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Mo`o - Dragons of Hawai`i

A gecko from the Oligocene era, about 30 million years ago, trapped in amber.
A gecko from the Oligocene era, about 30 million years ago, trapped in amber.
Wikipedia Commons

Enjoy an evening of Hawaiian culture and music this Saturday. Come up for culture night on Mauna Kea March 15, at 6:00 pm, for an evening of Hawaiian music, chants, stories and science. Then, join the star party at the Onizuka Center lanai for some of the best star gazing in the world.

The Hawaiian mourning gecko, Lepidodactylus lugubris, is a beloved housemate in the Hawaiian islands
watercolor by Leilehua Yuen

A featured presentation of World Storytelling Day, this month's Malalo i ka Pō Lani monthly Hawaiian Culture Night presentation on Mauna Kea, presents Mo`o, creatures ranging from the tiny house gecko to powerful dragon-like creatures. Award-winning storyteller, Leilehua Yuen, will share natural history and legends of these beloved reptilians.

World Storytelling Day is celebrated each year on the Northern Hemisphere's Spring Equinox. On that day, and in the days surrounding, storytellers present their finest verbal wares, telling traditional, contemporary, and original stories relating to the year's theme. As Hawai`i's culture has for millenia been transmitted through oral tradition, it is only fitting to celebrate World Storytelling Day here. This year, the theme is “Monsters and Dragons.”

In traditional cultures, stories are an important part of transmitting knowledge and information. Hawai`i also has a long storytelling tradition which continues today.

In English storytelling, we have two main categories, fiction and non-fiction. Even bookstores divide their shelves this way. In Hawaiian storytelling, we have mo`olelo and ka`ao.

Mo`olelo are stories told to inform. Mo`olelo may be literally true, legendary, or entirely made up. But they have an intrinsic core truth which they try to teach. They pass on the values, the knowledge, and the wisdom of our kūpuna, or elders and ancestors.

Ka`ao are told to entertain. They may be literally true – something that actually happened. They may be about a legendary figure, or about someone we know. They may be entirely fictional. But they are told with the purpose of entertainment, to pass the time, to share a laugh.

Tails of the dragons of Hawai`i fill both mo`olelo and ka`ao, casting their intricate shadows on histories, geneologies, mythologies, legends, fables, and customs.

Renowned hula dancer Kahōkūkauahiahionālani “Aunty Sammi” Fo will share her beautiful and unique style of hula, featuring mele about the stars and moon.

The one-hour program combines storytelling, chanting, hula, and the traditional Hawaiian flute and guitar music of Manu Josiah.

Some prominent stars and constellations this month are: Hōkū Le`a (Happy Star), also known as Arcturus; Pūnana (Nest), also known as Hōkū Pa`a (Fixed Star), in English called the North Star; `Iwa Wahine (Lady Frigate Bird), known in English as the Big Dipper; and Pūlelehua, also known as Ka Heihei o nā Keiki, (Cat’s Cradle), or Orion.

The program features the storytelling, chanting, and hula of your Examiner, Leilehua Yuen, and the stories, traditional Hawaiian flute music, and guitar music of Manu Josiah.

Each month, a different cultural practitioner shares perspectives on an aspect of Hawaiian culture, history and/or arts relating to the natural history of Mauna Kea.

Those who come to the Maunakea culture night talks should wear layers, including a nice, warm jacket. Socks, shoes, and gloves are recommended. Bring a bottle of water to drink, and a flashlight. Be polite to those who are stargazing and cover the light with a red lens or filter. Tissues for those whose noses run in cold weather are good, as well. Please read this link for more safety information.

For those unfamiliar with the island, there are no streetlights on the road up the mountain. We must preserve our beautiful dark skies! And, Mauna Kea sticks her head up above the clouds, which means you will be driving through them, so plan for at least an hour of travel time from Hilo. Please read this link for driving information.

Hawai`i is now in Ho`oilo, the wet winter season. The Hawaiian month of `Ikuā ended at nightfall on the 14th. A noisy, stormy month, with thunder, wind, and rain in the uplands, Welehu, which began on the 15th is even more so. Those driving up Mauna Kea for the evening program should prepare accordingly.

The "Malalo o ka Po Lani" Hawaiian cultural program is held on the third Saturday of every month in the Ellison Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station's presentation room at the 9,300-foot elevation on Mauna Kea.

For more information on the Malalo i ka Pō Lani culture night programs at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, contact the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Information Station. Phone: (808) 961-2180 Fax: (808) 969-4892.