Volume 77 1968 > Volume 77, No. 4 > The overthrow of the kapu system in Hawaii, by Stephenie Seto Levin, p 402 - 430
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In 1819, Liholiho, son of Kamehameha I, flagrantly violated the religious prohibition (kapu) against eating with women. He did so at the behest of his mother, Keopuolani, who was the highest ranking chiefess (ali'i) in the Hawaiian Islands, and his classificatory mother Kaahumanu 1 who had recently assumed the newly created office of kuhina nui (regent) This incident has been held by historians and anthropologists to be the immediate cause of what one writer has termed “the Hawaiian cultural revolution.” 2 One of the social consequences of this upheaval was the abrogation of the kapu system of legal proscriptions sanctioned by religious belief and enforced by the secular power of the political authority. Almost simultaneously, the religious observances at the temples were suspended forever. With the suspension of religious observances came the disenfranchisement of the orders of hereditary priests whose social and sacred functions reinforced and legitimated the existing political authority. Thus, the effect of the abolition of the kapu system was to destroy most of the religious and supernatural foundations of the Hawaiian political structure.

What is puzzling about these events is that the very persons—Liholiho, Kaahumanu, and Keopeolani—who instigated the revolt against traditional religious ideology and rituals seem to have been the ones who had the most to lose by doing so. They had inherited political authority over the Hawaiian Islands upon the death of Kamehameha, who had only recently consolidated the island group. The religion they sought to impugn was the ideological and ritual system by which their authority - 403 was established and legitimated. Hence, in abolishing the religion they jeopardised the political power and control they exerted over the newly centralised realm.

The purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) to re-examine the overthrow of the kapu system using certain theoretical propositions of Max Weber concerning the nature and implications of charismatic authority, and (2) to re-evalutate the work of other scholars.

I shall argue that Hawaiian polity prior to 1819 was organised in such a way that succession to chieftainship was from among kinsmen, but that the manner of selection was based on the concept that charisma was transmitted by ritual means from one bearer to another. In other words, the administration of authority was channeled through a group defined by hereditary charisma, the ali'i, but the paramount chiefs were chosen from among this group by obtaining the mandate to rule from the gods through religious ritual administered by the priesthood. The relevance of the concept of charisma can be seen in the relationship of the paramount chief and mana. Mana was conceived as a supernatural power which manifested itself as power, strength, skill, etc., in persons. It was a gift from the gods and in this sense similar to charisma; in this sense also it constituted a mandate to rule. A chief who was successful in warfare and whose chiefdom prospered was said to possess mana, but if a natural disaster occurred or the paramount chief were defeated in war, it was interpreted as due to the withdrawal of mana by the gods. 3Furthermore, I shall argue that the overthrow of the kapu system represented the attempt on the part of those in power to reorganise the existing political structure so that succession to chieftainship would be determined only on the basis of heredity.

Theoretical Concepts

Charisma is defined as “a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities”; that is, the individual is with a “gift of grace.” 4 Some of the principal characteristics of charismatic authority are the following:

  • 1. The validity of charisma is contingent upon recognition of it as such on the part of those subject to the authority. 5
  • 2. Periodic renewal of proof that the leader possesses charisma is a requirement for the maintenance of authority. Moreover, if he is unsuccessful and his leadership fails to benefit his followers, there is a greater probability that his charismatic authority will disappear. 6
  • 3. Some type of contest—by magical or even physical battle—is the only recourse when a charismatic authority comes into conflict
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  • with the competing authority of another who also claims the same sanction. 7

Pure charisma, whenever it appears, constitutes a call in the most emphatic sense, a spiritual duty. As such it tends to be oriented toward high ideals and has a character which is alien to everyday routines. The social relationships involved are based on the validity and practice of charismatic qualities and are strictly personal. 8

If the charismatic authority is not to remain a transitory phenomenon, it is necessary for its character to become radically altered. Indeed, as Weber points out, the charismatic authority, in its pure form, may be said to exist only in the process of originating. It cannot remain stable but must be transformed. 9 The principal motives underlying the transformation, or routinisation, are: (1) the ideal and material interests of the followers in the continuation and continual reactivation of the community; (2) the vested interest of the followers of the charismatic leader in continuing their relationship. The object of the followers is to maintain continuity in such a way that both from an ideal and material point of view, their own status is put on a stable everyday basis. These interests become conspicuously evident with the disappearance of the charismatic leader and with the problem of succession which inevitably arises. The way in which this problem is met is of crucial importance to subsequent social relationships. 10

Two of the solutions to this problem of succession are the concept of hereditary charisma and the concept that charisma may be transmitted by ritual means from one bearer to another or may be created in a new person. Hereditary charisma is the conception that charisma is a quality transmitted by heredity and thus is participated in by the kinsmen of its bearer, particularly by his closest relatives. But still the order of hereditary succession need not be the same as that which is in force for appropriated rights. It may be necessary to select the proper heir from within the kin group by other qualitative methods. 11

The concept that charisma may be transmitted by ritual means from one bearer to another or may be created in a new person is magical in its origin. It involves a ritual disassociation of charisma from a particular individual, thus making it an objective, transferable entity, in which case it may become the charisma of office. Consequently the belief in legitimacy is no longer directed to the individual but to his acquired qualities and the effectiveness of his ritual acts. 12

It should be noted that in formulating his typology of the kinds of authority—rational-legalistic, traditional and charismatic—Weber conceived them as ideal types or models which were meant to be used as heuristic devices. He was aware of the fact that in reality, most societies - 405 did not possess these ideal types but rather had structures which were combinations and variations of them. What is crucial in understanding Weber's types of authority is that (1) these ideal types define theoretical boundaries within which there exist infinitely large subsets of variations and combinations and (2) the types of authority are dependent on the role of administration and the economic situation of the society. However, the type of authority defines the theoretical boundaries of the set.

Findings of Other Studies

Kroeber viewed the overthrow of the kapu system as a type of cultural change which he termed “cultural fatigue.” The main reason for the abolition of the kapu system, he argued, was that the Hawaiians had “become disillusioned and tired of their religion and that to this extent the incident was illustrative of what may be called cultural fatigue.” 13 Although Kroeber did not define what he meant by “cultural fatigue,” he did suggest that the source of change lay in Hawaiian culture and that therefore the overthrow of the kapu system could not be accounted for by social factors.

Redfield, on the other hand, emphasised that the revolution was due mainly to the unsettling impact of the West on Hawaiian society. He argued that the prestige and novelty of Western ways stimulated the change on the part of a people who had a propensity to abandon old gods for more successful ones and that the acquiescence to such a radical change was due to the ideological incongruities and social strains caused by the contact situation. 14 This view, however, fails to account for the social and political developments within Hawaiian society which were necessary in order for the change to take place.

In a recent publication, Webb analysed the abolition of the system as part of a “European-induced shift from a tribal and toward a state organisation of society which was taking place not only in Hawaii but also throughout Polynesia.” 15 He takes the position that the introduction of Western goods through trade gave chieftains, in geographically well-situated territories, the surplus of wealth needed to support armies by which they could make themselves “kings.” Thus the shift from contending rival chieftainships to a centralised incipient monarchial type of organisation was achieved. This had the effect of rendering the prior social organisation disfunctional in terms of the new social reality, and therefore change was inevitable. 16 Webb, however, did not relate this concept of “European induced transformation” of society to specific internal developments. Moreover, he failed to give good reasons why those in positions of authority sought to repudiate that which legitimated their authority.

Finally, Davenport has cited economic and political reasons for the repudiation of the kapu system by those who ruled. The aristocratic class (ali'i), which had experienced the most contact with Europeans in - 406 the four decades subsequent to Cook's arrival in 1778, had been subject to most of the acculturative influences. As a result, he argued, the ali'i acquired new tastes for imported goods that could only be satisfied by increasing commercial trade. To satisfy these newly acquired tastes, large amounts of labour were diverted from subsistence agriculture for the cutting and hauling of scandalwood from the rain forests. This placed a great strain on the Hawaiian economy at a time when it faced a declining labour force because of newly introduced diseases. This was so critical that there were periods when not enough food was being grown to satisfy domestic needs. In addition to these new commercial tastes, the ali'i also wanted more power. Thus, the abolition of the kapu system was intended to obtain more power for the ali'i and to release the productive economy from the burden of supporting the various priest-hoods. 17 This argument is weak because, firstly, there is insufficient evidence that the support of the priesthood was economically burdensome, and, secondly, the argument fails to show how the repudiation of a religious system would benefit the society's economy.

