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The Killing of The Cannibal King

Dennis Kawaharada

1. Birthing Stones / Cannibal Stones
(Photo, below right: The piko of O'ahu: Kukaniloko Birthing Stones.)

See Also...

Photo of KukanilokoAtop the gently rising plateau between the Ko'olau and Wai'anae Mountains, near the town of Wahiawa, is the geographical center of O'ahu. Four streams--Opae'ula, Helemano, Poamoho, and Kaukonahua--emerge from valleys in the Ko'olau Mountains and flow north, cutting gulches across the plateau before emptying into Kaiaka Bay in the district of Waialua. Streams whose headwaters are south of Kaukonahua--Waikakalaua, Kipapa, Waiawa, Manana--flow south, into the estuary of Pu'uloa in 'Ewa. (See Map of Central O'ahu.)

Just off the highway between Wahiawa and Whitmore Village, surrounded by a grove of eucalyptus trees in the middle of pineapple fields, is the royal birthing stone of Kukaniloko. The stone was established by the ali'i Nanakaoko and his wife Kahihiokalani for the birth of their son Kapawa. (Nanakaoko, who lived in Wahiawa and Lihu'e in Waialua, appears on the 'Ulu genealogy 24 generations after Papa and Wakea.) The site of the stones is described by Kamakau:

A line of stones was set up on the right hand and another on the left hand, facing north. There sat thirty-six chiefs [eighteen on each side]. There was a backrest, a kuapu'u, on the upper side; this was the rock Kukaniloko, which was the rock to lean against. If a chiefess entered and leaned against Kukaniloko and rested on the support to hold up the thighs in observance of the Liloe kapu [the prescribed regulations for birthing], the child born in the presence of the chiefs was called an ali'i, an akua, a wela­a chief, a god, a blaze of heat. (Tales 38)

After the royal birth, the newborn infant was taken about 300 yards south to a heiau called Ho'olonopahu ("Listen to the pahu drum"), where forty-eight chiefs attended the cutting of the navel cord. Four hundred yards west was the location of the sacred drum called Hawea, which sounded to announce the chief's birth. Commoners and kauwa (a class of outcasts) attended at a farther distance, to the east and south (Kamakau Tales 38).

"O'ahunui" by Emma M. Nakuina (published in Thrum's Hawaiian Annual in 1897, reprinted in Ancient O'ahu 51-57) opens with a reference to Kukaniloko, "the ancient birthplace of the O'ahu kings and rulers" and the headquarters of the "high priest of the island": "Every woman of royal blood had to retire to this place when about to give birth to a child, on pain of forfeiting the rank, privileges, and prerogatives of her expected offspring, should the child be born in a less sacred place."

O'ahunui, located a few miles east of Kukaniloko, was the former residence of the ruling chiefs of O'ahu. A stone in the shape of the island of O'ahu is said to rest there (Sterling and Summers 137). According to Nakuina's story, the last ali'i to live at O'ahunui was named O'ahunui. (No ali'i by this name appears in the genealogies of Malo, Kamakau, or Kepelino.) O'ahunui took to eating human flesh under the influence of cannibal chiefs called Lo-'Aikanaka, who came from the South Seas and settled at Mokule'ia in Waialua. "'Aikanaka" means, literally, "people-eater," metaphorically, a strong warrior or a ruler of men (A chief named 'Aikanaka appears in the 'Ulu genealogy as the father of Hema; he resided in Hana, Maui, and was known as an industrious and kind chief, not a cannibal [Beckwith Hawaiian Mythology 241-243]; according to one Tahitian tradition, Nona, the grandmother of Hema, was a cannibal [Henry Ancient Tahiti 552]).

Kamakau identifies Lo-ali'i as high-ranking chiefs, who belonged to Lihu'e, Wahiawa, and Halemano [Helemano]--places in central O'ahu (Tales 40; People 5). According to Kepelino, the Lo-ali'i were "called lo, because they kept up their kapu as chiefs even though they did not live with the ruling chiefs of the island but dwelt apart in the mountains" (196). The term "lo," according to Kamakau, is from "loa'a," "to obtain"; these chiefs guarded their kapu by living apart and thus from their ranks, "a 'guaranteed' chief might be obtained. They were like gods, unseen, resembling men." (Tales 40). How, or whether, these lo-ali'i were connected to the Lo-'Aikanaka of Nakuina's "O'ahunui" is not clear; however, both are said to have lived in the mountains (i kuahiwi) of central O'ahu.

