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What the Stars Mean to Me (and You)

What the Stars Mean to Me

When I was a young child, I would look into the vast, twinkling sky for hours. I saw limitlessness and endless possibilities. How could something so extraordinary, so seemingly impossible exist? The night sky makes me feel small, but not in a bad way. Rather, a part of something bigger, something special.

I have a profound connection to the stars. Not because I know how to read them or because they can tell me the future, it's because they fill me with life. Those stars motivate me to make the world a better place, to live every day to the fullest, and to never stop believing that anything is possible. Island by Koa Nani’s star jewelry, containing some of my favorite items, reminds me of this. I can look at the moon and stars, not only in the sky, but on my neck, close to my heart.

Constellations Seen in Hawai’i

Cassiopeia, known in Hawai’i as 'Iwa Keli'i, is a set of stars that looks like a W or M in the night sky. In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia was punished by Poseidon for her vanity by being tied to her throne and placed in the sky; destined to spend half her time holding onto it so she doesn’t fall. In Hawaiian culture, 'Iwa Keli'i is a bird that soars overhead circling Hokupa'a, meaning stuck star, also known as Polaris. Cassiopeia can also be seen in Island’s unique jewelry design. The diamonds shine like the stars surrounding the constellation and the larimar and aquamarine gemstones represent Cassiopeia’s throne.

The Southern Cross, also known as Hanaiakamalama, is a set of stars that looks like a cross. Hanaiakamalama roughly translates to “cared for by the moon,” and it’s said that among the 50 states, you can only view it in the night sky in Hawai’i. These stars are believed to have been crucial for early polynesian navigation. Like Cassiopeia, you can see the Southern Cross in Island’s jewelry. The four larimar gemstones create the cross and the diamonds represent the rest of the sky.

The Significance of the Stars to Hawaiians

Wayfinding is the ability to travel and orient oneself without modern instruments or technology. Early Polynesians were exceptionally skilled wayfinders who were able to undertake vast voyages across the Pacific ocean with nothing more than their knowledge of the sky, stars, ocean currents, and cues of nature. Their incredible ability to read the subtle messages hidden in the ocean waves and use the boundless sky as a map took them to the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, Marquesas, and beyond. This is how the first Hawaiians arrived and made the islands their home.

Ancient Hawaiians also believed that celestial events were indicators of fate and future events. It was foretold that a mighty chief would be born under a light in the sky with feathers like a bird. On that day, King Kamehameha the Great was born. That magical light in the sky, with feathers like a bird, was a comet. Today we recognize that as Halley's comet which passed over Hawai’i in 1758. Kamehameha the Great indeed became a mighty ruler as prophesied, famous for unifying all the islands under one kingdom, and guiding Hawaiians into the future.

Ancient Hawaiian farmers used the stars as a calendar to prepare for the changing of seasons. The sky was a practical tool, but also of great spiritual significance. The stars have various meanings in cultures around the world, but one thing is universal: we all look to the sky for guidance, wisdom, and answers.



Paula S.

I love reading the stories about Hawaiian legends and beliefs and the symbolism of the beauty of nature that you find everywhere in Hawaii!

Jo Crews

A very interesting post! And as a proponent of being a lifelong learner, this gave me quite a bit of information. Mahalo!

Paula S.

That was so interesting!

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