Menopause In Hawaiian Culture

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I’ll just give some mana’o on menopause from a Hawaiian perspective based on talking story with kūpuna in Papakolea and Hawaiʻi island as well as from research primarily from Mary Kawena Pukui. 

In Hawaiian, menopause is referred to by three terms: Hoʻokiʻo; lele; and mau. Kiʻo refers to a small pool used to stock fish. Hoʻokiʻo therefore would mean something like to become a stockpile of fish. Lele is commonly used to mean to fly or disembark but in this case means to cease the menses. Mau is commonly used to mean to continue and in this case refers to the menstrual cycle being stopped. None of them negative. In fact, those three terms are also used in aspects of childbirth and fishing.

Hoʻokiʻo, though, is the most common term. Fishing is often a metaphor in Hawaiian mythology for discovering new islands. Māui, for example, fished out the islands. Fish itself could and would be used as a substitute for blood offerings in the old Hawaiian religion.

From the kūpuna that Iʻve talked with, it seems that that is the general idea of what menopause was for women. It was a transition for women to discover aspects of their personality without the obligations of child rearing and to enhance their skills and knowledge to pass it on to their moʻopuna (grandchildren), nieces, nephews, and the community at large. It was also a time when women were to be guided because the thought too was that it was during menopause that a woman would have an awakening in her spiritual gifts–gifts that she would use when she would rejoin her ancestors in Pō and become an ʻaumākua (guardian spirit) to her family. For some women, this also meant that the ties between them and Haumea (the childbirth patroness) and Hina (in her role as helping the hanawai or menses) were given over to a specific Hina-hanaia-i-ka-mālama (Hina who worked the moon), an aspect of Hina (the moon goddess and Eternal Female) associated with the ebbing moon and the deep seas. Hina-hanaia-i-ka-mālama should not be confused with Hina-hānai a-ka-mālama (Hina who nourished the moon). Hina-hanaia-i-ka-mālama is a very specific sea goddess who guards the deep oceans and who also helps to take spirits from the leaping places to Pō to meet the ancestors. She is invoked also in the final rites as a ply to a mother to take the soul to the Realm where the ancestors wait. The fact that menopause seems to be tied with both fishing and this particular deep sea goddess suggests that Hawaiians saw menopause not as the end of life or the drying up of a person but a soul transitioning to becoming her own person and becoming someone to be invoked from beyond.

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