Conversation with the natives—Appearance of the country in the vicinity of Pualaa—Extinguished volcano in the valley of Kapoho—Description of the horua, a native game—Traditionary story of a contest between Pélé and Kahavari—Incidents on the journey to Hiro—Description of Ora—Public worship at Waiakea—Conversation with a priestess of Pélé, the goddess of the volcanoes—Opinion of the natives respecting the permanent residence of Missionaries at Waiakea—Description of native houses.
It was about eight o'clock in the morning of the seventh when I joined Messrs. Thurston and Bishop at Pualaa, where we took breakfast, and afterwards spent the forenoon in conversation with the natives.
Two or three old men, whom we afterwards learned were priests, seemed to dispute what we said about Jehovah's being the only true God, and the Christian the only true religion. They said they thought their taö (traditions) respecting Tu, Tanaroa, Rono, or Orono, and Tairi, were as authentic as the accounts in our book, though ours, from the circumstance of their being written, or, as they expressed it, “hana paia i ka pala-pala,” (made fast on the paper,) were better preserved, and more akaaka, clear, or generally intelligible.page 297
To this we replied at some length, after which the old men ceased to object, but withheld their assent. Numbers sat around, and seemed interested in the discussion. We continued talking to them on the subject of their traditions, one of which we wrote down as they repeated it.
About half-past eleven we took leave of them, and directed our way across the eastern point. A most beautiful and romantic landscape presented itself on our left, as we travelled out of Pualaa.
As we reached Kapoho, a cluster, apparently of hills three or four miles round, and as many hundred feet high, with deep indented sides, overhung with trees, and clothed with herbage, standing in the midst of the barren plain of lava, attracted our attention. We walked through the gardens that encircled its base, till we reached the south-east side, where it was much lower than on the northern parts. Here we ascended what appeared to us to be one of the hills, and, on reaching the summit, were agreeably surprised to behold a charming valley opening before us. It was circular, and open towards the sea. The outer boundary of this natural amphitheatre was formed by an uneven ridge of rocks, covered with soil and vegetation. Within these there was a smaller circle of hills, equally verdant, and adorned with trees. The sides of the valley, which gradually sloped from the foot of the hills, were almost entirely laid out in plantations, and enlivened by the cottages of their proprietors. In the centre was an oval hollow, about half a mile across, and probably two hundred feet deep, at the bottom of which was a beautiful lake of brackish water, whose margin was in a high state of cultivation, planted with taro, bananas, and sugar-cane. The steep page 298 perpendicular rocks, forming the sides of the hollow, were adorned with tufts of grass, or blooming pendulous plants, while, along the narrow and verdant border of the lake at the bottom, the bread-fruit, the kukui, and the ohia trees, appeared, with now and then a lowly native hut standing beneath their shade. We walked to the upper edge of the rocks that form the side of the hollow, where we viewed with pleasure this singularly beautiful scene. The placid surface of the lake, disturbed only by the boys and girls diving and sporting in its waters, the serpentine walks among the luxuriant gardens along its margin, the tranquil occupations of the inhabitants, some weaving mats, others walking cheerfully up and down the winding paths among the steep rocks, the sound of the cloth-beating mallet from several directions, and the smiling gaiety of the whole, contrasted strongly with the panorama we had recently beheld at Kirauea. Yet we felt persuaded, that this now cheerful spot had once presented a similar spectacle, less extended, but equally grand and appalling.
The traditions of the people informed us, that the valley itself was originally a crater, the indented rocks along the outer ridge forming its rim, and the opening towards the sea its mouth. But had tradition been silent, the volcanic nature of the rocks, which were basaltic, or of compact lava in some parts and cellular in others, the structure of the large basin in which we were standing, and the deep hollow in the centre which we were viewing, would have carried conviction to the mind of every beholder, that it had once been the seat of volcanic fires. We asked several natives of the place, if they had any account of the page 299 king in whose reign it had burned; or if they knew any songs or traditions, in which it was stated how many kings had reigned in Hawaii, or how many chiefs had governed Puna, either since it first broke out, or since it became extinct; but they could give us no information on these subjects. They told us the name of the place was Kapoho (the sunken in,) and of the lake, Ka Wai a Pélé (the water of Pélé.) The saltness of the water in this extinguished volcano proves the connexion of the lake with the sea, from which it is about a mile distant; but we could not learn that it was at all affected by the rising or falling of the tides. The natives also told us, that it was one of the places from which the volcanic goddess threw rocks and lava after Kahavari, for refusing his papa, or sledge, when playing at horua.
