Geographical divisions of Hawaii—Temple of Pélé—Division of Hiro—Missionary labours—Journey across the hills to Towaihae—Description of Waipio Valley—Funeral ceremonies among the natives—Another place of refuge—Notions of a future state—Voyage to Waimanu—Swimming in the surf a popular amusement—Ingenious method of staining calabashes—Value of the Kukui tree—Interest manifested at this place in the instructions of the missionaries—Fall of immense masses of rocks—Halaua—Drinking ava—Character of Tamehameha—Account of the tabu.
Several members of the family we had lodged with, united with us in our morning worship on the 15th, after which we breakfasted together.
While thus engaged, Makoa, who had remained at the last place where we stopped, arrived with our baggage, and about eight a. m. we were ready to proceed. Unwilling that our hostess should suffer by her kindness, we presented her with as much blue cotton cloth as would amply pay for the supper she had generously furnished last evening, and then set out on our journey.
The wide-extended prospect which our morning walk afforded, of the ocean, and the shores of Hamakua, on our right, was agreeably diversified by the occasional appearance of the snow-capt peaks of Mouna-Kea, seen through the openings in the trees, on our left. The body of the mountain was page 349 hid by the wood, and the different peaks only appeared like so many distinct hills at a great distance. The highest peak bore south-west-by-south from Humuula.
The high land over which we passed was generally woody, though the trees were not large. The places that were free from wood, were covered with long grass and luxuriant ferns. The houses mostly stood singly, and were scattered over the face of the country. A rich field of potatoes or taro, sometimes five or six acres in extent, or large plantations of sugar-cane and bananas, occasionally bordered our path. But though the soil was excellent, it was only partially cultivated. The population also appeared less than what we had seen inhabiting some of the most desolate parts of the island.
About 10 a. m. we reached the pleasant and verdant valley of Kaura, which separates the divisions of Hiro and Hamakua.
The geographical divisions of Hawaii, and the other islands of the group, are sometimes artificial, and a stone image, a line of stones somewhat distant from each other, a path, or a stone wall, serves to separate the different districts, or larger divisions, from each other. They are, however, more frequently natural, as in the present instance, where a watercourse, winding through the centre of the valley, marked the boundary of these two divisions. The boundary of the smaller districts, and even the different farms, as well as the large divisions, are definitely marked, well understood, and permanent. Each division, district, village, and farm, and many of the sites of houses, have a distinct name, which is often significant of some object or quality distinguishing the place.page 350
On descending to the bottom of the valley, we reached a heiau dedicated to Pélé, with several rude stone idols, wrapped up in white and yellow cloth, standing in the midst of it. A number of wreaths of flowers, pieces of sugar-cane, and other presents, some of which were not yet faded, lay strewed around, and we were told that every passing traveller left a trifling offering before them. Once in a year, we were also informed, the inhabitants of Hamakua brought large gifts of hogs, dogs, and fruit, when the priests and kahu of Pélé assembled to perform certain rites, and partake of the feast. This annual festival, we were told, was designed to propitiate the volcanic goddess, and secure their country from earthquakes, or inundations of lava. Locks of human hair were among the offerings made to Pélé. They were frequently presented to this goddess by those who passed by the crater of Kirauea, on which occasions they were thrown into the crater, a short address being made at the same time to the deity supposed to reside there.
We ventured to deviate from the custom of travellers in general; yet, though we presented no offerings, we did not proceed to pull down the heiau, and irritate the people by destroying their idols, but entered into conversation with them on the folly of worshipping such senseless things, and pointed out the more excellent way of propitiating the favour of Jehovah, the true God, with sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise, placing all their hopes in his mercy, and depending for security on his providence. They took what we said in good part, and answered, that though the stones could not save them, the being whom they represented, or in honour of whom they were erected, was very page 351 powerful, and capable of devouring their land, and destroying the people. This we denied; and told them that volcanoes, and all their powers, were under the control of that God whom we wished them to choose for their God and Saviour.—When a drawing had been taken of this beautiful valley, where kukui trees, plantains, bananas, and ti plants were growing spontaneously with unusual richness of foliage and flower, we took leave of the people, and, continuing our journey, entered Hamakua.
Hiro, which we had now left, though not so extensive and populous as Kona, is the most fertile and interesting division on the island. The coast from Waiakea to this place is bold and steep, and intersected by numerous valleys or ravines; many of these are apparently formed by the streams from the mountains, which flow through them into the sea. The rocks along the coast are volcanic, generally a brown vesicular lava. In the sides and bottoms of some of the ravines, they were occasionally of very hard compact lava, or a kind of basalt. This part of the island, from the district of Waiakea to the northern point, appears to have remained many years undisturbed by volcanic eruptions. The habitations of the natives generally appear in clusters at the opening of the valleys, or scattered over the face of the high land. The soil is fertile, and herbage abundant. The lofty Mouna-Kea, rising about the centre of this division, forms a conspicuous object in every view that can be taken of it. The base of the mountain on this side is covered with woods, which occasionally extend within five or six miles of the shore. While the division of Kona, on the leeward side of the island, is often several months without page 352 a shower, rain is frequent in this and the adjoining division of Hamakua, which form the centre of the windward coast, and is doubtless the source of their abundant fertility. The climate is warm. Our thermometer was usually 71 at sun-rise; 74, at noon; and 72, or 73, at sun-set. Notwithstanding these natural advantages, the inhabitants, excepting at Waiakea, did not appear better supplied with the necessaries of life than those of Kona, or the more barren parts of Hawaii. They had better houses, plenty of vegetables, some dogs, and a few hogs, but hardly any fish, a principal article of food with the natives in general.
About mid-day we came to a village called Kearakaha, where we collected the people, and preached to them. They listened attentively, and conversed very freely afterwards on what had been said.
Leaving Kearakaha, we continued our walk to Manienie, where we dined, and rested two or three hours. During our stay, we addressed the people as usual.
Shortly after four in the afternoon, we left Manienie, and travelled over a well-cultivated tract of country, till we reached Toumoarii, where we put up for the night, as we were considerably fatigued with our day's journey, having crossed nearly twenty ravines, some of which were from three to four hundred feet deep. The people collected in front of the head man's house, for religious worship; and the service was concluded with singing and prayer just as the sun was setting. We spent the evening in conversation with the people of the house. Many of them exclaimed, “Make-make au ia Jesu Kraist. Aroha nui o Jesu!”—I desire Jesus Christ; great is Jesus' love.page 353
Makoa, as usual, excited much interest among the natives by the accounts he gave of our journey, &c. This evening he turned theologian, and, while we were at supper, we heard him telling a party around him, in another part of the house, that heaven was a place where there was neither salt fish, nor calabashes of poë. Indeed, added he, we shall never want any there, for we shall never be hungry. But in order to get there, much is to be done. A man that wishes to go there, must live peaceably with his neighbours; must never be idle; and, moreover, must be a kanaka epu nui ore, that is, must not be a glutton.
