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Understanding our role as keepers and learners of occult and cultural knowledge in modern times

Updated: Jan 24

The information age has made that which is occult, or hidden, quite accessible. This is a blessing and a challenge for us all.

As a person of Hawaiian and European ancestry I have often felt cautious about teaching and sharing pieces of spirituality and culture with others. Spirituality itself is often hidden, as is seen by the root meanings of words like Occult, or Huna, in Hawaiian. In my youth while a college student I will never forget the way in my Hawaiian Studies classes we all discussed the political implications of teaching cultural traditions to non-native people. As someone who also grew up in a spiritually eclectic household, multicultural views of prayer always existed within our family structure: from Judaeo-Christian beliefs, to our connections to the Baha’i faith and Islamic cultures, to Buddhist loved ones, those who practiced creole French African and First Nations rituals and any and all cultural or spiritual traditions we were introduced to by friends and family. I was told, by my grandmother, a member of the Baha’i faith, that it was important and part of our own family culture that we observe and respect diverse spiritual and cultural traditions.

Flash forward 30 years, I still remember the echos of my Hawaiian Studies teachers, asking us what we thought when a kumu, a Hawaiian teacher specifically of ancient and living Hawaiian culture said in a documentary we viewed they taught a ha’ole (non-Hawaiian) student traditional practices because they could not find an appropriate or worthy student at the time with koko (Hawaiian blood) to pass their knowledge to. I remember as a youth thinking this was sad and strange, and like most teachers do our college professor asked us for debate on this concept.

For one thing, as a mixed native person who longs for knowledge lost from our Hawaiian ancestors I do not necessarily believe there are “no Hawaiians left” or even little Hawaiians left who are interested in reviving lost pieces of our culture. Definitely not such that previously closed practices must always be made open. I believe there is deconstruction work in healing the sociopolitical and economic struggles our native community faces, so that we have the opportunities to reconnect with our ancestors and traditions. Many Native and displaced people also struggle a lot with the impacts of historical trauma, and in my anecdotal experience, or perhaps something a long forgotten aunty or makua taught me, learning your lost culture is often what heals you and brings you back from being lost in colonized modernity. The more we learn, the more we source back, the more grounded we start to feel, the quieter our minds become, and the more we all can start to heal.

As a white passing person, I also knew, somewhat mournfully, that there are practices and teachings from our elders I may not be deemed worthy of learning yet or ever—not apparently trustworthy, or focused, or good ‘ano enough. Perhaps rightfully, or perhaps wrongfully, it is hard and amorphous for anyone to really say. But I do not believe closed practices must be opened because our Native people are all gone or missing… I believe our practices must be taught and our lost community members must be connected with, embraced and made found. While a kumu might be frustrated with distracted or unavailable students and make this choice for themselves, I still believe that my community members with koko who desire to and are capable of learning and relearning our lost and ancient practices surely exist and deserve to access knowledge in this area we may seek. I am one of them, and I hope to connect with more of you also to heal ourselves and honor and uplift our ancestors.

As a modern and eclectic practitioner and one who was exposed to ritual and ceremonial prayer since childhood, I know my knowledge over the decades, from multiple primary sources from multiple cultures holds value. I see both many commonalities, and differences, as many other eclectic witches also do.

While spiritual knowledge of my Hawaiian (and even colonized Celtic ancestors) has been hard won, 30 years of reading, courses, late nights sipping tea with aunties and uncles and independent study, the knowledge grows, and begins to solidify into a concrete practice with foundational ideologies and immovable values. My values these days are around self discovery, respect for cultures lost and threatened and the conscious and careful revival of ancient and earth-based wisdom and practices.

There is still heaviness in my heart at times knowing people will see what they wish to see in you, and the pains of mixed race and historically marginalized communities are still great and unresolved. While eclectic witchcraft in modern times has become tinged with controversy over the years for some inexperienced teachers apparent propensity to appropriate without credit. As a mixed race person once raised in a Baha’i household, eclecticism and openness in spirituality is my natural path. That said, it must be done in a respectful and thoughtful way, and we will and do make mistakes, and can't always make everyone happy.

Hawaiians, like many other colonized people, have had land, native plants, access to culture, stories, and histories, largely stripped away and buried, especially in the face of modernization and an effort to fit the Western world view of success and achievement. The truth is, while I have experienced my own barriers to entry and self acceptance in my community as a mixed race person, this experience is largely universal for so many of us. While my story as a mixed native person may not be just like yours exactly, there may often be many parallels-

Being beaten and chastised for speaking our language or pigeon English was a common experience many families my own included experienced leading to loss of language at scale. Experiencing intense militarization and being removed from Hawaii as a result of this and economic strife is another myself and many others can also universally relate to.