The horua has for many generations been a popular amusement throughout the Sandwich Islands, and is still practised in several places. It consists in sliding down a hill on a narrow sledge; and those who, by strength or skill in balancing themselves, slide farthest, are considered victorious. The papa, or sledge, is composed of two narrow runners, from seven to twelve or eighteen feet long, two or three inches deep, highly polished, and at the foremost end tapering off from the under side to a point at the upper edge. These two runners are fastened together by a number of short pieces of wood laid horizontally across. To the upper edge of these short pieces two long tough sticks are fastened, extending the whole length of the cross pieces, and about five or six inches apart. Sometimes a narrow piece of matting is fastened over the whole upper surface, except three or four feet at the page 300 foremost end, though in general only a small part for the breast to rest on is covered. At the foremost end there is a space of about two inches between the runners, but they widen gradually towards the hinder part, where they are distant from each other four or five inches. The person about to slide grasps the small side-stick firmly with his right hand, somewhere about the middle, runs a few yards to the brow of the hill, or starting-place, where he grasps it with his left hand, and at the same time, with all his strength throwing himself forward, falls flat upon it, and slides down the hill, his hands retaining their hold of the side-sticks, and his feet being fixed against the hindermost cross-piece of the sledge. Much practice and address are necessary, to assume and keep an even balance on so narrow a vehicle, yet a man accustomed to the sport will throw himself, with velocity and apparent ease, a hundred and fifty or two hundred yards down the side of a gradually sloping hill.
About three o'clock we resumed our journey, and soon reached Kula, a romantic spot, where Kahavari took leave of his sister. The hill on which he was sliding when he incurred the displeasure of the terrible goddess, the spot where he rested, and first saw her pursuing him, were visible; and the traditionary story of his encounter with Pélé is so interesting, that we think we shall be pardoned for inserting it.
In the reign of Keariikukii, an ancient king of Hawaii, Kahavari, chief of Puna, and one of his punahele, (favourite companions,) went one day to amuse themselves at the horua on the sloping side of a hill, which is still called Ka horua-ana o Kahavari, (the sliding place of Kahavari.) Vast page 301 numbers of the people collected at the bottom of the hill, to witness the game; and a company of musicians and dancers repaired to the spot, to add to the amusement of the spectators. The buskined youths had begun their dance, and, amidst the sound of the drums, and the songs of the musicians, the horua commenced between Kahavari and his favourite. Péle, the goddess of the volcano, came down from Kirauea, to witness the sport. She stood on the top of the hill, in the form of a woman, and challenged Kahavari to slide with her. He accepted the offer, and they set off together down the hill. Pélé, less acquainted with the art of balancing herself on the narrow sledge than her rival, was beaten, and Kahavari was applauded by the spectators as he returned up the side of the hill.
Before they started again, Pélé asked him to give her his papa. He, supposing from her appearance that she was no more than a native woman, said, Aore, no! “Are you my wife, that you should obtain my sledge?” and, as if impatient at being delayed, adjusted his papa, ran a few yards to take a spring, and then, with all his strength, threw himself upon it, and shot down the hill. Pélé, incensed at his answer, stamped on the ground, and an earthquake followed, which rent the hill in sunder. She called, and fire and liquid lava arose, and, assuming her supernatural form, with these irresistible ministers of vengeance she followed down the hill. When Kahavari reached the bottom of the hill, he arose, and, on looking behind, saw Pélé, accompanied by thunder and lightning, earthquake, and streams of burning lava, closely pursuing him. He took up his broad spear, which he had stuck in the ground at the page 302 beginning of the game, and, accompanied by his friend, fled for his life. The musicians, dancers, and crowds of spectators, were instantly buried beneath the fiery torrent, which, bearing on its foremost wave the enraged goddess, continued to pursue Kahavari and his friend. They ran till they came to an eminence, called Buukea. Here Kahavari threw off his tuiraï, cloak of netted ti leaves, and proceeded towards his house, which stood near the shore. He met his favourite hog Aröipuaa, saluted him by touching noses, and ran to the house of his mother, who lived at Kukii, saluted her by touching noses, and said, Aroha ino oe, eia ihonei paha oe e make ai ke ai mainei Pélé: Compassion great to you, close here perhaps is your death; Pélé comes devouring.—Leaving her, he met his wife, Kanakawahine. He saluted her. The burning torrent approached, and she said, “Stay with me here, and let us die together.” He said, “No; I go, I go.” He then saluted his two children, Paupouru and Kahoe, and said, Ke ue nei au ia orua, I grieve for you two. The lava rolled near, and he ran till a deep chasm arrested his progress; he laid down his spear, and on it walked safely over. His friend called out for his help; he held out his spear over the chasm; his friend took hold of it, and he drew him securely over. By this time Pélé was coming down the chasm with accelerated motion. He ran till he reached the place where we were sitting.
