Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hawai'i: Pu'uhonau o Honaunau

One of the most interesting things we did was to take ranger guided tours of some of the national parks in Hawai'i. Pu'uhonau o Honaunau is on the Big Island and is a national heritage site. It is one of the few remaining sacred sites belonging to the Hawaiian natives. One of the stories was that this was the location where a Hawaiian princess would go to be near the sea. It was, however, forbidden by her family. She would dress as a commoner and seek away to this place. Here she feel in love with a fisherman, but naturally they were found out. There was a curse placed upon them that if they were together ever again that both families would die (the royal family and the fishing village). So they could never be together again, so the fisherman took a white flower and cut it in half. He planted it and it grew into a tree that grows by the water and flowers with only half a blossom. She planted her half in the mountains and it also grew into a tree with only half a blossom. The myth is that if you try to carry that flower down from the mountains to unite it with its other half, it will die before you reach the ocean because the princess and her fisherman can never be together.
This was also a place for kings. This stone in the picture above is actually a type of board game. It is very similar to checkers but the goal is not to have the most of your opponents pieces but instead to be that last person to make a move. It was used by kings to settle disputes without a war. It was a pretty intense board game since the loser usually lost his army, land and often his life.
That hut you see there is actually a Hawaiian temple of sorts. It is the sacred place. In that hut are buried past Hawaiian kings. It is one of the last temples left on the islands because one of the Hawaiian kings decided to rid the people of the old ways by burning all the temples on the island. Except this one because really who wants to bring such bad luck on themselves by burning the bones of your ancestors.
The temple is guarded by many totems. I found it so interesting to see how much their totems differ from those we see here on the west coast. Many of these totems are representations of the family gods of the kings. The look out over the water to protect against those who would bring harm to the royal family.
The location of Pu'uhonau o Honaunau is on a beautiful beach surrounded by volcanic rock. It was paradise. It is also known as the Place of Refuge. The beach there is a place where sea turtles come to nest. We didn't see any that day but we were frequently reminded that this park belongs to them as well.

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