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Traditions of Oahu

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In the land of Pukoula which adjoins Waiahao (now called Kawaiahao) in the district of Kona, O'ahu, was the home of Pumai'a. He and his wife raised hogs. At one time they had as many as ten hog pens. Among his herd of hogs, Pumai'a had a favorite, one that measured over six feet long. He vowed he would never part from this hog. Only after his death would the hog be killed.

Pua'a: pig petroglyph

Kuali'i, the king of O'ahu at this time, was building a heiau (temple) called Kapua, situated to the west of Le'ahi (Diamond Head) overlooking Mamala Bay. At the completion of the heiau, Kuali'i ordered that a hog be brought from Pumai'a's pens. When the messengers arrived, Pumai'a asked them: "What brings you here?"

"We've come for a hog for the king's temple. Give us one."

"Yes, take one," said Pumai'a. "There's the pig pen."

The king kept ordering hogs until all ten pens were empty, and only Pumai'a's favorite hog remained. Then Kuali'i sent his men after one more hog. Pumai'a asked: "What brings you here?"

"Kuali'i has sent for another hog."

"He can't have this last one. It's my favorite. He's just looking for trouble. He's being greedy."

The men then grabbed the hog and struggled with Pumai'a for it, many against one. Sometimes Pumai'a had the pig, then the king's men had it. This back-and-forth struggle continued until at last blows were struck. Pumai'a let fly with his fists to the right and left, killing all the men except one. This one went back to Kuali'i and reported the slaughter.

Kuali'i then ordered his soldiers and officers to arm themselves with spears and other weapons, to don their war helmets and feather capes, and when they were ready, to go and make war on Pumai'a.

After the first fight Pumai'a left Pukoula and went to Kewalo. There he met the king's soldiers again and another battle was fought. Pumai'a again slew all of Kuali'i's warriors and officers except for one. The survivor carried the news of defeat to Kuali'i.

When Kuali'i heard that his warriors and officers had all been killed, he called the rest of his chiefs and warriors together, along with his god, Kanemuka (a). Pumai'a in the meantime had moved on to Pawa'a. There he encountered Kuali'i and his men, and a third battle was fought in which Pumai'a slew all the chiefs and warriors, with the exception of Kuali'i and his god.

When Kuali'i saw that his men and chiefs were all slain, he prayed to his god to capture Pumai'a, and through its power, Pumai'a was caught and tied up. Kuali'i was so angry at Pumai'a, the pig farmer was immediately killed and dragged to Kapua, where his dead body was thrown into a pit with the men he had killed. During the ill treatment of his body, Pumaia's jaws were crushed and broken.

Meanwhile Pumaia's wife and young daughter were at home waiting for his return. When Pumai'a did not return by midnight, the mother said to the daughter: "Perhaps your father is dead. He usually returns home before dark."

While the two were talking they heard a shaking noise outside the house and an indistinct call to open the door. When the mother opened the door, the spirit ('uhane) of Pumai'a was there.

Since the jaw bones of Pumai'a had been crushed, the spirit's words were indistinct, so it had to resort to whispers and gestures of the hands, like a deaf and dumb person, in order to be understood. Pumai'a said to his wife: "I struck to the right and left and killed them all."

The wife asked: "You killed them all?"

"Yes, yes," he replied, at the same time bringing his hands together to indicate that no one had survived.

Pumai'a then said to his wife: "Let's go and get my body." The wife agreed and took a piece of kapa cloth in which to wrap the body. The cavorting spirit then went ahead, the wife following, until they reached the heiau of Kuali'i at Kapua and the pit where the body had been thrown.

The spirit of Pumai'a then flew and landed right in the center of the pit and danced above it; the night guards were fast asleep, as it was well on towards midnight, the Milky Way clearly visible. The wife entered the pit and moved among the dead bodies. The spirit whispered and motioned with his hands for the wife to remove the dead bodies. Then he pointed down toward the bottom of the pit. The wife followed the instructions until she found the body of Pumai'a, all bruised and torn, beneath the other corpses. She collected the pieces of his body and bundled them in the kapa cloth, put the bundle on her back, and returned home.

At home, Pumaia's spirit pointed at the floor of the house and told his wife to remove the mats, dig a hole, and conceal the body before the arrival of those who would search for the body the next day. The wife did as she was told.