So how do we reclaim back answers and connection to our culture? This is such an important question… one for which I only have my own sometimes profound but also often limited answers for. Any spiritual teacher who tells you they have all the answers is likely lying or delusional. We all just do our best, and keep going!

~2020, Pluto was aligned in a astrologically rare way (I think it was Saturn-Pluto Conjunction, or Pluto returns) and many were talking about how weirdness and the spiritual arts were becoming more mainstream as a result of this. I’m not a huge Western Astrology expert but this theme in the air indeed impacted my life at the time and coincided with my decision to begin expanding online for Pohina Apothecary, consulting my family on the name and initial offerings. While many were just discovering magic and especially eclectic magical communities on the global internet, I had been quietly studying practitioner work for many decades, and it seemed time to open up and welcome more dialog and community.

There comes a point in your educational journey that you become not just a student but also a teacher. When friends started asking me for advice on simple protection magic or cultural practices, I realized many of the things I learned and taught myself were simple to some but brand new and sometimes seemed necessary to share for others. So many rituals, especially about cleansing, protection and manifestation remained unknown but could be important to share.

The modern times are an interesting one to be a witch, or practitioner, or kahuna if you are Hawaiian practicing Hawaiian works. For one thing, misinformation runs rampant. I can’t tell you how it pains me to see other fellow eclectic practitioners for example sing praises about Huna or Ho’oponopono popular concepts on the internet, without explaining to them that I have never met a Native soul in person who did not tend to dismiss or condemn these teachings as appropriation. These are for another blog post to unpack, but for now, I’d just like to say you won’t find much of that here, because as far as my community has taught me it is being mistaught online. And these controversies are one of the many small and large reasons I find myself here, sharing what was once hidden.

So how do we teach when called to when misinformation is so easy to create in these spaces? In olden times, people like us who sought spiritual knowledge or had spiritual gifts would often be taken under the wing of a practitioner, mentored for years, isolated from society at points and specialized in these traditions. Today, you might have some strange experiences and feel called, pick up a book, or realize later as an adult all that silly stuff your auntie and grandma taught you was cultural folk magic, you make friends online and you have vast cultural exchanges in an instant across thousands of miles, there are sometimes no mentors… or a strange feeling that all of us at once are both the teachers and the students.

I once heard from a New Age spiritualist that this era in spirituality is one that is disintegrating hierarchy in this way. “There are no more spiritual authoritarians! No more gurus!” some New Age people say… we are self directed and self taught now. Eclectic magic, and the global online community of occult practitioners, really is today like a type of Wild Wild West-- little or no rules, and sometimes a bit of chaos and occasionally great adventures. As a modern person I can appreciate this. As a Hawaiian, I know other realities, protocols and hierarchies relevant to us absolutely still exist. (And certainly, ironically, gurus always have, and always will exist in Hindu and Buddhist cultures these labels were appropriated from).

Like many mixed race people I hold multiple conflicting truths in my heart at once. On the one hand, I love cultural exchange, folk lore magic and learning from my diverse friends online. I love sharing my own Hawaiian and Celtic/Nordic practices with my audience and friends, and praying with others in unity however we democratically and collectively choose to pray. As a citizen of the world, I appreciate the eclectic global magic movement.

As a Hawaiian however, whoooo, isn’t it hard to see when things are mistaught? Ironically, I know I could be guilty myself of this from time to time. At Kilauea on Big Island, I used to tell people of the ancient Hawaiian curse on the rocks, “Ka ‘ili o Pele” the offspring of the fire goddess Pele, being cursed if you took them to the mainland, separating her from her children. Turns out, that story was actually made up by a ha’ole, or non-Hawaiian park ranger in the interest of environmental protection, and there is no known record of such a curse, but I used to tell people that anyway, and many Native Hawaiians in modern times still believe and share this urban legend not knowing it's source. Propaganda is a funny thing, even when it has a noble and worthy purpose.

Huna and Ho’oponopono as it is portrayed in the mainstream online are also kind of made up in my humble opinion. They are real words and real practices you can actually learn about (at least, Ho'oponopono is a real practice, and Kahuna and Huna are real Hawaiian words), but they are what we might call in the eclectic community technically “closed” from my understanding, and misrepresented online often. While it isn't my job to police that, I do feel responsible to do my best not to participate, and to try and share accurately, while still developing our technology and resources in a modern sense.

