Mourning Ceremonies and Customs at the Death of the Chiefs…

We passed through two villages, containing between three and four hundred inhabitants, and reached Kalahiti about four in the afternoon. At this place we observed many of the people with their hair either cut or shaved close on both sides of their heads, while it was left very long in the middle from the forehead to the back of the neck. When we inquired the reason of this, they informed us, that, according to the custom of their country, they had cut their hair, in the manner we perceived, on account of their chief who had been sick, and who they had heard was dead. The Sandwich islanders observe a number of singular ceremonies on the death of their kings and chiefs, and have been till very recently, accustomed to make these events occasions for the practice of almost every enormity and vice. The custom we noticed at this place is the most general. The people here had followed only one fashion in cutting their hair, but we have seen it polled in every imaginable form ; sometimes a small round place only is made bald just on the crown, which causes them to look like Romish priests; at other times the whole head is shaved or cropped close, except round the edge, where, for about half an inch in breadth, the hair hangs down its usual length. Some make their heads bald on one side, and leave the hair twelve or eighteen inches long on the other. Occasionally they cut out a patch, in the shape of a horse-shoe, either behind, or above the forehead ; and sometimes we have seen a number of curved furrows cut from ear to ear, or from the forehead to the neck. When a chief who had lost a relative or friend had his own hair cut after any particular pattern, his followers and dependants usually imitated it in cutting theirs. Not to cut or shave off the hair, indicates want of respect towards the deceased and the surviving friends, but to have it cut close in any form is enough. Each one usually follows his own taste, which produces the endless variety in which this ornamental appendage of the head is worn by the natives during a season of mourning. (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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Our Journey Along the Shore…

As we passed along this vaulted avenue, called by the natives Keanaee, we beheld a number of caverns and tunnels, from some of which streams of lava had flowed. The mouths of others being walled up with stones, we supposed were used as sepulchres. Mats, spread upon the slabs of lava, calabashes, &c. indicated some of them to be the habitations of men; others, near the openings, were used as workshops, where women were weaving mats, or beating cloth. Some, we also saw, used as storehouses, or depositories of sandal wood. In many places the water filtered through the lava, and, around the spots where it had dropped on the ground, we observed a quantity of fine white spear-shaped crystals of a sharp nitrous taste. Having walked a considerable distance along the covered way, and collected as many specimens of the lava as we could conveniently carry, we returned to the sea-shore. Mr. Harwood being indisposed, and unable to travel, and being myself but weak, we proceeded in the canoe to Kalahiti, where we landed about 2 P.M. and waited the arrival of our companions. The rest of the party travelled along the shore, by a path often tedious and difficult. The lava frequently presented a mural front, from sixty to a hundred feet high, in many places hanging over their heads, apparently every moment ready to fall; while beneath them the long rolling billows of the Pacific chased and foamed among the huge fragments of volcanic rocks, along which their road lay. In many places the lava had flowed in vast torrents over the top of the precipice into the sea. Broad flakes of it, or masses like stalactites, hung from the projecting edge in every direction. The attention was also attracted by a number of apertures in the face of the rocks, at different distances from their base, looking like so many glazed tunnels, from which streams of lava had gushed out and fallen into the ocean below, probably at the same time that it had rolled down in a horrid cataract from the lofty rocks above. (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.)

We Observe an Ancient Cataract of Lava, and Irregular Vaulted Avenue…

Being sufficiently recovered to proceed on the journey, we left Keokoa about eight o’clock on the morning of the 24th. After travelling half a mile, a singular appearance of the lava, at a small distance from the shore, attracted our attention, and, on examination, presented a curious phenomenon. It consisted of a covered avenue of considerable extent, from fifty to sixty feet in height, formed by the flowing of the lava, in some recent eruption, over the edge of a perpendicular pile of ancient volcanic rocks, from sixty to seventy feet high. It appeared as if, at first, it had flowed over in one vast sheet, but had afterwards fallen more slowly, and in detached semifluid masses. These, cooling as they fell, had hardened and formed a pile, which, by continued augmentation from above, had ultimately reached the top, and united with the liquid lava there. It was evident that the lava had still continued to flow, along the outside of the arch thus formed, into the plain below, as we observed, in several places, the courses of unbroken streams, from the top of the cliff to the bed of smooth lava, that covered the beach for several miles. The space at the bottom between the ancient rocks and more recently formed lava, was from six to twelve feet. On one side the lava rose, perpendicular and smooth, shewing distinctly the different and variously coloured masses of ancient lava of which it was composed; some of a bright scarlet, others brown and purple. The whole pile appeared to have undergone since its formation the effects of violent heat. The cracks and hollows, horizontally between the different strata, or obliquely through them, were filled with lava of a florid red colour, and much less porous than the general mass. This last kind of lava must have been brought to a state of most perfect liquefaction, as it had filled up every crevice that was more than half an inch wide. It appeared highly glazed, and in some places we could discover small round pebples, from the size of a hazel-nut to that of a hen’s egg, of the same colour, and having the same vitreous covering, yet seeming to have remained solid, while the liquid lava, with which they were mixed, had been forced by subterranean fire into all the fissures of the ancient rock. The pile on the other side, formed by the dripping of the liquid lava from the upper edge of the rocks, presented a striking contrast, but not a less interesting sight. It was generally of a dark purple or jet black colour, glittering in the rays of the sun, as if glazed over with a beautiful vitreous varnish. (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.)

