Friday, November 30, 2007

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

Blown by the wind, a large coconut leaf came crashing down a few feet away from us as we walked. Perhaps this was a sign that we should be cautious in our journey, or if we might have accidentally violated some ancient kapu.

A few weeks ago, we were walking on the black lava of the Kona Coast of Hawaii. This is the same coast where Captain Cook, the first European to be discovered by the native Hawaiian people, was killed in a conflict in 1779.

Honaunau Bay was the place for the ali'i, the Hawaiian royal chiefs of Kona. Also built around 1550, and separated from the royal ground by a wall, was the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau ("Place of Refuge"). Housed here are the bones from 33 generations of royal chiefs which possessed "mana", or spiritual power, that protected the pu'uhonua. It was a sanctuary that provided people with a second chance.

At the pu'uhonua, no blood could be shed. It protected everyone -- including defeated enemy warriors and the common people who might have broken the kapu. The penalty for a kapu breaker was immediate death, but if they reached the pu'uhonua, it was possible for them to be absolved by a priest and return home safely.

We did return safely home from Hawaii, and presently back at our daily routine in LA. We hope to share more images and travel stories from our trip in future blog entries, so please stay tuned!



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