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Alexa
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PostSubject: The Roots of Native Hawaiian Spirituality   Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:53 am

The Roots of Native Hawaiian Spirituality by George Furakuwa

Native Hawaiian spirituality can be traced back thousands of years when ancient Hawaiians looked to the wind (makani, or life giving spirit) to nurture their spiritual well-being, and to assist them in crossing often treacherous miles of ocean in specially designed voyaging canoes. The
key elements of native Hawaiian spirituality embrace ancient myths chanted to the sounds of waves in the sea, and wind in trees.

Much of Hawaiian spirituality centers on the practice of moi'olelo, or the power of the spoken word. The art of apo, or catching words that allow revelations and experiences, was practiced by ancient Hawaiians in sacred chants. Witnesses were cautioned not to interrupt the flow of power, for they would insult the Hawaiian gods whose mana (energy) was being sought.

Hawaiians have long pointed to the kumulipo, and old and sacred chant that centers on a story of creation. The chant embraces descriptions of aumakua, or protective family spirits 'C manifested in animals and plants in the Hawaiian culture. Before the arrival of missionaries in 1820, Hawaiians worshiped many gods.

The Gods of Native Hawaiian Spirituality
The four main Hawaiian gods were Kane (god of sunlight, fresh water and natural light), Ku (god of war), Lono (god of peace, fertility, winds, rain, and sports) and Kanaloa (god of the ocean). Other gods included Pele (goddess of fire).

Ancient Hawaiians constructed heiau, or temples of worship, and placed offerings on specially constructed altar-like towers. Most offerings were edible and wrapped in leaves to ward evil spirits away. When deemed necessary, the gift of a mani's life was made. The act of killing was not part of the ritual.

An enemy slain in battle, a criminal or slave knocked on the head and carried to a temple was sacrificed. However, it had to be a healthy man, never a woman, child, or a man with a deformity or wasted by age. Only a king could order it. Of several types of temples (heiau), the luakini was the most elaborate and largest. Dedicated to Ku (god of war), these were the heiau of ruling chiefs.

Waihau were heiau at which humans were not offered. Of these, the mapele were agricultural shrines to Lono. Heiau hoi'ola were for healing. Pui'uhonua were sanctuaries where fugitives could find safety from those pursuing them. It' s believed that after some penance or adjudicated reconciliation, a fugitive could leave without fear.

The Hawaiian gods included:

  • Kamapuai'a (the hog god) - A mischievous spirit of rain and plant life
  • Maui (the time shifter) - A demigod, the brother of Pele
  • Menehune (good fairies) -Impish mythical figures, the cousins of Irelandi's leprechauns
  • Poliau (the goddess of snowy Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, and Pelei's rival
  • Kapo and Laka (Pelei's sisters) - Two personalities of the same spirit
  • Hii'aka - A spirit of fertility and sorcery, as well as a spirit of dance
  • Kamohoalii'i - Keeper of water life
  • Lonomakua - Keeper of the sacred fire sticks
  • Kapohoikahiola - Spirit of explosions
  • Keuaakepo - Spirit of rain of fire
  • Kanehekili - Spirit of thunder
  • Keoahikamakaua - Spirit of lava fountains

Ku, the god of war was worshiped for four consecutive days, at the start of the moon month. Temples were built to exact specifications, and presided by a distinct cult of priests. Kane, the creator and giver of life, created Man. He also created forests and provided rain and life to the land. Kane was also manifested in healing plants. Lono, the god of agriculture and peace, was manifested in rain clouds and in crops. Kanaloa, the god of the sea, was Kanei's brother.

The Kahuna of Native Hawaiian Spirituality
Kahuna (persons in the native Hawaiian culture) that have a trade, an art, or who practice some profession, are a key component in Hawaiian spirituality. The concept of kahuna can best be described as the professional relation of priests to communities. The ancient Hawaiians had different kinds of kahuna: kahuna pule (priest), kahuna kalai lai'au (carpenter), kahuna kala (silversmith). Kahuna were also sorcerers, healers, priests, prophets, geologists, and psychics.

Kahuna were cultural counterparts of the guild masters and priests of medieval Europe. Beyond serving as the leading practitioner of his craft or profession, each acted as an interface between his guild and its patron spirits. Kahuna performed rituals at temples or shrines to solicit mana (energy) from patron spirits of his guild.

