Hawaiian religion encompasses the indigenous religious beliefs and practices of the Native Hawaiians. It is polytheistic and animistic, with a belief in many deities and spirits, including the belief that spirits are found in non-human beings and objects such as animals, the waves, and the sky.
Hawaiian religion originated among the Tahitians and other Pacific islanders who landed in Hawaiʻi between 500 and 1300 AD. Today, Hawaiian religious practices are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Traditional Hawaiian religion is unrelated to the modern New Age practice known as "Huna."
Hawaiian religion is polytheistic, with four deities most prominent: Kāne, Kū, Lono and Kanaloa. Other notable deities include Laka, Kihawahine, Haumea, Papahānaumoku, and, most famously, Pele. In addition, each family is considered to have one or more guardian spirits known as ʻaumakua that protected family.
Another breakdown consists of three major groups:
One Hawaiian creation myth is embodied in the Kumulipo, an epic chant linking the aliʻi, or Hawaiian royalty, to the gods. The Kumulipo is divided into two sections: night, or pō, and day, or ao, with the former corresponding to divinity and the latter corresponding to mankind. After the birth of Laʻilaʻi, the woman, and Kiʻi, the man, the man succeeds at seducing and reproducing with the woman before the god Kāne has a chance, thereby making the divine lineage of the gods younger than and thus subservient to the lineage of man. This, in turn, illustrates the transition of mankind from being symbols for the gods (the literal meaning of kiʻi) into the keeper of these symbols in the form of idols and the like. The Kumulipo was recited during the time of Makahiki, to honor the god of fertility, Lono.
The kahuna were well respected, educated individuals that made up a social hierarchy class that served the King and the Courtiers and assisted the Maka'ainana (Common People). Selected to serve many practical and governmental purposes, Kahuna often were healers, navigators, builders, prophets/temple workers, and philosophers.
They also talked with the spirits. Kahuna Kūpaʻiulu of Maui in 1867 described a counter-sorcery ritual to heal someone ill due to hoʻopiʻopiʻo, another’s evil thoughts. He said a kapa (cloth) was shaken. Prayers were said. Then, "If the evil spirit suddenly appears (puoho) and possesses the patient, then he or she can be immediately saved by the conversation between the practitioner and that spirit."
Pukui and others believed kahuna did not have mystical transcendent experiences as described in other religions. Although a person who was possessed (noho) would go into a trance-like state, it was not an ecstatic experience but simply a communion with the known spirits.
Kapu refers to a system of taboos designed to separate the spiritually pure from the potentially unclean. Thought to have arrived with Pāʻao, a priest or chief from Tahiti who arrived in Hawaiʻi sometime around 1200 AD, the kapu imposed a series of restrictions on daily life. Prohibitions included:
Hawaiian tradition shows that ʻAikapu was an idea led by the kahuna in order for Wākea, the sky father, to get alone with his daughter, Hoʻohokukalani without his wahine, or wife, Papa, the earth mother, noticing. The spiritually pure or laʻa, meaning "sacred" and unclean or haumia were to be separated. ʻAikapu included:
Other Kapus included Mālama ʻĀina, meaning "caring of the land" and Niʻaupiʻo. Tradition says that mālama ʻāina originated from the first child of Wākea and Hoʻohokukalani being deformed so they buried him in the ground and what sprouted became the first kalo, also known as taro. The Hawaiian islands are all children of Papa, Wākea and Hoʻohokukalani so basically meaning that they are older siblings of the Hawaiian chiefs. Second child of Wākea and Hoʻohokukalani became the first Aliʻi Nui, or "Grand Chief". This came to be called Niʻaupiʻo, the chiefly incest to create the "godly child".
Punishments for breaking the kapu could include death, although if one could escape to a puʻuhonua, a city of refuge, one could be saved. Kāhuna nui mandated long periods when the entire village must have absolute silence. No baby could cry, dog howl, or rooster crow, on pain of death.
Human sacrifice was not unknown.
The kapu system remained in place until 1819 (see below).
Prayer was an essential part of Hawaiian life, employed when building a house, making a canoe, and giving lomilomi massage. Hawaiians addressed prayers to various gods depending on the situation. When healers picked herbs for medicine, they usually prayed to Kū and Hina, male and female, right and left, upright and supine. The people worshiped Lono during Makahiki season and Kū during times of war.
