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The Burning

Two uneventful days, as compared to the previous ones, passed before we returned to the west side and Kailua-Kona, where my friend was determined to ask his cousin at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, the Refuge, about conducting the burning. I still felt that it was seldom wise to cause a ripple in a clear and calm sea. The city of Refuge is walled but the land outside of the walls is still considered part of the Refuge and sacred. It was here by the ocean that I had planned on conducting the ceremony, not within the confines of the walls.

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, a place of sanctuary, peace and beauty, was situated on the volcanic coast south of Kailua-Kona. This sanctuary was originally a sacred place that provided people with a second chance—a true place of forgiveness. It was here that people, who broke a kapu or sacred law, would flee for refuge. If they could reach the sanctuary, their life would be spared and all forgiven. This was and still is sacred ground where life can begin anew; a perfect place to honor and feed the ancestors and the spirits.

I’m no stranger to this most sacred of sites. The city, the lands and the ocean surrounding it speak to me of a time long lost in memory. Standing on this volcanic shore with the beauty of the ocean before me, I can tap into the awesome power of the elements in their virgin nature. It’s a feeling that words cannot properly portray; only through the actual experience can you ever hope to pierce the veil that encompasses the mysteries of heaven and earth.

This land also holds the thoughts, the memories and the spirits of the island’s ancestors, such a perfect place for the burning. I was sitting outside the Refuge under a palm tree playing my ‘Ohe Hano Ihu – Nose Flute waiting for my friend to return from asking the park ranger’s permission. This land and the Refuge were protected by the mainland authorities and were designated as an historical park by The National Park Service.

After I finished playing my flute, my mind traveled back to the preceding year when just Sherry and I were here in August to study and explore, and once again in the fall when we had brought a group to experience the lore and magic of the Big Island. It was during August when we had found the passed-over or dead pueo and I had learned how to make and play the nose flute from a native Hawaiian named Kia. He taught me in the old way. Before I could begin the making/teaching process, I had to agree to three things:

  1. I had to be able to make music on it before I left with it; if not he would burn the bamboo flute.
  2. I had to never put it away and play it regularly.
  3. And last, I had to share the music with others.

And then I remembered Auntie Margaret who reminded me of my grandmother. Auntie Margaret Machado was the only authentic Hawaiian kupuna licensed by the state of Hawaii to train therapists in Lomilomi. She was one of the few people who got away with calling me Jimmy. I chuckled to myself as I recalled her strong hands as she poked my jaw at the hinge point.

Wincing in pain I looked at her and said, “That hurt.”

“Of course, Jimmy,” she replied. “You’re holding your stress there….”

As soon as I finished these thoughts, I saw my friend approaching. I stood to see what the answer was of the ranger.

“No can do Jim… you were right… my cousin said that all fires must be contained and also you need to apply for a permit.”

“Did you tell him that it is a religious ceremony and that it requires an open fire?”

“Yea, brah, but make no difference; have to follow rules of National Park Service.”

My friend went on to tell me that the rules applied not only within the city walls but outside the walls as well. After considering the circumstances we were facing, I knew what we had to do. In my estimation, what I call natural law supersedes human rules and regulations. Taking a lesson from the bat, I decided that we would just perform the ceremony further down the beach but still on the sacred land of the Refuge. 

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