Here he met his sister Koae, but had only time to say, Aroha oe ! “Alas for you!” and then ran on to the sea-shore. His younger brother had just landed from his fishing canoe, and had hastened to his house, to provide for the safety of his family, when Kahavari arrived; he and his friend page 303 leaped into the canoe, and with his broad spear paddled out to sea. Pélé, perceiving his escape, ran to the shore, and hurled after him, with prodigious force, huge stones and fragments of rock, which fell thickly around, but did not strike his canoe. When they had paddled a short distance from the shore, the Kumukahi (east wind) sprung up. He fixed his broad spear upright in the canoe, which, answering the double purpose of mast and sail, he soon reached the island of Maui. Here they rested one night, and proceeded to Ranai. On the day following, he removed to Morokai, and from thence to Oahu, the abode of Koronohairaau his father, and Kanewahinekeaho his sister, to whom he related his perils, and with whom he took up his abode.
The above tale is a tolerable specimen of their traditions, though not among the most marvellous we have met with, and the truth may easily be separated from the fiction. A sudden and unexpected eruption of a volcano, when a chief and his people were playing at horua, is probably its only foundation. It exhibits, however, much of the general character of the people, the low estimation in which the females were held, and the wretched state of their domestic society, in which those fond attachments, that in civilized and Christian life endear the different members of kindred and family to each other, appear scarcely to have existed. The absence of relative affections shewn by Kahavari, who, notwithstanding the entreaties of his wife, could leave her, his children, his mother, and his sister, to certain destruction, meets with no reprehension; neither is any censure passed on his unjust seizure of the canoe belonging to his brother, who was engaged page 304 in saving his own family, while his adroitness in escaping the dreadful calamity of which he had been the sole cause, is applauded in terms too in delicate to be recorded. The natives pointed out a number of rocks in the sea, which, they said were thrown by Pélé, to sink the canoe in which Kahavari escaped.
After travelling a short distance, we saw the Bu o Kahavari, (Hill of Kahavari,) the place where he stopped, after sliding down-hill, and perceiving the goddess pursuing him. It was a black frowning crater, about one hundred feet high, with a deep gap in its rim on the eastern side, from which the course of the current of lava could be distinctly traced. Our way now lay over a very rugged tract of country. Sometimes for a mile or two we were obliged to walk along on the top of a wall four feet high, and about three feet wide, formed of fragments of lava that had been collected from the surface of the enclosures which these walls surrounded. We were, however, cheered with a beautiful prospect; for the land, which rose gradually towards the mountains a few miles to the westward of us, presented an almost enchanting appearance. The plain was covered with verdure; and as we advance, a woody eminence, probably some ancient crater, frequently arose from the gently undulated surface, while groups of hills, clothed with trees of various foliage, agreeably diversified the scene. The shore, which was about a mile to the eastward of us, was occasionally lined with the spiral pandanus, the waving cocoanut, or the clustering huts of the natives. At half-past four we reached Kahuwai, where we sat down and took some refreshment, while Makoa was engaged in bringing the people of the place page 305 together. About one hundred and fifty assembled around the door, and were addressed. After conversing some time, we travelled in an inland direction to Honoruru, a small village situated in the midst of a wood, where we arrived just at the setting of the sun. A discourse was delivered from John xii.46. “I am come a light into the world,” &c.
We arose early on the 8th, and Mr. Thurston held morning worship with the people of the place. Although I had been much indisposed through the night, we left Honoruru soon after six a. m. and, travelling slowly towards the sea-shore, reached Waiakaheula about eight. Messrs. Thurston and Bishop walked up to the settlement situated half a mile inland, where the former preached to the people.
We had seen the eastern division of Hiro yesterday afternoon; and Mr. Bishop, hoping to reach Waiakea in a few hours, left Mr. Thurston and the natives with me, and proceeded thither. About noon we resumed our journey, and soon after five p. m. we reached Kaau, the last village in the division of Puna. It was extensive and populous, abounding with well-cultivated plantations of taro, sweet potatoes, and sugar-cane; and probably owes its fertility to a fine rapid stream of water, which, descending from the mountains, runs through it into the sea. It was the second stream we had seen on the island. Having quenched our thirst, we passed over it by stepping on some large stones, and directed our way to the house of the head man, where we put up for the night.
Early on the 9th the house was crowded with natives, and, a little before sun-rise, morning worship was performed as usual. Some of the natives page 306 observed, in conversation, “We shall never obtain the things of which you have told us, for we are a wicked and unbelieving people.” Before we left the place, the people offered for sale some curious deep oval baskets, with covers, made of the fibrous roots of ië. We purchased two, intending to preserve them as specimens of native ingenuity.