We arose at day-light on the 16th, and shortly after left Taumoarii. We had not travelled more than four or five miles when we reached Kaahua. After breakfast, we proceeded on our journey over a country equal in fertility to any we had passed since leaving Waiakea. The houses were in general large, containing usually three or four families each. Mr. Goodrich was indisposed through the day, which obliged us to travel but slowly. Near noon we stopped at Koloaha, and, while he reclined beneath the shade of an adjoining grove of trees, I addressed the assembled natives on the subject of religion. After remaining about two hours, we walked to another village, where Mr. Thurston spoke to the people, who gave good attention. We then kept on our way till we reached Malanahae, where a congregation of the people assembled, with whom we conversed some short time, then bade them farewell, and about three p. m. reached Kapulena, where we preached to upwards of one hundred of the people assembled on the occasion.
At this place we thought it best to form ourselves page 354 into two parties, in order that we might preach to the natives along the northern parts of the island, and examine the interior between this place and Towaihae. It was therefore arranged that Messrs. Bishop and Goodrich should spend the Sabbath here, and on Monday morning pass over to Waimea, and thence to Towaihae, while Mr. Thurston and myself travelled through the villages on the northern shores.
On Monday morning Messrs. Bishop and Goodrich commenced their journey to Waimea. Having procured a man to carry their baggage, they left Kapulena, and, taking an inland direction, passed over a pleasant country, gently undulated with hill and dale. The soil was fertile, the vegetation flourishing, and there was considerable cultivation, though but few inhabitants. About noon they reached the valley of Waimea, lying at the foot of Mouna-Kea, on the north-west side. Here a number of villages appeared on each side of the path, surrounded with plantations, in which plantains, sugar-cane, and taro were seen growing unusually large. At 4 p. m. they obtained a view of the ocean, and kept on their way towards Towaihae: at night they slept on the ground in the open air
At break of day on the 19th they began to descend, and, after walking about two hours, reached Towaihae, where they were hospitably received by Mr. Young, with whom they spent the day.
Having heard that a schooner from Oahu was at Keauhou, they left Towaihae in the evening in a canoe belonging to Mr. Young, and proceeded to Kairua, where the schooner was lying at anchor.page 355
It was about five o'clock in the afternoon of the 16th, when Mr. Thurston and myself left Kapulena. Wishing to spend the Sabbath in the populous village of Waipio, we travelled fast along the narrow paths bordered with long grass, or through the well-cultivated plantations of the natives. The Sandwich Islanders have no idea of constructing their roads or food-path in a straight line. In many parts, where the country was level and open, the paths from one village to another were not more than a foot wide, and very crooked. We often had occasion to notice this, but never passed over any so completely serpentine as those we travelled this evening.
The sun had set when we reached the high cliff that formed the southern boundary of Waipio. Steep rocks, not less than five hundred feet high, rose immediately opposite. Viewed from the great elevation at which we stood, the charming valley, spread out beneath us like a map, appeared in beautiful miniature. Its numerous inhabitants, cottages, plantations, fish-ponds, and meandering streams, with the light canoe moving to and fro on the surface of the latter, gave an air of animation to the scene, in which the distinct and varied objects were blended with the most delightful harmony. Makoa led the way down the steep cliffs. The descent was difficult, and it was quite dark before we reached the bottom. A party of natives, returning from a fishing excursion, ferried us across the stream that ran along near the place where we descended, and we directed our steps towards the house of Haa, head man of the village. He received us courteously, ordered a clean mat to be spread for us to recline on, and water for us page 356 drink; some of his attendants also handed us a large wooden tobacco-pipe, which is usually passed round when strangers arrive; this last compliment, however, we begged leave to decline. Makoa seated himself by the side of the chief, and gave him a brief outline of our tour—our object—and the instructions given to the people. In the mean time, fish was prepared for supper by a fire of sandal wood, which, instead of filling the house with disagreeable smoke, perfumed it with a fragrant odour. After family worship in the native language, we retired to rest.
The next morning unveiled to view the extent and beauty of the romantic valley. Its entrance from the sea, which was blocked up with sandhills fifty or sixty feet high, appeared to be a mile, or a mile and a half wide. The summits of the hills, which bordered the valley, seemed six hundred feet above the level of the sea. They were in some parts nearly perpendicular, yet they were clothed with grass, while low straggling shrubs were here and there seen amidst the jutting rocks. A number of winding paths led up their steep sides, and, in several places, streams, flowing in beautiful cascades from the top to the bottom, formed a considerable stream, which, meandering along the valley, found a passage through the sand-hills, and emptied itself into the sea. The bottom of the valley was one continued garden, cultivated with taro, bananas, sugar-cane, and other productions of the islands, all growing luxuriantly. Several large ponds were also seen indifferent directions, well stocked with excellent fish. A number of small villages, containing from twenty to fifty houses each, stood along the foot of the mountains, at unequal distances on each page 357 side, and extended up the valley till projecting cliffs obstructed the view.
Morning worship was attended by our host and his family, and, about half-past ten, the people of the neighbourhood assembled in front of the house. Mr. Thurston preached to them, and was encouraged by the attention given.
In the afternoon he walked up the north side of the valley, and preached to congregations of about one hundred persons, in three different villages. I proceeded about a mile and a half along the south side of the valley, to the village of Napopo, containing forty-three houses, and preached to the natives. After the service, the people complained of their great ignorance, and wished they might be visited again.
At five p. m. I returned, and addressed the people in the place where Mr. Thurston had preached in the morning. About three hundred were present, and listened attentively.
The chief with whom we lodged made many inquiries respecting the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. He also asked about the change which had taken place in the Society Islands; and afterwards observed, that Hawaii was a dark land, and would not soon attend to its true interests. He and his family cheerfully united in the devotional exercises of the day, and by his conversation manifested, for an untutored native, an unusual degree of intelligence.
In the evening, as we sat around the door, we heard the voice of wailing and lamentation. On inquiry, it was found to proceed from a neighbouring cottage, where a woman, who had been some time ill, had just expired. This circumstance led to a conversation on death and a future page 358 state, and the necessity of habitual preparedness for the eventful change which awaits all mankind. While we were talking, the moon arose, and shed her mild light upon the valley; her beams were reflected by the rippling stream, and the small lakes beautified the scene. All was serene and still, save the chirping insects in the grass. The echo of the cloth-mallet, which had been heard through the day in different parts of the valley, had now ceased. Though generally a pleasant sound, especially when heard in a solitary valley, indicating the industry of the natives, it had on this day, which was the Sabbath, called forth the most affectionate solicitude for the interesting people of the place; and we could not but desire the speedy arrival of that time, when the sacred hours of the Sabbath should be employed in spiritual and devotional exercises. That, however, is not to be expected in the present circumstances of the people; for
“The sound of the church-going bell,
These valleys and rocks never heard;
Never sigh'd at the sound of a knell,
Nor smiled when a Sabbath appear'd.”
And, probably until this day, their inhabitants had not been informed, that “in six days they should labour and do all their work, and that the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord their God,” which he requires them to sanctify by sacred worship and holy rest.
