Ka Po‘e Mo‘o Akua: Hawaiian Reptilian Water Deities

Hardback: $68.00
ISBN-13: 9780824889944
Published: January 2022
Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824889951
Published: January 2022

Additional Information

284 pages | 13 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • Tradition holds that when you come across a body of fresh water 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!

    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 fresh water. 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 religious, familial, societal, economic, and political sectors.

    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. Marie Alohalani Brown 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.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Marie Alohalani Brown, Author

      Marie Alohalani Brown is professor, specialist in Hawaiian religion, at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • A stunning feat of scholarship. This book is not just a narration and catalog of mo‘o akua, but an analysis and cogent explanation of Ho‘omana, Hawaiian religion. Based on an enormous number of mo‘olelo in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, together with oral histories, translations, manuscripts, and a full reading of secondary sources, this book takes us a huge distance towards actual understanding of our kūpuna’s philosophies and belief system. It sets a new bar for studies of nā mea Hawai‘i.
      —Noenoe K. Silva, professor of political science and ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
    • The significance of Ka Po‘e Mo‘o Akua as a scholarly endeavor cannot be overemphasized. It plays a major role in the ‘recovery and reconstruction of ʻIke kupuna.’ It plays this role in terms of the exposure of material written by ʻŌiwi from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It plays this role through the mentoring Brown provides in how one must go about responsible scholarly research on things Hawaiian. It plays this role in the analysis Brown brings on ʻŌiwi categories of thought, classifications of cultural objects, concepts, practices, and traditions, and it plays this role in terms of opening up further the complicated and intelligent ʻŌiwi imagination.
      —P. Kalawai‘a Moore, University of Hawaiʻi, Indigenous Religious Traditions, 1:1 (2023)