Leaving the village of Kaau, we resumed our journey, and, after walking between two and three hours, stopped in the midst of a thicket, to rest, and prepare some breakfast. The natives produced fire by rubbing two dry sticks, of the hibiscus tiliaceus, together; and, having suspended over it a small iron pot, in gypsy style, upon three sticks, soon prepared our food. At half-past ten we resumed our walk, and, passing about two miles through a wood of pretty large timber, came to the open country in the vicinity of Waiakea. At one p. m. we reached the house of the chief, where we were welcomed by our companions, and Maaro, the chief, who, though very ill, was glad to see us.
In company with Messrs. Chamberlain, Ely, and Blatchly, I have since travelled from this place to the volcano, and during that journey had an opportunity of preaching at most of the villages of Ora. The distance is probably between thirty and forty miles, and the ascent gradual from the shore to the volcano. The soil is generally rich and fertile, and the face of the country, though more uniform than some parts which we passed over on leaving the southern shore, is varied by occasional undulations. We travelled through two or three extensive woods, in which were many large trees, and saw also several pools and small currents of excellent fresh water.page 307
The construction of the swineherds' houses at the village of Ka-pu-o-ka-ahi, (the hill of the fire,) was singular. There were no walls nor upright posts along the sides, but the rafters were fixed in the ground, united at the top, and thatched about half way down. In the neighbourhood of this village we also saw hedges of raspberry bushes, which the natives informed us bore white berries, and were abundant in the mountains, though they would not grow nearer the shore. Nine or ten miles from the sea, we met with ohelo bushes, and, after we had travelled about twenty miles, we found strawberry plants in abundance, and saw several in blossom, although it was in the month of January. The latter plant, as well as the raspberry, is found in all the higher parts of Hawaii, which induces us to think them both indigenous.
It was six months after our tour along the coast, that we passed through the villages of Ora, and we were gratified to find that several of the people, at different places, had received some general ideas of the true God, from the reports of those natives who had heard us preach when travelling along the shore, and had subsequently visited these inland districts. At one place where we halted for the night, on our return from the volcano, I preached to the people in the evening, and the natives afterwards maintained an interesting conversation on religious subjects till midnight. Among other things, respecting the salvation of the soul through Jesus Christ, they said “Our forefathers, from time immemorial, and we ever since we can remember any thing, have been seeking the ora roa, (enduring life,) or a state in which we should not die, but we have never page 308 found it yet; perhaps this is it, of which you are telling us.”
During the same journey we overtook Maaro, the chief of Waiakea, and three or four hundred people, returning with sandal wood, which they had been cutting in the mountains. The bark and sap had been chipped off with small adzes, and the wood appeared lighter in colour than what is usually sold at Oahu, probably from its having been but recently cut down.
The sandal wood is the same as in the East Indies, and is probably the santalum album. It is a tolerably heavy and solid wood, and after the sap, or part next the bark, is taken off, is of a light yellow or brown colour, containing a quantity of aromatic oil. Although a plant of slow growth, it is found in abundance in all the mountainous parts of the Sandwich Islands, and is cut in great quantities by the natives, as it constitutes their principal article of exportation. It is brought down to the beach in pieces from a foot to eighteen inches in diameter, and six or eight feet long, to small sticks not more than an inch thick and a foot and a half long. It is sold by weight; and the merchants, who exchange for it articles of European or Chinese manufacture, take it to the Canton market, where it is bought by the Chinese for the purpose of preparing incense to burn in their idol temples.
