Spring Equinox Thoughts

20 Mar 2022 22:22 #367062 by Alethea Thompson

“Jedi respect all life, in any form” - Skywalker Jedi Code
“Jedi believe in the Force, and in the inherent worth of all life within it.” -TotJO Doctrine

Today marks the Northern Spring Equinox. Most of the time, we hear about Ostara- the Wiccan holiday honoring the goddess. However, this year, I’d like to shift the focus towards Hawaii, where this holiday is called Ke Ala`ula a Kane- or “The Dawning of the Path of Kane”.

Hawaii is primarily known for their reverence of the goddess Pele, but she was not always the goddess of the land. The 4 head deities were all male: Kane, Kanaloa, Ku and Lono. Kane (also called Tane) is what many would consider the chief god of Polynesia, though it may be more accurate to say that Kane is the deity by which humans can attribute to most of it’s ability to flourish. There is no doubt that Kanaloa, Ku and Lono have all played significant roles in the lives of Polynesia, but they are not ruled by Kane. In many respects, they are equals having dominion over different aspects of Polynesia’s life.

Kanaloa over the oceans, Ku as a teacher in war and resourcefulness, Lono as a teacher of peace. But Kane is the one who is known for giving life and providing resources for humans. He is the father of forests, of fresh water, land mammals - including humans - and birds. To Hawaiian’s whom hold the traditions of their people as sacred, the islands of the Hawaiian chain do not simply have locations which are considered sacred- but rather that the entirety of the land is sacred. Their land was created by Kane and every aspect of the land and animal kingdom are a part of their family because they are all children of Kane.

It is here, that the Hawaiian proverb “He aliʻi ka ʻāina; he kauwā ke kanaka” can explain the important link between the Hawaiian people and the land. The proverb translates as “The land is chief; the human is a servant”. Ali’i were chiefs of their respective tribes. They were looked up to as leaders. In order for them to carry out this role, however, they needed people who would follow their direction so that the community could live in harmony with one another.

Although there were certainly ali’i who were corrupt, as humans are fallible, the land acted as a perfect chief- as long as humans listened. If humans fell away from being servants to the land, then the land would not be able to fulfill it’s role as ali’i. Not because it doesn’t wish to fulfill it’s role- but rather because it’s leadership is completely ignored.

The story here goes so much deeper though. The land cannot be Ali’i without Kane’s example. While Hawaii did come before the Maori beliefs, there is something to be said about their history which can trace its origins to their other Polynesian family, which also worshiped Kane as Tane. In these Polynesian traditions, the family of Akua were much more violent towards each other. The exception was Tane.

While his brothers fought, Tane cultivated his own family and provided resources to both his siblings at war with Tāwhirimātea and his own family which stayed upon the land. When Tangaroa got angry and raged against Tane- Tane stood still and allowed his brother to beat down on him, while providing his children (man) with the resources they needed to survive against Tangaroa. Even as his other brother Tūmatauenga used those same resources to wage war against Tane, Tane did not fight back.

This seems strange, almost as though its Tane manifesting the Disney Mulan proverb “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.”. It is when we look at Hawaii that we are able to fully understand the lesson of Kane, completely encapsulated in the Hawaiian proverb “He aliʻi ka ʻāina; he kauwā ke kanaka”.

Here, we find not one, but multiple stories of family sacrifice to provide food for the people. The still born son of Kane, Kanaloa and Ku’s father with Ho’ohokulani becomes the Taro plant that later sustains his brother Haloa- and the entirety of the Hawaiian people thereon. Ku becomes breadfruit to feed his family, and the entire village due to a famine. The “Woman-of-Fire” sacrifices herself to bring food to her people during a famine. The eel sacrificing itself to become a coconut tree (the Hawaiian story isn’t exactly the same as Maui’s version in Disney’s Moana). These are manifestations of Kane’s example too- that he allowed his children to be sacrificed for the sustainability of his other children. Trees for shelter, boats and food, plants of the forests for food and medicine, fresh water, animals to both humans and other animals, etc.

The Hawaiians, in return, honored these sacrifices by not leaving anything to waste. And this is the truly unique aspect I’ve come to see in the practice of Hawaiian spirituality: offerings to the gods.

In many pagan groups I’ve been a part of, the gods are given their portion of food- and when everything is done, the offering food is thrown or given to the earth. This makes sense ecologically, because left out food invites unwanted critters that can carry with them sickness and disease. But what this does, is introduce a problem of waste. While scavengers may have the ability to pick at what we toss, we actually negate this by throwing it into a landfill where scavengers have to…well scavenge. In the wild, it’s different, because a variety of animals have an opportunity to benefit from the left overs….

But man presents a very different situation, and Hawaii’s proverb recognizes that there is something different about us. Humans are servants to the land. It doesn’t say “life are servants to the land”, it says “Kanaka”. That means we have a unique role in our environment, we are uniquely in a position to cause destruction to it, and nuture it. One of the many stories of Tane’s search to have a child that was his equal in terms of intellect is that every child he had couldn’t meet his expectations. Eventually, he was able to have (or in some renditions create) a human child- a woman. It’s not that the Polynesians are saying humans are better than the other plants and animals- but rather that we are closer to the gods, and therefore have a responsibility to the world as they do.

It is because we share this role that we uniquely have to take responsibility for what we remove from our environment. I feel, that this is reflected in the way that traditional Hawaiian’s have historically treated offerings to the gods. So how is it different from our western counterpart?

It’s simple, after the god(s) whom have been given the offering have had a chance to eat and drink the essence of the food, the person offering eats what remains- so that there is nothing left to waste. It is in something so very simple, that the Hawaiian people honor the land, honor Kane, and honor the sacrifices of their ancestors (such as Kalo [Haloa’s brother], Ku, the eel, and others) to give them life.

A lot of wisdom can be gained from Kane, if one is willing to listen. As Jedi, I feel that the meditations upon this wisdom can also bring us closer to manifesting the Jedi’s respect for life, in any form.

Gather at the River,
Setanaoko Oceana
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