According to "O'ahunui," the Lo-'Aikanaka were driven from Mokule'ia inland by the residents of Waialua "exasperated by the frequent demands on them to furnish bodies for the cannibal feasts." The cannibal chiefs fled upland and settled at Helemano, eight miles east of Hale'iwa in Pa'ala'a (McAllister 137), mauka of Kukaniloko, toward Waimea. From Helemano, these cannibal chiefs continued to send their warriors on forays to capture victims for their feasts. They invited O'ahunui to one of their feasts and fed him human flesh; the king found it to his liking, developed an irresistible craving for it, and took every opportunity to dine with his new friends. One day he sent his brother-in-law Lehuanui, a priest, to 'Uko'a fishpond in Waialua for some aholehole (an 'ono fish, brought to Waialua by the goddess Ihukoko). In Lehuanui's absence, O'ahunui killed his two plump nephews, potential rivals to his rule, and had them cooked and served to him. The spirits of the two children appeared to their father and told him of their uncle's abomination. Lehuanui rushed home and discovered that his sons had indeed been consumed. Their skulls were hanging from an 'ohi'a lehua tree, their bones buried beneath. Enraged, Lehuanui entered the O'ahunui's sleeping house and beheaded him as he slept "satiated on an excess of human flesh and copious cups of 'awa.The headless body of O'ahunui lay where he was killed, abandoned by everyone. In time, it turned to stone as a witness to the anger of the gods and their detestation of his horrible crime." Lehuanui also killed his wife, Kilikili'ula, for not protecting their children. She too turned to stone, as did all the servants who had participated in the cannibalism. The god Kane cursed the spot, and "no one has lived there since."

The story of O'ahunui begins with what was most sacred and ends with what was most heinous in Hawaiian tradition. The Kukaniloko birthing stone symbolizes the most exalted event­a royal birth. The highest value was placed on life and the most valuable life was that of a ruling chief, who embodied the mana of his divine ancestors, which had to be protected and maintained through pono (just) behavior for the health and productivity of his land and people. The cannibal stones located a few miles away from the birthing stones stood as a reminder of the most horrific crime­consuming the life of children, in this case his nephews, taking from the future to satisfy the perverse cravings of the present. Because his act desecrated the area, the royal residence at O'ahunui was abandoned and eventually moved to Waikiki. Kamakau places this move during the time of the mo'i (king) Ma'ili-kukahi: "Soon after he became mo'i, the chiefs took Ma'ili-kukahi to Waikiki to live; he was perhaps the first of the ruling chiefs to live there. Until then the chiefs had lived in Wai'alua and 'Ewa" (54).

Beckwith notes that "there is no proof that cannibalism was ever practised in the Hawaiian group" (340). But before it was planted over by pineapple fields (McAllister 140), the site at Helemano where the Lo-'Aikanaka supposedly held their cannibal feasts attracted 19th century tourists. The story of the cannibal king of central O'ahu became popular in travel accounts: Gilbert Farquahar Mathison (Narrative of a Visit to Brazil, Chili, Peru, and the Sandwich Islands During the Year 1821-1822) described to his readers the cannibal king's stone platter, on which the king supposedly carved up his victims. James J. Jarves (Scenes and Scenery in the Sandwich Islands During 1837-1842) described the site of the cannibalism: "The ruins of an extensive heiau can still be traced, and the site of the house of the chief, who was the terror of the island. Near it, is a large flat stone, which goes by the name of ipu kai, or meat platter." C.R. Whittemore ("Trip around the island of OahuMar. 16, 1895") reported "Our hosts showed us a rock where in olden times, they slaughtered, roasted and ate human beings. Tradition is that it was over two hundred years since that had happened and only rulers could do it then." (See Sterling and Summers 107-112.)

These 19th century reports of Hawaiian cannibalism are part of a Pacific-wide myth, spread by European and American writers. Robert Louis Stevenson (In the South Seas: The Marquesas, Paumotus and Gilbert Island, 1900) declared "'Cannibalism is traced from end to end of the Pacific, from the Marquesas to New Guinea, from New Zealand to Hawaii....All Melanesia appears tainted.'" (qtd. in Sacks 215).

