Ways of Knowing™ Symposium: Exploring Cultural Based Healing Traditions & Practice

Kahuna Healing Traditions of Hawai’i

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Dr. Dane Kahoe Silva, Kumu Lomi, Hawaiian Healing Center 

The traditions of the Hawaiian people extend from 700 AD to the current day. Kumu Kaohe, a teacher and practitioner of integrated healing arts and sciences, shared with us an insider’s understanding of the Kahuna traditions—from the selection and training of many categories of healers, to the Kahuna perspectives on the care of self, family, community and the world. Kumu means teacher, and Dr. Silva acknowledges this is the time for the teacher, as it is the time for the sharing of ancient knowledge with everyone. Kahuna means keeper of the mysteries or secrets, and they have traditionally arisen from the ruling class through a family lineage. The selection process is a commitment to the future, and the training takes at least 20 years. These children must not only be selected through signs from nature, Spirit, and heritage, but their training must be approved and supported by both family and community.

Prayer for Healing
E ola mau ka honua, Long Life to the earth
E ola nau ke ao lewa, Long Life to the heavens
Ho ‘ola hou ke kanaka, Restore life to the person

Traditional Hawaiian healers are subspecialized into categories of Earth Medicine; Manual Medicine; Psychosocial Medicine; Movement and Marshall Arts; Music and Arts; Nutrition, and Energy. Before any healers work, there is a prayer made for healing, using words and hand motions. Kahunas practice their rituals to build and care for their power daily. For the Kahuna, there is no time, all things are happening now. Energy may be used to heal the past, the present or the future.

The Lokahi Model of Wellness is built on the pillars of:

  • Akua (creator; Spirit)
  • Kanaka (mankind, mind)
  • Aina (land, body)
  • Ha (breath of life)
  • Ola (life force)
  • Aloha (care, compassion)
  • Mana (spiritual power)

The practice of Ho’oponopono begins with Pule (an opening prayer), moves forward with asking and deep listening, seeks to understand relationships and nurture forgiveness, supports self-care (diet, lomi, exercises), fosters transformation, and ends with a prayer for continued guidance and aloha. Traditional Hawaiian healing works with seven energy centers, the three piko (past, present and future; high, middle and low self), and the four corners of the body (2 shoulders, 2 hips.) This is a holistic healing process and commitment, and would be done in no less than 3 visits. Speaking of La’au Lapa’au, the earth healing practices using the gifts of the plants, Kumu Kaohe shared the anti-inflammatory properties of the Noni plant, the Olena root and the Awa (Kava). He shared insights about the practice of Lomilomi (body work.) The Pono dietary practices include cleansing techniques, as well as, probiotics, enzymes, helpful fatty acids, color-coded foods, and an eating schedule. Hula, as an ancient healing practice, incorporates movements, breath, balance, strength, endurance, coordination, and contemplation.

In order for integration to happen, the issues of safety, relevance, value, sustainability, and satisfaction will all be considered. Dr. Silva expressed the need for an integrating vision with conventional medicine. This vision needs to include trust that resistance can be overcome and acceptance is possible; that adoption and adaptation can occur; that modification will happen; and implementation will be successful.

Hawaiian Chant and Dance

Awa Lua

Kahi ka noa

Huli ka awa

Participants do the Hawaiian chant and dance
Participants do the Hawaiian chant and dance

Hemo ka
HaHe (hay)

Malama ka ipu


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  • Ways of Knowing™: Cultural-Based Healing Traditions and Practices