Hawaiian Moon Phases

Hawaiian moon phases

Ever notice the different phases of the moon and how the ʻāina, kai and us as kānaka respond in relation to it? We might be used to noticing the ebb of the tides due to the gravitational pull of the moon. Those in law enforcement and emergency services will tell us that incident rates noticeably go up during full moon times.

Hina-ʻai-malama. "Hina who eats the moon." One way the ancestors saw the changing of the moon phases, was through the moʻolelo that Hina, the goddess of the moon lives there eating a piece of the moon each night.

Our kūpuna were such astute observers, that we recognized the different cycles and patterns in accordance with each and every night. Thus, the helu pō, the moon phases not only affected how we lived out all aspects of life; including fishing, farming, building, duties, and celebrations, but we needed to align with these cycles to ensure the abundance of our bounty.

ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #1471 reads, "Kamaliʻi ʻike ʻole i ka helu pō: Muku nei, muku ka malama, Hilo nei, kau ʻo Hoaka." This translates to, "Children who do not know the moon phases: Muku is here, Muku is the month, Hilo comes next, then Hoaka." This is the first part of a children's chant for learning the names of the moon phases. Also said one who does not know the answer to a question or is ignorant. They are compared to a small child who has not yet learned the moon phases.

We notice how necessary the moon phases were to us that it was expected to be common knowledge, lest we are considered ignorant. And without knowing the helu pō, we would not be able to optimize the farming, fishing, building and various tasks we rely on.

The Hawaiian lunar calendar tradition has slight variations from island to island, which makes sense because of a slightly different environment in each place. What is consistent are the months, the nights and their order. What varies is the month that starts off each year, and generally a slight variation from night-to-night due to the discerning (or possibly undiscerning) eye of the observer.

In short, our kūpuna are astoundingly astute observers. It is now up to us to go outside and witness the phenomena going on our in unique environments and decide for ourselves which moon calendar most accurately reflects what is going on in our environment. This requires us to ditch our device addiction, and go outside! I choose which calendar I follow, based on what I see and experience. We also have to remember that we are in a time where we are unbalancing our Earth home with our toxic way of living, and the climate will be different than in the time of harmonious ways of the ancestors. For those curious about our sources, the bibliography can be found below.

Written By: Pomai Stone, Education & Research Assistant

Please note that the author of this article follows the moon calendar put out by Kalei Nuʻuhiwa (Ann Tsuha) that are both self-published and published by the Prince Kūhiō Civic Club. You can check out retailers carrying the 2018 Hawaiian Moon Calendar. There are also other moon calendars put out by various groups, and we encourage gathering information from many sources. Whereas, "ʻaʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi," our proverb states that not all knowledge comes from one school. We embrace a multiplicity of truths and encourage choosing what suits our communities with an informed observer who can gather information from different variations of our traditions.


  • Andrews, Lorrin. "A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language." Hawaiʻi: Island Heritage Publishing. 2003 (1865).
  • Andrews, Lorrin lāua ʻo Henry H. Parker. "A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language." Hawaiʻi: The Board of Commissioners of Public Archives of the Territory of Hawaii. 1922.
  • Dudley, Michael Kioni. "Man, Gods, and Nature." A Hawaiian Nation. Hawaiʻi: Nā Kāne O Ka Malo Press. 1990.
  • Handy, E. S. Craighill, Elizabeth Green Handy, and Mary Kawena Pukui. "Native Planters in old Hawaii: Their Life, Lore, and Environment. Hawaiʻi: Bishop Museum Press. 1972.
  • Kent, Harold Winfield. "Treasury of Hawaiian Words in One Hundred and One Categories." Hawaiʻi: Masonic Public Library of Hawaii. 1986.
  • Malo, Davida. "Ka Moolelo Hawaii." Hoʻoponopono ʻia e Malcolm Naea Chun. Hawaiʻi: The Folk Press, Ke Kula Kaiāulu ʻo Kapiʻolani. 1987.
  • Nuʻuhiwa, Kalei. "2018 Hawaiian Moon Calendar." Hawaiʻi: Prince Kūhiō Civic Club. 2018.
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena, E. W. Haertig, a me Catherine A. Lee. "Nānā I Ke Kumu Volume 1." Hawaiʻi: Queen Liliʻuokalani Children's Center. 1972. Pukui, Mary Kawena, E. W. Haertig, a me Catherine A. Lee. "Nānā I Ke Kumu Volume 2." Hawaiʻi: Queen Liliʻuokalani Children's Center. 1972.
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena. "ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings." Hawaiʻi: Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication No. 71. 1983. Pukui, Mary Kawena lāua ʻo Samuel H. Elbert. "Hawaiian Dictionary." Hawaiʻi: University of Hawaiʻi Press. 1986.