This is not a Hawaiian legend. It was written to show the superstitions of the Hawaiians, and in that respect it is accurate and worthy of preservation.
FAR away in New England one of the rugged mountain-sides has for many years been marked with the profile of a grand face. A noble brow, deep-set eyes, close-shut lips, Roman nose, and chin standing in full relief against a clear sky, made a landmark renowned throughout the country. The story is told of a boy who lived in the valley from which the face of the Old Man of the Mountain could be most clearly seen. As the years passed, the boy grew into a man of sterling character. When at last death came and the casket opened to receive the body of an old man, universally revered, the friends saw the likeness to the stone features of the Old Man of the Mountain, and recognized the source of the inspiration which had made one life useful and honored.
Near Honolulu, just beyond one of the great sugar plantations, is a ledge of lava deposited
centuries ago. The lava was piled up into mountains, now dissolved into slopes of the richest sugar-land in the world. And yet sometimes the hard lava, refusing to disintegrate, thrusts itself out from the hillsides in ledges of grotesque form.
On one of' these ancient lava ridges was the outline of an old man's face, to which the Hawaiians have given the name, "The Old Man of the Mountain." The laborers on the sugar-plantations, the passengers on the railroad trains, and the natives who still cling to their scattered homes sometimes have looked with superstitious awe upon the face made without hands. In the days gone by they have called it the "Akua-pohaku" (the stone god). Shall we hear the story of Kamakau, who at some time in the indefinite past dwelt in the shadow of the stone face?
Kamakau means "the afraid." His name came to him as a child. He was a shrinking, sensitive, imaginative little fellow. He was surrounded by influences which turned his imagination into the paths of most unwholesome superstition. But beyond the beliefs of most of his fellows, in his own nature he was keenly appreciative of mysterious things. There was a spirit voice in every wind rustling the tops of the trees. Spirit faces appeared in unnumbered
caricatures of human outline whenever he lay on the grass and watched the sunlight sift between the leaves. Everything he looked upon or heard assumed some curious form of life. The clouds were most mysterious of all, for they so frequently piled up mass upon mass of grandeur, in such luxurious magnificence and such prodigal display of color, that his power of thought lost itself in his almost daily dream of some time wandering in the shadow valleys of the precipitous mountains of heaven. Here he saw also strangely symmetrical forms of man and bird and fish. Sometimes cloud forests outlined themselves against the blue sky, and then again at times separated by months and even years, the lights of the volcano-goddess, Pele, glorified her path as she wandered in the spirit land, flashing from cloud-peak to cloud-peak, while the thunder voices of the great gods rolled in mighty volumes of terrific impressiveness. Even in the night Kamakau felt that the innumerable stars were the eyes of the aumakuas (the spirits of the ancestors). It was not strange that such a child should continually think that he saw spirit forms which were invisible to his companions. It is no wonder that he fancied he heard voices of the menehunes (fairies), which his companions could never understand. As he shrunk from places where it seemed to him the spirits dwelt, his
companions called him "Kamakau," "the afraid." When he grew older he necessarily became keenly alive to all objects of Hawaiian superstition. He never could escape the overwhelming presence of the thousand and more gods which were supposed to inhabit the Hawaiian land and sea. The omens drawn from sacrifices, the voices from the bamboo dwelling-places of the oracles, the chants of the prophets, and powers of praying to death he accepted with unquestioning faith.
Two men were hunting in the forests of the mountains of Oahu. Tired with the long chase after the oo, the bird with the rare yellow feathers from which the feather cloaks of the highest chiefs were made, they laid aside spears and snares and lay down for a rest. "I want the valley of the stone god," said one: "its fertile fields would make just the increase needed for my retainers, and the 'moi,' the king, would give me the land if Kamakau were out of the way."
"Are there any other members of his family, O Inaina, who could resist your claim? "
" No, my friend Kokua. He is the only important chief in the valley."
"Pray him to death," was Kokua's sententious advice.
"Good; I'll do it," said Inaina: "he is one who can easily be prayed to death. 'The Afraid' will soon die."
"If you will give me the small fish-pond nearest my own coral fish-walls I will be your messenger," said Kokua.
"Ah, that also is good," replied Inaina, after a moment's thought. "I will give you the small pond, and you must give the small thoughts, the hints, to his friends that powerful priests are praying Kamakau to death. All this must be very mysterious. No name can be mentioned, and you and I must be Kamakau's good friends."
