Womb with a View – Embracing the Waves of Change
A Goddess Retreat with Kiawahine on Maui, Hawaii January 2010
by Kathy Jones
There were to be three of us leading our Goddess Retreat on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui: – Dr Apela Colorado, Lydia Ruyle and myself.
Apela Colorado has lived on Maui for many years and is a traditional cultural practitioner. She is director of the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network (WISN) which fosters the revitalization, exploration, growth and exchange of traditional wisdom of indigenous peoples. She also teaches at Wisdom University in California. Lydia Ruyle is the wonderful Goddess artist and scholar who teaches women’s art and art history at the University of Northern Colorado, in the US. As an artist, since 1995 she has been creating Goddess icon banners, sacred images of the divine feminine from the many cultures of the world, that have flown around the globe weaving the sacred energies of the divine feminine. Finally there was me, Kathy Jones, Priestess of Avalon, priestess traveller, healer, teacher, writer and initiator of many Goddess projects, including the Glastonbury Goddess Temple, the Glastonbury Goddess Conference and the Priestess of Avalon training. I have known both Apela and Lydia for many years and we decided to combine our talents to create a wonderful Goddess Retreat on this beautiful island of the Goddess.
On our Goddess Retreat we planned to explore the nature of time, consciousness and change. We would also be mixing sacred waters from our homelands in celebration of Kiawahine, Lizard Goddess of the Fresh Waters of Maui.
For me this Goddess Retreat provided a welcome opportunity to return to Maui, which is one island in the chain of volcanic Hawaiian islands that lie far away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Maui is next in line to the Big Island where Pele, Birth Goddess of the Volcanoes, is currently spewing thousands of tons of hot rocks and gases into the air each year, creating new earth. Maui itself was formed tens of thousands of years ago as Pele journeyed along the margins of the two tectonic plates that separate in the middle of the Pacific. Maui is shaped like the head and shoulders of a woman, a beautiful Goddess, resting in the ocean. It was created from two now dormant volcanoes, the House of the Sun and the House of the Moon, joined together by a flatter area of land.
As the retreat approaches I know that it will be wonderful to experience once again the gentle aloha of this green Hawaiian island. Aloha is the spirit of affection, warmth, generosity, peace, love and compassion that pervades Hawaiian culture. I have been lucky enough to visit Hawaii several times and each time something magical has happened for me. It is a place of pilgrimage for me where I deepen my connection to Goddess and expand my understanding of Her world.
After two days of flying, which should have been one day, I arrived at Kahalui on Maui around 6.30pm. As I walked out of the airport I could feel the warm dark scented air all around me. Apela greeted me with a lei, a garland of plumeria flowers, a traditional Hawaiian gift to visitors. We drove across the island to Lahaina where she lives and where the Retreat will be held. On the way we catch up with each other. Apela has been an important and inspiring force in my life. I met her many years ago when she came to visit Glastonbury and we were connected by Ken Wilson, a mutual friend who had read and liked one of my books, In the Nature of Avalon, which relates the landscape of Avalon to Goddess. Apela introduced me to Mr Hale Makua and Auntie Poipoi, two Hawaiian Elders with whom she worked. Apela and Mr Makua in particular had a profound effect on my life, as through my deep connection to them I realised that the Goddess work we were doing in Glastonbury was directly connected to the spiritual work of other indigenous peoples across the world. We were not just an isolated blip in the ocean of patriarchy, but part of a living network of remembrance of Goddess all over the world. This knowledge expanded my vision considerably. These Elders have now passed into the spirit world.
We arrived in the darkness at Pakala, a traditional Hawaiian house where Apela lives with her husband, Keola Sequiera or Kahuna Kalai Ki’I, a master wood carver and spiritual practitioner. Shaped like an upturned boat, the house is made from wood and decorated with harmonious beauty. Inside is a shrine room with many statues of traditional Hawaiian deities carved by Keola, including a very special one of Kiawahine or the Lizard Goddess of Fresh Water. We planned to honour Kiawahine on our Goddess Retreat. She has great potency and energy.
Pakala stands on the edge of Mokuhinia, which was once a 13 acre Royal Pond, now filled in with earth. This pond surrounded Moku’ula, a small sacred island, which was once home to Maui’s Pi’ilani royal family from the 16th to the 18th centuries. This small island was considered to be a piko, a place of central cosmic power and the pond itself was home to a powerful Mo’o or Lizard, who appeared periodically with the cycles of the moon, as a 36 foot black lizard. She became manifest during rituals and thousands witnessed her appearances. She was last seen in the 1800s.