Shortly after ten o'clock, on the 10th, the chiefs, and people, in considerable numbers, assembled in a large house adjacent to that in which we resided, agreeably to the invitation given them last evening. The worship commenced as usual, and I preached from the text, “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.” The attention page 309 was not so good as that generally given by the congregations we had addressed. Many, however, quietly listened till the service was over. As we arose to depart, an old woman, who during the discourse sat near the speaker, and had listened very attentively, all at once exclaimed, “Powerful are the gods of Hawaii, and great is Pélé, the goddess of Hawaii, she shall save Maaro,” (the sick chief who was present.) Another began to chant a song in praise of Pélé, to which the people generally listened, though some began to laugh. We supposed they were intoxicated, and therefore took no notice of them; but, on our leaving the house, some of our people told us they were not ona i ka ruma, (intoxicated or poisoned with rum,) but inspired by the akua (goddess) of the volcano; or, that one of them was Pélé herself, in the form of one of her priestesses. On hearing this, I turned back into the house, and, when the song was ended, immediately entered into conversation with the principal one, by asking her if she had attended to the discourse that had been delivered there? She answered, that she had listened, and understood it. I then asked, if she thought Jehovah was good, and those happy who made him their God? She answered, “He is your good God, (or best God,) and it is right that you should worship him; but Pélé is my deity, and the great goddess of Hawaii. Kirauea is the place of her abode. Ohiaotelani (the northern peak of the volcano) is one corner of her house. From the land beyond the sky, in former times, she came.” She then went on with the song which she had thus begun, giving a long account of the deeds and honours of Pélé. This she pronounced in such a rapid and vociferous manner page 310 accompanied by such extravagant gestures, that only here and there a word could be understood. Indeed, towards the close, she appeared to lose all command of herself. When she had done, I told her she was mistaken in supposing any supernatural being resided in the volcano; that Pélé was a creature of their own invention, and existed only in the imagination of her kahu, or devotees: adding, that volcanoes, and all their accompanying phenomena, were under the powerful control of Jehovah, who, though uncreated himself, was the Creator and Supporter of heaven and earth, and every thing she beheld. She replied, that it was not so. She did not dispute that Jehovah was a God, but that he was not the only God. Pélé was a goddess, and dwelt in her, and through her would heal the sick chief then present. She wished him restored, and therefore came to visit him. I said I also wished Maaro to recover; but if he did recover, it would be by the favour of Jehovah, and that I hoped he would acknowledge him, and seek to him alone, as he was the only true Physician, who could save both body and soul, making the latter happy in another world, when this world, with all its volcanoes, mountains, and oceans, should cease to exist.
I then advised her, and all present, to forsake their imaginary deity, whose character was distinguished by all that was revengeful and destructive, and accept the offers Jehovah had made them by his servants, that they might be happy now, and escape the everlasting death that would overtake all the idolatrous and wicked.
Assuming a haughty air, she said, “I am Pélé; I shall never die; and those who follow me, when they die, if part of their bones be taken to Kirauea, page 311 (the name of the volcano,) will live with me in the bright fires there.” I said, Are you Pele? She replied, Yes; and was proceeding to state her powers, &c. when Makoa, who had till now stood silent, interrupted her, and said, “It is true you are Pélé, or some of Pélé's party; and it is you that have destroyed the king's land, devoured his people, and spoiled all the fishing-grounds. Ever since you came to the islands, you have been busied in mischief; you spoiled the greater part of the island, shook it to pieces, or cursed it with barrenness, by inundating it with lava. You never did any good; and, if I were the king, I would throw you all into the sea, or banish you from the islands. Hawaii would be quiet, if you were away.”
This was rather unexpected, and seemed to surprise several of the company. However, the pretended Pélé said, “Formerly we did overflow some of the land, but it was only the land of those that were rebels, or were very wicked people.∗ Now we abide quietly in Kirauea.” She then added, “It cannot be said that in these days we destroy the king's people.” She mentioned the names of several chiefs, and then asked, who destroyed these? Not Pélé, but the rum of the foreigners, whose God you are so fond of. Their diseases and their rum have destroyed more of the king's men than all the volcanoes on the island.—I told her I regretted that their intercourse with foreigners should have introduced among them diseases to which they were strangers before, and that I hoped they would also receive the advantages of Christian instruction and civilization, page 312 which the benevolent in those countries by which they had been injured, were now to impart; that intoxication was wholly forbidden by Jehovah, the God of Christians, who had declared that no drunkard should enter the kingdom of heaven. I then said, I was sorry to see her so deceived, and attempting to deceive others; told her she knew her pretensions were false, and recommended her to consider the consequences of idolatry, and cease to practise her deceptions; to recollect that she would one day die; that God had given her an opportunity of hearing of his love to sinners in the gift of his Son; and that if she applied to him for mercy, although now an idolatrous priestess, she might be saved; but if she did not, a fearful doom awaited her. “I shall not die,” she exclaimed, “but ora no,” (live spontaneously.) After replying to this, I retired; but the spectators, who had manifested by their countenances that they were not uninterested in the discussion, continued in earnest conversation for some time. The name of the priestess, we afterwards learned, was Oani. She resided in a neighbouring village, and had that morning arrived at Waiakea, on a visit to Maaro.
∗Broke the restrictions of the tabu, or brought no offerings.
