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Ka Mo`omeheu o Hawai`i 
Hawaiian Culture


Excerpted From
Hulu Manu

Featherwork of Hawai`i

Leilehua Yuen

copyright 1999, Leilehua Yuen  
(For information on images, please click here)


Mele Inoa Ali`i
from Master Chanters of Hawai`i collection

`Ike ia Kaukini he lawai`a manu
He `upena ku`u i ka noe ko Pokahi
Ke ho`opuni la i ka `ohu
Ke ho`opuni la i ka `ohu na kikepa
Ke na`i i ka luna o Ka`auana
`O ka `uahi ke kapeku
E hei `ai ka i`a manu o Puoali`i
`O ke ali`i wale no ka`u makemake
`O ka luhi o maua me `ia nei
`O ka makou le`ale`a no `ia

You will recognize Kaukini, the bird catcher
Spreading his nets like the mist of Pokahi
The mist stretches
Stretching the mist-like nets around
And over the uplands of Ka`auana
The dark smoke will drive
The bird Puoali`i into the net
I delight in serving the chief
Whom I and others care for
This is our joy



     As one gazes on the pageantry of Hawaiian cultural festivals, their awesomeness is enhanced by the grace of flowing `ahu`ula (feather cloaks), elegance of tall kahili (feather royal standards), and the festive decorative effect of lei hulu manu (feather garlands). These items and more were an important part of Hawaiian court and diplomatic life from ancient times.
The canoes of Hawaiian chiefs also wore lei hulu manu, giant feather lei. They streamed in the wind telling its direction, providing both function and beauty. With the Hawaiian love of metaphor, they possibly also were felt to add to the mana, spiritual power, of the craft by imbuing it with the spirit and protection of the bird from whose feathers the lei hulu manu was crafted.
Religious articles were decorated with feathers. The best known is the image of Kuka`ilimoku, Kamehameha's war god. But many other images as well as at least one small shrine were enhanced with plumage.

     In Hawaiian legend, the homes of goddesses were sometimes thatched with feathers. Laieikaewai, a chiefess hidden in the magical land of Paliuli by her guardian, lives in a hale thatched with yellow feathers. In the adventures of the chiefly sojurner Kawelu, the chief of O`ahu sets him the task of constructing a hale and thatching it with feathers. Kauakahiali`i, legendary inventor of the `ohe hano ihu, lived in a hale woven of flowering lehua branches and thatched with feathers. (Beckwith, pp. 408, 526, 536)

     The regalia of the very highest chiefs could include a feather malo (loin cloth), ka`ei (feathered girdle or belt), `aha`ula (feather cape), mahiole (helmet), kahili pa`a lima to be carried in the hand, kahili lele carried by a personal attendant and used as a fan or fly-flap as need arose, kahili carried before the chief as a banner, and large formal kahili for state functions. These feather items often were given their own personal names as in, for example, the feather cloak "Halakeao`I`ahu" and the kahili "`Ele`eleualani."  
These items were made with great care and love. When making them, no evil thought must cross a person's mind. Nothing unkind, or unloving. The mind should focus on love, long life, good health, righteousness, honor, and success for the person who will wear or use the item.

     Mana, according to John Dominis Holt in The Art of Featherwork in Old Hawai'i, was:   ". . .the source of spiritual power, the source of   intelligence and excellence. Mana was hidden in the divine ancestry of a person. Mana was hidden in the   kaona (the metaphor) of chants. Mana - elusive and subtle, much sought after but not easily attained, -   therefore you put the best of your heart and soul, your feelings and hopes, into a work of art! "The designs on feather objects and garments were particularly challenging to the old Hawaiian artists. In their mana-steeped consciousness these artists worked always to achieve the most generous acquisition of mana. Mana was granted or collected in objects to the degree the maker put heart and soul into the creation. Inspiration came from the gods. One kept in constant touch with unseen powers. Prayers and chants and certain rituals fortified this union between artist and akua."

