Reverence for the Land and Each Other

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Approximately 1,500 years ago, the Hawaiian Islands were discovered by Polynesian colonists who sailed double-hulled canoes on voyages from various parts of the South Pacific. Hawaiian legend says that the demigod Maui pulled the islands up from the ocean depths with his magic hook, and caught the sun with his net from atop Haleakala mountain, in order to slow it down and lengthen the day.

Early Hawaiians believed that the earth was a living being with its own consciousness. They never tried to dominate or own the land, but believed in taking care of the land and living in harmony with it. In Hawaiian language, this is called “pono”, or being in harmony with ones SELF and the ENVIRONMENT, for they are all elements of one energy.

By the time Captain Cook arrived in 1778, several hundred thousand Polynesian people who were skilled farmers, fishermen and craftsmen had established themselves on the islands. In Hawaiian culture, successful cohabitation with the land depended on several principles; these involved cooperation and a sense of community among the people who worked the land. Caring for the land (malama aina) was accomplished through working together (lokahi) and using many hands (laulima).

This strong sense of community was reflected in the formation of extended families (family is “ohana”), and the building of gathering places (long house is “halau”). Heiau (temples) were built, and the “spirit realm” was honored and respected during all phases of planting and harvesting, as well as in other aspects of Hawaiian life.

There is an inherent love of and reverence for the land in Hawaii, that is maintained by many of its inhabitants even in these modern times. Being greeted with love (aloha) and invited into a home to eat (Aloha, e ai kakou) is still a very strong tradition and a mark of good manners in the Hawaiian Islands.

Is it possible that we in other cultures might learn to more consciously incorporate the ideals of cooperation and respect for the Earth and each other into our communities? If so, perhaps our world could become a more expansive and fulfilling place to exist.

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“Reverence for the Land and Each Other” Copyright © Susan L Hart