The next day a search party arrived looking for the body of Pumai'a. The searchers asked Pumaia's wife: "Didn't you go and remove the body of your husband last night?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. Is Pumai'a then dead? This is the first I've heard of his death." The search party believed her and returned to the king.

After the men left, the wife said to the daughter: "I'm worried about how we are going to survive now that your father is dead."

Pumaia's spirit heard them and asked: "What are you two whispering about?"

The wife replied: "We're afraid. Who will provide for us, now that you bones are bloodless?"

That night, Pumaia's spirit returned and said: "Let's go away from here. Dig up my remains and take them with you."

After digging up the remains, the mother and daughter left Pukoula and walked toward the Ko'olau mountains along the road leading to the junction of Pauoa and past the pool at 'Alekoki. Then they continued past Ma'ema'e, and by dawn of the next day they reached Nu'uanu.

The spirit of Pumai'a flew to a cave at the top of one of the peaks of the Nu'uanu Pali and hovered there. (This peak is on the left, as you come down toward Ho'owahapohaku and look towards the eastern peaks of the pali.) The wife, carrying his bones, and the daughter then climbed up the cliff until they arrived at the cave. There they made their dwelling.

At the end of the fourth day, the last finger of poi for the daughter was gone. The mother said: "I'm worried about your fate. Here we are caring for your father's bloodless bones, while we have no food and meat for ourselves."

When they woke up the next morning they saw pigs, chickens, fish from the ponds, vegetables, and other things piled up in the cave. The spirit of Pumai'a had traveled over the whole district of Waikiki gathering things for his family.

For several nights, the spirit of Pumai'a kept up these raids; he even stole from Kuali'i's own lands. Besides food, he took canoes, mats, war helmets, feather capes, kapa cloth, calabashes, water gourds, and so on.

At night, Pumaia's spirit would enter houses, carry out the sleepers and then empty the houses of valuables. Upon waking up in the morning, the people would find themselves out of doors and their houses robbed; even the crops growing in the fields were gone. Thus, Pumaia's wife and daughter had all they wanted and far more than they needed. One day the wife sighed and said: "Yes, we have all we need, except for one thing­we have no servant to do our work."

When Pumaia's spirit heard this, he went off and brought back a servant for his wife and daughter.

Meanwhile, Kuali'i was asked who this mysterious thief could be. A priest who was living with him told Kuali'i: "This thief is your enemy Pumai'a; his body is dead, but his spirit is at large and is much stronger than when he was alive. You may soon be killed; only if you act rightly will you be saved."

"What must I do?" asked Kuali'i.

The priest replied: "You must build three houses; one house for Pumaia's wife and daughter; one house for their property and servant; and one house for the bones of Pumai'a. After that, go and get your enemy's bones and take good care of them; then he may forgive you, and you might live."

Kuali'i consented to do all the things the priest advised.

Pumai'a heard the priest's advice and Kuali'i's consent, and was amused. He advised his wife and daughter to return to the lowlands near shore. The wife obeyed and made ready for their return. While on their way back to their former home, they met Kuali'i's men who had been sent to bring them to the king. Upon their arrival at the king's house, they found everything prepared for their reception and thereafter, they lived, well-provided for, with the king.

"Pumai'a" was published in Hawaiian and English, in Fornander, Vol. IV (470-477). Compare the war over pigs at Kula, Maui described in Pukui, 'Olelo No'eau, No. 88: "'Ai pua'a a Kukeawe. The pork-eating of Kukeawe. Said of a person who is not satisfied with the number of his own pigs and so robs his neighbors of theirs. Kukeawe was a friend of Kahekili who was allowed to help himself to any of Kahekili's pigs in Kula, Maui. But Kukeawe also took the pigs belonging to the people of Kula, Honua'ula, and Kahikinui and plundered their possessions. These people rose in rebellion, led by 'Opu, and surprised the followers of Kukeawe while they were ascending Haleakala on the way to Kula. Kukeawe's party retreated but found their way blocked by other parties led by Kawhena, Kaho'oluhina, and Kuheana. Kukeawe was killed and his body set up a Palauea for all to see."

(a) Kane-muka: possibly "male god, smacking lips", a war god, requiring human sacrific. "Muka" refers to the smacking of lips in appreciation while eating, such as when the cannibals of O'ahu dine on their favorite meal. (See "Hanaaumoe".)


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