The Hawaiian Dictionary of Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert. 1986 University of Hawaii Press defines mana'o as "...thought, idea, belief, opinion, theory, thesis, intention, meaning, suggestions, mind (Mat. 22.37), desire, want; to think, estimate, anticipate, expect (see ex. lele'oi), suppose, meditate, deem consider (not the intellectual process of no'ono'o)."

Here we see the effect of the philosophy lived by Hawaiians of old on their use of language. Here we find thought but, "...not the intellectual process...". It is the effect of the individual’s experience and knowledge that combines with the individual's belief, opinion or intention. As no two individuals have the same life experience and knowledge, the mana'o is individual and not alike for everyone. The slight or great differences are a result of different lives. Yet it is important to consider the truth of each of these lives as having had a true meaning for the individual.

While living on the island of Kauai, we have developed our own mana’o or beliefs about the ancient art of string figures. It is our intent to share with you our thoughts as we have come to understand string figures from our experiences while living in the Pacific. We have found that to understand the land we are living in we must also learn about the rest of Polynesia and the ancient world in general.

We have come to find out that there is more to learning about string figures than just a simple loop of string. Many have studied the movements of the hands. Some have recorded the stories and the chants. Some have ventured into the understanding of the culture and the language of the people who made them. Few have explored the names of people, places and events found within the string figure chants and even fewer have written about the symbols, metaphors and esoteric knowledge which comes to them from ways not easy to explain.

We have found that to understand the Hawaiian string figures one must learn about the people and the culture of Hawaii. Not just the Hawaii of today but the Hawaii of old. Even the Language of today is more literal and less metaphoric than the language of old. We were not there when the ancestors worked with the kaula or the string. We do not really know why they were used but we do know the effect that they have on us and on others.

© 2011-20 Lois & Earl Stokes