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In Hawaiian mythology, the deity Lono is associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, music and peace. In one of the many Hawaiian legends of Lono, he is a fertility and music god who descended to Earth on a rainbow to marry Laka. In agricultural and planting traditions, Lono was identified with rain and food plants. He was one of the four gods (with Kū, Kāne, and Kāne's twin brother Kanaloa) who existed before the world was created. Lono was also the god of peace. In his honor, the great annual festival of the Makahiki was held. During this period (from October through February), war and unnecessary work was kapu (forbidden). In Hawaiian weather terminology, the winter Kona storms that bring rain to leeward areas are associated with Lono. Lono brings on the rains and dispenses fertility, and as such was sometimes referred to as Lono-makua (Lono the Provider). Ceremonies went through a monthly and yearly cycle. For 8 months of the year, the luakini was dedicated to Ku-with strict kapus. Four periods (kapu pule) each month required strict ceremonies. Violators could have their property seized by priests or overlord chiefs, or be sentenced to death for serious breaches.
Lono and Captain Cook
Some Hawaiians have believed that Captain James Cook was Lono returned and indeed this fact may have ultimately contributed to Cook's death (see James Cook - Third voyage (1776-1779)). It is uncertain whether Cook was taken for the god Lono or one of several historical or legendary figures who were also referred to as Lono-i-ka-Makahiki. According to Martha Warren Beckwith, there was indeed a tradition that such a human manifestation of the god [Lono] had actually appeared, established games and perhaps the annual taxing, and then departed to "Kahiki", promising to return "by sea on the canoes ʻAuwaʻalalua" according to the prose note. "A Spanish man of war" translates the queen, remembering a tradition of arrival of a Spanish galleon beaten out of its course in the early days of exploration of the Pacific. A "very large double canoe" is Pukui's more literal rendering, from ʻAu[hau]-waʻa-l[o]a-lua. However, she may have been referring to the blue-sailed invertebrate called the Portuguese man o' war, which Hawaiians speak of, perhaps half in derision, as ʻAuwaʻalalua. The mother honored Keawe's son, perhaps born propitiously during the period of the Makahiki, by giving him the name of Lono-i-ka-Makahiki, seeing perhaps in the child a symbol of the god's promised return.
"Another and earlier Lono-i-ka-makahiki on the ʻUmi line of ruling chiefs of Hawaii is better known to Hawaiian legendary history. This Lono was born and brought up not far from the place where were laid away the bones of Keawe and his descendants, woven into basket-work like those of his ancestors from the time of Liloa, near the place where Captain Cook's grave stands, a monument to a brave but in the end too highhanded a visitor among an aristocratic race such as the Polynesian. This Lono cultivated the arts of war and of word-play and was famous as a dodger of spears and expert riddler. He too may have contributed to the tests of skill observed during the ceremony of the Makahiki".
"It is not, however, likely that either of these comparatively late ruling chiefs on the ʻUmi line was the Lono whose departure was dramatized in the Makahiki festival and whose "return" the priests of the Lono cult on Hawaii anticipated so eagerly. Both were born in Hawaii, and no legend tells of either of them sailing away with a promise to return. A more plausible candidate for the divine impersonation is the legendary Laʻa-mai-Kahiki, "Sacred-one-from-Tahiti," who belongs to a period several hundred years earlier, before intercourse had been broken off with southern groups. Laʻa came as a younger member of the Moikeha family of North Tahiti, older members of whom had settled earlier in the Hawaiian group. He brought with him the small hand drum and flute of the hula dance. As his canoe passed along the coast and the people heard the sound of the flute and the rhythm of the new drum-beat, they said, "It is the god Kupulupulu!" and brought offerings. Kupulupulu is Laka, worshiped as god of the hula in the form of the flowering lehua tree and welcomed also as god of wild plant growth upon which the earliest settlers had subsisted and still continued to subsist to some extent during the cold winter months before staple crops were ready to gather. This Laʻa-mai-kahiki took wives in various districts, especially on Oahu, stronghold of Lono worship, from whom families now living claim descent. He seems to have sailed back to Tahiti at least once before his final departure. In this sojourner belonging to a great family from the south, who came like a god, enriched the festival of the New Year with games and drama, possibly organized the collection of tribute on a southern pattern, and departed leaving behind him a legend of divine embodiment, one is tempted to recognize a far earlier appearance of that Lono of the Makahiki in whose name the Kumulipo chant was dedicated to Keawe's infant son and heir".
Hunter S. Thompson
The late Gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson wrote that he believed himself to be the resurrected Lono while on assignment in Hawaii for Running magazine with artist and friend Ralph Steadman. In a letter included in the book The Great Shark Hunt, Thompson describes his arrival to Kailua Bay in 1981:
- The word traveled swiftly, up and down the coast, and by nightfall the downtown streets were crowded with people who had come from as far away as South Point and the Waipio Valley to see for themselves if the rumor was really true - that Lono had, in fact, returned in the form of a huge drunken maniac who dragged fish out of the sea with his bare hands and then beat them to death on the dock with a short-handled Samoan war club.
Thompson's writings on the experience have been compiled into a book, The Curse of Lono, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. As Lono, Thompson is shown as wearing the head of a marlin as a mask, with his eyes doubling as the eyes of the fish.
- The Kumulipō, line 1714
- Cordy, Ross "Exalted sits the chief: The ancient History of the Hawai'i Island". Honolulu, HI Mutual Publishing (2000), 61
- Beckwith 1951.