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Tales from the Night Rainbow
By Pali Jae Lee and Koko Willis
History, as anything else, is seen and understood by where a person stands on the mountain.
All people climb the same mountain. The mountain, however, has many pathways - each with a different view. A person knows and understands only what he sees from his own pathway, and as he moves, his view will change. Only when he reaches the top of the mountain will he see and understand all the views of mankind. But who among us has reached the top of the mountain? Tomorrow, we too will see a different view. We have not finished growing.
Most Hawaiian histories have been written from the pathways taken by foreigners who wrote Hawaiian history as they saw and believed things to be. It was not a Hawaiian view, or from a Hawaiian pathway. These stories I tell you are from a pathway taken by my family, on Moloka'i. They are the stories as told by Kai-akea to my teacher and beloved mother Ka'a kau Maka weliweli (whom I will refer to only as Maka weliweli) and she in turn taught to those of us who were part of her halau (school) in Kapualei.
The ancient ones were the people who were maoli (native) to Hawaii. Seven or eight hundred years ago the Tahitians came to our islands, and since then the stories of our origins and life have been dominated by their outlook. In many ways the Tahitians were a people similar to us, but in other ways we were as light is to the dark. The early ones lived with an attitude about life that gave them what we would call great mana (power) over their surroundings, but it is really the power of love and kinship working through the feelings of the objects we live among.
Our ancestors lived in small family communities and were guided by the elders of the family. The families were called 'ohana, and all of the families on the islands who were of our line were 'ohana laha. Today we would call that a clan. There were many clans in those days and many people. Different communities belonging to a clan wore kapa (clothing) of the same color, but they had different markings on their kapa, to show to which part of the clan they belonged. When someone met a stranger and he wore the family color, he could tell to which branch of the family he belonged by these differences.
Each family had what we call an 'aumakua, a spirit felt as a living part of the family - a presence - like our ancestors, aware of us and ready at all times to show us the turns in our pathways. This spirit could be a part of anything or everything. Our family was a mo'o family. A mo'o is a giant lizard or dragon, however, we were kind to all creatures for they were our brothers. We felt more for the lizard because it was our belief that they brought us luck, protected us and watched over us.
Our family wore our hair shoulder length and the men wore short beards. Some other branches of the family cut their hair short and plucked their beards. All the descendents of Kanehoalani (the Kaiakea family) wore finger tattoos to show that we followed a holy life. Other branches of the family had other tattoos, and some wore no tattoos at all.
There were many clans in ancient days, each with its own color and its own 'aumakua. There was the shark family with its colors of grey. There was the shell clan who wore a dark red, and the owl family who wore kapa of browns. The thunder clan of Maui wore only the darkest black. On O'ahu there were families who wore orange (Leeward families) and in Koolauloa there were families with beautiful pink kapa. There were three very different and beautiful red kapa: the Kanekapa, Ke kupa ohi and Ke akua lahu.
On Moloka'i the gods were Ku and Hina. The temples (heiau) had an upright stone for KU (the male god) and prostrate flat stone for HINA (the female god). The temples of our family had a light which burned at all times and someone was always there to tend to it.
It was the belief of our family line that we had been here from the beginning. People had gone out from our land to the East and to the West, and populated other lands. We had chants that told of such migrations from our islands.
We taught by stories and parables. One of the earliest and most important to us was:
"Each child born has at birth, a Bowl of perfect Light. If he tends his Light it will grow in strength and he can do all things - swim with the shark, fly with the birds, know and understand all things. If, however, he becomes envious or jealous, he drops a stone into his Bowl of Light and some of the Light goes out. Light and the stone cannot hold the same space. If he continues to put stones in the Bowl of Light, the Light will go out and he will become a stone. A stone does not grow, nor does it move. If at any time he tires of being a stone, all he needs to do is turn the bowl upside down and the stones will fall away and the Light will grow once more."
The stories or parables were teachings and reminders. The maoli had stories of vines, trees, seeds, fish, earth, sea and sky: the things that were common to the people and that they understood. When a child began to speak, the family began to teach him about the world of which he was a part.
The ancient ones believed that all time is now and that we are each creators of our life's conditions. We create ourselves and everything that becomes a part of our lives. Any situation in which we might find ourselves is brought about by learning the many pathways of life. When we wish to change our circumstances, all we have to do is release our present condition. It will be gone. On the other hand, if we find it useful to continue, we can hang on to the problem and not let it go.
The early ones believed that there was one body of life to which we belonged. We had land, sea and sky. They, too, were a part of us. Everything that grew on our land and swam in our ocean we called brother and sister. We were a part of all things and all things were a part of us. The old ones knew this and lived accordingly. They did not destroy. They spoke to a plant that was to be picked and explained why it was being done. A rock, before being used as a part of a new house platform or heiau, would be asked if it approved of being used in such a manner. If signs were against such use, the people needing the rock moved to another location and asked a different rock. It was far better to do something correctly than in a hurry or without regard for the effects of our actions.
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