Wahi Pana: Mokuʻula, Hawaiʻi’s Capitol

#156 in the Moʻolelo series

In Lāhaina, there is a baseball field and park called Maluʻuluolele Park. My mother, who was born and raised in Lāhaina, started a publishing entity she called Kamaluʻuluolele Publishers in the late 1970s. The name refers to the malu, the “shaded, peaceful, quiet, safe; protected by taboo; reserved, held apart; taboo; the stillness and awe of taboo” of an island in Lāhaina (which is figuratively called Lele) surrounded by a fishpond. This island was the residence of the kings Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III as well as Princess Nahiʻenaʻena, and was the capitol of Hawaiʻi in that sense.

This picture of Waiola church was almost certainly painted from Mokuʻula. Lahainaluna is in the background, top left.

Sacred Sites International Foundation explains the significance of the position of this site:

Key to understanding Moku`ula’s position as an axis mundi is Mokuhinia, a large fish pond surrounding the island. This pond was the home of a powerful lizard goddess, or mo`o, named Kihawahine. The spirit lived in rivers and ponds and mediated between earth and water, both fundamental elements in traditional Hawaiian religion. Kihawahine’s presence at Moku`ula made the island a central power point for Hawaiian royalty who through the goddess communed with both the socio-political world and the spiritual realms.

Lahaina harbor

Going to Lahainaluna and knowing my mother’s reverence for this place, I always had a strange feeling that it should not be a baseball field. Luckily, an archaeological examination began and the field was dug up. (It is my understanding that this project is what got historian Ronald Williams Jr. interested in Hawaiian history).

Princess Nahienaena

The article on sacred-sites.org, by Nancy and Leonard Becker, continues, explaining the importance of the site to the chiefs of the immediate post-Kamehameha era:

The association of the royal family with Kihawahine increased their mana or power; her presence also increased the mana of Moku`ula. It is believed that King Kamehameha the Great’s wife, Keopuolani, had Kihawahine as her `aumakua. When Keopuolani died she was buried on the sacred Moku`ula as were other members of the royal family.


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