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Kalo: A Staple Plant of Hawaii

Posted By Steven Douglass On May 13, 2019 @ 1:20 am In Foodways,Material,Myths,Narrative | Comments Disabled

Abstract: Kalo is a plant that is named after the stillborn of Sky Father (Wakea) and Mother Earth (Papa), two Hawaiian entities. Kalo is a main staple for Hawaiians culturally, but is mostly used for food. When born, Kalo was a stillborn, and his parents buried him in the ground. His mother was so sad that she began to cry and, from her tears hitting the soil, the plant, Kalo, began to grow where her son was buried. Kalo is used in many traditional Hawaiian dishes and serves as a symbol for respecting the earth.

 

Background: DM is a 20 year-old Hawaiian American going to college in California. She grew up her entire life in Hawaii and is very accustomed to the folklore there. She can not trace back the origin of the folklore or when she learned it because it has surrounded her for her entire life. After one piece of Hawaiian folklore came up on a work retreat, I asked her to share the most important ones to her on a later date.

Kalo:

DM: Kalo is the origin of so many Hawaiian things, but mostly for food. There’s lau lau, which is the pig roast that is wrapped in Kalo, and poi which is this purple paste made out of Kalo. Both are like traditionally Hawaiian. So anyways, there are these two entity things, Sky Father and Mother Earth. Wakea and Papa. They have human children somehow I don’t know (laughs), but Kalo was the name of one of their children who died when he was born. Then Papa buried the stillborn and she was so sad about it that she cried, and her tears went into the soil. Then, out came Kalo.

S: Does anything happen if you disrespect the Kalo?

DM: The earth is everything to us. I don’t know. Bad harvest maybe.

 

Interpretation: The connection between Kalo being a product of nature (the sky and the earth) and also a main food staple showcases the connection that the Hawaiian people have with nature. Not only do they rely on nature for their mythological origin stories, but they directly connect it to their survival. The story of Kalo can be used to demonstrate that Mother Earth went through a lot of pain in order to provide food in kalo. Since she went through so much pain to feed the people, Hawaiians should be respectful to her and thank her by taking care of the land. This thought process is demonstrated when DM states “the earth is everything to us.” The origin stories reflect this close relationship to the planet that Hawaiians share. Since the foundations of being Hawaiian are to respect the planet, the main stories on which people grow up on encapsulate this mindset and ingrain it in the minds of the youth.

 


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URL to article: http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=47390