And certainly, in the eating, drinking, singing and talking together, the ties of man to fellow man are strengthened in the mutual regard and love summed up as aloha. In any culture or time, feasting entails more than surface conviviality. Eating together in leisure and relaxation makes the unconscious a little more accessible. This does not necessarily apply to the business lunch! External pressures of work, worry and responsibilities lessen or are laid aside for a time. While the physical "inner man" is being satisfied, the psychological "inner man" to some extent emerges. People know each other on a somewhat deeper, more honest level, when they "wine and dine" together.
Among Hawaiians, already finely attuned to human relationships, the feast may be a more than ordinarily effective means of getting to know the real person behind the social-conventional facade. Hawaiian mythology tells that Wakea and Papa "sky" and "earth" gave birth both to islands and children. Mystically, man and taro, were the same. Hawaiians believed in "magic by association" of words, appearance or even sound. The speckled fowl was called pulepule. Pulepule was also a synonym for pupule insane. Therefore, this was the chicken sacrificed to cure a pupule person.
Use of the Plymouth Rock had an even more intricate rationale. This meaning-upon-meaning is what makes literal translation of Hawaiian phrases difficult—if not impossible. The first organized Protestant missionaries had arrived to teach the "Sandwich Island natives" a new faith and a new way of life. Other missionaries—Catholic, Mormon, representatives of various Protestant sects—followed. In the years of conversion, Hawaiians were introduced to a new tenet: the religious fast.
It was a startling precept—that the new God actually liked to have men be hungry! For Hawaiians had always invoked their gods by feasting. To go without food deliberately—if anyone had ever considered anything so foolish—would certainly have displeased the gods.
The gods themselves were ritually. Abstain from food? How odd! Yet, converts did accept fasting. Some enthusiasts gave up all religious feasting and substituted the fast.
Others, fence straddlers of their day, fasted first, and then had a feast. This is especially true in the Pentecostal faiths, in the small, locally-established Protestant sects with Hawaiian congregations, and among Mormons. Sometimes a minister fasts for someone in his flock. Always, fasting is accompanied by prayer. Sometimes a fast is only for a few meals. If you have a very sick person in the house, you fast all day for him You can fast and go about your normal business. You can fast and enjoy life. In contrast with this matter-of-fact short fast is the vigil described by the Hawaiian minister of the church her family founded.
She tells that:. I never went out to eat or drink water.
On Saturday I came out and had a meal. I went back in on Sunday and stayed another week. I did this for three weeks. When I went in, I weighed pounds. I lost And she pulled through I gave God thanks. I put my mind so strongly in His love, and I trusted Him The psalms are my standbys. I started on the First Psalm, and every day I read and studied a certain psalm, and I began to not crave food Oh, sometimes at night I would dream that someone had brought me water I would eat and drink in my dream. Next morning I would feel full. She then told the parable of the loaves and fishes.
The 12 baskets of bread that remained after the miracle she compared to the people who came "hungry for the Word and physically hungry, too. Thus, in her own fasting, "God provided the Bread of Life" that satisfied both the soul and the hunger pangs of the body. Without use of such metaphors, numerous Hawaiians, lay and clergy, speak of "fasting and praying when we need Divine guidance". See wehe i ka Paipala. Why should a food-loving, pleasure-loving people who once fed their gods adopt anything as ascetic and self-denying as fasting? Explanation is, at best, speculative. One fact that sparks speculation is that fasting and feasting have certain similarities.
Dreaming is more vivid and prolific. For the "feaster," full, fat and content, warm feelings for his fellow feasters usually emerge. Or, hostility, if, deep-down he really hates the man across the table. For the fasting person, "buried" thoughts of parents, bygone loves, a forgotten experience—these are only a few examples—may surface. In the religious fast, the mind is already attuned to the supernatural. Previously repressed thoughts are therefore likely to appear as God-given help, or may even find climax in an ecstatic religious experience.
Fasting and feasting also have in common a mind-and-body feeling of satiety with pleasure, calm content—or even euphoria. These feelings come with changing body chemistry.
In the first stages of fasting, the body metabolizes its stores of sugar. This process lasts approximately 48 hours. During this initial sugar-metabolizing period, all the miseries of hunger are felt. After the stored-up sugars are used, the body starts to metabolize fats and, at first, very small amounts of protein.
As the fats are metabolized, chemical products of this metabolic process appear. These are collectively titled "ketone bodies.
The fasting person feels nicely full. He also feels happy, perhaps buoyed up on a tide of well-being.
In an extended fast, physical deterioration results as protein is used up. But, if water intake is adequate, fasting after the first 48 hours is not just physically and emotionally bearable, but is a pleasant or even ecstatic experience. The minister who reported her long fast expressed this parallel course of changing body chemistry and psychological-spiritual euphoria. Some of her statements are significant: "I had plenty of fat to use up. We can speculate that Hawaiians may have adopted fasting as a dramatic proof of conversion. For, in refusing food, they cast off the old gods so closely linked with food.
We have no sure "answers". Merely theoretical surmises.
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However, it seems evident that fasting contradicts a basic Hawaiian philosophy that chose pleasure rather than pain, self-gratification rather than self-denial. The early Hawaiian made his contact with the supernatural through satisfying, rather than depriving himself of food.
Self-sacrifice in ritual suicide was not practiced. Penitential starvation and flagellation were unknown. Self-mutilation was pupule insane behavior.
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The body was to be fed, massaged, molded to beauty, taught the arts of love—and, in general, enjoyed. If, in the past, fasting was an obvious, observable way of disclaiming old gods and old ways associated with them, it does not always follow that the modern, fasting Hawaiian denies his cultural past. Among Center clients and associates 2 are many Hawaiians who fast.
These include persons who believe "being Hawaiian is bad" and persons who are genuinely proud of being Hawaiian. The fast is today simply an accepted religious practice. This, sometimes accompanied by wild, lawless behavior and the uncovering of the genitals, was done because the mourner was believed " pupule " or "crazy" with grief. Ministers of various faiths met with the Hawaiian Culture Study Committee; others were interviewed by the writer. In addition, relatives of Hawaiian staff members recounted their experiences and views on fasting.
Also to destroy. To consume.