The remainder of this paper is organised as follows: Section II consists of a description of Hawaiian society prior to 1819. It includes descriptions of the social organisation, economy and religion as they relate to the Hawaiian polity. Section III is concerned with the sources of change. The impact of contact with the West and its effects on Hawaiian society, including the ramifications of change, is assessed in this section. The final section presents a re-evaluation of other studies and some concluding remarks.


In the previous section it was suggested that the ali'i stratum could be viewed as a kin group, the members of which shared the quality of charismatic leadership, in varying degrees. Although the ideal was that from among ali'i the one who possessed the greatest amount of charisma—the potentiality for becoming a medium for mana—succeeded to the position of paramount chief, there was one qualification. This qualification was that in order for his political authority to be established, his potentiality for becoming a medium for mana had to be realised in the form of a mandate to rule which was obtained from the gods through ritual. This section will be concerned with (1) a description of the Hawaiian kinship system on which hereditary charisma was based; included in this description is a discussion of the ohana as a concept of kindred and social stratification; and (2) a description of the kapu system and its relationship to the Hawaiian polity; included in this description is a discussion of the relationship of the priesthoods and the paramount chief.

Hawaiian society, at the time of its discovery by Captain James Cook in 1778, was divided into three strata, the chiefs or ali'i, the commoners or makaainana, and the outcastes or kauwa. Ideally the distinction between the ali'i and the makaainana expressed the relationship of the senior branch of a stock of its junior branches. In real terms, there was - 407 some vertical mobility between these two strata. 18 Vertical mobility, however, was prohibited to the kauwa stratum.

Ohana: A Concept of Kindred

Ohana, in its broadest sense, refers to all those, except the kauwa, living within a moku 19 who were recognised as kindred, though knowledge of their kinship was lost. 20 This definition suggests that the social hierarchy can be construed as the relationship of the senior branch of an ohana (ali'i) to its junior branches (makaainana). Secondly, in a functional sense, ohana designated those kindred living within the borders of an ahupua'a 21 who worked together as an economic and social unit. 22 This usage specifies the group within which economic cooperation takes place and also delimits the smallest political unit. The ali'i-ai-ahupua'a is considered the senior branch of this kin grouping and the makaainana within his territory are considered the junior branch. Ritually he is responsible for the maintenance of the “pig shrine” on the border of his territory. Finally ohana also designated an extended family. 23 Thus under the rubric of ohana could be accounted many of the social distinctions in Hawaiian society.

The Makaainana

The makaainana, as the junior branches of the stock, were thought to be the supporters of ali'i and ultimately the paramount chief, whence the saying, “A chief [ali'i] is a chief because of his subjects.” 24 This is - 408 well illustrated in the realm of economics because the makaainana were the mainstays of Hawaiian subsistence economy; included within this stratum were the farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen. Between the ali'i and makaainana there existed a bond of mutual obligations and duties. The makaainana were obligated to give goods and services in the form of taxes in kind and corvee labour. In return the ali'i confirmed their tenure rights to the land which they tilled and on which they resided. More importantly, it was the duty of the ali'i to secure for the makaainana supernatural protection from natural calamities and to petition the gods for abundant harvests from the fields and the seas through temple rituals.

Within the ali'i and makaainana strata, descent was reckoned bilaterally, crosscut horizontally by generation and vertically by sex. This descent grouping is reflected in their kinship terminology which is given below. 25 It should be noted that although it was not explicit in the kinship terminology, precedence or status was determined by genealogical seniority, not by generation or age or sex. Persons stemming from a genealogically senior branch outrank older generations of junior branches.

Grandparents, kupuna kupuna kane kupuna wahine
Parents, makua maku kane makuahine
Elder sibling of same sex kaikua'ana kaikua'ana Both addressed as kua'ana
Younger sibling of same sex kaikaina kaikaina Both addressed as kaina
Sibling of opposite sex kaikunane kaikuahine Both addressed as kunane
Children, keiki or kama (singular); kamali'i (plural) keiki or kama kaikamahine
Grandchildren, mo'opuna mo'opuna kane mo'opuna wahine
The Ali'i

Persons belonging to the ali'i stratum derived their high status by virtue of the fact that they were direct descendants of the gods; hence they were sacred relative to the makaainana, who were in theory also descendants of the gods but through junior branches. Genealogies which were the exclusive right of the ali'i were proof of their descent. Distinctions within the ali'i stratum were made regarding degrees of sacredness in terms of rank and kapu. Here kapu refers to the personal kapu of the ali'i. 26 These were conferred at birth and were a manifestation of his - 409 or her rank: the higher the rank and the stricter the kapu, the closer the relationship to the gods. The following is a chart showing the correlation between rank, type of marriage and kapu. 27

1. Pi'o: Marriage of a brother and sister whose parents were of niaupi'o rank. Pi'o Kapu moe (Prostrating tabu). Everyone was required to prostrate themselves when he or any of his personal articles passed, on penalty of death.
2. Hoi: marriage of father and daughter, nephew and aunt, or niece and uncle, provided both were of niaupi'o or naha rank. Niaupi'o Kapu moe same as above.
3. Naha: marriage of half brother and half sister, having either father or a mother in common, but both parents must be of the first or second rank. Naha Kapu a noho (Sitting tabu). Everyone was required to sit when he or any of his personal articles passed, on penalty of death.
4. (a) Papa: marriage of a chiefess possessing either of the above ranks to a cousin or younger cousin of her parents. Wohi Exemption from the kapu of the niaupi'o and naha chiefs but not the pi'o.
(b) Lokea: marriage of a chief possessing either of the first three ranks and a cousin or younger cousin of his parents. Wohi Same as above.

Marriage was important as a determinant of rank. The ideal was that the person with the highest rank should be the paramount chief. In reality, due to frequent armed conflicts and rebellions which sometimes led to successful usurpations, 28 paramount chiefs were often of different ranks. Illustrating this is the fact that both Kamehameha and Kamuali'i were contemporary paramount chiefs but the former was a paramount chief of wohi rank while the latter was a niaupi'o chief.

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Unions such as those described in the chart were the exclusive right of paramount chiefs (ali'i-ai-moku) and members of their nuclear family. A brother-sister marriage was the ideal for the chief if he was of niaupi'o rank. Because both he and his sister, as descendants by primogeniture from the gods, were considered sacred, such an alliance would increase the sacredness of their offspring, as sacredness was hereditary. Such a child would be considered akua or god. If the paramount chief had no teal sister the other forms of alliances such as hoi or naha would be acceptable. 29 If none of these possibilities were available, a niaupi'o chiefess who was distantly related or perhaps not related at all was also acceptable. An example of the former was the union of Kalaloa, niaupi'o chiefess of Maui and Kalani'opu'u, niaupi'o and paramount chief of the island of Hawaii; their child Kiwala'o possessed the kapu moe. An example of the latter type is the union of Kaeo, niaupi'o chief of Maui and younger brother of Kahekili, and Kamakahelei, niaup'oc hiefess who was the daughter of the paramount chief of the island of Kauai; their child was Kaumuali'i, the last ruling chief of Kauai. 30 In the two known cases where a paramount chief was of wohi rank or lower, both married women of the highest rank within his own kin group. 31

However, aside from the aforementioned “alliances for succession” the paramount chief could enter other unions. The offspring of these second matings, if his mates were of equal rank, were called la'auli and kuhaulua chiefs (second pedigree chiefs). If the secondary mates were of the secondary pedigree, the offspring would be kaukau ali'i. Children of the secondary matings were called the “backbone” of the chief, for they became the warriors and held the lesser administrative posts. 32

The ali'i as a kin grouping was divided into those from whom successors to the position of paramount chief were most likely to be selected, the senior branch, and those from whom successors might be chosen, the junior branch. Included in the senior branch was the paramount chief and his heir or potential heirs who were the offspring of a high ranking chiefess chosen to be the mother of the successors of the paramount chief. The rest of the ali'i were looked upon as collateral junior branches. Thus the function of the incestuous marriages was to keep the group from which leaders were selected as small as possible.

