Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Nov 30, 2014


I was asked on my ghost tour one night why I never take my people to the stone ahu just off to the Diamond Head side of the Pohukaina Burial mound on the grounds of the 'Iolani Palace.

I'm not in the practice of making something out of nothing.  The truth is, there's nothing supernatural about the stone altar.  The Ahu was erected around the time of the hundred-year anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1993.  That would make the stone altar twenty-one years old. It's not ancient, it hadn't been there during the reign of Lili'u, Kalakaua, or any other monarch who ruled from the throne of either incarnation of 'Iolani Palace.

Our friends at posted this article:

A small, unnamed stone altar sits on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace.  About a yard (or meter) square, this site does not appear in the old photos, or even the fairly recent ones.  We asked Lynette Cruz about this ahu.  Here is her story:

"Prior to 1993, there was a plan for a 100th anniversary commemoration of the overthrow of the Kingdom in 1893.  And prior to that there was a plan for some way to bring all of the islands together, some visible marker of unification.  People brought rocks, from all islands, and they had a team of people there build an ahu.

"Friends of ‘Iolani Palace were not happy with the ahu.  They actually didn’t want it to be there.  The didn’t want it to be on the site at all.  Their wish was for that area to be kept pretty much as it was, and there was no ahu there before.  However, it was a people’s thing, and they did it anyway, and it’s there.  And people will come."

"Our ancestors are honored always, and the mound is set aside for the ali‘i.  And this other piece is ours, our history, our kupuna, our people who were in struggle.  We are able to honor them by bringing some physical manifestation -- a rock -- to this place where we could all be together -- unification."

"It seems that the ahu symbolizes resistance, and no matter what is all around us in terms of State or Federal control, that is ours.  So we will always be able to honor our own there.  That place belongs to us.  And when people in the movement, in the struggle, die, we tend to have a ceremony there at the ahu.  Kahale Smith, he died in a fire on Kaua‘i, on Hawaiian homestead land -- he was being evicted, and refused to leave his house, then it caught fire and burned down with him in it.  A major outcry followed, but then all of us were thinking, 'well, we have to do something about it.'  And a whole bunch of us met and decided that we would do something for him at the mound.  Hundreds and hundreds of people came, it was jammed around in that area, within that enclosed area.  So it’s a very significant place for us, us common people."

"The rocks keep changing.  We’ve only been maintaining the mound area for like three years, going on a fourth, and in that time the rocks have changed.  These are not the same rocks that were there when we first came, and they were not the rocks that were there when they first built it, because they have photographs of them.  Rocks are changing — rocks come, and rocks go. People bring things, sometimes they bring crystals, sometimes they bring continental rocks, more quartz like, so they’re not from here."

"But all in all, it has been a really good place for people to come, when they have to bring closure to something.  And I have actually participated in some ceremonies there, where people who are grieving, especially those who have gone away from Hawai'i and come home, and have lost family members, and really do not know how to deal with it, because they have been away from Hawai‘i for so long, they have kind of forgotten.  They will go to that area, to the ahu, and bring stones from where they used to live, and make peace. It must work, because people will walk away feeling okay."


Ho'akoakoa - a place to gather.  Anything can be healing.  It takes an open mind, an open heart and a willingness to let go.  But...
Not everything is haunted.

Nov 6, 2014


Once I completed my training and became a Kumu Hula, I had gained all of the knowledge that was imparted to me by my teachers from our school of hula, which dates back to antiquity.  However, the process of learning in and of itself never stops, so in the process of gaining new knowledge, there is also kuleana (responsibility) that comes with it.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to have been able to study a different style of ‘oli from Kumu Hula Kalani Akana.  It wasn’t the bombastic, dynamic style that I was used to but I liked it.  Of all the chants that we learned, there was one ‘oli in particular that stayed with me and, with Kumu’s permission, we were given the option of adding whatever chants we learned to our already existing repertoire.  I added the following  to mine:This was a chant collected by Mrs. Eleanor Williamson of the Bishop Museum during her interviews of Hawaiian elders of ‘O‘ahu.  The place names in this chant are particular to ‘O‘ahu, Makahuna and the pili o Hūewa are in the ahupuaof Palolo.
In it’s regular form, this chant is very well known by many, as it is the chant that Kumu Hula ‘O Brian ‘Eselu gives before his men dance and it is the first track on his flagship CD.  You also hear his haumana, who are now kumu hula, offer this same chant as well.
The beauty of this chant and the imagery within the words painted a picture in my mind's eye as Kumu Kalani chanted first, in order to give us a feel for what the chant should sound like.  The room disappeared and I was standing at Makahuna overlooking what I thought was an undulating sea of brown water until I realized it was the wind causing the pili grass of Hūewa to move back and forth like waves.  I was there and I was struck by the power of where a chant such as this could take me or anyone for that matter.
Unfortunately, with what I do for a living, the opportunity to offer this chant anywhere on one of my evening excursions never came.  What I mean by that is that the proper location to offer the chant never presented itself.  We all wish that there was one Hawaiian chant that covered all places, people and things but there is not.  Each place that I visit and pay homage to requires a specific chant appropriate to that location.  For instance, on my Wai‘anae excursions there is a specific chant that I offer at Kaneana cave that identifies me as a family member to the deity that occupies that cave. At the heiau at Kane‘ilio Point, there is a chant that I offer that honors the skills of our ancestral navigators since the heiau itself was used for celestial navigation.  At Ke‘awa‘ula, there are many chants that I offer to Kuali‘i, the huakai hele i ka po and to the procession that walks out to the leaping stone of Kaena.  Yes, there are regular aloha chants that can be offered but for myself and myself only, in my na‘au, I feel that the chant must be appropriate to the place or the person.  Others may disagree and that is fine, there will never be one clear way of thinking, nor will there be one way to standardize all chants and that is the beauty of diversity.
Alas, I have diverted from my original path...
Finally, the right time and place presented itself on a cool October evening at the Spalding House Museum where I was presenting ghost stories on the lawn to a crowd of fans whose vibrations of excitement and nervous energy could be felt like a light electrical current running through me.
As the sun was setting, I glanced toward Diamond Head and I could just make out what was once the pili grass plains of Hūewa.  I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath and the ‘oli came.  Once more, I was there.  The ko‘oko‘olau were bunched in clusters and the dawn of Pualena shone upon the red flowers of the ‘a‘ali‘i.  The yellow rays of the rising sun tinged the surface of the old pond and the cooling winds from Waikiki came over the hill near Kilauea as a greeting.  The pili grass moved like the waves of the rolling sea. I held the last note of the chant for as long as I could, not wanting to let go.  With the air in my lungs finally expelled, I opened my eyes and I was back on the lawn of the museum.
For me, that was the beauty and the actualization of offering the right chant at the right place at the right time.  The oli is my ho'okupu, my offering.  It not only brings everything together in a way that is pono but it also raises the vibration in said place to a higher level.  Beauty.
Mahalo for being part of my virtual audience.
By the way...  I anticipated that there would be those of you who might wonder why the Hawaiian language version of this lovely chant was not included.  The answer to that is, do your homework.  Make it fun and go do your own research and find the ‘oli  yourself.  May your journey leave you humble yet enlightened.

Day has dawned and shines bright red
upon the flower of the ‘a‘ali‘i
and yellow tinged upon the water
wreathed by blades of kalukalu,
piled high with ‘uki‘uki grass
the center of the ko‘oko‘olau flower is bunched
my women of the kaiāulu, flowering below
where the water of the Nāulu rain spurts up below
like the hidden wealth of Makahuna
that waves like the pili grass of Hūewa