Tuesday, November 4, 2014
It may not be ‘officially’ Makahiki season yet (I’m a couple weeks early) but the Pleiades is coming up in the late night sky now—and will soon be on the horizon at the time when the temple priests would be declaring it time to put away the war god, Ku, and pay tribute to the harvest/ fertility god, Lono. I use the term ‘tribute’ to not only include the rituals of honor, but to also include the time to pay the yearly ‘taxes’ to the king—after the harvest.
Waimea Valley on the North Shore of Oahu is known as the valley of the priests. The last Lono priest to live here was Hewahewa, kahuna during the reign of Kamehameha. After Ka’ahumanu took over and he was not able to gain the trust of the missionaries (even though he had converted to Christianity and was one of the leaders in the overthrow of the kapus), Hewahewa retired to Waimea where his ancestors had lived since the time of Pa’ao. Hale o Lono heiau is right outside the entrance to the botanical gardens.
The valley has been through a series of owners, and finally OHA has complete possession, caretaking the botanical gardens and turning the valley into a Hawaiian experience. The grass houses are being rebuilt. I was particularly interested in the ladder—quite ingenious, actually.
In the park are wondrous plantings from Hawaii and around the world. At the end of a three quarter mile walk is the waterfall. Even though the water was still murky from recent rains, the lifeguards are stationed at the pool below the waterfall, ready to help people on with their life vests, which are now required after there had been a couple of people who didn’t make it back to shore. As the lifeguard helped me on with my swim vest, I kidded him about the mo’o grabbing people, but he pretended not to hear me, just saying, “Be careful and stay away from the left side…falling rocks, you know.” So I eased myself into the refreshing pool, paddled across the pond to the waterfall, said my harvest prayers, and paddled back.
The Picture I Did Not Take
After we had wandered the gardens for several hours, I asked my friend Karen (a relative newcomer to the island) if she wanted to see the sacrificial heiau, Pulu o Mahuka, on the top of the ridge. We drove up the hill, then down the road and parked the car. Karen went over to the plaques that explain the surroundings and was reading the information. A plastic bag floating in the breeze captured my attention. I was not the only one looking at the floating plastic; it had also captivated the attention of a very large black pig. I quickly surveyed our situation: there was a rock wall between us and the pig, but pigs (even a fat pig) can outrun a person. I used my rusty geometry calculations to measure the angle of the pig to the car, and the distance from the people to the car…and realized that if the pig got it in her mind that we were worthy of her attention, she could beat us to the car. “Eh…Karen…” I said, not wanting to alarm her, “there is a pig over there. They can be dangerous. Let’s very calmly move toward the car… just in case.” It was only when we started to move that the pig noticed us—and came to the edge of the rock wall. When the sow realized we were moving away from her—and not coming toward her, she halted. As we watched from the safety of the car, she went back to her pineapple.
People are asked to stay out of the temple, but they leave offerings near the fence at the upper end of the heiau. I, myself, have been known to leave a flower, a coin, or a piece of fruit by the hole in the barbed wire fence. Someone had wrapped a dendrobia orchid lei around the fencepost. On the ground the hog was wrestling with a large pineapple. She picked it up by the green, prickly end—and dropped it when it poked her in the eye. She picked it up again—and dropped it. Finally she pushed the pineapple around with her snout, picked it up by the ‘meat’ end, and trotted off through the hole in the fence to the jungle. I laughed out loud. “People think the gods eat the fruit,” I chuckled. “And really the pig gets it!” It was only after I was driving away that I realized I should have pulled out the camera and gotten a picture of the pig! It is only the third pig I’ve ever seen in Hawaii—counting the boar I saw strapped to a pickup hood one Sunday afternoon when the hunters and the barking dogs in the back announced their kill to the neighborhood.
The next day, on my way over the pali, I saw two smaller--again black--porkers by the side of the road. They were not big enough to have been living on their own, so I surmised the momma must have not fit through the fence, but was watching from the safety of the jungle nearby.
Two pig sightings in less than 24 hours?! How could that be? I went to my library to research Hawaiian culture and learned more about Lono, the god of the rainy season. In one of his physical manifestations he presents as an all black pig, pua’a hiwa. In his mythological human form, he is Kamapua’a, the pig god who was one of Madame Pele's lovers. And so, I understood that my prayers of thanksgiving had been acknowledged.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
I took a tour to show a friend some sacred sites. Here are the offerings people left for the New Year.
Pu'u o Mahuka
Pu'u o Mahuka
What a mess for someone to clean up! The offshore wind was starting to blow and the fake paper money was traveling....
Jack Daniels at Kukaniloko
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
My intention was to go out to Nu'u and beyond—to the coconut grove where Kekaulike lived. Sahlins and Kirch claim that whole area—from Nu’u to Kaupo--was the largest sweet potato growing area in the islands because of the soil from the alluvial fan spread down the mountainside from the Kaupo Gap. I had thoroughly intended to explore the area--and actually got out of the car and took some photos at one point, but I ended up getting back in the car and continuing. The road to Hana winds around the
coastline--very narrow in some places with signs that say "Honk" before you venture around a sharp corner/boulder and run smack into an oncoming vehicle.
I stopped on the bridge for a picture of the waterfall--surprised when I later realized it was the only waterfall I was to really see all day. When I mentioned it, I heard that there has been a drought and that the usual waterfalls all along the windward coast of Maui were barely trickling.
I stopped to eat my egg salad sandwich at Waianapanapa State Park but I didn't even get out of the car--something kept pressing me to go on down the road. I passed the sign for Kahanu Botanical Gardens and said, "Hey! That's where Pi'ilanihale Heiau is!" And I turned around. I drove down the road, not stopping at the lava tube but going straight to the gardens. I got out of the car to pay and ended up chatting with the nice lady. Finally she said, "You'd better get going."
I drove down the cement trail to where the cars park and was taking my time strolling through the gardens--looking at the red sugar cane--wondering how and when I was going to see the heiau. I looked up and actually had one of those "Oh My God!" moments. That rock structure is enormous! In my travels I've not seen anything like it--I've seen heiaus that have been reconstructed--Puukohala comes to mind--up there on the side of the hill at Kawaihae--that has been rebuilt with the help of the National Park Service. Although grand, it does not compare to Pi'ilanihale--which has stayed and has been cared for by the Pi'ilani family.
I wanted to see if I could get the whole length of the structure in one picture and walked out to the lawn, but even then it was not possible.
The clouds were rolling off the slopes of Haleakala, creating dazzling back-lighting opportunities. I could almost hear the pahus, almost feel the ground shake the closer I got to the heiau. I could imagine cloaked chiefs coming to the edge and peering down at me. The air was still--almost like the rocks absorb the noise--and yet it felt like the drums and chanting had just stopped and the air was still vibrating.
I peered into the canoe shed, took one last look at the heiau and felt a strong hand in my back, pushing me toward the car.
The rays from between the grey clouds made picture taking a challenge. I kept shielding the lens with my left hand. Finally the spirits moved my hand so I could get the shot they wanted me to take.
I literally had shut the car door and the rain beat down on the roof and windshield--the gods had been waiting for me to get in our of the rain and turned on the faucet the moment I was safe. I laughed out loud--and thanked them for keeping me dry. The rain was pounding down so hard I could barely see the cement path--rain like I've only seen a few times before--a wall of water--like standing behind the waterfall.