• Home
  • Articles
  • Culture
  • The Kahuna of Hawaii - Chiefess Kukeakalani Lane Keeper of Kamehameha's Spirit

The Kahuna of Hawaii - Chiefess Kukeakalani Lane Keeper of Kamehameha's Spirit

A depiction of a royal heiau (Hawaiian temple) at Tiritatéa Bay (now Kealakekua Bay). Illustration circa 1816.

Ali'i Chiefess Kukeakalani (great great grandmother of H.R.H Prince Darrick) was the grand-daughter of Ali'i Keaweamahi, who was the kahu, keeper of Unihipilly of King Kamehameha I.

(ʻUnihipili - the spirit of a dead person. The spirit of the deceased was secured and controlled by a living person who became its master. The spirit was deified, fed with ʻawa, guided and developed by prayers and suggestions until it became strong and acquired mana or power.)

The magical properties associated with the bones of Hawaiian kings were valuable to the ancient Hawaiians, and were even seen to be potentially dangerous. Great rites and elaborate ceremonies were performed to ensure the safe keeping of their ancestors.

Death in general in ancient Hawaiian society was a most serious matter, especially when it concerned powerful and influential individuals such as the king of Hawaii. According to traditional Hawaiian belief, the iwi (bones) of the dead contained mana(a divine power) that benefited those who were in possession of these bones. It was believed that the greater the amount of mana within the iwi, the more potent the power of these objects.

Kamehameha I

The iwi bones of King Kamehameha I are said to have accumulated a great amount of mana due to various factors such as the time of his birth, which coincided with the passing of Hayley's Comet as well as his numerous successes in the field of battle. Thus, it was vital that the bones of the first king of Hawaii did not fall into the wrong hands, for fear that the king's mana would be transferred to the enemies of his dynasty.

This was entrusted to the forebears of H.R.H. Prince Darrick the descendants of Ali'i Keaweamahi. King Kalakaua knew of their importance and rank and "by checking family lines he hoped to find direct descendants of the kahu who directed the secret burial of his illustrious predecessor." When Kalakaua saw the genealogy of Keaweamahi, he commanded Ali'i Cheifess Kukeakalani to proceed to the cave of Hale iliili and secure for him some evidence of Kamehameha's burial therein. But the exact location of his burial place will remain a secret.

This is further historical evidence of the importance of the Lane family and perhaps why they were close to members of the House of Kamehameha and Kalakaua and why their son Lot Kamehameha Carey Lane was given a Royal name by King Kamehameha V and announced as an heir.

The Kahuna Sorcerers of Hawaii, Past and Present by Julius Rodman

"The Lane family came into this desolate picture through the warrior Keaweamahi, trusted kahu and close kinsman of Kamehameha. It was Keaweamahi and a few other exalted kahu who placed the body and the treasure of their king in the sea cave of Hale iliili"

Julius Scammon Rodman, sailor, explorer, collector & writer wrote a book entitled 'The kahuna; sorcerers of Hawaii, past and present'. He met up with both Ali'i David Kawanananakoa and Ali'i Lot Kamehameha Lane (great-grandfather of H.R.H. Prince Darrick) on his quest to locate the burial grounds of King Kamehameha I

Quotes from his book1:
"One evening young John Lane (great uncle of H.R.H. Prince Darrick), an Irish-Hawaiian youth of then casual acquaintanceship, stopped me on Beretania Street and exclaimed, 'Say, I've heard you explore these old caves! Maybe you know of my family and the cave that belongs to us?' I admitted that his family was known to me, for it was indeed one that had for generations been important in island history. Of the cave I professed ignorance. John Lane told me little at that first meeting except that he was descended from the great Kamehameha, and that the cave wherein the king was interred was on a parcel of family land. Later I met his aged father, who added embellishments. Old Lot Lane (Lot Kamehameha Lane) told me they had long discussed the feasibility of salvaging the treasure and converting it into cash to pay off a great amount of debts. There would be enough left, if they calculated correctly, for everyone in the family to retire onto fine estates the rest of their days. He had known of the cave since early childhood, but not until his debts had grown so large in his declining years had he thought it worth braving the curse by invading the cave."

"As a boy he was often terrified by hearing his grandmother (Chiefess Kukeakalani) chant the terrible* pule umi* or kahuna curse, which was put upon the cave when it was sealed. Discussions of the cave with young Lane dragged on another year before he consented to meet Mr. Ronald Von Holt. Ronald was eager to finance the expedition, if only for the adventure. John met us at the Von Holt town house. He was in a state of great agitation. At the last moment he was told by a powerful kahuna that, if he allowed us to despoil the cave, the fatal curse of the *pule umi* would surely fall upon his father, who had a very bad heart. It was understandable that he did not want to risk bringing about his father's death. That evening I dined with John and his wife in their new domicile. Afterward he sat back and poured out a story of the cave barely hinted at in our previous conversations."