Histories from the 19th century describe prayer throughout the day, with specific prayers associated with mundane activities such as sleeping, eating, drinking, and traveling. However, it has been suggested that the activity of prayer differed from the subservient styles of prayer often seen in the Western world:
...the usual posture for prayer – sitting upright, head high and eyes open – suggests a relationship marked by respect and self-respect. The gods might be awesome, but the ʻaumākua bridged the gap between gods and man. The gods possessed great mana; but man, too, has some mana. None of this may have been true in the time of Pāʻao, but otherwise, the Hawaiian did not seem prostrate before his gods.
Heiau, served as focal points for prayer in Hawaiʻi. Offerings, sacrifices, and prayers were offered at these temples, the thousands of koʻa (shrines), a multitude of wahi pana (sacred places), and at small kuahu (altars) in individual homes.
Although it is unclear when settlers first came to the Hawaiian Islands, there is significant evidence that the islands were settled no later than 800 AD and immigration continued to about 1300 AD. Settlers came from the Marquesas, Tonga, Samoa, Easter Island, and greater Polynesia. At some point, a significant influx of Tahitian settlers landed on the Hawaiian islands, bringing with them their religious beliefs.
Early Hawaiian religion resembled other Polynesian religions in that it was largely focused on natural forces such as the tides, the sky, and volcanic activity as well as man's dependence on nature for subsistence. The major early gods reflected these characteristics, as the early Hawaiians worshiped Kāne (the god of the sky and creation), Kū (the god of war and male pursuits), Lono (the god of peace, rain, and fertility) and Kanaloa (the god of the ocean).
As an indigenous culture, spread among eight islands, with waves of immigration over hundreds of years from various parts of the South Pacific, religious practices evolved over time and from place to place in different ways.
Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui, who was raised in Kaʻū, Hawaii, maintained that the early Hawaiian gods were benign. One Molokaʻi tradition follows this line of thought. Author and researcher Pali Jae Lee writes: "During these ancient times, the only 'religion' was one of family and oneness with all things. The people were in tune with nature, plants, trees, animals, the ‘āina, and each other. They respected all things and took care of all things. All was pono."
"In the dominant current of Western thought there is a fundamental separation between humanity and divinity. ... In many other cultures, however, such differences between human and divine do not exist. Some peoples have no concept of a ‘Supreme Being’ or ‘Creator God’ who is by nature ‘other than’ his creation. They do, however, claim to experience a spirit world in which beings more powerful than they are concerned for them and can be called upon for help." 
"Along with ancestors and gods, spirits are part of the family of Hawaiians. "There are many kinds of spirits that help for good and many that aid in evil. Some lie and deceive, and some are truthful ... It is a wonderful thing how the spirits (ʻuhane) of the dead and the ‘angels’ (anela) of the ʻaumākua can possess living persons. Nothing is impossible to god-spirits, akua."
Kamehameha the Great died in 1819. In the aftermath, two of his wives, Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani, then the two most powerful people in the kingdom, conferred with the kahuna nui, Hewahewa. They convinced young Liholiho, Kamehameha II, to overthrow the kapu system. They ordered the people to burn the wooden statues and tear down the rock temples.
Without the hierarchical system of religion in place, some abandoned the old gods, and others continued with cultural traditions of worshipping them, especially their family ʻaumākua.
Missionaries arrived in 1820, and most of the aliʻi converted to Christianity, including Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani, but it took 11 years for Kaʻahumanu to proclaim laws against ancient religious practices. "Worshipping of idols such as sticks, stones, sharks, dead bones, ancient gods and all untrue gods is prohibited. There is one God alone, Jehovah. He is the God to worship. The hula is forbidden, the chant (olioli), the song of pleasure (mele), foul speech, and bathing by women in public places. The planting of ʻawa is prohibited. Neither chiefs nor commoners are to drink ʻawa." (Kamakau, 1992, p. 298-301)
Although traditional Hawaiian religion was outlawed, a number of traditions typically associated with it survived by integration, practicing in hiding, or practicing in rural communities in the islands. Surviving traditions include the worship of family ancestral gods or ʻaumākua, veneration of iwi or bones, and preservation of sacred places or wahi pana. Hula was outlawed at one time as a religious practice but today is performed in both spiritual and secular contexts.