When the national idolatry was publicly abolished in the year 1819, several priests of Pélé denounced, the most awful threatenings, of earthquakes, eruptions, &c. from the gods of the volcanoes, in revenge for the insult and neglect then shewn by the king and chiefs. But no fires afterwards appearing in any of the extinguished volcanoes, no fresh ones having broken out, and those then in action having since that period remained in a state of comparative quiescence, some of the people have been led to conclude, that the page 313 gods formerly supposed to preside over volcanoes had existed only in their imagination. The fearful apprehensions which they had been accustomed to associate with every idea of Pélé and her companions, have in a great measure subsided, and the oppressive power of her priests and priestesses is consequently diminished. There are, however, many who remain in constant dread of her displeasure, and who pay the most submissive and unhesitating obedience to the requisitions of her priests. This is no more than was to be expected, particularly in this part of the island, where the people are far removed from the means of instruction, the example and influence of the principal chiefs, and more enlightened part of the population; and it appears matter of surprise, that, in the course of three years only, so many should have relinquished their superstitious notions respecting the deities of the volcanoes, when we consider their ignorance and their early impressions, and recollect, that, while resting at night, perhaps on a bed of lava, they are occasionally startled from their midnight slumbers by the undulating earthquake, and are daily reminded of the dreadful power of this imaginary goddess “by almost every object that meets their view, from the cliffs which are washed by the waves of the sea, even to the lofty craters, her ancient seat above the clouds, and amid perpetual snow.”
Until this morning, however, none of the servants of Pélé had ever publicly opposed her pretended right, to that homage and obedience which it was our object to invite them to render to Jehovah alone; and though it was encouraging to notice, that, by many of the people present, the pretensions of Oani were disregarded, it was exceedingly page 314 painful to hear an idolatrous priestess declaring that the conduct of those, by whom they had been sometimes visited from countries called Christian, had been productive of consequences more injurious and fatal to the unsuspecting and unenlightened Hawaiians, than these dreadful phenomena in nature, which they had been accustomed to attribute to the most destructive of their imaginary deities, and to know also, that such a declaration was too true to be contradicted.
A number of people, after they left the place of public worship, came to our house, and conversed on the blessedness of those who worship and obey Jehovah. They all said it was good, and that if the king were to come or send them word, they would build a house for a Missionary, a school-house, and chapel, and also observe the Sabbath-day.
In the afternoon, Mr. Thurston preached at the same place to an attentive congregation. In company with Mr. Bishop, I walked over to Ponahawai, where Makoa collected upwards of one hundred people at the head man's house, to whom I preached from Rom. x. 13. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The whole assembly gave good attention, frequently interrupting me while speaking, by their exclamations. A gray-headed old man, who sat near the door, listened with apparent interest during the whole service, and when, towards the close, it was stated, that those who in faith called on the Lord, would in another world obtain everlasting life, he exclaimed, “My days are almost ended—that cannot be for me—can an old man live for ever?” He was told that Jesus was willing to save the souls of all who with humility page 315 and sincerity come to him, both old and young; that he would reanimate their bodies in the resurrection; and that he would give eternal life to as many as believed on his name.
We have more than once had occasion to notice with peculiar interest the impression made on an adult heathen, when some of the sublime and important doctrines of religion are for the first time presented to his mind. Accustomed to contemplate the gods of his ancestors as the patrons of every vice, and supernatural monsters of cruelty, deriving satisfaction from the struggles and expiring agonies of the victim offered in sacrifice, he is surprised to hear of the holy nature of God, and the condescending love of Christ; but the idea of the resurrection of the body, the general judgment, and the eternal happiness or misery of all mankind, affects him with a degree of astonishment never witnessed in countries where the Christian religion prevails, and in which, notwithstanding the lamentable ignorance existing in different portions of the community, there are few who have not some indistinct ideas on these subjects. But the heathen, whose mental powers have reached maturity before the truth has been presented, experiences very different sensations; and we have seen the effects produced at these times exhibited in various ways—sometimes by most significant gestures, at other times by involuntary exclamations, or penetrating looks fixed on the speaker; and, occasionally, as was the case this afternoon, by their actually interrupting us, to inquire, “How can these things be?” or, declaring, in their own beautiful and figurative language, that the tidings they had heard “broke in upon their minds like the light of the morning.”page 316
When the exercises were ended, they congratulated each other on the news they had heard; said it was good, and added, “Let us all attend to it; who is there that does not desire eternal life in the other world?” They afterwards made many inquiries about the Sabbath-day, prayer, &c. and asked if they should not be visited again. We told them it was probable that, before long, teachers would come and reside permanently among them.
On our way home, we called on Maaro, whom we found very ill. One of his children was also sick, and seemed near dying. We regretted that we had no medicine proper to administer to either.
