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In late Hawaiian mythology, the chief god of generation: he had a ‘dazzling’ phallus like the Polynesian trickster hero Maui. He was ‘the ancestor of chiefs and commoners’ as well as the maker of the three worlds—the upper heaven, the lower heaven, and the earth.

At the beginning Kane dwelt in darkness. Then light was created, and Ku, an ancestral deity, along with Lono, god of the heavens, helped Kane to fashion the earth and the things on the earth. Later they created man and woman, but the misbehaviour of this pair forced Kane to leave the earth and retire to heaven, after he had made mankind subject to death. That his original intention was to live among people can be seen from the title given to the world: Ka-honua-nui-a-Kane, ‘the great earth of Kane’.

Human sacrifice was never paid to Kane, because ‘life is sacred to him’. His images were rare, a tall conical stone often sufficed for altars. His powers, however, were clearly perceived: he was Kane-hekili, ‘thunderer’; Kane-wawahi-lani, ‘breaking through heaven’; and Ka-uila-nui-maka-keha'i-i-ka-lani, ‘lightning flashing in the heavens’. The bloodlessness of Kane worship contrasts with that of many other Hawaiian gods. The sorcerer god Kahoali, for instance, used to receive the eyeball of a fish and that of a human victim. The drinking of a victim's eye with kava as an offering to a deity was common in Polynesia, though the Tahitians reserved the eye for their king.

Kane was often associated with the squid god Kanaloa, the Hawaiian Tangaroa. Kanaloa was ‘evil-smelling’, vindictive, and the opponent of Kane's creatures. He has been identified with the Christian devil and the land of the dead. Like Kane, Kanaloa was thought of as a deity living in a human body on a paradisal island, floating in the clouds near the Hawaiian Islands. The magical island was called Kane-huna-moku, ‘hidden land of Kane’.

Subjects: Religion.

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