FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hā`ena, Kaua‘i, HI USA - An ancient ceremony which made Kaua‘i famous in the days of old has been revived after more than eighty years. The ‘ōahi (firebrand) ceremony, long commemorated in song and chant, was performed on Makana mountain in Hā‘ena on New Year’s Eve.
“This momentous occasion atop this iconic symbol of Kaua‘i has filled our community with pride,” said Kawika Winter, Director of NTBG’s Limahuli Garden and Preserve in Hā‘ena, after the ceremony. “Hā‘ena is a special place. It is where traditions live. That was proven tonight.”
Anciently, the ‘ōahi ceremony was maintained by a small circle of keepers who protected its sanctity, and who only performed it on special occasions, such as graduation ceremonies for the heiau located at the base of the mountain. Makana was kapu or “off limits” for any other reason since it is considered a sacred site. Only the keepers of this ceremony could access its summit, and the trail to get there was kept secret. The last time someone climbed the mountain to perform the ceremony was when La‘a Mahuiki, the husband of the well-known elder Rachel Mahuiki, went in the 1920s .
It was one of the grandsons of La‘a who led the expedition to the summit on December 31. “For years I had a feeling from deep in my nā`au [gut] that I needed to get up there,” explained Moku Chandler, now in his mid-fifties. “And it’s dangerous, boy! One wrong move and you’re falling straight down the pali. But it was my grandpa who lifted me up there. I know that.”
Chandler, still beaming with pride days after the ceremony, recognizes that this was not for his glory. “It was for my kūpuna, my keiki, and my mo‘opuna, and their mo‘opuna.” To ensure that this tradition lives on in his family, Chandler brought along his eldest son, Moku-Boy, and his nephew, Ka‘imi Hermasura.
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