     The colors and patterns selected were given intense study and planning. These were the manifestations of Hawaiian heraldry, as important and complex as any royal heraldic traditions of Europe. Color and design themes apparently were based on the heraldry of the individual, and so were consistent for an individual to some degree. But they also were modified by events during the person's life. For example, a chief who conquered another could appropriate the fallen chief's regalia and incorporate it into his own regalia to add its mana to his.  
The Hawaiian heraldry was similar in function to that of European royal families. The royal knights of medieval Europe wore plumed steel helmets, arms-emblazoned surcoats, and carried banners, all of which told rank, lineage, and saint. Appropriate usage was overseen by a college of heralds. 
The royal war chiefs of Hawai`i wore crested helmets, patterned capes, and carried kahili, all of which told rank, lineage, and `aumakua. Appropriate usage was overseen by a convocation of kahuna (priestly experts in a field). According to Holt (p. 38) the designs "are certainly not happenstance   arrangements, but carefully considered elements of form worked into patterns which are mainly concerned   with an exhibition of symbols relating to clan, to the spiritual connections with `aumakua, and the constant tie existing between the wearer of feather garments and the universe."

     Kahili, however, according to kumu hula Kaha`i Topolinski, did not necessarily fall into the same pattern, and developed a somewhat independant artistic tradition.

     The feathers for all these works came from a variety of birds. The most valued were the pale yellow feathers, called `e`e, which came from the wing tufts of the `o`o (Moho nobilis). From the mamo (Drepanis pacifica) came dark golden yellow feathers. The `i`iwi (Vestinaria coccinea) was the main source of red feathers, although the `apapane (Himatione sanguinea sanguinea) also provided red. Green feathers primarily came from the `o`u (Psittirostra psittacea), with some contributed by the `akialoa (Hemignathus obscurus obscurus). But other birds, from chickens to sea birds, and in at least one case the owl, provided feathers for the royal and religious regalia.

     Professional bird catchers, kia manu, were deeply conversant with the habits of their prey and the best methods of catching each. Ha`inakolo was their god.

      Birds caught specifically for their feathers were captured at the beginning of the molting season, when the feathers were loose and easily removed without damage to the bird. The display feathers used in courtship were no longer needed by the bird, but were still in good enough condition to be valuable for feather work. The birds were snared in nets or caught on poles daubed with pilali (bird lime), a sticky substance which glued the birds' feet to the pole. After the desired feathers were removed, the bird lime was cleaned from the bird with kukui oil. The bird was then set free to raise its family and grow a new crop of feathers. 
Birds which would be eaten were caught by pelting with stones, clubbing, snaring, netting, and tangling with lines as well as by netting and liming (Malo pp 37-39). Ducks were caught by hiding under water and breathing through a hollow reed. When a duck swam by, it was grabbed by the legs. Seabirds were caught with hooks and lines, or with nets. The coastal people of Hamakua developed a unique method of catching seabirds. In the evening they built smokey fires along the cliff edges. When the seabirds returned home to roost, they flew through the smoke and became disoriented, enabling the Hamakua people to catch them with scoop nets.  
After killing the bird, the feathers were removed and cleaned. Women often did the sorting and bundling of the tiny feathers to prepare them for later use (Handy, ... and Others, p. 138).      After preparation, the feathers, while not used as currency in any strict sense, often were collected by the chiefs as taxes, tribute, and as spoils of war. This practice continued well into the monarchy, as evidenced by the kapu placed on yellow feathers when a new cloak was being made for Princess Ruth in 1876.

     Lord Thomas Brassey and his wife the Lady Annie Brassey traveled about the world with their family on their yacht Sunbeam. Lady Brassey was quite a collector of "curiosities" and acquired a number of them in Hawai`i. They arrived at Hilo Bay on 22 December, 1876 and departed O`ahu on 3 January, 1877. Despite the brevity of their stay they made many friends and in 1881, King David Kalakaua visited them at their home in Catsfield, England. 
In her journal, Lady Brassey writes:       ". . .The woman of the house, which contained some finely worked mats and clean-looking beds, showed us some tappa [sic.] cloth, together with the mallets and other instruments used in its manufacture, and a beautiful orange-colored lei, or feather necklace. It was the first she had made herself. The cloth and mallets were for sale, but no inducement would persuade her to part with the necklace. It was the first she had ever made, and as I was afterwards told that the natives are superstitiously careful to preserve the first specimen of their handiwork, of whatever kind it may be.  
". . . While our accounts were being settled, preparatory to our departure, I occupied myself in looking at some kahilis [sic.] and feather leis [sic]. The yellow ones, either of Oo [sic.] or Mamo feathers, only found in this island, are always scarce, as the use of them is a prerogative of royalty and nobility. Just now it is almost impossible to obtain one, all the feathers being `tabu,' to make a royal cloak for Ruth, half-sister of Kamehameha V, and governess of Hawaii. Mamo feathers are generally worth a dollar apiece, and a good lei or loose necklace costs about five hundred dollars." [editor's note: compare this to the time's daily wages of approximately ten cents]



