by Leilehua Yuen
Why a Blessing
The first thing I like to remind people is that neither I, nor any other officiant, has the mana, the power, to bless anything. Only Ke Akua, The Creator, has that. An officiant is simply a facilitator with training to help his or her fellow humans understand and accept what Ke Akua already has given. Sometimes our own inner turmoil can disrupt the blessings that are available to us, and so we need to release that. Previous turmoil may leave its own issues behind, which need to be removed. To facilitate this is the role of the officiant.
Blessing ceremonies are done for many reasons. They are done to give thanks for good things, to help resolve bad things, in celebration, and in penance. They are done to facilitate change. The birth of a baby changes its own status, making it an independent human. Buying land changes the status of the land, and the responsibilities of the former and new owners. Building a home or business on the land changes things yet again.
There are many ways to conduct a blessing – each kahu will have been trained by his or her own mentors and will eventually create a synthesis which expresses a synergy of the kahu’s own mana`o (thought process), tradition, and the specific people for whom the blessing is being called.
In my training, I was taught to call upon Ke Akua (the supreme creator), the various spiritual entities associated with the land for which blessing is being sought, my own ancestors, and the ancestors of the people involved. We then call upon those physically present to add their mana to the blessing, and then those who are to come after us. This is to remind us that the land was here before us, and will be here after us. We are merely current in a long succession of stewards.
The Human Condition
Many of the Hawaiian times for blessings have analogues in Western culture. Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Weddings, Last Rites, and Funerals come immediately to mind, though the forms may be somewhat different.
A young couple wishing to become pregnant may ask for a blessing to facilitate that. If a woman is having difficulties in her pregnancy, she may call for a blessing. Some people ask for a blessing at a birth, others at the cutting of the piko, the umbilicus. Some people call for a blessing at the child’s first birthday. Sometimes if a child has difficulty weaning, having nightmares and becoming overly “clingy,” the parents may ask for a blessing. Sometimes, if a child is having difficulty in school or with classmates, a blessing will be asked. Graduations are a time in some families for a blessing ceremony of thanksgiving. Weddings are another joyous occasion for blessing ceremony. And, of course, funerals and memorials are times when we ask a blessing.
Christening Boats and other Kinds of “People”
In the Western world, boat christenings are a common situation in which blessings are asked. In Hawai`i, with our strong sea-faring heritage, boat christenings or consecrations are a frequent occurrence. One of the ancient prayers used in christening canoes and boats refers to the days when huge logs were dragged from the forest to the shore to fashion the great sea-going canoes: “Yesterday you were a tree of the forest,” the chant says. Then it proclaims, “Today, you are a man of the sea!”
By extension, some families will call for a blessing for a new tractor, car, truck, or other large piece of equipment. Draft animals and pets also receive their own blessing ceremonies. A Western analogue to this is seen in the Blessing of the Beasts conducted by many churches on the Feast of Saint Francis.
Land, Home, and Business Blessings
Land is often given a blessing ceremony after a change in ownership, or use type. Blessing ceremonies also are conducted at various times in the life of a building such as a home or business. Not all properties require all of the different forms of blessings. Many factors go into the decision of when and why to conduct a particular kind of blessing. Some people choose to have every phase of purchase and construction blessed, especially if the project is large and formidable. Some people ask blessings at the beginning and end of construction. For some people, ownership transfer and moving-in are combined into one ceremony. There are many different ways, depending on the needs of the situation.
In some ways, a land or house blessing is similar to a marriage ceremony. The responsibilities of the various parties are spelled out, and the new owners promise to cherish and protect this kuleana, this responsibility. As Hawaiians, we believe that land ownership goes far beyond the “palapala,” the paper documents. Acquiring land puts one in a spiritual relationship to that land which can never be broken. It is up to us to work toward making that relationship a healthy one.
Some of the times blessings are conducted:
1) Upon purchase of property/transfer of ownership, especially if there was any difficulty or conflict associated with the purchase. If this is the case, the blessing ceremony may include ho`oponopono.
2) At the ground breaking.
3) At the laying of the foundation. Often, property has been purchased already “improved.” If that is the case, then the ground-breaking/foundation blessing are basically combined.
4) At the “topping off.”
5) At the “housewarming” of a private residence.
6) At the “grand opening” of a business.
7) If there is serious discord on the property.
8) If someone is seriously injured or dies on the property.
9) If there is a burglary.
10) When moving out – if life has been good in the place, it is good to give thanks and free the space for the next inhabitant/tenant. If there have been problems, it is good to clear them out to try and prevent them from following you, or from affecting the next tenant.
Copyright 2005, Leilehua Yuen