by Martyn Kahekili Carruthers

The healing traditions of old Hawaii were called witchcraft by Christian missionaries after the ‘discovery’ of Hawaii by Captain Cook. Look under that terrible label …

Na aumakua mai ka la hiki a ka la kau
Your ancestral deities from the sun descended to earth

mai ka ho’oku’i a ka halawai
from the arch of heaven to the horizon

na aumakua ia Kahina’akua ia Kahina’alo
your ancestral deities Kahina’akua and Kahina’alo

Ia ka’a akau ikalani…
have gone beyond to the heavens …

Many native Hawaiians love to talk story to interested people. If you are fortunate enough to meet a Hawaiian kupuna (elder) or a kahuna (expert), be polite, quiet and pay attention to the stories you may hear.

I and my friends who study and use traditional Hawaiian healing pay attention to stories that reflect the old culture, especially if those stories involve mental or physical healing. We are fascinated by the old arts of ho’oponopono (healing relationships), ho’omanamana (energy work), la’au lapa’au (healing by herbs) and la’au kahea (healing by chants).

And to understand Hawaiian huna, you may need to delve into its roots in the South Pacific – in the Marquesas Islands and even further in New Zealand. The diamonds are there – but you have to dig for them!

My primary teacher of la’au lapa’au was Papa Henry Auwae of Hilo, Hawaii. Papa died in 2001 and my fellow students and I honor his memory. He gave us many hints, tips and clues – not only on traditional Hawaiian healing but also on the underlying consciousness required to achieve lasting results. For more on this see Awaiku.

Short-term results is a curse amongst healers … and more than any of my other Hawaiian teachers, Papa Henry showed me the basis of long-term results … how to recognize and change the relationships that give rise to emotions that support or cause mental or physical symptoms that usually have some benefits. As Papa Henry said, “Sooner or later, your body reflects your relationships” and “What is the point of healing someone if they learn nothing from their disease?

Elder Hawaiian healers recognized illness caused by external relationships (mawaho) and diseases caused by internal imbalances (maloko). Mawaho illnesses required ho’oponopono with the living and the dead, while maloko disease required herbal remedies (la’au lapa’au). Many diseases required both.

Papa Henry referred to many Western diseases, such as AIDS or multiple sclerosis, as cancer – he was more concerned about finding solutions than Western diagnosis. Some of Papa Henry’s advice was counter to other Hawaiian healers – for example about noni fruit. Although many Hawaiian healers promote and use this fruit, Papa Henry was concerned about its noxious effects.

I integrated many Hawaiian healing concepts into our systemic psychology.

Ma ka hana ka ‘ike
Gain knowledge by doing

Some sources estimate that the native population of Hawaii was about 300,000 when Captain Cook arrived in 1778; but by 1853 it was about 71,000. mostly because of epidemics of Western diseases that the Kahuna healers had not encountered before.

Here’s an old story about the origin of la’au lapa’au in Hawaii …

Talking Story in 1929 (from Honolulu Advertiser)

In the old days, strangers from kahiki came to Hawaii. They landed at Ni’ihau, and visited all the islands. Wherever the strangers went, villagers became sick and many died. They were followed by another stranger, Kamakanuiaha’ilono, a kahuna who healed the sick. In this way they went to the Ka’u district of Hawaii. The people of Ka’u expressed aloha (love) with gifts of food and awa (narcotic drink) to the kahuna. The kahuna noticed a red man working in a taro patch and asked about him. The people explained that the red man was Lono – their chief. The kahuna said that Lono was sick – although the villagers protested that their chief was healthy. “Take care of him“, said the kahuna, and left.

Lono was so angry at being called sick that he accidentally speared his own foot with his digging stick, and fainted from the pain. One of the villagers ran after the healer with a pig as a gift, and asked the healer to heal their chief. The healer returned to Lono, gathering popolo seeds as he walked. He pounded the seeds together with salt and placed the mixture on the wound with a covering of coconut cloth. He remained with Lono until the wound healed, and again left the village, walking towards Puna.

