Feline Karma

If somebody were to meow and then die, would you think a cat’s death caused that person’s death?

In Wailuku, Maui, Kanohokuahiwi and his two sons Kalani and Kaianui became ill. Kalani mewed like a cat before dying, and Kahuna Neau diagnosed the cause of the illness as killing a favorite cat of Neau’s grandchild. Neau predicted that because the other two men contributed to the cat’s death, they will die as well.

Kanohokuahiwi’s wife begged Neau to cure her husband and son. The “aged but vigorous-looking Hawaiian woman” said doing so will be difficult, but she would try.

Neau cooked a pig in an imu (underground oven). Afterwards, somebody ate the pig while mysterious rites and incantations to Wahineaea and other aumakuas were made. Then, the same was done to a second, third, then fourth pig. But Kanohokuahiwi and Kaianui still died.

Then, Kanohokuahiwi’s widow reported Neau to the authorities, who then arrested her. The Maui News described her appearance as looking like one of Macbeth’s witches:

“the same jutting forehead, bright eyes, wrinkled face, and peaked, witch-like features, a resemblance which was added to by the cone-shaped hat running up to a sharp point…”

At court, Neau admitted practicing kahunaism. She said she tried her best to save the men’s lives, but saving them was impossible because they killed the cat. Neau received the guilty verdict and a fine of $125 and went to prison.

– Alice Kim


“Caught a Kahuna”
The Maui news., September 06, 1902, Image 3

“Bible Was Too Large: Novel but Energetic Use of the Scriptures”
The Daily journal., July 29, 1903, Page FOUR, Image 4


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