Pōhaku or stones are believed to hold mana or spiritual power. Pōhaku are featured in shrines as manifestations of ʻaumakua (family guardians,) akua (deities) and ʻuhane (spirits.) Throughout the islands are famous and named pōhaku which figure prominently in healing and health.
At Waikīkī, Oʻahu on Kūhiō Beach Hawaiian legend says Na Pōhaku Ola Kapaemahu A Kapuni were placed here in tribute to four soothsayers, Kapaemahu, Kahaloa, Kapuni and Kinohi, who came from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi (long before the reign of Oʻahu’s chief Kakuhihewa in the 16th century.)
Kapaemahu was the leader of the four and honored for his ability to cast aside carnality and care for both men and women. Kapuni was said to envelop his patients with his mana. While Kinohi was the clairvoyant diagnostician, Kahaloa— whose name means “long breath”—was said to be able to breathe life into her patients.
The art of healing they practiced is known in the Islands as la‘au lapa‘au. In this practice, plants and animals from the land and sea, which are known to have healing properties, are combined with great wisdom to treat the ailing.
They gained fame and popularity because they were able to cure the sick by laying their hands upon them. Before they returned to Tahiti, they asked the people to erect four large pōhaku as a permanent reminder of their visit and the cures they had accomplished.
Legend says that these stones were brought into Waikīkī from Waiʻalae Avenue in Kaimuki, nearly two miles away. Waikīkī was a marshland devoid of any large stones. These stones are basaltic, the same type of stone found in Kaimukī.
On the night of Kāne (the night that the moon rises at dawn,) the people began to move the rocks from Kaimukī to Kūhiō Beach. During a month-long ceremony, the healers are said to have transferred their names — Kapaemahu, Kahaloa, Kapuni and Kinohi — and or spiritual power, to the stones.
One of the pōhaku used to rest where the surf would roll onto the beach known to surfers as “Baby Queens”, the second pōhaku would be found on the ʻEwa side of ʻApuakehau Stream (site of Royal Hawaiian Hotel), and the last two pōhaku once sat above the water line fronting Ulukou (near the site of the present Moana Hotel.)
It was not until the first decade of the 1900s that Gov. Archibald Cleghorn discovered two stones on his property and two on an adjacent property.
Recognizing their significance, Cleghorn had them excavated and placed together on his estate with the stipulation that they should not be moved.
However, in 1941, the estate land was leased out for the building of a bowling alley. Upon the bowling alley’s demolition, in 1958, the stones were identified and repaired. (They were used in the building’s foundation.)
Then, in 1963, they were relocated to Kūhiō Beach. In 1980, the stones were moved again, approximately 50 feet mauka (toward the mountains) from their 1963 location.
Finally, in 1997, action began to create a permanent and more appropriate home for the stones. Cultural historian and great-great-grandson of Archibald Cleghorn, Manu Boyd, reportedly said, “The value and meaning of the stones had faded over time with the changing values and mores of the day. Then, their importance was remembered and embraced by people who wanted to restore them.”
For years, committed individuals collaborated on plans to create a wahi pana (sacred place) where Na Pohaku could be honored and protected. This wahi pana (or legendary site) was restored with the Assistance of Papa Henry Auwae and the Queen Emma Foundation 1997.
In addition to the many involved with the restoration, a delegation from Tahiti was present for the final ceremonies. These individuals blessed the stones with wild basil, traditionally used for cleansing, and presented a small stone from Tahiti named Ta‘ahu ea as a ho‘okupu (offering). That stone is now set on top of the altar in front of Na Pohaku.
Following the direction of Papa Auwae, four plants with medicinal value were added to the site—ma‘o (Hawaiian cotton), ‘ohe (bamboo), makahala (wild tobacco) and naupaka kahakai (beach naupaka).
The group Na Haumana La‘au Lapa‘au O Papa Auwae is the adoptive caretaker of Na Pōhaku. Babette Galang, who studied la‘au lapa‘au under Auwae, explained, “We were advised by Papa Auwae before his passing that we were to malama [take care of] the site.”
The image shows Na Pōhaku Ola Kapaemahu A Kapuni. Lots of information here from Karyl Reynolds. In addition, I have included other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.