The Flowers of Hawaii

May 18, 2008 by  
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The many islands of Hawaii are known for many things, and the flowers and colors of the islands are certainly a large part of the beauty.  When one thinks of Hawaii, color and beauty are among the many things that one may think of.  The flowers of Hawaii are very diverse, and they color the island in a pallet of beauty. 

 

Any discussion of Hawaiian flowers begins and ends with the official state flower, the yellow hibiscus.  This flower, known to locals as pua aloalo, has been representative of the Hawaiian people as the state flower since the 20′s.  The hibiscus was originally a flower from the Pacific islands, and they can be found in a number of other colors as well.

 

The island of Oahu has its own official flower, as does all of the other islands of Hawaii.  The yellow ilima is the official flower on the island of Oahu.  This popular Hawaiian flower and is similar to the hibiscus.  The ilima has a history of being used for medicinal purposes, and is also used regularly to construct the colorful leis of the Hawaiians.

 

Maui uses the pink lokelani as its official flower.  This flower is also known as the cottage rose.  The lokelani is famous for being one of the more beautiful flowers of Hawaii, and it’s smell is famous as well for being so sweet.

 

The official flower of Kauai is actually a berry that is grown exclusively on Mount Wajalelae.  It is used as a bead in many Hawaiian decorations, and this green berry is prized as one of the more exquisite and useful items in Hawaii.

 

The Big Island sports the red ohia, which is a flower off of a tree as its official flower.  These blossoms can come in a variety of colors including orange, white, and even a vibrant yellow.  This flower, like the ilima, is often used to make leis for visitors and Hawaiians alike.

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The official flower of Lanai is the kaunaoa.  The kaunaoa has a vine that is used to construct the leis as well.  The flower is yellow and orange, and is quite beautiful as well.

 

Molokai has the white kukui for the official flower.  These flowers are the tiny white flowers that you see on most leis.  These cute flowers give the colorful flowers more vibrance by breaking up the color patterns, and providing depth.

 

The island of Nijhau has the pupu shell, which is unusual in that it is not an actual flower. 

 

Kahoolaw even has an official flower, in spite of it being uninhabited.  It is the hinahina.  This plant is a silver colored plant that also helps in lei making.

 

Each of these flowers are steeped  in Hawaiian tradition and hold a special place in the hearts of every native of the islands.  They are all used in everyday life and customs, and the recurring theme among them all is beauty.  These beautiful flowers are well worth taking the time to know and love when you visit the great state of Hawaii.

The Religions and Superstitions of Hawaii

May 18, 2008 by  
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Hawaiian religion is as diverse as its rich culture. The earliest Hawaiians practiced what is called a polytheistic religion. That is they believed in a number of demi-deities. This gods ranged from Pele, a goddess of fire and volcanoes, to Maui, a prankster god. This particular strain of religion still remains but in more of a traditional folklore among the Hawaiians of the islands.

Though this ancient religion is largely only folklore now, many Hawaiians still adhere to some of the customs. That said, some live in fear when ancient graves are dug up, or remains are disturbed. These superstitions are quite common among the Hawaiian people as compared to American superstition. Though much of the old ways of religion are gone, some remnants remain until this day.

Around 1820, the first Christians arrived and began to convert some of the population. Soon afterwards, a number of religions found their way to Hawaii such as Methodists, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Mormons.

The Chinese were very important to the religious choices of the Hawaiians. The Chinese, largely believing in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism became one of the largest groups of religious teachings in the Hawaiian islands.

Though Christianity is spreading throughout the Hawaiian chain, the largest groups seem to be the Buddhists. There are also a number of the old school polytheists still around, but they are surely in the minority.

The superstitions of Hawaii are largely based on the religious beliefs of the older Hawaiians. Some of the superstitions are quite elaborate. Here are some selected customs and superstitions of the Hawaiian people.

 

Some Hawaiian people believe in the “Night Marchers.” These were the ancient warriors of the land that would travel the paths along the ridges of the Hawaiian coastline. They are often seen carrying torches at night to light the way to the battlefields.

One of the biggest and most well known customs is the handling of the discovery of bones or burial grounds. While clearing land, if bones or burial grounds are found, a foreman must contact archeologists and Burial Council Officials so that they can properly process the scene. This can cause significant delays in construction but it keeps the spirits of the island happy.

Lava rocks play a prominent role in Hawaiian superstitions as well. It is a well known Hawaiian belief that if anyone takes away lava rocks as a keepsake, that bad luck will follow them everywhere they go. This belief stems from the demi-god Pele, who would create and destroy with fire. This was a clear example of volcanic gods.

