The use of plants and flowers in hula is to pay our respects to and honor those
particular akua whose kinolau we use to adorn ourselves, or for that
particular person or place we dance about. They are also used to invoke the gods
to inspire while
Lama was placed on the kuahu
or hula altar. A piece of lama wood wrapped in yellow kapa symbolized Laka,
goddess of hula, and enlightenment.
These are the basic plants used on the kuahu for the
purpose of invoking the gods to be there with the haumana while training
in the hula:
lehua (Metrosideros marcopus)
The kinolau for Kuka`ohi`alaka.
It represents both the male and female elements, the wood being the male element
and the flower the female; therefore, a branch of it was placed on the kuahu
with a flower on it. Ku was the akua that was the overseer of rituals.
Maile (Alyxia olivaeformis)
Maile was draped
on the kuahu and was kapu to Laka. It represents the four maile
sisters who are also closely associated with hula. The wearing of maile
gave the `olapa skill and inspiration. Ie`ie (Freycinetia arborea)
is the plant that winds its way up the `ohi`a lehua. Could be a kinolau
of Ku as well as Lono, the husband of Laka. It also represents Lauka`ie`ie,
a demigoddess, and skill and striving knowledge for the haumana of hula.
The kinolau of Kapo`ulakina`u said
by some to be the first goddess of hula,
now most commonly known to be the goddess of sorcery. Halapepe is also a
plant that is kapu to Laka. This is another essential plant on the kuahu.
This fern that is usually a lei haku is the
kinolau of Hi`iakaikapolio Pele, who is known as the benefactor of the `olapa.
She was the helper and the healer of the Pele clan.
Some other plants
important to hula are:
Commonly known as
ti-leaves or ki in Hawaiian. Used in the making of lei for backing,
as a lei itself, and for pa`u. La`i is a kinolau of
Ku, the symbol of protection against evil, and a sacred symbol of the gods in ceremonies
and an emblem of their divine power.
known today as the flower of O`ahu. It was one of the few plants Hawaiians cultivated
for its flowers for the making of lei `ilima and it was also used in medicine.
It is a labor of love to make a lei `ilima, and the recipient is an honored
person in the eyes of the maker/giver. It is also the flower kapu to Laka.
These plants and
others represent gods, they are symbols of different desired behaviors and/or attitudes,
and they are part of our `aina.
Take care of the
land and the land will take care of us. It will continue to give us the na mea kanu
needed to adorn ourselves when we dance.
by Mililani Allen,
with help from many teachers over the years