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.