The Kukui Nut

“I went to Hawaii this year for spring break. I learned that there’s a nut called a Kukui nut…I don’t think you can eat it…but you can polish it and make it into jewelry. It’s like…the size of an eyeball. But so supposedly the old fisherman in Hawaii use the oil to fish in more shallow water. If you put the nut in shallow water, the oil will like permeate the surface and supposedly the fish will get paralyzed and float to the top.”

Context/Analysis: The informant is not Hawaiian, but this folk belief is significant and memorable to him because of his recent trip to Hawaii. There, he immersed himself in the Hawaiian culture via food and traditions. When he was at a luau, he was given a Kukui nut lei by an old woman. He asked her what the material was, and she told him it was a nut with many purposes besides eating. She learned of its use for fishing from her grandfather, who was a fisherman in Hawaii. He took the lei back with him to his home in California. Though he does not believe that the nut can actually paralyze fish, he was intrigued by the myth. Ultimately, the myth of the KuKui nut is an heirloom that has been circulated within the fisherman community of Hawaii. It is now being told to tourists who are looking for an authentic Hawaiian experience, attending “authentic” luaus, and seeking Hawaiian mythology and storytelling.