Leina a Kauhane was where the spirits of the dead could be reunited with their ancestors. The path of the spirits of dead kinsmen led westward.
Every island there existed a prominent bluff pointing westward, bearing the name: leina-a-ka-uhane (leap of the spirit.) The name marked the jumping-off place where the soul of the dead was believed to depart beyond the land of the living.
When an individual lay on the deathbed, his soul left the body and wandered about; if all earthly obligations had been fulfilled, the soul continued wandering, otherwise it was returned to the body. In its continued wandering it then approached Leina a Kauhane. (DLNR)
The Aha‘aina Makena (death feast or feast of lamentation) was a gathering of relatives and friends to mourn the passing of the ‘uhane (spirit.) It was not a festival; rather, a time of grief. (The feasting was simply feeding the people.)
The cries from the family within and from the mourner approaching from without, were an expression of genuine emotion. …
The another mourner would approach and again the cry of welcome from within and the responding cry without are called the kaukau. (Handy & Pukui)
Kanikau is a general term for all forms of mourning. Loud wailing was called kūmākena (ku-make-ana.) (Handy & Pukui)
Kūmākena was a period of mourning that followed the death of a very high chief during which people wailed, knocked out their teeth, lacerated their bodies, and at last fell into universal prostration.
Also ‘ai kapu (foods that were kapu throughout the year) were ‘ai noa (foods free of kapu.) In the past, when kūmākena ended, the new ruling chief would place the land under a new kapu following old lines.
It was believed that if the new ruling chief did not put a kapu on ‘ai noa, he would not have a long rule. He would be looked upon as one who did not believe the god, Kūkaʻilimoku.
It was further believed that should the ruling chief keep up the ancient kapu and be known to worship the god, he would live long, protected by Kū and Lono, a ward of Kāne and Kanaloa, sheltered within the kapu.
‘Ai kapu was a fixed law for chiefs and commoners, to keep a distinction between things permissible to commoners and those dedicated to the gods. ‘Ai kapu belonged to the kapu of the god; it was forbidden by the god and held sacred by all.
In the old days kūmākena, at the death of a ruling chief who had been greatly loved, was a time of license. ‘Ai noa became an established fact and it was the ruling chiefs who established that custom. (Mookini)
it was with the iwi (bones) that the ʻuhane remained identified, and therefore the bones that must be kept safe from molestation, the usual practice was not burial.
Instead, a relative tended the corpse, removing the decaying flesh and organs by hand, to clean completely (hoʻokele) the bones. This was a labour of love, for a devoted relative. The fleshly refuse (pela) was thrown into the sea.
Through a purloined bone, an enemy or a kahuna, even a mere fisherman, could enslave the ʻuhane and make it serve him, as the kahu of an ʻunihipili used a spirit of that type to help in his work, good or evil. (For example, a fishhook made of a high chiefʻs shinbone would have great mana.) Hence the necessity of disposing of the bones secretly, in a safe hiding place.
The cleaned bones were made into a light compact bundle tied with sennit cords, and borne to the place of concealment. It was easily carried on the back by the kahu (guardian), who went alone in the night so that no one but he would know where they were placed.
Sometimes the bundle of bones was buried under the dwelling house; for aliʻi it was a cave that was known only to his kahu. But generally the bones were taken to a place identified with the ʻaumakua of the family, because the ʻuhane is with its ʻaumakua.
It was usually the daughterʻs or granddaughterʻs duty to attend to the body of a woman; and the wifeʻs, sonʻs or grandsonʻs, of a man.
The body of the dead was washed by the nearest of kin, the wife, mother or the children, especially the eldest, and then clothed in a fresh garment. Salt was placed in thin kapa (later, thin cloth) and placed over the navel. This was believed to slow down decomposition.
Other relatives brought in banana stalks trimmed flat on two sides. These were laid on the floor side by side, then a second layer was put on these, then a mat was placed on top. On this bier the body was laid. The banana stalks kept the body cool. They were changed several times a day.
It was the duty of a very near relative to hide the body away in the family burial cave. The hiding away was always done in secret. Then for years, the wife, husband or children went to the cave to keep the place where the corpse was laid neat and tidy.
The various belongings he loved in life were put in the cave with him. Even food was placed near the dead soon after the burial, in order that the spirit might have food on its long journey to the spirit world, or if the body should be restored to life, there would be something to eat before he sought his way out.
The bones, finger nails, hair or some such relic, were kept in a gourd calabash, wooden calabash, or in a bundle or in a box or trunk.
Sometimes the relics were kept in the dwelling houses of their keepers; but sometimes they were put in a separate house built for the spirit. Some-times the body or relics were hidden away, while the spirit was constantly called upon (hea) by worshipping (hoʻomana) and feeding.
Such an ʻunihipili might return and “sit on” a haka, thereby helping its keeper (kahu) by showing what remedy to use for healing and how to prepare it. Such an ʻunihipili was evil only when the kahu who fed it was evil.
If the kahu was a “filth eating” sorcerer (ʻai hamu) so the ʻunihipili became, in consequence of being sent here and there on deeds of evil. But if the kahu was good, the ʻunihipili was also good. (Handy & Pukui)
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