The wretched picture of uncivilized society, which this family exhibited, powerfully affected our minds. Maaro's house, like that of the chiefs in general, was large, and accommodated many of his friends and dependants. On one side, near the door, he lay on a mat which was spread on the ground. Two or three domestics sat around, one of them holding a small calabash of water, and another, with a kahiri, was fanning away the flies. Near the centre of the house, on another mat, spread also on the ground, lay the pale emaciated child, its features distorted with pain, and its feeble voice occasionally uttering the most piteous cries. A native girl sat beside it, driving away the flies, and holding a cocoa-nut shell in her hand, containing a little poë, with which she had been endeavouring to feed it. In the same place, and nearly between the father and the child, two of Maaro's wives, and some other chief women, were seated on the ground, playing at cards, laughing and jesting over their game. We tried to enter into conversation with them, but page 317 they were too intent on the play, to pay any attention to what we said. The visiters or attendants of the chief sat in groups in different parts of the house, some carelessly singing, others engaged in earnest conversation.
We could not forbear contrasting the scene here presented, with a domestic circle in civilized and Christian society, under similar circumstances, where all the alleviations which the tenderest sympathy could impart, would be promptly tendered to the suffering individuals. But here, alas! ignorance, cruel idolatry, and familiarity with vice, appeared to have destroyed natural affection, and all the tender sympathies of humanity, in their bosoms. The wife beheld unmoved the sufferings of her husband, and the amusement of the mother was undisturbed by the painful crying of her languishing child.
The state of domestic society in Tahiti and the neighbouring islands, only a few years ago, was even more affecting. Since the introduction of Christianity, so far from being unwilling to take care of their sick relatives and friends, a number of individuals, at several of the Missionary stations, annually devote a part of the produce of their labour, to erect houses, purchase medicine, and provide for the comfort of those who are sick and indigent. It is impossible for any people to be more attentive and kind than they now are. Many a time, the friend of some one who had been taken ill has called me up at midnight, to ask for medicine; and often have I seen a wife or a sister supporting in her lap the head of a sick and, perhaps, dying husband or brother, night after night, yet refusing to leave them, though almost exhausted with fatiguepage 318
Leaving Maaro, we returned through a highly cultivated part of the district. Every thing in nature was lovely, and the landscape around awakened emotions very different from those excited during our visit to the abode of sickness which we had just left.
In the afternoon of the 11th, we waited on Maaroa, the chief, to ask his opinion respecting Missionaries settling permanently in his neighbourhood. He said, perhaps it would be well; that if the king and chiefs approved of it, he should desire it. We asked if he would patronize and protect Missionaries and their families, provided the king and chiefs approved of their settling at Waiakea. He answered, “yes, certainly,” and, at the same time, pointed out several places where they might build their houses. We told him that the king, Karaimoku, Kaahumanu, and the governor, approved of instructors coming to teach the people of Waiakea; but that we were also desirous to obtain his opinion, before any arrangements were made for their removal from Oahu. He again repeated that he thought it would be a good thing; and that if the Missionaries came with the approbation of the king and chiefs, he should be glad to witness their arrival. We then took leave of Maaro, and the chiefs that were with him. Messrs. Thurston and Bishop walked to the opposite side of the bay, where we had held a religious exercise yesterday, and here Mr. Thurston preached to an attentive congregation of about sixty people. The head man afterwards expressed a strong desire to be instructed, and said all the people would like to learn the palapala, and keep the Sabbath-day.
While they were on the western shore, I visited page 319 several houses on the eastern side of the settlement, and entered into conversation with the people on the subject of Missionaries coming to reside at Waiakea. In general, they approved, saying they had dark minds, and needed instruction. Some, however, seemed to doubt the propriety of foreigners coming to reside permanently among them. They said, they had heard that in several countries, where foreigners had intermingled with the original natives, the latter had soon disappeared; and, should Missionaries come to live at Waiakea, perhaps the land would ultimately become theirs, and the kanaka maore (aborigines) cease to be its occupiers. I told them, that had been the case in some countries; but that the residence of Missionaries among them, so far from producing it, was designed, and eminently calculated, to prevent a consequence so melancholy. At the same time I remarked, that their sanguinary wars, their extensive and cruel practice of infanticide, their frequent intoxication, and their numerous diseases, partly gendered by vicious habits, had, according to their own account, diminished the population of the island three-fourths within the last forty years; and, from the destructive operation of these causes, there was every reason to fear the Hawaiian people would soon be annihilated, unless some remedy was applied. No remedy, I added, was so efficacious as instruction and civilization; and, above all, the principles and doctrines of the bible, which they could not become acquainted with, but by the residence of Missionaries among them. Such, I informed them, was the opinion of the friends of Missions, who, anxious to ameliorate their wretched condition, preserve from oblivion page 320 the remnant of the people, place them among the nations of the earth, and direct them to the enjoyment of civilized life, and the participation of immortality and happiness in another world, had sent them the word of God, and Missionaries to unfold to them, in their own language, its divine and invaluable truths At the close of this interview, some again repeated, that it would be a good thing for Missionaries to come; others expressed doubt and hesitation.
