Their names were Ku, Lono, Ka-ne and Kanaloa.
Ka-ne and Kanaloa were the water-finders, opening springs and pools over all the islands, each pool known now as Ka-Wai-a-ke-Akua (The water provided by a god).
In one of the very old Hawaiian newspapers the question was asked, “What are the waters of Ka-ne?” The answers came: The heavy showers of life-giving rain, the mountain stream swelling into a torrent lifting and carrying away canoes, the rainbow-colored rain loved by Ka-ne, the continually flowing brooks of the valleys and the fresh waters found anywhere—these were the waters of Ka-ne.
It may reasonably be surmised that from the realization of the blessing of fresh waters the ancient Polynesians as well as the Hawaiians looked up to some waters to be found somewhere in the lands of the gods, which were called “the waters of life of Ka-ne.” The Hawaiian legends said: “If any one is dead and this water is thrown upon him, he becomes alive again. Old people bathing in this water go back to their youth.” If the common fresh water of the hills and plains was good, it was easy to look beyond to something better.
The gods Ka-ne and Kanaloa were very closely allied to the farming interests of the people of the long ago. Prayers were offered to them in all the different stages of the process of farming. When a field was selected some article of food was cooked and offered with the prayer:
“Here is food,
O Gods, Ka-ne and Kanaloa!
Here is food for us.
Give life to us and our family.
Life for the parents feeble with age.
Life for all in the household.
When digging and planting our land
Life for us—
This is our prayer. Amama.”
A similar prayer was made while cultivating the crops or harvesting the ripened product.
It may be that the close connection of waters with plant growth made these two gods the especial gods of farmers.
There was a host of other gods whose names were sometimes used in prayers offered while farming. Each of these gods bore the name “Ka-ne” (sometimes Ku or Lono would be substituted), followed by an adjective showing some method of work, but all these names of lesser gods were apparently used to explain the particular task desired, as when the name “Ka-ne-apuaa” was mentioned in some prayers, the word “puaa” (pig) carried the idea of digging or uprooting the soil.
Ka-ne and Kanaloa were great travellers. Together they journeyed over Kauai, coming (according to an account written in the Kuokoa about 1868 by the Rev. J. Waiamau) from far-away lands. They appeared more like men than gods, and the Kauai people did not worship them, so they opened up only a few springs and crossed over to the island Oahu.
Throughout all the islands the awa root has been found. It was bitter and very astringent, but when crushed and mixed with water the juice became a liquor greatly loved by the people. “These two gods drank awa from Kauai to Hawaii,” so the old legends say.
They journeyed along the coast of the island Oahu until they came to Kalihi, one of the present suburbs of the city of Honolulu. For a long time they had been looking up the hillsides and along the water courses for awa —but had not found what seemed desirable.
At Kalihi a number of fine awa roots were growing. They pulled up the roots and prepared them for chewing. When the awa was ready Kanaloa looked for fresh water, but could not find any. So he said to Ka-ne: “Our awa is good, but there is no water in this place. Where can we find water for this awa?”
Ka-ne said, “There is indeed water here.” He had a “large and strong staff,” in some of the legends called a spear. This he took in his hands and stepped out on the bed of lava which now underlies the soil of that region. He began to strike the earth. Deep went the point of his staff into the rock, smashing and splintering it and breaking open a hole out of which water leaped for them to mix with their prepared awa. This pool of fresh water has been known since the days of old as Ka-puka-Wai-o-Kalihi (The water door of Kalihi). The gods, stupefied by the liquor, lay down and slept. When at last they were weary of that resting-place, they passed Nuuanu Valley and went into the most beautiful rainbow valley of the world, Manoa Valley, the home of the rainbow princess. This valley is one of the well-settled suburbs of Honolulu.
Well-wooded precipices guard the upper end of the valley and make difficult the path to the tops of the mountains rising thousands of feet above.
Here the gods found most excellent awa, and Kanaloa cried, “O my brother, this is awa surpassing any other we have found; but where shall I go to find water?” Ka-ne replied, “Here in this hillside is water.” So he took his staff and struck it fiercely against the precipice by which they had found awa. Rapidly the rocks were broken off. The precipice crept back from the mighty strokes of the god and a large pool of clear, cool water appeared among the great stones which had fallen. There they mixed awa and water and drank again and again until the sleep of the drunkard came and they rested by the fountain they had made. This pool is still at the head of Manoa Valley, and to this day is called Ka-Wai-a-ke-Akua (The water provided by a god).
The servants of hundreds of chiefs have borne water from this place to their thirsty masters.
In the days of Kamehameha I. very often messengers came from this pool of water of the gods with calabashes full of water swinging from the ends of sticks laid over their shoulders.When they came near any individual or group of Hawaiians they had to call out loudly, giving warning so that all by whom they passed could fall prostrate before the gift of the gods to the great king.
Ka-ne and Kanaloa made many springs of fresh waters in all the different islands. Sometimes a watchman refused to let them take the desired awa—the legends say that they called such persons stingy, and caught them and put them to death. At Honuaula they broke a large place and made a great fish-pond.
They went to Kohala, Hawaii, and found a temple in which they lived for a long time, and the people of Hawaii thought they were gods. Therefore they brought sacrifices and offered worship, and Ka-ne and Kanaloa were satisfied to remain as two of the gods of the islands.
This idea of “striking a rock for water springs” is not connected with or derived in any way from Biblical sources. The tool used by Hawaiians for centuries for digging was called the o-o, which was but little more than a sharp-pointed stick or staff, which was a lever as well as a spade. There is nothing in the legend beyond the expression of a desire to locate water springs as a gift from the gods.