The Mo'o and the Well

SUBHEAD: Between my religious beliefs, and what I have learned on the technical side, I think this project should be scrapped.

By Anne Punahu on 29 January 2014 in Island Breath -

Image above: Waterfalls in Waialeale crater - The tongues of Mo'o.


This is religious, cultural and technical information gathered from my personal experience on Kaua'i.

Regarding the hearing about the cost analysis report for the Department of Water proposed horizontal drilling project into the bellies of the Great Mo'os of the crator of Wai'ale'ale, I would like to share some knowledge on this matter.

First of all, I actually read the report. I have also read several other reports, and some preliminary US Geological Survey reports as well, particularly regarding horizontal well drilling in Polynesia. Yes, there is such a report.

I have also studied the technical aspects of the actual drilling itself. As former irrigator for more then 50,000 acres here on Kaua'i, I have a small bit of technical expertise in this area.

My personal experience
But before I get into that, I would like to also mention, that I have been a consultant on projects here, at the Federal, State and County levels.  People have come here from off island to speak with me about a few of them.

One project was a well restoration in Lawai. Two individuals with PhD’s from the University of Hawaii  came to speak with me, was because of my religious practices regarding water. I have very quietly been a practitioner of the "Old Ways" for many years, quietly following the "Mo'o" belief system, which predominates on Kaua'i particularly - along with several other deities, such as Kane, Hina, and the Great Kawelo.

Because I follow this particular "sect", I was able to explain how it intertwines with the water sources on Kaua'i. As an actual practitioner of such beliefs, my knowledge regarding the intricacies of how we respect water here was valuable to them. I also expressed those beliefs at other meetings, held by those versed in such things in regards to Wailua Nui a Hoano.

I rarely if ever speak about my belief system, since it is not mainstream, and is not part of what cultural practitioners normally do. In fact when going about the duties of honoring their specific deities it is basically forbidden to do so. It is believed you risk losing personal mana if you do. It is not something you go shouting off the rooftops about.

Also, since mostly everyone is Christian, and I often go to churches for services and funerals. I find it is better to be respectful and not talk about my beliefs too much - if ever or at all.

But in this matter, I will share with you some of the main points of this particular belief system.

The Mo'o
After Papa, the great mother, gave birth to Kaua'i the great Mo'o arrived. The nine great Mo'o here on Kaua'i  came with the great Pele. Mo'o were both male and female, and of those that came to Kaua'i,  five were female, and four were male. Hence the belief that Kaua'i gender was female.

This meant that the female bloodlines here were the strongest and purest, the Pio or pure bloodlines. It still is, to my eyes and my belief occurring ever day just in this manner.

Each Mo'o has name, and that name is the name of each of the major ridge-lines on Kaua'i. Their great noses meet at the summit of mount Wai'aleale, where the Alaka'i swamp form, and from which emerges the great Heiau of Kane.

The great heads of the Mo'o form the top of Koke'e, and the mists surrounding it. The Po'aiai, are the breath from the mouths of the Mo'o coming from the cool uplands.

The bellies of the Mo'o are the fattest parts of the mountain ridges, and the shadows of the clouds going over the surfaces of the bellies is believed to show the movement or the “walking” and “shifting” of their bodies.

Where the Mo'o feet would stand, lay the great fortresses, and largest homesteads of the Hawaiian ali'i. Underneath the tails, where Mo'o give birth, were the most sacred birthing areas, and the great Mo'o tails were the whipping of the sands, throughout the seasons as they shifted.

That is why Wailua area became such a sacred birthing area, as the Great Mo'o, the original one to first reach Kaua'i is that ridge line, hence it is called, Kua-Mo'o, or the spine or back of the Mo'o.

The tongues of all of the Mo'o meet at mount Wai'aleale, and hang down as waterfalls to form the wailele (plunge pool). The Mo'o children the many waterfalls of Wai'aleale cone.

Mo'o Culture
The Mo'os tongue is symbolized in the shape of the great "Palaoa". The palaoa was a pendant carved from the ivory of precious sperm whale tusk. The necklass for the pendant was of  whale, bone or made from  precious woods like koa. These palaoa were worn only by the highest Ali'i.

The characteristic of someone dedicated to the Mo'o was one of leadership. They were the ones with a watchful eye on things. The wearing of the tongue shaped palaoa gave the Ali'i the right to speak, since this is the symbol of the Mo'o. Without this symbolic "tongue" worn around the neck, you had no right to speak.