"In times of remote antiquity, during the reigns of Alii Moi (kings) centuries before Kamehameha the Great, the lands of Hale iliili (House of Pebbles) were sacred and kapu. Here during the wars of Kamehameha came the chiefs from all the Island of Hawaii to lay plans of battle. There were many reasons why Hale iliili was sacred. There sprang from it the only fresh water in many arid miles. Far down in a vaulted cave by the sea a clear, cool spring bubbled the year round. It was large enough to supply the needs of a few thousand persons. While the landing place was narrow and rockbound, fishermen found it less hazardous to drag up their frail outriggers there than at any point for a great distance along the high coast."

"The Lane family came into this desolate picture through the warrior Keaweamahi, trusted kahu and close kinsman of Kamehameha. It was Keaweamahi and a few other exalted kahu who placed the body and the treasure of their king in the sea cave of Hale iliili. Fifty slaves worked weeks carrying in casks of precious metal and great war canoes brimming with the cultural treasures of the Royal Court. The family tradition had it that Kamehameha was worth more than seven hundred thousand dollars in silver alone, hijacked from Spanish galleons en route from Acapulco to Manila. John Lane's great-grandmother often recited to his father the story of her first glimpse inside the cave. Her father was the only son of Keaweamahi and to him had fallen the guardianship of the cave. Every day he shouldered two immense calabashes and disappeared into the brush above the council house to fetch water from the spring. Every one of the clan was threatened with dire punishment if they should attempt to follow him. One morning when the great-grandmother was six years old she crept along the trail after her father. He paused several hundred yards from the house and lifted aside a large boulder, which had seemed to be lying carelessly among a number of others. The boulder guarded the spring's mouth. Lowering the calabashes carefully he dropped in after them, leaving the aperture open. After a brief hesitation, the little girl clambered through the forbidden opening and came upon a flight of stairs rough hewn from the natural basalt. At the foot of the stairs the cave leveled off into a vaulted passageway. Up from the shadowy depths floated faint sibilations of the distant ocean tides. Suddenly two shadowy objects darted past her head, "rushing her face lightly. She screamed in terror, not realizing they were pulelehua, the harmless little Hawaiian bats. At first he was terribly angry; then he decided the best solution was to reveal it all to her and swear her to eternal secrecy. For days afterward she was speechless with terror over the dreadful pule umi he chanted."

"Beyond the pool, down, down to where the sighing of the ocean grew into an ominous clamoring, and the cool, salt-laden draught of ocean winds fled past them, the cavern opened into a vast chamber frosted with gleaming salt crystals. Here the pale light of their kukui nut torch fell upon a row of canoes heaped with makaloa mats, kapa cloths, lei niho palaoa, calabashes, drums, kahili, and long pololu war spears. Beside the canoes were many casks of silver and gold coins, ingots, chalices, and candelabras. There was one item among the vast assortment of war implements that was indelibly impressed upon the child's memory. It was a cluster of woven sennit gloves studded inside and out with shark's teeth. She pictured giant Hawaiian gladiators rending each other with these awful objects as they locked in mortal combat."

Lot Kamehameha Lane's father related that "... in 1888, when he was barely of age, he visited the location of the cave. Being alone at nightfall and without food or blankets, he quickly lost heart and returned to Honolulu. He did vouch that fear of the curse and the great shark that guarded the pool caused his decision to leave the cave alone. By coincidence, soon after the young Lot Lane returned to Honolulu, King Kalakaua decreed that all native subjects who had genealogies should bring them to the palace. By checking family lines he hoped to find direct descendants of the kahu who directed the secret burial of his illustrious predecessor. The King had been elected to his high office in 1874 after William Lunalilo, the last of the Kamehamehas to reign, had died. Although he was not of the direct line of the Kamehamehas, Kalakaua's grandfather, Kamanawa, one of the principal high chiefs who assisted Kamehameha the Great in the conquest of the islands, traced his blood through Keawe A-Heulu to the conqueror's line. Colonel Curtis P. Iaukea, who had been the king's Chamberlain, told me that Kalakaua believed his blood link to Kamehameha through Keawe A-Heulu gave him the special prerogative to enter the tomb and recover the treasures reputed to be buried with his remains. When Kalakaua saw the genealogy of Keaweamahi, he commanded John Lane's grandmother (Ali'i Chiefess Kukeakalani Lane) to proceed to the cave of Hale iliili and secure for him some evidence of Kamehameha's burial therein. Twice along the trail to Hale iliili she became deathly sick, and at last was persuaded by a kahuna to shun the place and return empty-handed to Honolulu. Kalakaua, learned kahuna that he was, understood only too well what had happened. It is believed that he never again concerned himself with the cave of Hale iliili."

Notes:
1 Rodman, Julius. The Kahuna Sorcerers of Hawaii, Past and Present: with a Glossary of Ancient Religious Terms, and the Books of the Hawaiian Royal Dead. Exposition Press, 1979.

DISCLAIMER: The House of Kamakahelei has no affiliation nor association with an individual known as Idony Punahele Albert or the organisation styled as the 'Royal House of Hawai'i - Ka Hale Ali'i O Kamakahelei'.

Copyright © 2021 House of Kamakahelei, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
RK