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The Dog Child

THE mystery of spirit life born into the body of a dog belongs to the breed described in this chant as dark red ('i'i), brindled ('a'a), and hairless ('olohe). The hairless 'Olohe people with whom the brindled dog is associated are believed to be dog men with the mystical shape-shifting powers of the demigods.[1] They lived in caves dug into the sandhills, where they are said to have been first discovered and used by Kahekili in the eighteenth century as a division of his army. Living witnesses today report men with dogs' heads marching in the ghostly processions of dead warriors returned to revisit their old haunts on earth, whose apparition is not uncommon among Hawaiians or is even reported by foreign-born mystics. Their relation is not clear with a class of powerful wrestlers, also called 'Olohe, who, contrary to the custom of the long-haired native warrior, cropped their hair and oiled the body to escape the clutch of an opponent and would lie in wait at strategic points along a trail to attack unwary travelers. The brindled dog associated in the chant with the dog-headed 'Olohe was supposed to have been born into the family of the volcano goddess and to be under her protection. Although ordinary dog meat was a favorite dish among Hawaiians and allowed also to women, one would hesitate to cook such a dog for fear of divine vengeance.[2]

In this seventh chant the half-jesting, even sneering, mood of the sixth gives way to a sense of awe and mystery. The

[1. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, pp. 343-51.

2. Green, Folk-Tales, p. 48; Green and Pukui, Legend of Kawelo, p. 178.]

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opening key word is ano, a word for "sudden fear," here used in duplicate as anoano in the first five lines. There is "fear of the mountain top," the kualono where gods assemble; fear of the receding and advancing night, the Po-ne'e-aku and Po-ne'e-mai, who are the generating agents of the new birth; fear of "the pregnant night"; fear of a "breach of the law," the ha'iha'i, whose penalty is death. The reference is to the priestly taboos against leaving any morsel unconsumed of a sacrificial feast or bones and refuse exposed to be trodden upon, and against approach to any sacred place by the "narrow trail" used by a member of the priesthood alone.

Fear changes to the more violent emotion of dread, he weliweli, and finally to an awesome sense of reverence, he ['ili]ilihia, toward the dog child, the 'ilio kama, born to Po-ne'e-aku and Po-ne'e-mai:

A dark red dog, a brindled dog
A hairless dog of the hairless ones
A dog as an offering for the oven.

Kupihea was told by his grandfather, who served in a temple on Hawaii, that dogs were not used for sacrifice until Kalaniopu'u's time, but this may not hold true for other islands. In the passage following, the "dog as an offering for the oven," literally "fire-pit," 'a'alua, seems to serve as symbol of the terrible tapu wela, the right given to high taboo chiefs of burning the bodies of trespassers against their taboos, this as a kind of propitiation for the god who had been offended by the disrespect paid him in the person of his divine spokesman on earth. Pokini would doubtless refer the passage to the bestowal of the burning taboo upon Keawe's first-born at the time when he was officially introduced by name in the heiau to the rank of a high taboo chief.

The line of thought seems to be next deflected to the journey of the disembodied dead, perhaps of one who has been

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condemned under the taboo, as it flees, "Pitiful without a garment," to join its companions at the gathering place of the dead, where lies on the coast an entrance or "leaping place" into the underworld.[3] "To Malama," says the chant, and Ho'olapa explained that Malama "is the place people go when they die," and Hula-ka-Makani, "the wind that blows at Malama." One such place he said lay "in Puna district on the island of Hawaii on the Pohoiki side of Kalapana," but I failed to learn from Ho'olapa whether all gathering places of the soul in other districts of Hawaii or on other islands are called "Malama" or whether, for all, the Hula (dance) wind blows. Hawaiians believe that dangers beset the soul's passage to this rendezvous lest it lose its way or be attacked by some unfriendly spirit unless guided by the guardian god of the family, to whom it has paid respect during life. For example, the barren sandy isthmus between East and West Maui, which must be crossed by the dead in order to reach the "leaping place of souls" on the west coast of the island, was said to be a haunt of such lost and spiteful spirits, to be avoided by the living at night.

The Hawaiian genius for quick transition of thought, piling up suggested images without compulsion of persistency to any one of them, makes it difficult to translate consistently, or, indeed, with any conviction, the three troublesome lines following the reference to the flight of the soul to the assembly place of the dead at Malama. Mrs. Pukui would render the lines thus:

The nights grow less for the children
From the head (of time) until the end
From the biting (night) until the silence,

where the poet seems to pause for a general reflection about death as the universal fate of mankind, although, logically, we are still in the period of the Po, before the birth of human

[3. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, pp. 154-56.]

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life. The word welewele, however, like welawela, conveys an idea of heat, whether physical or mental. The thought may even carry back through the "spreading out of hot stones" (uluulu), followed by "burning heat" (welewele), to the "oven" of line 579. Another suggested rendering would translate mai as a negative particle and conceive the soul taking its way to "Malama"

Without haste or grudging,
Without gnashing or groping (as in death).

But the word nenehe conveys the idea of sound and motion, rather than of "silence," and especially of a low, even sound like that of moving feet, a rustling sound, certainly a neat transition to the sound of shuffling feet as the soul's passage ends in the companionship of the dance before taking its leap into some other world of the spirit. Indeed, Hawaiian stories telling of a visit to the assembly of the dead picture them so engaged.

Abruptly follows the conclusion. Out of the slime fresh rootlets spring. They branch and grow and young growth spreads anew. The approaching night gives birth.


Fear falls upon me on the mountain top
Fear of the passing night
Fear of the night approaching
Fear of the pregnant night
570. Fear of the breach of the law
Dread of the place of offering and the narrow trail
Dread of the food and the waste part remaining
Dread of the receding night
Awe of the night approaching
575. Awe of the dog child of the Night-creeping-away
A dog child of the Night-creeping-hither
A dark red dog, a brindled dog
A hairless dog of the hairless ones
A dog as an offering for the oven
580. Palatable is the sacrifice for supplication

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Pitiful in the cold without covering
Pitiful in the heat without a garment
He goes naked on the way to Malama
[Where] the night ends for the children [of night]
585. From the growth and the parching [?]
From the cutting off and the quiet [?]
The driving Hula wind his companion
Younger brother of the naked ones, the 'Olohe
Out from the slime come rootlets
590. Out from the slime comes young growth
Out from the slime come branching leaves
Out from the slime comes outgrowth
Born in the time when men came from afar
    Still it is night

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Next: The Dawn of Day