The most widely read account of Polynesian cannibalism was Herman Melville's Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life During a Four Months' Residence in A Valley of the Marquesas (1846). Melville claimed that his book represented the "unvarnished truth," although scholars point out that Melville was on the island of Nukuhiva for about one month, not four months as his subtitle claims; and some of the things which he says he witnessed were borrowed from accounts of earlier travelers (Melville 313). The lake he describes sailing on with a Marquesan girl is also fictitious. The plot of Typee builds to a climax that hinges on whether or not the narrator, Tommo, is going to escape or be consumed by his allegedly cannibalistic captors, a tribe called Typee (spelled "Taipi" in modern anthropological texts). The narrator never actually witnesses cannibalism, but he claims to have seen in "a curiously carved vessel of wood" "the disordered members of a human skeleton, the bones still fresh with moisture, and with particles of flesh clinging to them here and there!" (265); he concludes that the Taipi had eaten three recently slain enemy warriors. The assertion that a story is the "unvarnished truth" is, of course, merely a convention of travel writing, and Melville (as opposed to his narrator) seems to suspect that the cannibalism may be an illusion: he apparently confessed to his wife that "he never had evidence that it was a custom of the tribe"; but as Paul Lyons points out, "However much his book parodies fears of cannibalism, Tommo/Melville remains haunted and obsessed by the subject" (Lyons 40-42), and his credulous Christian audience, hungry for stories about the savagery of non-Christians, swallowed the book as if it were fact.

The European and Euroamerican desire to believe in the cannibalism of natives in the Pacific and elsewhere, often without any direct or corroborating evidence of it, was self-serving. (See Arens, The Man-Eating Myth; Lyons 38-39.) As Europeans began leaving their shores in the 15th century to search for resources to feed the growing capitalist system and later, to establish markets to consume its products, they encountered indigenous peoples in practically every piece of inhabitable land on earth, including the most remote islands of the Pacific. "Cannibalism" became emblematic of "Savagery," a justification for conquering, converting, enslaving, or killing the natives they encountered, while appropriating their resources and lands. European scholars argued over an either/or fallacy: were the indigenous peoples innately perverse and therefore, unredeemable, or were they Noble Savages who could be saved? (Arens 78). The assumption that the indigenous peoples were at a lower stage of biological, cultural, or ethical development was not often questioned. But Arens has argued that the belief that Christians had the moral right to conquer and rule because the natives were cannibals was invalid because its premise was unsupported--there has never been reliable eyewitness account of native cannibalism (181). Whether there was evidence of cannibalism or not, it was absurd to argue that European colonizers were more "civilized" than natives. As the 17th century French scholar Montaigne points out in his essay "Of Cannibals," Christians perpetrated acts even more inhumane than cannibalism in the name of their--they tortured their victims alive:

I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead; in tearing by tortures and the rack of body still full of feeling, in roasting a man bit by bit, in having him bitten and mangled by dogs and swines (as we have not only read but seen within fresh memory, not among ancient enemies, but among neighbors and fellow citizens, and what is worse, on the pretext of piety and religion) than in roasting and eating him after he is dead. (155)

Natives sometimes repeat stories of cannibalism jokingly, serving up to gullible visitors what they think these visitors might want to ingest (Lyons 34). Tanaoa, a native of Tahuata I met in the Marquesas Islands, took great delight in pretending to gnaw on a human forearm or a freshly caught fish to "confirm" the Euroamerican belief in Marquesan "savagery." The joke is on ignorant tourists and travelers who crisscross the globe in order to validate the prejudices they lug around with them like so much baggage.

Melville reports the curious case of an old chief who claimed to have eaten the big toe of Captain Cook: "His indignant countrymen actually caused him to be prosecuted in the native courts, on a charge nearly equivalent to what we term defamation of character; but the old fellow persisting in his assertion, and no invalidating proof being adduced, the plaintiffs were cast in the suit, and the cannibal reputation of the defendant fully established. This result was the making of his fortune; ever afterwards he was in the habit of giving very profitable audiences to all curious travelers who were desirous of beholding the man who had eaten the great navigator's big toe" (Typee 261). Ironically, while Melville jokes about this old chief's sly subterfuge to gain notoriety and make money, he himself used a similar trick, profiting greatly from the sales of Typee, which became a best-seller partly because it contained an allegation of cannibalism. Melville became known as "the man who lived among cannibals."