     Of feathered items worn on the body, the ka`ei and pa`u probably were the most rare. There are several `aha`ula in existence, most in museums, a number of feathered helmets, many lei, but only two feather ka`ei and one pa`u are known to still exist. All are at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. One ka`ei is in tatters, only fragments remain (Bishop Museum Cat # 6921). The other is almost intact.  
Identification of and use of these long featherworked strips has been problematic for years. Frequently considered loincloths, they also have been identified as baldrics or sashes. Lahilahi Webb, in a lecture at Kamehameha schools, called it "King Liloa's kaei kapu, a cordon made out of `o`o and `i`iwi feathers.. . .It has been thought to be a malo, but it is not a malo. It is the only artilcle of its kind in existance and very probably it was sacredly used in religious ceremonial." It was depicted on the famous statues of Kamehameha I worn somewhat similarly to a baldric.
     John Papa `I`i gives an excellent description of an item very much like that in Bishop museum. In Fragments of Hawaiian History, the English translation of his series of newspaper articles, it is called a malo. `I`i's mother was its kahu and he was sometimes its bearer.
     "When the family went to Kipapa from Kumelewai by way of upper Waipio to make ditches for the farms, his [`I`i's] mother trained him in the observance of the kapu noho. She placed on his back a bundle containing a wonderful malo [sic.] made of feathers from mamo and `apapane birds attached to a fine net, with rows of human teeth at the end; this he had seen when his mother put it out to sun. Slipping his arms into the loops of the bundle, she taught him to cry 'E noho e! (squat down!).'" (`I`i,  p 28)  
This could be the same the intact ka`ei in Bishop Museum, the term "malo," likely being an error of translation.
     This ka`ei is believed to have been made for Liloa, the high chief of the island of Hawai`i. He reigned from about 1455 to 1485. His successor was his eldest son Hakau, but the ka`ei passed to his second son, `Umi, born to a lower ranking mother. Hakau was a despotic ruler and in 1490 was overthrown by `Umi. Then, for three generations, there is no mention of the ka`ei. 
In the mid to late 1600s, Liloa's great-great-great-granddaughter Ke-akea-lani-wahine, daughter of Keakamahana, the highest ranking chiefess of Hawai`i, was in possession of the ka`ei. She ceremonially dressed her grandsons, Ka-`i-amamao and Ke`eaumoku, in it - signifying that they were of the highest chiefly kapu (sacredness).
     Again, the ka`ei falls into obscurity until `I`i's mother trains him in its care. It next appears when acquired by King David Kalakaua, possibly sometime in the 1880s. He bequeathed it to his sister Lili`uokalani, who later gave it to the Bishop Museum.
     Based on examination of photographs reproduced in books, the ka`ei appears to be a base of `olona covered with a broad red center stripe running its entire length, occasionally crossed by bands of yellow featherwork. The edges appear to be primarily mamo, with some sections in `e`e (the yellow feathers of the `o`o). A row of human teeth hangs from the lower edge of a horizontal band of `e`e. At the bottom edge a section is decorated with alternating rows of human teeth and rosettes or clusters of small fish teeth. This section appears to be bordered with mamo feathers.
     Probably the sections were added at later and separate dates, the human teeth being those of people whose mana was wanted to increase that of the ka`ei.
     One reason for the obscurity of the ka`ei could be that they were so sacred. The few ka`ei mentioned in legend were closely guarded to prevent them being viewed by the wrong people. For the unentitled to see, let alone touch, a ka`ei was death.
      Possibly one reason for the rarity and exceptional sacredness of the ka`ei is this unusually great mana. Even today, often items of personal use are considered to be kapu to their owner. In many halau hula, it is forbidden to borrow someone else's instruments or costumes.
     So, to wear such a personal garment is to claim a direct link to the mana and fertility of the owner. In other words, to claim descent, either genealogical or spiritual. As mana could be dissipated and lost through careless use and dispersal, such a powerful garment would require great solicitude in its use and display.



