Last week I wrote about some of Hawaii’s ancient legends and the ghosts that haunt them in an article called “October and the Ghosts of Hawaii’s past.” (https://karibovee.com/2016/10/04/october-and-the-ghosts-of-hawaiis-past/) . The stories highlighted take place in village of Kailua-Kona, but this week I want to write about some of the ghosts a few miles south along the craggy shoreline.
The Big Island of Hawaii is an archaeologist’s treasure trove. Its past is filled with legendary battles, death penalties for crimes, and human sacrifice. Bones litter the Island in sacred heiaus and burial grounds. Human habitation of the Big Island is said to have dated back as early as 400 CE when Polynesians traveled there, over 2000 miles from their homeland of the Marquesas Islands (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/hawaii-history-and-heritage-4164590/?no-ist). None of Hawaii’s ancient dead were buried at sea, and the ground, all lava rock, made it difficult for deep underground burial without modern machinery. Generations of bones scatter the island.
There are so many bones littering the island that buying and building real estate can be challenging because so much of the land is protected. Archaeologists are continuously called in to assess properties for possible burials. No surprise that many island hauntings have been sited and documented by locals and tourists. The island is also a highly spiritual place and its people have strong traditions in folklore, mythical legends and old religions. In my book Bones of the Redeemed, soon to be completed, my protagonist, Annie Delgado, a doctoral student of Archaeology in New Mexico, must also deal with strong spiritual and superstitious beliefs when she encounters a secret religious society in an ancient land also infused with a mystical and magical past.
The site of the Sheraton Kona Hotel, formerly the Keauhou Bay Resort, and once called the Kona Surf (torn down 2004), juts out onto the jagged lava cliffs of the Kona Lagoon. A tranquil spot, it is no wonder the ancient Alii, or Hawaiian royalty came to this place to rest and play. Guests and employees of the old Kona Surf Hotel told stories of hearing two little girls running and playing in the hallways in the middle of the night. When security was called to investigate, no one could be found. There is an ancient Hawaiian legend that says that site was the dwelling place of twin sisters, ancient supernatural beings, who took the form of lizards.
Others have seen a ghost standing on the cliff in front of the hotel who disappears into thin air. The area is also the site of two ancient heiaues – platforms made of volcanic rock for spiritual rites and human sacrifice. When the Kona Surf Hotel was torn down in 2004, the heiaues were resurrected in hopes of appeasing the gods, and now, still stand. Walking upon the ground of these and all heiaues is greatly frowned upon, and the trespasser might well fall into unfortunate circumstances.
Nearby, at Lekeleke, also situated on the lagoon, is the site of the famous final battle fought on the island of Hawaii. The Great Kamehameha ruled the Islands under the Kapu system – an ancient, sacred code of laws that directed religious practices and a way of life for the Hawaiians.
Influenced by the Christian missionaries who landed on the island in 1820, Liholiho (King Kamehameha II), the Great Kamehameha’s heir, abandoned the Kapu system. To show his power, he committed the bold act of eating a meal with his mother, Queen Ka’ahumanu. Kamehameha I’s nephew, Kekuaokalani was outraged at the abolishment of the ancient way of life, and demanded that the Kapu system be reinforced. Liholio refused and the great final battle of Kuamo’o began. Three hundred Hawaiian warriors, including Kekuaokalni and his wife, died at the site, along with the ancient Kapu system. Today, terraces built into the lava cliffside still hold the bones of those warriors.
One of the most magical places on the Island, in my opinion, is Puuhonua O Honaunau, or the City of Refuge, a tranquil spot on the coast in Captain Cook, HI, about 15 miles from Kailua-Kona.
The laws under the ancient Kapu system were strict. Standing too close to the chief, walking across his shadow, touching his possessions, or walking in his footsteps were some of the offenses worthy of death. Violating these kapus, among others like men and women eating together, were said to incur the wrath of the gods. If unfortunate enough to break the kapu for any reason, one would be hunted down and killed—unless they reached Puuhonua, the place of refuge. There a priest, or kahuna, could absolve the offender of his or her transgression, purify them and send them home. Puuhonua was also a place for defeated warriors or innocents in war time to take refuge during times of battle. Those who did not make it there in time are said to be spirits wandering the site in need of purification or rescue.
I have visited three places in the world that have spoken to me in a deeply profound and spiritual way. Puuhonua, the City of Refuge is one of them. Whenever I visit the island, which is about three times a year, I always make time for that magical place. As I walk around the ancient ruins of the Alii palace, built behind a wall of the refuge, and look toward the tranquil bay on one side, and out into the sea on the other, I can feel the presence of lost souls searching for peace. I may not have seen the ghosts, but I have felt them. There is a tranquility and comfort at Puuhonua that I find hard to put into words. Not all ghosts are scary.
History is full of ghosts, and like the archaeologist in my book, I love to delve into the past of magical and mystical worlds. When I return home to the Land of Enchantment, I would like to share some of its past history and ghosts with you—for October is the time of year for ghost stories.