Visiting the gods at Bishop Museum



Looking at the kids whispering behind fanned out hands or staring up at the whale means I’m loosing them. Sometimes it is hard to get certain groups to listen at all. When this happens I like to scare them a bit.

He helps to keep kids in line

Kalaipahoa Poison God Made With Human Hair

We walk across the first floor passing the cases of gods with dogs teeth jaggedly set in or tall wooden carvings looking down at them with eerie grins and we head to my favorite god of them all. 


Kaneikokala came to the museum with a provenance. The story of the discovery of this god was told to the staff by the son of a man named Wahinenui in the early 1900’s. This man led his family in the middle of the night, down the road to a neighbors house where he ordered them to dig. 

And dig they did, past the water table until they hit something solid. It was Kaneikokala. He was at one time the god of fishing. Wahinenui had never heard of this god until he came to him in his dreams. The god haunted and taunted him nightly begging to be taken out of this cold place. He gave Wahinenui directions in his dream on just how to find him and told him that he would also soon die. 

Many gods had been destroyed in the early 1800’s at the direction of Queen Kaahumanu. Some Hawaiians did not want to destroy their gods so they buried many of them. That may be how Kaneikokala was buried. Wahinenui ordered everyone to pull Kaneikokala out of the hole where he was then taken and washed off and given a lei of coconuts and some kawa in his mouth and some fish laid at his feet.

A few days after the discovery of this god, Wahinenui died in his fishing hut on top of his nets. 

Many years later, in the 1980’s a woman from Japan was looking at Kaneikokala and read of his reputation. She went out and bought a bottle of Sake and placed it at the feet of the god as her husband was a fishermen back in Japan. 

She came back year after year to perform this ritual as each year her husband had good fishing. At some point she stopped coming. Maybe she was too old to travel or her husband no longer fished or who knows. 

Three years ago the Hawaiian Hall underwent renovations. It was decided that the god needed to be moved as they did not want him displayed in that area anymore. 
So the jackhammers, picks and other digging equipment were brought out and they started to work. 

They dug, hammered, and pulled. Kaneikokala was not having any of it. He refused to be moved. Try as the workers might they just could not get him out. So there he stayed. I think, and so does the staff that he knew that was the place for him because as it turned out the gods that were displayed in the cases next to him all had something to do with water. 

The lines on the forehead indicate that this is one of the water gods

Now that the kids have been totally focused on me and are kind of chewing on their fingers or locked arm and arm I take them to the second floor to get the ants out of their pants. It’s all hands on up there and theirs nothing like a little entertainment to level off a little scare. Soon they are all laughs and smiles and they end their day on a very happy note. 

Poi Pounding, matt weaving and general, blow off steam activities.

IpuʻAina Refuse Bowl & Kalaipahoa

Hawaiians had a way of demeaning their enemy even into their enemies grave!

To protect the bones and teeth from being taken from their chiefs, the Hawaiians hid them away after their Alii Died. ( High Chiefs) In part this was to protect them from ending up in a bowl like the one seen above.

The above bowl was inlaid with the teeth of this particular chiefs enemies (ipu ʻaina) in order to desecrate and shame the fallen enemy  even after death. Now that is what I call revenge.

But if that doesn’t work for you how about a little extra fibber in your enemies food?


The above god was called Kalaipahoa and was made from the Kalaipahoa tree that can be found on the island of Molokai. The tree is considered to be quite poisonous. Just a few shavings into your food could kill you. The Kalaipahoa seen here is a female.
When giving tours to the teens at the museum it never fails that some of the boys will start rolling thier eyes and yawning. The girls will have intelligent questions about things that I point out but very seldom will the boys.
When this happens I like to take them to look at the above poison god. There is nothing like a little murder and mayhem to get their attention. And of course they love the fact that the bones and teeth of someones enemies were put into a bowl to spit in.
The museum has something for everyone. But I donʻt always find something to keep the kids interest  as can be seen by the photo below.
These small children were watching their classmates below as I was talking about a display. I turned around and found I had lost my audience. They have a way of humbling me.