     The female counterpart to the ka`ei was the feathered pa`u. The last known feathered pa`u was made for Nahi`ena`ena, daughter of Kamehameha I. It was 30 inches wide and 20 feet 8 inches long. After her death in 1836, the pa`u was cut in half and used to form a royal pall, about 5 feet wide by ten feet long. It was last used over the coffin of Kalakaua. [Bishop Museum # 6831]. 
Kamo`oinanea, a kupua woman, owned a kahili and feathered pa`u which had the power to protect the bearer from fire and reduce enemies to ashes. (Beckwith, p. 491)



     Feather capes, some of the most memorable of chiefly regalia, were the province of men until Ka`ahumanu, favorite wife of Kamehameha I, appeared in her husband's golden mantle to announce his dying words.
     Up to that point, use of feather capes by women was reserved for the wives of chiefs who had followed their men into battle. These women, knowledgeable in the arts of war, aided their husbands as strategists. If their husbands were slain, the women would put on their husband's capes and continue the fight in their stead. But this was an exception, rather than the rule, and only practiced in extremis.
     After Ka`ahumanu's public appearance in Kamehameha's `aha`ula, other chiefly women began to wear the short cape.
     Thousands upon thousands of feathers were used to make a single cape for a high chief. The bold patterns stand out at a distance, and possibly denoted lineage, rank, and `aumakua. In addition to being worn, they also were spread out over the bows of a chief's canoe when on state functions. In this, they may have functioned somewhat as the chief's ensign.
     Some of the capes have a loop on each of the front edges. These loops are where a person's hand would be when the cape is worn. Webbers drawings of the people of Kaua`i show how they were looped over the thumb or finger, giving a wing-like appearance. A chief striding along in his cape, crested helmet on his head, would appear to be a huge bird-like, god-like figure.  
In practical use, the large sweeping gestures used to give battlefield commands would certainly be enhanced by the swath of brilliant feathers. It would be much easier for warriors to see a six-foot semicircle of bright red and gold than even the most powerful bare arm. Only the highest ranking chiefs had the resources to acquire enough feathers for a full cloak. Most chiefs wore the shorter capes which came approximately to the elbow. 
`Aha`ula literally means "red garment" (`aha - garment: `ula - red). Probably in the original feather capes only or primarily red was used. But in Hawai`i the pale yellow feathers of the `o`o were the rarest of those suitable for garments. So, with royalty's penchant for rarity, they became the most highly esteemed. Next in value were the yellow feathers of the mamo. The anciently traditional red feathers were still valued, just not as highly. Thus, the higher the percentage of yellow, the higher the rank of the chief. Kamehameha was the only chief known to wear a cloak comprising only the yellow `e`e.  
Another unique `aha`ula belonged to Hewahewa, a high ranking kahuna of the time of Kamehameha. Hewahewa was attached to the court of Kamehameha. After the death of his chief, Hewahewa was one of the advisors of Liholiho. He assisted the young monarch in dismantling the religious system of his ancestors.
     Hewahewa's `aha`ula was made from the feathers of the pueo. As the pueo was a very powerful `aumakua, and therefor seldom molested by even professional bird catchers, wearing an `aha`ula pueo would have made a powerful statement regarding the rank and sacredness of the kahuna. The effect would be comparable to the pope wearing a stole made from threads of Jesus's robe, or to the Dalai Lama wearing a robe woven from silk planted by Buddha. Ironically, the power vested in Hewahewa by the ancient religion made him one of the few who could destroy it.