Further, to speak on things, dedicating yourself to the Mo'o was believed to give you mana, power and energy to do so. It was also the guardian of the "watchers', or the largest population of commoners, known as the "Maka'ainana", or the "eyes of the land", whom watched the doing of the Ali'i, served, them, and were the political arm of the population.

The Mahi'ai, or farmers often prayed to the Mo'os, to give them fresh, clean and pure water for their loi's, as it is believed when you angered a Mo'o the water would turn bad. The Mo'o permeated every part of society, and was particularly associated with the great God Kane, commonly referred to as the “God of Agriculture”.

Some islands, however, here, and across the Polynesia, have similar beliefs. It commonly believed that the original Mo'o came from Tahiti to Kaua'i.

Water is the element. Many Mo'o demigods, both male and female populate each and every waterfall and stream and waterway on Kaua'i. A Mo'o is at home in a single wai (fresh water element), although many live in the brackish areas of caves, and stream mouths, they need fresh water at least in part to live.

So, I have explained the two branches of the Mo'o clans, the mountain bodies, and the water dwelling demigods.

You may laugh at what I believe. You may think it is silly. You may think it is merely a silly fantasy and a fairytale. But this belief has been documented, expressed and believed for centuries, in actual practices, chants, mele, and mo'olelo, of which the word is directly derived from the Mo'o belief system, meaning “the Mo'o toungue”, or a “story”, as is the word for “mo'opuna”, or “many mo'o”, the poetic common term for a “grandchild”.

A person can become dedicated many ways to the mo'o beleif system. Genealogy, history, political connections, selection by a learned Kupuna, or because of a physical ailment or deformity which may give evidence that the 'Kino lau", or "body form" of a god lives within a person., or some combination of all of these. This was the way for dedication to most sects and beliefs here, and still is to this day.

Spiritual Journey
I was selected due to a physical deformity in my feet. Three almost completely sealed toes on both feet. It is hard to notice unless you look closely. Another trait that was watched for and observed, was a good speaking voice, and the drive to “speak” in public. This Kupuna (who will not be revealed here) observed me for a long time, and then approached me. They offered to teach me this belief system, because this particular kupuna had no one to pass it on too and was getting older and beginning to forget some things, and felt they didn't have much time left.

This Kupuna was ashamed to talk about it, because this person was afraid of being ridiculed, but believed that without someone to pass it on to, this person would not be able to protect their ohana, and become an aumakua after death.

I was forbidden to do some things until the Kupuna died many years go. I believe this person to be a strong aumakua who protects me to this day. I have kept to my beliefs private for many years, believing that the practice gives me the right to speak out, with good speaking voice, and to say things in a powerful manner. The knowledge of the Mo'o has been helpful to me spiritually and emotionally in my personal life. It is a true, religious practice, with its own rituals, deities and codes of behavior.

Hawaiian Pantheon
Many say that the “Hawaiian” religion is dead. It is not, nor has it ever been. The religions are varied, and legion, with many different practices and beliefs, it is unfair to lump them all together and call then the “Hawaiian religion”. There was never such a thing.

There have been a lot of religious beliefs to choose from in Hawaii, and there still is today  -  400,000 gods strong. Practitioners did not reveal whom their kumus were, and things were kept private and secretive. Kahiko practitioners, although showing in their ho'ike the prowess of their kumu, the kumu themselves never bragged. All knew who they were and whom their students were when they danced in public but allowed their students abilities to walk the walk instead.

Hula practitioners met at their own leles, and each had a small hale dedicated to their gods, and did not reveal what they did there to anyone. It was even more strict for religious practitioners. Chanters however, were fortunate in that their job was to do just that. Proclaim for the gods, and for the  Ali'i.

Hence, when Christianity came, many of the practices were something that Hawaiians could wrap their heads around. But they were not entirely absorbed so easily. Hawaiians were loose in their affiliations, and could switch allegiances to the gods on a whim. Such was the case as demonstrated by Kamehameha when he decided to dedicate himself to the cult of Ku, the war god.

Mana and speaking out
I am virtually a no one, a commoner and a person of no standing, I keep to the Mo'o belief system and stay there. It is been a great comfort to me over the years.

I would not be surprised if many think I  just appear as “talkative' or “mouthy”, or perhaps “opinionated” or “loud”.

It is what I use, to put myself out there, and speak out on the things that I believe in. This is the opposite not speaking about what gives you the ability to speak. But that is the way of the mana that I was taught.

