Hawaii: Hina in the Moon
Hina is a multifaceted and complex goddess. She is worshipped in different guises across Hawaii, Tahiti and in Pacific Island cultures.
There are many myths - and versions of myths - about Hina. She takes on many roles (some of which can seem contradictory). In her guise as a sea goddess, she is a goddess of “corals and spiny sea creatures”. She is also known as Hina “gathering sea food”, Hina “who gave birth to the reef” and the “goddess of fishermen”. In some myths, she also takes an eel (who is also a god and able to take human form) as a lover.
In many versions of the myth, Hina originally lived under the sea. She is also intimately connected with coconuts (and we have her to thank for them!)
In most of the myths, Hina is connected with the moon. In Tahiti it is said she sailed her canoe through the sky to reach the luminous moon. In other variations of the myths she flees or ventures there for various reasons. In Hawaii, she is relentlessly pursued by numbers of men and beasts. Tiring of it, she seeks solitude on the moon. Many women have to deal with a barrage of unwanted sexual attention from men. Hina is a goddess who, through her many stories, is very relatable! It’s easy to see how her popularity and stories endure.
One of my favourite versions of how Hina became a moon goddess is a Cinderella-esque tale of the moon as refuge for a goddess being take advantage of by her family. She fled there after growing tired of cleaning up after others. What woman can’t relate to that?
The moon and the sea are intimately connected. The moon pushes and pulls the tides. The gravity of the moon causes the ocean to bulge at the points both farthest & closest to the moon, resulting in high tides. The opposing points simultaneously experience a “low tide”. When the moon is full or new, the sun is aligned with the moon and combines its gravitational pull with that of the moon, causing a “king” tide.
In many cultures, the moon is intimately connected with women. The moon cycles from dark to full to dark every 28 days; women have their own natural cycle lasting 28 days (on average) - the menstrual cycle. As the moon moves the ocean, in many cases the womb is intimately connected with waters - e.g. menstrual blood and waters breaking at the onset of labour. Some anthropologist theorise that this is the reason behind the connection between the moon and women in many cultures. (Of course, there are always exceptions; in some cultures, the moon is connected with men).
My Hawaiian road trip was all about cycles. I had a destination wedding there, ending one phase of life and beginning another. As a location for a destination wedding, Hawaii was a utopia! Packages were reasonably priced and bespoke. I was married in the chapel at the Hawaiian Hilton Village on Waikiki beach, surrounded by my immediate family and friends.
We arrived in a cyclone and spent the days prior to the wedding coping with torrential rain. The day of the wedding dawned unexpectedly clear. The day was not perfect (no wedding is), but it was exactly what we wanted – family, delicious food, sun, sand and surf!
Added bonus: we got to explore several islands on our honey moon!
Kauai is an island of glorious scenery. The Cliffs of the Na Pali coastline are carved from the sea. Waimea canyon, with its layer upon layer of rainbow rock formations is breathtakingly beautiful from above. Bereft of a magic flying canoe (I don’t quite have Hina’s connections), we made do with a scenic helicopter flight to gain a bird’s eye view.
The Islands aren’t just stunning from above. One the ground, looking up, the view of the stars is utter magic. Hawaii is so isolated that there is little light pollution to bleach the night sky, guaranteeing Hina a clear view of her beloved islands from her home in the moon.
On Maui, the road to Hana was littered with wonder after wonder. Rainbow beaches and sparkling waterfalls were just the beginning of the adventure. Maui is also home to the tallest mountain in the world (from base to tip). It is technically taller than Everest, but the majority of the mountain is underwater. The top, amongst the clouds, is cool and desolate. As you cycle down, through cloud cover, you eventually reach the tree line. By the time you have coasted to the bottom, the sun is shining and the beaches call…
Hawaii is an island of cycles. The cycles are less obvious than the seasonal autumn-winter-spring-summer cycles that so many Westerners are used. The cycles there are subtle, but eternal. The ebb and flow of the tides. The cycles of the wind and rain. The cycles of nature – sea turtles, schools of fish, dolphins… and the cycle of the many tropical fruits and plants.
So often, we favour one cycle over the other. We favour the bloom of the flower over its death. We favour abundance and fear poverty. In modern life, our cycles have become out of balance. So many of us are constantly “on”. We give and we give and we give. We are overworked, constantly pushed to deliver more with less in our careers. At home, we are expected to have a clean house, eat healthily, exercise, socialise and be interesting. Online, we are treated like constant consumers – ads invade our personal spaces, our brains become a veritable sponge, consuming junk information and seeking our next dopamine hit. Even rest, relaxation and self-care has been commodified and consists of “doing” rather than being. E.g. “doing yoga”, “getting a facial”, etc...
We have lost our cycle of stillness. We have lost our cycle of rest. In nature, nothing is in constant motion. Nothing is constantly “on”. A lioness might chase down an antelope for her cubs’ dinner. But, once they are satiated, they laze about. They rest. They recharge. Most plants don’t bloom all year. They too rest.
It’s no wonder our other cycles have gotten so out of whack. So many suffer with issues with their menstrual cycle; stress has a direct effect on fertility and sexual health. Afterall, our brain interprets stress and danger as the same thing. The stress response includes shutting down our reproductive, immune and digestive systems. There’s no point getting pregnant in a time of famine. There’ s no point digesting lunch or not getting a head cold if a bear is about to eat you. The issue is our brain interprets a hungry bear and work-related stress as being one and the same. In nature, if you were fortunate enough to escape the danger, the stress response would pass. Nowadays, stress may be chronic, which is damaging to both our health and wellbeing.
Many, many more struggle with their sleep cycles. When you are stressed, your body and brain think you are in danger. You can’t chance sleeping long and deep if you could be attacked at any minute. And so restful sleep alludes us.
The solution to managing stress isn’t what we are being told. There’s no way taking time out to have a facial is going to give us a break from being constantly “on”. That mama lioness, having fed her cubs, doesn’t seek out another activity. (And ’ve never seen a single lion have a facial!)
So, what is the solution to stress?
All the tales of Hina in the moon have one thing in common. She deliberately seeks out the moon for rest and solitude. She needs a break! Even a goddess can’t deal with unrelenting stress and needs some rest and relaxation.
The moon hides her face once a month, before cycling through waning, full and waxing. She ebbs and flows, like the tides she pushes and pulls. We need to make stillness, silence and even healthy isolation part of our own natural cycles. These are the times when we unwind, recharge and do incredibly valuable internal work. That internal work gives us insight. It helps us understand who we are, have perspective, reflect and grow.
One reason why we love travel so much is because of those times of stillness. Laying on a beach with no distractions; just the sun, the sand, the surf and our own inner dialogue. Or, hiking out in nature, free of noise pollution and eye strain from too much screen time.
Hina reminds us how valuable time, space, stillness and being alone with yourself can be. It is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. So, don’t forget to prioritise cycles of rest between cycles of activities. It’s not a case of you “deserving” it; you actually need it! Your health and wellbeing depend on it. So, find a way to recreate a holiday at home, if needs be. You don’t need permission to have some alone time. Make it a priority and get some well deserved rest!