      The feathered helmets grace the most sacred part of the human body, the head. And so one might extrapolate that the feather helmet also was an object of high honor.
     The base is made from tightly woven `ie`ie root. While they won't offer much protection from bullets, they deflect somewhat the force of a spear, slingstone, or club. But more importantly, they crown the wearer with the protection of his ancestors and gods.  
To some these helmets look like the helmets of Spanish soldiers. To others they look like the helmets of the Roman centurions. They are almost identical to the ceremonial helmets of Tibetan monks. Some believe this demonstrates contact with one or more of these groups. But, such contact does not explain the many shapes of the Hawaiian helmet.
     Most likely, the helmet shapes denoted rank, lineage, and `aumakua affiliation. The mahiole of high chiefs were feathered and had a prominent crest ridge. The ridge often was decorated in stripes running its length. Perhaps this symbolized the rainbow which ancient legend said appeared over a chief's head.
     Some lesser chiefs had a lower crest ridge and no feathers. Other lesser chiefs, apparently laterally ranked, had mushroom-shaped protuberances on their helmets and also were featherless. Common soldiers wore a simple skullcap to protect the head from slingstones and other objects.


     The kahili of ancient times were more varied and reached greater heights than kahili of modern times. Some of the tallest state kahili were as high as 10 meters, with 3 meters of feathering. The small hand kahili, or kahili pa`a lima, were up to a meter in length. Originally fly whisks, the kahili pa`a lima and kahili lele still served that purpose at the time of Captain Cook's arrival in the islands. But they also functioned somewhat in the same fashion as the royal scepters of European nobility. And, according to Holt, were more important in the spiritual application of warding off bad mana, than in the practical application of chasing flies. 
During the monarchy era, the huge formal state kahili lost much of their height, although they gained many new colors from imported feathers and developed a larger diameter. Probably this was because the state functions had moved indoors, and the tall kahili were not easily maneuverable under the ceilings and chandeliers and through doors. The great width of the Monarchy era kahili could possibly be attributed to the innovation of kahili-holders, as well as the move inside, so the strength of arm and stamina of the kahili-bearer as well as resistance to wind were no longer considerations.
     The first European account of kahili is recorded in the Journals of Capt. James Cook, (Beaglehole, p. 1227 - Samwell). The occasion was the arrival in January of 1778 of the Resolution and the Discovery at Kaua'i. "Karanatoa brother to Teeave came on board the ship this morning with a man carrying an enormous fly-flap before him on his Shoulder. . ."

     Unfortunately, this is just enough information to tantalize, but not to describe. How "enormous" is "enormous?" What were the colors? Patterns? Did it match Kalanakoa's cape and other regalia? Kahili pa`a lima and kahili lele were seen frequently during this and subsequent visits. Might this have been a display of the large formal kahili of state? Or was it simply one of the larger kahili carried before the chief as a banner.
     The men of Cook's party termed the kahili "fly-flaps" because they were familiar with the ceremonial and practical fly-flaps of the South Pacific cultures. It is likely that at least part of the ancestry of the kahili is, indeed, a fly-flap. 
     Brigham (1899, p 14) says: "It is probable that a bunch of feathers used as a fly-flap was the primal form of feather work . . . and the prototype of the kahili seems to have been a stem . . . of the ki [Cordyline fruticosa]. . ."
     Otto Degener (1984 p 207) suggests that the kahili was "probably in vogue since the time of Hawai`i Loa. . ." Meaning, it appears, since the beginning. Hawai`i Loa is the legendary, and possibly apocryphal, chief who discovered the Hawaiian Islands. He named the largest after himself and the others after his sons.

By the time of Cook's arrival in Hawai'i the kahili had evolved into several styles and sizes. They ranged from the small personal kahili pa`a lima carried by an ali'i to the tall formal kahili carried before the ali`i by an attendant.
     Small personal kahili pa`a lima were carried about by persons of high rank and apparently  served as a combination fly whisk, fan, and to some degree, scepter. The extant Cook kahili range in length from 67 cm to 90 cm. Between half and a third of the length is feathered, and the feathering is about 10 to 15 cm in diameter. Colors and patterns of the hand kahili show great variation, although black appears to have been a favored color.
     When Cook reached Kealakekua Bay at Hawai'i Island, Kona's high chief, Kalaniopu'u, made a state visit to the newcomers. He made presents of featherwork to Cook. Among the items was a kahili pa`a lima, described as a "very handsome fly-flap."

