Ka Po‘e Mo‘o Akua: Hawaiian Reptilian Water Deities
- About the Book
Tradition holds that when you come across a body of freshwater in a secluded area and everything is eerily still, the plants are yellowed, and the water covered with a greenish-yellow froth, you have stumbled across the home of a mo‘o. Leave quickly lest the mo‘o make itself known to you! It might eat (‘ai) you or take you as a lover (ai); either way, you will be consumed completely.
Revered and reviled, reptiles have slithered, glided, crawled, and climbed their way through the human imagination and into prominent places in many cultures and belief systems around the world. Ka Po‘e Mo‘o Akua: Hawaiian Reptilian Water Deities explores the fearsome and fascinating creatures known as mo‘o that embody the life-giving and death-dealing properties of water. Mo‘o are not ocean-dwellers; instead, they live primarily in or near bodies of freshwater. They vary greatly in size, appearing as tall as a mountain or as tiny as a house gecko, and many possess alternate forms. Mo‘o are predominantly female, and the female mo‘o that masquerade as humans are often described as stunningly beautiful.
During an earlier period in Hawaiian history, mo‘o akua held distinctive roles and filled a variety of functions in overlapping familial, societal, economic, political sectors. Religion, people’s belief in mo‘o akua, was the foundation upon which these roles and functions were established. Marie Alohalani Brown’s extensive research in Hawaiian-language archives has recovered knowledge about more than three hundred mo‘o. In addition to being a comprehensive treatise on mo‘o akua, this work includes a detailed catalog of 288 individual mo‘o with source citations. It makes major contributions to the politics and poetics of reconstructing ‘ike kupuna (ancestral knowledge), Hawaiian aesthetics, the nature of tradition, the study and appreciation of mo‘olelo and ka‘ao (hi/stories), genre analysis and metadiscursive practices, and methodologies for conducting research in Hawaiian-language newspapers. An extensive introduction also offers readers context for understanding how these uniquely Hawaiian deities relate to other reptilian entities in Polynesia and around the world. Accessibly written about a captivating subject, this extraordinary monograph is the result of over two decades of dedicated study.
- About the Author(s)
Marie Alohalani Brown, AuthorMarie Alohalani Brown is associate professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.