In old Hawai'i, starting in the month of October, all people gathered to celebrate the harvest, the final paying of taxes and to worship the God that reigned over farming, agriculture, and fertility. The God was Lono, and the celebration was called the Makahiki
. The Makahiki today is celebrated as Aloha Week
A wooden symbol of Lono draped with sacred with kapa (bark cloth, so called because it is made from the pounded bark of the Wauke tree, feather lei and pala fern presided over the Makahiki festivities. Feats of skill and bravery were performed by all young warriors, along with sports such as surfing, canoeing, holua (a sled) sliding, spear throwing and spear dodging. Boxing and wrestling were a favorite competition, and betting occurred throughout all festivities. Hawaiians were adept in many games, including 'ulu maika (a sort of stone bowling), and pukaula (juggling), as well as the more licentious game of ume, where chiefly players had a form of "spin the bottle," with a night of love as the reward. There was no jealousy associated with the game, and individual refusal was always an option. The arts of chanting and hula were also a part of the Makahiki, performed by the ali'i (nobility) in addition to the dancers of the hälau hula (hula school).
For the approximately four months of Lono worship, there was a kapu (restriction) on war, and religious ceremonies were conducted regularly by Lono kähuna (priests). There was no human sacrifice at the heiau (place of worship) as there was during the time of Ku, God of war. Lono consequently ranked slightly lower than Ku, he was, however, one of the four major male gods of ancient Hawai'i. Worship of all other gods was suspended during the time of Lono, when Hawaiians dedicated themselves to a peaceful, joyous harvest celebration.
One legend of the Makahiki tells of the god Lono sending his brother to find a wife for him on Earth. They came across the most beautiful maiden they had every seen dwelling by a waterfall in the Big Island's Waipi'o Valley. Lono descended from the clouds on a rainbow to make lovely Kaikilani his wife and a goddess. They shared a love for surfing and lived happily at Kealakekua Bay, until Lono heard a mortal chief wooing Kaikilani. In a jealous rage, Lono beat his beloved to death though she protested her innocence. Overcome with grief for his actions, he began roaming the island in search of combat. Lono, after realizing that his battling would not restore Kaikilani's life, instituted the Makahiki games in her honor. He then built a remarkable canoe with a mast of 'ohia wood and a sail of the finest Ni'ihau matting, and sailed away. Lono promised to return to Hawai'i one day, on an island shaded by trees and swarming with fowl and swine. Other versions of the legend depict Lono as a mortal who was raised to godlike status by the Hawaiians because of his skills in all sports and arts. But all tales end with the god's search for Kaikilani and his sailing off alone from Kealakekua Bay.
Lono was also the name given to Capt. James Cook, the fames British explorer, when he arrived at Kealakekua Bay in 1789 to rediscover Hawai'i as the Sandwich Islands. His arrival coincided with the season of Lono and his ships had sails that formed the same shape as the Makahiki idol, Lonomakua (Father Lono). The rest lives as controversial history, not legend. Lono will doubtless be remembered for his fateful role in the death of Capt. Cook, occurring only weeks after the explorer was received by the Hawaiian people as their returning god.
Lono was the god of healing, a peaceful god prayed to for protection and worshipped by farmers. He was the god of fertility for the land and for this people, the god of rain and abundant crops. Lono was lord of the clouds, thunder and lightning, a god that presided over a time of peace and the months of harvest.
(reference: Spirit of Aloha Magazine-Sept/Oct 1989 by Deborah Melvin)