ARCHIVE SERIES #0001: MAHIOLE

Posted in Updates on January 16th, 2020 by FITTED

MAHIOLE

Hawaiian culture has such a storied past that oftentimes it proves difficult to track down the origins of its history and significance. Take for instance the Hawaiian headdress known as Mahiole–the feathered helmets worn by ranking members of the Aliʻi. Research suggests their influence could have been taken from Greek, Ladakh Buddhist, Irish, and even Spaniard influence. 

The latter isnʻt a farfetched notion.

Although the modern historical consensus regarding Hawaiian history presumes that the first outsiders to make contact with Hawaiians was led by renowned British explorer Captain James Cook, there is a fleeting theory that has been proposed by some history scholars which explores the idea that the Spaniards may have actually been the first foreigners to interact with the Kanaka Maoli, albeit unwittingly. The story, according to a few ancient historical texts—including  the Papers of the Hawaiian Historical Society, published in 1892—purports that in the mid-16th century (nearly 250 years before Cook’s arrival), a fleet of ships of Spanish origin, outfitted by the Spanish Conquistador Hernån Cortés and commanded by Ålvaro de Saavedra, set sail from Zacatula, Mexico for an expedition to a set of islands in Indonesia. 

According to the story, during the journey, two of the three ships were driven off course when encountering an intense storm. The ship, led by Saavedra, is said to have wrecked off the coast of Keei, South Kona, Hawaii, where a “white man and woman escaped,” safely reaching the shores. Some iterations of this story suggest the man was the ship’s Captain, and that both the aforementioned man and woman were observed to be in a kneeling position for an extended period, perhaps praying. Because of this, this same location was once called Kulou, which translates to “Kneel/Kneeling.” 

The intricate tapestry of the Mahiole is, in ways, analogous to Hawaiʻi’s sophisticated culture. Tiny bits and pieces of both the Mahiole and Hawaiian culture may have taken influence from other cultures, but its framework is made up of original materials (in the case of the Mahiole, the feathers and threading were respectfully derived from the now-extinct, endemic bird known as the Moho, and the olonā shrub).

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