A City Tour of Sacred Hawaii
The former Kingdom of Hawaii is host to millions of visitors every year from around the world. Nearly all of them enjoy the clear waters, the clean beaches, the flower leis, the swaying palms and the swaying hips that the islands are famous for. Extremely few ever get in touch with the rich spiritual and magical heritage of the land and the people around them. In this article I will take you on a short tour of the Sacred Hawaii that still lives in the midst of all the high-rise hotels and mega-resorts. Instead of taking you into the back country wilderness as you might expect, I'm going to show you what lies behind the veil of modern glamour in the places where most of the tourists unknowingly roam.
Let's start with Waikiki, a place where the presence of the sacred would definitely seem to have been shoved aside. Not so, however. Right across from the Hilton and next to the police station, sharing space with concession stands, lie four magical stones of power: Kapaemahu, Kahaloa, Kapuni, and Kinohi. They are also the names of four kahunas who came to the islands in ancient times to save the people from a great disaster, and it is said that they placed their power in the stones in case it should ever be needed again. A few years ago the stones were simply sitting on the sand, neglected, but more recently they have been given a place of honor in their own fenced-off section of Kuhio Beach, complete with plaques that tell their story.
Honolulu, the only incorporated city in the State of Hawaii, is busy and crowded and would seem to be even more out of touch with ancient sacredness than Waikiki, but the signs of it are all over the place if you know what to look for. A legend says that in the dim and misty past a man named Kapoi lived at what is now the upper end of Fort Street where it intersects with the Pali Highway after leading inland from the Aloha Tower. At that time Waikiki was a marsh and Kapoi was trudging through it looking for owl eggs. He found some and brought them home to eat, but an owl flew up just in time and begged him to put the eggs back. Being a kind man, ecologically-minded, and surprised at meeting a talking owl, Kapoi did just that, and the owl promised to protect him from all harm in the future. Kapoi was so impressed he built a temple to the owl spirit. Unfortunately, the local high chief thought that was a political act and he had Kapoi arrested for treason. Somehow the chief of all the owls, who lived on Kauai, heard about Kapoi's problem and gathered all his bird troops at Moanalua, which is about halfway between downtown Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, at Nuuanu Valley, where the Pali Highway goes over the mountains to the northeast side of the island, and at a location east of Diamond Head Crater. Then they attacked and defeated the forces of the high chief and helped Kapoi to rule in his place. Today each of these areas has numerous place names beginning or ending with the word for owl, pueo.
On the island of Maui the tour guides will tell you lots of ancient tales about the ten thousand-foot volcano, Haleakala, and about the many sacred sites to be found in Hana, well-known for its road with six hundred curves, but very rarely will you hear anything about the the two temples sitting on large sand dunes next to the industrial section of Wailuku not far from the airport unless you ask. And even then, most tour guides won't know anything about them. The temple nearest the ocean, Hale Ki'i, meaning "House of Images", was where one of the greatest kings of Maui, Kahekili, worshipped. The one further back is called Pihanakalani, which means Gathering Place of High Spiritual Beings. Both are in ruins now, but if you tune in you can still feel their powerful energy.
The spirit of Pele and the active craters of Kilauea Volcano attract the most attention on Hawaii, the Big Island. Pele's lava completely destroyed the town of Kalapana, so that puts her in the scope of this article. However, she is so overwhelmingly present that I want to direct you to another place of magic much less well known that is located north of Kona and just south of Kawaihae. Set among the golf courses, upscale shopping center and resort facilities of the Royal Waikoloan and the Hilton Waikoloa is 'Anaeho'omalu, "The Protected Mullet Fish". The name comes from a royal fishpond that used to be nearby, but today it refers to an area where certain specialists, possibly shamans, carved magical symbols in the hardened lava. Walking along a quiet, paved path among the lush, imported plants you can see an abundance of strange, geometric figures interspersed with a few human figures. No one has any idea of their original meaning, but perhaps if you place your hand on one and go deep within you might get in touch with the artist's intent.
Kauai, the Garden Island, is so rich in spiritual and magical places and so small in area that its hard not to find an ancient site no matter where you go. The one I've picked to share on this short tour is often overlooked, though, and fits our purpose for that reason. Its name is Hikina A Ka La, "Sunrise", and it is situated just north of the grounds of the Holiday Inn at Wailua/Kapaa, with no intervening fences or walls. In fact, the original temple area used to include the land that the resort is on now. The present site is on a low point bordered on the north by the mouth of the Wailua River and on the east by the ocean. There is a beach and picnic area next to it called Lydgate Park. From the temple grounds you can, if you want to, watch the tourists swimming and the traffic buzzing by on the main north-south thoroughfare, totally unaware of what is only a few feet away. Or, you can walk among the quiet, mostly shaded, stones that once played a major role in the spiritual life of Kauaians. It is known that one part of the site was a place of refuge, where criminals fleeing the wrath of a high chief could be cleansed of their sins and allowed back into society free of taint and punishment. There is less agreement for the rest of the site, but its location and some of its construction hint that it could have been a place for studying navigation. Also on the site, though usually covered by river water or sand, are a group of boulders covered with petroglyphs.
Ancient Hawaiians practiced skills that many of us would easily recognize today. They used telepathy, clairvoyance and geomancy. They did channeling, dream interpretation, and astral travel. They healed with herbs, energy, symbols and beliefs. The places where they did these things still exist, right where so many people think the modern world has taken over. Their descendants exist, too - in the same areas, doing the same things.
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Copyright 2002 Aloha International