Kahunas ‘priests’ of the kahuna pule class ‘institutionalised priesthoods’ were included in the ali'i stratum. 33 According to tradition this class of institutionalised priesthoods was founded by Lihau'ula, child of Kahi - 411 koluamea and older brother of Wakea who was the progenitor of the Hawaiian people. 34 This established for the members of this class of kahunas the privilege of being included in the ali'i stratum. The two orders of priesthoods of this class that were maintained by Kamehameha were the order of Holoa'e and the order of Kauli'i. 35 Kahunas of the order of Holoa'e were lineal descendants (patrilineally) of Paao. 36 This order was devoted to the worship of Kunuiakea and their main ritual was that of the kapu'ohi'ako (“ritual of gathering and thatching” designating the luakini ritual). The order of Kuali'i was devoted to the worship of Lonoikaouali'i and the temple rituals for this order were those of the kapu lama and those of the kapu loulu. 37 Aside from hereditary priests, many other ali'i belonged to this order. 38

The Kauwa


The kauwa were outcastes in that they did not participate in the kin relationship that existed between the ali'i and the makaainana and were viewed as antithetical to the sacredness of the ali'i. 40 Yet they were also called the aumakua 41 of their ali'i, the chief of the moku in which they resided. 42 Hence, symbolically they seem to represent a category of “demi-gods” of the earth who may have originally been earlier migrants to Hawaii and who were conquered by the later immigrants. In any case, the Kauwa were ritually killed by drowning—either in a fresh water stream or in the ocean—and sacrificed to consecrate the post hole in which the image of Ku stood in the luakini ritual. The significance of this lies in the fact that the luakini ritual is that which symbolically established the rule of a paramount chief and hence is sometimes referred to as the “Ritual of the King.” 43

The Kapu System

The kapu of the gods, which was different and distinct from the personal kapu of the ali'i, was a system of classification which crosscut the hierarchical ordering of society. This system of classification has been more frequently referred to as the kapu system. Because both the kapu of the gods and the kapu of the ali'i were embedded in the same ideas of - 412 cosmogonic origin, they were related systems. But the kapu of the ali'i 44 was distinct from the kapu system in that the kapu of the ali'i was a prerogative of birth which served to distinguish the ali'i from the rest of society whereas the kapu system was the principle by which all activity was organised.

The principle on which the kapu system was based was that of complementary opposition. This principle is exemplified in the Kumulipo, 45 a Haiwaiian creation chant in which the beginnings of the world were said to be derived from the procreative genesis of two complementary elements: darkness, Po, and light, Ao. From the progressive interaction of these two elements are created sea and land life, winged life, creatures that crawl and creatures that nibble. Each of these classes is governed by a parent pair, and the evolutionary scheme is one of passing progressively from darkness to light. It is during the period of light or day (Ao) that the gods and mankind are born. That which makes the scheme of complementary opposition striking is that from the first to the sixth eras, there is maintained a binary opposition between the land and the sea, for each form of marine life is correlated with a particular form of plant life on land.

In this scheme, that which constituted the sacred, positive aspect of nature was the male principle—the sky, light, life, day, knowledge, and strength. That which was considered the unsacred, negative aspect of nature was the female principle—earth, darkness, death, night, ignorance, weakness and the left side. Thus the kapu system as a system of classification pointed out those things which were considered sacred having been derived from the positive male aspect of nature and those things that were common and unsacred being derived from the negative female aspect of nature. The following is a chart listing some of these distinctions.

  KAPU (Sacred) NOA (Common)
TIME Kau (summer) Hooilo (winter)
  Four tabu periods in each month: The rest of the daysin each month
  tabu of Ku —1st to 3rd  
  tabu of Hau —12th to 13th  
  tabu of Kanaloa —23rd to 24th  
  tabu of Kane —27th to 28th  
SPACE Temples (heiau) Hale pea (menstrual house which was prohibited to men)
  Hale mua (men's house) Hale moe (sleeping house)
FOOD 1 First fruits of any harvest The rest of the harvest
  Pork Dog
  Bananas Breadfruit
1   Men and women were also prohibited from eating together.
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Coconuts Taro pudding (poi)
Ulua fish Sweet potato
Kumu (red goatfish)  
Niuhi (white shark)  
Honu (sea turtle)  
'Ea (sea tortoise) Other fish and reef fauna
Nuao (porpoise)  
Palaoa (whale)  
Hahalua or Hihimunu (spotted stingray)  

Reasons given for the existence of food kapus were that the interdicted items were aspects of the male gods, Ku, Lono, Kane and Kanaloa, or were used as sacrificial offerings to the aforementioned deities. Pork, for instance, was used as sacrificial offering to the gods and as feast food for males and was also a symbol of Lono in his manifestation as Kamapua'a. The coconut was said to be a “body” of Ku. The ulua fish was used as sacrifice as a substitute for a human victim to Ku in one of the rites in the luakini ritual. The niuhi was probably a manifestation of Kane as Kanehunamoku and was also the symbol of the paramount chief. The kumu fish was used as sacrificial offering in various rituals. 46 An infraction of any one of these kapus, if discovered, meant death.

The kapu system also delimited two ceremonial cycles, one during Kau and one in Hooilo. The one in Kau consisted of the observance of the four tabu periods of each month. During this period all planting and building—including the construction of both luakini and mapele temples—occurred, and warfare was permitted.

The makahiki or harvest festival was the ceremonial which took place during Hooilo. At this time warfare was strictly prohibited and the temple rituals which were observed in Kau were suspended. Only those rituals connected with the makahiki were observed. Further, work activities were restricted, and people were encouraged to participate in sports and use payments, kept distinct from the makahiki tax 47 which was originally probably an offering of the first fruits of the harvest to the god Lono, were collected.

There were also kapus within the family which had the effect of reinforcing the distinctions made among kinsmen in the kinship terminology. These proscriptions were known as the kapu 'ili ‘skin kapu’ 48 For example, it was prohibited for women to use any article of clothing that had already been used by males. This proscription maintained the vertical sex division. Distinctions between generations were maintained by the kapu that relatives of the same sex but of different generations could not share the same clothing. By extension it was prohibited for mother and daughter to wear material of the same print. Only Close - 414 relatives of the same generation were permitted to share the same clothing, i.e., brothers and male cousins, or sisters and female cousins. 49

Among the makaainana, transgression of any of these kapus and other misdemeanors could be atoned for at the pohaku o kane ‘stone of Kane’ which belonged to their family. This was not a temple but merely a conical stone with an altar in front of it and planted around with ti (Cordyline terminalis). The family went there early in the morning bringing a pig, kumu fish, awa and tapa as offerings. While the pig was baking they chewed the awa and when all was ready, a prayer for forgiveness and repentance was offered for the wrong committed by the family; then the awa was strained and drunk and the food eaten under kapu. When the kapu was lifted all the rubbish and remants of food were carefully buried in front of the stone and the family went their way. 50

However, in dealing with the ali'i these kapus were stricter and consequently the penalty heavier. For example, if a makaainana was discovered wearing the malo ‘loincloth’ of an ali'i, he was sacrificed to the personal god of that ali'i. If the same deed was done by another ali'i of lower rank, there was a possibility that he might be sacrificed, 51 but more often than not the offender was just upbraided. The only recourse for the makaainana was to flee to a pu'uhonua ‘place of refuge’. 52


Under the rubic of political organisation, the relationship between the position of the paramount chief and mana is of crucial importance. Mana is based on the notion that there exists in nature a psychic dynamism, not unlike the interaction of light (Ao) with darkness (Po), which is constantly manifesting itself physically. The term mana refers to that physical manifestation of this aspect in nature; in man it is expressed in all qualities and attributes which render visible proof of this divine energy in manifest accomplishment. In objects, rituals and processes it is exhibited in proven efficacy. No person or thing innately possessed mana, but beings and objects of all kinds had the potentiality, to a greater or lesser degree, of being mediums and reservoirs for the divine psychic potency. 53

The ali'i stratum, as more direct descendants of the gods, had a greater potentiality of becoming mediums and reservoirs of mana, relative to the other strata; furthermore, within the ali'i stratum this potentiality varied directly with rank. From this point of view, the personal kapus of the ali'i served to distinguish them from the rest of the populace viz-à-viz their greater potentiality, and the sanctions of their kapus were to insure that their potentiality would not be contaminated.

