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Kānehekili – A Tradition of the Pāpaʻaʻea Keʻanae Region



Wai o ke ola: he wahi moʻolelo no Maui Hikina (Vol. I)

Samuel Kamakau also recorded early god-associated accounts that mention lands of the Hāmākua-Koʻolau region, specifically naming Pāpaʻaʻea, ʻOʻopuola, and Keʻanae. While discussing the thunder and lightning manifestation of the god Kāne (whose attributes also include ka wai ola—the waters of life—kalo, and sunlight), Kamakau (1968) made reference to an ancient defied, resident―priest of Pāpaʻaʻea, who also made a heiau, that “stood above Keʻanae.” By association with chiefly genealogies, the time period described, predates the 1500s. Kamakau also reports that throughout history chiefs of the Hekili line were dedicated at Pāpaʻaʻea:

Kanehekili, Kanewawahilani, Kahoʻaliʻi, Kauilanuimakehaikalani, and the many other gods who belong to the upper and lower strata of the firmament (ka lewalani, ka lewanuru), are called “gods of the heavens,” na akua o ka lani. Kanenuiakeaʻs place was elsewhere. The first kahu who observed the kapus of these gods was named Hekili (Thunder). He lived at Papaʻaea in Hamakualoa, Maui. The land of Papaʻaea where this man was born is a place where thunder claps very loudly, with double claps, and there come flashes of lightning that smash to pieces the forest of ʻOʻopuloa. Everyone knew Hekili as a man who had mana, so that everything he said was fulfilled. He had but to speak to the thunder and lightning, and they avenged him instantly upon his enemies; those persons who cursed him and abused him were all killed suddenly by thunder and lightning. His enemies therefore plotted in their hearts to kill him and whispered about it in secret. While they whispered, thunder struck. His enemies ceased to plot and to think evil thoughts. People feared Hekili as a man of great mana, and they all called him Kanehekili. They believed him to be a man with the mana of a god, and they relied on him as a man of mana and as a kahu for the “gods of the heavens.” His heiau for the gods of the heavens stood above Keʻanae in the Koʻolau district. There Hekili died, beneath the kuapala offering stand. When the brother-in-law of this man of the thunder spirit (kanaka akua hekili) entered the heiau and found him dead, he cut off his head and took it to Lanai, and thus it came into the possession of Lanai. The men of Hamakualoa missed him, and searched, and found his body in the heiau [Pakanaloa2] above Keʻanae. When they found that this kahu of great mana was dead, they took the body and divided it into small pieces and distributed the pieces to various places around Maui. These became their kuleana to worship thunder. Those persons who had the head worshiped through the head and eyes of Kanehekili. They were called “the eyeball of the god” (ka ʻonohi o ke akua), and “the mouth of the god” (ka waha o ke akua). [They were the seers and prophets of the god in thunder.]… [1968:69] …From the very beginning Kanehekili appeared with one side a deep black. This is the reason why Kahekili, the ruler of Maui, was tattooed a solid black (kakau paʻele) from head to foot on the right side. His whole company of warrior chiefs (poʻe puʻali aliʻi) and household companions (na ʻaialo), were tattooed in the same way as Kahekili. He himself had an ancestor who had been born from thunder (mailoko mai o ka hekili). This was Kahekilinuiʻahumanu, the son of Kakaʻalaneo and Kapohauola. As a child Kahekilinuiʻahumanu was taken to the thunder (lawe ʻia na ka hekili) and so became (hoʻolilo) a child of the thunder. The royal child was consecrated to the thunder at Papaʻaea in Hamakualoa, a land of thunder. His mother was of the thunder (he makuahine hekili), and so the descendants of thunder have come down to this day. Among the offspring of the descendants of thunder, if a child is born from his motherʻs womb daubed with black (pala hiwa ʻeleʻele) on one side, it is a sign that he has been chosen by the god Kanehekili, who has placed the mark on the child he desires to be his. The mark appears to this day, but only among the godʻs own descendants. Ulumaheihei Hoapilikane was an offspring of thunder. His face was marked with deep black, visible to all; and everybody said he was a child of thunder. His mother, Keliʻiokahekili, came from thunder… [1968:70]

2Beckwith (1970:48), cites an account naming the heiau “Pakana-loa.” Which was “erected back of Keanae on Maui at a place where violent thunderstorms occur…”

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