Volume 61 1952 > Volume 61, No. 3 + 4 > The Polynesian family system in Ka-u, Hawaii, by E. S. Craighill Handy, p 243-282
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- 243

It may be of some value to summarize certain points of fundamental importance relating to the Hawaiian conception of the individual in the frame of family, points which emerge with great clarity in the description of the life cycle:—

The continuum of individual and group: the first born and later born are links in a chain of heredity and heritage from “ancestors” (kupuna) before, and in their turn, after death, will become “ancestors.”

From the prenatal period, throughout life and beyond death the individual is regarded as a free, whole, independent entity.

Everything relating to this individual is within the matrix of 'ohana: an individual alone is unthinkable, in the context of Hawaiian relationship.

Rigorous concern for soundness of body is a primary consideration throughout physical life, especially before and during infancy. Coition or physical breeding as a means of perpetuating the 'ohana, was even more important than personal health.

Beauty and physical grace are equally important, and systematically cultivated: the infant was treated like a malleable form whose features and form could be modelled, as a sculptor moulds clay.

Aloha (affection), prestige, hospitality and a good time; social, economic and phychic security; and the solidarity of living 'ohana, the kupuna (ancestors), and aumakua (guardian spirits), were the considerations affecting all family ceremonials.

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Protecting from evil, blessing with good things, prestige, well-being and happiness, were the purposes of the rituals. 1

CONCEPTION (hapai), GESTATION (ho'okauhua), BIRTH (ho'ohanau).

Hawaiians understood the relationship of coition (ai) to conception. This we discussed at some length in the previous article on relationship, with respect to paternity. Hua means seed, ovum and offspring.

We are to describe in this article the life cycle of the individual, in particular that of the first-born (hiapo). The prenatal period will be considered only with respect to practices and incidents believed to affect or be an expression of the child growing in the womb. Psychic and physical aspects of pregnancy, with respect to the mother, and parturition, are properly subjects to be studied and described as phases of native hygiene and therapy. As such, we have written about these elsewhere. 2

The expectant mother avoided certain foods which it was believed would injure the baby she was carrying. Foods with strong flavour, like onion; hot foods like chili pepper (not ancient); pupu awa (genus Thais, a shellfish with a tart flavour from the gall), were avoided as it was believed that they would injure the eyes of the child in the womb. The expectant mother was encouraged to eat greens such as popolo (Solanum nigrum), lu'au (young taro leaves), palula (young sweet potato leaves), as these would build up the child's body; and certain herbals were favoured as mild medicine (la'au), such as 'aheahea (Chenopodium alba), ko'oko'olau (Bidens sp.), and blossoms of akiohala (Hibiscus youngianus). These were prescribed, as it was said, “to - 245 make whole and firm the body of the child by means of greens and herbs” (i pa'a ke kino o ke keiki i ka la'au).

Ho'okauhua referred both to pregnancy and to a pregnant woman's craving for some particular food. These cravings were thought to be an expression of the desire and hence of the character, of the child in her womb. For the child's sake the craving should be satisfied. Longing for manini fish (Hepatus triostegus, Linnaeus), foretold the coming of a child, affectionate and home-loving, shy and retiring like the manini which shelters timidly in holes and small rocky pools by the shore. A mother longing for squid (he'e) expressed the desire of a child who would cling like the squid and flee (he'e) from danger as the squid swiftly flees. Desire for hilu (Anampses cuvier), a small bright fish that feeds busily about coral heads, foretold a quiet, industrious child. But if the expectant mother were seized with a lust for the eye of a tiger shark, as was Kamehameha's mother, she would give birth to a ferocious fighter.

The child's nature and character were influenced by the behaviour of the parents while the baby was in the womb. If mother and father were busily occupied with work the child would be industrious and hardworking. So likewise with psychic attributes. Jealousy in either parent would be reflected in a jealous disposition. Breaking kapu might mar, cripple or kill the child.

As pregnancy advanced, the wearing of leis by the expectant mother was prohibited, lest at birth the umbilical cord strangle the child (lei i ka piko). Sewing or cordwork was not permitted: a kink in the thread or cord might cause a kink in the umbilicus. Stringing fish for drying was prohibited, lest a fish spoiling affect the child with a disease of the nose which during certain months of the year caused a discharge of mucus with an evil odour like spoiled fish (termed i'a kui, strung fish).

An expert in delivery (kahuna pale keiki) could detect the sex of the expected child by various means: by clairvoyance, by dreaming; or more simply at times by asking the mother to extend one hand: if she held out the right it would be a boy; if the left, a girl.

When the time for delivery came, many relatives were on hand. If the mother-to-be was seized with a longing to see a particular relative or friend, this was termed kau ka - 246 maka (the eye alighting [on someone]). It showed that the child longed to see and would be fond of that person. If the person were absent, a stone was put at the door with a loud exclamation, “Here is so-an-so!” Later the stone must be thrown into the sea or put in the crotch of a tree or elsewhere, where it would be out of harm's way.

The Umbilicus and Navel (piko).

The umbilicus was tied with a string of 'olona (Touchardia latifolia) about two inches from the navel and in the old days severed with a bamboo knife; a little of the mother's milk was rubbed around the navel, and a strip of soft bark cloth bound around the child's body over it. Not until the cord dropped off was the baby bathed. If it came off too quickly it was a sign that the child would feel hunger easily; but if it was seven days or more before it fell off of that child it would be said, “The stomach is firm” (pa'a ka opu), and it would be a child that could pass a whole day without acute pangs of hunger.

The bit of cord that fell off must be carefully put away where no rat would gnaw it, for this would give the person a thievish nature. Piko-pau-'iole (navel-consumed-by-a-rat) was a term for thief. A hole in a rock, which could be plugged with a pebble was a good hiding place.

If the parents wanted a son to be a sea-farer, the cord was taken out and dropped into the ocean. Until opportunity came to dispose of the piko of children as was desired, they were sometimes put away and kept in a safe place in a small container, of gourd or bamboo.

The Placenta ('iewe).

The proper disposal of the placenta or “afterbirth” required that it be washed: sore and weak eyes were thought to be a consequence of neglect in this matter. Then it must be buried, preferably under or in a hole cut in the trunk of a tree, where it would be protected by the growth of the tree, which henceforth was kapu to and identified with the person whose 'iewe it guarded. In Puna where the thorny hala grew near every house a high branch in a pandanus tree (hala) to which rats would not climb because of the spines on the leaves, was a favoured place, for neither animal or man would be likely to climb there, which could be said of few other places in Puna with its slopes of broken lava and - 247 sandy shores. People of Ka-'u sometimes banteringly called Puna people maka kokala (“prickle eyes”): as babies, their eyelashes were said to stand out prettily like the spines along the leaves of hala (pandanus) that shielded the 'iewe.


When they found Hawaiians practising infanticide, the moral stigma attached to it in Christian ethics shocked early explorers and missionaries to such an extent that they condemned it in general terms without taking the trouble to understand it, thereby giving the impression that it was a universal practice of a “benighted” people devoid of a true sense of the sanctity of life.

Infanticide was occasionally practised as an easy way out of a difficult personal impasse, as by a woman who might fear retaliation from jealous relatives or husband. In general, however, it was countenanced only as a way of preventing adulteration of the purity of 'ali'i blood lines, when, as was not uncommon, a low caste woman bore a child fathered by an 'ali'i, or an 'ali'i wahine gave birth to a child sired by a man of low caste.

“Was infanticide a general practice?” is a question I have been asked time and time again. Hawaiians loved children and were adopters, taking the children of others to rear as their own. Why then should a mother wish to destroy the child she had borne? Stories of lazy, pleasure-loving mothers who did not want to be hampered with children are unknown to me.
My people did not destroy for laziness' sake, for as soon as a woman mentioned the fact that she did not want the child in her womb, relatives and neighbours would beg for it and no matter how large a family there was always room for one more.
Infanticide was practised so that there might be no lowborn person to claim blood relationship to the chiefs. High chiefs sought for mates for their children from among high chiefs, at least for the first marriage, that the hiapo or first born be high in rank. Should a chief find a mate a little lower than himself in rank the child was not destroyed but would serve as one of the lesser chiefs in the court of his ruler, but should the chief mate with a low commoner, the child was most likely to be destroyed by the 'ali'i who did not like to have a tie of blood-relationship between high and low. The death of the child, or connecting link, was the solution. Sometimes a medical kahuna was consulted, one who knew the right concoction of herbs to bring on an abortion, or the mother-to-be underwent violent exercises in an attempt to end pregnancy. This was called 'omilomilo—this doing away with the unborn.
Sometimes, there was a waiting until the child was born, then it was destroyed. This was called 'umi keiki or child strangling.
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A child sired by a kauwa (outcast) was put to death because a kauwa was despised; so was any child whose sire was regarded as worthless trash by the relatives of the mother.
In my husband's family there was an adopted daughter who was rescued from being put to death. An Ewa girl had two lovers, a Negro and a Hawaiian and her father swore that if the child to be born to her was a Hawaiian it would be spared, but if a Negro he would kill it. It was born Negro, and so the man made ready to fulfill his promise. Just at that time my husband's aunt arrived, and learning the man's intention she called his attention elsewhere. Then she quickly picked the baby up, wrapped it in the skirt of her holoku and fled. Thus it was that the child was saved from death.
A girl in Ka-'u was saved by my grandmother, who pretended that the baby she had just delivered was not the offspring of the man who was greatly despised by the grandparents. When the sire or mother was greatly despised, the child was gotten rid of, usually by strangling it; but none, so far as I have heard from my old folks, was ever destroyed because of laziness or pleasure seeking.

This was a sacramental feast, celebrated within 24 hours after the child was born, for the first-born (hiapo), for its safeguarding and welfare. Mawaewae can be translated “path clearing.” If this ceremony which dedicated the child to the aumakua (ancestral guardians) were not performed, the first-born, privileged and generally pampered by elders as he or she was, would be likely to grow up headstrong and unruly. So the feast not only “cleared the way”: it set the child's feet (waewae) in the way (ma) of the spiritual flow or channels (au) of his responsible elders (makua).

Furthermore, this consecration feast was very important because it blessed not only the hiapo, but all the succession of younger children that would be born to the mother, who partook sacramentally of the special foods peculiar to this ritual.

This rite was strictly a domestic affairs within the household. It really should be termed a psychic therapeutic - 249 sacrament rather than a “feast.” It was an occasion of worship rather than pleasure and festivity. When it was certain that the young mother had conceived in her first pregnancy, the father began raising a pig for mawaewae. In seven months or so this pig, which was well fed, would be a big hog.