The paramount chief realised his potentiality by undertaking the arduous luakini ritual upon his accession to authority. At this time he petitioned his personal god, who represented an aspect of Ku, the god - 415 of war, fishing, forests, and government, to safeguard his govertunent. 54

The luakini ritual consisted of either the construction or the refurbishing of a luakini temple and a number of ceremonies during which long periods of absolute silence was required. The crying of a baby, the barking of a dog, an awkward step or false word by the kahuna would break the spell of rapprochement and were considered evil omens punishable by death as a sacrifice for the luakini. During the entire ritual, the most important activity was that of finding the aha. 55 If it was not found, the luakini temple would not be considered completed. 56

The first of the rites conducted within the temple grounds consisted of the symbolic binding of the land to the paramount chief. Four stakes were driven into the ground to mark the postholes for the House of Mana. Then the paramount chief and the kahuna nui ‘high priest’, both carrying a sennit cord, stood at one of the posts of mana. The kahuna nui recited an incantation to the god and when the prayer was finished the kahuna nui ran the cord winding it round the four posts of mana and rejoined the paramount chief at the post from which he started. Then a pig was sacrificed; thus the land was bound to the chief. In another rite, all of the ali'i who were under the paramount chief were required to pledge the fidelity of their spears and tutelary deities ‘kaal gods’ to Ku through the paramount chief who had just bound the land. At various stages during the ritual, human sacrifice and offerings of pigs and other foods as well were required. The final rite was that of declaring the temple free (noa). The female ali'i, relatives of the paramount chief, marched to the temple from the House of Papa 57 carrying one end of a long malo ‘loincloth’ which was to be used to gird the loins of the image of Ku that had been carved and set up in the temple. The other end of the malo was carried by a kahuna of the House of Papa. While the mola was wrapped around the image the kahuna recited the chant of the malo, called Kaioloa. 58 When this service was completed the temple was declared free (noa). If the luakini rites were well-conducted then the people and the priests would begin to have confidence in the stability of the rule of the paramount chief. 59 The luakini ritual expressed the binding of the land, sea, and the three strata of Hawaiian society to the paramount chief under the mandate of Ku. 60

Thus there existed between the paramount chief and the institutionalised priesthoods a symbiotic relationship. The kahunas, through their knowledge of sacred lore, secured for the paramount chief rapprochement with the gods by which the paramount chief's authority was legitimised. In return the paramount chief himself either supported the kahuna nui - 416 directly or granted to the kahuna nui land which was used to support the priesthoods. This relationship is exemplified in the legend of Umi, 61 an ancestor of Kamehameha. Umi was the son of Liloa, paramount chief of Hamakua, by a secondary mating with a woman who, although related to him, was of low rank. Upon the death of Liloa, Hakau, the former paramount chief's son by his union with Pinea, his mother's younger sister, became paramount chief. Umi's legacy was the family god, Kukailimoku (Ku—the snatcher of islands). Umi, denigrated by his high-ranking half-brother, exiled himself. Hakau neglected his religious duties and furthermore insulted the two high priests of the land. These two priests then sought out Umi who had managed to make the proper offerings to his god, even though he was in humble circumstances. To Umi the priests offered the chiefdom and secured for him the mandate to rule. Hakau was overthrown and was offered as a sacrifice to Kukailimoku. The kahunas of the institutionalised priesthoods held, as it were, the keys to the chiefdom. Thus it behooved the paramount chief not to alienate them lest he be overthrown.

The stress placed upon the efficacy of rituals and religion, in which were embedded the ideals of Hawaiian political life, should not be underestimated. It was firmly believed that if religious affairs of the society were not given proper attention by the paramount chief, political authority would pass into the hands of another chief under whom religious rituals would be strictly and correctly performed. 62, It was said that “the land cannot live under an irreligious chief, a staff that breaks easily.” 63 This implied that a paramount chief who was irreligious did not possess the strength (mana) with which to rule.

The administrative structure of Hawaiian society was viewed as having one body. The paramount chief was considered the head of the administrative body and the ali'i, the shoulders and the chest. The kahuna nui was the right hand and the kalaimoku ‘chief councillor’, the left hand. The warriors were considered the right foot and the farmers and fishermen, the left foot.


The main duty of the paramount chief was to initiate and participate in religious rituals, the efficacy of which was needed for the well-being of the society. Privileges of his position were: the light to redistribute land upon his accession; and the privilege of assessing the taxes on both the ali'i and makaainana for the use of the land and imposing penalties for failure to pay. To him, also, belonged the privilege of maintaining a body of warriors. 65

All of the administrative positions within this framework, excepting those of the kahuna nui and kalaimoku, were held by members of the paramount chief's immediate family, i.e., uncles, aunts, younger brothers and sisters. 66 Because they derived their rights to tenure from him, - 417 the rest of the ali'i including his immediate family were sometimes thought of as the pa or ‘defenses’ of the paramount chief. The ali'i through their konohiki ‘managers’ initiated the large undertakings such as the construction of canoes, fishing nets, and irrigation projects and engaged the craftsmen needed in these endeavours as well as other labour. They were responsible for gathering land-use taxes which were collected during the Makahiki and for raising the manpower needed for the army of the paramount chief. 67

Both the kahuna and the kalaimoku acted as advisors to the paramount chief, who would not undertake anything of importance without first consulting either or both of them. The duties of the kalaimoku required that he know the genealogies of all the ali'i so that he could tell the paramount chief who and how each ali'i was related to the chief and that he advise the paramount chief on the redistribution of land upon his accession. The kalaimoku was careful to advise the paramount chief against granting large districts to potential rivals such as younger brothers lest the wealth derived from the land give them the economic base for raising enough supporters to usurp the position of the paramount chief. 68 Conferences between the paramount chief and the kalaimoku were always held privately. During times of war the kalaimoku functioned as a military advisor and strategist. He also acted as an intermediary between the paramount chief and those who had complaints whether ali'i or makaainana. 69

Recruitment for the position of kalaimoku was from those ali'i who were distantly related to the paramount chief or from those makaainana who were skilled in the art of government. 70 They were then instructed in the decisions of former kalaimoku. This position, unlike tenure rights which changed upon the accession of a new paramount chief, was stable. When the paramount chief whom the kalaimoku served died, the kalaimoku continued in the same capacity to his successor. 71

As the kalaimoku advised the paramount chief on secular affairs, the kahuna nui similarly gave him advice on spiritual matters. The main duty of the kahuna nui was to make known to the paramount chief the regulations of the kapu system and to direct all of the major ceremonials. 72 - 418 It was also the kahuna nui's duty to help the paramount chief secure rapprochement with the gods in order that the paramount chief's rule might be stable and that the society might benefit from this relationship, in terms of abundant harvests from both land and sea.

Political Succession and Rivalry

Upon the death of the paramount chief the locality in which he expired became ritually polluted and for ten days succeeding his death the kapu system was suspended. The populace committed all types of excesses, body mutilation, and women defiled the temples and ate the interdicted food with impunity. His heir or heirs had to leave and reside in a different district during this period so that he or they may not be ritually polluted. At the end of this period the bones of the former paramount chief were secreted away to some unknown cave by a trusted servant. 73 These death ceremonies served to disassociate ritually the mandate to rule from the deceased paramount so that it may be re-established through the new paramount.