Feng shui is another Hawaiian custom that has spread to every corner of the islands. It is a manner of living in which you are one with the environment. The Chinese are masters of Feng shui, and brought this custom along with them when they came to Hawaii.

While these are a few of the better known religions and customs of the Hawaiian people, it is far from all inclusive. The Hawaiian culture is varied and deep, and many variations of all of these ideals are in existence. The Hawaiian people are a true melting pot of societies, and this is part of the allure of this beautiful place nestled in the Pacific Ocean.

The People of Hawaii

May 18, 2008 by  
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Hawaii has a diverse population of people that spans the globe in representation. It has been said that their are no actual minorities in Hawaii, as most groups are equally distributed throughout the state. The largest groups of the population are the people with ties to southern Japan and Okinawa.

Other ethnic groups well represented on the islands of Hawaii include African Americans, Polynesians, immigrants from the mainland of America, and China. This is in addition to the pure Polynesian Hawaiians on the islands. This rich mixture has created a melting pot of culture on many of the islands, in addition to the Hawaiian culture found throughout.

The history of the Polynesian Hawaiians began as far back as 800 AD, and the first began to come in from islands in the south. From the Asian mainland, Southeastern Asians travelled through Tahiti on the way to the Hawaiian islands. Over time, they would go back and forth in canoes from Tahiti with seeds, animals, and other necessities to their existence. These trips helped to establish the Polynesian Hawaiian population.

Over time, the mixture of Polynesians and other inhabitants of the islands began to reduce the population of true bloods. This led to a severe drop in population that was further complicated by diseases in and around 1875. Over time, the population recovered a bit, but has never been overly large in Hawaii. The recent influx of true Hawaiians has led to a resurgence in Hawaiian customs and traditions.

Around one half of the population of Hawaii is of Oriental origins, and many were brought over as indentured laborers initially. The Chinese Americans hold a strong position in the Hawaiian economy, and they are strongholds of the old Hawaiian ways. This is due in large part to the socioeconomic success of the Chinese Americans.

Now, about one third of the population are Caucasians. Some of these haoles as they are called are early descendants of the settling missionaries early in the history of Hawaii, and others are immigrants from the American mainlands. The black population is largely made up of Samoans, as well as immigrants from the mainland.

At one time, racial divide was quite a problem in Hawaii. Today, interracial marriages are more common than same sex marriages, and money is the indicator of respect as opposed to skin color. Any race is welcomed, and people are judged in a much different way than before. The melting pot of Hawaii is a wonderful place indeed.

Hawaii is a place rich with tradition and culture. As such, the people of Hawaii embrace their heritage and encourage visitors and immigrants alike to embrace them as well. It is one of the top places in the world to visit and feel welcomed right away. Much of the island is largely uninhabited as far as people, but much of the natural beauty remains. Most people that visit Hawaii never want to leave. Much of that is due to Hawaii’s most valuable resource… it’s people.

Hawaiian Hula Customs

May 18, 2008 by  
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Hawaii has long been a state rich with customs and traditions. The art of hula is perhaps one of the most famous of those traditions. The iconic vision of beautiful Hawaiian women and men hula dancing is one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks of Hawaii. The history and reasons behind hula are as interesting as the dances themselves.

Nobody actually knows for sure exactly when the first hula dance happened, but most Hawaiian traditions say that the god or goddesses were the first. This Hawaiian belief makes hula dancing a very important sacred ritual of dance. While originally the hula was thought to only be done by men, it is now known that the tradition was for men and women. While originally a religious form of worship, the hula today is done primarily as a source of reverence and entertainment.

To an outsider, the hula appears to be a series of random movements and motions. The reality is that hula has a very specific meaning, and each of the motions are part of that communication.

Some movements represent certain animals, plants, or even past achievements or wars. When a hula dancer performs the movements, they actually feel that they are that thing that the dance is representing.

The hula dance is a dance that tells a Hawaiian story. Every movement is a part of the story, and often chants are performed along with the dance. These chants are often in a native tongue. The movements and gestures are almost operatic in nature, and a wonderful expression of the dancer and their heritage.

The hula dancers also wear specific costumes for the dance. This usually consists of the Hawaiian lei, a hula skirt, and ankle and wrist jewelry made of animal bones. These traditional Hawaiian costumes are quite attractive and often are very colorful like the island itself.

Hula was religious in origin, and the training was extensive and strict. All students were held to a strong code of conduct, and were not allowed to do many things. This is the classic hula kahiko, or the old style of performing hula.