As soon as the child was born, someone was sent to the beach to secure certain special sea foods. Especially important among these were amaama (mullet) and/or aholeahole (Dules sandvicensis). Both of these can be caught near shore or even in streams and brackish pools. Mullet were raised in taro patches. These two fish were spoken of as “sea pigs” (pua'a kai), and as such, like the pig itself, were “bodies” (kino) of Kamapua'a, who is the hog-form of the akua Lono. In rituals in honour of Lono where a pig was required, either these fish might be offered as a substitute if a pig was not available. For the mawaewae it was necessary also to have a taro leaf, which was one of a number of “plant forms” of Lono. [Presumably from the taro variety known as Ipu o Lono, Lono's gourd or cup, or some other variety sacred to Lono.]

For the mawaewae it did not suffice to have one or other form of Lono mentioned above: There must be offered and eaten an animal (the hog), sea (fish) and plant “form” or kino of Lono, all three.

In addition to these there must be also several other special sea foods. These were important because their names imply potency in “clearing the way” for the child. There must be shrimp, one name for which is mahiki, a word meaning to peel off like removing fish scales [or the skin of the shrimp]. There must be kala seaweed: kala means “to loosen,” “set free.” There must be 'a'ama crab: 'a'ama means to loose a hold or grip. These three foods helped to free the child from malicious influences, thus preventing bad behaviour and ill luck due to mischevious psychic effects. Another sea food that must be eaten was a chiton of the species called kuapa'a (A canthochiton viridis), a bilaterally symmetrical mollusc with a shell consisting of eight traverse plates, found on the under surface of stones in shallow water to which it “holds fast,” pa'a. This was the only occasion on which this shellfish was eaten: pa'a means to fix, hold fast, hence the implication that the - 250 kuapa'a would be instrumental in securing firmly through the mother and others who ate of it the goodness induced in the heart of all present and especially the child.

There may have been a special implication also in the offering of the amaama or mullet, and the a'ama crab, for the first born, in the fact that the word ama means a first-fruits offering.

The food was cooked, never eaten raw. A cup of awa was also prepared and when the hog was ready to serve, the kahuna cut off a piece from each of the four feet, the end of the tail, the top of the snout, the tips of the ears, a piece of the liver, spleen and lungs and placed them on a dish for the mother. Symbolically, she consumed the whole hog. A bundle of taro tops and the sea food described above, set aside for her, must all be eaten by the mother.

The remainder of the pork and other foods prepared for the occasion were eaten by the 'ohana (relatives) and intimate family friends, who were gathered in the home on this notable occasion of the birth of the hiapo, or first-born.

It is evident from the foods that were eaten sacramentally in the mawaewae that this, the first ritual consecration of the mother of the hiapo or first-born and all subsequent children sealed the relationship to Lono, who was akau of rain, agriculture and peace. Kamapuaa (“Hog-offspring”) was one of the myriad life-forms or “leaf-forms” (kinolau) of Lono. The mawaewae sacrament called for animal (the ears of the hog), vegetable (the hog-ear shaped taro leaf) and marine (aholeahole, a fish whose “snout” [nuku] is shaped like a hog's snout) “bodies” of Lono. Subsistence, livelihood, peace and plenty came first. Later, after he entered the Mua or Men's House, would come the training and consecration of the male hiapo in the warrior's craft, and his entry into the cult of Ku. 4

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The aha'aina palala was the first festivity in honour of the new first-born. It was not ritualistic in the sense that the mawaewae was: the palala expressed the aloha of all the relatives and friends, and in the case of an ali'i, of all the people, for the first-born newly arrived. This aloha was expressed in the form of gifts to the child, and in the composition of chants (mele) which were performed with dances (hula). The feast that was enjoyed by all who came to honour the hiapo was an expression of the family's response and pride in the occasion, making it a gay time.

In the olden days everyone brought whatever she or he had to offer: a pig, a dog, a lei, a song.

After my baby was born, a woman from Lahaina, came to ask me for kukui nuts to make into medicine for her grandchild. She gasped when she saw me nursing the baby for she knew that this was a hiapo. Her husband was a native of Ka-'u and an 'ohana of ours. She had nothing in her hands. She cried out, “Auwe, o ka maka wale no keia” (Alas! I brought only my face.”) We assured her that we were glad to see her anyhow. She kissed my child on the head and offered a prayer. She felt better then, for she had given her gift, a pule.

The modern so-called “baby lu'au” (feast) for the newborn child is a perpetuation of the palala in a sense, but it retains little of the spirit of aloha in which good will, and not obligation, was the keynote. A calabash is put in front of the baby. Relatives are expected to drop money in it; and anyone, be he 'ohana or stranger who drops in a dollar may enjoy the feast. The placing of the gourd before the baby expresses the old idea; but the money given cannot mean what a gift expresses.

In olden times, if it was the hiapo of the ruling chief of a district or island (ali'i 'ai moku, chief who “eats” the land) the folk came from everywhere bringing whatever they had to give: fisher folk brought the products of the sea, farmers brought vegetable food, weavers brought mats, tapa makers brought tapa.

Such was the quantity of gifts that would be presented to a beloved hiapo of a high chiefess, that storehouses had to be built to keep them safely for the child. From the legend of Puakaohelo, told in the district of Hilo, Hawaii, we quote this description of the palala of the chiefess Punahoa (Ke Aukoa, May 5, 1870):— - 252

. . . After Punahoa had given birth, the chiefs sent word to the people to come to the house to see the chiefess. Some time later, after the kahuna (priest) had finished his work and the baby had been cleansed and wrapped in baby tapa, the infant was brought to Punahoa to nurse at her breast. The people saw the features of the tiny stranger. She was lovely to look upon and the news that the chiefess had given birth was told abroad in Hilo. All came to offer their gifts for the [new born] chiefess. This was called a palala. When they came into the presence of Punahoa, they gave her many things of value which were laid away in the store house (hale papa'a). Some came with chants of praise for the little girl, and chanted them before the chiefess as they gestured this way and that [hula dancing]. The people came for days to the presence of the chiefess and this deed of theirs comforted her heart and made her rejoice.

At such times, with many people with their gifts, and many chants and dances, the festivity and the rejoicing would continue for days. But in the case of 'ohana of good birth it was just a happy feast of a day with gifts, mele and hula, and plenty of good and choice things to eat, and much gaiety.

Eulogistic Chants (mele).

There were two types of chants that were composed to honour the hiapo of ali'i, mele inoa or chants praising the name; and mele ma'i which honoured the private parts (ma'i) of the new-born, which were worthy of blessing and praise because this child would be the breeder from whose loins or in whose womb would come a hiapo in the next generation to perpetuate the noble lines. Throughout the lifetime of the person to whom these compositions were dedicated these mele would remain the sacred possession of the person honoured: and after death, that chief or chiefess would be remembered by them. So, these mele both blessed for life and immortalized that ali'i, and in and through that ali'i, added prestige to the occasion and to the 'ohana. There were master bards (haku mele) who were skilled in composition. Great care had to be taken in the choice of words, because the words were believed to influence the character and life of the child. Hence all words must be of good import; and any with possible evil sounds of connotation must be avoided. To the words and the rhythm of their chanting a master of dancing (kumu hula) would devise steps and gestures. The composition of these was not a matter of mechanical fabrication, but rather of inspiration: the mele and the hula were often given in a dream. Like a - 253 name given through a dream, or a medical remedy given through a dream, such a chant and dance would be held very sacred. Hence the reluctance, sometimes, of Hawaiians loyal to their ancient customs, to give away their mele inoa and mele ma'i. Here are two examples:—

'Aole au i makemake ia Kona,
O Ka'u ka'u.
O ka wai o Kalae e kahe ana i ka po a ao.
ke kapa, i ka 'upi kekahi wai
Kulia i lohe ai he 'aina wai 'ole
I Mana, i Unulau ka wai kali
I ka pona maka o ka i'a ka wai aloha e,
Aloha i ka wai malama a kane
E hi'i ana ke keiki i ke hokeo,
E hano ana, e kani 'ouo ana,
Ka leo o ka huewai i ka makani
Me he hano puhi ala i ke aumoe,
Ka hoene lua a ka ipu e o nei.
E lono i kou pomaika'i, Eia!
Mamuli o kou hope 'ole, 'oko'a ka ho'i,
A ma ka wa kamali'i nei, mihi malu,
'U wale iho no.
loha 'ino no ka ho'i ke kau mamua.
'U'ina 'ino noho'i ke kau i hala aku nei.
I do not care for Kona,
For Ka'u is mine.
The water from Kalae is carried all night long.
(Wrung) from tapas and some from sponges.
This land is heard of as having no water,
Except for the water that is waited for at Mana and Unulau.
The much prized water is found in the eye socket of the fish,
The water prized and cared for by the man
The child carries a gourd container in his arms.
It whistles, whistles as the wind blows into it,
The voice of the water gourd is produced by the wind
Sounding like a nose flute at midnight,
This long-drawn whistling of the gourd, we hear.
Hearken, how fortunate you are!
There is no going back, (our) ways are different.
In childhood only does one regret in secret,
Grieving alone.
(Look) forward with love for the season ahead of us.
Let pass the season that is gone.
(From a name chant for Kupake'e.)

In both the mele inoa and the mele ma'i the language was figurative and not necessarily descriptive.

O Hea ka lauoho,
O Lae-nui ka lae,
O 'Ia ka pepeiao,
O Makapioi ka maka,
O Mene ka ihu,
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O Waha-'ukele ka waha
O 'Auwae-lewa ka 'auwae
O 'A'i-nui ka 'a-'i
O Umauma-lahalaha ka umauma.
O Hakane ka 'opu
O Ipu-wai ka piko
O Halala ka ma'i.
He ma'i no ku'u kaikua'ana.
Hea is (the name of) his hair,
Broad-forehead is (the name of) his forehead,
Ia is (the name of) his ear,
Tiny-eyes is (the name of) his eyes,
Flat-nose is (the name of) his nose,
Wet-mouth is (the name of) his chin,
Big-neck is (the name of) his neck,
Broad-chest is (the name of) his chest,
Filled-container is (the name of) his abdomen.
Water-holder is (the name of) his navel.
Halala is (the name of) his privates.
This is my chant for the privates of my cousin.

