Friday, June 15, 2007

Spiritual Adoption

One day at lunch I asked Lani and Lono to explain a song about the demi-god Māui. After explaining the song's reference to Māui, I wanted to hear more, and they started telling me more. After all, Māui is the sort of character made to appeal to a two and a half year-old. He's like a mild-mannered super-hero. He's got a great sense of humor. He let's himself get put down and then triumphs.

In one story he fishes the islands up out of the sea. In another he slows the sun down because the days are too short for people to get anything done. He's always doing things that benefit people. He finds out about death and he considers it an injustice and an insult to living things. He's told that the goddess of death, Hine-Nui-Te-Po, has a weakness. Her curse of death will be dissolved forever if anyone can enter her body and pass through it so as to exit her mouth.

I should probably mention that this may not even have ever been a Hawaiian version of the story of Māui's death. It definitely was told in New Zealand. I have other examples of Lani and Lono telling me stuff that came from all over Polynesia. I take it as evidence of the paucity of the preserved Hawaiian tradition that they needed to range outside Hawaii to supplement it. Later, I'll give examples of even non-Polynesian influences in Lani's "tradition."

Anyway, the story went, that Māui had the power to make himself as small as a mouse. In the version I was told, he whistles as he approaches Hine-Nui-Te-Po, and his whistling entrances her, so she goes to sleep. Then he enters her, and begins to make way toward her mouth.

The rest of the story goes: her body muffles Māui's whistling, she wakes up, she feels something moving inside her, so she crushes it. So Māui died in his attempt to bring immortality to all, and so that's why we all still must die today.

[I painted Death of Māui in the 90s]

I managed to just barely hear all that. it was hard, because what was going through my mind was just that he entered her and made his way to her mouth. I asked them to explain that bit over again, I thought maybe I heard it wrong.

They were a little embarrassed by the question. They said I had to use my imagination. So I said my imagination told me that Māui would have had to go in where pooh comes out, like my Mother does to me sometimes.

This revelation changed everything. Lani said my Mother was a evil female dog, 'ilio wahine 'ino. There was long quiet.

After a few minutes I said I had to go pee. Until then Lono always took me to the nearby woods for that. This time, he told Lani that he ought to do the honors. I'm now sure that he knew that Lani wanted to be alone with me, and why.

We went to one of the little patches of woods that grew at the corners of Stoneman Field. Lani helped me get my shorts down. When I was done, he lightly tapped my penis with one hand, while holding his other hand under it, so a drop of urine fell on his hand. He then recited a ritual formula. The speech, as I remember it now, amounted to a promise to take care of me, all my seed, and all my progeny from all my seed. It was a kind of adoption. The ritual required that my urine touch his hand so that he could carry the adoption without my parents' permission.

It was a spiritual adoption, that gave him the right to educate me in spiritual matters, because he now was sure I wasn't getting the help I needed from my parents. And even though Lono was Christian, he'd decided to step aside and let Lani go ahead with it, because he knew Lani felt so strongly about it.

Some mana, you want to get out of the way of.

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