The kapu system in ancient Hawai‘i established rules and regulations that not only provided for living in harmony with the land but also dictated daily life. Religion held ancient Hawaiian society together, affecting habits, lifestyles, work methods, social policy and law. Kapu regulated fishing, planting, and harvesting of other resources, thus ensuring their conservation. The legal system was based on religious kapu, or taboos. There was a correct way to live, to worship, and even to eat. Kapu was derived from traditions and beliefs from Hawaiian worship of gods, demigods and ancestral mana The kapu system was structured around the concept of protecting the mana. Complex kapus (laws) had to be kept to keep the mana intact and maintain its balance in nature for the land to be fruitful. Every aspect of Hawaiian life was controlled by strict requirements to maintain the balance and harmony of the mana. A tapa-covered ball on a stick (pahu) carried before a chief as insignia of taboo.
Ancient Hawai‘i was socially stratified into groups with hierarchical class roles. The ali‘i were persons who "derived their high status by virtue of the fact that they were direct descendants of the gods. Ali‘i possessed great amounts of mana because of their relationship to the gods. Even in the ali‘i class, there was social stratification based on genealogy. Ali`i were ranked from the highest kapu chiefs down to the lowest kapu chiefs. The higher the rank, the closer the relationship to the gods and the more strict the kapu. For example, for those with the highest kapu, anyone in their presence or the presence of their personal articles was required, upon penalty of death, to prostrate themselves.
His ancestors have intermarried and re-intermarried to preserve the bloodline of his family, He is therefore of very high kapu rank. The chiefs house had many kapu, rules and regulations in their household and to break any of these meant severe punishment, even death. Said of one whose kapu prohibited him/her from carrying a baby lest it wet the lap. An infant who wet the lap of such a person might be put to death. Such a woman was often unable to rear her own children.
Every high ranking ali`i had kahuna, priests or experts as advisors. The kahuna nui was the high priest and advisor to the ruling chief. Religious or spiritual kahuna could communicate with the spirits and only The makaainana were the largest group of people. There was a bond of mutual obligations and duties between the ali`i and the makaainana. The makaainana were ruled by the ali`i. The maka‘āinana were the farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen and were deeply embedded into the Hawaiian subsistence economy. The makaainana produced the food the ali`i ate and the goods the ali`i used. Makaainana were the troops who fought the battles. In return the ali‘i confirmed their tenure rights to the land which they tilled and on which they resided. The ali`i gave his people a sense of security and in return, the makaainana would give him their respect and aloha. The kauā were the class of outcasts who were looked down upon by others and were forced to live apart from everyone else. Along with defeated enemy warriors, kauā were offered as human sacrifices for important ceremonies held in the luakini. Kauā were generally marked by means of a tattoo on the forehead
The most widely known kapu is the one that required men and women to eat separately, or `ai kapu. Men and women had separate eating houses but common sleeping house; women were forbidden from entering heiau temples or the men's house. Certain foods represented aspects of male gods, thus certain foods become sacred when specific meaning is attached to them. For example, pork was a symbol for the god Lono, coconut and the ulua fish were symbolic of Kū, and niuhi (white shark) was symbolic of Kāne. Because these and other foods symbolized the male gods, women were not only prohibited from eating these foods but were also prohibited from eating with men.