On the morning of the 18th, we were desirous of witnessing the interment of the person who died last night, but were disappointed; it was, at most of their funerals are, performed in secret. A few particulars, relative to their mode of burying, we have been able to gather from the people of this page 359 place and other parts of the island. The bones of the legs and arms, and sometimes the skull, of their kings and principal chiefs, those who were supposed to have descended from the gods, or were to be deified, were usually preserved, as already noticed. The other parts of the body were burnt or buried, while these bones were either bound up with cinet, wrapped in cloth, and deposited in temples for adoration, or distributed among the immediate relatives, who, during their lives, always carried them wherever they went. This was the case with the bones of Tamehameha; and, it is probable that some of his bones were brought by his son Rihoriho, on his recent visit to England, as they supposed, that so long as the bones of the deceased were revered, his spirit would accompany them, and exercise a supernatural guardianship over them.
They did not wash the bodies of the dead, as was the practice with some of the South Sea Islanders. The bodies of priests, and chiefs of inferior rank, were laid out straight, wrapped in many folds of native tapa, and buried in that posture; the priests, generally within the precincts of the temple in which they had officiated. A pile of stones, and frequently a circle of high poles, surrounded their grave, and marked the place of their interment, corresponding exactly with the rites of sepulture practised by some of the tribes on the opposite coast of North America. It was only the bodies of priests, or persons of some importance, that were thus buried. The common people committed their dead to the earth in a most singular manner. After death, they raised the upper part of the body, bent the face forwards to the knees, the hands were next put page 360 under the hams, and passed up between the knees, when the head, hands, and knees were bound together with cinet or cord. The body was afterwards wrapped in a coarse mat, and buried the first or second day after its decease.
They preferred natural graves whenever available, and selected, for this purpose, caves in the sides of their steep rocks, or large subterranean caverns. Sometimes the inhabitants of a village deposited their dead in one large cavern, but, in general, each family had a distinct sepulchral cave. Their artificial graves were either simple pits dug in the earth, or large enclosures. One of the latter, which we saw at Keahou, was a space surrounded with high stone walls, appearing much like an ancient heiau or temple. We proposed to several natives of the village to accompany us on a visit to it, and give us an outline of its history; but they appeared startled at the thought, said it was a wahi ino, place evil, filled with dead bodies, and objected so strongly to our approaching it, that we deemed it inexpedient to make our intended visit. Occasionally they buried their dead in sequestered places, at a short distance from their habitations, but frequently in their gardens, and sometimes in their houses. Their graves were not deep, and the bodies were usually placed in them in a sitting posture.
No prayer was offered at the grave, except occasionally by the inhabitants of Oahu. All their interments are conducted without any ceremony, and are usually managed with great secrecy. We have often been surprised at this, and believe it arises from the superstitious dread the people entertain respecting the places where dead bodies are deposited, which they believe resorted to by page 361 the spirits of those buried there. Like most ignorant and barbarous nations, they imagine that apparitions are frequently seen, and often injure those who come in their way. Their funerals take place in the night, to avoid observation; for, we have been told, that if the people were to see a party carrying a dead body past their houses, they would abuse them, or even throw stones at them, for not taking it some other way, supposing the spirit would return to and fro to the former abode of the deceased, by the path along which the body had been borne to the place of interment.
The worshippers of Pélé threw a part of the bones of their dead into the volcano, under the impression that the spirits of the deceased would then be admitted to the society of the volcanic deities, and that their influence would preserve the survivors from the ravages of volcanic fire.
The fishermen sometimes wrapped their dead in red native cloth, and threw them into the sea, to be devoured by the sharks. Under the influence of a belief in the transmigration of souls, they supposed the spirit of the departed would animate the shark by which the body was devoured, and that the survivors would be spared by those voracious monsters, in the event of their being overtaken by any accident at sea.
The bodies of criminals who had broken tabu, after having been slain to appease the anger of the god whose tabu, or prohibition, they had broken, were buried within the precincts of the heiau. The bones of human sacrifices, after the flesh had rotted, were piled up in different parts of the heiau in which they had been offered.
Idolatry, since 1819, has been abolished, and page 362 all ceremonies connected therewith have ceased; the other heathenish modes of burying their dead are only observed by those who are uninstructed, and are not professed worshippers of the true God: those who are, inter their dead in a manner more resembling the practice of Christians. The corpse is usually laid in a coffin, which, previous to interment, is borne to the place of worship, attended by the relatives in mourning habiliments, where a short service is performed; it is then carried to the grave: after being deposited there, sometimes the spectators are addressed by the Missionary, on other occasions a short prayer only is offered, and, as the friends retire, the grave is filled up.
After breakfast, Mr. Thurston walked about five miles up the valley, in order to estimate its population, and preach to the people. The whole extent was well cultivated, and presented in every direction the most beautiful prospects. At one of the villages where he stopped, about one hundred people collected, to whom he preached the word of salvation. I spent the morning in taking a drawing of the valley from the sand-hills on the beach; and, in examining some large heiaus in the neighbourhood, in reference to which the natives taxed our credulity by the legendary tales they related respecting the numbers of victims which had on some occasions been offered. In the days of Umi, they said, that king, after having been victorious in battle over the kings of six of the divisions of Hawaii, was sacrificing captives at Waipio, when the voice of Kuahiro, his god, was heard from the clouds, requiring more men; the king kept sacrificing, and the voice continued calling for more, till he had slain all his men page 363 except one, whom, as he was a great favourite, he refused at first to give up; but, the god being urgent, he sacrificed him also, and the priest and himself were all that remained. Upwards of eighty victims, they added, were offered at that time, in obedience to the audible demands of the insatiate demon. We have heard the same account at other places, of eighty victims being slain at one time; and though, perhaps, the account may exceed the number actually immolated, the tradition serves to shew the savage character of the gods, who, in the opinion of the natives, could require such prodigal waste of human life.
In the afternoon we visited Pakarana, the puhonua, or place of refuge, for all this part of the island. It was a large enclosure, less extensive, however, than that at Honaunau. The walls, though of great antiquity, were of inferior height and dimensions. In the midst of the enclosure, under a wide-spreading pandanus, was a small house, called Ke Hale o Riroa, (The House of Riroa,) from the circumstance of its containing the bones of a king of that name, who was the grandson of Umi, and, according to their traditions, reigned in Hawaii about fifteen generations back.
We tried, but could not gain admittance to the pahu tabu, or sacred enclosure. We also endeavoured to obtain a sight of the bones of Riroa, but the man who had charge of the house told us we must offer a hog before we could be admitted; that Tamehameha, whenever he entered, had always sent offerings; that Rihoriho, since he had become king, had done the same, and that no one could be admitted on other conditions.
Finding us unwilling to comply, yet anxious to see the bones, they directed us to a rudely carved page 364 stone image, about six feet high, standing at one corner of the wall, which they said was a tii, or image of Riroa. We talked some time with the people around, who were principally priests, on the folly of deifying and worshipping departed men. The only answer, however, which they made was, Pela no i Hawaii nei: So it is in Hawaii here.
At five o'clock in the afternoon, about three hundred of the natives of the place assembled for public worship, in front of the head man's house, where they were addressed from Luke xiv. 23. The people were attentive, and frequently interrupted the speaker by their exclamations. Some said, “Jehovah is a good God; the living God is a good God: great is his love.”
After the service, they sat talking on what they had heard, and occasionally making inquiries, till the sun had set, and the moon had nearly reached the mid-heaven. The chief, in particular, seemed much interested, and, during the evening, he and several others expressed themselves very desirous that a Missionary should come and reside with them, that they might be instructed fully in all these things.
