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Tales From the Night Rainbow (Page 4)
By Pali Jae Lee and Koko Willis
Hakahaka Leo O Ha'i 'Ouli: Omen Readers, Seers and Prophets
Since the beginning of time there have been seers and prophets living in our islands.
Ali'i prophets were often part of a group that served the chiefs. Chiefs wanted a prophet close at hand at all times to consult in regard to wars, his health, his future in general and the future of his enemies. Some of these prophets only prophesied things the chief wanted to hear (would plant a thought), and the chief, hearing and wanting these things to happen, would act accordingly ('upu).
The ali'i had other prophets - that would not lie, but told things as they really saw them. Some of these were put to death for being so truthful. The ancient ones (the pre-ali'i) had many men and women who had been born with the gift of prophecy. These people we saw as special. It was our belief that these people were very old souls who had come back into flesh to help others. Sometimes this was a family member (close family) or someone of a far branch of the extended family (ohana Iaha). We called these people kaula. It meant prophet. but it meant more than that - it meant pure energy - a true light carrier. Many of these prophets were also teachers. Around their schools (halau) and temples (heiau) they had many White Ti plants growing and Kukui trees. These were a sign to any who needed refuge, that this was a place safe from the storms of weather, or the storms of life.
Kaula were not people who would seek the limelight. You had to seek them out, if you had need of such a one. All were welcome at their door, ali'i and commoner alike.
Some of these holy ones asked questions, or requested certain things be brought from the forest or the sea to help him read the signs. Some had no need of anything except the question, and the truly great ones did not even need the question. Not all kaula found the answers the same way. Some shut their eyes and seemed lifeless. They would seem to not breathe. While in this state they said they could go to family in spirit, the future or the past to find the answer. Some said they would consult the family 'aurnakua.
The sex of the kaula was of no importance. Their ability, energy, and force was all that mattered. My own kumu (teacher) Maka weliweli, was a great prophetess and seer. The greatest kaula in our family, however, had been Kiha Wahine of Hana, Maui. It was her name I was given as my sacred name at birth, because it was hoped that I had been blessed with her mana (ability-strength). Maka weliweli was to teach me the things a seer or sacred one should know.
On Moloka'i the term kaula was not often used, but then kahuna was seldom used either. Perhaps this was because we had some of the most outstanding prophets and seers of Hawai'i nei living on our island. Lanikaula of Puko'o was a great one, Kai-akea was perhaps just as great but in different areas, and his daughter, the famous Maka weliweli, were just a few.
When I was about 13 years old there was a memorable experience involving one of the elders of our family. I do not know the name of the prophet who was involved in this happening. but the incident has always remained fresh in my memory. My great-uncle had broken his hip and it would not heal. The bone doctor had worked on him but the bone would not stay in place. The elders sent prayers to our ancestors and all of us who loved him also prayed in our own way. Offerings were made at the family altar. The herb doctor gave him medicine so he would not be in pain but still he did not get well.
One morning my uncle asked that he be carried to the Kukui heiau in East 'Ohi'a. It was an agricultural heiau, but uncle had heard they had a great healer there. It was quite a trip to carry an old man, but uncle was greatly loved, and his request was honored.
The elders chose four strong young men to carry Uncle Pu'u, and the elders followed behind. Food was carried for the journey. and mats so they could rest along the way. This healer was not of our family. and it was not known if he would see or help my uncle. Along the way the elders prayed. This whole procedure was most unusual. Family treated family. Everyone felt great suspense. Those of us who stayed behind tried not to worry but let the spirit family take care of uncle and the elders on their journey.
Uncle Pu'uolani had been one of the ruling elders of our Ohana for many years. He was very aged, but his mind was quick and his eyes bright. Before they started on the journey he asked the elders to pick another to sit at the 'aha (council) for him until he recovered. Pe'elua (my father) was picked, so he had gone with the elders on the journey to the Kukui heiau. It was from him that I heard the story in detail when they returned.
The trip to the heiau had been without incident. No one had called to them, there had been no barking dogs, the skies had been blue and clear, a high arched rainbow walked ahead of them. As they approached the heiau, a man came toward them. It was a strong youth in his mid-twenties. He told the men that he knew who they were and why they had come. He told them they had brought uncle a long, long way for nothing for his hip had already begun to heal. Uncle was old but he would live a long time. Then he looked straight at Manu, my cousin, who had helped carry uncle and told him to get his house in order, for his time was near. There was no way this young man could have known who they were, or why they had come seeking aid. They asked if he was the one they sought (for they had expected a sage of great years). He smiled in answer and invited them into the heiau for rest and food.