Traditional beliefs have also played a role in the politics of post-Contact Hawaiʻi. In the 1970s the Hawaiian religion experienced a resurgence during the Hawaiian Renaissance. In 1976, the members of a group "Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana" filed suit in federal court over the use of Kahoʻolawe by the United States Navy for target practice. Charging that the practice disturbed important cultural and religious sites Aluli et al. v. Brown forced the Navy to survey and protect important sites, perform conservation activities, and allow limited access to the island for religious purposes. Similarly, outrage over the unearthing of 1,000 graves dating back to 850 AD during the construction of a Ritz-Carlton hotel on Maui in 1988 resulted in the redesign and relocation of the hotel inland as well as the appointment of the site as a state historic place.
In the 1930s, non-Hawaiian author Max Freedom Long created a philosophy and practice he called "Huna." While Long and his successors have misrepresented this invention as a type of ancient, Hawaiian occultism, it is actually a New Age product of cultural misappropriation and fantasy, and not representative of traditional Hawaiian religion.
2202 Pele, provisional designation 1972 RA, is an eccentric asteroid and near-Earth object of the Amor group, approximately 1–2 kilometers in diameter.
It was discovered by American astronomer Arnold Klemola at the U.S. Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, California, on 7 September 1972. The asteroid was named after Pele from native Hawaiian religion.Culture of the Native Hawaiians
The culture of the Native Hawaiians is about 1,500 years old and has its origins in the Polynesians who voyaged to and settled Hawaii. These voyagers developed Hawaiian cuisine, Hawaiian art, and the Native Hawaiian religion.Elias Abraham Rosenberg
Elias Abraham Rosenberg (Hebrew: אליאס אברהם רוזנברג; Hawaiian: Eliaka Apelahama Loselabeka; c. 1810 – July 10, 1887) was a Jewish immigrant to the United States who, despite a questionable past, became a trusted friend and adviser of King Kalākaua of Hawaii. Regarded as eccentric, he lived in San Francisco in the 1880s and worked as a peddler selling illegal lottery tickets. In 1886, he traveled to Hawaii and performed as a fortune-teller. He came to Kalākaua's attention, and endeared himself to the king with favorable predictions about the future of Hawaii. Rosenberg received royal appointments to several positions: kahuna-kilokilo (royal soothsayer), customs appraiser, and guard. He was given lavish gifts by the king, but was mistrusted by other royal advisers and satirized in the Hawaiian press.
Rosenberg and Kalākaua often held long conversations and enjoyed drinking alcohol together; Rosenberg told the king Bible stories and encouraged him to revive traditional Hawaiian religion, an idea that fascinated Kalākaua but angered his political rivals. In June 1887, Rosenberg returned to California, possibly owing to poor health or fear of unrest in Hawaii; a short time after arriving in San Francisco, he died in a local hospital. Soon after his departure from Hawaii, the June 1887 Constitution—which curtailed royal power—was forced upon Kalākaua. A Torah scroll and yad presented to the king by Rosenberg remained in the royal collection. These artifacts were later exhibited with other royal treasures and eventually donated to Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu.Heiau
A heiau () is a Hawaiian temple. Made in different architectural styles depending upon their purpose and location, they range from simple earth terraces, to elaborately constructed stone platforms. There are heiau to treat the sick (heiau hōʻola), offer first fruits, offer first catch, start rain, stop rain, increase the population, ensure the health of the nation, achieve success in distant voyaging, reach peace, and achieve success in war (luakini).
Only the luakini was dedicated through human sacrifice. There are two types of luakini. They were called the ʻohiʻa ko and hakuʻohiʻa.At the official end of Hawaiian religion in 1819 under pressure from Christian missionaries, many were deliberately destroyed, while others were allowed to fall into disrepair. Heiau are still considered sacred by many of the inhabitants of Hawaii, and some are not open to the public. In ancient times, only chiefs and priests were allowed into some of these heiau. Some heiau structures have been fully restored physically and are operated in the 21st century as public attractions.Hoapili
Ulumāheihei Hoapili (c. 1775 – January 3, 1840) was a member of the nobility during the formation of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He was a trusted military and political advisor to King Kamehameha I, known as "Kamehameha the Great". Although trusted with one of the last symbolic rites of the Hawaiian religion, he later became a supporter of Christian missionaries.Kahuna
Kahuna is a Hawaiian word, defined as a respectful man who has moral authority in society "a prime person, a minister, or an expert in any profession".Kalanikaumakaowākea
Kalanikaumakaowākea (or Kalanikaumaka-o-Wākea) was an Aliʻi nui of the island of Maui in ancient Hawaii. He was named after the god called Wākea, who is the Sky father in Hawaiian religion and mythology.Kanaloa
In the traditions of ancient Hawaiʻi, Kanaloa is a god symbolized by the squid or by the octopus, and is typically associated with Kāne. It is also the name of an extinct volcano in Hawaiʻi.