According to the number of houses which we have seen, in all 265, there are, at least, 1325 inhabitants in this sequestered valley, besides populous villages on each side along the coast, which might be easily visited. This circumstance, together with the fertility of the soil, the abundance of water, the facility with which, at most seasons of the year, supplies can be forwarded by water from Kairua or Towaihae, combine to render this an eligible spot for a Missionary station; but, notwithstanding all these favourable circumstances, together with the great desire of the people to be page 365 instructed in the important principles of Christianity, it is much to be feared, that, unless the funds of the Societies are increased, this inviting field, as well as several others, must long remain destitute of moral culture.
The valley of Waipio is a place frequently celebrated in the songs and traditions of Hawaii, as having been the abode of Akea and Miru, the first kings of the island; of Umi and Riroa, kings who make a prominent figure in their history. It is also noted as the residence of Hoakau, king of this part of the island, who appears to have been one of the Neros of the Sandwich Islands, and whose memory is execrable among the people, on account of his cruelties; and of whom it is reported, that if a man was said to have a finelooking head, he would send his servants to behead the individual, and bring his head before him, when he would wantonly cut, and otherwise disfigure it. He is said also to have ordered a man's arm to be cut off, and brought to him, only because it was tataued in a manner more handsome than his own.
An interesting conversation was carried on this evening, with respect to the separate existence of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the general judgment at the last day. The account of the raising of the widow's son, and the calling of Lazarus from the grave, after he had been dead four days, seemed greatly to interest the natives. We afterwards endeavoured to learn from them something respecting their opinions of a state of existence after death. But all they said upon the subject was so contradictory, and mixed with fiction, that it could not be discovered whether they had any definite idea of the nature or even page 366 the existence, of such a state. Some said, that all the souls of the departed went to the Po, place of night, and were annihilated, or eaten by the gods there. Others said, that some went to the regions of Akea and Miru. Akea, they said, was the first king of Hawaii. At the expiration of his reign, which terminated with his life at Waipio, where we then were, he descended to a region far below, called Kapapahanaumoku,∗ (the island-bearing rock, or stratum,) and founded a kingdom there. Miru, who was his successor, and reigned in Hamakua, descended, when he died, to Akea, and shared the government of the place with him. Their land is a place of darkness; their food lizards and butterflies. There are several streams of water, of which they drink, and some said there were large Kahiris, † and wide-spreading kou-trees, beneath which they reclined. But, to most of the questions that were asked, they said they could give no answer, as they knew nothing about it; none had ever returned in open daylight, to tell them any thing respecting it; and all they knew was from visions or dreams of the page 367 priests. Sometimes, they said, when a recently liberated spirit arrived in the dominions of Miru, the Pluto of Hawaii, he (viz. Miru) would ask it what the kings above were doing, and what were the principal pursuits of the people? and when he had answered, he was sent back to the ao marama (state of day or light) with a message from Miru to them, to iho nui mai ma nei, (to descend altogether to this place.) The person so sent would appear to the priests in a dream, deliver his message, and then return to the lower regions.
∗Compounded of Ka papa, the rock, or stratum of rock; hanau, to bear, or bring forth; and moku, an island.
†Though the Kahiris were usually small, resembling the one represented in the plate of the native dance at Kairua, they were sometimes upwards of twenty feet high; the handle twelve or fifteen feet long, beautifully covered with tortoise shell and the ivory of whales' teeth; and the upper part formed with red, yellow, or black feathers, fastened on a kind of wicker-work, and resembling a cylinder twelve or thirteen inches in diameter. These, however, are only used on state occasions, when they are carried in processions instead of banners, and are fixed in the ground near the tent or house in which the king or principal personages may remain on such occasions.
The account given this evening, of the Hawaiian hades, afforded another proof of the identity between the traditions of the Sandwich and Society Islanders: for among the latter, the spirits of the Areois, and priests of certain idols, were not eaten by the gods after the death of their bodies, but went to Miru, (pronounced by both, Meru,) where they lived much in the same way as the departed kings and heroes of Hawaii were supposed to do; or, joining hands, they formed a circle with those that had gone before, and danced in one eternal round.
At daylight, on the 19th, numbers of the people collected around the house where we had lodged, with whom we held morning worship. Haa, the chief of the place, beneath whose friendly roof we had been most hospitably entertained, then accompanied us to the beach, where he had prepared a canoe to convey us to the next district. Shortly after six a. m. we gave him the parting hand, with sincere thanks for his kindness; after which we seated ourselves in the canoe, and, in the midst of many expressions of good will, from those who had come down to the beach to bid us farewell, we were safely launched through the surf. We left Waipio, page 368 deeply impressed with a sense of the kind treatment we had received, and with feelings of sympathy for the mental darkness and degradation of the interesting people by whom it was inhabited. We could not but hope that they would soon enjoy the constant light of Christian instruction, and participate in every Christian privilege. A wide field of usefulness is here presented to a Christian missionary, and we sincerely hope the directors of missionary operations will have means sufficient at their disposal to send a Missionary to this, and every other place where the people are so anxious to be instructed.
After proceeding pleasantly along for five or six miles, we arrived at Waimanu a little before eight o'clock.
We found Arapai, the chief, and a number of his men, busy on the beach shipping sandal-wood on board a sloop belonging to the governor, then lying at anchor in a small bay off the mouth of the valley. He received us kindly, and directed two of his men to conduct us to his house, which was on the opposite side. The valley, though not so spacious or cultivated as Waipio, was equally verdant and picturesque; we could not but notice the unusual beauty of its natural scenery. The glittering cascades and water-falls, that rolled down the deep sides of the surrounding mountains, seemed more numerous and beautiful than those at Waipio.
As we crossed the head of the bay, we saw a number of young persons swimming in the surf, which rolled with some violence on the rocky beach. To a spectator nothing can appear more daring, and sometimes alarming, than to see a number of persons splashing about among the page 369 waves of the sea as they dash on the shore; yet this is the most popular and delightful of the native sports.
