Mo’okini/Pu’ukohala heiaus

As I approached the entrance of the heiau, also known as a temple, at Pu’ukohala I did not know what to expect. I, along with my classmates, was anxious to discover the history of this ancient stone structure. Initially, I looked at this temple as a cold, dark place where Hawaiians would come to pray. After talking with the park ranger I now have a better understanding of how “special” this heiau truly is.

He started off by telling our class that every heiau was built for a certain purpose. The heiau at Pu’ukohala is a human sacrifice temple built by Kamehameha I for the purpose of receiving power from Ku, the god of war. The reason Kamehameha needed this power was so he could then unite and rule all of the Hawaiian Islands. This was a large task for the King considering the islands had been at war with one another for five hundred years or more.

Looking at this enormous stone temple, I could not help but wonder how Kamehameha went about constructing it. Our park ranger then began to explain the method that was used. Workers formed a human chain for twenty-five miles from the top of Pu’ukohala to the valley where the rocks were fetched. Ten to fifteen thousand workers, Kamehameha included, passed these massive rocks for one year until the heiau was complete in 1791.

Walking through the pathways I thought about the number of Hawaiians who walked that same pathway to pay their respects and give their offerings to the gods. Not only did this happen during the time period of the construction but the ranger told us that on occasion Natives will go in to pay their respects today. Although we were not allowed inside, our class gained a great sense of the power that the Pu’ukohala heiau holds.

After visiting the Pu’ukohala heiau we then went to the temple at Mo’okini. Although they had several similarities, they were very different. Both temples were used for human sacrifice, built for Ku, and only allowed royalty inside. However, Mo’okini heiau has seen some changes recently.

Mo’okini heiau was built in 480 AD in a one-night span. It was built with the human chain method as well but it did not stretch as long as the one used at Pu’ukohala. Our class seemed interested to learn about this temple considering we had just experienced the influence of the last. The Mo’okini heiau has a priest unlike the other heiau. I found it interesting that the priest today is from the same bloodline of the first priest in 480 AD. Leimomi Mookini Lum, the current priest, has done a number of things to continue the spirit of this heiau. Each priest is given a mission and hers was to open up the temple. I received chills when we learned how she completed this mission.

In 1974, Ms. Lum opened up the temple to the children of Hawaii. This was a great start however not good enough for the priest. Therefore, in 1999, she reopened the temple to the children of the world. This shocked a lot of people but it has been a successful notion. Because of this change, our class was able to go inside of this heiau. We brought leis as our offerings. The reason the priest asks for visitors to bring lei offerings, is because of what it represents. It is a reminder of each individual child. Each flower being a different color also represents the different races of the children. I felt more of an emotional appeal to this heiau because I knew the symbolism as I placed my lei on the alter.

Looking around the heiau during our time of meditation was very humbling. To see my peers feeling the spiritual power given by this temple was inspirational. Some crying, swaying, and bowing their heads-each individual had their own connection to this heiau.

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