Natural Hawai'i

The Hawaii Kahuna, Priest, and Healer

Kahuna Drumming

While religion figures prominently in all of the activities of the kahuna, they were also experts in their professions or crafts. The temple priests were closely associated with their chiefs and advised them in all important matters.

The medical kahuna, representing more than a dozen specialties, relied upon the spiritual aspects of their profession as well as their knowledge of the human body, of herb remedies, andmassage. Other kahuna, experts in crafts, supervised the construction of houses and canoes. The dreaded kahuna were those who prayed victims to death (kahuna ‘ana’ana).

Hawaiian Traditional CeremonyThe following are some of the types of kahunas:

Kahuna nui:

The high priest. A chief advisor to the ruling chief who consulted with him on matters of importance, such as the proper time to wage war.

Kahuna pule:

Selected from the chiefly class. Pule means prayer. Conducted the rituals in the heiau.

Kahuna kaula:

A prophet. A man or woman who foretold coming events and the outcome of such events. The spirit of his god caused each kaula to speak out fearlessly, often revealing a turn of events that his chief did not want to hear.

Kahuna hulihonua:

The land experts.

Kahuna kuhikuhilani:

Reads sign and omens in the sky.

Kahuna kuhikuhipu’uone:

Locates sites, especially for building heiau. He also selected sites for fishponds and houses.

Kahuna oneone'honua:

Dedicates the heiaus with prayers and special services.

Kahuna kilo hoku:

Studies the stars

Kahuna kilo honua:

Reads signs in the earth.

Kahuna nana uli:

A weather prophet.

Kahuna po'i 'uhane:

Captures the souls of the living or the dead.

Kahuna 'ana'ana:

Prayed people to death.


There were approximately 15 other types having to do with illness and medical practices.

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