Maui astronomer Harriet Witt describes how different cultures have different names for the constellations in the night sky, and how the legend of Maui’s Fishhook (also called Scorpius, or the Scorpion) was probably important to the Polynesians who first settled Hawaii.
Listen here [4:24m]:
What’s the facts:
Ancient Hawaiian legends state that Maui, one of the many demigods of Hawaii, once threw a magical fishhook, (Manai-a-Kalani or “fishhook from the Heavens”) into the Pacific Ocean to pull out the other Hawaiian islands. Maui had received this sacred fishhook from his father Akalana and was sent off in a canoe with his brothers to catch the giant ulua fish named Pimoe. This was a hard task, because if one were to look at Pimoe, the fish would die instantly and turn into solid land. Maui dropped his fishhook into the ocean and Pimoe grabbed a hold of it. Struggling to keep a hold of the line, Maui’s brothers turned around and the line snapped. Pimoe died and turned into hard land. Maui pulled the great hook out from the land and threw it up into the sky, where it became the constellation known as Maui’s fishhook. It still hangs there today, known to many as Scorpius.
Hawaiians were natural astronomers, studying their skies very carefully. They used their knowledge of the sky to navigate to the islands, to know when to fish, and to manifest their spirituality. They even had a name for each night of the moon’s phases. That’s 29 names! To learn more about Ancient Hawaiian astronomy from Harriet Witt herself, click here.
Original air date 14 July 2009.