Violent Kahuna Therapy?

If you were sick and felt your doctor’s treatment wasn’t working fast enough, would you hire a kahuna to whack your head repeatedly with a bible?

Kahuna Makaio didn’t look like a kahuna. For one, he was not old or grizzled; the twenty-four-year old started kahunaism at eighteen. And his “round good-natured” face contrasted kahuaism’s seriousness.

In 1903, Dr. J. Holland, a government physician in Puna, was treating Moses Hoakimoa, a Hawaiian man ill with wasting fever. However, Moses thought Dr. Holland’s remedy wasn’t working quickly enough, so he called in Kahuna Makaio.

At Moses’ home, Makaio threw away the remedies and diagnosed Moses with possessing the red devils. Then the young kahuna chanted incantations for the spirits’ help and prescribed prayer.

Because Moses was too weak to sit up, Makaio made him sit. Then, he repeatedly hit Moses’ head with the bible. After a few minutes of hitting, Makaio’s arms got tired, so he told Moses’ wife to do the same. After she whacked Moses numerous times, he fell unconscious on his bed. A few days later, he was whacked with the bible again and died, and Makaio was arrested on the charge of witchcraft.

In a preliminary hearing in court, through an interpreter, Makaio said the red devils possessed the man and he was following the bible’s instructions for driving them out. When somebody asked Makaio how he knew about the red devils, he replied the man’s physical appearance with restless red eyes and standing hair proved it. Judge Kamau asked Makaio which bible passage he was referring to, but he couldn’t find it.

Three witnesses testified in court, and at least one of them confirmed Makaio’s violent act. Moses’ wife said she hit her husband on the head because she trusted the kahuna and thought she should obey him. Judge Kamau then ordered a $500 bond for the kahuna.

Makaio faced the grand jury on the charge of the manslaughter instead of witchcraft. As an expert, Dr. Holland testified the strong force of Makaio’s blows shocked the man and caused his heart to fail. After hearing testimonies, the grand jury gave a verdict of guilty of manslaughter in the third degree, recommending mercy. Judge Little sentenced Makaio to two years of hard labor.

When Makaio started his sentence in Oahu Prison, a Pacific Commercial Advertiser reporter interviewed him in the warden’s office. The reporter thought he was “insane” as his eyes were “bloodshot and restless,” but he was of average intelligence. In blue-and-white-prison-stripes attire, Makaio told his story through an interpreter, a prison guard named Kalama.

Makaio said he was an unpaid kahuna who “prayed for love,” “worked … for the haoles,” and practiced kahunaism in the evening. Makaio said he learned kahunaism from Rev. Kekipi at a native branch of the Christian Science movement, who read the bible to him. As a “brother in the church,” Makaio said he cured more than fifty people through the following method:

“By praying with the bible, putting my hands on it, and then telling them to keep rules. I tell them to place the bible on the part that is sore, and say ‘your word if of fire, hammer and sword.'”

Makaio claimed he didn’t tell Moses’ wife to hit Moses with a bible:

“She did not keep the rules I made for her. They were: ‘don’t drink,’ ‘don’t gamble,’ and ‘don’t go with some other men.’ What I told her was to place the bible on the spot where her husband is sick and then to pray to God. She was to put it on his breast, not hit him with it. The man died, because she beat him over the head with the bible.”

After serving two years, Makaio completed his prison term seventy-two days early due to good behavior. He planned to look for a job in Honolulu, hopefully not in kahunaism.

– Alice Kim

Sources

“Beaten to Death with a Bible: A Kahuna in Puna Tries to Cast Out Devils with a Fatal Result”
The Hawaiian star, May 2, 1903, Image 1
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015415/1903-05-02/ed-1/seq-1/

“Bible Was Too Large: Novel but Energetic Use of the Scriptures”
The Daily journal., July 29, 1903, Page 4
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99063956/1903-07-29/ed-1/seq-4/

“Kahuna in Hawaii: Witchcraft Still Finds Employment Among Superstitious Natives of the Islands” (same article as the previous one)
The Minneapolis journal, July 10, 1903, Page 18
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045366/1903-07-10/ed-1/seq-18/

“Two Years for Kahuna: Witch Doctor Who Killed Red Devils”
The Hawaiian gazette., July 21, 1903, Page 6, Image 6
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1903-07-21/ed-1/seq-6/

“Kahuna Talks of His Trade”
The Hawaiian gazette., July 21, 1903, Page 6, Image 6
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1903-07-21/ed-1/seq-6/
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1903-07-21/ed-1/seq-7/

“Deadly Bible Wielder Free: Famous Kahuna of Puna Completed His Sentence of Two Years Today”
The Hawaiian star., May 05, 1905, SECOND EDITION, Image 1
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015415/1905-05-05/ed-1/seq-1/


One Comment on “Violent Kahuna Therapy?”

  1. […] In 1903, Dr. J. Holland, a government physician in Puna, was treating Moses Hoakimoa, a Hawaiian man ill with wasting fever. However, Moses thought Dr. Holland’s remedy wasn’t working quickly enough, so he called in Kahuna Makaio. Read more… […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s