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Lanikaula no Moloka'i

Updated: Oct 7, 2023


Kii: Ku'ialuaopuna Lanikaula was born at Puko'o, Moloka’i. He lived most of his life in the valley of Hālawa not far from the pool into which receive the waterfalls of Moaula. Lanikaula is said to have lived many centuries before and in the time of Kamalalawalu of Maui. It is mentioned in legend he erected a great temple dedicated to Ku, a god of the forest.


Lanikaula, is one of the most celebrated kahuna of ancient times. His era was about the 1300's . It is said that he excelled in the art of divination and was able to control material objects and to heal from great distances. Lanikaula was one of the most powerful Kahuna of all time. It is reported he had lived over 400 years. During that era, came a malihini or visitor from tahiti named Pahulu. Pahulu was a goddess who came to and ruled Lanai. She wasnt a ruler by force or war but by having the ability to use her spiritual powers in the realm of the super natural. She dealt in praying people to death as well as healing. She practiced what the westerners call sorcery and using the spirits of lifeless bodies to carry out errands of death and harm on to others. This was the ancient times before the akua of fire called Pele from Polapola, Tahiti arrived, in the era when Kane and Kanaloa came to Hawaii, these the remote times of antiquity. Pahulu was the leading spirit on Lanai. Lani-kaula is said to have went to Lana'i and killed off all the akua on Lanai as her power was growing and spreading across the land and entering the lands of Moloka'i to spread their sorcery. It was said there were about forty of this ohana that moved over to Molokai and Oahu after being forced out of Lanai. The fishpond of Ka-awa-nui was the first pond they built on Molokai. Some came to Oahu and landed on the beach opposite Mokoliʻi.




In Lanikaula's continuous battle with the Pahulu family of Lana'i, he destroyed many of the Pahulu family by prayer, forcing them to scatter to various islands. Kawelo being a famous kahuna and part of the Pahulu ohana living on Lanai sought to fight back with prayers and sorcery. Kawelo saw how strong Lanikaula was in spirit and Kawelos prayers alone could not overcome Lanikaula. So Kawelo needed another way to defeat him.

Kawelo would need something personal from Lanikaula to kill him.

To attain the mana or spirit of a person, a personal item or body part of that victim would need to be secured. Items such as their fingernails, hair, a malo even kūkae ( excrement) could be used.


It is important to know, Hawaiians of old would malama or care for their personal mana very carefully, and it would be hard to find them as most were buried secretly at night, so as to escape the eyes of those that were watching. For all chiefs, priests and makaʻāinana or commoners had to be weary of how their personal mana was stored, used or disposed of properly. These sacred items full of mana were termed maunu or bait. This is similar to using bait when going fishing or holoholo in the ocean. The maunu attracts all the fish to the hook so the fish can be captured. The use of someone's maunu for evil intent can bring a slow death to the victim.


Lanikaula used to take his excrement out secretly to a rock islet off the coast of Molokai and bury it there, in order that no rival kahuna could get to it so as to put him to death by prayers to specific akua or dieties.



Lanikaula eventually becomes sick and knows he is about to pass from the prayers of this Kahuna of Lana'i (due to his kūkae being gotten). As Lanikaula slowly starts to near his death, he instructs his sons to hide his bones so his enemies could not get them. If Lanikaula's iwi were to be found by strangers, his spirit would be trapped in his bones and he would become a unihipili, (a spirit of the deceased that is sent on errands both good or bad by the keeper of his bones. His spirt would have to obey and service his kahu. He would be trapped forever and soon become a mindless ghost that would never be able to go into the afterlife of Po.) Kawelo came to visit Lanikaula and spied upon him, he found out where Lanikaula was taking his kukae and burying it, so he went to the island and collected the kukae and sailed back to Lana'i. Kawelo, with prayers to his akua Pahulu, began to light his sacred fire of Ke-ahi-aloa and burned it there on Lanai at the site called Keahiakawelo, which means the fires of Kawelo and this name is still associated with this area today.






Aina of Puuohoku today. This was the site of the famous Kukui grove of Lanikaula .The kukui trees would have filled the entire land down to the sea. The rock island in the sea is where Lanikaula would have buried his maunu.


Kii: Galen McCleary




Lanikaula being a seer, finally knew Kawelo was sending his destructive akua into him by attaining his kukae and there was little Lanikaula could do already. Feeling the sorcery was upon him and his days short. Lanikaula asked his three sons where they would hide his body. The burial place of his iwi needed to be secured as Lanikaula knew many eyes were always watching and wanted his mana to control his spirt at his death.


The older son, promised to take his remains to the highest mountain and bury it deep in a secret cave. The second son, a great fisherman, would take it to the depths of the ocean and hide it in an underwater sea cavern. The youngest son wanted to bury Lanikaula in a point on the east end of Moloka`i. So it was agreed to bury his body on the east point but in a certain way, as to confuse and make it hard for anyone to find.

It was agreed upon by all that they would dig these long trenches that crossed the land of Puuohoku. In these long deep trenches, they would bury his bones under layers of dirt and stones, and on these stones, they would layer over it again with more dirt and bigger stones until all the trenches were filled completely. Inside these trenches they would plant thousands of kukui trees which would form a grove some miles wide and long. This aina is called Puuohoku. It would be hard for anyone to locate the exact spot of his iwi in a grove this vast. This kukui grove is famous till today and is known as Kaulukukiolanikaula. The kukui trees are said to bleed red when the bark is cut in this area. The symbolism of the word kukui to mean enlightened with light and knowledge, was perfect fit for a man like Lanikaula. Lanikaula's grove of kukui trees on the eastern point of the island of Molokai facing Maui and Lanai is still pointed out among the famous places on that island. This death of Lanikaula opened up the spread of the Pahulu family over the other islands.

After the death of Lanikaula, the fires of Kawelo, Ke-ahi-aloa, is said to have been kept constantly burning in order to fulfil a prophecy that as long as this fire on Lanai and the fire of Waha across the channel on Maui were kept up, dogs and hogs would not fail on those islands. Kawelo left his daughter and Waha his son in charge of the fire. One night the young people were busy with love making and the fires went out. Kawelo threw himself over the cliff of Maunalei and killed himself.


He mele punahele no Moloka'i.

E hoolohe oukou ia mele ma lalo iho nei.








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