Most nights on Maui there’s a stunning show going on above us in the night sky. From a sliver of moon and a sky filled with stars in a dark sky, to the powerful draw of a full moon rising, awe inspiring nocturnal beauty awaits us. In Hawaiian culture, there are many descriptions of the moon, or mahina, including a name for every day of the lunar cycle. It is no wonder this lunar fascination persists. Hawaiians were the descendants of Polynesian wayfinders who used these celestial bodies to navigate great distances over water, with amazing precision, unaided by instruments.
Hawaiian culture and the moon
According to Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau’s Na Hana a ka Poe Kahiko (The Works of the People of Old) these are the three descriptions of the full moon:
- On Day 14 of the Lunar Cycle: “The night when the moon was full was the night of Akua.”
- On Day 15 of the Lunar Cycle: “The second night of the full moon was Hoku when it began to crumble and peel.”
- On Day 16 of the Lunar Cycle: “The second night of this peeling was Mahealani.”
Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) were such astute observers of the helu pō (moon phases), they applied the cycle to how they lived out all aspects of life, including fishing, farming, building, duties, and celebrations.
The Hawaiian malama (month) is broken into three anahulu (period of 10 days) based on the cycles of the moon:
Hoʻonui (when the moon is increasing in size or waxing)
Poepoe (when the moon is rounding and becomes full)
- Hoku ili – when the moon is still in the sky as the sun rises
- Hoku palemo – when the moon disappears as the sun rises
Hoʻēmi (when the moon is decreasing or waning)
The full moon and nature
According to Hawaiian observation, full moon planting is ideal, “when the kalo will grow straight and tall.” In the third lunar phase, ʻole moons aren’t good for planting or fishing.
The best place to moon gaze
As with any exploration of the night sky, it is important to get away from any “light pollution.” Haleakalā National Park is an ideal spot for viewing the night sky. There are endless dark skies at the summit, and due to the high elevation, the atmosphere is more clear with less light pollution than other remote spots.
Check the lunar calendar before planning a trip here, then get out and enjoy Maui’s night sky.