Mo’okini Heiau sits high on a knoll and enjoys a panoramic view of the Upolu Point of Kohala and the distant shores of
Maui. It stands in the
center of a once-royal complex that was a vital center of sacred and secular
power. It is one of the first luakini heiau (temple of human sacrifice) built
by the Tahitian Priest Paao in the 12th century. Legend has it that
it was the site of countless thousands of human sacrifices to the gods. The current site includes remains of the
sacrificial temple measuring 250' x 130' with an open stone paved court
enclosed by 20-foot-high stone walls and the sacrificial stone. According to
oral tradition it was built in one night by
15-20,000 men passing stones to one another from the Niuli’i, nine miles away.
The Tahitians believed that there was not enough respect on the part of resident Hawaiians for the gods, and they set out to strengthen the kapu system by building this temple and enforcing the strict laws of the land (kapu). Paao summoned the warrior chief Pili who brought stones from one of the most sacred sacrificial temples in
placed the bodies of fresh victims beneath these stones used as pillars to
consecrate Mo’okini Heiau. Mu, or body catchers, collected the humans to be
sacrificed. These were most often conquered warriors or members of the slave class.
Women and children were generally spared. The bodies of the victims were then
baked and the flesh removed from the bones. The bones were used for fish hooks
or parts for weapons.
The oldest, largest, and most sacred heiau in old
Hawaii is all that
remains of the royal Kohala complex dismantled by sugar plantation owners in
the 19th century. To
Hawaiians it is a living spiritual temple and not a cultural artifact.
It was long held to be strictly kapu to visit, but In November of 1978 Kahuna Nui Leimomi Mo'okini Lum rededicated the Mo'okini Luakini to the "Children of the Land" and lifted the restrictive Kapu. In doing this she made it safe for all persons to enter the Heiau and created a new legacy for the Mo'okini Luakini as a place of learning for future generations to discover the past. Kahuna Nui Lum followed closely the wishes of her father Kahuna Nui Dewey O. Mo'okini who visualized this sacred site as one for the children of
Hawai'i and the entire world.
Take Highway 270 north from Kawaihae. Near Mile Marker #20 turn left at the sign to
Research for Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i became a beautiful obsession that called for numerous trips to the Islands. I visited sacred sites, interviewed elders, spent nights in Waipio Valley where the bones of ancient chiefs are hidden in caves in steep walls framing the canyon. .www.lindaballouauthor.com