     Many kahili were collected during Cook's third expedition, 22 of which ended up in the Leverian Museum. Today, however, only a few of these are known to be extant and accepted as from Cook's third voyage. All of these are kahili pa`a lima.

     In late May of 1786 the fur traders Nathaniel Portlock and George Dixon arrived in Hawai`i. Portlock's June 11 journal entry gives a description of a kahili:   ". . . I purchased two very curious fly-flaps, the upper parts composed of beautiful variegated feathers; the handles were human bone, inlaid with tortoiseshell in the neatest manner, which gave them the appearance of fineered [veneered] work" (Portlock, 1789, 1968, p88). 
Lady Brassey, who traveled with her family on their yacht the Sunbeam, arrived in Hilo Bay on 23 December, 1876. In a journal entry she says:    "Kahilis [sic] are also an emblem of rank, though many people use them as ornaments in their houses. They are rather like feather-brooms, two or three feet long, and three or four inches across, made of all sorts of feathers, tastefully interwoven. I bought one. . ." (Brassey, 1878, p 279)

     According to Malo, (1976, p77):   "The kahili, a fly brush or plumed staff of state, was the emblem and embellishment of royalty. Where the king went, there went his kahili-bearer (pa'a-kahili); and where he stopped, there stopped also his kahili-bearer. When the king slept, the kahili was waved over him as a fly-brush. The kahili was the possession solely of the ali'i."

     Mrs. Lucy G. Thurston, wife of Rev. Asa Thurston, published her autobiography in 1882. In it she describes Kamamalu, favorite wife of Liholiho, at a commemorative feast given by the king for his late father, Kamehameha I:   "She, . . . according to court ceremony, so arranged a native cloth pa`u a yard wide, with ten folds, as to be enveloped around the middle with seventy thicknesses . . . Two attendants followed her, one bearing up the end of this cumbrous robe of state, and the other waving over her head an elegant nodding fly-brush of beautiful plumes, its long handle completely covered with little tortoise shell rings of various colors." (Brigham, 1911/1976 p186)  

     Larger kahili, around two to three meters long with about a meter of feathering 10 to 15 cm in diameter, were carried before the nobility by personal attendants. These kahili functioned much like the banners of the European kings and knights, allowing observers to identify at a distance the signified noble and tell for which level of kapu they should prepare. Again, as in the European courts, the attendants were, themselves, of noble blood.       



     Today, even though the regalia may be made from dyed feathers, silk, felt, flowers, or even paper, it brings to mind the pomp and splendor of ancient Hawai`i and the ruling chiefs.




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Appendix I
Feather Substitution Chart

     The following is a listing of birds which are known to have been used in ancient Hawaiian featherwork and suggested substitutions of natural feathers. Dyed feathers trimmed to shape also may be used, although they will fade in sunlight and are more easily damaged by moisture. This list is incomplete and research continues.

`akaloa (Hemignathus obscurus obscurus)  
     canary, parrot, saffron finch, parrot, parakeet

  `alala (Corvus hawaiiensis)
     mynah, chicken, duck, turkey, bulbul

`amakihi (Hemignathus virens)
     bright yellow to yellow-green
     saffron finch, yellow-fronted canary, parrot, parakeet

`apapane (Himatione sanguinea sanguinea)
     deep crimson
     red-crested cardinal, yellow-billed cardinal, parrot

`i`iwi (Vestaria coccinea)
     red-crested cardinal, yellow-billed cardinal, parrot

`io (Buteo solitarius)
     brown, tan
     pheasant, duck, partridge, turkey, barn owl

`iwa (Frigeta minor palmerstoni)
     black, grey
     dyed turkey, duck, dove, mynah

koa`e (Phaeton lepturus dorothea)
     cattle egret, white dove, goose biots

mamo (Drepanis pacifica)
     dark golden yellow
     golden pheasant, canary, parrot

moa (Gallus gallus)
     reddish brown, iridescent black
     game cock, Rhode Island Red rooster

nene (Bernicla sandvicensis)
     grey, brown
     grey goose

`o`o (Moho nobilis)
     lemon yellow, black, black with white
     golden pheasant, kalij pheasant, mocking bird, parrot, commercial coque

`o`u (Psittirostra psittacea)
     parrot, meijiro, canary

pueo (Asio flammeus sandvicensis)
     brown, tan
     duck, pheasant, partridge

Appendix II




     The following is a listing of kahili, information about which was used for this paper, as well as possible locations of others. Kahili believed collected on Cook's third voyage are in italics.