I should state clearly that in Hawaii it is rude, and basically wrong, or “hewa” for anyone to claim that they even have personal mana. Mana is never to be discussed with anyone, as the belief is that it will be taken from you, for being arrogant.

So, in stating these things, I do not know if I will now lose this ability - lose my mana. I hope not. But it is worth it to lose the mana I have so carefully attempted to cultivate in myself to address this issue of the horizintal well proposed by the Kaua'i Department of Water.

Others could claim that you had mana, but you were never to claim it for yourself, or “self proclaim” it. That is why, the Ali'i had chanters, to do it for them. That was their purpose, to extoll the virtues and the abilities and “right to speak” of their lieges so that the Ali'i themselves would not lose their mana by proclaiming it themselves.

I do not know if this was done anywhere else but Kaua'i but this is what I was taught. But, since that is not my purpose I am hoping to be spared. so in my defense, all I can say is “e kala mai”or “excuse me” and cross my fingers for the best!

Over the last several years, I have found it necessary to express my beliefs, although many may scoff, in order to address the religious importance of our water sources, and to try and protect them. Many know that it is important to protect them for religious reasons, but some may have forgotten the details of why, or just how those religious practices may have worked, or to which dieties the sources belonged.

I know I may be ridiculed for writing this, but so be it. I won't stop trying to defend my adopted belief system. I respect all religions, and I feel that mine is harmless and benign, and since I don't talk about it much whom can it hurt?

It may even help to talk about it a little. So, if you ask what exactly people want to protect about the water sources of Wai'ale'ale, then I have explained, as best I can why it is important to me, and I can speak for no one else but myself on this matter.

Technical issues of well
On the technical side of the cost analysis report, the soils of Kaua'i are older, and perhaps a bit less porous going into the bellies of the Mo'os, however, it will still require an additional chemically injected sleeve to reinforce the filter first, before stabilizing the pipe, due to the mixed component of Kaua'is geology.

The process to actually lay the pipe, the "drilling" part is actually just like fracking. One of the problems I have with it, is that the proposal goes into the artery and neck of Kaua'i.

Fracking or any break in the line or a filter failure, may cause clogging to major aquifers here, and cause an even bigger problem.

Repairing any such problem, and the remoteness of the lines, and the very real possibility that access to fixing any major problems could easily be disrupted by severe weather conditions, such as has happened in other remote areas on Kaua'i where monitoring of systems has been hampered by severe weather.

I recommend repairing and caring for the current system first, and planning development far more carefully to release the pressure on the loads. Also, catchment systems should be utilized, and water conservation efforts increased. It is obvious where the largest source of water is on Kaua'i but that doesn’t mean we need to disturb its flow, or attempt to tap it.

Further, the cost concern really has nothing to do with efficiency and all to do with Federal Lawsuits. It is stated in the report, that the DOW is concerned over chemical groundwater contamination, so they feel a sense of urgency to dig deeper for the water to avoid lawsuits at the Federal level. That is the real impetus for the project.

Also, it should be noted, that although this process has been done on a smaller scale, it has never been done on a project of this magnitude and size. It is a new technology, and the combination of horizontal drilling and water extraction has only been around since 2011.

It important to note, that the Federal Study regarding this kind of drilling has just been written and open for peer review and may not be finalized until late 2014 or 2016, which may create more stricter Federal laws when dealing with these types of practices.

In my overview, between my religious beliefs, and what I have learned on the technical side, I would say, that for right now, this project should be scrapped.

All other alternatives should be exhausted first, and the peer review federal study be thoroughly reviewed before even considering such a project.

These are my own words, throughout this writing, and not taken from some book or Wikipedia account, or someone else writing on the subject, in regards to the cultural and religious information presented This is my explanation of my knowledge as I have come to know it. It is specific only to Kaua'i and no other island. It is my experience only and I speak for no one but my own self.


See also
Ea O Ka Aina: Kahili horizontal well drilling Feb 2, 2013
Ea O Ka Aina: No to the Horizontal Well Apr 11, 2013
Ea O Ka Aina: Scoping Meeting on Horizontal Well Apr 6, 2013
Ea O Ka Aina: Kahili Vampire Project Meeting Sep 13, 2013
Ea O Ka Aina: Kahihi Horizintal Well a bad idea Sep 14, 2013
Ea O Ka Aina: Horizontal Well Presentation Sep 19, 2013
Ea O Ka Aina: This is for your own good Oct 13, 2012


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