We Observe Buhenehene, a Popular Native Game…

This is one of the most popular games in the Sandwich Islands, and the favorite amusement of the king, and higher order of chiefs, frequently occupying them whole days together. It principally consists in hiding a small stone under one of five pieces of native tapa, so as to prevent the spectators from discovering under which piece it is hid. The parties at play sit cross-legged, on mats spread on the ground, each one holding in his right hand a small elastic rod, about three feet long, and highly polished. At the small end of this stick there is a narrow slit or hole, through which a piece of dog’s skin, or a piece of Ti leaf, is usually drawn. Five pieces of cloth, of different colors, each loosely folded up like a bundle, are then placed between the two parties, which generally consists of five persons each. One person is then selected on each side to hide the stone. He who is first to hide it, takes it in his right hand, lifts up the cloth at one end, puts his arm under as far as his elbow, and, passing it along several times, underneath the five pieces of cloth, which lie in a line contiguous to each other, he finally leaves it under one of them. The other party sit opposite, watching closely the action in the muscles of the upper part of his arm; and, it is said, that adepts can discover the place where the stone is deposited, by observing the change that takes place in those muscles, when the hand ceases to grasp it. Having deposited the stone, the hider withdraws his arm; and, with many gestures, separates the contiguous pieces of cloth into five distinct heaps, leaving a narrow space between each.

The opposite party, having keenly observed this process, now point with their wands or sticks to the different heaps under which they suppose the stone lies, looking significantly, at the same time, full in the face of the man who had hid it. He sits all the while, holding his fingers before his eyes, to prevent their noticing any change in his countenance, should one of them point to the heap under which it is hid. Having previously agreed who shall strike first, that individual, looking earnestly at the hider, lifts his rod, and strikes a smart blow across the heap he had selected. The cloth is instantly lifted up; and should the stone appear under it, his party have won that hiding, with one stroke; if it is not there, the others strike, till the stone is found. The same party hide the stone five or ten times successively, according to their agreement at the commencement of the play; and whichever party discovers it the given number of times, with fewest strokes, wins the game. Sometimes they reverse it; and those win, who, in a given number of times, strike most heaps without uncovering the stone. Occasionally they play for amusement only; but more frequently for money, or other articles of value, which they stake on the game. (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)


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