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Meaning of Kahuna 
Kahuna is a term that is widely used and just as widely misunderstood even by most modern Hawai'ians.

The term became familiar during the 1960's surf movies. Surfing was a sport unknown outside the islands of Hawaii until Duke Kahanamoku popularized the sport throughout the world. He was powerfully built man who used a surfboard that weighed 114 pounds. Most people couldn't even carry the board much less surf with it. Because of his expertise he soon became known as "the big kahuna".

"Kahuna" is a term that means "keeper of the secret". At a deeper level it means "keeper of the sacred knowledge of that which is Real" meaning that the person has an ability to use their knowledge to get results. That is why today, the term "kahuna" is generally used by Hawaiians to refer to a master of some sort of knowledge or skill. Originally it referred to someone who held the status of a priest who had mastered not only the physical, but also the spiritual aspects of some skill or talent.

Even when the word "kahuna" is used to refer to a priest there is a lot of confusion about what it means. That is due to the fact that few people are aware of the cultural genocide that took place around 1,250 AD when a power hungry priest from Tahiti named Pa'ao led a massive group of Tahitian and Samoan warriors to Hawai'i and replaced the original enlightened culture with that of his bloodthirsty ali'i.

Prior to the ali'i invasion, certain families of native Hawai'ians say their ancestors had lived in a society where there was no war, no armies, and very little crime for 2,000 years (750 BC to 1,250 AD).

In this society ALL PEOPLE were seen as priests of some sort. The bulk of the society began the ordination process with a coming of age ceremony. Other ordinations took place at the time a person chose a career, a marriage partner, and became a parent. The process culminated when an elder was recognized as a "kupuna" or wise elder.

These kupuna were responsible for maintaining peace and harmony in their families, made decisions about things that affected their families, and educated the children of their families how to be "human beings". Kapuna served on Counsels of Elders that made decisions about matters that affected the communities they represented.

This priesthood path was known as the path of the Kahuna Pili or personal priesthood. There was another general catagory of priests known as the "kahuna kupua". These were the professional priests.

The role of the kahuna kupua was to be in service to the kahuna pili. In ancient times the kahuna kupua were organized as described in the section on mo'o kahuna. Their methods were openly taught as people were ready to embrace the knowledge.

After the ali'i invasion, the path of the kahuna pili was dissolved. All kahuna were a part of the ali'i royalty system. Then as today, these ali'i kahuna shrouded their methods in secrecy in order to maintain an air of mystery and superstition. None of this was ever a part of the original kahuna priesthood. These original priests were known as the mo'o kahuna or "dragon priests" because they had the ability to teach people how to defeat the dragon of fear that guards the threshold of the doorway that leads to "Enlightenment."
Type of Kahuna 
There have been many types of kahuna. Anciently, kahuna were divided among two classes and three orders. Because of the ali'i invasion, we have added two categories to this description as well.

  • Mo'o Kahuna are the original master priests. Mo'o is a Hawai'ian word that at the surface means "lizard" - but at a deeper level means "dragon." These were the dragon priests who could teach a person how to successfully walk the Path of the Peaceful Warrior and defeat the dragon of fear that guards the threshold to Enlightenment. After the Ali'i invasion all Mo'o Kahuna who were found were executed in gruesome public executions along with every member of their families.
  • Ali'i Kahuna are those who aligned themselves with the Ali'i after the Tahitian invasion.

  • Kahuna Pili is the path of personal priesthood. Each family is organized around this path because each person is recognized as having a priesthood responsibility to themselves and every other person in their family, society, and world.
  • Kahuna Kupua is the path of the full-time professional priesthood. These priests see themselves in service to the kahuna pili, and consider it to be their sacred responsibility to keep the message pure and teach it with patience and wisdom.

  • Kahuna of the Order of Kane are the High Priests. These are people who are masters at bridging the World of Form and the World of Spirit.
  • Kahuna of the Order of Lono are masters at some kind of skill or profession like some form of medicine, agriculture, home building, canoe building, etc.
  • Kahuna of the Order of Ku are masters at moving energy in some way. These are the master chanters, dancers, speech givers or artists.

  • There are many types of kahuna within each order. Consult the link in the sidebar for a partial listing.

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Ancient Wisdom Heals Modern Lives

Ho'ala Huna Foundation
P. O. Box 7261
Woodland Park, CO 80863

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