The Advantages of Honaunau for a Missionary Station…

We were uncomfortable during our short stay at Honaunau, and the people less kind than we usually found them, it appeared to us a most eligible place for a missionary station, where one or two devoted men might labour with a prospect of extensive usefulness. The inhabitants, objects of the first attention with a missionary, are numerous, both in the town and neighbourhood. The coast, for twenty miles to the northward, includes not less perhaps than forty villages, either on the shore or a short distance inland, and contains probably a population of 20,000 souls, among whom a missionary might labour with facility. Though there is at present no chief of distinction residing here, as at Kairua, or Kearake’kua, yet the very circumstance of establishing a station here might lead one to remove hither; and the conduct of the people, we have no doubt, would alter materially as they became better acquainted with the missionaries, and their object in settling permanently among them. It is near Kearake’kua bay, the frequent resort of shipping, where supplies might be left; and the natives also told us, that fresh water in considerable quantities might be procured at a short distance. We had not an opportunity to examine the place where they said it was found; but should this prove a fact, Honaunau would possess an accommodation seldom met with on this side of the island. (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.)

The Advantages of Honaunau for a Missionary Station…

We were uncomfortable during our short stay at Honaunau, and the people less kind than we usually found them, it appeared to us a most eligible place for a missionary station, where one or two devoted men might labour with a prospect of extensive usefulness. The inhabitants, objects of the first attention with a missionary, are numerous, both in the town and neighbourhood. The coast, for twenty miles to the northward, includes not less perhaps than forty villages, either on the shore or a short distance inland, and contains probably a population of 20,000 souls, among whom a missionary might labour with facility. Though there is at present no chief of distinction residing here, as at Kairua, or Kearake’kua, yet the very circumstance of establishing a station here might lead one to remove hither; and the conduct of the people, we have no doubt, would alter materially as they became better acquainted with the missionaries, and their object in settling permanently among them. It is near Kearake’kua bay, the frequent resort of shipping, where supplies might be left; and the natives also told us, that fresh water in considerable quantities might be procured at a short distance. We had not an opportunity to examine the place where they said it was found; but should this prove a fact, Honaunau would possess an accommodation seldom met with on this side of the island. (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.)

The Population of this Part of the Coast…

Our accommodations at Honaunau were very indifferent. The house where we stayed, in addition to other unpleasant circumstances, being entirely open at one end, exposed us by night as well as by day to the unwelcome intrusion of hogs and dogs of every description. As I was able to walk out on the 23d, we resolved to change our lodgings that evening; and about five o’clock in the afternoon we removed nearly half a mile, to a place called Keokea, where we put up in the best house we saw, in hopes of procuring at least a comfortable night’s rest. In this, however, we were disappointed, for it rained heavily the greater part of the night, and the roof of the house not being water-proof, we were more than once obliged to shift our mats to different parts of the earthen floor. This was not all; our host, and Makoa our guide, with almost a house full of natives besides, had been regaling themselves with an immense wooden bowl of fermented juice of the sweet potato, and were very noisy till midnight, when they lay down on their mats, but to our great annoyance continued either talking or singing until it was almost day. We frequently spoke to them, and asked them to be still. They answered, “Yes, yes, we will;” but in a few minutes were as boisterous as ever. We were not aware of the intoxicating nature of the simple juice of sweet potatoes when fermented, till we saw its effects on the party here. (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.)

The Puahonua is Used During a Time of War…

Whenever war was proclaimed, and during the period of actual hostilities, a white flag was unfurled, in the Puahonua, on the top of a tall spear, at each end of the enclosure, and, until the conclusion of peace, waved the symbol of hope to those who, vanquished in fight, might flee thither for protection. It was fixed a short distance from the walls on the outside, and to to the spot on which this banner was unfurled, the victorious warrior might chase his routed foes; but here, he must himself fall back; beyond it he must not advance one step, on pain of forfeiting his life. The priests, and their adherents, would immediately put to death any one who should have the temerity to follow or molest those who were once within the pale of the pahu tabu; and, as they expressed it, under the shade or protection of the spirit of Keave, the tutelar deity of the place. The puhonua at Honaunau is capacious, capable of containing a vast multitude of people. In time of war, the females, children, and old people of the neighbouring districts, were generally left within it, while the men went to battle. Here they awaited in safety the issue of the conflict, and were secure against surprise and destruction, in the event of a defeat. Here idolatry appeared at least in the form of clemency, and the sacred enclosure presented a scene unique among the ruins of paganism, which we contemplated with unusual interest. Whether its establishment was originally projected by the priests, to attach to their interests all who might owe their lives to its institution, or by some mild and humane prince, anxious to diminish the barbarous cruelties of idolatry, and soften the sanguinary character of savage warfare; or whether derived traditionally from the Israelitish cities of refuge, to which some of its features are strikingly analogous, we do not pretend to determine. However, we could not but rejoice that its abolition was so soon succeeded by the revelation of a refuge more secure, that the white flag ceased not to wave till another banner was ready to be unfurled. (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.)