The Secret of the Hawaiian Numbers – a Kahuna Legacy
Ka huna o nā helu Hawai`i (the secret of the Hawaiian numbers) arrived in the Hawaiian Islands during the migration of the indigenous settlers who sailed aboard their double hulled canoes to Hawai`i over 1,500 years ago. Deeply rooted in the religious teachings of a remote Polynesian past, it represents a legacy of sacred wisdom embraced by the early Hawaiians. The designated keepers of this secret ancestral knowledge were the order of the kahuna or the priestly class. They were entrusted with the responsibility of preserving and perpetuating the study of ka huna o na helu Hawai`i as an esoteric art. Some of the kahuna skills required for the practice of Hawaiian numerology included and in-depth knowledge and understanding of:
- Traditional Hawaiian language and its symbolism.
- The various phases of the moon.
- The diverse nomenclature of the months and days used in each of the islands.
While the basic framework of the calendar was universal in old Hawai`i, the names of the lunar months and days (which began at sunset) differed considerably throughout the islands. Consequently, the Hawaiian numerology techniques utilized by kahuna often varied from island to island. In addition, learning the cultural and spiritual significance of the Hawaiian language provided kahuna with the foundation upon which the Hawaiian numerology system was built and taught. Linguistic expertise was especially critical to the understanding and interpretation of the kaona (hidden meanings and veiled references) concealed in the various ways of translating the traditional Hawaiian language. An example of kaona is revealed in the Hawaiian word “pua” which literally means flower or blossom. However, it figuratively refers to a maiden and is also the poetic term used to describe a person of Native Hawaiian descendent. There are many mele (songs) using this metaphor but one of the most well known example is the song composed by Ellen Prendergast in 1893 entitled, “Kaulana Na Pua O Hawai`i” (Famous are the Children of Hawai`i). The ancient kahuna held all the keys to learning the traditional Hawaiian numerological system of knowledge.
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