More recently, travel writer Paul Theroux, wanting to sell a book entitled The Happy Isles of Oceania and feeling compelled to say something outlandish about Pacific Islanders, jokingly invented a new myth of cannibalism. No longer able to claim, like Melville, that he had lived among Pacific Island people-eaters, he speculates that "the people-eaters of the Pacific had all evolved, or perhaps degenerated, into Spam eaters" because "Spam came the nearest to approximating the porky taste of human flesh" [qtd. in Sacks 49]. How the vegetarian Theroux knows what both Spam and human flesh taste like is not revealed; perhaps he not only traveled among Spam-eaters, he partook of the dreaded meat, awakening in himself ancestral memories of feasting on human flesh in the dark, cold caves of Europe. (The Greek god Cronus devoured his own children; the Spanish artist Goya imagined and painted the gruesome scene.) Had Theroux wanted to write about real cannibals, he could have stayed at home and composed "Notable American Cannibals, from the Donner Party to Dahmer."

In Ruling Chiefs of Hawai'i, Kamakau gives a native account of what happened to the remains of Captain Cook. It was customary in traditional times to clean the flesh from the bones of a deceased relative or a powerful enemy and keep the bones, which contained the mana of the person. Kamakau writes: "Then they stripped the flesh from the bones of Lono [i.e., Cook]. The palms of the hands and the intestines were kept; the remains were consumed with fire. The bones Kalani'opu'u was kind enough to give to the strangers on board the ship, but some were saved by the kahunas and worshiped" (103). Some of Cook's men assumed mistakenly that because only the bones were returned, the rest of the body had been eaten; so spread the rumor that Captain Cook was a victim of cannibalism. Ka Mooolelo Hawaii, a native history collected by Hawaiian students at the Lahainaluna Seminary (1838), gives an even more graphic account of Cook's fate. Some inadvertent cannibalism is attributed to the folly of youth:

...they took Cook's corpse with them and those of four men who had died with him up to Ka'awaloa.

Then Kalani'opu'u sacrificed Cook; and when he had done so he stripped the flesh off the bones and the hand (palm) and the intestines­the latter for making a kind of cord.

They burned his flesh. The intestines were mistakenly eaten by some boys, Kupa, Moho'ole, and Kaiwikoko'ole. They thought they were eating dog intestines. Some of the bones were returned to the vessel. Some were kept and worshiped by the priest. (Kahananui, 174-175)

Nakuina's "O'ahunui," whether it is read as history or allegory (and it is possibly both), supports the assertion that cannibalism was antithetical to Hawaiian values; it was anathema to Kane, a god to whom life was sacred. Nakuina attributes the introduction of cannibalism to a foreign source ("chiefs from the South Seas") and recounts the rejection of the practice. From this perspective, "O'ahunui" is the type of story, found worldwide, which reaffirms the humanity of a group by establishing the rejection of human flesh as food. Arens notes: "The Chamula Indians of Mexico provide an interesting case. The Chamula share a common mythical structure of worldwide distribution which includes creation of humans and later their destruction for the commission of unpardonable sins. They look upon the present as the fourth re-creation, and explain the demise of the inhabitants of the first stage as being caused by their custom of eating their own children. cannibalism in the mythical past, as among the Chamula, often takes the form of one member of the family devouring another as the ultimate horror" (146).

Another story by Nakuina, "Nanaue, the Shark Man" (Thrum Hawaiian Folk Tales, 255-268) tells of the cannibalism of a half-man, half-shark, who developed an appetite for human flesh after being fed dog meat and pork by his maternal grandfather, against the command of his shark god father, Kamohoali'i. "Powerful and beneficent," the shark god was adamantly opposed to the consumption of human flesh. The cannibal shark was finally hunted down and destroyed by the people. As Arens notes of stories of cannibalism found in other cultures, "The fact that only those animals who somehow invert their own natural order, such as the renegade lion or tiger, and certain species such as the solitary nocturnal leopard or hyena, sometimes prey on humans for food strengthens the symbolic association between cannibalism and antisocial behavior" (140-141).


