VIEW OF AN EVER CHANGING WORLD
Meet Lenahee, a Hawaiian woman. In December of 1824, she was a
servant to a royal Chiefess, Kapiolani. When Lenahee reached
womanhood, it had been years since the abolishment of kapu, an ancient
set of codes and taboos that governed every aspect of her life. When kapu
existed, no woman could ever eat with the men. Women of all status were
forbidden to eat foods such as bananas or pork or turtle meat. A person’s
shadow could not fall across anything belonging to a high chief. And
there were hundreds of these religious and social laws. Disobeying kapu
meant disfigurement or instant death by clubbing or strangulation.
Lenahee suffered the consequences of such harsh laws. As a child, she
snatched a taste of banana from her brother’s plate. Her grief-stricken
parents were lenient with their child. She was not put to death. As her
punishment, however, her eye was plucked out. Although in agony and
disabled forever, she was grateful that her life had been spared. But five
years ago, her King abolished the kapu. It seems that the foreigners
brought a new belief to her home, one that betrayed the old gods and
spoke of mercy and love and sacrifice. In any case, it was all too late for
Lenahee’s eye to be saved.
Since the abolishment of the laws, Lenahee always wondered if she
should still believe in the old gods and kapu as many other secretly did.
After all, since ancient times, the gods were so powerful and omnipresent
in everyone’s life. How could they simply disappear? Were they ever real?
Ever there? On one fateful day, her questions would all be answered.
During this time of social change, her mistress, Chiefess Kapiolani had
converted to Christianity. The Chiefess found comfort, truth and a new
way of life for herself. Her only wish was that she could share this
innovative faith with all of her people. She longed to break the fears
attached to the old beliefs. But destroying an existing way of life was
Finally, the Chiefess became determined to break the persistent faith of the
people in Pele, vicious goddess of the volcano. She felt that one strong
gesture was necessary to change the beliefs of her people. She pondered
the question and decided to have a face-off with Pele at the very home of
this supposed goddess. And so Lenahee, the servant girl, followed
Kapiolani on her march to the Kilauea crater. Did Lenahee want to witness
death… or a new life? It didn’t matter. Bravely, she followed her mistress
and others to the volcano.
As they approached the fiery crater, a staunch priestess of Pele met her
group and tried to stop them from ascending any farther upward toward
the home of Pele. The anxious woman cautioned the marchers,
recounting the ancient beliefs as a stern warning that Kapiolani should not
intrude upon the sacred home of the goddess. But Kapiolani ignored the
priestess. Lenahee shuddered and readied herself for certain death.
After an arduous journey, they descended down into the crater. With great
defiance, Kapiolani threw rocks into the volcano and blasphemed against
the supposed goddess. Then, Lenahee gasped as her mistress ate the
blessed berries meant only for Pele. Such behavior meant death before
the abolishment of kapu. Certainly, a true god would not permit such
behavior. Surely, the wrath would be felt soon. Something terrible should
happen to the servant girl and her mistress and all of the other defiant
ones. And so, Lenahee watched and waited in fear.
But her mistress was not killed by the law or harmed by the revenge of
Pele. She had challenged the power of the old gods and remarkably, she
was still alive. Lenahee examined her mistress with her only eye and
questioned why she had to be punished and disfigured. She wondered if
her pain was truly the will of god as her elders had claimed. How should
she regard Kapiolani’s conversion to a strong, unfamiliar god?
After all, if Lenahee renounced her old beliefs, would all of her past
suffering have been in vain? And so, the servant girl descended from the
volcano as a changed, yet unchanged person in an ever changing world.