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Hawaiian Star Compass

Select a category of knowledge recorded on the compass. First see the Hawaiian labels on the compass, and then for each category click “view English” to add blue English labels. Read more about the meanings of their Hawaiian names below the illustration.

House of Stars

Seven houses of stars provide directional points around the horizon for each quadrant:

  • Lā: Sun; areas of the horizon where the sun rises and sets most of the year.
  • ‘Āina: Land; areas of the horizon from east and west where ‘āina (land) Hawai‘i and Tahiti are at 21 degrees north and 18 degrees south of the equator, respectively.
  • Noio: A bird, the Hawaiian noddy tern, which helps a navigator find islands because it flies out to sea in the morning to fish and returns to land at night to rest.
  • Manu: Bird, the traditional Polynesian metaphor for the canoe, marking the midway point between the four cardinal directions.
  • Nālani: Royal chief, named for the brightest star in this house, Ke ali‘i o kona i ka lewa (Canopus), which rises in Nālani Malanai (southeastern horizon) and sets in Nālani Kona (southwestern horizon).
  • Nā Leo: The voices, referring to the stars’ speaking to the navigator.
  • Haka: Empty, referring to the empty skies around the north and south celestial poles.

Credits: Hawaiian Star Compass, Copyright by C. Nainoa Thompson