By Stephen Sumida
E ho‘opōmaika‘i: to bless. On the morning of Christmas Eve, 2021, Kahu Ken Segawa came to Sumida Farm to perform a blessing of the farm, the family who stewards the land and water there, and the workers on the farm. The occasion was the annual holiday lunch for the farm community. Reverend Segawa came to us as a successor to the late Kahu Edward Iopa Kealanahele, the Pastor of Keali‘iokamalu Church in Hale‘iwa, O‘ahu from the ‘70s to the ‘90s. Kahu Kealanahele was one of the great Kahuna of his time. To tell of him and the blessing of Sumida Farm that he performed in 1979 is to imply a genealogy that Kahu Ken is part of today.
Kahu Edward Kealanahele was trained and educated in the Hawaiian religion since his childhood, by his great-grandfather, Mahealani Lono, the last Kahuna Nui of Pu‘u Koholā, the temple that Kamehameha ordered built at Kawaihae Harbor on the Kona coast of the Big Island. At the same time, Eddie Kealanahele was taught by his grandfather the Reverend Samuel Kulani Kealanahele, Sr. in Waimea, Edward’s birthplace, up the long mountain slope from Kawaihae. Reverend Samuel was the Pastor of Ke Ola Mau Loa Church there in Waimea. While he grew up, the theology Edward Kealnahele developed was a comparative Hawaiian and Protestant Christian one, and he gained spiritual powers from his devotion to his special religious beliefs, knowledge, and skills, including his ability to communicate with spirits of the land, water, and sky, and of people dead and living.
In 1979 we called Kahu Eddie to bless Sumida Farm when a dead man was found on a mauka border of the farm, under the high stone wall of the Pearlridge Mall. He had possibly fallen to his death, after—the police learned—he had been beaten in a fight at Aloha Stadium but refused treatment at the clinic near where Pali Momi now stands. The man was a vagabond wandering the earth. He lay under trees beside the main spring, called Ka Huawai, the Water Gourd, of the farm and of the ahupua‘a Kalauao. I heard that about thirty years earlier, there had been another death there, the beating of a Pearl Harbor sailor in the dead of night. I told about these seemingly recurrent deaths to Kahu Kealanahele. He in turn told us his story of his training atop the Pu‘u Koholā heiau and his work as a kahuna.
Kahu blessed the farm by sprinkling blessed salt along the entire perimeter of the eleven acres. He paused at Ka Huawai, to pray. We included the Mo‘o of the spring in our prayers, and in my uneducated way of thinking of her, I wondered if she had lured the two men, thirty years apart, to join her in her lonely guardianship of the spring waters of Kalauao. Returning to the starting point of the circle of salt, Kahu Kealanahele allowed hostile or uncooperative spirits within the circle to leave. Any who resisted the ‘ohana but still refused to leave were burned up in sacred fire. The host of spirits who support and guard the ‘ohana of the farmland stayed. As Kahu predicted, rains came that night. The circle of salt surrounding the entire site dissolved, covering the farm, purifying it. Morning came, crystal clear. The blessing was complete.
On 24 December 2021, Kahu Ken Segawa performed a similar ceremony, scattering blessed salt, blessing the farm houses and buildings, the entire acreage, and the community of the farm. That night the rains came. The next morning it was as if the air itself was crystal clear.
At Sumida Farm we’re told that the history of the Kalauao springs goes back to the year 1100, first recorded and told in a chant. Like his teacher Kahu Kealanahele, Kahu Ken talked with us for hours about many things concerning this historical depth. Thanks to them, we start the new year of 2022 with a refreshed resolve to take care of Kalauao. Many guardian spirits support us, we know. We know well.