For all women who have experienced childbirth as an unbelievably painful experience, it is good to know that the early Hawaiians found a solution to the pain of childbirth. That solution was to give birth on a hard rock, apparently making the pain of birth minimalized by the discomfort of the hard rock surface where the birthing took place. At least that’s my guess about the Hauola Stone. After all, who am I to say… I’m just a guy. However, looking at the Hauola Stone, I cannot believe I’d want to sit in the time-worn hollowed-out rock seat while giving birth but then again I would never want to be giving birth anywhere for that matter… but that just me!
Located at the right-hand end of the stone wall that separates Wharf Street from the ocean in Lahaina Towne is a cluster of rocks which stand above the water at low tide. There as you gaze over the rock wall sits the sacred chair-shaped rock amongst the rocky shoreline of Lahaina Harbor. It might be partially submerged in water depending on the tide, but never-the-less there it sits as it has for centuries beckoning the ill and the life givers.
Hawaiians believed that if sick people would sit on the stone and let the surf wash over their dangling legs while offering ceremonial prayers to regain their health. It was a practice for these healers to send their patients to bathe in the waters at this stone and reports were given that many of these patients were cured. There is even an old Hawaiian proverb that refers to Ka La’i o Hauola (the calm of Hauola), as a metaphor for peace and comfort.
Healing stones have long been a part of ancient Hawaiian medical practice, and many healing stones like the Hauola Stone could be found throughout the islands. Today, most of these healing stones have been forgotten, but the Haulo Stone in Lahaina remains in the forefront of Hawaiian folklore and history.
Its origin is legendary and its special healing powers sacred. The stone was once believed to have been a young girl, Hauola who when fleeing her enemies was turned to stone by her protective guardian gods.
The stone which looks like a spacious seat with a short angular back dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The name “Hauola” is loosely translated to mean extended life and health. While its general purpose was for healing because it was located where both fresh and salt water mixed, the blend of the two waters was significant for healing. Its specific use was as a birthing stone. When a chiefess, a female chief or female royalty was ready to give birth, her attendants would help her onto the stone chair. They would then assist with the delivery and witness the birth. Situated next to the site of the Brick Palace it was the birthplace for the ali‘i mo‘i (alley ee moi), the high chiefs.
Birth on the Hauola Stone provided the birth child with instant recognition as a potential leader of royal society. Just as a royal birth not involving the Hauola Stone forfeited a child’s royal privileges. And since the stone was unmovable, attendants would stuff the umbilical cord between the cracks and crevices of the stone, thus ensuring a common bond forever with the magical mysteries of the stone and the infant.
When there was talk and plans to enlarge the Lahaina Harbor which might have potentially ruined the picturesque nature of the area… it was the Hauola Stone, its placement, and its historical significance that overturned all changes that could have possibly changed Lahaina Harbor and its place in Maui culture.
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