This Mo’o or Lizard was looked after by chiefess Kala’aihaena. She died young from complications after birthing her brother’s child, which also died. The Royal family dedicated her spirit to the Mo’o and from then on the Lizard and Kala'aihaena were one. She became the Goddess Kiawahine. Metaphorically Kiawahine in the pond represents the foetus in the womb, and each vertebrae of the long lizard spine represents a generation. Her tail is the far Ancestors.
Legends tell of Kiawahine travelling throughout the Hawaiian islands, the only Lizard Goddess to do so. The association of the royal family with Kiawahine increased their mana or power and Her presence also increased the mana of Moku`ula. In the volcanic West Maui mountain range above Lahaina and the Royal Pond it possible to see the distinct outlines of a gigantic Lizard in the landscape. It is from there that the original headwaters, which once filled the royal pond, flowed. These waters were dammed and stolen by the pineapple growers of the nineteenth century. There are plans to restore the Royal Pond to its former glory and to allow the waters to flow and fill the pond once again.
I was particularly inspired by this story of Kiawahine’s emergence just two hundred years ago as a Goddess. She gave me permission to name the Lady of Avalon as a modern yet ancient Goddess, rather than just being a priestess in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel, The Mists of Avalon. Her name strikes chords of memory and devotion for thousands of women and men who journey to Glastonbury and Avalon in search of Her, even though She was actually only named in the 1990s. We can bring through these new names in the present.
There is an eleven hour time difference between Glastonbury and Maui and my first day is spent relaxing in the warm air. I visit a few favourite places and Apela and I go to see the Jodo Buddhist Temple, where we will be holding some of our Retreat. It stands right next to the ocean. We can step straight from the outside verandah onto the sand and into the blue sea. It will be fun.
On Sunday we make our preparations for our Goddess Retreat and Lydia arrives full of ideas and generosity. It’s lovely to see her. Lydia is another continuing inspiration to me. She demonstrates how to grow older in exciting and creative ways. Together we decorate the Pakala shrine room with Lydia’s banners, which use traditional craftwork patterns to symbolise different Hawaiian Goddesses.
Through the day we have a good time connecting with the people who will be part of our Retreat. There are the beautiful Venus Herbito and Frances Santiago, two lovely Philippine women who have been Apela’s students and assist in her work for WISN. There is Zilla, who lives on Maui, Ellen and her daughter Pat, and Debbie from the US. We are later joined by Joan, whose flight to Maui has been delayed by Chicago snow.
The first evening of our Goddess Retreat is being held at Pakala and the participants are welcomed at the entrance to the garden. They pass the two large stones which represent the Sun and the Moon, as Apela sings a Hawaiian Welcome Chant. I bless each person with water and Lydia gives each person a fresh flower lei. We enter the shrine room where the Kiawahine kneels amongst flowers and candles with her piercing eyes, mother of pearl teeth and lizard’s tongue. On the floor is a second altar with an ancient stone mo’o and more candles waiting to be lit with intentions.
We introduce ourselves and write our intentions for the Retreat on Chinese papers, each lighting a candle to seal our intentions for the coming days. We follow this with a traditional Ava Prayer Ceremony. Ava is mildly relaxing herb mixed with water which, throughout the Pacific islands, is traditionally drunk at the end of the day, after work is complete and as the sun is setting. Keola has carved lovely wooden bowls and cups that are used for this ceremony. Each person is handed a cup of ava in a ritual manner and says a prayer. These are often prayers of gratitude for all that has happened in the day, prayers of welcome and prayers for healing for family and friends. It was a beautiful ceremony after which we go to supper in a local café, meeting up with Lydia’s husband, Bob, who comes to Maui to fish and play golf.
The next day we are up early to go down to the Jodo Temple to decorate that space with more of Lydia’s banners. They flutter in the sea breeze and surround us with strong vibrant colours. The morning begins with a cleansing smudge of sage followed by three cleansing dips in the ocean – the first to release anything negative that has been done to us, the second to release anything negative we have done to others and the third to welcome in the new. The water is cool, not as warm as it could be, but it is January after all.
As part of our exploration of our understanding of time we talk about what we already know about our previous incarnations. I give a short presentation on my own remembering of previous incarnations, particularly through writing and performing sacred dramas of ancient Goddesses. Then everyone shares their experiences. An interesting discussion ensues.
In the afternoon Apela takes us on a guided walk around the site of the ancient Royal Pond which is now a flat, empty piece of land with some playing fields on it. There are several small Christian and Buddhist churches around the perimeter of the area. We walk through the graveyard to the tomb of chiefess Kala’aihaena and some of the royal family. Apela and Keola worked for many years to get this site recognised as a sacred place and to keep it clear of buildings, until local politics entered in. The site now waits for the time when it will be dug out and the fresh waters of the Kiawahine will once again flow into the Sacred Pond. In the far corner of the site there is a small stone platform with a large standing stone in the middle of it, which marks the position of Moku’ula. Here native Hawaiians place offerings, awaiting the return of the powers of Kiawahine to this sacred place. Back at Pakala later in the afternoon Lydia gives a wonderful presentation of images and herstories of the Goddesses from around the world and from Hawaii in particular.