There are perhaps no people more accustomed to the water than the islanders of the Pacific; they seem almost a race of amphibious beings. Familiar with the sea from their birth, they lose all dread of it, and seem nearly as much at home in the water as on dry land. There are few children who are not taken into the sea by their mothers the second or third day after their birth, and many who can swim as soon as they can walk. The heat of the climate is, no doubt, one source of the tgratification they find in this amusement, which is so universal, that it is scarcely possible to pass along the shore where there are many habitations near, and not see a number of children playing in the sea. Here they remain for hours together, and yet I never knew of but one child being drowned during the number of years I have resided in the islands. They have a variety of games, and gambol as fearlessly in the water as the children of a school do in their play-ground. Sometimes they erect a stage eight or ten feet high on the edge of some deep place, and lay a pole in an oblique direction over the edge of it, perhaps twenty feet above the water; along this they pursue each other to the outermost end, when they jump into the sea. Throwing themselves from he lower yards, or bowsprit, of a ship, is also a favourite sport, but the most general and frequent game is swimming in the surf. The higher the sea and the larger the waves, in their opinion the better the sport. On these occasions they use a board, which they call papa hé náru, (wave sliding-board,) generally five or six feet long, and rather page 370 more than a foot wide, sometimes flat, but more frequently slightly convex on both sides. It is usually made of the wood of the erythrina, stained quite black, and preserved with great care. After using, it is placed in the sun till perfectly dry, when it is rubbed over with cocoa-nut oil, frequently wrapped in cloth, and suspended in some part of their dwelling-house. Sometimes they choose a place where the deep water reaches to the beach, but generally prefer a part where the rocks are ten or twenty feet under water, and extend to a distance from the shore, as the surf breaks more violently over these. When playing in these places, each individual takes his board, and, pushing it before him, swims perhaps a quarter of a mile or more out to sea. They do not attempt to go over the billows which roll towards the shore, but watch their approach, and dive under water, allowing the billow to pass over their heads. When they reach the outside of the rocks, where the waves first break, they adjust themselves on one end of the board, lying flat on their faces, and watch the approach of the largest billow; they then poise themselves on its highest edge, and, paddling as it were with their hands and feet, ride on the crest of the wave, in the midst of the spray and foam, till within a yard or two of the rocks or the shore; and when the observers would expect to see them dashed to pieces, they steer with great address between the rocks, or slide off their board in a moment, grasp it by the middle, and dive under water, while the wave rolls on, and breaks among the rocks with a roaring noise, the effect of which is greatly heightened by the shouts and daughter of the natives in the water. Those who are expert frequently change their position on the page 371 board, sometimes sitting and sometimes standing erect in the midst of the foam. The greatest address is necessary in order to keep on the edge of the wave: for if they get too forward, they are sure to be overturned; and if they fall back, they are buried beneath the succeeding billow.
Occasionally they take a very light canoe; but this, though directed in the same manner as the board, is much more difficult to manage. Sometimes the greater part of the inhabitants of a village go out to this sport, when the wind blows fresh towards the shore, and spend the greater part of the day in the water. All ranks and ages appear equally fond of it. We have seen Karaimoku and Kakioeva, some of the highest chiefs in the island, both between fifty and sixty years of age, and large corpulent men, balancing themselves on their narrow board, or splashing about in the foam, with as much satisfaction as youths of sixteen. They frequently play at the mouth of a large river, where the strong current running into the sea, and the rolling of the waves towards the shore, produce a degree of agitation between the water of the river and the sea, that would be fatal to an European, however expert he might be; yet in this they delight: and when the king or queen, or any high chiefs, are playing, none of the common people are allowed to approach these places, lest they should spoil their sport. The chiefs pride themselves much on excelling in some of the games of their country; hence Taumuarii, the late king of Tauai, was celebrated as the most expert swimmer in the surf, known in the islands. The only circumstance that ever mars their pleasure in this diversion is the approach of a shark. When this happens, though they sometimes fly in every direction, page 372 they frequently unite, set up a loud shout, and make so much splashing in the water, as to frighten him away. Their fear of them, however, is very great; and after a party return from this amusement, almost the first question they are asked is, “Were there any sharks?” The fondness of the natives for the water must strike any person visiting their islands: long before he goes on shore, he will see them swimming around his ship; and few ships leave without being accompanied part of the way out of the harbour by the natives, sporting in the water; but to see fifty or a hundred persons riding on an immense billow, half immersed in spray and foam, for a distance of several hundred yards together, is one of the most novel and interesting sports a foreigner can witness in the islands.
When we arrived at the house of Arapai, we were welcomed by his wife and several members of his family.
Arapai is evidently a chief of some importance. We saw several large double canoes in his outhouses. The number of his domestics was greater than usual; his house was large, well built, and stocked with a number of useful articles, among which we noticed some large and handsomely stained calabashes, marked with a variety of devices. The calabash is a large kind of gourd, sometimes capable of holding four or five gallons. It is used to contain water and other fluids, by the natives of all the islands in the South Sea; but the art of staining it is peculiar to the Sandwich Islanders, and is another proof of their superior powers of invention and ingenuity. When the calabash has grown to its full size, they empty it in the usual manner, by placing it in the sun till page 373 the inside is decayed, and may be shaken out. The shell, which remains entire, except the small perforation made at the stalk for the purpose of discharging its contents, and serving as a mouth to the vessel, is, when the calabash is large, sometimes half an inch thick. In order to stain it, they mix several bruised herbs, principally the stalks and leaves of the arum, and a quantity of dark ferruginous earth, with water, and fill the vessel with it. They then draw with a piece of hard wood or stone on the outside of the calabash, whatever figures they wish to ornament it with. These are various, being either rhomboids, stars, circles, or wave and straight lines, in separate sections, or crossing each other at right angles, generally marked with a great degree of accuracy and taste. After the colouring matter has remained three or four days in the calabashes, they are put into a native oven, and baked. When they are taken out, all the parts previously marked appear beautifully brown or black, while those places, where the outer skin had not been broken, retain their natural bright yellow colour. The dye is now emptied out, and the calabash dried in the sun; the whole of the outside appears perfectly smooth and shining, while the colours imparted by the above process remain indelible.
Large quantities of kukui, or candle nuts, hung in long strings in different parts of Arapai's dwelling. These are the fruit of the aleurites triloba; a tree which is abundant in the mountains, and highly serviceable to the natives. It furnishes a gum, which they use in preparing varnish for their tapa, or native cloth. The inner bark produces a permanent dark-red dye, but the nuts are the most valuable part; they are heart-shaped, about the page 374 size of a walnut, and are produced in abundance. Sometimes the natives burn them to charcoal, which they pulverize, and use in tatauing their skin, painting their canoes, surf-boards, idols, or drums; but they are generally used as a substitute for candles or lamps. When designed for this purpose, they are slightly baked in a native oven, after which the shell, which is exceedingly hard, is taken off, and a hole perforated in the kernel, through which a rush is passed, and they are hung up for use, as we saw them at this place. When employed for fishing by torch light, four or five strings are enclosed in the leaves of the pandanus, which not only keeps them together, but renders the light more brilliant.
When they use them in their houses, ten or twelve are strung on the thin stalk of the cocoa-nut leaf, and look like a number of peeled chesnuts on a long skewer. The person who has charge of them lights a nut at one end of the stick, and holds it up, till the oil it contains is consumed, when the flame kindles on the one beneath it, and he breaks off the extinct nut with a short piece of wood, which serves as a pair of snuffers. Each nut will burn two or three minutes, and, if attended, give a tolerable light. We have often had occasion to notice, with admiration, the merciful and abundant provision which the God of nature has made for the comfort of those insulated people, which is strikingly manifested by the spontaneous growth of this valuable tree in all the islands; a great convenience is hereby secured, with no other trouble than picking up the nuts from under the trees. The tree is large, the leaves and wood remarkably white; and though the latter is not used by the Sandwich Islanders, except occasionally in page 375 making fences, small canoes are frequently made of it by the Society Islanders. In addition to the above purposes, the nuts are often baked or roasted as an article of food, which the natives eat with salt. The nut contains a large portion of oil, which, possessing the property of drying, is useful in painting; and for this purpose quantities are carried by the Russian vessels to their settlements on the north-west coast of America.
