We Learn of the Principal Idols of Maui…

Between eight and nine o’clock on July 10th, 1823, I sat down in Keopuolani’s house, and entered into an interesting conversation with her, Hoapiri, and several other chiefs, respecting their ancient traditions and mythology. One of the ancient gods of Maui, prior to its subjugation by Kamehameha, they said, was Keoroeva. The body of the image was of wood, and was arrayed in garments of native cloth. The head and neck were formed of a kind of fine basket or wicker work, covered over with red feathers, so curiously wrought in as to resemble the skin of a beautiful bird. A native helmet was placed on the idol’s head, from the crown of which long tresses of human hair hung down over its shoulders. Its mouth, like the greater number of the Hawaiian idols, was large and distended. In all the temples dedicated to its worship, the image was placed within the inner apartment, on the left hand side of the door, and immediately before it stood the altar, on which the offerings of every kind were usually placed. They did not say whether human victims were ever sacrificed to appease its imagined wrath, but large offerings, of everything valuable, were frequent. Sometimes hogs were taken alive, as presents. The large ones were led, and the smaller ones carried in the arms of the priest, into the presence of the idols. The priest then pinched the ears or the tail of the pig till it made a squeaking noise, when he addressed the god, saying, “Here is the offering of such a one of your kahu,” (devotees.) A hole was then made in the pig’s ear, a piece of cinet, made of the fibers of the cocoa-nut husk, was fastened in it, and the pig was set at liberty until the priest had occasion for him. In consequence of this mark, which distinguished the sacred hog, he was allowed to range the district at pleasure; and whatever depredations he might commit, driving him away from the enclosures into which he had broken, was the only punishment allowed to be inflicted. Keoroeva’s hogs were not the only ones thus privileged. The same lenient conduct was observed towards all the sacred pigs, to whatever idol they had been offered. (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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