After the bones were secreted, the successor returned and re-established the kapu system and performed the luakini ritual. Concomitant with this re-establishment of authority, the new paramount chief redistributed tenure rights which upon the death of his predecessor reverted back to him. In practice there were only few changes in tenure, and redistribution was used to regroup the ali'i closer to the new ruler by cutting off distant relatives. 74 Rarely were the tenures below the level of the ahupua'a changed.

Frequently it was during this period of the re-establishment of authority that conflict within the kin grouping manifested itself. This conflict usually occurred between older and younger brothers or between classificatory brothers, both of whom were looked upon as possible heirs as long as their “father,” the former paramount, lived. However, when their “father” died, the rule was that the elder succeeded to political authority. The idea was that the elder would be heir to the land and the younger the keeper of the family god. Both would share equally and support and reinforce one another. This, however, was rarely the case.

Sources of Change

In view of the concepts presented in the first section of this paper, the ali'i stratum can be viewed as a kin group whose members shared the quality of charismatic leadership in varying degrees. The ideal was that from among them the one who possessed the greatest amount of charisma, the potentiality for becoming a medium for mana, succeeded to the position of paramount chief. But in order for his political authority to be established, this potentiality had to be realised in the form of a mandate - 419 to rule which was obtained from the gods through ritual. This mandate, however, could be revoked and given to another kinsman—if the paramount chief did not fulfill the obligations of his office—namely, that of devoting himself to the worship of the gods.

In real terms, the concept of heredhary charisma served as that which legitimated the existence of a privileged group in the society, namely the ali'is, and the ritual transmission of charisma was that which sanctioned the challenge to authority. In a highly stratified society such as Hawaii the latter concept gave the society some flexibility because it was a mechanism by which inept or oppressive rulers could be removed without repudiating the concepts upon which the political organisation was built. For example, Koihala of Ka'u was drowned by fishermen and Kokaikalani of Ka'u was stoned to death because they oppressed the makaainana. 75

In conjunction with the phenomena of land redistribution, the concept of ritual transmission of charisma made the Hawaiian polity highly unstable: if there were changes in land tenure those who were dispossessed or who thought that the division was unjust often resorted to war as a redress for their grievances. The case of Kamehameha is an example of this. After Kalani'opu'u was interred, his son Kiwala'o announced that according to the wishes of his predecessor the entire island of Hawaii was his domain but to Kamehameha, who was Kiwalo'o's cousin and classificatory brother, was left the moku of Kona, which traditionally was the domain of Kamehameha's kin group, and the god Kukailimoku.

The ali'i of Kona were dissatisfied and thought the division was unjust. They thought that the island should be divided in half. The reason was that both Kalani'opu'u and Keuoa, father of Kamehameha, were grandsons of Kaewe, who was the first paramount chief to unite the island of Hawaii. Both grandsons were regarded as equal heirs; hence it was felt that sons should also inherit equally. After Kiwala‘o’s announcement, the ali'i of Kona were determined to rebel and convinced their chief Kamehameha to lead the rebellion. 76

In this section the following points will be considered: the overthrow of the kapu system, some internal and external sources of this change, and some of the causes of the overthrow. Under the rubric of internal developments will be discussed modifications of the Hawaiian political organisations made by Kamehameha. These modifications, in conjunction with the concepts of hereditary charisma and the ritual transmission of charisma, made the Hawaiian political system more susceptible to change. Next, under the heading of external change will be discussed the types of Western contact and the effects of these types of contact on Hawaiian society. Emphasis will be placed on the economic aspect of the contact situation. Finally, in a section dealing with the overthrow of the kapu, events leading to the actual overthrow and the factors which motivated this action will be analysed.

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Internal Developments

Kamehameha, by right of conquest in 1795, was the “owner” of all the islands except Kauai and Ni'ihau, which were still under the rule of Kaumuali'i, paramount chief of Kauai. In adapting the Hawaiian political system to meet the requirements of the new situation, he made some fundamental changes. These changes were mainly those which pertained to land redistribution and administrative duties. Prior to Kamehameha's unification, the pattern of redistribution was to give sections of contiguous lands to relatives and retainers in traditionally held family lands; the practice actually had the effect of confirming tenure rights. But upon his consolidation of the islands, Kamehameha inaugurated a new pattern of land redistribution. He did not confirm the tenure rights to these hereditary lands but instead parcelled out smaller tracts of land in different mokus and on different islands to his kinsmen and followers in accordance to their rank and service and on condition of their rendering military service in the future and contributing part of their revenue. 77 Thus, rather than having tenure rights over a large section of contiguous land and being responsible for its administration, the ali'i now simply had tenure rights without any administrative functions unless appointed. Therefore, this new pattern of land redistribution entailed a differentiation between land tenure and administrative duties and a concomitant change in the administrative organisation.

To each island or cluster of islands, Kamehameha appointed a governor (kuhina) who, due to the new pattern of land redistribution, was in effect merely an administrator. His main responsibility was the collection of taxes which were apportioned by Kamehameha. Each kuhina had the privilege of appointing people to administrative positions within this administrative domain, subject to the approval of Kamehameha and Kalanimoku, whom Kamehameha had appointed his kalaimoku. 78

The explicit purpose of these changes was to separate the ali'i from their traditional source of power, the large sections of continguous land over which they held tenure and which they administered, and the makaainana, who were viewed as their junior kinsmen. Along with this new pattern of land redistribution, Kamehameha required the more influential ali'i to live with him rather than reside on their own lands where they might amass enough men and plot to overthrow him. 79

The effect of these changes was to break up the kinship ties between the ali'i of a moku and their constituents and alienate them from each other. There was no longer the feeling of mutual obligation between the ali'i of the moku and their junior kinsmen, the makaainana. A consequence was the greater and more effective exploitation of the makaainana. This exploitation occurred in the form of excessive taxation 80 and later in the form of an increased demand for labour to haul sandalwood. This marked a beginning of a shift in the conception of social stratification based on kinship to one which was less particularistic.

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External Change

From 1778 until the beginning of the sandalwood trade in 1804, contact with Europeans was sporadic and their impact peripheral to Hawaiian society. Ships stopping in the islands were mainly traders engaged in the Northwest coast fur trade in need of provisions for which they exchanged pieces of iron and nails. 81 Contact was transitory and limited to coastal villages with natural harbours such as Honolulu on Oahu, Lahina, Maui and Kealakekua, Hawaii, the latter being frequented most often. Ships rarely spent longer than was necessary to pick up provisions and make minor repairs.

During this period, life in the Hawaiian Islands was characterised by intermittent warfare. The ali'i, particularly the paramount chiefs, were quick to realise the advantages of having firearms, and they used their monopoly of their food supply to obtain muskets from traders. Kamehameha, by virtue of the fact that Kealakekua Bay in Kona, Hawaii, was part of his hereditary domain and that ships stopped there more frequently than at other harbours, was able to amass a greater amount of firearms and was thus able to bring the rest of the islands under his rule. Europeans who either were forcibly detained or had jumped ship lived mainly in the coastal villages which were frequented by visiting ships and they by and large assimilated themselves into Hawaiian society, adhering to the restrictions of the kapu. 82 Kamehameha, it has been noted was more than willing to provide for the comfort of such foreign residents he admired or found useful. As early as 1795 he already had three skilled craftsmen in his employ—two carpenters and a blacksmith. 83 Fifteen years later he had a considerable number of whites in his service, again mainly skilled tradesmen—carpenters, joiners, masons, blacksmiths, and bricklayers. However, he did place restrictions on foreigners: namely that they could not own land and could not erect permanent buildings (Western type houses).

