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The Vision

The burning is always scheduled at dusk but requires a great deal of preparation. The correct food and drink must be bought and then cooked properly. It was important that we feed the proper food to the spirits. There were certain foods that were kapu or in mainland language, taboo. Sherry cooks and prepares the food for the various ‘spirit groups’ that we are feeding such as the ancestors and the forgotten ones. The foods presented need to be appropriate for the culture. Thus, some of the foods that she was preparing included taro, sweet potato, ulu - breadfruit and a white and red fish.

While the food and plates were being prepared, a ‘table’ for the plates must be built in a proper manner. This was my responsibility while Sherry was cooking. There are no deviations to this most ancient of ceremonies. Burnings are very stressful and are not something that we look forward to conducting. But we still do it as it is one of the services that we provide, of course without payment, for the greater well-being of the earth and humanity.

With the gentle ocean behind me and the winds quietly caressing my soul, I began to build the offering table. During this primary stage of the ceremony I could feel the spirits gathering. This is one of the reasons that once a date is set for the burning, it must not be canceled. It has to happen as scheduled. Under no circumstances may a burning be cancelled or postponed. 

Just before I opened the ceremony, a light rain began to fall. My friend came over to me and said, “Jim, this is what we Hawaiians call a ‘blessing rain.’” I smiled and shook my head yes.

After this acknowledgement by the heavens, time became meaningless as I prepared to open the gateway to the Otherworld. Becoming one with all things of heaven and earth, I began the ceremony by calling in the ancestral spirits.

It would be improper to put into print the details of the burning. Needless to say it can be a very moving experience because the ones who have died or passed-over are being honored. It is important that not only are the known ones fed but the forgotten ones with no names are given food as well.

As I completed and closed the ceremony, a Park Ranger appeared and looked none too happy. Our friend walked over to him while Sherry and I, our children and students waited. I could sense the energy ebbing and flowing between the two until they both hugged and parted. It seemed that the ranger was extremely angry that we had gone ahead and conducted the ceremony against the regulations of the park. But after our friend had explained the spiritual importance of honoring the land and the Hawaiian ancestors, the ranger had a change of mind; even to the point of attempting to have the regulation amended so that a ceremony such as ours could be held in the future.

After we had completed the burning and scattered the ashes of the fire around the base of one of the palm trees, all of us returned to where we were staying to shower and then to share a meal together as an ohana. The ohana is very important to these islanders as it is to us. It stands for unity, love and always loyalty. The ohana refers to an extended family ideal, which includes not only the immediate family of mother, father, children and grandparents but also all things of the land, the sea and the sky. The ohana also includes the ancestor spirits—the ‘aumākua.[i]  

We retired early to our beds anticipating our journey the next day. We were going back to the white sand beach and the fishing village that I had visited only days earlier. 

Burnings are very stressful for Sherry and me, so the thought of a restful night’s sleep before the next day’s events was manna from heaven. And it was very restful until early in the morning—pre-dawn:

Am I asleep or awake? I sit up in bed, am I sitting or still lying; is this a dream or am I awake?

The night sky before me.... that star,   why is it shining brighter than any other?

A Heavenly Voice—This Star is you; you are this Star! The great purification is of the people! All are One....

Am I asleep? I lie back down…. 

As I awoke on Sunday morning, I was in awe of my pre-dawn experience. I was not sure if I dreamed it or if I was awake. The star was shining ever so brightly in the East. But what star was it? Who am I? What does this mean?

I briefly shared my experience with Sherry. We only had a short time before we needed to gather our group together and depart for the white sand beach. She suggested that I share the vision, as she called it, with our Hawaiian friend. I agreed that I needed to ask him his opinion.

[i] A guardian angel or protective and guiding spirit


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