Pacific Magazine

The Hula

By Danial Kikawa

For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world
are clearly seen, .... so that they are without excuse."

Romans 1:20

If our God - who is a righteous, fair and merciful God - says that people, all people groups, are "without excuse" when they don't follow Him, He must have clearly showed Himself to each people group. The Bible is true. We find that at the beginning of ancient cultures (and in primitive cultures today) there was the belief in one benevolent creator God. However people invariably worship the creation or images they themselves create. This is what happened in Hawaii.

"Let them praise his name in the dance..."

Psalm 149:3

The first Hawaiian people did just that in their native dance, the hula. They arrived in Hawai'i from the Marquesses about A.D. 400 and worshipped the One Creator God, calling upon Him in His Hawaiian name, 'Io.

'Io was known to be the benevolent, uncreated, creator of all things. (A short form of the common Hebrew word for God: Jahova.) He was the God of love to whom no idols were made and to whom mankind was special and never sacrificed. Hula was the major Hawaiian way of expression. Hulas were composed to worship God as well as to communicate stories.

In around A.D. 1200, other voyagers came to Hawai'i from Kahiki. Although Kahiki in Hawaiian can mean any foreign place, archeological evidence shows that the place these voyagers came from was Tahiti. One of the last of these voyagers was the sorcerer and priest, Pa'ao. It was Pa'ao who brought in other gods, new modes of worship and human sacrifice. One of the gods that came into Hawaii during this time period was Pele.

Pa'ao brought in other gods
new modes of worship
and human sacrifice

Pele was actually from a lower class of gods called 'aumakua or ancestor gods. The legends of Pele say that she came from Kahiki seeking a new home. She and her family settled around the Kilauea volcano and became excellent hula dancers. Her legends and fame apparently grew after she died and began to be worshipped as an ancestor god.

Her fame spread across the islands until she was worshipped as much as the major gods. Many hulas were composed by her family. These relatives may have later become the priests and priestesses of Pele who roamed the islands in later times, striking fear in the hearts of the people. These priests and priestesses told people that if they did not worship Pele, there would be terrible consequences. Their threats were seemingly backed by the destructive lava flows that would spring from Kilauea periodically and destroy dwellings or kill people.

Hula was used by early Hawaiians to worship the one supreme God.

Many hula halau today believe that the hula can only be done correctly if the dancers allow the spirit of Pele to dance through them. Some also teach that a person is not a true Hawaiian unless they put their faith in Pele. This of course cannot be true because Pele was from Kahiki (a foreign place). Pele was NOT Hawaiian!

Although there is a large body of hulas composed for Pele, hula as a dance form is NOT the worship of Pele, but she can be the object of worship of the composer and dancer. The hula will reflect the object of worship, i.e. hulas that worship sex will incite lust.

Hulas were composed to worship God

Churches and hula dancers however, should not be afraid to use the hula to worship God. It was used by the early Hawaiians to worship Him. To throw the hula out as a method of worship because people also use hula to worship other gods is like not using the guitar or piano in worship because some people use those instruments for evil. Or, as one pastor related to me, it would be like choosing not to talk any more because some people swear.

If we no longer use the methods that God has given us to express worship to Him because satan stole and soiled them, we concede victory to satan. Let us instead, claim the victory that is ours by redeeming the gifts of worship that God has given to His people! Let Hawaiians praise His name in the dance in the islands!

Daniel Kikawa is a researcher and author from Honolulu. He and his family currently live on the Big Island.

Editorial note: We recognize that a comprehensive historical presentation on this subject is not possible in the limited space. We recommend the books Perpetuated in Righteousness by Daniel Kikawa and Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson for further study.

Back to Contents.

What are readers saying?

How to get your own copy of Across Pacific Magazine

Pacific Islanders Get a Copy of APM

Back to APM Intro

Back to Across Home Page