Ancient Religion and the Heiaus

[This article was written for the Nalo News, a community newspaper published by the Waimanalo Council of Community in the late 1970's. My uncle's mother, Mrs. Julia A.F. Enoka, wrote numerous articles on ancient Hawaiian folklore and myths.]

The Hawaiians had four main gods that they worshiped-- KANE, the creator-god; LONO--the God of Storm, Rain, and Fertility; KU, the God of war and strenuous activities, and KANALOA, the god of Sea and Death. When the Tahitians migrated to Hawaii they brought their worship of Tane (Kane) and Taaroa (Kanaloa). This was the religion in the ancient days, similar to that of the rest of Polynesia.

Heiaus are enclosed areas built of stone where the Hawaiians worshiped their Gods and held religious ceremonies.

On the Island of Hawaii there are two known heiaus built by Pa'ao, a Samoan priest who left Samoa and went adrift on the high seas, finally landing at Puna. He built the heiau Wahaula at Puna and Heiau O Mookini at Upolu Point.

There are six known heiaus in Waimanalo. KEIKIPUIPIU heiau was situated on Quarry Hill, just above Kalaniole Highway directly opposite the Olomana Golf Course. Traces of this heiau were destroyed when W.G. Irwin and the Maunawili Ranch planted pineapples on the hillsides.

The Hawaiians made their adzes and small chisels from the stones at Quarry Hill. Adzes are made from very hard basalt rock and the rocks at Quarry Hill were considered some of the best. (The Hawaiian word for adze is ko'i.)

POHAKUNUI is a small heiau (50' x 90') on the crown of a hill at the base of the Koolau Mountains. The heiau is located on Ekahi Farms on the hill between Kaulukanu and Mahailua Streets. The site is in a fairly good state of preservation.

There is a possible heiau of stone ruins above Kaikaina St. Its size is about 130' x 110', but archeologist were unable to give a detailed inspection of the area due to the heavy growth of underbrush.

There is also an unnamed heiau on the Waimanalo side of Olomana ridge facing the Koolau Range. According to McAllister, the archeologist who researched the site, the heiau consisted of two terraces and was 50' x 130'.

The largest of Waimanalo's heiaus is PUEO, located above the University Experimental Farm on Waikupanaha Road. It is 130' x 150' and is still well-preserved.

There was another heiau in Kaupo Village at Makapuu. The heiau was situated in the present Sea Life Park area. In 1853 there was a small pox epidemic and many Hawaiians moved to Kaupo Village to escape the quarantine. Most of that site was destroyed when the present highway was built.

PUUHONUA heiau is located on a coral hill just a short distance from the main entrance of Bellows Field. This hill was a sacred place of refuge and all who sought safety there had their lives spared. On all of our islands there is a PUUHONUA. Most famous of these sites is our National Park City of Refuge at Honaunau on the Big Island.

Enoka, J. A. F. (1979, February). Old Waimanalo: Ancient religion and the heiaus. The Nalo News, [4(2)], [4].