They rested that night at the heiau, with the young man and others like him giving them food and seeing to their wants. The next day they began the return journey home. Now that uncle knew he would live, he was at peace and quite merry. He did not feel ready to walk to his ancestors.
When people died and did not wish to go. or died quickly as in battle or some accident, they sometimes stuck around in spirit doing mischief. It was for this reason that we wanted all of the Ohana to feel at peace when it was their time to go. The 'aurnakua was waiting for them, would make the walk easy for them and make them welcome. It was the job of the family in flesh to help each other be at peace within ourselves, especially when we were about to leave this life and this body. When someone (as uncle had done) stubbornly refused to go, we did all we could to help them stay.
We were taught from the time we could understand, that there are no accidents. All things happen for a reason. We may not know what the reason is at the moment, but we were told to always be happy even for misfortune, for with it comes some wisdom that we could not have had otherwise.
In Uncle Pu'u's case, he lived several more years. Uncle had some difficulty walking after that and used a stick or cane, but when he finally passed over, it was in his sleep, with a smile on his face.
My hanai mother and my cousins who lived with me at the halau felt perhaps Uncle Pu'u had to go through such pain so that Manu could know it was time for him to go. He was the young man who carried Uncle's leg on the journey and whose death was foreseen.
No one spoke of what the healer had said about my cousin Manu, but no one forgot it. I expect it was heavy on his mind as well. He made many trips into the forest alone and to the heiau at night, when it is easier to speak to the gods, and the ancestors. Manu was still quite young. He and his wahine (woman / wife) had three small children, a newborn at the time, a little girl was just learning to walk, and a small boy of three years. Manu was a good man; a good fisherman, a good net maker, a good bird catcher and a good father. He was quick in his mind, and kind and thoughtful of others. He was already being considered to join the elders when he grew in years.
One day as he was throwing his net way out in the water, he saw his small son trying to come to him. He dropped his net and tried to get to his son to save him from drowning. His foot caught in a bit of coral and he fell under the water. He and his little son took the trip together to join our ancestors.
In our family, many things were known about each other. That was how we helped each other. In the case of Manu, his death had been foreseen by someone not of our family. That was most unusual. That is perhaps why it has always stayed with me. All people are our family, are they not?
My teacher and hanai mother Maka weliweli was great in knowing the future. She taught those of us at her halau so that we could know the future and the past. She taught us to leave our bodies and search out answers. These were lessons that took many, many years.
From the time I was quite small I realized there was something different where I was concerned. No one was allowed to touch my clothing. I knew I had a sacred name that had great mana (strength or power) but I did not know what it was. Sacred names were not told to us until the family elders decided the name was correct. This didn't happen with some until they had been grown for many years. Sometimes the name was not told until the death of the one who gave it. Sacred names were just that - sacred, and not to be fooled with. Only one person alive could carry a particular sacred name at one time. To give a child a sacred name of one still in body was to welcome disaster to the child and to the parents. To name a child with the known name of another (one who was loved and honored) was done often. In this case something was added such as opio (junior) to show that this child had been named for the elder of the same name. We had many Kaili's in our family - all with different endings. My sacred name was mine alone and I would not know it until the time was right.
The tradition of carrying the name of some one of your family line, now deceased, was done if the elders felt a certain person had returned to flesh. At other times, it was to bring the strength and wisdom of that family member back into flesh (almost a "wishing it so" type of thinking). In cases like that, it was not always right and names had to be changed; sometimes because the name was too heavy (powerful) for the child to carry, and it could be seen by the family that the wish would not be fulfilled. In some cases, Ka Maka o ... would be used."...the eyes of...", adding the name of the one whose name they wished to use. This was a sly way to try to get around what the family in spirit wanted. In some eases they let it be. In other cases the wrath of the gods came down upon them and the name was hastily changed.
It would seem to a Christian that what a child's name was would have little importance, and yet was not their carefully picking out names from the Bible book similar to what we did? Were these not holy names? Did they not wish to bring the mana of that person and their name to this new child?
My sacred name was not told to me, for fear I was not the right one or would disgrace the name, or bring discredit in some way. When I was told my name I was 12 years of age and had just become a woman. This was actually quite young to be told my sacred name.