In addition to the mele inoa and mele ma'i, there was one other type of chant composed to honour the hiapo ali'i. This was the ko'ihonua or genealogical chant, which recorded the hiapo's descent from the gods and his ali'i forbears. This, too, was a sacred private possession, a record of status for his lifetime, and a monument and memorial after death.

Aha'aina Piha Makahiki.

The Feast of the Fullness of the Year (Aha'aina Piha Makahiki) was any kind of celebration of an anniversary, but the most important was that which marked the first anniversary of the birth of a first-born. The main feature of this occasion was the chanting and dancing of the mele inoa and mele ma'i composed in honour of the child (see Palala), and other chants lauding his land, the famous deeds of his ancestors, or of love and grief in the lives of the 'ohana. Relatives from far and near gathered, brought provender, and gifts of all sorts—mats, rolls of kapa, gourds, calabashes filled with poi—which were presented to the composers and performers. The festivities, singing, dancing and feasting might continue a full week.

THE FONTANEL (manawa).

The fontanel (manawa) was always examined in babyhood, and if, at the age of six or seven months, the fontanel had begun to decrease in size, crushed popolo leaves were packed on the - 255 spot to check it. This checking treatment was called wawahi i ka manawa (breaking the fontanel).
All through babyhood, kukui nut oil or crushed popolo leaves wrapped in cloth were rubbed on the abdomen, the rubbing began at the sides and worked toward the navel. This constant massaging about once or twice a day helped elimination.

It is interesting that the fontanel was referred to by the word manawa, which meant also feelings, affections, sympathy, and could also be used to refer to the spirit of a human being as a living entity, having a meaning slightly less definite than 'uhane (spirit-form that leaves the body in sleep and at death, also referred to as wai-lua). Manawa is spirit as animating essence.

The kahunas of old were observant men, and deserved to be called, certainly, “natural scientists” in their knowledge of the natural history and the human species of their own land and race. This is proven by their systematic natural therapy, which Dr. Nils P. Larsen has said was more scientific in many ways, at the time of discovery, than that of their European “discoverers.” It is probable that these priests and healers had observed that premature cloture of the fontanel was the precedent to serious pathological conditions, particularly affecting mentality and temperament; and that in consequence they had recourse to the practices described above as means to prevent premature ossification of the fontanels and sutures of the head. And further, that the obvious association of this with health led to the identification of that part of the skull as a point or centre peculiarly related to the animating soul or life principle.


Gradually the baby was prepared for weaning by accustoming it by degrees to solid and liquid foods other than the breast milk of mother or wet nurse.

It was believed that a baby under four months old could be nourished by a small mound of raw, grated sweet potato on the fontanel.
A child four months old was given a little mashed sweet potato. If the potato was too hard, a little water was added. At six months, it was given fresh or day-old poi, but never sour poi. A little later the soft part of the opihi (limpet) and some broth were added to the diet. When the child was about a year old, mashed kukui nuts, 'a'ama crab juice, and vegetables were fed to him.
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'Ilima flowers were crushed and the juice squeezed into the baby's mouth whenever it needed a laxative. The slippery juice really acted as a lubricant.
A child over a year old was fed poi or mashed sweet potatoes, sometimes mixed with the juices of herbs. Herbs were included in the diet until the child was two years old, for they helped to build a strong body.
The juice of toasted sugar cane and the honey of banana flowers (pilali mai'a) were given to babies.
At two years, a child could eat anything his parents ate, except foods of strong, tart flavour. At five or six, all diet restrictions ended.

The akua Ku and his wife Hina were the gods appealed to in domestic life. Ku, the male, was identified with the right side of the body; Hina, the female, with the left. They were asked to help when delivery was delayed or painful. We meet them here again in connection with nursing and weaning. They were healers, they were prayed to by planters, and were also the fisherman's helpers.

When a mother's milk was not flowing as it should a length of sweet potato vine was plucked with the right hand with a prayer to Ku, then another was snapped off with the left hand and a prayer to Hina. These two lengths of vine, with the latex or white sap looking like milk oozing out of the broken ends, were tied together and worn around the neck for several days. Or two pieces of the vine would be put into a calabash of water from a spring. Facing the east at dawn, the woman took a vine in her right hand and smote her right breast, with a prayer to Ku for a copious flow of milk. Then, taking the other vine in her left hand and smiting her left breast with it, she said a similar prayer to Hina. Both the milky sap, and the water from a flowing spring in which the vines were floated in the calabash, were believed to help induce the flow of milk for the baby.

When it was thought that the baby ought to be weaned (ukuhi), Ku and Hina were asked to help in a little ceremony that would reveal whether the baby was ready to give up the breast or not. It is significant that the decision lay with the child. The person who was to perform the ceremony was seated facing mother and child, before whom two stones representing the mother's breasts were placed. A prayer to Ku and Hina requested that the desire for milk leave the baby. If the child reached for the stones and tossed them away, then the prayer had been granted and - 257 the child was nursed no more; but if the child did not toss the stones away, nursing must continue, and the little ritual would be tried again later. When the child threw away the stones, then the person performing the ceremony said to the child, “Do you,——, wish the desire for milk to go away from you?” The mother, speaking for the child, replied, “Yes.” “Nevermore to desire it?” “Never.” That ended the rite—and the nursing.

The wild banana of the variety named lele was sometimes used instead of the stones, because of its name, which means “fly away.” The two bananas were placed between the two persons, and the rest of the ceremony was the same.

Flowers were also used in this way. In this case, a calabash of water was placed between the two persons taking part in the ceremony, with two flowers floating around in it. The prayers, questions and answers were all the same. A recent instance of the use of this latter ceremony to wean a baby daughter, happened as follows: After the prayer, the child refused to put her hand in the water to take out the flowers. It was repeated several times but each time the child ignored the flowers. One night the grandmother dreamed that someone told her to put in flowers of different colours, one red and one white. This was done, and the ceremony was successful.

After weaning, a mother would, in rare instances, nurse a puppy at the breast, to be reared as a pet and protector for the child. Should the child die, the dog was strangled and buried with the body. If the dog died first, its fangs were removed and made into a charm for the child. It was believed that the spirit of the dog would guard the child and bite any evil spirit sent to harm him. (Dog-tooth ornaments which were worn as anklets by hula dancers had no such protective mana. 'A 'ohe lohe o ka ha'i ilio: “Other people's dogs do not heed your call.”)


Teething was aided in babyhood by letting the child bite the mother's finger. Later segments of sugar cane were peeled with the teeth and chewed, and chunks of dried squid were given the growing youngster to chew on to develop good jaw muscles and strong teeth. Wood ash or charcoal was rubbed on and between the teeth for cleansing, after which the mouth was rinsed with fresh or seawater. A - 258 diet with plenty of greens for the nursing mother was believed to produce sound teeth in her baby. (Poi made of taro, which is rich in organic and mineral salts, probably was a large factor in producing the massive jaws and beautiful dentition of the old Hawaiians).


Responsibility for the child's diet and health, and for its proper informal and formal training rested generally with the grandparents, or, if and when a bright child was apprenticed to an expert, with the teacher, into whose house-hold the child was taken as a member of the family. Generally the tutor was a relative: if not, the apprentice became for all practical purposes an adoptive member of the teacher's family, and thereby the 'ohana of the child and of the teacher came into close and cordial relationship. However, there were no formalities to seal this bond, until the pupil went through a ceremony like the uniki in the hula, at “graduation,” when the teacher consecrated the pupil, who thereafter was one with the teacher in psychic relationship as definite and obligatory as blood relationship.

The diet of greens and herbs for the mother continued through the nursing period and after weaning the child was given various herb and herb concoctions ('apu) to build a strong, disease-resisting body.
Children were usually reared by the grandparents. The oldest boy went to his paternal grandparents, the girl to the maternal. It was not that the parents lacked interest, but that the older grandparents who were unable to do much of the heavy work, tended to the children while the strong young parents did the more labourious tasks. Being more experienced, the grandparents were the best teachers. “School” for the child, then, was at home with the grandparents.
Unless a child showed an aptitude for an art in which his grandparents were not well versed, he continued to remain with them. Otherwise, an expert (kumu or kahuna) in that special craft or art was found, and the child became a member of his household. Gifts of food were brought from time to time, as long as the child remained there.
Attachment between pupil and instructor grew stronger with the years, as between a parent and a child. The teacher was generally a relative.
There was always the intimate living together and community of work, play, and interests with other members of the family which established and strengthened the ties that united 'ohana. True Hawaiians normally acknowledge their relationship to each other even to the remote kin. Children growing up where family ties were regarded as important, loved and respected these ties.
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In recent years, with modern ways and education, love of and respect for relationship other than within the immediate family circle has unfortunately waned very generally.
Unlike our modern children, who want to learn mostly by asking questions, the children of yesterday had to learn by observation and practise. Asking questions was bad manners, reproved with a single word, “Niele!” which implies that no one wants to answer questions.

It was thought by Hawaiians that the body of the baby could be modelled, if not to conform to, at least to approximate, certain standards of physical beauty.

Any bodily defects that could be corrected were treated in infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Infancy was the time to mould and perfect the bodies of favourite children. The ends of the fingers were gently rolled between the thumb and index finger to make them taper. If the nose was flat ('upepe) it was gently pressed to a sharper ridge. A tiptilted nose (ihu ku) was believed to be caused by the weight of the breast resting against it, so nursing mothers were careful to support the breast with the hand. Care was taken to hold the child's buttocks away from the lap of the mother lest it became kikala pai (flat seated). The buttocks of little boys were carefully moulded, as the wearing of the loin cloth hid only a small part of the body; a “flat seated” fellow was often teased by his play-fellows.
Ears that stood out were pressed back against the head, and care was taken that the child was never laid down with the ears folded forward. I never saw a Hawaiian in my childhood with ears that stuck out.
A flat head (po'o 'opaha) was avoided by not allowing the baby to rest always in the same position.
By pressing the outer corners of the eyes toward the nose, the eyes were made to grow larger. 5 - 260 or board. Po'o paki'iki'i (broad head) described a head properly moulded into the ideal shape in infancy. Po'o pu'u (lumpy head) referred to a head with projecting occiput, indicating neglect. A high forehead was considered ugly.
Treating Latent Organic Disorders (pa'ao'ao).