The kahuna nui advised his king on spiritual matters and conducted rituals to invoke spiritual help. Kahuna pule performed invocations for assistance from major spirits. Kahuna hui performed mortuary ceremonies for the deification of a king. Kahuna kikokilo observed skies for omens. Kahuna kaula were regarded as prophets.

Without writing, kahuna were the living libraries of the old Hawaiian culture, preserving knowledge in trained memories. Some feats of memory seem incredible today. The story of Kamapuai'a required 16 hours of word-perfect recitation. Some temple invocations, in which any mistake would break the power of the words, required two days to deliver.

Hawaiians recognized two essential categories of diseases that are caused by forces outside the body (mawaho) and that are caused from within (maloko). The first group consisted of illnesses resulting from spite, hate or jealousy of another person, from the anger of a ghost, spirit guardian, or from the work of a kahuna. Relief from such illnesses was sought through prayers and offerings.

Illnesses from within the body were understood to require the application of cures and treatment by healers. Ancient Hawaiians consulted with kahuna haha (those that diagnosed illnesses), kahuna lapai'au (those that were doctors) and kahuna lai'au lapai'au (those that were herbalists) . The herbalists began their training at age five, in the home of an elder expert.

Herbalists received comprehensive instruction about medicinal plants, their value and effect on people, where the plants grow, how to gather the plants, and how to prepare and apply them to those with illnesses. Herbalistsi' knowledge covered botany, pharmacology and medicine. Among the elements of herbalistsi' concoctions were about 12 minerals (including salt), red and gray clay, 29 animals (mostly sea creatures), and 317 plants.

The following is a brief description of Hawaiian plants most commonly used in traditional Hawaiian medicine. Kahuna may differ in their practices relating to preparation and dosages.

  • Ohii'a-ai - Used for sore throat, cuts, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and digestive tract disorders
  • Kukui - Used for rheumatic joints or muscles, deep bruises, constipation, external ulcers and sores, and foul breath
  • Noni - Used for bruises, boils, sores, wounds, broken bones, arthritis, gastric ulcer, high and low blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and hair loss.
  • Popolo - Used for disease of the respiratory tract (cough), boils, and cuts and wounds
  • Koali - Used for broken bones, injured ligaments, general weakness in children and severe backaches
  • Ko - Used for sweetening other medicinal plants, cuts, and to prevent scarring
  • Kalo- Used for constipation
  • Ula-Loa or Hii'a-Loa - Used for sore throat, asthma and pulmonary complications
  • Koi'okoi'olau- Used for throat discomfort, stomach discomfort, asthma, stimulating appetite, colon and bowel discomfort, liver discomfort, and general weakness


Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii
Native Hawaiian spirituality is like eating and breathing, says Maile Myer, owner of Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii, located at the Ward Warehouse in Honolulu. It's an everyday practice, and it's absolutely present in every element of life to us as Hawaiians. It's a feeling of completeness entwined in language, food, in nature, and so forth. It's a basic concept the defines our way of living.

There are many people who are practitioners of different aspects of native Hawaiian spirituality, according to Myer. She says prayers daily and is always grateful for the relationship she has with the Hawaiian gods that are a part of her life.

Myer notes that there are current books that weren't in print as recent as five years ago. As a retailer looking for books to stock in the store, Myer looks for authentic Hawaiian authors that have the cultural knowledge and credibility to speak about native Hawaiian spirituality or someone that has collaborated with an expert who can speak on the subject.

"There are Hawaiians that can see through the veil of time and transcend history," Myer says. "These Hawaiians still incorporate traditional medicine and speak their own language. Mana is the personal power that one acquires. A portion of it begins with the kind of person you are, your genealogy, who your family is, and how they live. The acquisition of mana is the function of how one lives. Mana is a selfless thing."

People that want to know anything about Hawaiian culture and practice need to do some work, according to Myer, because the self selection process makes those who are just curious, distinguishes such people from pursuing the true essence of Hawaiian spirituality.

"It requires people to be pure on their intent, Myer says. Information about Hawaiian spirituality is available, it's just not readily available. Pieces of such information are in manuscripts, in books, and so forth. With regard to Hawaiian gods, calling out names and not having a personal connection to those gods, is not going to get one very far."

Native Hawaiian spirituality includes elements of spell casting and divination, as well as healing, according to Myer. The Native Hawaiian Health Care is actively involved in documenting, formalizing, and sharing knowledge about using plants for healing.

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