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Na Akua o Kamehameha

Photo: Bishop Museum

Ruling Chiefs

of Hawaii

(Revised Edition)

Kamakau, Samuel Manaiakalani

Revised Edition Copyright © 1992

by Kamehameha Schools

pgs 178-181

Kamehameha took the children of commoners and trained them to be warriors or to learn other arts. He called these "adopted children" (hoʻokama), "friends" (aikane), "favorites" (punahele), or "companions" (hoa-ʻai). He had a large train of chiefs and people constantly with him, and for this reason his rule was very popular. He took men who were fast runners with Ke-kua-paniʻo at their head. These men were always ready to be ordered out. Ke-kua-paniʻo could run from Kawaihae to Waiakea, get fresh fish, and bring it back alive to Kawaihae all in one day. Ke-paʻa-lani was his swiftest paddler; he could go from Kawaihae to Lahaina and back again to Kawaihae in the same day. What wonderful endurance men had in the old days!

Kamehameha selected men to act as teachers in the arts of wrestling (kuʻialua), dodging the javelin (lonomakaihe), warding off the javelin (ʻoniu laʻau), boxing (mokomoko), hitting with the fist (kuʻikuʻi), fencing (káká laʻau) running chest up with a weight on the back (umauma), squatting and pushing (honuhonu), disc rolling (ulu maika), playing puhenehene, paheʻe, koi, turning somersaults (wala), turning somersaults backward (walakua), broad jump (pinao), leaping from a height (lele), reading signs and omens (kilokilo), pointing out locations (kuhibuhi puʻuone), the configurations of the earth (papa hulihonua), wound healing (lonopuʻhaʻ), and all the arts of the kahuna. The kahunas who taught the art of healing wounds were selected by Kamehameha from the descendants of Milikoʻo, Puheke, and Palaha, who had been trained in the art of healing by Ka-maka-nui-ʻahaʻilono and Lono. One of these kahunas, Ku-aʻuaʻu, became Kamehameha's personal healer. Among other chiefs trained in the art of healing wounds were Ka-lani-moku and Boki Ka-maʻuleʻule. Others were educated in the art of healing chronic diseases. This is how these healers were trained: Pebbles were set in the shape of the human body. The different parts where diseases were located were marked off from the head to the feet, and the kind of disease and its symptoms were taught for each part. The healers learned to know which diseases were curable and which incurable. Then medicines were studied for each disease. When that had been learned the pupil felt over a real patient and studied his body.*

Kamehameha built heiaus for his gods. Ku-kaʻili-moku was a feather god whose feathers, it was said, had formerly grown on the foreheads of the great birds Halulu and Kiwaʻa. Ku-ke-oloʻewa, Ka-haka-iki, or Makuʻu† was a wooden god from a tree of Paliuli and wore a helmet on its head. Ku-hoʻone-nuʻu was another god made of the tree with beautiful flowers brought by Haumea from Ka-lewa-lani. It also bore the flowers, Kani-ka-wi' and Kani-ka-wa', and wore a feather helmet on its head formed out of the feathers of Halulu, Kiwaʻa, and Hiapo. These were gods who seized governments, and it was through them that Kamehameha became ruling chief over the islands. ʻOlopue, known also as Ka-papa-kahui, was a god that led spirits of other chiefs who were enemies into the heiaus where the spirits were sacrificed. Kameha-ʻikana, Haumea, Pele, Hoʻohoku, Walinuʻu, Kalamainuʻu, Kihawahine, and Hiʻiaka were female deities, and there were a great number of goddesses besides. Papa was the heiau of the female deities. Kane-i-kaulana-ʻula, Kane-mana-ia-paiʻea, Ka-huila-o-ka-lani, and Kapo were called Kalai-pahoa gods because they were carved (kalai) by the stone dagger (pahoa) [used] as an axe. They were gods who had much mana, and Kamehameha built for them the house called Hale-ʻili-maiʻa; if a person entered this house he would die; if a bird flew upon the roof it would die; if a rat, cockroach, or any other creature came into the house it would die. One creature alone could enter and live, the lizard called moʻokaula. Maʻalo and Moe-luhi were the kahu who had charge of these gods. Kane-ʻalai and Ke-liʻi-ku-ka-haoa were the kahunas who anointed and prayed to these gods, but they had no house set aside for them. Kamehameha built separate god houses for the different gods and appointed the kahu of the gods to be with their god within the separate god houses and heiaus. Ka-puni was one god; Ka-ʻohu-walu, Ka-ʻakau, Oulu, and Hiapo were flying gods [gods of sorcery]. Kamehameha had many such gods. One of his gods was a real man; Ka-hoʻaliʻi was his name, and he had tabus, tabu drums, and tabu flags. The white kaʻupu bird and the eyeballs of men were the tabu laws of this god. His favorite food was the eye of a man. This god was allowed free eating with the chiefesses. Kamehameha established as heiaus for the sacrifice of human beings to his blood-thirsty gods Puʻukohola' and Mailekini at Kawaihae; Keiki-puʻipuʻi and ʻAhuʻena at Kailua; Hikiau at Kealakekua; Kama-i-keʻe-ku' and ʻOhiʻa-mukumuku at Kahaluʻu; Hale-o-Keawe and the Puʻuhonua at Honaunau; and so on all about Hawaii. When Vancouver saw how religious Kamehameha was and how he worshiped in the god house and heiaus morning and evening he said, "You are a religious chief, Kamehameha, and you worship wooden images. These are not true gods; the true God is in heaven. If you wish, when I return to England I will ask King George to send you kahunas who will tell you of the true God who is in heaven and you will believe them." Kamehameha answered, "These are my gods, they are gods with mana; through them I gained control of the government and became supreme chief." It was perhaps because Vancouver saw how devoted Kamehameha was to his gods that missionaries were not sent here from Great Britain.

