Friday, February 25, 2011

Mo'o, Petroglyph, and a Dead Chief

Let me explain: this is my shadow—over a petroglyph at Puako. The shadows of the late afternoon lengthened along the trail, kiawe bushes snagging my dress, and sweat poured down my face as I hurried to the petroglyph field. Images hammered out in the lava—hundreds, no thousands. The more I explored, the more I saw. Every angle, every nitch, every bare spot filled with images—mainly people, primarily men; some with arms raised, others with arms lowered. Clearly there was the image of a dog, perhaps a spider, a sail, children, women in the act of birth--the story of a people saved in stone. What I thought would be a quick study turned into the realization that I would be coming back again and again—there is no quick study. There is much work to be done if I am to understand. Much work… and so to unite myself with the work, the image, the thought, the mana, I offered myself to the image. I too, am now a part of that field…and it a part of me.

This is the pond where the mo’o lives at Honanaunau. She is still there—see her making the ripples on the surface of the pond?

Years ago I visited Pu’uhonua o Honanaunau—the last residence of King Kamehameha I. Now that I have been studying Hawaiian history for the past two years, I am beginning to understand what I am seeing—if only through the glass, darkly. Now it is called “the place of refuge.” If a man could run miles across the lava, swim across a shark infested bay, crawl out on the shore, then only if he could make inside the doors of the heiau would he be safe. The idols are in place, next to the sacrificial altar. This day—and for many years past now—the altar was empty, but it was not always so. When the priests deemed it necessary, not only world worldly goods be placed on the altar—bananas, coconuts, a roasted dog or pig, so would they have also sacrificed a man.

On the ocean side of Ke’eku heiau, near the Outrigger Hotel at Keauhou Bay, I walked through the tide pool to get to the petroglyph of the Maui chief, Kamalalawalu. This king got some bad information from his scout and set out from Maui to conquer the Big Island. Alas, many warriors were hiding and the Maui chief was soundly defeated. The captured chief was tortured and finally beheaded before being offered up as a sacrifice.

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