Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ipu, Hawaiian Gourd of Mana

(Heavenly Gourd)

In ancient Hawaii the Ipu plant was sacred and considered the kino lau (body form) of Lono, the Hawaiian god of agriculture. Ipus were so precious that they were often named after ancestors and handed down from one generation to the next. The Ipu played an important part in sustaining life in old Hawaii: It held the precious dinking water, medicines and food. It accompanied hula dances and chanting during festive and spiritual ceremonies. Up to today, the sacred rhythm of the ipu is heard in Kahiko (ancient) and Auana (modern) hulas.

Two varieties of the ipu were cultivated by ancient Hawaiians: the ipu manalo, or sweet gourd for eating; and the ipu 'awa'awa, or bitter gourd for medicine and containers. Through selective breeding the ipu 'awa'awa was developed into many sizes and shapes. After the harvest the gourds were hollowed, cleaned and polished to a shine. Sometimes they were painted on or decorated with leis in a special, artistic manner. All the symbols had a meaning. The colors and shapes were expressing important messages. 

According to Hawaiian culture, that which takes care of you must also be cared for! 

Gourds have always been highly valued in Hawaii. In ancient times special customs and rituals were performed during the planting, cultivation and harvest. Gourds were planted on the night of Hua, when the moon was shaped like an egg. A potbellied man would carry the seed as if it already was a huge gourd. Chanting, he would drop the seed quickly in the hole, keeping his hands straight and steady in order to keep the gourd from twisting and shriveling:

He ipu nui!
O hiki ku mauna,
O hiki kua,
Nui maoli keia ipu! 

A huge ipu!
Growing like a mountain,
To be carried on the back,
Really huge is this gourd!

Ka ipu o ka ike
The gourd of Mana

Several beautiful, large ipus decorate my home. I adorned them with Hawaiian seed and feather leis. Their special Mana (spiritual energy) greets me, every time I walk into my house. They seem to nurture and watch over me, giving me the greatest comfort. 

Ipulani, the Menehune Guardian Angel, was created in honor of the precious Hawaiian Ipu.

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