     As the large formal kahili were dismantled and presumably repaired between uses, it is possible that design drift occurred over the centuries. Some ancient kahili may still be extant, but have had members replaced with more modern materials. In such a case, the kahu would still consider them the originals, even though they may bear little resemblence to the original form. 

Named Kahili

`Ele`eleualani: "Dark Rain of Heaven": Kahili of Lonoikamakahiki, carried before him as part of his regalia: Last documented owner, Keopuolani: Described as "dark and beautiful as the foliage of the forest," and said to have been crafted from feathers found only on Hawai`i Island, likely the long tailfeathers of the Hawai`i Island `o`o: possibly in Bishop Museum collection

Hawai`i Loa: Named for legendary discoverer of the Hawaiian chain: Kahili of Ka`ahumanu, commisioned by Kamehameha in her honor

Koa`ehuluma`ema`e: "[Spiritually] Pure Koa`e Feather": Kahili of Kaheiheimalie Kaniu and Kahakuha`akoi: Likely made from the tail streamers of the koa`e: possibly in Bishop Museum collection

Kupukapu: "Sacred Sprout": Kahili of Kuakamano, "a great chief of old"

Po`ouliuli: "Dark Head": Kahili of Princess Ruth Ke`elikolani


Extant Kahili


K01 - kahili pa`a lima: Cook / Leverian: 90 cm long, red-brown, black, grey, white moa and other feathers badly chewed by clothes moths which allows viewing of construction technique, pa`u formed of feathers of decreasing size, brown and black tortoise shell handle terminating in joint of tibia(?): collected by Samwell, Kaua`i, 3 March 1779: National Museum of New Zealand, Wellington  
(Cat # FE 329)

K02 - kahili pa`a lima: Cook / Leverian: 67 cm long, appears black in b/w photo, somewhat chewed feathers could be moa, `alala, or iwa, unusually thin wood handle, pa`u missing: Museum Fur Volkerkunde, Neue Hofburg, Heldenplatz, 1014, Vienna, Austria
(Cat # 204)

K03 - kahili pa`a lima (?): black, curly moa feathers, bone and tortoise shell handle: Ipswich Museum and Art Gallery, High Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, England, 1P1 3QH (no photo available at this time)

K04 - kahili pa`a lima (?): black, red and pink yarn pa`u, tortoise shell handle terminating in three inch long ivory piece, the use of ivory dates this kahili as post-European contact: presented to the museum by Mother Bertha in 1882. She was one of  three teaching sisters who helped establish St. Cross School in Lahaina and arrived in Hawai`i inn 1865: Pitt-Rivers Museum, South Parks Rd., Oxford, England OX1 3PP (no photo available at this time)

K05 - kahili pa`a lima: Cook / Leverian: 89 cm, bone handle, probably collected by Clerke on Kaua`i 4 March 1779: British Museum, London, England (no photo available at this time)

K06 - kahili pa`a lima: King / Trinity College: 56 cm, wood handle with terminal flare, medium-toned medium length broad feathers (b/w photo) appear to have been split to increase amount of curl: Given to Trinity College by Capt. James King who sailed on Cook's 3rd Voyage to the Pacific as second lieutenant on the Resolution and returned as Capt. of the Discovery following the death of Capt. Clerke in 1779: National Museum of Ireland (Trinity College), Kildare St., Dublin 2, County Dublin, Ireland
(Cat # 1882.3692)

K07 - kahili pa`a lima: King / Trinity College: 72 cm, wood handle with distinct terminal flare in "poi pounder" shape and flat or concave terminus, medium-toned long slender feathers (b/w photo) appear to have been split to increase amount of curl: Given to Trinity College by Capt. James King who sailed on Cook's 3rd Voyage to the Pacific as second lieutenant on the Resolution and returned as Capt. of the Discovery following the death of Capt. Clerke in 1779: National Museum of Ireland (Trinity College), Kildare St., Dublin 2, County Dublin, Ireland (Cat #1882.3693)