2. Feeding the Gods

While there is no evidence that cannibalism was ever customarily practiced in Hawai'i, Malo, Kamakau, and Ii ('I'i) give accounts of human sacrifice during the consecration of luakini­heiau for human sacrifice (Malo 159-176, Kamakau Works, 129-145, Ii 33-45). Human sacrifice is a kind of symbolic cannibalism, a feeding of the gods, with whom the ali'i were closely identified. The motive of human sacrifice was to gain a god's favors, particularly the war god Ku, but also the agricultural god Lono: luakini were built when one ruling chief was "about to make war upon another independent monarch or when he heard that some other king was about to make war against him; also when he wished to make the crops flourish." (Malo 160-161), or to bring "peace for the duration of the reign of the king" (Ii 45). According to Malo, there was an element of cannibalism during the luakini rituals: a man impersonating the god Kahoali'i (an underworld deity) "ate an eye plucked from the man whose body had been laid as an offering on the lele [a stand for sacrifices]" (174-5). A similar ritual act of consuming an eye of the man sacrificed is described by Malo as part of the Makahiki celebration in honor of the god Lono (152).

The contradiction between the abhorrence of cannibalism in everyday life and the practice of ritualistic cannibalism in a religious context may be explained, Arens believes, "by the paradox which is religion." Religion "often demands a suspension of everyday reasoning and standards," so that the abomination of cannibalism may be "transformed into the most sacred of all acts. In this way, the religious systems demonstrate their ideological superiority over other moral precepts and the human mind" (160). Arens refers the reader to the Eucharist, in which Catholics eat bread and wine that has been transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ.

It is also possible that there were two competing ethics in pre-contact Hawai'i: one associated with the god Kane, to whom life was sacred and human sacrifice and cannibalism, ritualistic or not, was abhorrent; and one worshiping Ku, which required human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism as necessary to obtain the favors of the gods during a war or famine or to prevent war or famine from occurring. But the reality was not that simple: in the rites at the heiau for human sacrifice, prayers were addressed to Kane, Lono, and Kanaloa as well as Ku (Malo, "Notes to Chapter 37" ["Concerning the Luakini"] l76-187; Kamakau Works 143; Ii 37-38). At the time of contact with the West, the kahuna included all four major gods when asking to have his prayers for an ali'i answered.


3. Taputapuatea

The practice of human sacrifice is said to have been brought to Hawai'i by the priest Pa'ao, who came from Wawau (Borabora) and 'Upolu (Taha'a ), two islands near Ra'iatea in Tahiti Nui. (Thrum More Hawaiian Folk Tales 46-52; Kamakau Tales 3-5, 97-100; Pukui Folktales 68-73). Pa'ao was notorious for his cruelty. He was a priest of Ku, the war god; his brother Lonopele was a priest of Lono (Tahitian Ro'o), the agricultural god. Both had farm lands, rich in sweet potato, taro, and banana. One day, Lonopele accused Pa'ao's son of stealing fruits from his land; Pa'ao denied the accusation and offered to cut open the stomach of his son to search for evidence to settle the dispute. Lonopele declined to pursue the case, but Pa'ao, incensed by the accusation, cut open his son anyway, and found nothing. He swore revenge against his brother for his son's death. He built a canoe to leave his homeland and placed a kapu on the canoe. When his brother's son came by and slapped the side of the canoe, Pa'ao had him put to death for breaking the kapu. Pa'ao then departed for Hawai'i. Lonopele sent stormy winds to sink his brother's canoe, but Pa'ao was saved by two fish­the 'opelu and the aku, which calmed the seas. (These two fish became sacred to his family, kapu during their spawning seasons; at the lifting of the kapu on aku fishing toward the end of Makahiki festival, the eye of an aku fish was eaten along with the eye of a human sacrifice.)

Pa'ao landed on Hawai'i Island and founded three heiau­Waha'ula in the district of Puna, Mo'okini in Kohala, and Hikiau in Kealakekua Bay, Kona. All three heiau were luakini, where human sacrifice was practiced.

According to one Tahitian tradition, the practice of human sacrifice in Polynesia originated at a marae (temple) called Taputapuatea in the district of Opoa, on the island of Ra'iatea, 120 miles WNW of Tahiti.