The sandalwood era started in 1804 and lasted until about 1842. Between the years 1804 and 1805, Canton custom statistics show that 900 piculs (1 picul = 133⅛ pounds) of sandalwood were imported from Hawaii and by 1809 sandalwood was a regular Hawaiian export. 84 The peak of the trade, in terms of volume, was from 1810 to 1818 and was due to the abundant supply of wood and a good market in China. With regard to this trade Kamehameha retained for himself control over the use of sandalwood the collection of which he delegated to the ali'i who were then allowed to retain for themselves four parts by weight for every ten collected. 85 However Kamehameha also retained the right to be the agent of negotiation for the ali'i when bartering with the traders. 86

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The advent of the sandalwood trade was not without consequence for the whole society. External trade formerly consisted of the exchange of food for iron and this trade did not overburden Hawaii's subsistence economy. 87 But the collection of sandalwood for trade entailed diverting a large portion of the labour force from subsistence agriculture to the grueling task of cutting trees in the mountain forests and hauling them long distances to the seacoast. 88 A direct consequence of this diversion of labour was that many of the fields were left uncultivated 89 and fishing virtually ceased and that whatever was cultivated was harvested for the ali'i and their konohiki ‘managers’; the makaainana went hungry. 90 Moreover the new use of labour reinforced the breach already existing between the makaainana and the ali'i. The ali'i now viewed the makaainana not as junior kinsmen but as a resource to be exploited.

Also the ever-increasing and prolonged intercourse with Europeans and Americans who treated the ali'i as a privileged social class, 91 reinforced the ali'is new image of themselves vis-à-vis the makaainana. Thus toward the end of Kamehameha's reign the ali'i already had begun to think of themselves as a “landed gentry.” Aside from these notions, there was an increase in the number of semi-permanent foreign residents, namely men left to act as liaisons between the sandalwood traders and Kamehameha. Although these foreigners abided by the rules of the kapu, they nevertheless made it known that they and the rest of the world had different concepts of religion. 92

Overthrow of the Kapu System

Upon the death of Kamehameha, the usual mourning ceremonies took place, with the exception that no one was sacrificed to accompany Kamehameha to the unknown world. 93 During the mourning ceremonies, the kahuna kuni ‘sorceror-priests’ demarcated their place of prayer with white tapa flags rendering it kapu to all others and began to pray to find out if Kamehameha's death was caused by sorcery. However, their prayer was interrupted by Keeaumoku, brother of Kaahumanu, who tore their tapa flags while in a state of intoxication. 94 These kahunas then charged that Kaahumanu and her family were responsible for Kamehameha's death. 95

The period which followed Kamehameha's death up until the destruction of the forces supporting the kapu system at Kuamoo was a time of much uncertainty and confusion. The ali'i were divided. Some thought all tenure rights should now revert to Kamehameha's successor, Liholiho who would then redistribute them. Others held that Kamehameha had - 423 given the lands to them outright and therefore these lands were not subject to redistribution. But all of the ali'i agreed on one point: they all wanted a share of the profitable sandalwood trade. 96

Kaahumanu, who was the favourite wife of Kamehameha and for whom was created the new administrative post of kuhina nui ‘regent’, was the leader of the powerful Maui-Hilo ali'i. 97 It was this group that supported Kamehameha loyally throughout his career and to whom he had deeded land outright. Within this faction were most of the ali'i in the high administrative positions, Keeaumoku, Kuakini, Kalanimoku, and Hoapili; they were the ones who argued that the lands were not subject to redistribution. Kaahumanu was the first to realise that the kapu system was inimical to her group's vested interests in the existing administration and in retaining their tenure rights. The kapu system sanctioned the challenge to authority because it required that the mandate to rule be acquired through religious ritual. She convinced Keopulani, mother of Liholiho and also the highest ranking ali'i in the islands, of her beliefs and enlisted the support of Hewahewa, the kahuna nui of the Holoa'e order of kahunas by promising that he and the other institutionalised priesthoods could retain their lands and membership in the ali'i stratum. She decided, with Hewahewa's tacit consent, to abolish the food kapus first, because it did not involve a direct confrontation with those kahunas who were firm supporters of the gods. 98

During the mourning ceremonies Liholiho, Kamehameha's son by Keopuolani and heir apparent, and Kekuaokalani, son of Kamehameha's younger brother and the designated keeper of Kamehameha's personal god Kukailimoku, left Kailua, Kona, which had been ritually polluted by Kamehameha's death and went to Kawaihae Kohala. At the end of the ten-day observance, both were summoned to return, but Kekuaokalani had heard that Kaahumanu had planned to continue the ai noa, or “free eating” and attempted to dissuade Liholiho from returning. However, Liholiho decided to return but promised not to take part in the sacrilege. 99

After Liholiho was proclaimed the new paramount chief of the islands by Kaahumanu, he was confronted with the request from his mother, Keopuolani, to join her in breaking the eating kapu. This he refused to do even though he did nothing when his mother and younger brother, Kauikeaouli ate together in his presence. 100 Liholiho was also immediately confronted with the other problems of whether or not to redistribute the land and the requests of the ali'i to share in the profitable sandalwood trade. To these demands were added the petitions of the makaainana to drive all foreigners from the islands. 101 Liholiho unlike his iron-willed father Kamehameha was indecisive and sought to escape from making any decisions by postponing them.

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In August three months after Kamehameha had died Liholiho finally decided to call a meeting of the council of chiefs at Kawaihae. But only two issues were decided upon: (1) the ali'i were given control over the use of the sandalwood on their land and were given the right to act as their own agents; and (2) there would be no immediate redistribution of land. 102

After the meeting at Kawaihae Kaahumanu and the rest of her faction returned to Kailua. Even though Liholiho went to Honokohau to consecrate a heiau ‘temple’, he was intoxicated while performing the ceremonies, and the ritual was imperfect. 103 At this time Kaahumanu sent a messenger to him and requested that he return to Kailua and declare the ti kapu 104 to his god. It was then clear to Liholiho that the food kapus had been suspended in Kailua and that Kaahumanu was now requesting him to participate in the formal breaking of the kapu system. Before returning, he and his retinue of friends spent two days in his double-masted canoe coursing to and fro in the waters just outside Kailua getting drunk. When the wind died down, Kaahumanu sent a double canoe and paddlers to tow the boat into Kailua. Thereafter, Liholiho proceeded to a public feast where he ate with the chiefesses and by that act consented to the over throw of the kapu system. 105

Kekuaokalani did not participate in the ai noa but instead went to Ka'awaloa where he kept the kapu. He was soon joined by those who stood for the maintenance of the kapu system, the kahunas Kuaiwa and Holoialena and the warriors of the kahuna lines of Kauahi and Nahulu. They urged Kekuaokalani to start a rebellion, 106 citing the ancient proberb, “The chief who prays to the god, he is the chief who will hold the rule.” 107

Conciliatory efforts were made by Liholiho and Kaahumanu only to be rejected by Kekuaokalani, who would not compromise his beliefs. They asked him to return to Kailua where he could observe the kapu if he so desired, but in any case they would continue the ai noa. Kekuaokalani, however, maintained that he would only return if the kapu was reinstated. There was no other recourse except armed conflict and the opposing groups met at Kuamo'o. Both forces were about equal in number, but the supporters of Liholiho, commanded by Kalanimoku and equipped with more firearms, were victorious. Kekuaokalani and his wife Manono, who accompanied him in this battle, were killed. Their death, and the destruction of their forces effectively destroyed all belief in the efficacy of the gods. 108

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Ramifications of the Change

The overthrow of the kapu system signified the repudiation of the ritual transmission of charisma, namely the mandate to rule which was secured in ritual through the kahuna of the institutionalised priesthoods. This had the effect not only of secularising the Hawaiian polity but also of making succession completely hereditary wherein kinship rules of primogeniture operated. This served to stabilise the political structure, which in turn increased the power and authority of the central government.

In the organisation of the Hawaiian polity prior to the overthrow of the kapu system, the kahuna nui of the institutionalised priesthoods served as advisor to the paramount chief and in this position was able to exert considerable influence. However, after the overthrow of the kapu system, this position of advisor was subsumed under the office of kuhina nui (translated variously as regent, minister of the interior, and prime minister). The duties of the kuhina nui were to oversee matters pertaining to internal affairs, to advise the king 109 on other matters pertaining to the administration, and to act as regent for the king in his absence or in the case of his death, for his heir. 110 This office, when occupied by an ambitious and powerful person such as Kaahumanu, could be used to serve the ambitions of its occupant. Thus, Kaahumanu was in fact the co-ruler of the Hawaiian Islands and the force behind Liholiho's decisions.