The watchful concern of the old Hawaiians for the health of the baby as the primary consideration in guaranteeing a sound constitution for life was evident in the phase of therapy covered by the word pa'ao'ao. There were experts (kahuna) or diagnosticians (haha, palpation) who were experienced in detecting and prescribing for symptoms of latent functional feebleness or disease present in infants, manifested in habitual constipation, sluggish liver or kidneys, weak lungs. Another term was 'ea, covering also a variety of symptoms: soft bones, bad breath, coated tongue, inability to gain weight. Treatment for these abnormalities was begun in infancy and continued until the patient was normal. Depending on the symptoms, a great variety of treatment was applied to the child, including special diets, herbal tonics, massage, manipulation of the limbs and members, sea and sun-bathing; and, for weakness (lolo), burying in firm sand or bathing in soft poi and allowing it to dry on the skin (to tone up and “stiffen” muscle and flesh). Many old timers have told of the beneficial effects, lasting the rest of their lives, of this careful and systematic old-fashioned native pediatrics.

General Physiotherapy.

Health and vitality (ola), comeliness and strength (u'i) were qualities of the whole body (kino) that were carefully fostered. A book could be written about the innumerable practices, physical and psychic, known in the old Hawaiian civilization, by means of which the parents strove to give perfection and soundness of form and life to each child, as a person that could be moulded, body and spirit, like a work of art, in accordance with a clear ideal of individual character. Suffice it to relate a few examples of the practice of the art of physical therapy, taken from actual experience.

The body was gently massaged from infancy, to give the limbs strength.
Between the creeping and walking stages, the sticky liquid (kale 'ai) remaining on the board after poi was pounded was rubbed over the child's body before it was bathed.
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When I was a baby, I fell off the bed and injured my spine. My grandmother gave me corrective treatment for several years. She buried me in sand up to my waist, then slipped her arms under my armpits as she stood behind me, and firmly pulled me up. She used to rub my back with warm kukui oil before I went to bed. Pakolea, the term used for such corrective treatment, means to change the way a thing grows.
As fat was considered beautiful, mothers worried when their daughters were thin and gave them medicine to fatten them. The juice of young 'ohi'a leaves (liko 'ohi'a) was one of the fattening medicines (la'au kupele). Taken in the morning before breakfast, it created a hearty appetite.

The old Hawaiian practices relating to the blessing and perfecting of the infant's genitalia were very important because procreation was a sacred process for these worshippers of Kane.

As was true in all phases of old Hawaiian civilization, coition had its psychic and its physical aspects: and each aspect received equally careful attention.

Since the first-born, be it boy or girl, was destined to be the breeder by means of whose genitalia (ma'i) the first-born in the succeeding generation would be conceived, perpetuating the noble lineage (mo'okauhau ali'i), one of the most precious tokens of aloha from intimate 'ohana was the Chant for the Breeding Parts (Mele Ma'i) which in figurative terms honoured the child's genitalia. Such mele were more than mere poems of praise: they blessed and endowed with investment of intoned words conveying mana of charm and potency.

Every child of chiefly or priestly family had a special name given to his genitals. Meles were composed for them, but they were not necessarily descriptive of the genitals. In the olden days, every school chanted such meles without thought of immodesty or wrong of any sort.

The genitalia of the first-born male or female were also given particular physical care in early infancy. This care was therapeutic in the sense that it was intended to guarantee health and efficient coition; and had also its aesthetic aspects, since the sexual act was accepted without shame in those days as being both creative and one of the supreme pleasures; and beauty and pleasure in all ways and forms were blessings with which loving relatives desired to endow the first-born throughout life.

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The purposes of health and effective coition were served by subjecting the male child at the proper age to the operation of subincision (described below). To omit this, in the case of the son of an ali'i or kahuna, was regarded as a disgrace.

To mold a girl, mother's milk was squirted into the vagina, and the labia pressed together. The mons veneris was rubbed with kukui nut oil and pressed with the palm to flatten it and make it less prominent. The molding continued until the labia did not separate.
What was true for the first-born was true for subsequent children, to a lesser degree. For sometimes the first-born died; and then the second would have to carry on the line; or it might be a third or fourth, especially after infant mortality became so prevalent from the earlier days of haole invasion.

Subincision (kahe ule or oki poepoe).

There was in the moku of Puna a stone named Pohaku-kahe-ule (Stone-split-penis). It was to certain celebrated stones such as this that boys were taken for the operation of subincision. Or the operation might be performed at home. (We have no record of such a stone or special place in the adjoining moku of Ka-'u.)

In preparation for the event, the opening in the child's penis was blown into, daily, to loosen the skin so that when the time of subincision came the skin was quickly and easily slit. This treatment continued daily until the child urinated in an arch, wetting the blower, then it was done less often, perhaps three times a week.
At the age of seven or eight the boy was ready, and a feast was held and relatives and friends came. Only kahunas trained in the art performed the operation.
The sharp knife used was made from bamboo obtained at Ho-mai-ka-'ohe in Hamakua, on windward Hawaii, a bamboo grove planted, according to tradition, by the god Kane when he came from Kahiki. The kahuna slit the foreskin, letting it contract of its own accord or gently pulling it back. He then slipped a clean morning-glory blossom over the penis, which protected the wound and helped it to heal.

According to David Malo (Hawaiian Antiquities, pp. 127–129), the following prayer was uttered by the kahuna before cutting the foreskin:—

Bring the bamboo from Ho-mai-ka-'ohe.
Here is the small-leafed bamboo of Kane.
Cut now the foreskin.
It is divided!

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The Aha'aina Okipoepoe was the feast that celebrated the recovery of a boy after subincision. This was purely social. Any ritualism associated with this event in the boy's life was purely incidental, except that, from a ceremonial point of view, the silver of bamboo with which the operation was performed was an item of prime symbolic significance. The purpose of subincision was to facilitate cohabitation and enhance the pleasure enjoyed. Tabus, precautions and prayers were simply prophylactic. There was no more significance in the occasion or the operation itself than in medication for illness or injury, or in the consecrating of a new tool. Nor was there anything in the Hawaiian life cycle that partook of the nature of “initiation,” certainly neither the entry into the Mua (men's house), nor subincision. And adolescence was not celebrated either socially or ritually, possibly because casual intercourse was commonly experienced by Hawaiian boys before adolescence.


The Mua was the men's eating and lounging house, and their sanctuary. At one end was an altar (kuahu) dedicated to the family aumakua whose effigies stood there. Here the head of the household prayed and performed necessary rites sometimes without, sometimes with the aid of a kahuna pule, when came the time for the rites of the life cycle such as birth, cutting the foreskin, sickness and death. Here the family rites during the monthly days of kapu were performed. 6 The common daily worship would seem to have consisted in offering a bit of food (hanai 'ai) at the time of eating.

When a boy child was four or five years old, there was celebrated one of the most important sacraments of his whole life cycle, namely his initiation and dedication to Lono the Provider, which marked his transference out of eating - 264 and living “in common” (noa) with the women folk and entering the company of men.

We have explained in the description of the mawaewae that the hog was a body-form (kinolau) of Lono the Provider. The gourd was likewise a body-form of Lono. The “Sacrament of the Gourd” (Pule Ipu) dedicated the boy to Lono the Provider.

The father of the boy baked a pig and placed the head on the kuahu. An ear of the pig was cut off and put in a gourd referred to as “Lono's gourd,” suspended from the neck of a carving (ki'i) representing Lono. 'Awa root, bananas, coconut were laid there also. “. . . Here are the hog, the coconut, the awa, god Ku, Lono, Kane, Kanaloa, and ye ancestral guardians” (aumakua). The Pule Ipu, as will be seen, dramatizes the gourd vine, whose vigorous growth and great fruit is a symbol of abundance: these words are calculated to produce vigorous growth in his boy, to make him big and strong, like the gourd.

His prayer finished, the father sucked the 'awa root which was said to be Lono's drinking of it. He then brewed a bowl of 'awa and drank it, eating with it the other foods on the altar. This concluded the ritual and he declared the occasion noa, free, saying:—

Installed is the child, the 'awa smitten against the brain. Free is the 'awa; there is freedom to come to go; and kapu is entirely lifted. One is free to travel to the ends of the earth.

To celebrate the event the father and men present then feasted on the pork and vegetables of which, presumably, the new husbandman of Lono—the child—consumed something as a token or symbol of his participation. (He did not taste pork at this time, however, for the eating of pork required a special consecration.) The child's entry into the mua or men's eating house and shrine was referred to as follows: Ua ka i ka mua; [he] is cast in the mua.

THE PULE IPU (Malo, pp. 120–121).
Ala mai, e Lono, i kou haina awa, haina awa nui nou, e Lono
He ula mai, e Kea, he pepeiao puaa, he pepeiao ilio, he pepeiao aina nui—nou, e Lono!
Halapa i ke mauli! Kukala ia hale-hau! mau, malewa i ka po; molia ia hai ka po.
O ku'u ka ipu; oku'u hua i ka ipu; hua i kakala ka ipu kakala; he kalana ipu.
O hua i na mo'o Hi'i! I au i'a ko ia
Ahia la anoano a ke ahi-kanu, a kanu la, i pua i Hawaii?
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A kanu la o ka ipu nei; a ulu; a lau; a pua; a hua la o ka ipu nei.
Hoonoho la o ka ipu nei. Kekela o ka ipu nei.
O uha'i o ka ipu nei. Kalai la o ka ipu nei.
O oki, o kua i o ka piha o ka ipu.
O ka ipu ka honua nui nei; o po'i o ka lani o Kuakini.
A hou i ka hakaokao; kakai i ke anuenue.
O uhao i ka lili; o uhao i ka hala; o uhao i ka la manolele i ona!
O ka ipu o ka lua mua-a-Iku, o ka ipu a makani koha, a kau ka hoku a'ia'i
Owahi! o kani mai, a hea o ka uka manu!
Ka lalau a ha'a ka manu; kalalau kuli'a i Wawau.
He malino a po, e Lono, i ka haunaele;
Na lili la i ka haunaele, na hala la i ka haunaele o mau kahuna o ke makala ulua
Ulua mai, o Lono, ulua kolea ino o Ma'a-ku-newa awa lilelile!
O makia, Lono, a hano, a hano wale no!
Kila i nei; muli o hala, muli ke kani o Waioha!
Arise, O Lono, accept the offerings of 'awa to you—an important offering, O Lono.
Grant abundance, O Kea. May there be an abundance of hog's and dog's ears—an abundance for you to eat, O Lono.
Accept this plea in the place of life! Proclaim it to the sacred shrines! [May the good] be lasting! Let it pass into the night—an offering acceptable to the gods!
Let down the gourd—the fruit of the gourd that it may bear from every branch—thus becoming a field of gourds.
Let it bear to the lineage of Hi'i 7—gourds as bitter as the gall of fish.
How many seeds have been planted on the field cleared by fire to flourish in Hawaii?
Planted is the gourd; it grows; it leafs; it blossoms; it bears fruit.
Let it be set so as to be well shaped—may this be an excellent container.
Pluck it off the vine; carve it out;
Cut it and empty it of its contents.
The great world is a gourd, its lid the heaven of Kuakini. 8
Pierce the edges [of the container]; use a rainbow for a handle.
Take out of it all jealousies; all wrong doings; the wild tendencies.
[Which resembles] the gourd in the cavern of Mu-a-Iku—the container of gusty winds. Let it shine bright as a star.
Break forth with a resounding noise, let the bird of the mountain utter its call;
Grasp it as it crouches low; hold it high over Wawau.
The night has been peaceful, O Lono, from all disturbances.
The jealousies that lead to bickering; the bickerings of the priests who use the hook for the ulua fish.
Take possession, O Lono—drive away the bad plovers of Ma'aku-newa, with their shiny bodies.
Concentrate, O Lono, on goodness—only goodness!
Bind it here; put the faults away in the background, back of the babbling waters of Waioha.
(Translation by Mrs. Pukui.)
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Naming is so significant in relation to the individual within the kinship ('ohana) that it deserves a whole treatise in itself, but here we must confine ourselves to what will be little more than a summary.

