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Many cultures have their own beliefs on how the earth came to be created. The Kumulipo (“Beginning-in-deep-darkness”) is the sacred creation chant of a family of Hawaiian alii, or ruling chiefs and takes many hours to be recited. Composed and transmitted entirely in the oral tradition, its two thousand lines provide an extended genealogy proving the family’s divine origin and tracing the family history from the beginning of the world.

Rather than believing that the dark is a bad place, Hawaiians think of it as a place of the ancestors, a space from which knowledge is birthed. In the Kumulipo, a universe of darkness moves steadily toward light and completion. Land rises from the ocean, lower life forms gather on the shore, and larger creatures begin to appear: fish, insects, birds, amphibians. This and the growth of forest plants and food plants precede the appearance of gods and men.

It describes a complicated web of interrelationships between various plants and animals. The most massive portion of the chant is a genealogy, which enumerates thousands of ancestors of the Hawaiian royal family.

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