Before we prepared for our departure, we requested that the people of the place might assemble, to hear the word which we had to speak to them. About two hundred collected, and were addressed from John vi. 40. They gave good attention, particularly the wife of Arapai, who was afflicted with an affection of the spine, which prevented her walking without support. She called us to her after the service, and told us she had incurred the displeasure of the gods by eating a fish that was tabu, or sacred, and that the disease which rendered her a cripple was her punishment. She said she had felt great pleasure on hearing the invitation of Jesus Christ, desired to go to him and obey his word, inquiring, at the same time, very earnestly, if we thought he could and would save her. We told her that eating the tabu fish was not the cause of her suffering, and encouraged her to repair, by faith, to Him who was able and willing to heal her body, if he saw fit, and who would assuredly save her soul, if she applied in a right manner; repeating several of the most precious promises of our blessed Redeemer to those that are weary and heavy laden with sin, and desire salvation through his mercy. Numbers of the people crowded round us when the service was ended, and, with earnestness, besought us to page 376 sit down, and repeat several of the truths they had heard respecting the name and attributes of Jehovah, his law, and the name and offices of Jesus Christ, the only Saviour. They also requested to be more particularly informed in what manner they should pray to him, and how they should know when the Sabbath-day came. We told them to go to Jehovah in prayer, as a child went to its parents, assuring them they would find him more ready to attend to them, than the fondest earthly parent was to listen to his most beloved child. This did not satisfy them; we therefore, after observing that God did not regard so much the words as the desires of the heart, mentioned several expressions of praise, confession, and petition—which the natives repeated after us till they could recite them correctly. The chief then sent for a youth, about sixteen years of age, of whom he seemed very fond, and, after he and his wife had requested him to attend very particularly to what he should hear, they requested us to repeat to him what we had told them. We did so; the youth evidently tried to treasure up the words in his memory; and, when he could repeat correctly what had been told him, the parents appeared highly pleased. Indeed, the greater part of the people seemed to regard the tidings of ora roa ia Jesu (endless life by Jesus) as the most joyful news they had ever heard; “breaking upon them,” to use the expressions of the natives on another occasion, “like light in the morning.” The chief's wife, in particular, exclaimed aloud, “Will my spirit never die? and can this weak body live again?” When we departed, she rose up, and, by the help of two sticks, walked down to the beach with us. Here we took an affectionate page 377 leave, and then stepped into a canoe, which Arapai had provided to convey us as far as Honokane, the first village in the division of Kohala. As the canoe pushed off from the shore, we again bade them farewell. When we saw the interesting group standing on the beach, we could not but feel the most lively concern for their welfare, and involuntarily besought the great Redeemer, that his holy Spirit might be poured out upon them, that the seed sown among them might take root in their hearts, and produce an abundant harvest to his praise.
After leaving Waimanu, we passed by Laupahoehoe, a second village of that name on this part of the coast, where, according to the accounts of the natives, about eight or nine months before, an immense mass of rocks had suddenly fallen down. The mountain that remained appeared nearly six hundred feet high. The face next the sea was perpendicular, and as smooth as a compact piece of masonry. The rock appeared volcanic, and the different strata of highly vesicular lava were very distinct. In several places, we saw the water oozing from the face of the rock 200 or 300 feet from the summit. The mass that had fallen lay in ruins at the base, where it had formed two considerable hills, filled up a large fish-pond and part of the sea, presenting, altogether, a scene of widespread desolation.
The original surface of the ground appeared to have been broken by an earthquake, as some parts were rent by deep chasms, others sunk down six or twelve feet lower than the rest. The shrubs and grass were growing luxuriantly on the upper or original, and lower or fallen surface, while the perpendicular space between them indicated that page 378 the latter had recently sunk down from the former Wrecks of houses were seen in several places, some partly buried by the ruins, others standing just on the edge of the huge rocks that had fallen from above. Several houses were standing in the neighbourhood, but all seemed deserted. The natives said, that in the evening, when the accident took place, a mist or fog was seen to envelop the summits of the precipice, and that, after the sun had set, a luminous appearance, like a lambent flame, was observed issuing from and playing about the top, which made them think it was a forerunner of Pélé, or volcanic fire. A priest of Pélé and his family, residing in one of the villages below, immediately offered his prayer to the goddess, and told the inhabitants that no harm would befall them.
About ten o'clock at night, however, the whole side of the mountain, for nearly half a mile in extent along the shore, fell down with a horrid crash. Part of two small villages were destroyed, and several of the inhabitants killed, but the natives did not agree as to the numbers; some said twenty were killed, others only eighteen. The people with whom we talked on the spot, and at other places subsequently, could not recollect having heard the natives who escaped say any thing about an earthquake at the time.
We did not land at this place, but passed close to the shore, and continued to sail along at the base of steep mountains, 500 or 600 feet high; and, although nearly perpendicular, they were intersected here and there by winding paths, which we at first thought could be travelled only by goats, but up which we afterwards saw one or two groups of travellers pursuing their steep and page 379 rugged way. About noon we passed Honokea, a narrow valley which separates the divisions of Hamakua and Kohala, and shortly after reached Honokane, the second village in the latter.
The division of Hamakua, on the north-east side of the island, is, during the greater part of the year, singularly romantic in its appearance, particularly as seen from a vessel four or five miles out at sea. The coast is bold and steep, and the cliffs, from three to five hundred feet high, partially covered with shrubs and herbage, intersected by numerous deep ravines and valleys, frequently in a high state of cultivation, while the whole coast is ornamented with water-falls and cascades of every description. I once beheld three-and-twenty at one time, from a ship's deck, some rolling in one continued stream, from the summit of the cliffs to the sea, others foaming and winding among the ledges of rock that arrested their progress, sparkling among the verdant shrubs that fringed their borders, and, altogether, presenting a most delightful spectacle.
We landed at Honokane, and went through the village to the house of Ihikaina, chief woman of the place, and sister to Arapai, the chief of Waimanu, from which this district is distant about twenty miles. Ihikaina received us kindly, and, for our refreshment, provided a duck, some vegetables, and a small quantity of excellent goat's milk, large flocks of which are reared by some of the natives for the supply of ships touching at the islands for refreshments.
The valley contained fifty houses. A number of the people collected round the door of the house, and listened to a short address.
About 4 p. m. we left Honokane, and passed on page 380 to Pololu. On our way we walked over a long tract of fragments of rocks, occasioned by the falling down of a side of the mountain, which took place at the same time that the mass of rocks fell at Laupahoehoe, which we had passed in the forenoon.
About seven in the evening we reached Halaua, the residence of Miomioi, a friend and favourite of the late king Tamehameha. He gave us a hearty welcome, with the accustomed courtesy of a Hawaiian chief, saying, “Our house is large, and there are plenty of sleeping-mats for us.” The hospitality of the chiefs, both of the Society and Sandwich Islands, is always accompanied with a courtesy of behaviour peculiarly gratifying to those who are their guests, and indicating a degree of refinement seldom witnessed among uncivilized nations. The usual salutation is Aróhá (attachment,) or Aróhá nui (attachment great;) and the customary invitation to partake of some refreshment is, “The food (a kakou) belonging to you and us is ready; let us eat together:” always using the pronoun kakou, or kaua, which includes the person addressed, as well as the speaker. On entering a chief's house, should we remark, Your's is a strong or convenient house, he would answer, “It is a good house for (or belonging to) you and me.” If, on entering a house, or examining a fine canoe or piece of cloth, we should ask who it belongs to, another person would tell us the possessor's name; but if we happened to inquire of the owner himself, he would invariably answer, “It is yours and mine.” The same desire to please is manifested in a variety of ways. The manner in which they frequently ask a favour of each other is singular, usually prefacing it with, “I rea oe,” page 381 If pleasing to you. Hence we often have a message or note to the following effect: “If pleasing to you, I should like a sheet of writing paper, or a pen; but if it would not give you pleasure to send it, I do not wish it.”