The next day we are visiting the sacred site of Kukuipuka, a traditional heiau, or Hawaiian Healing Temple. We drive around the northern end of the island leaving behind the hotels and immaculate lawns of the golf courses. The road snakes back and forth through deep gullies along the narrow coast road, which leads us into wilder Maui. On the left is the beautiful blue, blue ocean with the islands of Lanai and Molokai in the distance. It is in these warm waters that big whales come to give birth to their calves at this time of year. We see their gigantic tail fins crashing into the water - such huge creatures almost invisible beneath the surface of sea. On the right is dense green vegetation with bright flowers, rising up steep, sloping hillsides that are the remains of now dormant volcanoes.
We park the cars and walk towards the heiau, which is on top of a small hill overlooking the ocean. We have Kiawahine with us and I am honoured to be carrying her in my arms, like a baby, wrapped in a golden cloth. We remove our shoes and Apela unwraps Kiawahine, removing Her clothing. She washes Her body and splashes Her human hair with water. At the entrance to the heiau where there is a break in the encircling stone wall, Apela makes an offering and I carry Kiawahine into the heiau. I feel very privileged as we process sunwise around the stone remains of a small building and place Her on the altar rock. She seems very happy to be here. This heiau is dedicated to Kiawahine’s energy and one of Her trees grows in the corner.
We each make an offering and say prayers to Her. She beams out over the heiau. The view of the ocean from here is stunning and the greenery all around is beautiful. We lie or sit in silence on the ground, absorbing the healing energy present here. We stay for quite a time. As we leave we encircle the outside of the heiau. At one corner there is a small shrine dedicated to all the women who have suffered from domestic abuse. This is the only writing to indicate that this is a particularly feminine place. We walk off the hillside and drive back to Jodo Temple for our afternoon session.
Lydia has brought paints, brushes and pens so that we can paint on white katas or silk scarves. For the next couple of hours we enjoy ourselves painting and expressing our creativity. It’s very pleasant in the warm sea air with the gentle sounds of the ocean waves. The wet scarves dry in moments as they hang in the breeze and we create a ceremony of blessing for each other. As the sky darkens at 6.00pm we make our way home and rest through the evening. In the night in the road that encircles the Royal Pond a water main bursts and the roads are flooded with water. Kiawahine’s fresh waters have begun to flow again, but not quite in the way we expected.
The following morning I arrive early at the Jodo Temple to set up for the first session. We are joined this morning by a local woman, Meg, and we begin with a sharing to find out how everyone is. In our centre we place Zilla’s shrine painting, composed of 108 different small stones, each of which carries a prayer. Placing our hands on the stones we each add in a prayer for the earth. It’s a beautifully simple ceremony. I then lead the group on a guided journey to retrieve memories of previous incarnations which have a relevance to this life. We also journey to a time when the Royal Pond still existed, when Kiawahine was a young woman looking after the Mo’o in the pond. It was a healing experience for everyone as they remembered past lives and relevant incarnations.
In the afternoon we go back to Pakala and offer up our intention papers to a sacred fire, transforming them into reality. We mix together the Sacred Waters of Kiawahine and Maui, of Avalon and of Colorado, together with Sacred Waters that each participant has brought with them from their own land. This is another powerful and moving ceremony. Together we bless the waters and then process with them across the site of the Royal Pond to Moku’ulo, the stone platform. Once again I am lucky to be the one who splashes the central standing stone with water, pouring it over the top of the stone. It is a very powerful act and the face of Kiawahine is revealed in the pattern the water makes on the stone. It feels like we are bringing Her Waters back to the land and opening a gateway in the wall of resistance to restoring the Royal Pond to its former glory. After this wonderful ceremony we return to Pakala and once again as the sun sets, we share with each other an Ava ceremony full of gratitude.
On our final morning we thank everyone and bless each other with our painted katas. Venus and Frances have been photographing and filming our activities all week and give us a wonderful slide presentation, with music, of our activities. It is great to see everything that we have done together, to remember each phase of the retreat and to feel how blessed we are to have spent this sacred time together. Frances offers us a beautiful dance performance and we say farewell to each other.
This was a lovely Goddess Retreat blessed by Kiawahine. Full of aloha; there were deep realisations and healing for each person. I stayed on for a few more days to enjoy the company of my friends, to sit on the beach and feel the sun on my skin.
Text © Kathy Jones
Photos ©Venus Herbito, Frances Santiago and Apela Colorado.
We plan to hold another Goddess Retreat on Maui in February 2011. If you would like more information please contact Apela Colorado at email@example.com