Many of the people, during their intercourse with foreigners, have been made acquainted with the leading facts in the history of South America and the West Indies; and hence the natives of this place, in all probability, derived the ground of their objection.
The inhabitants of Waiakea are peculiarly favoured, in having woods producing timber, such as they use for building, within three or four miles of their settlement, while the natives in most parts of the islands have to fetch it from a much greater distance. In neatness and elegance of appearance, their houses are not equal to those of the Society Islanders, even before they were instructed by Europeans, but in point of strength and durability they sometimes exceed them. There is also less variety in the form of the Sandwich Island dwellings, which are chiefly of two kinds, viz. the hale noho, (dwelling house,) or halau, (a long building,) nearly open at one end, and, though thatched with different materials, they are all framed in nearly the same way.
The size and quality of a dwelling varies according to the rank and means of its possessor those of the poor people being mere huts, eight or ten feet square, others twenty feet long, and ten page 321 or twelve feet wide, while the houses of the chiefs are from forty to seventy feet long. Their houses are generally separate from each other; even in their most populous villages, however near the houses may be, they are always distinct buildings. Although there are professed house-carpenters who excel in framing, and others who are taught to finish the corners of the house and ridge of the roof, which but few understand, yet, in general, every man erects his own house. If it be of a middling or large size, this, to an individual or a family, is a formidable undertaking, as they have to cut down the trees in the mountains, and bring the wood from six to ten miles on their shoulders with great labour, gather the leaves or grass, braid the cinet, &c. before they can even begin to build.
But when a chief wants a house, he requires the labour of all who hold lands under him; and we have often been surprised at the despatch with which a house is sometimes built. We have known the natives come with their materials in the morning, put up the frame of a middle-sized house in one day, cover it in the next, and on the third day return to their lands. Each division of people has a part of the house allotted by the chief, in proportion to its number; and it is no unusual thing to see upwards of a hundred men at a time working on one house.
A good house, such as they build for the chiefs, will keep out the wind and rain, and last from seven to ten years. But, in general, they do not last more than five years; and those which they are hired to build for foreigners, not much more than half that time. In less than twelve months after my own grass-house was built, the rain came page 322 through the roof, from one end to the other, every time there was a heavy shower.
In some of the islands, the natives have recently covered their houses with mud; this, however, does not appear to render them more durable.
Before they were visited by foreigners, the only tool employed in building was a stone adze, formed of a kind of basaltes, or compact lava; and though they now use an axe in felling the trees, the adze is still their favourite tool, and many of them use no other. The stone adze is, however, exchanged for one made with a plane iron, bent, and tied securely to a handle of light wood. This they prefer to the European adze, which they say is too heavy. Sometimes they use a saw, chisel, and gimblet, in framing their houses, but they are not yet adepts in the use of these tools; we have often seen them throw down the saw, and take up their adze, to finish that which they had commenced cutting with a saw.
While idolatry existed, a number of superstitious ceremonies were performed, before they could occupy their houses. Offerings were made to the gods, and presents to the priest, who entered the house, uttered prayers, went through other ceremonies, and slept in it before the owner took possession, in order to prevent evil spirits from resorting to it, and to secure its inmates from the effects of incantation.
When the house was finished, it was soon furnished. A sleeping-mat spread on the ground and a wooden pillow, a wicker basket or two to keep their tapa or native cloth in, a few calabashes for water and poë, and some wooden dishes, of various size and shape, together with a haka, were all they required. This latter article page 323 was sometimes like a stand used by us for hanging hats and coats on. It was often made with care, and carved, but more frequently it was a small arm of a tree, with a number of branches attached to it. These were cut off within a foot of the main stem, which was planted in some convenient part of the house, and upon these natural pegs they used to hang their calabashes, and other vessels containing victuals. They generally sat on the ground, and took their food near the door of their house: sometimes, however, they took their meals in the more luxurious manner of some of the eastern nations, lying nearly in a horizontal posture, and resting on one arm, or reclining on a large cushion or pillow placed under the breast for that purpose: in this manner, the late king, with the members of his family, and many of the principal chiefs, were accustomed frequently to take their evening meal. Their intercourse with foreigners has taught many of the chiefs to prefer a bedstead to the ground, and a mattress to a mat, to sit on a chair, eat at a table, use a knife and fork, &c. This we think advantageous, not only to those who visit them for purposes of commerce, but to the natives themselves, as it increases their wants, and consequently stimulates to industry.