Secrets About Hawaii: Kamehameha’s Bones

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Did You Know This Hawaiian Secret?

There are many secrets you probably didn't know about Hawaii. In this post, we share one about Kamehameha's Bones. The Hawaiian Islands are full of ancient mysteries, local folklore and stories handed down one generation at a time that continue to fascinate and intrigue. Hawaii is a place of very strong spirituality, where actions are rich in purpose and meaning and sacred sites and souls command respect. The best part of Hawaii's history you won't find in any textbook. Here is one of the secrets and mysteries you may come across while in Hawaii:

Kamehameha's Bones

Kamehameha I, also called Kamehameha the Great, unified the Hawaiian Islands under one rule. Since the day of his death on May 8, 1819, the mystery of the location of his bones is one of the greatest secrets in all of Hawaii.

Although the ancient Hawaiians had ceremonial burial rituals for all, the funeral rites given to ruling chiefs were especially complex and sacred. A ceremony that prepared the body for afterlife, including removal of the flesh from the bones, was followed by a secret burial of the chiefly bones.

The location of the bones was kept secret by whomever the duty was entrusted to, usually the decedent's closest advisor. In the case of Kamehameha's death, Chief Ulumaheihei (called Hoapili by the King) was given this honor. The bones of Kamehameha were extremely sacrosanct and had to be kept hidden to ensure his spirit's transition into the world of the aumakua, or gods.

Both for physical safekeeping of the sacred bones and to prevent any unwarranted spying, the bones were hidden at night for ultimate secrecy. It was believed that if the burial site location was disclosed, an enemy who came in contact with the bones could absorb the chiefly mana, or power. This ancient custom is called hunakele, which means "to hide in secret".

Although it is yet to be proven, many believe that Kamehameha's remains rest in a burial cave at Kaloko-Honokohau on the Big Island of Hawaii. Other famous rulers, including Maui's King Kahekili, are also believed to be buried here. Some say that King Kalakaua ordered Kamehameha's bones to be relocated to the Royal Mausoleum in Nu'uanu Valley on Oahu, although this is strictly hearsay as well.

If King Kamehameha's bones were ever exhumed, either on accident or intentionally, there is no telling what chain of events this disrespect might set off. The conflicting accounts surrounding the final resting place of Kamehameha the Great's bones are perhaps intentional stories conjured up to ensure that this particular mystery stays just that.

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1 Response

  1. looking for an expert to help me identify a “Bone of an Alii or Chief. My great uncle Charles Nichols Spencer, Minister of The Interiror, under King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani.

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