In legends and chants, Kāne and Kanaloa are portrayed as complementary powers (Beckwith 1970:62–65). For example: Kāne was called upon during the building of a canoe, Kanaloa during the sailing of it; Kāne governed the northern edge of the ecliptic, Kanaloa the southern; and Kāne then taps them out. In this way, they represent a divine duality of wild and taming forces like those observed (by Georges Dumézil, et al.) in Indo-European chief god-pairs like Odin–Týr and Mitra–Varuna, and like the popular yin and yang of Chinese Taoism.
Kanaloa is also considered to be the god of the Underworld and a teacher of magic. Legends state that he became the leader of the first group of spirits "spit out" by the gods. In time, he led them in a rebellion in which the spirits were defeated by the gods and as punishment were thrown in the Underworld. In traditional, pre-contact Hawaiʻi, it was Milu who was the god of the Underworld and death, not Kanaloa; the related Miru traditions of other Polynesian cultures support this.
The Eye of Kanaloa is an esoteric symbol associated with the god in New Age Huna teaching, consisting of a seven-pointed star surrounded by concentric circles that are regularly divided by eight lines radiating from the inner-most circle to the outer-most circle. Kanaloa is also associated with the Ocean as a god of the sea, hence his association with boats and squid. Huna, as a New Age religion developed in the 20th Century by a Caucasian-American founder, bears no relation to the Native Hawaiian Religion. Native Hawaiians reject "Huna" as a mishmash of Hawaiian elements with European religious metaphysical ideas.Kapu
Kapu is the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct of laws and regulations. The kapu system was universal in lifestyle, gender roles, politics and religion. An offense that was kapu was often a capital offense, but also often denoted a threat to spiritual power, or theft of mana. Kapus were strictly enforced. Breaking one, even unintentionally, often meant immediate death, Koʻo kapu. The concept is related to taboo and the tapu or tabu found in other Polynesian cultures. The Hawaiian word kapu is usually translated to English as "forbidden", though it also carries the meanings of "keep out", "no trespassing", "sacred", "consecrated", or "holy".
The opposite of kapu is noa, meaning "common" or "free".Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
Kohala Historical Sites State Monument includes the National Historic Landmark Moʻokini Heiau and the birthplace of Kamehameha I.
It is located in remote North Kohala on the Island of Hawaiʻi.Kuamo'o Mo'okini
Kuamoʻo Moʻokini (ca. 1100-1200) was a priest who made Hawaii's first heiau, Mo'okini Heiau, in the Big Island of Hawaii, United States, as a person who actually existed or was only in the legend.Kumulipo
In the Hawaiian religion, the Kumulipo is an 18th-century chant in the Hawaiian language telling a creation story. It also includes a genealogy of the members of Hawaiian royalty and was created in honor of Kalaninuiamamao and passed down orally to his daughter Alapaiwahine.Lapakahi State Historical Park
Lapakahi State Historical Park is a large area of ruins from an Ancient Hawaiian fishing village in the North Kohala District on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Offshore is the Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District.