K08 - kahili lele: black, olona net pa`u, 1.25 meter long handle with brown and black tortoise shell and ivory bands, terminates in ivory tip: Musee des Antiquites Nationales de St. Germain-en-Laye, Chateau de Saint-Germain, F-78100 St. Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines, France (no photo available at this time)

K09 - kahili: no description available: Museum fur Volkerkunde, Arnimallee 27, D-1000 Berlin 33, West Germany

K10 - 2 kahili: no description available: Royal Scottish Museum, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1JF

K11 - kahili fragments: Clerke / Gov. of Kamchatka: black moa tail feathers split down the center to add curl, handle section with bone and turtle shell fragments: Muzej Antropologii i Etnografii in Petra Velikogo, Universitetskaja nab., 3, Leningrad B-164, Russia



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Berger, Andrew: Hawaiian Birdlife, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu: 2nd ed 1989

Brigham, William T: Ka Hana Kapa, The Making of Bark-Cloth in Hawai`i Volume III: Bishop Museum Press: Honolulu: 1911, reprinted Kraus Reprint Co. 1976

Bryan, Edwin H. Jr & Emory, Kenneth P: The Natural and Cultural History of Honaunau, Kona, Hawai`i: 1st ed: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum: Honolulu: 1986

Buck, Sir Peter: Arts and Crafts of Hawai`i: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum: Honolulu: 1957

Degener, Otto: Plants of Hawai`i National Park Illustrative of Plants and Customs of the South Seas: Braun-Brumfield, Inc: Ann Arbor: 1984

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Handy, E.S. Craighill / Handy / Green, Elizabeth: Native Planters in Old Hawai`i, Their Life, Lore, and Environment: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum: Honolulu: 2nd Edition 1978

Handy, E.S. Craighill / Emory, Kenneth P. / Bryan, Edwin H. / Buck, Peter H. / Wise, John H. / and others: Ancient Hawaiian Civilization, A Series of Lectures Delivered at Kamehameha Schools: Charles Tuttle Company: Rutland / Tokyo: 1965

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`I`i, John Papa: Fragments of Hawaiian History: Bishop Museum Press: Honolulu: 1959

Kaeppler, Adrienne L: Artificial Curiosities: Bishop Museum Special Publication 65: Honolulu: 1978

Kalakaua, David: Legends and Myths of Hawai`i: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc: Rutland / Tokyo: (1st printing 1888) Tuttle 8th edition: 1976

Kamakau, Samuel M: Ruling Chiefs of Hawai`i (Revised Edition): The Kamehameha Schools Press: Honolulu: 1992

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McDonald, Marie A: Ka Lei, the Leis of Hawai`i: Ku pa`a Incorporated / Press Pacifica: Honolulu: 4th printing 1989

Malo, David: Hawaiian Antiquities: Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication 2: Honolulu: 3rd printing 1976

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Neal, : In Gardens of Hawai`i:

Pukui, MK, and Elbert, SH: Hawaiian Dictionary: University Press of Hawai'i: Honolulu: 1971

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Summers, Catherine C: Hawaiian Cordage, Pacific Anthropological Recordds #39: Bishop Museum Press: 1990

Tilden, Freeman: Interpreting Our Heritage: University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill: third edition, 1977

Wisniewski, Richard A: The Rise and Fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom: Pacific Basin Enterprises: 1979


Thrum's Hawaiian Annual, All About Hawai`i: Editor, Clarice B.

Taylor: Honolulu Star Bulletin: Honolulu: 1948


DeAugiar, Tom: interview series: 1998-1999: Honaunau, Hawai`i

Freitas, Carla: interview series: 1994-1999: Honaunau, Hawai`i

Halualani, Sandy: telephone interview: 28 April 1999: O`ahu

Kahelepuna, Paulette: telephone interview: 3 May 1999: O`ahu

Topolinski, Kaha`i: telephone interview: 10 May 1999: O`ahu