Soon after we had entered Miomioi's house, a salt flying-fish was broiled for supper. A large copper boiler was also brought out, and tea was made with some dried mint, which, he said, he had procured many months before from ships at Towaihae. He supped at the same time, but, instead of drinking tea, took a large cocoa-nut shell full of ava. If an opinion of its taste might be formed by the distortion of his countenance after taking it, it must be a most nauseous dose. There seemed to be about half a pint of it in the cup; its colour was like thick dirty calcareous water. As he took it, a man stood by his side with a calabash of fresh water, and the moment he had swallowed the intoxicating dose, he seized the calabash, and drank a hearty draught of water, to remove the unpleasant taste and burning effect of the ava.
The ava has been used for the purpose of inebriation by most of the South Sea Islanders, and is prepared from the roots and stalks of a species of pepper plant, the piper methysticum of Forster, which is cultivated for this purpose in many of the islands, and, being a plant of slow growth, was frequently tabu'd from the common people. The water in which the ava had been macerated, was the only intoxicating liquor with which the natives were acquainted before their intercourse with foreigners, and was, comparatively speaking, but little used, and sometimes only medicinally, to cure cutaneous eruptions and prevent corpulency. But since they have been so much visited by page 382 shipping, the case is very different. They have been taught the art of distillation; and foreign spirits in some places are so easily obtained, that inebriety, with all its demoralization and attendant misery, is ten times more prevalent than formerly. This is a circumstance deeply to be deplored, especially when we recollected the immediate cause of its prevalence.
The chief's house was large, and one end of it was raised, by leaves and mats, about a foot higher than the rest of the floor, and partially screened from the other parts of the house. This was his own sleeping place, but he ordered a new mat to be spread, and obligingly requested us to occupy it. We did so, and enjoyed a comfortable night's rest.
After an early breakfast with Miomioi and his family, I embraced the opportunity of addressing his people on the subject of religion, before they separated to pursue their various occupations. About fifty were present, and listened with silent attention.
Miomioi, though not so tall and stout in person as many of the chiefs, appeared a remarkably active man, and soon convinced us he had been accustomed to delight in war. His military skill had probably recommended him to the notice and friendship of Tamehameha, and had secured for him the occupancy of the district of Halaua, the original patrimony of that prince.
Every thing in his house seemed to be preserved with care, but particularly his implements of war. Spears, nearly twenty feet long, and highly polished, were suspended in several places, which he was very careful to shew us; remarking, that Tamehameha always required every man to keep his weapons in order, so as to be ready for war at page 383 the shortest notice, and shewing, at the same time, an evident satisfaction at the degree of care with which his own were preserved.
Halaua is a large district on the north-east coast of the island, and, if not the birth-place of Tamehameha, was the land which he inherited from his parents, and, with the exception of a small district in the division of Kona, the only land he possessed in Hawaii prior to the death of Taraiopu, and the celebrated battle of Keei, which took place shortly afterwards. Tamehameha seems to have been early distinguished by enterprise, energy, decision of character, and unwearied perseverance in the accomplishment of his objects. Added to these, he possessed a vigorous constitution, and an unrivalled acquaintance with all the warlike games and athletic exercises of his country. To these qualities of mind and body he is probably indebted for the extensive power and protracted dominion which he exercised over the Sandwich Islands. In early life he associated with himself a number of youthful chiefs of his own age and disposition, into whom he had the happy art of instilling, on all occasions, his own spirit, and inspiring them with his own resolution: by these means he most effectually secured their attachment and co-operation. Great undertakings appear to have been his delight, and achievements deemed by others impracticable were those which he regarded as most suitable exercises of his prowess. Miomioi led the way to a spot, where, in a small bay, the original coast had been a perpendicular pile of rocks, at least one hundred feet high. Here Tamehameha and his companions, by digging through the rocks, had made a good road, with a regular and gradual descent from the high ground to the sea, up and page 384 down which their fishing canoes could be easily drawn.
At another place, he had endeavoured to procure water by digging through the rocks, but after forcing his way through several strata, the lava was found so hard, that he was obliged to give up the undertaking. Probably he had no powder with which to blast the rocks, and not the best tools for working through them. A wide tract of country in the neighbourhood was divided into fields of considerable size, containing several acres each, which he used to keep in good order, and well stocked with potatoes and other vegetables. One of these was called by his name. He was accustomed to cultivate it with his own hands. There were several others, called by the names of his principal friends or companions, which, following this example, they used to cultivate themselves; the others were cultivated by their dependants. As the chief walked through the village, he pointed out the houses in which Tamehameha formerly resided, and several groves of noni trees, the morinda citrifolia, that he had planted, as Miomioi remarked, before his beard was grown. Tamehameha was undoubtedly a prince possessing shrewdness and great strength of character. During his reign, the knowledge of the people was much enlarged, and their comforts in some respects increased: their acquisition of iron tools facilitated many of their labours; the introduction of fire-arms changed their mode of warfare; and in many cases, cloth of European manufacture was substituted for that made of native bark. But these improvements appear to be rather the result of their intercourse with foreigners, than of any measures of their sovereign; though the encouragement page 385 he gave to all foreigners visiting the islands, was, no doubt, advantageous in these respects. He has been called the Alfred of the Hawaiians; but he appears rather to have been their Alexander, ambition and a desire of conquest having been his ruling passions during the greater part of his life, though towards its close avarice superseded them. It has been stated, that he projected an invasion of the Society Islands; but the report, from many conversations on the subject with the natives, appears destitute of all foundation. Miomioi also pointed out the family heiau of Tamehameha, of which Tair was the god, and the heiau was called Hare o Tairi, House of Tairi. It was an insignificant pile of stones, on a jutting point of volcanic rocks. Miomioi, however, said that the tabu was very strictly observed, and the punishments incurred by breaking it invariably inflicted on the transgressor; adding, at the same time, that Tamehameha always supposed his success, in every enterprise, to be owing to the strict attention he paid to the service and requirements of his god. Many persons, he said, had been burnt on the adjoining hills, for having broken the tabu enjoined by the priests of Tairi.
The Tabu formed an important and essential part of their cruel system of idolatry, and was one of the strongest means of its support.
