Traditional Native Hawaiians believed n... iwi (the bones) to be the primary physical embodiment of a person. Following death, only n... iwi were considered sacred, for within the bones resided the person's mana (spiritual essence). Mana was greatly valued, and Native Hawaiians spent their lives maintaining and enhancing their mana. Thus, supreme care was accorded to iwi following death. Ancestral bones were guarded, respected, venerated, and even deified. It was believed that the 'uhane (spirit) of a person hovered near n... iwi. Desecration of n... iwi resulted in an insult to the 'uhane and trauma and harm to living descendants. When a king died, the skull, leg and arm bones were preserved; they would be well-guarded for the person who possessed the bones of an ancestor would benefit from the power contained in them. Upon the death of any individual, except the victim of human sacrifice, a kapu was placed upon his/her corpse, on the house occupied by the deceased, and all those who lived in the house
Chants eulogizing the deceased were recited Relatives and close friends showed their grief by cutting their hair in various peculiar ways Not to cut or shave off one’s hair was considered a lack of respect for the deceased Another custom was the knocking out of one or more teeth Other practices was to tattoo a black spot or line on the tongue with a bamboo sliver dipped in the soot obtained from the smoke of burning cracked kukui nuts
Several ways to prepare a body for burial In one such method, called KAPA LAU (garment of leaves)the body was first wrapped in leaves of banana, wauke and/or kalo, The body was then placed in a shallow pit and a fire lit over it. The fire was kept burning for 10 days, during which a pule huikala or purification prayer was constantly recited When the flesh had separated from the bones, the bones were gathered together and wrapped in kapa. The bundle was then deposited in a heiau or elsewhere as noted. The flesh and intestines were thrown into the sea at night, burned or buried When the body as a whole was to be preserved, another method of preparing the body for burial was used A transverse cut was made just below the rib case, the internal organs removed, and the cavity filled with salt to preserve the body This was especially important when the body of an ali`i had to be preserved for 10 days Sometimes after the organs were removed, the body cavity was filled with hāpu`u pulu, or the young furled fronds of the fern, to absorb the body fluids. The body was then wrapped in kapa and sometimes further wrapped in lauhala or makaloa mats
Through this planting and decomposition, n... iwi impart the maria of the deceased to the '...ina, and the '...ina becomes imbued with spiritual essence and energy necessary to sustain it and the families. This planting serves to strengthen the ancestral foundation, by placing n... iwi where they belong. Traditional Hawaiian belief maintains that it is the kuleana (responsibility) of the living to care for and to protect 'ohana (family) burial sites and to pass on this knowledge and responsibility to the next generation. These practices assure that living Native Hawaiians will always provide perpetual care and protection to their ancestors, thereby maintaining the integrity of the family The places of internment for a king was usually a well-concealed secret cave known only to a kahu or trusted retainer whose position with the family was usually hereditary and who was expected not to divulge the secret site of the burial Usually went alone at night so that no one else would know where they were placed Those who had carried the body returned from the burial site, they washed themselves in fresh water and was then sprinkled with pa`akai or salt water that sometimes contained limu A ritual chant was also recited to free them from the kapu placed upon them for having carried an ali`i Some say that to prevent the possibility of the secret being revealed through torture, the person who carried out the deed was put to death It was used not only by ali`i, but also by commoners, differing only in location, size and “furnishings” Some entrances to caves were so small that the location was easily concealed and protected When the entrance was large, these were blocked with stone walls It was not difficult to approach a cave near the base of a cliff, but those higher up the face of a cliff presented some problems A cave that is home to a Hawaiian burial was found near Pupukea Road in 2009 during an archaeological survey performed to identify cultural sites for the Pupukea Rock Fall Mitigation Project, where the City and County of Honolulu will be installing safety nets and fences to prevent rocks from falling into traffic on the steep and curvy road. To discourage future disturbance, the burial is set to be permanently sealed with mortar and rebar
In some cases, a royal mausoleum was the choice of burial Hale O Keawe in Hōnaunau is such a place.
Many bodies of commoners were buried beneath dwelling houses Other times, bodies were buried in the earth near the dwelling house of the deceased For others, sand burial was common, particularly in sand dunes Besides mass burials of warriors on battlefields, there were multiburials of men, women and children in sand on all the islands. As already mentioned, burial caves was common. No matter which method was used, iwi were generally taken to a place identified with the `aumakua of the family
Twined sennit caskets used to hold the bones of certain kings
Various belongings of the deceased were placed where he was buried. Such materials were extensive and of great value in the case of an ali`i – such as fine tapas and mats, personal ornaments, spears, ki`i, etc. There was less in quantity and value of artifacts buried with lesser chiefs and even less with commoners These articles were buried with the body of the deceased or with his bones because they were associated with him and therefore kapu
Gathering of relatives and friends to mourn the passing of the spirit (`uhane) Not joyous in nature for it was a time of grief The feasting was merely to feed those who had assembled All who came brought food, and the mourners did the work of preparing it No one stayed away, unless it was a very old person, someone too ill to travel, or a woman about to give birth or with a baby too young to be carried Anyone not seen mourning and crying was suspected of harboring hate and perhaps having caused the sickness or accident that brought death Feast of tears, held on the first anniversary of a death, a happy occasion, as the death by this time has been accepted by the family. It marked relief from the burdens of mourning for the living and for the dead, a relief from the burdens and woes of life Obligatory for all those who attended the `aha `aina makena to come to the `aha`aina waimaka. However, it was forbidden for anyone to come who had willfully remained away at the time of weeping
2. KUPAPA`U• n. Corpse, cadaver, dead body, carcass.• Ha`alele i ka lā ka mea mahana. Has left the warmth of the sun.• Hala i ke ala ho`i `ole mai. Gone on the road from which there is no returning• Hala i ke ala polihua a Kāne Gone on the trail to the bosom of Kāne
3. MOURNING• Kanikau – nvt. Dirge, lamentation, chant of mourning, lament; to chant, wail, mourn.• Mānewanewa – nvi. Grief, sorrow, mourning; exaggerated expression of grief, as by knocking out teeth, cutting the hair in strange patterns, eating of filth, tattooing the tongue, removing the malo and wearing it about the neck; to do such
4. PREPARATION OF THE BODY• Kapa lau – Leaf covering, as placed over a corpse in a pit.• I`aloa – Embalmed body, mummy; to embalm, stuff
8. KĀ `AI
9. BELONGINGS OF THE DECEASED
10. `AHA`AINA (FEASTS)• `Aha `aina makena – Feast of lamentation; held after the death• `Aha`aina waimaka/Kuluwaimaka – Feast of tears; held on the first anniversary of a death
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