Hawaiian Sacred Sex, Part I
As you read, please understand - this culture is not for sale. Woe to those who might seek to craft this information into cute “Hawaiian sex” workshops and certifications, like other First Peoples traditions have been plundered.
I say this even though the original eros of Hawai’i has already been repressed, distorted, and commodified many times over, so that the person who desires to go back to that essential eros can scarcely sort through the distortions to arrive at the original integrity - and pleasure. Shortly after the islands were illegally “annexed” (in 1898), the dignity and aloha of the hula was exploited as a jittery Hollywood entertainment. Barefoot “island maidens” and “beach boys” were tourist prey. Some women I know can’t view a commercial photo of a tourist woman or slender “exotic beauty” in a flowered sarong without squicking. I squick myself, because I know what those images have cost them. It has cost them their sexual sovereignty, or at the very least, their cultural privacy. There’s been little respite from the avaricious gaze of the invader, who grabs it all and sells it back. Best to just go underground.
But it may be time for restoration. The lost traditions of the old (pre-Western), sexually supportive culture are integral to other cultural practices reclaimed and rediscovered in the Hawaiian Renaissance which started in the 70’s: hula and chants, mo’olelo (stories), revival of spiritual beliefs, plant healing and lomi lomi massage, lei (flower garland) craft, language immersion, lua (the martial art of Hawai’i), and possibly even such things as taro cultivation, heiau (sacred temple) restoration, and long distance voyaging and navigation. If you read last week’s “Genital Chants,” you already understand how the health of the ‘aina (land) is affected by the sexual mana (energy) of human beings. In Hawai’i, the landscape itself is charged with erotic power, as discussed previously in "Le’ale’a."
Life is in the word, death is in the world.
I ka ‘olelo no ke ola, i ka ‘olelo no ka make.
Cast me away on a “deserted island,” but first hand me a copy of the Hawaiian-English dictionary, please! Within this book, the “big one” edited by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, are words and phrases which reveal the great depth and skill of the old Hawaiian eros. Sex is also in the word.
Words are full of energy. Native Hawaiians were (are!) masters of language, using poetry, nuance, metaphors, kaona - layers of hidden meaning in chants. Insults too. A woman exposing too much under her skirt, a man plainly lusting after the little breasts of a too young girl - these people were sharply but metaphorically rebuked. The old ways supported sexual competency, pleasure, and intimacy, but there were standards of behavior. Quite a lot of them. That idea of Hawai’i as a “free for all” sexual paradise is a figment of Western imagination, fueled by whaler’s tales and missionary indignation.
Don’t get me wrong. There was a lot of sex, a lot of pleasure, a lot of delight - of all kinds. It just wasn’t happening in the way we imagine.
So the words are key. The words of ‘olelo Hawai’i (the language) are passionate, evocative, tender, and sometimes frankly sexual. I am actually making my way through the entire dictionary, marking those words and phrases which express romantic feelings or indicate sexual practices. Here are just a few of my favorites:
Aikane - same sex lover or friend
Ano’i - desire.
Honi - a touching of the forehead and a sharing of the breath, much like a “tantric kiss.”
Ipo - sweetheart. Ipo ahi - ardent lover. Ho’oipo or ho’oipo’ipo - to court, woo or make love. Ho’okela o ka ho’oipo’ipo means “fantastic lovemaking.”
Kolohe - rascal, “mischievous, naughty,” often with sexual connotations.
Ku’ulala - “unrestrained, wanton.”
Ma’uka’uka - unskilled lover (and absolutely inexcusable in old Hawaiian life!).
Pili means to cling, cleave to, or indicates a close relationship. Pili’pa’a - “to live in harmony.” Ho’a pili is an “intimate friend.”
You get the idea. This is just the tiniest bit of what can be found. Here is a language which expresses the pangs and joys of loving and lovemaking with endless variety.
Other words refer to concepts beyond everyday romance. Lucia Tarallo Jensen and Natalie Mahina Jensen, the mother/daughter authors of Daughters of Haumea, refer to ho’okola, which they term “arousal of the lover’s subliminal unconsciousness to attain huahua’i - individual completeness.” If this doesn’t sound like “sacred sex,” I don’t know what does!