Kapu System of traditional Hawaiian religious practice

On a separate facebook page entitled Building an Intellectual Culture, there is a brief description of the `ai Noa or the “free eating” in Hawaii which initiated the downfall of the traditional kapu system. I thought that my comments and discussion with the author, Umi Perkins who is by the way son of the late Leialoha Perkins and nephew of Peter Apo, both children of Aunty Margaret Apo who lived for a long time in Makaha, and along with her husband, Peter, who were both friends of mine. You may want to go to that page and check out the background of these comments. He has many other interesting postings there.
I wrote:
An analysis of the `Ai Noa and the breaking of the kapu system
This is about your #4 Mo`olelo series, regarding the `Ai kapu.
It seems your treatment of the `ai kapu and the `ai noa which took place in 1819 was too short an analysis of this historical event which changed the course of Hawaii’s history. I speak not due to the lack of details of the circumstance and the event but for a lack of inquiry into the motivations of the parties.
Yes, indeed, the details are a lot, and the purpose of your writing may not be as a historical record but more of a summary of the event. But I believe that the breaking of the `aikapu must acknowledge the recent death of Kamehameha, the passing of the political “torch” to his son, Liholiho, the assignment of Ka`ahumanu into a newly created Kuhina nui or “Queen Consort” of uncertain definition, the passing of the religious “torch” to Kamehameha’s “nephew” Kekuaokalani for the continuing care of the war god Kuka`ilimoku, and the fact that Hewahewa, Kamehameha’s lead Kahuna was not given that continuing role of such care.
The Hawaiian chiefs and priests were remarkably familiar with the mo`olelo of our people. They were especially familiar with the history of the long and peaceful reign of Liloa, of his son Hakau to whom Liloa passed the “torch” of political authority, and to his other son Umi the religious “torch” to care for the war god, Kuka`ilimoku. Over time, Umi accrued the favor of important kahunas who abandoned Hakau, gathered his forces and in a battle against Hakau, was triumphant. Hakau was sacrificed in fire.
Generations later, when Kalaniopu`u, King of Hawai`i passed, he also split his kingdom giving the political power to Kiwala`o, his son and the religious care of Kuka`ilimoku to Kamehameha, his nephew. Kamehameha, over time, was able to accrue greater power, married Kiwala`o’s daughter, Keopuolani as well as Ka`ahumanu who has been referred to as Kiwala`o’s wife. Over time, Kiwala`o was killed in battle after which Kamehameha fought to unite the Hawai`i island and eventually all the islands.
Kamehameha, at his death followed the same unusual pattern of splitting the political and the religious kuleana between Liholiho, King of the nation along with Ka`ahuman as the Kuhina nui. But to his nephew Kekuaokalani he gave the care of Kuka`ilimoku. Ka`ahumanu was especially wise in political affairs. It was to her whom Kamehameha essentially vested the political power in, as the Kuhina nui, as compared to Liholiho, his eldest son who was into his very early 20s and had not been experienced in war. Ka`ahumanu could understand the political patterns of a divided kingdom and saw the eventuality of the one who held the care of Kuka`ilimoku overcome the relative who ruled the political affairs.
Thus, Ka`ahuman, with Keopuolani, mother of Liholiho aligned with her, knew that in order to preserve Liholiho’s rule, would have to break the power of Kekuaokalani, of Kuka`ilimoku, and of the kapu religious order, creating a total devastation of the religious system so that there would be no room for Kekuaokalani to regain a foothold and rebuild to power.
Liholiho resisted the invite by Ka`ahumanu and his mother Keopuolani to join them in breaking the `ai kapu. He had previously spoken with his cousin Kekuaokalani and pledged that he would not join in such an act. But the two ladies persisted. Liholiho took a group out to sea on a ship and partied, got very drunk with liquor and women before returning to Kailua. Upon his return, he then went to the feast of Ka`ahumanu and Keopuolani and joined them and his younger brother, Kauikeauoli, who was not yet Kamehameha III, and ate with them, thereby affirming the violation of the `ai kapu. That was the `ai noa, the freeing of the kapu, which than unraveled the religious order of Hawaii.
Kekuaokalani, hearing of this `ai noa occurring in Kailua, gathered his forces and marched to Kailua. Liholiho’s forces met the oncoming opposition on the plains of Kuamo`o and as this battle ensued, Kekuaokalani was shot and killed and his wife Manono, comforting him on the battlefield, was also shot and killed.
Thus, the destruction of Kekuaokalani, of Kuka`ilimoku, of the kapu system, as well as Manono came about. The political order was thereby sustained for the Kamehameha direct descendants for a period.
Na`u kamana`o. I offer them for your consideration.
Aloha a hui hou,
Pōkā Laenui,
Hawaiian National
Umi Perkins
When this all comes out in its final form, the ʻaikapu section will follow the Kamehameha history (unification) – Iʻm just releasing these on the blog in short posts and as works in progress. But yes Iʻll keep in mind to make more of a continuation of the thread of the kapu underlying whatʻs going on at the time
Also, Noelani Arista is arguing in her book against the idea of total abolition of kapu or ʻaikapu, which Iʻll have to take into account
I also have a separate post on the battle of Kuamoʻo
Poka Laenui
I’m most anxious to see all of this. I must agree with Noelani Arista regarding the total abolition of the kapu system. Indeed, many of our Hawaiian people continued to respect the system of kapu long after the `ai noa.
Abraham Pi`ianaia would speak of his father or grand father who continued to pay his respect to the traditional gods in back of his home.
My wife’s grandmother, a kahuna whose specialty included La`au Lapa`au had patients in lower Kalihi line up around the block to her house to see her for healing. She had been a deacon at Kawaiha`o Church and started her own Christian church in Kalihi. In her house, one room was dedicated to the Christian religion, and another room, she kept her gods of Hawaii where her medicine was kept. Puanani, as a child who had just returned with her from Church turned to her grandmother and said, „Grandma, I’m confused! We just came back from church and when I come home, how come you have two rooms, one for Christ and the other for the old gods!“
Grandma said, „I keep them in separate rooms so they no fight!“
Yes, there are many other examples of the „old“ system still alive. There are spirits which continue to roam the land such as the night marchers, there are the akualele which continue to fly across the sky. As long as the regard for mana continue to persist, which was the foundation of the kapu system, the „old“ system will persist.
I should have noted that in many of the Halau hula as well as in the pa lua, the old kapu systems or practices are carried out.
ʻAi noa was also used as a sign of mourning and recorded during numerous times throughout our history. The ʻai noa was probably the nail in the Hawaiian coffin as it pertained to the death of culture, languge and political sovereignty. Liholiho ate under duress and abiding by the rules of mourning his fatherʻs death. Religious abolition came when those against Kekuaokalani sided with the missionaries. Kūkāʻilimoku had no place in the political discussion as Christianity became the religion of politics in Hawaiʻi.
Interview of „Tales of Hawaii“ with
Leialoha Perkins
Kumulipo  –  Mon 27.Nov. 2017, in Makaha Surfside, Waianae
Umi Perkins
Earliest Commercial Activity on Hawai’ian Islands – 24.Jan. 2018 at Kamehameha Campus, Honolulu

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