Thursday, June 30, 2005

Maui’s Squishy Demise

Haleakala is the volcanic mountain that makes up the entire eastern part of the island of Maui, and it is absolutely huge. So huge, a guide book told me, that 100 Mount Fuji’s could fit inside Haleakala. That includes the 93 percent of Haleaka unseen beneath the ocean – in all it is nearly the size of Everest. In fact, Maui’s Haleakala has so much mass, geologists say it is literally squishing the earth’s crust. That’s interesting, but it’s not what I’m writing about, so let’s move on. Today’s blog is really about how an ancient demigod of lore (his name was Maui) had something of a run in with the ancient goddess, Hina, his mom.

You’ve heard of a Kahuna – you know, like how we like to affectionately refer to someone in charge as The Big Kahuna? It’s also been a part of the surfer language for a long time (such as in the 1965 Avalon/Funichello cheese “Beach Blanket Bingo”). But before even Gidget, quite a long time ago, a Kahuna was a sacred ancient Hawaiian shaman of sorts.

In the old days there were many Kahuni and they all learned to recite these really long poems about folklore completely from memory (you’ll soon see why they might have got a kick out of repetition of their craft). One of these poems recited at rituals and other important events was known as the Kumulipo, a fantastic epic adventure of more than 2,000 lines. These guys really had some colorful material – if it was available on the islands a few hundred years ago, these guys were only allowed to play on cable.

The Kumulipo has a lots of creation myths and culminates in a long geneology story all the way up to the time of Captain Cook (1789) for whom the Kumulipo was apparently once recited. Sometime not too long after cracking a smile while enjoying the Kumulipo, things turned sour for Cook and you may recall that the Hawaiians ripped his body to shreds after a petty skirmish over a stolen rowboat. As an aside, in the mayhem, the Hawaiians apparently hung Cook’s heart up on a line where three children came across it thinking it belonged to a dog and consumed it for lunch.

Anyhoo, the Kumulipo tells a rather strange life and death tale about Maui who throughout Polynesia was something of a half-man, half-mythological-sorcerer-being. One of the guide books calls him a cross between Paul Bunyan and Hercules.

The Kumulipo chant recounts some nice things that Maui did for humankind – like he fished up the islands of Hawaii out of the ocean, took fire from a mud hen, and lifted up the sky allowing us to walk upright. But Maui also had a mischievous and rather nutty side. I’m thinking the Kumulipo chant must contain a Hawaiian term or two that would roughly translate to “kinky” perhaps?

One problem in Maui’s time was that the daylight just wasn’t long enough to dry all the washed tapa (a course cloth made from pounded bark). That was because the sun god La (called Mahu-iki in another account) was lazy and wanted to move across the sky quickly to get back to bed. Maui’s mother, goddess Hina, was a maker of tapa so something had to be done. Maui decided to take this matter in his own hands while standing atop of the aforementioned Haleakala. What imagination. He braided together his sister’s pubic hair to make a really, really long rope (sis must have been somethin’) and used it to lasso La and slow him/her/it down to a stop. When La pleaded for freedom, a bargain was made. La agreed to walk slowly across the sky, but would be allowed to go a bit faster in winter. An extra bonus for humans was that Maui’s achievement also allowed more daylight time for fishing most of the year.

There’s lots more to tell, but let’s plow head first into Maui’s final prank. He decided to approach mom while she was sleeping, and, eh-hem, crawl into her vagina leaving only his feet dangling out (whata jokester). Just the same as it would you, this event caused nearby warrior birds to laugh like crazy. (One can easily see the natural comedic gifts of those wacky ancient Kahuna bros.) Anyway, all that bird racket awakened Hina (the fable doesn’t say that Maui caused her to awaken), and Hina was so pissed off she simply squished Maui to death. Thus, Maui became the first grown man-god to be crushed to death while being simultaneously stuck head first inside his mother’s vagina. Well, I mean he was the first man-type being to experience death, without regard to the method of death, I think is closer to the actual idea meant to be expressed in this story.

As far as I can tell, we still have no motion picture or stage version of this tale.

Now, we should consider that this little fable has some kind of “reverse-birth” symbolism about death and I suppose the Kahuna didn’t have quite as many puritan hang-ups as Americans tend to have about men being stuck head first into his mother as such, so I surmise that in ancient days chants were sometimes allowed play off cable. This was all before the missionaries came to the islands and broke up the party (sometime in the 1800s). I’d also add that there are a few other cleaned-up versions which have Maui entering Hina’s stomach through her mouth, and Maui using coconut fibers to make rope rather than his sister’s pubic hair, but I for one really hope the Kamehameha Schools teach the real version of this rich island heritage. No revisionist ever concocted a raunched-up version of an old fable, right? We’re no pinheads. We know which version the genuine ancient Kahuna had memorized.

1 Comments:

Blogger tt said...

You are such a freak.

3:16 PM  

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