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Places On Oahu: Waikiki’s Wizard Stones

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Many pieces of Hawaii’s cultural history can be found at the Bishop Museum or scattered around far flung areas of Oahu.  However, there is a piece of Hawaii’s cultural history that few people ever notice located right in the heart of Waikiki.  This piece of history is located in a fenced off enclosure adjacent to the Waikiki Police Substation at Kuhio Beach Park is home to the Wizard Stones:

The Wizard Stones

These stones were originally placed in four different locations along Waikiki Beach back in the 16th century by the Oahu chief Kakuhihewa.  The four stones were believed to contain the “mana” or spiritual power of four great kahunas who arrived from Kahiki which is the mythical homeland of the Hawaiian people often believed to be Tahiti.  The names of the four kahunas were Kapaemah’u, Kahaloa, Kaupuni, and Kinahi.  Here is an excerpt from interesting article in Waikiki magazine about the four kahunas:

In Waikiki, along Kuhio Beach, four particular stones stand together embracing a collective legacy within Hawaiian history and culture. Oral traditions tell us that, before the reign of O‘ahu’s chief Kakuhihewa, four individuals came from Tahiti to the shores of Waikiki bringing with them tremendous healing powers. Kapaemahu was the leader of the four and honored for his ability to cast aside carnality and care for both men and women. Kapuni was said to envelop his patients with his mana. While Kinohi was the clairvoyant diagnostician, Kahaloa— whose name means “long breath”—was said to be able to breathe life into her patients. The art of healing they practiced is known in the Islands as la‘au lapa‘au. In this practice, plants and animals from the land and sea, which are known to have healing properties, are combined with great wisdom to treat the ailing.  [Waikiki Magazine]

Legend says that each of the kahunas gave each of their special powers to their respective stone before sailing back to Tahiti as a gift to the people of Oahu.  The stones remained on Waikiki Beach until the late 1800s where Princess Likelike reportedly offered leis to each of the stones before entering the waters off of Waikiki Beach.  Her husband, the former governor of Hawaii A.S. Cleghorn requested in his will in 1910 that the stones “not be defaced or removed”.

The Wizard Stones

However, his wish was not to be as the stones were moved a number of times as Waikiki Beach was developed.  In fact at one point a bowling alley was built over them before being rediscovered and moved to its current location in the 1980s.  Obviously whatever power the Wizard Stones had in them had run out.  This was further verified by the fact that the Wizard Stones were used as benches for people waiting to use the nearby showers.  In the late 1990’s the current enclosure was put in to finally protect the stones and help them regain their dignity.  To further reclaim the dignity of the Wizard Stones in 1997 they were given the Hawaiian name of Na Pohaku Ola Kapaemahu a Kapuni.  Here is more from Waikiki magazine about the naming:

Archibald Cleghorn and Princess Likelike. Photo courtesy of Fields Masonry.
Archibald Cleghorn and Princess Likelike. Photo courtesy of Fields Masonry.

It was at this time that the name was changed from “Wizard Stones of Kapaemahu” to “Na Pohaku Ola Kapaemahu a Kapuni,” undoing the westernized understanding of healing powers as some sort of magic. Following the direction of Papa Auwae, four plants with medicinal value were added to the site—ma‘o (Hawaiian cotton), ‘ohe (bamboo), makahala (wild tobacco) and naupaka kahakai (beach naupaka).  [Waikiki Magazine]

I find this history fascinating because the Wizard Stones are an example of the connection that Tahiti at one time maintained with Hawaii with their great voyaging canoes.  Think of the work it must have been quarry and move these four large stones to honor these four kahunas.  Obviously there was a very warm relationship between Oahu and Tahiti to honor the kahunas in this way.  This cause me to wonder why did the voyages between Tahiti and Hawaii stop?  We may never know for sure, but it is an interesting thing to ponder when viewing these culturally important stones.

Note: You can read more about the Wizard Stones and other Hawaiian cultural sites from the below Ancient Sites of Oahu book which is one I highly recommend:

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