It should be noted that succession to the office of kuhina nui, until that office was abolished, was based on kinship. Those who later occupied this office were of Kaahumanu's kin group. Upon her death she was succeeded by Kinau, daughter of her sister, Kalakaua (who was also known as Kaheiheimalie) by Kamehameha. Kinau, in turn, was succeeded by her half-sister Kekauluohi. Kalakaua was the mother of both of them, but Kelauluohi's father was Kalaimamahu, younger half-brother of Kamehameha.

The overthrow of the kapu system also affected the Hawaiian scheme of social stratification. For entailed in the repudiation of the system was an implicit repudiation of the kinship ties between the makaainana and the ali'i. Within the ali'i stratum, the former kahunas of the institutionalised priesthoods, although stripped of their former duties, were still considered members of this class. They maintained their lands and became like the rest of the ali'i, landed gentry. Also entailed in the abolition of the kapu system was the removal of the distinction between the kauwa and the makaainana. Now there was no reason for the kauwa to exist as a separate outcaste class.

Another consequence of this radical change was that the seasonal cycles, which were marked by formal religious ceremonies such as the Makahiki, were no longer observed. Hence, because it was no longer regulated by the definite cycles of the kapu system, planting, except for immediate needs, was desultory and unplanned. Also, since there was - 426 now no seasonal restriction of the inshore fishing, the breeding and spawning grounds were fished out. 111

Although the formal religion of state which was concerned with the welfare of society as a whole was destroyed, the non-institutionalised religion—or beliefs which were magical in nature, dealing with immediate efficacy—flourished. For although belief in the general efficacy of the gods was destroyed, the belief in their existence was never challenged. 112 The Hawaiians still believed that supernatural aid could be enlisted from the lower gods, such as Pele and Kanohoali'i, tutelary deities, and one's own ancestral spirits. Even up until the early twentieth century there still existed the belief that the kahma 'ana'ana kuni “sorcerer-priest” could still pray someone to death. 113

Summary and Conclusions

The previous sections have attempted to analyse the Hawaiian polity and kinship in terms of the concepts of hereditary charisma and the ritual transmission of charisma and to account for the overthrow of the kapu system in terms of these concepts. This final section will rely on the above findings and attempt to re-evaluate the work of other anthropologists.

Several positions cited in the first section may be reviewed, briefly. One anthropologist found that the main reason for the abolition of the kapu system was that the Hawaiians had become disillusioned and tired of their religion. Another concluded that the abolition of the kapu system was intended to enhance the political power of the ruling elite and to release the productive economy from the burden of supporting the various priesthoods. Others have emphasised the unsettling impact of the West upon Hawaiian society, the status inconsistency of women, and the tendencies of Polynesians to exchange older gods for more successful ones. These statements, of course, represent capsule arguments and leave out much detail; yet such summaries do enable us to focus our analysis on the key features of the positions expressed.

The notion of cultural fatigue, namely that the main reason for the overthrow of the kapu system seems to have been a “kind of social staleness” due to the Hawaiians becoming disenchanted with their religion, suggests two possible interpretations: (1) dissatisfaction with the system of beliefs; or (2) dissatisfaction with the belief system and the institutionalised means for expressing beliefs, namely the rituals and the system of institutionalised priesthoods. However, neither of these interpretations accurately described the situation. What appears to have occurred was that among certain powerful ali'i there was the realisation - 427 that the political system was embedded in and subjected to religious constraints and that such a religio-political structure was highly unstable, given past Hawaiian history. The kapu system constituted the core of this religio-political structure within which was embedded the concept of the transmission of charisma through ritual means and the institutionalised means of expressing beliefs. Thus the overthrow of the system was not an attempt to destroy a system of beliefs which had already been rejected by the people. Rather, it was an attempt to reorganise and consolidate the political authority of the central government. What was repudiated was the concept of the ritual transmission of charisma and the power and raison d'etre of the institutionalised priesthoods. What was accomplished was the differentiation between religion and the polity, at the institutional level. Thereby, the political system was no longer subject to religious constraints.

The second conclusion—that the kapu system was abolished for political reasons—is supported by this paper. The existing political order for which the kapu system provided the legitimation was no longer functional in terms of the new political situation. After the military unification of the Hawaiian Islands there were a number of ali'i who had been disenfranchised by their military defeat. Some of the more important ones who had not been executed were married to men or women of the new ruling elite, the Maui-Hawaii ali'i. Others remained unallied to the new ruling elite. Thus, there was a pool from which potential leaders could be drawn to challenge those in power. Realising that the kapu system sanctioned the challenge to authority, the ruling elite acted swiftly, after the death of their charismatic leader Kamehameha, to prevent their own downfall by destroying the kapu system.

The argument that the motivation behind the destruction of the system was to release labour and land controlled by the institutionalised priest-hoods has not been substantiated by this paper. Although the priesthoods no longer received the benefits from the utilisation of corvee labour, they still maintained control over their land up until the proclamation of the land reform by which the land was divided into portions which were granted fee simple, one for the king, one to be divided among the ali'i, and the third to be divided among the makaainana. But this paper has not proven that economic factors were inoperative, only that the specific economic reason cited is not accurate. What the abolition of the kapu did signify was that the economy was no longer subject to regulation by the kapu system.

Redfield offered three explanations for the overthrow of the system : (1) the Hawaiians' realisation that Western technology was vastly superior to their own; (2) the inconsistency between the high status of certain women in the social system and their low status as females; (3) the characteristic rejection by the Polynesians of old gods for more successful ones. The first of Redfield's explanations does not go far enough; it does not relate the Western impact to the specific political and economic changes, in the form of appointment to administrative positions apart from land tenure rights in the administrative district. Webb's explanation - 428 in terms of “European induced transformation” also suffers from the same inadequacy. Secondly, the explanation in terms of the inconsistency between the high status of women of rank in the social system and their low status as females is clearly not a sufficient condition because this inconsistency had always existed without any changes. Thirdly, the statement that the Hawaiians in particular and Polynesians in general were prone to exchange old gods for more successful ones leaves the important question of motivation unanswered.

I have tried to show that the concepts of mana and charisma have very similar qualities. Because the concept of mana is so widely shared among Polynesian and Melanesian peoples, a larger undertaking using propositions derived from the concept of charismatic authority might illuminate ways in which mana relates to social institutions and processes of social change.