Some children were named for their ancestors (inoa kupuna), some for events, some for or by chiefs, and some were named by the gods. To name a child for a deceased relative was to make the name live again (ola hou). An aged woman, Ka-'aha'aina-a-ka-Haku (The-Lord's-Supper) told us that she was born on the day when the Lord's Supper was first administered in Kona, Hawaii, by the missionaries.
Keahi Luahine's son was named Renown Centennial for two events. He was born when the Missionary Centennial celebration was held at Punahou in 1920, and the Prince of Wales arrived here at that time on the ship Renown. His mother made many of the kahilis used in the pageant, so his Hawaiian name (Ka-haku-hulu-ali'i) means “Worker-of-royal-feathers.”
When King Kalakaua was playing billiards in the amusement hall in Waiohinu, Ka'u, my mother ran in with another girl to call I-ka'aka, the man who was playing with the king. As soon as the king heard that I-ka'aka was wanted at home because his wife was giving birth to a baby, he said, “Name her for my playing.” And so the little girl was given the name of Ke-li'i-pahupahu-o-Kalakaua (Kalakaua-is-a-billiard-playing-chief).
Sometimes, in affection for a chief, a child was given the chief's name. After the death of a beloved chiefess, the name Keli'i-pa'ahana (The industrious-chiefess) was given to an ancestress of mine and handed down through generations to my mother and to a cousin.
The type of name given by the gods is called inoa (night name). There are Hawaiians today who believe in inoa po but make no mention of it, lest they be laughed at and called superstitious. An inoa po is a name for a child, given in a dream to a member of the family. Refusal of the name will result in a crippled body and, if this warning goes unheeded, death for the child. The god who sends the name, or for whom the child is named, is believed to be a guardian over him. Such a name belongs to the individual to whom it is given and cannot be given to another. Some of these names do not contain the name of the god but the Hawaiians know to whom they belong; for example, such names as Earth-devourer, Mountain-dweller, Eater-of-ohelo-berries, The-flame, Great-fire-pit all point to the Goddess Pele as their source.
A woman in Hilo dreamed of a red-headed woman who rose from a deep pool of water and asked that the child about to be born be named Noho-wai (Water-dweller). The dreamer was a member of a Christian church and had a fear of following old beliefs, so when her daughter was born she named her Clara for a favourite sister-in-law. In a few days the baby's neck began to swell on both sides. The doctor said that it was some glandular trouble, but in spite of the best medical care the swelling grew worse, until the baby's neck looked like that of a - 267 lizard. The aunt for whom the baby was named guessed that a water spirit was offended. She asked, “Have you ever heard from your grandfolk whether one of your ancestors was a water spirit (mo'o)?” “Yes, but I do not want to have anything to do with those old beliefs.” “Has this baby been given a name in a dream?” “Yes, but I refuse to give the name to her.” “What was the name?” “Noho-wai.” Picking up the baby, the aunt said to it, “I will take back my name of Clara. Henceforth your name is Noho-wai.” The swelling went down and in a short time was entirely gone.

Amu means to shear, amuamua to reproach, to revile, or to curse; and kuamuamu may be translated “uprisen curse or insult.”

The conception and feeling behind the inoa kuamuamu is not easily understood except by Hawaiians. It is a memorial, (1) a living sign of mo-ka-piko or “the-blood-bond-broken” among blood kinsmen, or (2) a sign of contempt (ho'owahawaha) for anyone who has been rude enough to speak unkindly of a chief, a loved one or a favourite child. No matter if a feast of repentance were proffered to wipe out the curse uttered with the mo-ka-piko, the name of the child given in remembrance of the insult remained as a reminder of and a reproach for the shameful way in which the offender had behaved. Every time he or she heard it, there would be the memory, the reproach. This is the more common type.

Of another sort were those kuamuamu of deprecation. When a woman had given birth to several babies which died shortly after birth, a kahuna was consulted to find out whether the parents had sinned or whether a sorcerer had cursed the mother so that she might have no living offspring. If the latter were the case then the next baby to be born was given such a name as Kukae (excrement), Ka-pilau-nui (great stench) or something of like nature. The evil spirits who were in the habit of snatching away the life of the little ones found the name so repulsive that the new baby was left alone. The following are examples within current experience:—

A boy in Kau was named Kukae (Excreta) for this reason. When seven years of age, that is, old enough to be subincized, the name was set aside (pale ia) and he was then given the name of Ka-ihi-kapu. Another of the ohana, a girl, was called Pelekunu (Filthy-moldy-odor); and still another, a boy, was called Pupuka (Ugly). These children had all, as babies, been thought to be bothered by evil spirits. The dangerous period - 268 was from birth to seven years of age, and after that a better name was given to the child.

Children with inoa po, or those named by the aumakua were protected from such troubles, because each aumakua stood guard over his own namesake. No inoa kuamuamu such as mentioned under type 2 could be given to children who had received inoa po. It is permissible, however, to give the first type of inoa kuamuamu to a person with an inoa po.

The following incidents from Ka-'u history illustrate the giving of inoa kuamuamu:—

Lilikalani or Haililani, as he was sometimes called, was chief of Kama'oa, in Ka-'u. His constant companion was Mokila, my great-grand-father. Mokila was perfectly devoted to Haililani. One day he heard someone from another district remark, “I thought Haililani was a chief indeed but he has no servants to serve him.” (Kai no a he ali'i i'o o Haililani, he kanaka ole ka). Mokila resented this remark, and when his first-born came he was named Ke-'li'i-kanaka-'ole-o-Haililani or Haililani-chief-without-servant. Haililani was a kindly chief, friendly and fair in all his dealings, but sickness, especially skin trouble made him unlovely to see, On one of their trips to a neighbouring district, Mokila heard it said that Haililani was a disagreeable fellow. When Mowila's second son was born he was called Ke-'li'i-kahaka-o-Haililani or Haililani-the-disagree-able-chief.
Just before the birth of his third son, Mokila again heard a remark that roused his resentment. This time, it was that the chief was disloyal to his people. The baby was named Ke-'li'i-kipi-o-Haililani or Haililani-the-traitor-chief.
On another occasion Mokila heard it said that his haku ali'i was an ali'-pi'o or a captive brought into the district to rule over the people of Ka'u. This was not true, for Haililani belonged to the district. So he named his youngest child, a daughter, Ke-'li'i-pi'o-o-Haililani or Haililani-the-captive-chief.

Next to the Inoa Po, the names given to link a child with his or her forbears were of the greatest importance in families of rank.

It was and is still customary also to give names of forbears (inoa kupuna), near or distant, for the sake both of identification and commemoration. Sometimes such a name will be given to a child born later when the child to whom it was first given has died. The naming of the hiapo or first-born with a name belonging to the genealogy (kuauhau) was so important that it required a family council. But today it is just a matter of different relatives “giving” a name informally; such a name “given” constitutes a bond, a token of aloha, an expression of gratification and mark of pride and esteem.

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Certain children were, because of their attractiveness and charm, “made favourites” (pa'i punahele). It was the grandparents who would lavish affection on these pets. They had the best of everything, choice foods, the best mats and kapas. Every few years the fostering elders would hold a veritable carnival for the display of their favourites. In Ka-'u these were always at Pu'u-ko-holuo, a hill where chiefs raced their sleds (holua), and where also were held the hula contests in which trained dancers contested.

The ho'o-kela-kela was the carnival for the display of punahele. The people flocked to Pu'u-ko-holua from all sides. The persons who went to carry the punahele wore on the top of the head, like a lei, a hoop of plaited lauhala stuffed with pulu (down of tree fern), which fitted the head securely. On this hoop was carried a calabash of poi. The hoop, with the poi bowl in the middle, had a rim wide enough to hold small meat containers when the bearer sat perfectly still. The bearer would sit motionless, while before him the punahele was seated on a pile of fine mats. A relative fed the child from this mobile canteen on the bearer's head. Mele or “name songs” were chanted by the relatives in praise of each contesting punahele, which were of all ages. Those that received the loudest shouts of acclaim from the onlookers were the winners, and after the ceremonial feeding and name chanting, a great feast was enjoyed by every one, with general hilarity, and hula dancing. These were family affairs. As all the contestants were 'ohana of the locality, it mattered little to the feasters who had won: they were there for a good time. Feasting would continue several days.

We have never heard of this type of carnival anywhere else except in Ka-'u.


The “Exhibition Feast” (Aha'aina Hoike) is a post-missionary development of the Protestant Mission, a competition for Sunday Schools in compositions and singing of songs telling the stories from the Bible which has been learned in Sunday School. But it was not just for young folks: everyone from each church, from grey heads to babies, was there, all singing together for the prize. The singers from the same church all wore dresses and shirts of - 270 the same colour, and each church had its colour. The song-fest was followed by a feast.