Believed that what belongs above should remain above and what belonged below should stay below Kapu to use a sleeping mat for anything but sleeping upon Kapu to use a head pillow as a foot rest or to sit upon Kapu to use a seat cushion for the head Kapu to sit above anything containing food Kapu to use a mat that one had sat upon over the food in the imu. As such, the imu mat was hung up where no one would likely step over it. Old, worn out clothing was disposed of by burying it so that the kapu concerning their use might not accidentally be broken. Some accounts tell of people soaking old clothes in water before burying it so that it rots faster
It was a general rule that it was not right to wear clothing of anyone other than `ohana. There were even rules between generations – a daughter’s clothes might be worn by the mother, but not the mother’s by the daughter. Likewise with fathers and sons. Between the sexes, there were no sharing or exchanging of clothing According to “The Polynesian Family System in Ka`ū”, Pūku`i says that it was not acceptable for a mother and daughter to wear the same design at the same time. Trying to look the same was seen the same as the daughter trying to wear her mother’s dress, which was forbidden Clothing, because it touched the body, contained some of the wearer’s mana. A garment in close body contact contained more mana than an outer wrap. It was believed that enough mana permeated the garment worn next to the skin that it, like hair and fingernails, could become bait for sorcery. Clothing was considered to be a completely individual possession. Therefore, no one must wear another’s garment. The sole exception, and only with permission, was a close family member of the same sex.
Never ask for a lei which another person was wearing. It was proper, however, if one were wearing a lei to take it off oneself to give to a friend or relative. A lei carelessly given or left about after being worn might fall into the wrong hands and could result in sores on the neck of the original wearer
The hale pe‘a (menstrual house) was the place women retreated to during their monthly menstrual cycles. The woman at the hale pe‘a were cared for by older women in their ‘ohana. These older women carried ‘umeke (bowls) of mea ‘ai (food) and wai (water) to the menstruating women. Women were most kapu (taboo) at this time and the hale pe‘a was a type of sanctuary for them. Therefore, men were not allowed. If a man was found with his wife or any other woman at this time, he received the death penalty. At the hale pe‘a, women would come together to rest and avoid the duties of the world. ale pe`a Menstruating woman used only her own worn-out skirts for pads.
Dancers were dedicated to Laka, goddess of hula, and trained in a religious manner. Students were kapu and set apart from others, following a particular protocol and strict rules of conduct. Training in a hula school was strict, with adherence to kapu, rules, being stringent. The kapu varied through the different schools, however certain codes of conduct such as personal cleanliness, not cutting hair or nails, abstinence from sexual activity, and restrictions of certain foods were usual. Graduation included a ceremonial nighttime bath in the ocean, prayers, offerings, blessings from the kumu, feasting and a lifting of kapu restrictions.
There was no judge or court of justice to sit in judgment of any wrong doers as we do today. Retaliation with violence or death was the rule in ancient times – strangling, decapitation, clubbing, burning or drowning. Fear of punishment and death caused the people to obey these rules strictly. Thus, the kapu system gave the authorities power and control over the political, social and economic life of the people. To run away and hide one’s self was the only recourse for an offender in those days.
Death, physical ills or other ailments are still sometimes attributed to breaking kapu today – moving sacred rocks, disturbing iwi (bones of the dead), etc. describe the objections of some native Hawaiians to the H-3 project (particularly its routing through the Halawa Valley and its impact on many ancient Hawaiian temples and other sites there and some east of the mountains), and their belief that Interstate H-3 has been subjected to a "hewa" (curse) as a result. (However, the funny stuff that supposedly occurred during construction seems to have died down once the freeway was opened -
Pay particular attention to the fact that many things in Hawaiian society, culture, language are dichotomies, opposites, diametric opposites
House free from kapu
Makahiki was a season of vigorous and competitive sports that was associated with Lono It was a desirable way to redirect oneself, strive for goodness and for friendly competition. It was a time that aggressive energies would be diminished.
KAPU & NOA
KAPU• 1. nvs. Taboo, prohibition; special privilege or exemption from ordinary taboo; sacredness; prohibited, forbidden; sacred, holy, consecrated; no trespassing, keep out.
`ŌLELO NO`EAU• Nona ka `ūmi`i lauwili i ka pāka`awili. His is the tie that is twisted and entangled into one that holds fast.• Ka hale weliweli o nā ali`i. The dreaded house of chiefs.• He `ūhā leo `ole. A lap without protest.
SOCIAL RANKING• KĀ HUNA – priests and experts• MAKA`Ā INANA – commoners• KAUĀ – outcasts