Ki‘i pōhaku (images in stone) of people, animals, and symbols which are found on all Hawaiian islands. Although images are engraved on the lava, on loose stones and in caves. In Hawaiian history, it was said the ancient Hawaiians had no written language with alphabets. Petroglyph fields were also used as a camp post when the Hawaiian people traveled across the island. The drawings could have represented the population

of people who passed through this land. Some of the images I observed tell a story by its artist. Many of the meanings could revolve around a persons status, fertility and procreation.

 

Hawaiian traditions and stories were all memorized to be passed down rom one generation to the next orally - through oli (chants) and hula (dance). Hawaiians learned to recite their beliefs, which allowed Hawaiians to become very skilled in memorization and passed down from one generation to the next orally, through oli (chants) and hula (dance).    

 

The first Hawaiian settlers in Hawai’i left no knowledge of lands of their birth, of what people drove them out, who were their guides and leaders, of canoes that transported them, what lands they visited in their voyage and what gods they worshiped. Although that was lost, Hawaiians preserved the mo‘okū‘auhau (genealogy). They also recited the Kumulipo (mythology) through chants that shared the Hawaiian beliefs, heritage, and the creation of Hawai‘i. The mythology tells of the relationship that Hawaiians have with the heavens, to the earth, to the depths of the sea and to the tops of the mountains in which they are all connected.

The heiau were erected and dedicated to agriculture, healing, or warfare. The heiau sometimes had several courtyards which contained hale (houses) built on the grounds. These sacred temples were used only by the highest in Hawaiian society. Each location within the temple had a special use and protocol to communicate with the ʻaumakua (spiritual guardians) of the ruling chiefs.

 

Each hale within a temple had a specific practice instructed by the kahuna or ruling chief. That included a house of spiritual power, hale mana (house for images), hale pahu (drum house), and a house for the hale umu (preparation of sacrifice) draped with white kapa (cloth), an ‘anu‘u (oracle tower). This tall structure was only used by the priest, who would go into and communicate with the spirits.

 

If prominent people, their Heiau would be large; if they were humble people, their Heiau would be small. Some Heiau were sites set apart for sacred purposes, kahua laʻa for luakini for unu, for houses sacred to the gods, where men offered gifts to the gods. They were also called heiau poʻokanaka, heiau of human heads.

At night, torches and fire were used by Hawaiians as a source of light during the ceremony. Human sacrifices were offered; criminals and non-believers were the first choices as sacrifices to be offered on a luakini Heiau (sacrificial temple). In this ritual, only healthy men were offered - never women, children, ill, or elderly men.” Sacrificial victims belonged to one of the three categories: those who broke the Kapu (taboo); enemy war captives; or kauwā (individuals of the lowest class). Kauwā were used when individuals from the other two categories were not available. 

 

A lele (altars) were also made of wood or stone for the kahuna to place ho’o kupu (gifts) and sacrifices upon. They would offer prayers along with the plants, pigs, fowl, or humans to propitiate the Gods. It was believed that if the right prayers, rituals, and offerings were made, it would make the Gods happy, and  would benefit the community. If the ceremonies were not followed in great detail; it was believed a spirit could also be unsatisfied and drift away.

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, was a place where a person could escape and be saved from being taken captive or being put to death. The lands were designated as a refuge by the ali‘i (chiefs).


One of the heiau, is on the coast of Hōnaunau bay in South Kona on the island of Hawai‘i. Hale poki, a house that was apart of the temple, was temporarily used to house the bones of ali‘i. After the priest’s deification ceremony was completed, the bones were taken by family to a safe place, usually a cave, or until an appropriate burial place was found.

Pu‘ukoholā heiau a temple built by King Kamehameha the Great still stands today. The temple is 224 feet long x 100 ft wide, with an outer wall measuring 16 ft horizontally.

Thousands of Hawaiians formed a human chain, over 20 miles long, and passed rocks by hand to construct this massive temple. There were several hale (houses) within the enclosure of the temple walls.

The most infamous heiau were the luakini (human sacrifice temples).The temples were more elaborate and larger than most. They were dedicated to Kū, god of war, which meant human lives were taken, but could only be ordered by the king.