When some skilful piece of work was completed, and the thing made or done required the blessing of the spirit guardians (aumakua), there was a feast of blessing or tending (Aha'aina kahukahu) which consecrated the product of dedicated labour to its proper use. This was essential, not for every product of craftsmanship, but for the first thing made: a first mat, quilt, fish-net, bowl, etc. It was, for a first-thing-made, equivalent to the mawaewae for the first-born: it consecrated not only that first thing, but all of the same type that would be made by that person. The first-thing-made, and consecrated, was never given away: it must be put by and guarded carefully, for it was given to the aumakua and held the mana for that work for the person who had made it. It remained the precious possession of its maker.

In the prayer used at this time, the aumakua were asked to increase or multiply the thing blessed.

The prayer was composed to fit the occasion. It would be addressed to the akau or aumakua identified with the material used in the work. For instance, a prayer consecrating a new gourd would be addressed to Lono. The prayer for kapa made of wauke (Broussonettia papyrifera) would mention Lauhuki and La'ahana, the first kapa makers, according to legend, who were the daughters of Maikoha from whose body sprang the first wauke; and who in dreams thereafter taught his daughters how to make and decorate the first kapas. Every such prayer would have in it the phrases:—

Ho mai ka ike nui, ka ike iki.
Grant knowledge of the great things, and of the little things.
The ike nui referred to the knowledge of the work as a whole, while by “little things” (ka ike iki) was meant all the exact little details affecting material and technique which the good craftsman must thoroughly comprehend.

The prized possessions of a person, which have been blessed by a pule kahukahu, were buried with that person at death unless specifically given by “command” (kauoha), i.e., willed by word of mouth, to a surviving relative.

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The Feast of Countless Hands (Aha'aina Laulima) celebrated any communal enterprise involving the labour of “many hands,” but especially work connected with food raising, such as clearing land, making and repairing irrigation ditches and taro patches, or fishponds; or planting big patches of “dry” taro or sweet potato for ali'i (chiefs) and maka'ainana (the people) in the olden times. In preparation in advance for such a communal feasting, the people of the community would raise taro and sweet potato, pigs, chickens, fish (in ponds, and in the flooded taro patches).


As elsewhere in Polynesia, the return of a relative long absent was greeted with expressions of joy taking the form of wailing (ho'oueue) like that for the departed spirit. Whether coming or going, the loved one was hailed with a wailing chant that gave vent to overflowing emotion, and expression to joy, grief, memory and affection.

The wailing was but the vocal expression of sentiment. The true welcome called for a family gathering, and a feast in honour of the returning relative. Ho'okipa means hospitality, and is derived from the word kipa, to turn in, lodge. The welcoming-feast, Aha'aina Ho'okipa, re-established the returned relative in the 'ohana and 'aina or homeland, did honour to the person welcomed and created goodwill for all concerned. It was also an opportunity for joyous sociability, a “good time for all”—ever a welcome interlude in the humdrum of existence for gaiety-loving Hawaiians. The omission of these courtesies could be the cause of hurt feelings, resentment, even bitter enmity. It could be taken as a calculated insult. Especially in the case of relatives of distinction a true welcome was more than a token: it was a duty.

Wherever encountered, a long-absent relative was welcomed, embraced and wailed over. The wail was not a wordless cry like a baby's. In these wails of welcome, the relationship of the welcomed member to the person who wailed was mentioned, and perhaps the loved ones who had departed from this life, as well as portions of ancient poetry. One after the other as they came in, the welcoming relatives uttered this cry. A person has to hear it or see it to understand what it was like.
In 1935, I accompanied Dr. Handy to Hawaii where my people came from. The Puna relatives, who were all under fifty years of age did not wail but some of those in Ka-'u, the aged ones did.
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Near Kiolaka'a, above Waiohinu, was a beautiful food patch with no house anywhere near it. We wanted so much to see the owner, then one morning we found him there, old, stooped and leaning upon a heavy cane. He was like all old-timers, friendly and kind and most willing to have us walk in and question him on his food patch. There were tall sugar canes, bananas, neat rows of hilled sweet potatoes and many varieties of taros. After we were through questioning him he began questioning me as to my birthplace, my parents, etc. His interest grew when I told him that I was born in that very district, Ka-'u. He shook his head when I mentioned my mother. “And your grandparents were whom?” he continued. At the mention of my grandmother's name, he asked if she was the Nali'ipoaimoku who lived at Waikapuna beach and when he was told that she was the same, he began immediately to wail aloud. He was her cousin. He had gone to Kona before my mother was born and naturally he would not know her. I wish there had been some way of recording that particular wail. Hills, beaches, legendary spots, rocks, ancient warriors, etc., all were mentioned in poetical terms. This wailing custom is dying fast and it will not be long when it is heard no more.
The feast to welcome a returned relative or honoured guest was a spontaneous affair. When news came to the other relatives that so-and-so had come and was at such-and-such a relative's house, they gathered there to welcome him. There was the wailing and then the feasting. Relatives usually came with food and no matter how many came, it was no burden to the householder. The feast was either large or small depending on the number of relatives one had and the prestige of the family.

At any great feast, those who did all the work, the preparing and serving of the food, the decorating of the house and sheds, and who wrapped up in ti leaves the gifts of food to be taken home, got little to eat and would lose so much sleep that they were weary eyed (makaluhi). So it was the duty of the householder or host to provide them with a hog and other viands, which they would cook and enjoy after the guests had gone home.


Distinguished families betrothed (ho'opalau) their hiapo during childhood, sometimes before birth. The betrothal was marked by an exchange of gifts between the two households in which the 'ohana participated, but there was no feast at this time. In one instance of ho'opalau remembered on the Island of Hawaii, the betrothal was sealed with a prayer and offering at Ka-lua-o-Pele (The pit of Pele, Halema'uma'u). Later the betrothal was broken and subsequent troubles are believed to have been due to disregard of the kapu laid before Pele. To break the ho'opalau - 273 was a serious offence. In another instance, breach of ho'opalau resulted in chronic sickness from which the one responsible for the breach could never obtain release.

Customs relating to betrothal in Ka-'u and Puna, as related by some elders of these districts, may be summarized as follows:—

There was no set age for the ho'opalau, the participants ranging in years from unborn babes to young people of marriageable age. Age of maturity was recognized as about twenty years. There were several ways of selecting of wife. The first one, mai ka po mai (according to instructions “out of night”) was said to be the best. A close relative of a boy might have a dream indicating where and to whom to go to find a mate for the boy. At the same time a dream was given to the girl's near relative telling him whom to expect and why. This often led one to another locality or island for the bride-to-be. It was understood that such a mating mai ka po mai was only for those who came from the same family stock or were children of the same 'aumakua. When the relative of the boy came to the home of the girl he was treated with every courtesy, for to fail to receive him properly was an offense to the 'aumakua who sent him. After talking the matter over and the betrothal having been agreed upon, the date of the wedding was set if the couple were of 'aumakua who wished this union. Then the ho'opalau became binding. To break a ho'opalau was inexcusable and the one who did so paid the penalty in suffering. The relatives of both sides made fine mats, tapas and whatever else was needed for the new household. The relatives of the boy gathered the material together for the new house and the relatives of the girl assisted in building it. Neither side wished it said that their child came from an 'ohana puhikole (destitute 'ohana) and so they saw to it that their son or daughter was well provided for when the la ho'ao or wedding day came.
If the period of ho'opalau lasted a long time, the young man sent gifts every now and then to his wife-to-be, perhaps a pig, a catch of fish, chickens, a feather lei or a fat dog. When the young man showed himself mindful of his future wife it was welcomed as evidence that he would be a good provider. When the house had been made ready, and furnished by the 'ohana on both sides (see below), the young couple were taken into it. The kahuna prayed that the union be fruitful. In his prayer occurs the phrase: “E uhi ia olua i ke kapa ho'okahi” or “You both shall (forever) share the same kapa,” meaning, that they were to share all things between them. Perhaps elsewhere, as described by David Malo (Hawaiian Antiquities, Chapter XVIII) a kapa was actually draped over the pair, but it was not so among the Puna-Ka-'u people. If the young wedded pair were chiefs, the people came with their ho'okupu (gifts)—food, mats, tapas, canoes, everything that they had to give. The marriage house (hale ho'ao) was kapu, only for the bride and groom, where they could have privacy and be by themselves if they chose. The 'ohana had their feast out of doors or in sheds (halau) built for the purpose, where they ate and enjoyed themselves.
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Another way to make a ho'opalau was by studying the genealogy of the family and selecting a youth and maiden of equal rank. After the selection was made the parents and grandparents talked it over and the ho'opalau was agreed upon. Ho'opalau, however arranged, was characteristic of families of rank, with whom a favourable union from the point of view of genealogy was of importance.
Amongst commoners there were no formalities. When a lad saw a maiden that he wanted for wife, he spoke of it to his parents or grandparents. Then his people went to see the girl's people. If it was agreeable to the elders, and if the girl agreed, the young man simply came to her home to live with her, becoming one of the household. Hawaiians preferred girl children because the girl remained with her people while a boy went to his wife's parents' household. An old saying puts it: He malama makua hunowai ke keikikane. “A boy supports his parents-in-law.”
Sometimes a girl's parents would take the initiative in making a proposal to the parents of a good looking, industrious boy. This might be at the girl's behest, or on their own initiative. No girl would “propose” to a young man herself—she would be too shy. But she had her ways of attracting him. Neither girl nor boy was forced to marry contrary to heart's desire, except perhaps in certain rare instances when compulsion was necessary.

Expressions Relating to Mating and Marriage.

Their words and expressions relating to mating and marriage are capable of telling in brief more about the habits and points of view of Hawaiians past and present, for persons who at all comprehend Polynesian mentality, than many pages of “learned” dissertation. Below are some of the more common of these words. To those who do not comprehend that even modern Hawaiians are, like their ancestors and all Polynesians, people to whom natural functions are “natural,” hence nothing to be ashamed of, and who may be shocked by some of the terms or implied mores, it may be necessary to say that it is not just to judge these people by standards of morality other than their own. The collapse of standards due to the sudden abolition of the kapu in 1819 preceded the first teaching of Christian principles. Yet responsible Hawaiians, both before and since Christianization, have had and still have a code of right and wrong of their own as definite and as honestly adhered to as that of any other civilized people. In fact, the suffering to be expected from neglect of wilful disobedience to this code affecting sexual relations and responsibility to 'ohana was more drastic and immediate than anything in Christian ethics or modern - 275 common law. The 'aumakua (family guardians) did not postpone to an indefinite and vague “future life” punishments for broken kapu or shameless behaviour, neglect or irresponsibility. Present behaviour determined the future state, but it also induced immediate effects, good or bad. “Sin” (hewa, hala) will be discussed in our next chapter.