Ra'iatea, the largest and highest of the leeward islands of Tahiti Nui, might have been one of the first islands in Central Polynesia to be discovered and settled by voyagers from Samoa or Tonga. The first marae in the district of Opoa, about half a mile inland along a streambed, was called Vaeara'i, or "Foot of Heaven," which Handy interprets as meaning "The [first] settlement of the ari'i, or ruling chiefs," who claimed descent from the gods (Handy History and Culture in the Society Islands 84). The district of Opoa, eventually became the religious center of Polynesia. Buck writes, "The priests at Opoa gathered the warp of myth and the weft of history together and wove them into the textile of theology" (87). The general pattern of Polynesian religion was developed: a Sky Father Atea (Wakea) and an Earth Mother Papa were said to have given birth to children who had special functions:

Tane (Hawaiian: Kane), forestry and craftsmanship

Tu (Hawaiian: Ku), war

Ro'o (Hawaiian: Lono), peace and agriculture

Ta'aroa (Hawaiian: Kanaloa), marine affairs and fishing

Ra'a (Hawaiian: La'amaomao), wind and weather

Houses of learning were established, where scholars could study religion, genealogies, heraldry, and oratory, as well as astronomy, geography, and navigation. Scholars came to Opoa to acquire this knowledge, and voyagers spread the knowledge to other islands, including Hawai'i. Ra'iatea became a center of voyaging because its lagoon provided safe anchorage and its forests were abundant in trees for canoe-building. The great navigator and explorer Hiro went to this island in search of trees for his famous canoe Hohoio ("Interloper") (Henry 546-552).

After the pantheon of gods was spread to newly discovered islands throughout eastern Polynesia, the god Ta'aroa rose supreme over all the other gods in Ra'iatea. Ta'aroa may have been established as the supreme god after his priests were successful in ending a prolonged drought, which caused much suffering among the people. The priests ended the drought through human sacrifice:

Before the flood, when Maui the priest built marae and established priests in all the regions, the world was luxuriant and the people were in favor with the gods, so that they had no need of human sacrifices. But there came a time when there was great drought and excessive heat in Havai'i (Ra'iatea). And the king, moved to pity for his people told the priests to pray and present offerings to Ta'aroa that they might regain his favor and obtain rain from heaven to restore the land. The priests reflected and said, "We must have a pa'i-atua service," which was done with offerings of lean pigs, fish, and bird feathers, having no fruit or other things [because of the drought] to present with them.

[When these offerings had no effect] the King said, "We must humble ourselves before God; we must tremble with fear! Let us offer a man as a tapu (pledge or sacrifice) to atone for unintentional offenses and regain God's favor in this our great distress." So the priest slew a man and offered him at the shrine of Ta'aroa, and soon clouds gathered in the sky, and rain fell and restored the land to its former flourishing condition. Thus it was shown that the gods liked human flesh, which was called te avae roroa (long-legged fish). (Henry 196)

After the success of human sacrifice in ending this drought, the ritual was apparently adopted by the war god 'Oro as well. 'Oro was the son of Ta'aroa, and Taputapuatea became the marae for his worship. 'Oro was represented by an image woven of sennit "in the shape of a man, two or three feet long, and covered with red and yellow plumage"; the image was adorned with "a girdle of red feathers" (Henry 121), symbolic of the god's great mana. Just as the agriculture god Ro'o (Lono) received offerings of fruits, and the fishing god offerings of fish, the war god received offerings of corpses of slain enemies­the fruits of war: "To Taputapuateawere taken most of the heads of warriors, who were decapitated as they lay dead or wounded upon the battlefield. The heads were cleaned and closely stacked in rows in the crevices and nooks of the marae, where contrasted with the background of stones, they produced a terrifying sight" (Henry 121). The sacrifices to the war god were invariably men, though female victims of black magic or war were sometimes offered to 'Oro's daughter Toi-mata (Henry 198). Handy describes the terrifying practice of obtaining sacrifices from the general population (suggesting that human sacrifice eventually was practiced in peace time to prevent war and famine?):

