In the Hawaiian culture the Kahunas were priest, doctors and masters of black magic among other functions. They practiced their rituals in sacred areas called Heiaus. The last remaining vestige  of the first Heiau constructed in ancient Hawaii can be seen at Bishop Museum.

The heiau Waha Ula , or as it was known in ancient times, Ahaʻula, is a luakine. This was reserved for the High Chief and his god of war Ku. Among the rituals performed would be that of human sacrifice.

Two orders of kahuna would be, first, Ku and next Lono. Ku was the god of war. Every service performed to Ku was elaborate and exacting. The priest who served Ku would have to have an excellent memory as he would be performing elaborate rituals and long involved prayers. One mistake or misspoken word could mean disaster.

Lono was the god of agriculture and peace among other things. His kahuna, though performing long prayers and rituals, did not have the heavy responsibility of the god of war.

Waha Ula was used right up until 1819. That year saw the ancient Kapu system (a system of laws) overthrown by Queen Kaahumanu.

Ku is on the left, Lono is in the middle and the god Kane (or another depiction of Ku as it has not been confirmed) is on the right. (you can check my earlier post concerning Ku in his wrappings http://wp.me/p1ai0c-2Z

There are three floors of displays as you enter the museum. Each floor is a realm. The third floor is called Wao Lani or The Realm of the Heavens. The second floor is Wao Kanaka, The Realm of  Man, and the first floor is Wai Kea, The realm of the Ocean. It is on this floor that you see above where you will see all of the gods including the heiau which is towards the front where the two people are standing

This replica of Waha Ula was as exact as the archeologist John Stokes could make in the year 1902. The actual stones from the heiau were put into this reproduction. He placed the kiʻi or images as near as he could figure out according to what pieces of carvings were left in place. The hale or house to the right might have been where images were stored when not needed.

Looking at images from the front.

This hale would have been where the priest had slept.

The photograph that is displayed with the exhibit shows the 1989 lava flow that had destroyed the visitors center at Waha Ula, but the heiau in front is still intact. The 1997 lava flow completely destroyed everything making the replica at the Bishop Museum the only connection to that ancient temple.

an aerial view of the heiau before destruction located in Puna, Hawaii

There is an excerpt of an old movie called Bird Of Paradise depicting what Hollywood thought a Kahuna should look like ( way off base) and who would be sacrificed (hmm) that will give you a laugh. (if You want to see a summary of the movie within ten minutes go to this site)


9 comments on “Kahuna’s

  1. Wonderful and interesting post with great photos…has me ready to visit!


  2. Sartenada says:

    I find this post also very interesting. There are so many new things to me.


  3. magnumlady says:

    Very interesting, great photos


    • Thank you so much. I just took a look at your photo stream and I was impressed. Especially when I read that you just point, shoot and upload! I could not live without my IPhoto unfortunately. Thank you for stopping by


  4. Oh, there was a lot here I wasn’t aware of, a lot to learn. But of course, all native cultures have had their gods, traditions and rites. It is bad so much is lost (I don’t mind that human sacrifice is lost), but at least it seems Hawaii know a lot of the ancient, and are honouring it. Very interesting and nice photos, Karen.


    • Thankfully the traditions are being revived. It started after the activist brought back the Hawaiian Language in the 1970’s. Thank you for the nice comments. Good to hear from you


  5. megtraveling says:

    Good post and pictures Karen!


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