Narrated by Frank Burgess; Produced by Donnie MacGowan; Brought to you by Tour Guide–Our GPS Tours put Hawaii at your fingertips!
Have you ever seen anywhere as stark, impressive, primitive and ancient, yet still able to raise the hackles on your neck? Here, untold thousands of people were sacrificed to worship a new god, the war god Ku. Mo’okini Heiau stands today at the north end of Hawai’i, the well preserved remains of a terrible luakini heiau built by the powerful Tahitian kahuna Pa’ao in the 11th or 12th century. This heiau was the first temple of human sacrifice in Hawai’i and the first site in Hawai’i to be preserved as a National Historic Landmark under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Mo’okini Heiau is now part of Lapakahi State Historic Park; as Mo’okini is an active Heiau and visitors are reminded to stay away if religious observances are being celebrated.
Built on the site of a much smaller heiau, Mo’okini Heiau (lit. “many lineages”) is said to have been raised in one night by as many as 15,000-20,000 men passing stones hand to hand from Pololu Valley, 14 miles distant.
Born nearby, Kamehameha the Great was brought to this heiau for his birth rituals.
To reach the enormous but especially well-preserved heiau, drive to near the 20-mile marker and turn onto the road to the Upolu Airport, heading left past the airport at about 2 miles. The unpaved section of the next 1.6 miles of road may require 4WD, but at any rate, one must park at the gate and walk 5 minutes to the heiau. The heiau itself is impressively large, 270 feet long by 140 feet wide by as much as 30 feet high.
This dirt road goes all the way (about 4 miles) to the old Coast Guard Loran Lookout and makes a wonderful beginner’s mountain biking trip, especially considering the amazing historical sites along the way.
During the 11th century, warlike Tahitians arrived in the Hawai’ian Islands, conquering, enslaving, sacrificing and largely displacing the descendants of the original Marquesan settlers. Into this bloody landscape came Pa’ao, the terrible and powerful Tahitian kahuna who was affronted at the lack of respect the Hawai’ian Ali’i commanded and at the apparent weakness of the Hawai’ian gods. He sent back to Tahiti for the warrior chief Pili and together they brought worship of the powerful war god Ku to Hawai’i and strengthened the kapu system of laws and power of the Ali’i.
Worship of Ku demanded human sacrifice, which was performed at luakini heiau throughout the parts of Polynesia where Ku was venerated. Pa’ao caused Mo’okini Heiau to be constructed on the site of a previous, smaller heiau, of stones passed hand over hand from Pololu Valley. During this process, if a stone were dropped it was left where it lay to preserve the rhythm of passing; the scattered line of dropped stones can be followed all the way back to Pololu to this day.
The alter stones were brought by war canoe from Pa’ao’s home heiau of Taputapuatea (lit. sacrifices from abroad), the most powerful and most feared heiau in Polynesia and the center of Ku worship. Boulders for cornerstones brought hundreds of miles across the sea from Taputapuatea were laid with human sacrifices
Beneath and gave this heiau a formidable power and the air of menace and despair that clings to it to the site to this day.
Outside the heiau walls can be found a large phallic rock and a flat stone with a cup-like depression near the top. Here, on this holehole stone, the baked bodies of human sacrifices were stripped of flesh and the bones saved to be rendered into fishhooks and dagger blades. Not much mention of the fate of the human flesh from these sacrifices is made, but it is universally documented that Polynesians everywhere were cannibals. This is a topic that is very difficult for the modern descendants of these people to come to grips with and one which is best simply accepted and not commented or speculated upon.
There is no counting the tens of thousands of Hawai’ians who were made sacrifice here on this stone at barren, terrible Mo’okini over the centuries, but the sacrificial victims were all gathered by a class of kahuna called the Mu, or “body catcher”; the foundation of the dwelling of the Mu can still be found among the ruins of Mo’okini.
There are no services in the vicinity of Mo’okini Heiau, whatsoever.