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1   Kaahumanu was the favourite wife of Kanehameha I and Keupuolani was his sacred wife.
2   Handy 1931: cited in Davenport 1964a.
3   Davenport 1964b:18.
4   Weber 1947:358.
5   Weber 1947:358.
6   Weber 1947:360.
7   Weber 1947:361.
8   Weber 1947:362.
9   Weber 1947:364.
10   Weber 1947:364.
11   Weber 1947:365. Weber suggested six ways in which the problem of succession could be met, but only two are pertinent in this case.
12   Weber 1947:366.
13   Kroeber 1948:403.
14   Redfield 1953:128.
15   Webb 1965:21.
16   Webb 1965:21.
17   Davenport 1964a.
18   Entry into the ali'i stratum could be manipulated by the child or children of a fortuitous marriage, or by adoption and grant of land by the paramount chief. For examples see Fornander 1919:178.
19   The term moku had two meanings: (1) an entire island; and (2) a section of an island such as Ka'u, Kona, Ko'olau Poko and Puna. Here it is used as meaning a section of an island.
20   This designation is an inference from the following passages: “The fundamental unit in the social organisation of the Hawaiians of Ka'u was the dispersed community of 'ohana, or relatives by blood, marriage and adoption, living some inland and some near the sea, but concentreated geographically in and tied by ancestry, birth and sentiment to a particular locality which was termed the 'aina.” Handy and Pukui 1958:2. “ . . . the Hawaiians of Ka'u on the great island of Hawai'i considered themselves all offshoots ('ohana) of one stock.
“That the inhabitants of other of the ancient ethnic divisions in the Hawaiian islands, like Ko'olau Poko (‘Short Windward’) and Ko'olau Loa (‘Long Windward’) on Oahu likewise considered themselves, and in fact were originally 'ohana seems certain.” Handy and Pukui 1958:40.
21   The term ahupua'a designated a section of land from the mountains to the sea which was comprised of several ili. It also designated the “pig shrine” at the border of this land division.
22   This is an inference from the following passages: “In enterprise requiring communal labour the inland and seaward 'ohana combined. . . . “Equally the 'ohana functioned as a unit in external economic and social affairs. The levy of the ali'i during the period of collection of tribute (the Makahiki) or for offerings prior to making war, or in honour of his first-born used to fall not upon individuals or single households but upon the 'ohana.” Handy and Pukui 1958:6. This inference is, in part, also drawn from the fact that political divisions of land were reckoned in terms of ahupua'a or several ahupua'a and from the fact that Makahiki contributions were collected at the borders of the ahupua'a.
23   This is based on the following passage: “Many 'ohana made up the population of the ahupua'a, constitution altogether the ma-ka-'aina-na (people-on-the-land).” Handy and Pukui 1958:5.
24   Handy and Pukui 1958:201.
25   Handy and Pukui 1958:42.
26   A distinction was made between the kapu of the ali'i and the kapu of the gods. See Kamakau 1961:223.
27   Keauokalani 1932:195; Malo 1903:80. Malo refers to the offspring of a brother-sister marriage as having the rank of ninau-pi'o. But this term for designating the rank of such a child does not appear in other literature. The term pi'o is used instead, therefore that usage had been adopted. Also Malo makes a distinction between the hoi and naha types of marriages. This distinction coalesced in later times and the term naha was used to designate both types of unions. See Fornander 1919:307.
28   Umi and Kanehameha are examples of low ranking ali'i who led successful rebellions, usurping the position of paramount chief from their high ranking relatives.
29   Malo 1903:80.
30   Keauokalini 1932:196.
31   Umi married Kapukini, his half-sister and Kamehameha married Keopuolani, his first cousin through Kalani'opu'u.
32   Malo 1903:81.
33   The distinction implied here follows the distinction made by Max Weber, namely that institutionalised priesthoods were concerned with religion as a logical system and the maintenance of societal values; whereas magicians and sorcerers were concerned with problems of immediate efficacy. For more details, see Weber 1964:Chapter 2. The concerns of the kahuna of the kahuna pule class was similar to those of the institutionalised priesthoods. In opposition to this class were the various orders of kahunas who dealt with problems of immediate efficacy such as illness, death, divination, and black magic.
34   Kamakau 1964:3.
35   There may have been other priesthoods within this class prior to Kamehameha. Malo refers to the orders of Kanalu and Paliku. The order of Kanalu was devoted to the worship of Ku and its priests descendants of Paao also. The order of Paliku was devoted to the worship of Lono. Whether these were variant names of the same priesthoods or different priesthoods devoted to different aspects of the gods, Ku and Lono, cannot be ascertained from either source.
36   Paao was a priest from Tahiti who came to Hawaii during the period of migrations and to whom is ascribed the introduction of human sacrifice, the red feather malo as a sign of rank, the kapu moe and generally the strict religious observances which increased the power of the chief and priest. See Beckwith 1940:370.
37   Kamakau 1964:3.
38   Kamakau 1964:3.
39   Keauokalani 1932:144.
40   Kamakau 1964:8.
41   Amakua is translated as “family or personal god.” See Pukui and Elbert 1961:29.
42   Malo 1903:99.
43   Handy 1927:114.
44   For a description of the kapu of the ali'i see the preceding chart.
45   Liliuokalani 1897.
46   Handy and Pukui 1958:177.
47   Malo 1903:188.
48   Handy and Pukui 1958:48.
49   Handy and Pukui 1958:181.
50   Kamakau 1964:32.
51   Ii 1963:23.
52   Kamakau 1958:17.
53   Handy 1931:27.
54   Davenport 19646:17.
55   Here aha refers to a cord braided out of coconut fibre and a kind of seaweed which is found far out to sea. It is used in the decoration of the shrine of Ku. See Malo 1903:232.
56   Malo 1903:211.
57   The House of Papa (Hale o Papa) was the place where the female ali'i went to pray. See Malo 1903:214; 230; 233.
58   Malo 1903:247.
59   Malo 1903:230.
60   Davenport 19646:17.
61   Fornander 1919:178.
62   Malo 1903:252.
63   Handy and Pukui 1958:201.
64  Malo 1930:248.
65   Malo 1903:79.
66   Malo 1903:253.
67   Malo 1903:84.
68   Theoretically, the paramount chief owned all of the land under his jurisdiction but actually retained only a portion of it for his own use. The rest of the land he parcelled out by giving tenure rights to key members of the ali'i who were his close relatives and who in turn divided their portions among their lesser ranking followers and relatives. These rights to the use of the land were divided until they were finally apportioned to the actual tillers of the soil. Such land divisions only took place upon the accession of a new paramount chief. In practice, however, there was no drastic land redistribution and tenure rights to the lands were usually confirmed by the new paramount chief. Drastic land redistribution occurred only as a result of warfare. Each man who accepted tenure rights, although he owned taxes in kind as well as service to his landlord, was not bound to the soil. Prior to the unification of the Hawaiian Islands by Kamehameha, the actual tillers of the soil were thought to be the distant relatives of the ali'i who was their landlord. See Hobbs 1932:27 and pp 407-8 above for more details.
69   Malo 1903:252.
70   Malo 1903:261.
71   Malo 1903 :261.
72   Malo 1903:249.
73   Kamakau 1961:222.
74   Malo 1903:254.
75   Malo 1903:358; 367.
76   Kamakau 1961:118.
77   Westervelt 1922:26.
78   Kamakau 1961:175.
79   Kamakau 1961:178.
80   Kamakau 1961:231.
81   Morgan 1948:58.
82   A Lieutenant Puget met some of these foreigners who lived in the area of Kealakekua Bay in 1794 and remarked: “Each has selected his Chief with whom they live; they adhere to the Religious Customs of the Indians and are, as it were, become part of their Society.” Bradley 1942:41.
83   Bradley 1942:36.
84   Morgan 1948:62.
85   Morgan 1948 :63.
86   Morgan 1948:65.
87   Kuykendall and Day 1948:28.
88   Kamakau 1905:105.
89   Bradley 1942:56.
90   Handy and Pukui 1958:235.
91   Hunnewell 1909:9.
92   Hunnewell 1909:15; Westervelt 1923:30.
93   Westervelt 1923:34.
94   Westervelt 1923:34.
95   Kamakau 1961:219.
96   Mellen 1952:29.
97   Fornander 1919.
98   Mellen 1952:19.
99   Kamakau 1961:224.
100   Kamakau 1961:224.
101   Mellen 1952:27.
102   Mellen 1952:29.
103   Dibble 1909:127.
104   The “ti leaf kapu” was a request to the gods to take the kapu back to themselves and leave men free. Its symbol is the ti (cordyline terminalis) leaf. See Kamakau 1961:225.
105   See Kalakaua 1888:434.
106   There were other uprisings in Hamakua and Waimea, but these were considered minor and were easily quelled after Kekuaokalani was defeated. See Kamakau 1961:226.
107   Kamakau 1961:226.
108   Kamakau 1961:227.
109   In view of the change in the form of government, I think it is now legitimate to use the term king instead of paramount chief.
110   Jarves 1843:215.
111   Handy and Pukui 1958:235.
112   My father, when he was young, used to fish with a Hawaiian who told him that he was not afraid of sharks because they were his amakua (familiar spirit, or personal god, hence his protector). See also Kamakau 1964:73.
113   Dr Nils Larson (M.D.) of Honolulu has often related stories of how as a young doctor in Honolulu, he was called upon to treat people who believed that they were being prayed to death.