Lono ran after him. The kahuna asked Lono why he was following. Lono replied that he wanted to learn the healing skills, and that he had already delegated his chiefly duties to his heirs. The kahuna asked Lono to open his mouth – spat in it as a symbol of the knowledge that would pass between them. The kahuna added the name puha (sore) to Lono – who was then known as Lonopuha.

They followed the strangers from Kahiki, healing people through the districts of Ka’u, Puna, Hilo and Hamakua. Lonopuha learned to recognize and treat the diseases that followed the strangers. By the time they arrived at Waipi’o, Lonopuha was so proficient that the kahuna suggested that they part, so that Lonopuha could gain his reputation. The kahuna went to Kukui-haele and Lonopuha to Waimana.

Lonopuha settled in Waipi’o, working as a healer. His Aumakua gave him more and more healing knowledge. As his fame grew, he became a famous kumu (teacher), and his students were in demand for their skills. Lonopuha became known as ka po’o kahuna la’au lapa’au – “the first head healer” and after his death he became the first Aumakua of the kahuna haha (a class of healer kahuna). The land around Kukui-haele became famous as a land of heiau temples.

In the following years, inspired by Lonopuha, the methods for healing the sick continued to develop. Another student of the strange kahuna healer, Puheke, had also became a great kahuna, and trained his son Pahala. When Puheke was about to die, he instructed his son Pahala that after the flesh was stripped from his bones (a ritual for the dead) Pahala was to carefully examine his organs, to learn about the cause of his death. Pahala found that the bowels of Puheke were clogged with waste.

Pahala consulted his aumakua, (ancestral deities) who inspired him to use water to flush away such waste. Pahala went on to develop the first syringe, made from a bamboo and a gourd, and invented both the enema and the purgative.

Hawaiian La’au Lapa’au Remedies

To old Hawaiians, mana (spiritual power) was necessary for any success. Education was one way to gain mana. Children who might have “healing powers” could be sent to live and study with a healing kahuna from as young as five, and they could well spend 15 years in training.

They studied anatomy, diagnosis, medicinal plants, and sacred chants. They learned how to perform surgical procedures, set bones and make autopsies. They used steam baths, massage, and laxatives. Traditional Hawaiian herbal remedies include:

  • Aalii (Hopseed bush): Hopseed leaves can be used for rashes, itches and skin diseases.
  • Awa (Kava): Awa can be used for headaches, muscle pain, and to induce sleep. It is also a treatment for general weakness, chills, colds and other lung problems, such as bronchitis and asthma.
  • Awapuhi (Shampoo ginger): Use ashes of leaves for cuts and sores. Use the root for ringworm and sprains and bruises, and for headache, toothache and stomach ache.
  • Kalo (Taro): Raw taro rootstock can be applied to wounds to stop bleeding and use cut raw petiole to relieve pain and prevent swelling of insect bites and stings. Use the corm for indigestion and as a laxative. The leaves can be used to control asthma.
  • Ko (Sugar cane): Sugar cane sap can sweeten herbal preparations, and the juice from the shoot can be used for lacerations.
  • Mamaki: The inner part of the fruit can treat thrush and general debility. The leaves can be used as Hawaiian tea and an infusion made from the leaves is used to treat general weakness.
  • Noni (Indian Mulberry): The leaves and bark can be prepared as a tonic, and for urinary disorders and muscle and joint pain. The ripe fruit or leaves can be used as a poultice for boils, wounds and fractures. A tonic from the immature fruit can be used for diabetes, high blood pressure and loss of appetite. (Papa Henry often criticized the haphazard use of noni).
  • Ohia lehua: These flowers can ease childbirth; leaf bud tea is a tonic and used to treat colds.
  • Olena (Turmeric): Turmeric root can be used for for earache, and nose and throat discomfort.
  • Pia (Arrowroot): Arrowroot starch in water can be used for diarrhea, and mixed with red clay for dysentery. The starch can be applied to wounds to stop bleeding.

There is more … much more. Although the herbal remedies were useful and often powerful, I was more interested in the underlying consciousness required for healing. This opened an enormous box of treasures that I have been using and developing for many years under the name Soulwork Systemic Coaching.

Hawaiian Spirituality . Ho’oponopono . Huna, Healing and Ohana . Kumulipo . Soulwork

E komo mai. Welcome.
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