My fellow students at our halau gathered kukui nuts, polished them carefully. and on the day that I was dedicated, gave to me my lovely kukui lei The nuts were uniform in size, polished brightly with the oil and fit around my neck perfectly. My kumu and hana'i mother, Maka weliweli, gave me a lei for my head made of kukui leaves and flowers. Now I, too, was considered a light carrier. My serious studies would now begin. I would learn the chants of our family. I had worked hard at my tasks these past years. I had tried to be humble; to listen and not to ask silly questions. I had tried to work quickly at the most menial task; to be prudent, patient, and always observing. I would now become a real student and be taught secrets I had waited long to hear. I was quite excited.
After my leis were presented to me, I was held by the hand and allowed to go up to the prayer platform where Maka weliweli sat to pray, to teach or to think. I sat facing my fellow students, and family members. Then Maka weliweli whispered my name to me and breathed into my mouth and onto the top of my head. To show emotion at this time was not correct. I thought I had not heard correctly. My mind seemed muddled and confused. The name she had given me was Kiha Wahine Lulu o na Moku (Sacred Woman - Keeper of the Islands). How could I bear up under such a powerful name? Tears were very close but from somewhere came a calm control, and the service of consecration continued without incident.
The known names in our'Ohana were crude and ugly. This was a common practice in the line of my father. Some of his sisters and brothers did not do that, but my father named all of his children names such as La hapa (half day - meaning shiftless or lazy), Ka'ili'me'eau (the itchy skin) and my name Kaili'ohe (the fetcher). but the saddest name was Ka mai wahine (the woman who was having her monthly period). The elders felt that mischievous spirits would not think we were worthy of their time and so would leave us alone. When I was older and lived among many foreigners I found their facial expressions priceless when we explained our names. You did not need to be a spirit to he turned away.
After the program of consecration took place at our halau a great feast was enjoyed by my fellow students, our families and our kumu. As important as this day was, the elders spoke of other things as we feasted that night. Things were changing in the world around us. Many foreigners had come to Hawai'i. Lahaina was lull of them and more were coming all the time. They had been able to push Liholiho (Kamehameha II) around, but the family understood that, for he was an even tempered man and not sharp-witted. He was also easily used by any who gave him liquor. Now there was a new king, Kaui ke a o uli (his younger brother Kamehameha Ill) who had been raised skillfully under the wing of Boki and Liliha. Kaui ke a o uli was a smart man. He had been taught to read and write by the long necks (missionaries), he carried the mana of his ancestors. Why then was he turning against his own people? Why was he taxing us so highly? Why was he sending men out as friends, to snoop and see how many pigs and dogs each household had - how many fishponds, how large a garden. One family member told us that he had heard that all the money being collected went into the pants of Gerritt Judd, and he would allow the king only money for certain things. They said in Lahaina they called Judd, "King Judd."
The family was greatly troubled and talk went on until dawn. So it was, as I embarked upon my years of greater learning, the omens were already there, our world was changing around us. None of us spoke of the prophecy of Maka weliweli that they would run us over and stamp us out, but there were none among us who did not carry the thought.
When I looked back upon those days from later years, it was not difficult to understand. Our own teachings of love and light had made us vulnerable. We welcomed the foreigners with aloha. When they asked for this or that, we tried hard to make them happy. We did not know that men thought they could own things like land, or ocean rights. These things were for all to use. The ali'i parcelled off things for their own use, but with a new a/ti chief, these things changed. Our rights were curtailed only temporarily. The foreigners were not able to see or understand how we believed from their pathway on the mountain. We were not able to see how they thought and felt from ours.
We, on Molokai, believed in the light. We tried to keep our bowls full of pure energy and to light the paths of all who came our way. Our people had been taught by holy men who had come to our shore centuries earlier that there was an Enlightened One. They spoke of him as if the sun shone from his back, and the a/i'i had copied this in their "burning back kapu. When the missionaries came they showed us pictures of Jesus. He was surrounded by light. The stories they told us from their Bible Book were full of loving one another. So, we all became Christians. I became a Christian many times. I found that I was alsopa'a (locked into my past). I continued to go to the halau; to meditate and spend hours in meditation. I could see nothing wrong in trying to keep my bowl full of light. It was difficult for me to understand why the foreigners did not wish to see anything.
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