Kumulipo (“Beginning-in-deep-darkness”)

That First Black Hole Seen in an Image Is Now Called Pōwehi, at Least in Hawaii




    Pōwehi – Part 1 of 2

    This article makes my heart flutter.

    I nearly fell out of my chair when Mr. P. brought up a news item on the naming of the first black hole ever to be imaged anywhere. How apropos that the indirect image was captured via two telescopes atop Maunakea on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Leave it to the Hawaiian language to have a term that distills the power and majesty of the enigmatic black hole into a stunning visual of the process of creation that parallels the gestation of a human being following the path of his/her ancestors.

    I can’t help but imagine that King David Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Lili’uokalani, along with folklore professor Martha Beckwith, and Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert, authors of The Hawaiian Dictionary, are smiling at this announcement. Manseh, Dr. Larry Kimura!

    “Pōwehi” immediately reminded me of “Po” (night) and evoked the primordial darkness out of which creation arose in the Kumulipo, the famed Hawaiian creation and genealogical chant first brought to the attention of Westerners via the translation of a fragment into German by anthropologist Adolf Bastian in 1881. Richly annotated with commentary and translated into English, The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant was published in 1951 by 80-year-old folklorist and ethnographer emerita Martha Warren Beckwith of Vassar College. The work compares several versions of the text and commentaries by such famed scholars as Queen Lili’uokalani, who translated this birth chant of one of her ancestors into English in 1897 while under house arrest following the coup that dethroned her. She included the kaona (hidden meanings, allusions) that suffuse all 2,000+ lines of text. In tandem with Professor Beckwith’s Hawaiian Mythology (1940), which deals with the Hawaiian and Polynesian pantheon in much greater depth and breadth, The Kumulipo is the capstone of the life’s work of the Massachusetts native who grew up in Hawaii.

    – Continued –


    Pōwehi – Part 2 of 2

    In my work as a translator, I consulted Dr. Beckwith’s writings to research the common threads and cognates that link with the cosmology and spiritual traditions of other Pacific cultures. I don’t like to call it “mythology,” which implies that it is not true or real. On some level of reality, ancient oral traditions may be more true than humans living in the virtual reality of the twenty-first century could ever imagine. My Celtic ancestors had their own accounts of the supernatural events and beings who exist below the surface of the visible world. Omo! Dr. Beckwith happens to have noted some of those parallels. LOL! Knock me over with a feather! Polynesian Analogues to the Celtic Other-World and Fairy Mistress Themes. New Haven, C.T.: Yale University Press, 1923. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Warren_Beckwith.

    The celebrated Irish-Maori Director of Honolulu’s Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Te Rangi Hiroa aka Sir Peter Henry Buck (1877-1951), documented the material and intellectual culture of a wide range of Pacific peoples. His Arts and Crafts of Hawaii (1957) is a landmark reference work with wonderfully detailed line drawings. In The Vikings of the Sunrise (first published in French in 1952), he discusses oral genealogies, starting on page 22:

    While Asia as the birthplace of humanity was later supplanted by Africa thanks to the discoveries of Mary and Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, in 1959, Hiroa’s comments on migration from mainland Asia into the Pacific Basin are still afloat. He discusses the peopling of the Pacific in chapter 3 of Vikings of the Sunrise, and then examines the development, design, and construction of Oceanian voyaging canoes in chapter 4.

    Te Rangi Hiroa entry in: New Zealand Electronic Text Collection / Te Pūhikotuhi o Aotearoa, part of Victoria University of Wellington Library




    86, 230 and 345 GHz Bands – Namakanui

    Namakanui (literally, “Big-Eyes”) is the collective name of an upgrade to the East Asian Observatory’s James Clerk Maxwell Telescope at Maunakea that was bestowed by Dr. Larry Kimura. It consists of three receivers. Each is named for a species of native fishes with large eyes:

    1. ʻAla‘ihi (“Squirrelfish”)

    photo: Sargocentron xantherythrum (Jordan & Evermann, 1903)

    2. ʻŪʻū (“Soldierfish”)
    Myripristis berndti (Jordan & Evermann, 1905)
    per Richard N. Uchida and James H. Uchiyama (editors): NOAA Technical Report NMFS 38, September 1986, Fishery Atlas of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service; pages 80-81.

    photo: Myripristis berndti (Jordan & Evermann, 1903) Blotcheye soldierfish

    3. ʻĀweoweo (“Big Eye”)
    Priacanthus cruentatus (Lacepède, 1802) (Fig. 50); Glasseye snapper, red bigeye, aweoweo
    per Richard N. Uchida and James H. Uchiyama (editors): NOAA Technical Report NMFS 38, September 1986, Fishery Atlas of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; pages 83-84.

    photo: Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (Lacepède, 1801) Glasseye