Such is the burden of living in the information age. We learn, we share, we must sometimes correct ourselves, we must be discerning, we must be open and we must grow. For myself, teaching what I know at Pohina Apothecary are for these reasons a bit of a delicate task. It would be silly for me not to share my cultural knowledge, both for my fellow ‘oiwi or native people who are on a learning path like I am, and also to help be a primary source that can help dispel myths and misinformation when our culture is misrepresented.

As a part Celtic and Nordic person, I will also be touched by my ancestors from Europe, however in eclectic / New Age magical communities online these pagan traditions can sometimes apparently become de facto beliefs.

For example, recently I’ve been working with a custom ChatGPT I built for tracking the Helu Po, Hawaiian moons. One day, it told me, that in Hawaii “Waxing moons are auspicious times for growth, and waning moons are for purification and elimination”. While this concept is generally a logical one Hawaiian ancestors may have also considered, it is actually a very general, more eclectic and new age take. When I asked where this moon phase association was sourced from, it was apparent it had been made up from AI training from sources online that were likely not primarily Hawaiian but New Age. To build modern tools like this, it can take some extra careful work to edit and refine so deeper truths can be illuminated. (Currently I'm studying 'Olelo Hawai'i, Hawaiian language, at a beginner-intermediate level, to help uncover mysteries still held in the original Hawaiian Nupepa documents before Hawaiian language became endangered. There is a treasure trove of knowledge printed there for those who have the linguistic keys to decode it. This opportunity and kuleana captivates me.)

In the Helu Po, the Hawaiian moon calendar system, ‘Ole moons are best for elimination, weeding, and doing nothing, and many other moons are good for growth but often for specific plant types. Without voices like my own mentioning this, you might think from mainstream neo-pagan sources all cultures had identical moon phase associations, but this is not the case, one is just more well known than the other in the global eclectic spiritual community. It is very easy in the modern and fast information age for these inconsistencies to spread into viral untruths and myths- meanwhile, many kahuna, Native Hawaiian and other native spiritual practitioners, will always maintain that many of the important things our spiritual elders could teach, one will never find online. Such is the nature of the occult, the huna, what is hidden.

So, while I stand humbly before you definitely not an authority on Hawaiian spiritual practices within my native community, it is also hard to be silent as a general practitioner with knowledge not to greet misinformation with truth. I also know the decades of years of study and absorbed knowledge I have attained has value, and it’s important we as a community continue to learn and share in communion. This information is important enough to share, incomplete and messy as it sometimes is.

I try never to act like I know some things for sure these days. In the past as a spiritual seeker I have had that type of confidence before, but usually learn quickly to move past it. Today I like to learn with what I consider to be more of a “Beginners Mindset” when it comes to how we view and frame the spiritual world. Some truths are universal, some are cultural and opposed to other realities and world views, some are harmful or beneficial depending on the context. In Native America, “strong medicine” is a phrase I've heard that seems relevant here. I was taught that this phrase is sometimes a reminder of how the same energy can hurt or harm you, and this is often just dependant on the dose.

These are all my musings for now to introduce my audience to this type of spiritual path. We are learning together. While I am not an authority on Hawaiian spirituality specifically, I would consider myself an authority on eclectic practitioner work, and I am one who wishes to dispel common myths I often in online spaces. I seek also to help our kupuna (our elders) come to this modern online space to share knowledge with us, to help be a knowledge bridge in modern times, and to connect with my fellow people to uplift and remember our deepest pieces of restored and remembered ancestral wisdom.

In the future, I’ll be working on publishing my book “Sun and Moon/Ka La a me Ka Mahina” about the cultural significance of Celtic and Hawaiian parallels and differences in the study of earth worship and ancient archeoastronomy as it pertains to farming. I’ll also be sharing some fun resources around the Helu Po (Hawaiian Moon Calendars) the Celtic and Nordic Wheel of the Year, and occasional podcasts and modern eclectic energy work. I hope to connect with other especially mixed-race students and respectfully eclectic practitioners here on this path, and to help guide people to designing their unique spiritual practices, especially for those of us connected to ancestors and traditions across many continents.

Thanks for being with me along this journey. May the stars, planets, mountains, tides and soils enrich, protect, and guide us all to our right individual and collective paths.

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