The warriors of the chief would go out, sometimes by canoe, sometimes by land, going to this or that house through the length and breadth of Ra'iatea. Coming to a house they would inquire, "Aita te hue parari?" (Is the gourd not broken?) If an inmate replied, "No," the household was spared; but if the reply was, "Yes," the householder was thrust through with a spear and with all the members of his family, was taken back to the marae. Only adults were impaled; children had a spear thrust through one ear and were dragged in the water behind the canoe. Those that did not drown before they reached the Po ["Darkness"; the area surrounding the marae] were killed at the marae. The skulls of the sacrifices were thrown into the great box-like platform. (History and Culture in the Society Islands 89)

Malo describes a similar method for obtaining a sacrifice for the dedication of a luakini heiau: if no ulua (crevalle) could be caught for a ceremony called "ka-papa-ulua," a human corpse was substituted: " [The priests] returned to land and went from one house to another, shouting out to the people within and telling them some lie or other and asking them to come outside. If any one did come out, him they killed, and thrusting a hook in his mouth, carried him to the heiau. If there were many people in the house, they resisted and thus escaped" (172-173).

Taputapuatea eventually became the meeting place for the Te Fa'a Tau Aroha­The Friendly Alliance, whose members worshiped 'Oro (Henry 119-127). On an appointed day, the canoes from other islands in this oceanic alliance entered the sacred pass of Te Ava Moa, bringing human sacrifices with them to increase the mana of 'Oro as well as to secure a portion of that mana for their own gods.

On the deck of each canoe were laid out human corpses, alternating with crevalle, shark, and turtle. The sacrifices were brought ashore and the visiting gods were taken to the holy enclosure of the marae, where 'Oro was waiting to receive them. 'Oro was unwrapped from his red and yellow feathers; the lesser gods from the outer islands, each in turn, were unwrapped and presented by their owners to 'Oro. Each god offered a new feather amulet or loose feathers to 'Oro in exchange for some of his. The gifts from 'Oro were meant to add mana to the lesser gods or to replace feathers lost in battle. New gods (i.e. their images) were consecrated with gifts from 'Oro. After the exchange of gifts, the gods were re-wrapped and taken to the house of sacred treasures, which was 'Oro's home. From there, the gods of the outer islands were transported to their canoes for the voyage home (Henry 119-127; 157-177).

At the time of these sacred rites, which lasted three days, kapu (prohibitions) were enforced­a hush came over the land; no fires could be lit, no food eaten. (Compare Kamakau's descriptions of the restrictions during the luakini ceremonies in Hawai'i: "There must be absolute silence; no fire could be lighted, no tapa beater sounded. A solemn stillness must prevail when the 'ohi'a ko procession [carrying timber to manufacture the houses and images for the heiau] passed along" [Works 137-138]; "There should be no sound of bird, no hoot of owl, no cry of night heron, no quack of duck, no red glow at sea or of any object in the sky, no shooting star, no thunder or lighting as the kahuna went there with deliberate step, gradually leaving off his audible praying and giving the prayer to ward off evil influences" [141].)

After the ceremony at the marae was over, the kapu were lifted, and the people could breathe freely and eat again. A feast in honor of 'Oro was held on the marae, and the visiting gods were invited to partake of 'Oro's hospitality. Then the priests joined the people outside of the sacred grounds for another feast. Early the following day, the human sacrifices were buried. The corpses rendered the marae even more sacred (Henry 124-5).


4. Kapukapuakea
(Photo, below right: Kaiaka Bay, the site of Kapukapuakea.)

Photo of Kaiaka BayVariants of the place names Ra'iatea and Taputapuatea are found in Waialua, on O'ahu's north shore: Laniakea (Ra'iatea) is a beach area and famous surfing spot just north of Hale'iwa; and Kapukapuakea (Taputapuatea) was a heiau located near Hale'iwa on the east side of Kaiaka Bay. This heiau was apparently built much earlier than the luakini built by Pa'ao on Hawai'i Island. Pa'ao came to Hawai'i in the reign of Lanakawai, 43 generations after Papa and Wakea. Kapukapuakea is mentioned 18 generations earlier, in the genealogical chant of Kapawa, whose caul was placed at Kapukapuakea.