In most of the Polynesian dialects, the usual meaning of the word tabu is, sacred. It does not, however, imply any moral quality, but expresses a connexion with the gods, or a separation from ordinary purposes, and exclusive appropriation to persons or things considered sacred; sometimes it means devoted as by a vow. Those chiefs who trace their genealogy to the gods are called page 386 arii tabu, chiefs sacred, from their supposed connexion with the gods; and a temple is called a wahi tabu, place sacred, because devoted exclusively to the abode and worship of the gods. It is a distinct word from rahui, to prohibit, as the ohelo berries at Kirauea were said to be prohibited, being tabu na Pélé, sacred for Pélé, and is opposed to the word noa, which means general or common. Hence, the system which prohibited females from eating with the men, and from eating, except on special occasions, any fruits or animals ever offered in sacrifice to the gods, while it allowed the men to partake of them, was called the Ai tabu, eating sacred; but the present state of things is called the Ai noa, eating generally, or having food in common.
This appears to be the legitimate meaning of the word tabu, though the natives, when talking with foreigners, use it more extensively, applying it to every thing prohibited or improper. This, however, is only to accommodate the latter, as they use kaukau (a word of Chinese origin) instead of the native word for eat, and pikaninny, for small, supposing they are thereby better understood.
The tabu separating whatever it was applied to from common use, and devoting it to the above purposes, was one of the most remarkable institutions among the South Sea Islanders; and though it prevailed, with slight variations, in the different groups of the Pacific, it has not been met with in any other part of the world. Although employed for civil as well as sacred purposes, the tabu was entirely a religious ceremony, and could be imposed only by the priests. A religious motive was always assigned for laying it on, though it was often page 387 done at the instance of the civil authorities; and persons called kiaimoku, island keepers, a kind of police officers, were always appointed by the king to see that the tabu was strictly observed.
The antiquity of the tabu was equal to the other branches of that superstition of which it formed so component a part, and its application was both general and particular, occasional and permanent. The idols, temples, persons, and names of the king, and members of the reigning family; the persons of the priests; canoes belonging to the gods; houses, clothes, and mats of the king and priests; and the heads of men who were the devotees of any particular idol,—were always tabu, or sacred. The flesh of hogs, fowls, turtle, and several other kinds of fish, cocoa-nuts, and almost every thing offered in sacrifice, were tabu to the use of the gods and the men; hence the women were, except in cases of particular indulgence, restricted from using them. Particular places, as those frequented by the king for bathing, were also rendered permanently tabu.
Sometimes an island or a district was tabued, when no canoe or person was allowed to approach it. Particular fruits, animals, and the fish of certain places, were occasionally tabu for several months from both men and women.
The seasons generally kept tabu were, on the approach of some great religious ceremony; immediately before going to war; and, during the sickness of chiefs. Their duration was various, and much longer in ancient than modern times. Tradition states, that in the days of Umi there was a tabu kept thirty years, during which the men were not allowed to trim their beards, &c. Subsequently, there was one kept five years. Before page 388 the reign of Tamehameha, forty days was the usual period; during it, ten or five days, and sometimes only one day. In this respect, the tabu's, or seasons of restriction, in Hawaii, appear to have exceeded those of the South Sea Islands: the longest season of prohibition, in Huahine, known to the natives, was the rahui of Mohono, which lasted ten or twelve years. It was during this period that the hogs became so numerous and large, that they destroyed all the feis, or mountain plantains, excepting those growing on the summits of the highest mountains.
The tabu seasons were either common or strict. During a common tabu, the men were only required to abstain from their usual avocations, and attend at the heiau when the prayers were offered every morning and evening. But, during the season of strict tabu, every fire and light on the island or district must be extinguished; no canoe must be launched on the water, no person must bathe; and, except those whose attendance was required at the temple, no individual must be seen out of doors; no dog must bark, no pig must grunt, no cock must crow,—or the tabu would be broken, and fail to accomplish the object designed. On these occasions, they tied up the mouths of the dogs and pigs, and put the fowls under a calabash, or fastened a piece of cloth over their eyes. All the common people prostrated themselves, with their faces touching the ground, before the sacred chiefs, when they walked out, particularly during tabu; and neither the king nor the priests were allowed to touch any thing,—even their food was put into their mouths by another person.
The tabu was imposed either by proclamation, when the crier or herald of the priests went round, page 389 generally in the evening, requiring every light to be extinguished, the path by the sea to be left for the king, the paths inland to be left for the gods, &c. The people, however, were generally prepared, having had previous warning; though this was not always the case. Sometimes it was laid on by fixing certain marks called unu unu, the purport of which was well understood, on the places or things tabued. When the fish of a certain part are tabued, a small pole is fixed in the rocks on the coast, in the centre of the place, to which is tied a bunch of bamboo leaves, or a piece of white cloth. A cocoa-nut leaf is tied to the stem of a tree, when the fruit is tabued. The hogs which were tabu, having been devoted to the gods, had a piece of cinet woven through a perforation in one of their ears.
The prohibitions and requisitions of the tabu were strictly enforced, and every breach of them punished with death, unless the delinquents had some very powerful friends who were either priests or chiefs. They were generally offered in sacrifice, strangled, or despatched with a club or a stone within the precincts of the heiau, or they were burnt, as stated by Miomioi.
An institution so universal in its influence, and so inflexible in its demands, contributed very materially to the bondage and oppression of the natives in general. The king, sacred chiefs, and priests, appear to have been the only persons to whom its application was easy; the great mass of the people were at no period of their existence exempt from its influence, and no circumstance in life could excuse their obedience to its demands. The females, in particular, felt all its humiliating page 390 and degrading force. From its birth, the child, if a female, was not allowed to be fed with a particle of food that had been kept in the father's dish, or cooked at his fire; and the little boy, after being weaned, was fed with his father's food, and, as soon as he was able, sat down to meals with his father, while his mother was not only obliged to take hers in an outhouse, but was interdicted from tasting the kind of which he ate. It is not surprising that the abolition of the tabu, effecting for them an emancipation so complete, and an amelioration so important, should be a subject of constant gratulation; and, that every circumstance tending, in the smallest degree, to revive the former tabu, should be viewed with the most distressing apprehensions. The only tabu they now have is the Sabbath, which they call the La tabu (day sacred,) and to its extension and perpetuity those who understand it seem to have no objection. Philanthropy will rejoice, that their fears respecting the former are not likely to be realized; for, should Christianity not be embraced by some, and only nominally professed by others, so sensible are the great body of the people of the miseries endured under the tabu system, that it is very improbable it will ever be re-established among them. On the other hand, there is every reason to hope that pure Christianity, which imposes none but moral restrictions, and requires no appropriations but such as it will conduce to their own happiness to make, will eventually pervade every portion of the community; and that, while it teaches them to render a reasonable homage and obedience to the only living and true God, and prepares them for the enjoyment of his presence in a future state, it page 391 will elevate the degraded classes, especially the females,∗ to the rank and influence for which they were designed, and render their domestic society as rational and happy, as under the tabu it was abject and wretched.
∗Their degraded condition appears to have attracted the notice of the intelligent voyagers by whom the islands were discovered; for, speaking of the Sandwich Islanders, Captain King, in his Continuation of Cook's Voyages, remarks, “It must, however, be observed, that they fall very short of the other islanders, in that best test of civilization, the respect paid to the women. Here they are not only deprived of the privilege of eating with the men, but the best sorts of food are tabooed, or forbidden them:” and adds, “In their domestic life, they appear to live almost entirely by themselves; and, though we did not observe any instance of personal ill-treatment, yet it is evident they had little regard or attention paid them.”—Cook's Voyages, vol, iii. p. 130.