The new style of hula is called hula auana. This new and modern version of hula dancing allows for great musicality. This hula includes songs, guitars, and even other instruments and nontraditional costumes.

While the art of hula has changed over the years, the old style of hula is still alive and well. There are hundreds of hula schools called halau hula all over every island on the mainland. The important traditions and culture is still alive and well.

Though hula is strong today, it was almost not so. In the 19th century, hula was considered to be an aberration and vile. Local missionaries tried to eliminate hula as a form of worship or entertainment. Fortunately, Kind David Kalakaua revived the custom when he restarted the hula schools and formed a troupe of hula dancers in the late 1800′s.

Dangerous Marine Life Of Hawaii

May 18, 2008 by  
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When one considers the dangers of marine life in Hawaii, most people think of sharks and possibly jellyfish. This is certainly two of the things that one should be paying attention to, but there are a number of other living organisms in Hawaiian waters to be aware of. Here are just a few of the dangers in Hawaiian waters to know about.

Anemone of Hawaii

Anemone are found in the deepest offshore waters of Hawaii, as well as up close to shore in tide pools. These organisms hide out in various crevices and often find contact with Hawaiians via people wading in tide pools. The anemone has tentacles that have stinging cells attached and will certainly sting upon contact with human skin. Reactions vary from mild to severe, and one should rinse any sting with fresh or salt water upon contact. In serious reactions to a sting, one should get to the hospital immediately as some people suffer respiratory distress.

Barracuda of Hawaii

Barracuda are supreme predators and quite capable biters found in the deep ocean, and in close to shore as well. They are particularly fond of hanging out in the bay and near any floating devices that can provide shade. The barracuda is very attracted to anything shiny so do not swim with jewelry. This is due to the similarity to the barracuda’s prey, other fish, being shiny. The barracuda has long sharp teeth that can deliver an extremely painful and devastating bite. Any bite from a barracuda needs immediate medical attention. Apply pressure to the bleeding wound on the way to the hospital.

Coral of Hawaii

The coral in Hawaii is actually quite sharp and jagged and one should be careful not to touch it at any time. One should also wear footwear at all times when wading to avoid accidental cuts and bruises from this fascinating but dangerous coral.

Moray Eels of Hawaii

These eels are actually quite dangerous and most attacks happen when someone goes poking around in the holes and crevices found under the water. If you are diving, avoid putting your hands into these places to avoid a teeth filled surprise. The moray eel has sharp ragged teeth that can tear flesh easily. Seek medical treatment if bitten.

Portuguese Man-of-War of Hawaii

This is one serious threat in Hawaii if you are not careful. The man-of-war has long blue tentacles that will sting forcefully and painfully. Fortunately, they are somewhat predictable as far as patterns. They follow the winds when they blow in from the ocean. If you observe the signs warning of this danger you should be okay. If stung, however, remove the visible tentacles and seek medical attention.

Sea Urchins, Scorpion Fish, and Cone Snails of Hawaii

Again, these creatures like to hang out in the various holes and crevices of the sea. Keep your hands and feet out of these areas and wear footwear when wading in shallow waters and you will avoid these dangerous, painful creatures.

Stingrays of Hawaii

These are also found along the bottom of Hawaiian shores. Though famous for being the culprit in the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, they are not naturally aggressive. If you encounter a sting ray, leave it alone. If accidentally stung, seek medical attention right away.

Sharks of Hawaii

The Hawaiian coastline has many species of sharks, but only a few known to target man as a potential food source. The most notorious of the bunch is the tiger shark. This large predator will certainly eat anything, and you should always be mindful of large sharks in the area. Other sharks found in Hawaiian waters are the Galapagos, the sandshark, the scalloped hammerhead, and the whitetip. These are just a few of the species that inhabit Hawaii, and one should remember that any shark can be dangerous. If one is spotted, you should calmly get out of the water.

Jellyfish of Hawaii

Jellyfish are one of the most troublesome problems for humans in the ocean because they are very hard to spot. They are often see through and float in the water silently. That said, the box jellyfish is the primary problem in Hawaii, and one should stay out of the water if they are around or spotted. These jellyfish have tons of stinging tentacles that are profoundly painful when touching human skin. This is a serious sting that should be treated by medical professionals.

The Hawaiian Flower Leis

May 18, 2008 by  
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Of all the Hawaiian traditions, the giving of the flower lei is probably the most well known. All the way back to the royalty of Hawaii, the lei has been an iconic gesture throughout Hawaiian history.

Given as an expression of love, respect, and any number of other reasons, the lei is one of the most identifiable gestures in Hawaiian culture.

