Apr 12 2017

Hawaiian – Ho’opuka E Ka La (Rise, O Sun)

Published by at 7:32 am under Poetry

Ho’opuka E Ka La (Rise, O Sun)
by Hawaiian (Anonymous)

Ho’opuka e ka la ma ka hikina
Me ka huaka`i hele no Kumukahi

Ha’a mai na ‘iwa me Hi’iaka
Me Kapo-Laka i ka uluwehiwehi

Ne’e mai na ‘iwa ma ku’u alo
Me ke alo kapu o ka aiwaiwa

Ho’i no e ke kapu me na ali’i
E ola makou apau loa la

Ea la, ea la, ea la, ea

He inoa no Hi’iaka I Ka Poli ‘O Pele


Rise, O sun in the east
With a procession going to Kumukahi

Dancing are the beautiful ones with Hi’iaka
And Kapo-Laka in the verdant grove

Moving ahead are the dancers toward me
And to the sacred presence of the divine

Let the sacred ways return to the chiefs
Let us all give everlasting praise

Ea la, ea la, ea la, ea

In the name of Hi’iaka-in-the-bosom-of Pele

/ Image by Smiling-Llama /

I lived for a few years in Hawaii when I was in my early 30s. I spent a lot of time in fasting and meditation among the eucalyptus trees growing on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano on Maui. I also became fascinated by the Hawaiian culture and language. I didn’t live there long enough to explore deeply, but I was certainly moved by what I found. So why don’t we all let our thoughts drift today with the currents to the Hawaiian islands…

As with all sacred chant, the meaning is compact and layered and only fully reveals itself through the resonance of the human voice. Because the names mentioned here may not be familiar, let’s explore these lines step-by-step.

Rise, O sun in the east
With a procession going to Kumukahi

Kumukahi is the place of the “first beginning,” the easternmost point of Hawaii where the rays of the sun are first seen. These lines can be understood as a greeting to the rising sun, the welcoming of the day, but also for the initiate, it is a poem of enlightenment.

Dancing are the beautiful ones with Hi’iaka
And Kapo-Laka in the verdant grove

This chant particularly honors Hi’iaka, beloved sister of the primal Hawaiian god Pele. She is often associated with the hula and with light. And Kapo-Laka together are the hula god-goddess.

I should pause for a second and talk about hula. We often imagine hula to be just a pretty island style of dance with flower-bedecked girls in grass skirts, and certainly it’s often presented that way to tourists passing through. But real hula is much more. Each movement is considered to be sacred, energetically powerful, and encoded with meaning. And the accompanying chant is poetry, cultural story, and secret wisdom. Hula, in other words, is a living, moving book of sacred knowledge within Hawaiian culture.

Moving ahead are the dancers toward me
And to the sacred presence of the divine

So when the gods and goddesses of hula are invoked, we are summoning within ourselves art and power and wisdom — which lead us to the divine.

The dancers are moving toward the point of the rising sun. It is a procession toward enlightenment.

By the way, the word being translated variously as the “beautiful ones” and the “dancers” is ‘iwa. The ‘iwa is actually an ocean-going bird, also called the frigate bird. But in the layered meanings of the Hawaiian language, it can also mean lover, dancer, and beautiful person. The gliding, far traveling bird seems to suggest an elegance of movement, someone ethereal and lovely, emerging from unknown realms. The ‘iwa brings an angelic quality.

Rather than try to intellectually comprehend every aspect of this chant, try holding onto its images and then chant it out loud. (I won’t tell anyone if you stumble over the sounds. Hawaiian words are too much fun not to try to sound them out at least once!)


Recommended Books: Hawaiian (Anonymous)

The Unwritten Literature of Hawaii: The Sacred Songs of the Hula

Hawaiian (Anonymous)

Hawaii (17th Century) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Hawaiian

Hawaiian chant can be compared to Hindu Sanskrit mantra in that to truly say it properly can take a great deal of training. The inflections are important. The breath is important. Most of all, the sense of personal presence is important.

Hawaiian chant must be said with force and with heart. It is a prayer, but it is not passive. It is a calling forth, a reaching out and a drawing in — of wisdom, of knowledge, of truth. It evokes in us pono, rightness.

Try sounding out the Hawaiian. Slowly at first, until the sounds become familiar. Then louder, with confidence. Say it over and over again. Imagine repeating this chant in a group. Let it ring through your body and your day!

More poetry by Hawaiian (Anonymous)

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Hawaiian – Ho’opuka E Ka La (Rise, O Sun)”

  1. jim con 12 Apr 2017 at 8:23 am


  2. Valerie Brighid Snowdonon 30 Mar 2021 at 9:57 am

    I am on Kauai. Watching the sun rise above the clouds on the horizon. I am grateful you shared this chant. I read it aloud as the sun reached for the sky and blessed me with its light and warmth.
    I have just returned to the islands.
    Blessed beyond measure.

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