Often times we tend to think that by the 1840s, all Hawaiians were Christians. But up to the 1880s, there were writers who still were reporting resistance to Christianity. Reverend Forbes–pastor to female High Chief Kapiʻolani–writing in the 1840s reported that kāhuna were still meeting at ʻIliʻiliʻōpae Heiau and offering prayers to ʻUli, Lono, and other ancient deities. (Just a side note, not many people realise this but the deity Lono also had “dark” aspects). ʻIliʻiliʻōpae was one of the most important temple schools through Hawaiʻi Nei. It wasn’t just an ordinary temple but had a teaching complex and was surrounded by the temples of Kūkui, Pu’u ʻŌlelo, Kaluakapiʻioho, Kahōkūkano, Pākui,and Kalauonākūkui. From these temples, priests could learn the rituals, chants and arts of of the main deities.

When Hawaiian priests cut their ties to Raiatea in the 15th century after the murder of the high priest there, ʻIliʻiliʻōpae became the center of Hawaiian priestly education for what the missionaries and Hawaiian Christians called “black magic” and “ʻanaʻana”. In actuality, it taught far more than that including how to counter “black magic” as well as what today may call “white magic”. The complex itself dates back to at least the 12th century and the valley it was located in, Hālawa, was at one time the seat of government for Molokaʻi. What is notable about the temple complex as well is that they did not just train male priests but also female priests. When Queen Regent Kaʻahumanu ordered the destruction of the entire complex in 1820, it is said that the priests hid the old temple images and committed self-immolation rather than to submit to the new regime. Many Molokaʻi priests actually burned themselves alive rather than live under the new regime. Nonetheless, the temples were indeed razed under the watchful eyes of Hewahewa but despite that, people and kahuna would still visit the temples until the 1840s as reported by Reverend Forbes.

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