The following are post European terms.

In old Hawaii there was no such thing as an illegitimate child. After the coming of the missionaries and the introduction of the Christian marriage, such terms as these became generally used:—

Wahine mare. A wife whom one has married.
Kane mare. A husband whom one has married.
Wahine manu-ahi. A mistress; a woman who is not legally a wife.
Wahine kapae. (A woman set to one side.) A mistress.

The word manu-ahi (fire-bird) was originally the name of a Hawaiian who used to work in a store in Honolulu. He would often give a little extra as a gift to a customer; so, many went to buy manu-ahi. Soon manu-ahi became synonymous with free: something freely given.

Thus a kane manu-ahi or wahine manu-ahi became a mate free of the ties of marriage, and a keiki manu-ahi (illegitimate child) was the result of a free union.

Noho kapae (living to one side) is another way of saying, an affair without wedlock.
Keiki kameha'i (mystery child) is one term for an illegitimate child, and keiki po'o-'ole (headless child) is another—because he has no sire or “head of the family.” (How my mother hated this term, and often said that every baby has a head, including those born out of wedlock!)
Inoa 'ole (no name) is also used to indicate an illegitimate baby.

The following are all old terms relating to mating and marriage.

Noi wahine is the old word for a proposal. Ua hele mai lakou e noi wahine. (They came to ask for a wife). Today, it is noi mare, or marriage request.

Ua 'ae ia ka noi means “The proposal is accepted,” and Ua ho'ole ia ka noi means that it is rejected.

As a ho'opalau or betrothal was very binding in the olden days, I have never heard of any term or expression meaning a broken engagement. To break an engagement today is to uhaki or ho'opau i ka ho'opalau (break or end the engagement).

Noho pu—“Just to live together,” as man and wife.

Ho'omau keiki—A mating of a high chief and chiefess for the purpose of obtaining a child of high rank.

The marriage between young ali'i who were brother and sister (or with half-brother or half-sister), which was permitted only at the level of the highest 'ali'i for reasons of genealogical status and what is termed today “line breeding” in biology, - 276 was referred to as pi'o (arching) and a child born of such a union was a ni'aupi'o (coconut frond arched back upon itself).

Marriage within the family circle was called a ho'i or returning. “Ho'i i ka makuahine a puka o mea.” (He returned to his aunt and so and so was born).

Very close intermarriage among the people in general was not encouraged, such as the marriage of brother and sister, nephew and aunt, niece and uncle. Should such occur in a family, they were made fun of and referred to as ohana kiko moa, or “relatives that mate and hatch like chickens.”

Marriage between cousins was approved of and there were instances in which betrothals were made in early childhood. They were equals in generation and in their position in life and so the older folk would say, “I pa'i aku no o kahi i kahi, o laua no ia.” (Should one slap the other, it wouldn't matter, for they belong to each other).

For a stepfather to mate with his wife's daughter was considered a disgrace. The people would say, “Ka! mai kahi huna no o ka makua a kahi huna o ke keiki!” (Ugh! from the privates of the mother to the privates of her child!)

In some legends (not of our locality) and in rare instances I have heard of elsewhere, a woman might adopt a boy, rear him and later take him for a mate. I have heard the comment of my people on such a practice. “Ho'opailua! O ka malama no i kahi huna o ke keiki a ki'i iho no.” (Disgusting! After caring for his privates [in childhood] she takes him for her mate!)

Should a man take his wife's younger sister or cousin for a mate with his wife's approval, no one worried about it, because, “O lakou no ia.” (They all belong to each other). Should this be done without the approval of the wife, and the sister had deliberately set a snare to take the husband away, then such an act was called po'alo maka, a scooping out of the eye-balls of the wife. If a good friend, having shared the hospitality of a person, eating of his bounty and sleeping in his house, would then try to take the mate of his host, that act was also called po'alo maka.

Polygamy and polyandry were not frowned upon if the first mate had no objection, and very often it was the wife or the husband who would suggest it. A wife might say to her husband, “I love my cousin so much that I do not want her to go away, so you take her for your wife,” and to the cousin she might say, Eia no ka kaua kane, or “Let him be our husband.” The children of one were the children of the other.

With many of the families, who were admitted to the royal court because of blood relationship, the virginity of the daughters was strictly guarded and when a girl became of marriageable age and was spoken for as a wife, she was taken to the chief who would remove her virginity. Na ke 'ali'i e moe mua. (For the chief to sleep with for the first time.) After that she was free to be married. Should an offspring result in this union with the chief, the husband would be proud of and make much of that child because the baby was the offspring of his 'Ali'i.

Sometimes it was a dying wife or husband who would select their successor. The wife might say to her husband, “When I am gone, take my sister (or cousin) so-and-so to be your wife, that our children may have a makua (mother) in our family. An outsider may mistreat them.” Then to her sister she would - 277 say, “Here is our husband. Take care of our children.” With a request like this, the husband and sister would become wife and husband for the sake of the children. Without such a request, the taking of a new mate soon after the death of the old drew forth the comment, “Auwe! 'a'ohe i nalo ka 'ula'ula o ka lepo, o ka loa'a no ia o ka wahine hou!” (Oh! the redness of the [broken] earth had not had time to be covered with grass, before a new wife is taken!) It denoted a lack of affection for the wife who had just passed away.

In the days in which there were no divorce courts, a miserably unhappy marriage could be broken very easily by going elsewhere and refusing to live together again as wife and husband. In time she would find another husband and he another wife and a friendly relation was generally maintained. Marriages were for the most part permanent, and the affection of kane and wahine for each other was very deep.

Sex knowledge was not kept from children, and though they were not ignorant of sex there was no unseemly behaviour on the part of the young folks going about together. They went swimming together with nothing on their bodies, but used the hands as a shield when coming out of the water. It was impressed into their minds that it was not good to indulge in sexual practises when too young and a boy who did so was called a keiki pu'e (a rapacious child) and avoided by the other boys and girls. When a girl or boy felt matured, he or she withdrew from their young playmates and associated more with the older people. This was a sign that he was beginning to feel his responsibility, and thinking of marriage. He was closely observed by the neighbours and if industrious and well behaved, they knew that he would be a good husband, but if he was lazy, none cared to have him as an addition to the family. This was also true of girls.

Among the chiefs, a boy was not only trained in warfare and government but when he was grown physically, a matured chiefess was chosen to train him in sexual practices. This was part of his education. Should a child result, he or she was reared by the mother. Thus it was that Kamehameha claimed Ka'oleioku as “the son of my beardless youth,” at the dedication of the heiau of Pu'ukohola. This was the son borne to him by Kamakapolei, one of the wives of his uncle Kalaniopu'u.

The people of Ka,'u married mostly within their own district and discouraged marriages to those of the outside district or islands. If there was a marriage with one outside of the district, that person was encouraged to remain as one of them. Generations marrying within their group welded the families into one, hence the saying, Mai ka uka a ke kai, mai kahi pae a kahi pae o Ka-'u, he ho'okahi no 'ohana. (From hills to the sea, from one end to the other, Ka-'u is one family).

The intermarriages of relatives which bound them to each other and to the homeland, produced this saying, Ka-'u lepo 'ula'ula. (Ka-'u of the red earth). That is, the blood of Ka-'u is thickened by intermarriage.

Palama. When the house of a chiefess or chief was enclosed with a fence of lama (Maba Sandwichensis) wood, no one was allowed to enter except a chosen few. To enter such an enclosure was punishable by death. The lama wood is very hard, and made an impenetrable fence.

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High chiefs often placed their favourite wives and children under the restrictions of the palama.

Pulama. The palama is not to be confused with pulama, to cherish and care for. To pulama a wife (or a child) is to treat with loving care, seeing that she is happy, not allowing her to wear herself out with hard work and so on.

'E'ele mimo ka lani
'Uwe'uwehe ke ao ho'okiki'i
Kiki'i ke ao 'opuo lani e
'Ola'olapa ka uwila
Ho'oku'i, nei, nakolokolo ka hekili
Ke wawa kupina'i nei i Ku-haili-moe
O Haiha'ilauahea
O na wahine i ka puoko o ke ahi
O 'imi'imi, o nalowale a loa'a
Loa'a ho'i ka hoa e.
Pupu'u aku o ke anu o ka Ho'oilo
Ke 'iloli nei ka lani
Loa'a ka hale kipa maha o Hako'ilani
Na ke aloha i kono e hui 'olua e.
O ka hakamoa keia, ke halakau nei ka lani
O haka, o haka, i ka lani
O nei, o nakolo, o 'u'ina,
O nakolo i luna, o nehe i lalo
He nehe na ka 'ili'ili kaka'a o 'Ikuwa
A wawa 'ia no he hale kanaka
Nawai e wawa ka hale alaneo,
Pili olua e—
Moku ka pawa o ke ao
Ke moakaka nei ka hikina
Ua hiki ho'i,
Ua kapu i ka po,
A ho'oma'ama'ama i ke ao
Ho'ao e! ua noa!
Lele wale aku la ka pule a ke kahuna,
Ua ao ho'i—amama ua noa.
Lele uli! lele wai!
Lele wale ka pule.
The sky is covered with darkness,
The tilting clouds begin to part,
The leaning bud-shaped clouds in the sky.
The lightning flashes here and there,
The thunder reverberates, rumbles and roars,
Sending echoes repeatedly to Ku-haili-moe,
To Ha'iha'i-lau-ahea,
To the women in the rising flames.
There was a seeking of the lost, now it is found—
A mate is found,
One to share the chills of winter.
The sky is changing,
For Hakoi-lani, the house of welcome where rest is found.
Love has made a plea
That you two become united.
Here is a perch, a heavenly resting place,
A perch, a perch in heaven.
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There is a trembling, a rumbling, a crackling
A rattling above, a rattling below,
A rustling of the rolling pebbles of Ikuwa.
There are sounds of voices in an inhabited house,
But what voices are heard in an empty one,
You two are now one,
The darkness has begun to depart,
The east is beginning to brighten
For day is here at last!
The night has been made kapu
Until the light of day arrives.
You are wedded! Free [to each other],
The prayer of the priest has taken flight.
Day is here!
Amama, the kapu is freed!
It has flown to the darkness! flown to the waters!
The prayer has gone its way.