Kamehameha established yearly feasts as a time of rest from labor when men might regain their strength. At the close of the ninth month of each year a tabu was placed upon the eating of the flesh of animals or of coconuts, and at the close of the year a pig was placed on the altar (lele), coconuts were opened, and a feast was held lasting seven days during which time food was prepared for the occasion. It was at this time that the game god was carried around. This god was the god of ... all sorts of athletic exercises. Food was supplied by the government out of that collected by the landlords of every district during the working days set aside for the ruling chief, and given over at once to the people for the festivities. As the god, Kapala-ʻalaea, and the goddess, Kiha-wahine, were borne along, the side toward the sea was tabu and the side toward the mountain was free. Anyone who broke the tabu by going on the tabu side paid a fine, but if he saw the deity and prostrated himself he saved himself from the penalty. The gods of the festival were Ka-puni, Oulu, Ka-ʻohu-malu, Lono, Kahoʻaliʻi, and others. A kaʻupu bird was mounted on a stick and borne along like a banner. Lono was fastened to a long pole and so were Ka-puni and the other gods of the festival, and they were carried by bearers from one end of a land division (ahupuaʻa, ʻokana, moku) to the other. Then they were set up and the people within that division gave contributions of whatever property they could. If the contributions were generous, of good quality, and such as the keepers of the gods approved, then the gods were let down, and the gifts given over to the kahu of the gods. The rest was given to all the people. Men said, "Our needs will be supplied if we live under this chief; here is food, fish, tapa, loin cloths, skirts, mats, olona fiber, nets, and feathers, all to be had in one day." If any district did not contribute properly on any occasion, the gods would complain. They were not laid down, and the end of it was that the section, whatever it was, was given over to be plundered. But the trick was to watch the gods, for if they were held slantwise, the plunderer must run for his life, for the gods had laid by their protecting mana over the plunderer, and the owners might recover their stolen property. The long god was carried about for fifteen days, when he met the short god. They were rolled up and taken back with the other gods to where the ruling chief was, and all were placed in the god houses and heiaus, and it again became tabu for men to see them. The gods were tabu objects to the common people; only the kahunas, the keepers of the gods, and the attendants at the god houses were allowed to see them. The chief also might look upon them whenever he wished to go with the keepers to worship in the heiau and the god houses, or the ʻili-maiʻa house, the ʻauhau maʻule house, or the ʻalaneo house where men go to pray for healing. These places were so tabu that not even the favorites of the chief might enter, only the chief himself.

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