The name lapa kahi means "single ridge" in the Hawaiian Language, and applied to the ahupuaʻa, an ancient land division that ran from the sea up to Kohala Mountain. It is located off of ʻAkoni Pule Highway (Route 270), 12.4 miles (20.0 km) north of Kawaihae, Hawaii. It is state archaeological site 10-02-2245, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 2, 1973 as site 73000654. Just to the north, Māhukona Beach Park is on a bay where a sugar mill once stood.List of figures in the Hawaiian religion
Hawaiian narrative or mythology, tells stories of nature and life. It is considered a variant of a more general Polynesian narrative, developing its own unique character for several centuries before about 1800. It is associated with the Hawaiian religion. The religion was officially suppressed in the 19th century, but kept alive by some practitioners to the modern day.Lono
In Hawaiian religion, the deity Lono is associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, music and peace. In one of the many Hawaiian stories of Lono, he is a fertility and music god who descended to Earth on a rainbow to marry Laka. In agricultural and planting traditions, Lono was identified with rain and food plants. He was one of the four gods (with Kū, Kāne, and Kāne's twin brother Kanaloa) who existed before the world was created. Lono was also the god of peace. In his honor, the great annual festival of the Makahiki was held. During this period (from October through February), war and unnecessary work was kapu (forbidden). In Hawaiian weather terminology, the winter Kona storms that bring rain to leeward areas are associated with Lono. Lono brings on the rains and dispenses fertility, and as such was sometimes referred to as Lono-makua (Lono the Provider). Ceremonies went through a monthly and yearly cycle. For 8 months of the year, the luakini (temple) was dedicated to Ku-with strict kapus. Four periods (kapu pule) each month required strict ceremonies. Violators could have their property seized by priests or overlord chiefs, or be sentenced to death for serious breaches.Luakini
In ancient Hawaii, a luakini temple, or luakini heiau, was a Native Hawaiian sacred place where human and animal blood sacrifices were offered.
In Hawaiian tradition, luakini heiaus were first established by Paʻao, a legendary priest credited with establishing many of the rites and symbols typical of the stratified high chieftainships of the immediate pre-European-contact period. Modern archaeologists no longer believe in a historic Pa'ao, but many Native Hawaiians still believe that he was a historical figure, and often vilify him for introducing what they now see as the bloody, barbarous rites of the luakini heiau.List of currently known or reputed luakini heiaus:
Wailua Complex of HeiausOʻahu:
Puʻu O Mahuka, "Hill of Escape"Maui:
Loaloa HeiauBig Island of Hawaiʻi:
Puʻukohola National Historic Site
Moʻokini, birthplace of Kamehameha I
Aha'ula (now engulfed by lava)
Keʻeku Heiau on Kahaluʻu BayMakahiki
The Makahiki season is the ancient Hawaiian New Year festival, in honor of the god Lono of the Hawaiian religion.
It is a holiday covering four consecutive lunar months, approximately from October or November through February or March. The focus of this season was a time for men, women and chiefs to rest, strengthen the body, and have great feasts of commemoration (ʻahaʻaina hoʻomanaʻo). During Makahiki season labor was prohibited and there were days for resting and feasting. The Hawaiians gave thanks to the god Lonoikamakahiki for his care. He brought life, blessings, peace and victory to the land. They also prayed to the gods for the death of their enemies. Makaʻainana (commoners) prayed that lands of their aliʻi (chief) may be increased, and that their own physical health along with the health of their chiefs be at the fullest.In antiquity, many religious ceremonies occurred during this period. Commoners stopped work, made offerings to the chief or aliʻi, and then spent their time practicing sports, feasting, dancing and renewing communal bonds. During the four lunar months of the Makahiki season warfare was forbidden which was used as "a ritually inscribed means to assure that nothing would adversely affect the new crops."Today, the Aloha Festivals (originally Aloha Week) celebrate the Makahiki tradition.Tapu (Polynesian culture)
Tapu or tabu is a Polynesian traditional concept denoting something holy or sacred, with "spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition"; it involves rules and prohibitions. The English word taboo derives from this later meaning and dates from Captain James Cook's visit to Tonga in 1777.
The concept exists in many societies, including traditional Fijian, Māori, Samoan, Kiribati, Rapanui, Tahitian, Hawaiian, and Tongan cultures, in most cases using a recognisably similar word, though the Rotuman term for this concept is "ha'a". In Hawaii, a similar concept is known as "kapu".Wākea
In the Hawaiian religion, Wākea, the Sky father weds Papahānaumoku, the earth mother. The two are considered the parent couple of the ruling chiefs of Hawaii.
Wākea was the eldest son of Kahiko ("Ancient One"), who lived in Olalowaia. He is the ancestor of the aliʻi (nobility of Hawaii), the ruling class that make up the aristocracy known as the noho ali‘i o Hawai‘i (ruling chiefs of Hawai‘i). Wākea is the grandson of Welaahilaninui. The priests and common people come from his brothers, one of whom was called Makuʻu.
Wākea means expansive space, zenith, or heaven and Papa means foundation or surface; together, they create a symbol of land and sky or heaven and earth.Wākea's first high priest was called Komoʻawa.When Wākea was on Earth in ancient times, he was a High Chief.