The various houses that made up the Hawaiian homestead (kauhale) were described in the first chapter of this series (J.P.S., 59, No. 2, June, 1950, pp. 179–187). The two basic functional units were the Common House or Hale Noa and the Mua. The hale noa served the whole family as sleeping and living room. The mua was kapu to women, for there the men slept when consecrated for war, fishing, canoe building, or other work that required segregation from contacts with women and little children that might be contaminating, as offensive to aumakua and akua. Here was the shrine of the guardian spirits also, the kuahu (comparable to the Maori mua and tuahu). All other structures were for special use, and were little more than sheds: for the men's oven (imu), for the women's oven, for kapa beating, housing canoe and fishing gear, storage, or for segregation of women while menstruating.

When we speak of the new home, we refer to a new hale noa, which was the central living unit, built with care, for comfort in all seasons.

The building, or refurbishing of the terrace faced with stone (paepae), cutting and erecting of timbers for the frame, and thatching were done by the men of the immediate family. There existed in Hawaii no professional carpenters, or guilds, like those of the wood workers in the southern islands.

Relatives might be counted on to furnish the new home for the young people. They came from far and wide, bringing them gifts: mats, tapas, bowls, calabashes. In anticipation of the event, the head of the household had raised or - 280 acquired hogs, dogs, chickens. Relatives went out for fish, and brought taro, sweet potato and greens. A ground oven was filled with foods for the men; and another for the women, omitting the pork and dog.

Before the ovens were opened, the piko (umbilicus) of the house must be cut by trimming the thatch hanging over the doorway with an appropriate prayer, and offerings to akua and aumakua.

A red kumu or red weke, and a white amaama or ahole-hole fish were placed under the threshold.

The householder then chopped back the rough thatch over the arched lintel with his adze, cutting down against a block of wood held beneath the thatch, making a smooth, recessed arch.

For this operation, here is a prayer that he recited as he did the cutting.

E oki i ka piko o ka hale
He hale ku i ka 'ele-ua, i ka 'ele ao
He hale noho ho'i no ke kanaka.
E Lono e, eia ka hale la,
Ua ku i Mauli-ola.
E ola i ka noho hale,
E ola i ke kanaka kipa mai
E ola i ka haku—'aina
E ola i na 'lii
Oia ke ola o kauhale e Mauli-ola,
Ola a kolo-pupu, a haumaka 'iole
A pala lauhala, a ka i koko
A kau i ka puaneane.
Oia ke ola au e ke akua—[Amama ua noa].
E Ku, e Kane, e Lono
Ku'ua mai i ke ola,
I na pomaika'i,
A ea ka lani, ka honua
Ea ia Kane-i-ka-wai-ola
E ola mai kahi pae a kahi pae,
E ola mai luna a lalo,
Mai kaupoku a ke kahua—
E ola—a ola loa no.
Cut the umbilical cord of the house
A house that resists the rains and stormy elements.
A house for man to dwell in.
O Lono, behold the house,
A house in the presence of the giver of life
Grant life to those who dwell therein,
Grant life to the visitors that come,
Grant life to the land-lord,
Grant life to the chiefs,
Let that be the life from the life-giver,
Life until one creeps and is weak-eyed with age
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Until one sprawls like a withered hala leaf,
Until one reaches the very extremity of life.
Let this be the life granted to us by the gods.
O Ku, O Kane, O Lono,
Let down the gift of life,
And all the blessings with it,
Till the heavens and earth be heaped,
Let them be raised up by Kane of the living waters.
May there be life from one boundary to the other
From above to below
From roof to foundation.
May there be life—everlasting life.

When the new doorway stood clear and trim, with its fresh lintels showing and threshold in place, the mats and other interior furnishings were carried in and put in place. Then the new abode was beautified with fresh greenery and flowers of whatever kinds were available: in particular sweet scented fern, maile vine, ilima, pandanus seed lei, blossoms of lehua and the shiny foliage of ieie from the uplands. These were an essential part of every ritual, bringing the life of the wao akua (hinterland of the gods) into the home, and making it delightful for gods and guardian spirits, as for the people there. The people were all wearing leis of flowers, or maile vine interwoven with fragrant fern.

Bananas and awa were laid on the paepae. Then the ovens were opened and the food spread out on the paepae and in nearby sheds, and all set to with a will to enjoy the feast. Nothing must be left uneaten: every particle of food must be wrapped and taken away with them by the visiting kin and kith.

The householders in the new house immediately made full return for the courtesies received, by giving to departing relatives and friends all that had been brought to it as gifts by those coming to the feast, everything except what was essential for furnishing and a few prized items that might be kept without offence. So the feast was a sharing of dedicated foods; and the giving and taking of presents was actually a general exchange in which the prestige and pleasure of giving and receiving was enjoyed by all concerned. It was a gay time, one to be remembered with aloha.

Family gatherings like this often lasted several days. Even then every departing guest must be given a bundle of - 282 food to take home. This was called the ho'ina (return). A feast without a ho'ina was a poor one indeed.

While the merry-makers were eating there was much banter, joking, relating of anecdotes, matching wits. No unpleasant or malicious talk was wanted, for the poi bowls were visible evidence of the presence of Kane as Haloa, the taro; and other akua and aumakua in Nature were right there in the greenery all about. The feasting and jollifiction roused some to rise here and there to dance a hula, as someone chanted a mele. The old people would be moved to chant mele and oli belonging to the family or the land, or relating some event, or perhaps honouring a beloved ali'i. At family festivities in the old days the “entertainment” was spontaneous, not rehearsed, except for formal festivities of ali'i, or during the Makahiki harvest festival in honour of Lono.


The next chapter in this series will be on the psychic phase of 'ohana relationship. Since for Hawaiians the ultimate cause of all illness, and even of accident, was psychic; and in view of the fact that death and everything associated with it, even the physical handling of the body and the bones, was primarily psychic in purpose and significance, we have deemed it logical to reserve the description and interpretation of sickness and death for the next chapter. From the Hawaiian point of view the major “life cycle” for the 'ohana, was that extending from the birth of a first-born to the birth of a first-born in the next generation. This was the full life cycle: for the individual, the span from birth to marriage with offspring. In a very true sense, sickness was, in infancy an intimation, in older years a beginning, of another cycle which might well be termed the “death cycle,” in which the 'uhane or spirit is poised to enter its discarnate phase of existence.

  • PUKUI, Mary Kawena—“Hawaiian Beliefs and Customs during Birth, Infancy and Childhood.” Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Occasional Papers, Vol. XVI, No. 17, Honolulu, 1942.
  • HANDY, E. S. Craighill, Mary Kawena Pukui and Katherine Livermore—“Outline of Hawaiian Physical Therapeutics.” Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Bulletin 126, Honolulu, 1934.
  • MALO, David—Hawaiian Antiquities. Translated by Dr. N. B. Emerson, Honolulu, 1898.
1   In the descriptions that follow, small type is used for lengthy direct quotations. Where not otherwise indicated by specific reference, these quotations are verbatim from Mrs. Pukui's own voluminous notes and published writings, translations, etc.
Our colleague, Miss Margaret Titcomb, has generously shared with me her notes, culled over a period of twenty years, relating to Hawaiian Ceremonial Feasts.—E.S.C.H.
2   “Hawaiian Beliefs and Customs during Birth, Infancy and Childhood,” by Mary Kawena Pukui. Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Occasional Papers, Vol. XVI, No. 17, Honolulu, 1942. “Outline of Hawaiian Physical Therapeutics,” by E. S. Craighill Handy, Mary Kawena Pukui and Katherine Livermore. Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Bulletin 126, Honolulu, 1934.
3   Mawaewae and ukuhi (weaning) was first described by Doctor Martha Beckwith in collaboration with Miss Laura Green in The American Anthropoolgist, N.S., Vol. 26, 1924, pp. 241–245. With respect to divergencies in the matter of the foods to be eaten by the mother and the wording of prayers, we have here an example of something that is typical of Polynesian ritual, namely, that it is the pattern of practice based upon theory of psychic relationship which is basic, not particular things or words. This is true both of the mawaewae and the ukuhi. Thus in weaning either two lele bananas, or two stones, or two blossoms might serve as proxies for the breasts.
4   Mrs. Pukui's lineage and heritage is from the priesthood of Lono. Her grandmother, Na-'li'i-po'ai-moku by whom she was reared as a punahele (precious child), was the step-daughter of Kane-kuhia who was a priest trained in the temple of Lono at Kealakekua in Kona, in which Captain Cook was worshipped as Lono. Po'ai's father died when she was about a year old. Kanekuhia, her step-father, had no children of his own. He reared her, and passed on to her much of the lore of the priesthood of Lono. We have no records from Ka-'u of the priesthood of Ku, the god of war. The rituals of Ku are described in some detail by David Malo, who was a native of the neighbouring district of Kona.—E.S.C.H.
5   Dr. Charles Snow, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky, has given us the following facts, gleaned from various sources, with respect to Hawaiian head moulding. A considerable number of skulls examined, excavated near Mokapu Point on Windward Oahu, show head deformation comparable to that characteristic of the skull of the Hawaiian King Liloa, examined by X-Ray through the woven envelope in which the skeleton is encased. This deformation consists of flattening of the occiput and depression of the upper forehead, producing a skull broadened in the rear and in profile shaped like a gourd. Not a few elder Hawaiians have been observed with heads approximating this form. Various informants have stated that the child's head in the first week was laid on a piece of coconut husk, coconut shell, or gourd, with pulu (down from tree fern) or tapa for padding; or that two pieces of shell, or boards, were used behind and in front, bound in place, and removed once or twice a day so that the forehead could be massaged, with pressure to flatten and mold, and to restore circulation. The custom of moulding the head to produce a flat occiput, sloping forehead and rounded peaked crown was definitely a practice of the ali'i of Hawaii, whether done purely by manual manipulation as described by Mrs. Pukui or with coconut shell, gourd
6   In old Hawaiian worship, in each lunar month the days and nights of the first two nights (po) of the new moon were sacred to Ku (one meaning of whose name is “to rise”); the days just preceding full moon were sacred to Lono, god of plenty, on land. The twenty-third and twenty-fourth were sacred to Kanaloa, lord of the ocean. The twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth nights were sacred to Kane. The four dieties mentioned were worshipped at their temples and at the family shrines during these periods sacred to them respectively and labour, fishing and planting were kapu.
7   Hi'i—a shortened form of Hiiaka.
8   Kuakini—Kua (back) and kini (multitude). Refers to the multitude of gods.