It must be remembered that land tenure in ancient Hawaii was almost the same as that of the European feudal system. Occupancy depended upon the will of the high chief. He gave or took away at his own pleasure. The under-chiefs held the land as if it belonged to them, and were seldom troubled as long as the wishes of the high chief, or king, were carried out. Inaina felt secure in the use of his present property, and believed that he could easily find favor and obtain the land held by the Kamakau family if Kamakau himself could be removed. Without much further conference the two hunters returned to their homes. Inaina at once sought his family priest and stated his wish to have Kamakau prayed to death. They decided that the first step should be taken that night. It was absolutely necessary that something which had been a part of the body of Kamakau should be
obtained. The priest appointed his confidential hunter of sacrifices to undertake this task. This servant of the temple was usually sent out to find human sacrifices to be slain and offered before the great gods on special occasions. As the darkness came on he crept near the grass house of Kamakau and watched for an opportunity of seizing what he wanted. The two most desired things in the art of praying to death were either a lock of hair from the head of the victim or a part of the spittle, usually well guarded by the trusted retainers who had charge of the spittoon.
It chanced to be "Awa night" for Kamakau, and the chief, having drunk heavily of the drug, had thrown himself on a mat and rolled near the grass walls. With great ingenuity the hunter of sacrifices located the chief and worked a hole through the thatch. Then with his sharp bone knife he sawed off a large lock of Kamakau's hair. When this was done he was about to creep away, but a native came near. Instantly grunting like a hog, he worked his way into the darkness. He saw outlined against the sky in the hands of the native the chief's spittoon. In a moment the hunter of sacrifices saw his opportunity. His past training in lying in wait and capturing men for sacrifice stood him in good stead at this time. The unsuspecting spittoon
carrier was seized by the throat and quickly strangled. The spittoon in falling from the retainer's hand had not been overturned. Exultant at his success, the hunter of sacrifices sped away in the darkness and placed his trophies in the hands of the priest. The next morning there was a great outcry in Kamakau's village. The dead body was found as soon as dawn crept over the valley, and the hand-polished family calabash was completely lost. When the people went to Kamakau's house with the report of the death of his retainer, they soon saw that the head of their chief had been dishonored. A great feeling of fear took possession of the village. Kamakau's priest hurried to the village temple to utter prayers and incantations against the enemy who had committed such an outrage.
Kokua soon heard the news and came to comfort his neighbor. After the greeting, "Auwe! auwe! " (Alas! alas!) Kokua said: " This is surely praying to death, and the gods have already given you over into the hands of your enemy. You will die. Very soon you will die." Soon Inaina and other chiefs came with their retainers. Among high and low the terrible statement was whispered: "Kamakau is being prayed to death, and no man knows his enemy." Many a strong man has gone to a bed of continued illness, and some have crossed the dark valley into the land
of death, even in these days of enlightened civilization, simply frightened into the illness or death by the strong statements of friends and acquaintances. Such is the make-up of the minds of men that they are easily affected by the mysterious suggestions of others. It is purely a matter of mind-murder.
It is no wonder that in the days of the long ago Kamakau, moved by the terror of his friends and horrible suggestions of his two enemies, soon felt a great weakness conquering him. His natural disposition, his habit of seeing and hearing gods and spirits in everything around him, made it easy for him to yield to the belief that he was being prayed to death. His strength left him. He could take no food. A strange paralysis seemed to take possession of him. Mind and body were almost benumbed. He was really in the hands of unconscious mesmerists, who were putting him into a magnetic sleep, from which he was never expected to awake. It is a question to be answered only when all earthly problems have been solved. How many of the people prayed to death have really been dissected and prepared for burial while at first under mesmeric influences! The people gathered around Karnakau's thatched house. They thought that he would surely die before the next morning dawned. Inaina and Kokua were lying on the
grass under the shade of a great candlenut-tree, quietly talking about the speedy success of their undertaking. A little girl was playing near them. It was Kamakau's little Aloha. This was all the name so far given to her. She was "My Aloha," "my dear one," to both father and mother. She heard a word uttered incautiously. Inaina had spoken with the accent of success and his voice was louder than he thought. He said, "We have great strength if we kill Kamakau." The child fled to her father. She found him in the half -unconscious state already described. She shook him. She called to him. She pulled his hands, and covered his face with kisses. Her tears poured over his hot, dry skin. Kamakau was aroused by the shock. He sat up, forgetting all the expectation of death.
Out through the doorway he glanced toward the west. The sinking sun was sending its most glorious beams into the grand clouds, while just beneath, reflecting the glory, lay the Old Man of the Mountain. The stone face was magnificent in its setting. The unruffled brow, the never-closing eyes, the firm lips, stood out in bold relief against the glory which was over and beyond them. Kamakau caught the inspiration. It seemed to his vivid imagination as if ten thousand good spirits were gathered in the heavens to fight for him. He leaped to his
feet, strength came back into the wearied muscles, a new will-power took possession of him, and he cried: "I will not die! I will not die! The stone god is more powerful than the priests who pray to death!" His will had broken away from its chains, and, unfettered from all fear, Kamakau went forth to greet the wondering people and take up again the position of influence held among the chiefs of Oahu. The lesson is still needed in these beautiful ocean-bound islands that praying to death means either the use of poison or the attempt to terrify the victim by strong mental forces enslaving the will. In either case the aroused will is powerful in both resistance and watchfulness.