Nape: The Hawaiian Word of The Week
She who brings breath again
Aloha hou nō kākou e nā hiʻi moʻolelo. Here we are again for another installment of the story of Kamehaʻikana. When we left off last week, Kumuhonua had rejected Kamoawa after he told him of his predictions that Haumea would win the battle between them and revealed his genealogical link to her. Kamoawa left offended, but followed the rainbow to the place of Haumea and Wākea…
Hoʻomau ʻia aku (continued): Being the wahine hoʻokalakupua (magical woman) she is, Haumea senses Kamoawa’s approach. She tells Wākea that a kahuna of great mana has just been rejected from the court of Kumuhonua and is on his way to seek service with them. As soon as she is done explaining, Kamoawa arrives, stops outside the stone pavement of their house and puts forth a prayer. Full of genealogical information and references to Haumea’s mana, it succeeds in demonstrating that he is fit to serve as her kahuna. She calls Kamoawa in, makes him part of her retinue and they begin preparing for war.
One of their first orders of business is to fetch Wākea’s younger brothers, Līhauʻula and Mākulukulukalani from Palikū, to assist them in building a heiau. Kaliʻu and his extended family are brought in for the effort and together they complete the heiau and name it Kawaluna. It is a place only high chiefs can enter for ceremony. Poepoe tells us that this is the very first heiau built in Hawaiʻi (“ʻo ka heiau mua loa ia i kūkulu ʻia ma Hawaiʻi nei”).
Līhauʻula works alongside Kamoawa in all activities of the heiau and Mākulukulukalani serves as an agricultural expert (kahuna hoʻoulu ʻai). They continue to dwell in peace for some time, their lāhui (people) growing in numbers as Kaliʻu’s family all have more children and Haumea performs her work of hoʻohānau keiki and pale keiki (the arts of midwifery). She is also referred to as a “kahuna hoʻoulu lāhui” who plants her special childbirthing medicine and ushers keiki safely into the world.
One of the most exciting stories of her skills as a pale keiki is when she helped Olopana’s daughter, Muleiʻula, whose baby was “stuck” inside (ua paʻa ke keiki i loko o ka ʻōpū) and was not coming out. The young chiefess, exhausted from labor, was in a bad way, gasping for air and at the edge of death. They were ready to perform a cesarian section (which probably ended badly for women in those days), but Haumea arrived and had another solution. After the people greeted her and told her why they were in such a state of grief, she replied, “Oh, the poor chiefess. Listen here, go and tell the chiefly father of this woman to let me try my plan. I think I have a little solution.”
Olopana was, of course, desperate for a solution and ordered that Haumea be brought before him immediately. When she arrived he said, “They are telling me that you can deliver this child and assure the survival of my daughter. Is this true?” Haumea responded, “Yes, it is true. I can deliver the child and spare the mother’s life. I have a medicine for delivering babies called Kalauokekahuli and also Kamaunuihalakaipo. It has two flowers, Kanikawī and Kanikawā. These flowers are my child-birthing medicine.”
Knowing there must be a price for her assistance in such dire straits, he inquired what her payment would be. Haumea asked two things of Olopana. Her first request was that should she be in dire straights herself one day, she would call upon him to help her escape. Her second request was that she be given his grandchild to raise (hānai) so that he may survive and become the reigning chief of the island.
With no other choice, Olopana agreed to Haumea’s terms. That very moment she began chewing the first flower, called Kanikawī, and then put it straight from her mouth into Muleiʻula’s. She then inserted her finger into Muleiʻula’s mouth. A choking sound was heard and then the child emerged. It was visibly blue and not breathing. Haumea then administered the second of her flowers, Kanikawā, into the mouth of Muleiʻula just as she had done with the first, followed by her finger again. Another choking sound was heard and the afterbirth was expelled.
Haumea then turned to Olopana, “Your daughter is no longer in trouble; she will live. Your grandchild, however, is not going to survive. He has emerged still-born. His body is completely blue.” Olopana replied, tears staining his cheeks, “What, then, shall we do?”
Haumea decided to try one last procedure, making Olopana reiterate his promises before she began. He assured her that he would keep his word, so she quickly continued, ordering the people to snuff out the fire that was burning. She separated the placenta. She took up the baby in her arms and threw the placenta onto the coals, but left the umbilical cord connected to the child. A while passed of her roasting this placenta, when the child suddenly stirred. He kept stirring till he let out a cry and then his chest rose and fell with breath (a pēlā nō hoʻi a nape ka hanu i ka houpo). This continued until the child’s breathing was strong. Olopana was overjoyed. He scooped up his grandson and held him to his chest. Haumea said she would leave the baby there for now, so that he could be nursed by his mother, but that she would return in due time to collect him.
Hō ka nui o ka mana o nei wahine āiwaiwa! – How great the power of this divine woman is! We have gone off on a side branch, as all good moʻolelo do, but next week we will return to the main vein of the story and see the beginning of the battle between Haumea mā and Kumuhonua. E hoʻi mai nō! Be sure to come back!
E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!