Could these places on O'ahu's north shore have been named by a group of Polynesian voyagers from Ra'iatea, who brought the practice of human sacrifice to Hawai'i before the time of Pa'ao? And could the stories of cannibalism associated with Waialua be connected to the ritualistic cannibalism of human sacrifice­victims captured by warriors of the invading chiefs and served on altars as food for their gods? One tradition of a man-eating chief called Kalo'aikanaka, who arrived on Kaua'i with a band of strangers and later fled to O'ahu, associates the cannibalism with "religious feasts" (Beckwith 342), rather than the secular banquets depicted in Nakuina's "O'ahunui."

A tradition of the rejection of human sacrifice on O'ahu is found in the story of the mo'i Ma'ilikukahi, who was born at Kukaniloko to Pua'a-a-Kahuoi and Nononui. Ma'ilikukahi was a descendant of the voyaging chief Mo'ikeha, through Mo'ikeha's son Ho'okamali'i and grandson Kaha'i. He appears five generations after Kaha'i in the Nana'ulu genealogy, 37 generations after Papa and Wakea. Ma'ilikukahi replaced Haka, a descendant of Mo'ikeha's older brother Kumuhonua, as mo'i of O'ahu. Ma'ilikukahi and Haka are archetypal chiefs, one pono (just), and one hewa (unjust). Such pairs turn up in Hawaiian genealogies whenever a change of rule takes place, a good chief deposing a bad one. The stories told about the two chiefs justify the change and serve to warn future chiefs that only through just rule could they remain in authority. Haka, like the cannibal king O'ahunui, was hewa­he was "stingy" and "did not take care of the chiefs and people. Because of this, the chiefs rebelled against him. Haka took refuge in the pu'u kana Waewae, the fortified hill at Kawiwi there in Lihu'e." He was betrayed by his watchman, who allowed the rebels into the stronghold at night. "The rebelling chiefs and warriors came up, crowding thickly into the stronghold. Haka was the only person killed" (Kamakau Tales 53-54). Ma'ilikukahi was consecrated to rule O'ahu at the heiau of Kapukapuakea, his navel cord symbolically cut and the ceremony of circumcision reenacted "to cleanse and purify him" (Kamakau Tales 54). He was famous for making O'ahu safe, productive, prosperous, and populous. He divided up the land, assigned a chief to each, commanded the chiefs to "cultivate the land, raise pigs and dogs and fowl," and not to steal from each other on penalty of death. He took under his care all the first-born sons of his kingdom and raised them as his own: "The chiefs and commoners loved him for his great aloha for their children" (55). He is said to have ended the practice of human sacrifices seven generations before Pa'ao re-introduced it to Hawai'i: Ma'ilikukahi "did not sacrifice men in the heiau and luakini. That was the way of the Kukaniloko chiefs. There were no sacrificial heiau, po'o kanaka ["human heads"], there" (Kamakau Tales 56).

No trace of the heiau of Kapukapuakea remains today. In the aftermath of the abolition of the kapu system (1819), the Hawaiian gods were repudiated and the heiau and images of the gods were destroyed. (Not without some resistance from some of the ali'i and kahuna; see "Abolition of the Tabus under Liholiho" in Kamakau's Ruling Chiefs 219-228 for an account of the resistance.) By the end of the 19th century, most of the native Hawaiian population­the estimated five percent that survived epidemic diseases introduced by colonists and immigrants­had been converted to Christianity by American missionaries. The stones of Kapukapuakea were perhaps used for road-building or other public works. Christians and converts no doubt justified their destruction of the old religion and heiau by pointing to the human sacrifices that took place at luakini heiau. But human sacrifice was hardly the essence of Hawaiian culture. Human sacrifice was practiced to prevent the devastation of wars or famine; and Ma'ilikukahi rejected and banned the practice even for that purpose. He was able to bring peace and prosperity to his kingdom by good management of people and resources instead.

In everyday life, the kanaka maoli valued generosity, productivity and procreation, good health, love of children, respect for elders, and long life. They prayed to Kane, the god of life-giving water, for long life:

a kaniko'o ("until cane-tapping"; i.e. walking with a cane)

a haumaka 'iole ("until bleary-eyed like a rat")

a pala lauhala ("until the hala leaf dries")

a kau i ka puaneane ("until the extremity of life is reached"; "when universal decay is coming on, yet the person is free from pain or suffering"; "a world of light and life"--"he ao malama, he wahi e ola mau loa"; "eternity"--Andrews.)


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