The Polynesian culture of the native Hawaiians fascinated me right from my first contact and I was trapped in admiration. It is so different from my European roots, but on the other side there are a lot of similarities with our pre-roman cultures. It’s based on the necessity to live in accord with mother nature and can teach us quite a lot in our time, where our technical progress has brought us to a point where we talk more and more about the global heating and climate change.
For this post I diligently researched the net and found a lot of information on Wikipedia. My goal is to explain to you in my own words why I am so fascinated, but don’t want to tell you lies. The first thing you realize when starting to dive into this adventure is the fact that there are a lot of similarities between the cultures of the other South-Pacific Islands. This is taken as a proof that the first Hawaiians did arrive with their outrigger canoes from exactly those islands.
As I already explained in one of my posts, the Hawaiians didn’t know any letters. There are quite a few places to be found on the islands with petroglyphs, but most of what we know today has been transferred orally from generation to generation. This is why one of most favorite pastimes for Hawaiians is „Talk Story“. They sit together and and tell each other stories and legends of the past. I will post my favorites in one of my next posts. They are very pictorial and poetic.
But let’s start first with a description of the different gods, the Hawaiians worshiped.
There are 4 main male gods. Lono, a god of copiousness, who was also in charge of music. In his honor the Hawaiians celebrated every year the Makahiki festival. During one of those celebrations Captain Cook set foot on the islands for the first time. The legend has it that Lono descended from heaven to earth on a rainbow to get married to Laka. Another legend tells us that he is the one who -on the island of Moloka’i- brought the Hula to men. Ku was the husband of the goddess Hina. As a couple they united opposites in each other. He was the only one that got human offerings. Kane (this is at the same time also the word for man) was the creator of heaven and earth. He had a shell that transformed into a boat the minute it was placed on water. And then there is Kanaloa, the god of the ocean.
The four female goddesses are Hina, the wife of Ku, which was the mother of life. She incorporates all characteristics of a woman. Laka, the wife of Lono, stands for beauty and dance, and therefore for everything sensual in our life. Pele is the best known goddess on the islands today. She is in charge of fire and the volcanoes. Actually she’s a rather nice lady, but if you get her mad, she let’s the earth rumble and the volcanoes spit fire. Legend has it that she lived on Maui’s Haleakala from where she was ousted and found refuge on the summit of Mauna Loa on the island of Hawai’i. Somebody must have made her real mad, since she’s spitting fire alongside the Kilauea since 1983 without taking a break. Finally there is Kapo, a sister of Pele. She is a dreaded witch that catches men and doesn’t treat them too nicely. A real maneater.
A very important part of the religion is Mana. Mana means first of all power, but it stands also for a strong energy, force and self-confidence. A old legend says, that the bigger your body, the more Mana it can accumulate. Therefore it was wise to be somewhat overweight. Since even your shadow is able to collect Mana there was a Kapu (taboo) that forbade regular people to step onto the shadow of a Ali’i (aristocrats). If you broke this rule you were sentenced to death.
The word Kapu even found it’s way in our language (English and German). It stands for a very strict prohibition. Kapu’s were invented by the Kings and could only be lifted by them. For example there was a Kapu that forbade men and women to eat together, a part from being on a canoe on the ocean. And women were not allowed to eat pork, turtles, bananas or coconuts. But even after breaking one of those Kapus you were entitled to a second chance. You were brought to a sacred place like Pu’uhonua O Honaunau Historical Park on the island of Hawai’i.
This is actual my favorite place on the islands. Today you can see an old Heiau (temple) and an original Hawaiian village. A convict was brought to the opposite side of the bay and had to swim through it. If he made it, he was a free man. But there were the best warriors and some unfriendly animals in the water to make it not too easy.
I am not much of a mystic believer, but when I came to this place for the first time on a very early morning I felt a very strong spiritual force in that place. There is a lot of Mana flowing. At night you are supposed to meat „night marchers“ here. These are the spirits of dead warriors that still walk the earth at special places. From what I was told they are usually harmless, but you shouldn’t risk to stand in their way. I know a lady with a lot of Hawaiian blood in her veins, that assured me that she has met those guys once. I myself am not very keen on meeting them.
That much for today. I will write more about this in a later post.