The lei is rich in Hawaiian tradition. The original lei was not made of flowers only. Original leis were made of anything from human hair, to bird feathers, to shells off the beautiful Hawaiian coastline. Over time, the leis developed into the more modern flower leis that have been seen throughout the last several decades. The Awapuhi flower is one of the more popular flowers used to construct leis today. All flowers used are colorful and fragrant, and can be quite elaborate.

Hawaiian leis came to Hawaii via the Polynesian travellers from Tahiti. These travellers brought along the beauty of the lei, and it originally was an expression of peace between rival tribes. They would often string the leis of tribes together to signify that they are at peace with one another. The leis also were used to signify individuality and beauty of individuals in the tribe. This tradition continues to this day as Hawaiians craft the beautiful leis every day.

Leis are often given to someone as they arrive in Hawaii, and they are also used to express love or respect. This custom is steeped in Hawaiian tradition, and the construction of the lei is a serious Hawaiian custom.

The lei flowers are produced in various hot houses of Hawaii, and then distributed to lei makers throughout the great state of Hawaii.

Putting together a lei is actually a labor of love and enjoyed by many Hawaiians. The method most commonly used is called the “kui” method. This method uses about 40 flowers, always fresh. You take a piece of string and a lei needle which is about twelve inches long with a knitting hook on the end, and work the flowers along the length of the string. This is a tedious process, as the flowers are quite delicate. After threading the flowers onto the string, you tie it off and you are done. Some leis get ribbons or other decor to dress them up.

The presentation of the lei has been done with tradition for many many years in Hawaii. Many famous people have received leis as an expression of Hawaiian love and respect. When presenting a Hawaiian lei, you should give a kiss on each cheek according to custom. Some leis should not be given to some people. For example, pregnant women are thought to be at risk for the health of their baby if they accept a lei. This is an old Hawaiian piece of folklore.

Leis are an important and enjoyable piece of Hawaii, and a great expression of the kindness and friendliness of the Hawaiian people.

Dangerous Sharks of Hawaii

May 18, 2008 by  
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Out of the roughly forty species of sharks found in Hawaiian waters, only about four are especially dangerous to man.  The tiger shark is by far the most likely culprit in Hawaiian shark attacks, and the Galapagos is not far behind. Other species such as the scalloped hammerhead, and the whitetip have occasionally attacked humans in Hawaii, but they are the exception.

 

In Hawaii, shark attacks are actually quite rare, occurring at a rate of about 3-4 per year.  This is in stark contrast to the reputation of the Hawaii coastline in many other places.  Long thought to be a shark attack hotbed, the actual numbers do not support that fact.

 

By and far, the Tiger shark is the primary danger in Hawaiian waters.  This large apex predator is known affectionately as “the garbage can” of the sea.  This name comes from the reputation of being willing to eat anything.  The tiger shark has been known to eat everything from a human being to a car tire.  This curious nature is one of the reasons that the tiger shark is so dangerous.

 

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The tiger shark is about fourteen feet when grown, though they can grow quite a bit larger.  They can be easily identified by the stripes that line it’s length, and a short blunt snout. The tiger shark has rows of sharp serrated teeth that are built for tearing.

 

Most shark attacks in Hawaiian waters are curiosity bites.  That is, the shark sees the human and wants to see if they are prey.  The shark has no hands to investigate, and uses the only thing it has.  Teeth.  This can be quite lethal to a human when a fourteen foot tiger shark is doing the investigating.

 

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Though the tiger shark is the main attacker in Hawaii, any shark should be considered dangerous as they all are meat eaters. Any wild animal is a potential threat and should be treated with respect. 

 

Other species commonly found in Hawaiian waters are the reef whitetip, the scalloped hammerhead, and the sandshark.  These species are large, strong predators and should be avoided in the water at all costs.

 

By and large your odds of being attacked by sharks in Hawaii are very slim.  The pristine waters of the Hawaiian coastline are full of dangers, but the shark population is a very small percentage of that danger on the whole.

 

Spearfishermen and surfers are by far the most likely to be attacked, but for very different reasons.  The spearfisherman is killing fish and putting blood in the water.  This is a magnet for sharks in the area and dangerous encounters can follow.  Surfers resemble the sharks prey when atop a surfboard as the shark is seeing them from below.  This is often a case of mistaken identity.

 

Sharks are generally not seen and stay well out of the way of human beings. If you are careful, and stay out of the water during the evening and twilight hours when they are feeding, then you are at a very minimal risk of being attacked.

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