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Kanaka Maoli Spirituality

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Runt, May 3, 2006.

  1. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2004
    The Kanaka Maoli are the native peoples of the Hawaiian islands. Although many of the ancient practices of the Kanaka Maoli are long gone, other traditions are still a part of the lives of modern Hawaiian natives. Once a great pantheon of gods and goddesses were worshipped by the Kanaka Maoli. Today, however, ancestor veneration has replaced the worship of the gods as a focus of Kanaka Maoli spirituality. Nevertheless, some of the old deities are sometimes still recognized. The Kanaka Maoli attribute Papa (an Earth Goddess) and Wakea (a Sky God) with the creation of their race, and believe that these two gods essentially charged them with the protection of the land, which is considered to be inherently divine in Kanaka Maoli religion.[1] Another deity, Pele, goddess of the volcano, is sometimes supplicated with an offering of gin tossed into the Halemau’uma’u Crater, and “people still insist she appears on the roads, sometimes as an old crone with a little white dog, sometimes as a tempestuous young woman with flowing black hair”[2].

    The Kanaka Maoli possess a profound sense of community. This community not only includes other human beings, but also the land itself; it is their mother, their father, their brother, and their sister. The entire natural world is considered to be inherently divine, but certain places are believed to possess extra mana (personal power), and therefore are sacred. For example, North Beach is believed to be “a place of tremendous spiritual, cultural, historical and environmental significance”[3]. Many sacred sites, such as Black Rock and Ke Ana Pueo, are located here. At Black Rock the souls of the dead are believed to leap into the ancestral spirit world, and Ke Ana Pueo is the dwelling place of Hiding Woman and other owl-shaped guardian spirits.[4]

    The Kanaka Maoli’s sense of community is also exemplified by the concept of ohana. This word refers not only to the immediate family, but to the entire community an individual is a part of.[5] This family includes not only the living, but also the dead.

    Thus it is not surprising that ancestor veneration is at the heart of Kanaka Maoli spirituality. Ancestors and their descendents are believed to share a relationship of interdependence in which living descendents are responsible for protecting the graves of their ancestors in return for assistance in their daily lives. In order to keep this relationship alive and healthy, descendents must say prayers (called pule) in which they ask for assistance as well as engage in mo’oku’auhau (recitation of one’s geneology) to recognize and glorify their ancestors, who they, logically enough, consider the source of their very existence. They also are the guardians of their ancestor’s graves, protecting them from desecration.[6]

    Associated with this practice of ancestor veneration is a deep awareness of spatiality. The Kanaka Maoli believe that it is very important that “that which is above remains above” and “that which is below remains below”.[7] Just as it is considered right and natural for the living to walk the above world, so too is it proper for the bodies of their ancestors to lie in the ground below. The unearthing of a body from its proper realm, then, is considered to be an abomination. Once an ancestor’s body has undergone kanu (which means “to plant” and suggests that burial, for the Kanaka Maoli, has more of a connection with life than with death, as the souls of the ancestors are believed to nourish the lives of their descendents just as their blood and bones will nourish the earth), the dead should remain buried.[8]

    Thus a major issue in the Kanaka Maoli community today is the protection of graves. Native Hawaiians believe the graves of their ancestors must not only remain near their family, but must also remain untouched for the continued well-being of both the ancestral spirits as well as their living descendents to be possible. Unfortunately the heavy commercial exploitation of Hawaii today has resulted in the desecration of many graves—the bodies being carted off to museums or discarded to make room for hotels—and families are literally being torn apart as ancestral spirits are removed from their living descendents. Both sides are believed to suffer as a result. Descendents fear that the ancestors may “exact retribution for failure to protect them from those who would steal their mana” [9], a personal power which is believed to reside in the bones of both the living and the dead.
    Works Cited

    Ayau, Edward H. “Rooted In Native Soil”. <http://huimalama.tripod.com/rooted.htm>

    Berling, Jim; Mary Krebsbach; and Jorie Henrickson. “Cultural Significance”. <http://www.users.muohio.edu/shermarc/p412/haw97cult.shtml>

    Conklin, Kenneth R. “Is sovereignty necessary for Hawaiian culture to survive and strengthen?”.<http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/sovereigntynecessary.html>

    Fullard-Leo, Betty. “Aumakau”. <http://www.coffeetimes.com/aumakua.htm>

    Lazo, Janice; Ryan Lee; and Joanna Griffin-Boyce. “Cultural Legacy Project: The Healing Garden”. <http://www.hoolokahi.net/healgarden.htm>

    Maxwell, Charles K. “A Difficult Time To Be A Kanaka Maoli In Hawaii”. <http://www.moolelo.com/difficult-time.html>

    Pell, Richard W. “Hui Malama I Na Kupuna ‘O Hawai’i Nei”. <http://huimalama.tripod. com/>

    [1] Maxwell, Charles K.

    [2] Fullard-Leo, Betty

    [3] Berling, Jim; Mary Krebsbach; and Jorie Henrickson

    [4] Berling, Jim; Mary Krebsbach; and Jorie Henrickson

    [5] Lazo, Janice; Ryan Lee; and Joanna Griffin-Boyce

    [6] Pell, Richard W.

    [7] Ayau, Edward H.

    [8] Ayau, Edward H.

    [9] Ayau, Edward H.