Oh ancestors of the past come to thy breath,
The eyes of my son are like a burning torch,
Glowing like the red-hot kukui nut,
It is the last flame in the burning fire I come to see.
Na Puuhonua: The Heaping Place of Refuge
After reaching Honaunau, we wandered through the ruins of the Puuhonua, following upon the ancient pathways of our ancestors. Tiamanu--who I came to see as my lifeline back into the world of light--walked quietly and patiently just a few steps behind me, yet I could sense that many superstitions were weighing heavily on her mind. I was free of their influence because the elder Kapahukaniolono had taught me in my childhood not to see good and evil in the light of the visions created by Christianity. At its introduction, Christianity had brought evil into our old beliefs by creating many of the superstitions that Tiamanu believed to be native, but were not, as the ancient Hawaiians had no concept of the European satan or devil, until being introduced to many of the gargoylelike pictures that the missionaries had planted in their minds.
I paced off my steps along the trail, stopping every so often, at particular spots along the way that attracted my attention. I would linger briefly, attempting to sense the presence of burials that still retained some form of spiritual energy, energy that attracts life to death, and death to life.
I realized that I must telepathically call upon the remnants of their memory, by repeating the names of my ancestors, in order to offer myself up as a temporary stay. Doing so, I then awaited the physical signs that would tell me: “Here it is possible to travel back, here it is possible to connect with the past”: first a certain feeling suddenly appears in my mind, followed by a tingling on the very top of my forehead, followed thereafter by a numbness that would stretch out to both my temples. These are the signs that awaken me to sites where travel into a void of spirits was possible, where the spirit in the void is present.
Na Honaunau: The Munchers
That day, my first encounter with such a presence came as Tiamanu and I approached the site of the heiau of Hale O Keawe, where a replica of the original heiau now stands on the old site of Keawe's original platform. The site is on the south side of Akahipapa flat, just east of Inanui, where ancient priests once pounded the stems of the akia and auhuhu plants to extract their poison. They used the poison to catch fish by pouring it into the shallow pools along Akahipapa. As the poison spread, it would numb the fish and turn the crystal blue water to a light yellow. While approaching Hale O Keawe from this path that follows along the edge of Honaunau Bay, I was drawn to the southeastern corner of the temple’s fence enclosure of wooden posts. Here I encountered multiple presences. I prayed internally and started to establish a connection, which was like communicating with a group of people who all desired to speak at once. But just then I was distracted by the calls of Tiamanu. “Moke please! You know what traveling does to you! Save your energy for Mookini,” Tiamanu pleaded. I stopped, appreciating her reminder of the side effect of connecting with the spirits. It seems to burn one’s bodily energy at an intense rate, and lengthy travel can cause exhaustion such as we had experienced at Puu Hinahina.
Na Honaunau: The Barkers
Leaving the temple of Hale O Keawe, we headed south, following a path that took us between the remnants of the ancient fishpond and the old temple of Alealea and into the center of the Puuhonua. There I encountered a large rough rock, set up above the black lava floor on blocks of smaller stones. It reminded me of the stone of Kopahu at Paliuli, Kauai. The stone seem to be inviting us to sit down. Although I felt no presence of burials beneath it, the draw to rest there was strong, and thus I invited Tiamanu to join me on the stone. We sat there, reminiscing about the beauty of the Puuhonua, as though we both were seeing the grounds in its ancient state of existence.
The Ancestral Voices of Hawaii
The Cry of the Huna
The Ancestral Voices of Hawaii
• Shows how reconnection to the ancestral ways can be achieved through letting go and forgiveness of the effects of colonization
• Reveals how the lessons of the decline of Hawaiian spiritual tradition reflect on other religions
• Clarifies the complex nature of Hawaiian ancestral worship
Hawaiian spirituality teaches that individuals can be truly fulfilled only if they are conscious participants in the long ancestral chain of witnessing and transmission that connects the present to the time of origins. The Cry of the Huna invokes the author's personal history as he recounts the decline of his people's spiritual tradition as a result of colonization. The breakdown of the Hawaiians' ties with their sacred land led them to forget not only the teachings of their ancestors, but also the chain of na aumakua they form, which connects this people to both the earth and the realm of the gods. While the na aumakua can be viewed with reverence it is not seen or worshiped as a God. Rather it is seen as a part of the chain of life that arose from one god's vision of creation. Aumakua is a compound of makua (parents) and au, the endless ancestral chain that stretches through time. Each individual on earth represents a temporary end to that chain. As we age and our vision of life slowly looks toward death, our descendents come forth to provide the next eyes in the chain of witnessing and transmission.
The Cry of the Huna shows how the rupture of this chain has led to widespread alienation. An endless cycle of resentment and revenge is fueled by the loss of the Hawaiians' spiritual birthright. The connection to the aumakua, however, can be reforged, but only by untying the circular cords of revenge to allow forgiveness to occur in the present so that healing can take place in the future.