The Hawaiian Creation Chant.

King Kalakaua inherited the chant composed for one of his ancestors.  He had it published in Hawaiian in 1889.  Queen Liliuokalani inherited the Hawaiian text written down by her brother, King Kalakaua.  In 1897, while being held prisoner during the unsettled period after Queen Liliuokalani had been deposed and revolutionary forces were at work to place the Islands under the United States, she translated the entire poem into English and explained many of its allusions as she understood them.1

"Each reader of the Kumulipo, like each listener in former times, will find his own meaning in it or in parts of it. The vitality of the poetic imagery arouses deep emotional response. Although popularly called a creation chant it is more than, and other than, an account of the creation of the universe. Under the surface meaning of the words lies the hidden meaning, or meanings, the kaona, as the Hawaiians say. A divine child, a sacred chief, Lono-i-ka-makahiki, is the cosmos described. It is his origin that begins in the deep darkness of the spirit world, in the intense darkness of the fruitful night of the Pleiades. The cosmos is only the symbol of his conception, development, birth, and ancestry. Creation of the cosmos is the outer cloak of the poem, procreation of the divine child is the inner lining. The poem begins with the Night, the Po, and concludes with the name of the infant chief to whom the name chant and genealogy belong. Each succeeding generation is born from the mating of male and female, at first the personifications of cosmic forces and later the historic predecessors of the divine child. His descendants have had their names added, and the mana, the sacred power, was thus passed on to them.”2

The Kumulipo, A Hawaiian Creation Chant translated by Martha Warren Beckwith is available at

Martha Warren Beckwith also authored Hawaiian Mythology, Yale University Press for the Folklore Foundaton of Vassar College, 1940 and reprinted by the University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1970.  



1Reviewed Work: The Kumulipo by Martha Warren Beckwithby: Katharine Luomala, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 64, No. 254 (Oct. - Dec., 1951), pp429-432

2The Kumulipo, A Hawaiian Creation Chant, translated and edited with commentary by Martha Warren Beckwith, 1951 University Chicago Press, ppx-xiii

©Apr 2018                       Honolulu County Coordinator Doreen Harunaga-Ewing