& The Pahupu
Hawaiian Chopper, May/June 2005, Issue #6
early 1700s, the high chiefs of the Hawaiian Islands were at constant
war with each other. Each had their own warrior elite, and every
member of the warrior brotherhood were tattooed in the same way
to distinguish themselves from the commoners.
the U.S. Marine Corps, a Private wears no stripes but is given the
opportunity to earn one and to continue adding to it. Civilians
may not know what the stripes mean, but a fellow US Marine would
definitely know whether to salute or be saluted to. Likewise, certain
elite groups of Hawaiian warriors wore tattoos that communicated
their rank, family lineage, personal accomplishments and other information
that could easily be read by someone who understood the code. New
tattoos could always be added to existing ones, thereby creating
a further record of the warrior’s life as time progressed.
act of getting a tattoo required a warrior to be brave, proud and
committed. The process is extremely painful and the badge must be
worn with pride forever. The tattoo confirmed entry into the brotherhood,
and loyalty to it meant that the tattoo also acted as a shield because
the warrior was no longer an individual but part of a group and
fiercely protected by it.
warrior life held the promise of glory and great reward, but it
was also very strict and brutal. A sentry who neglected his post
could end up having his brains bashed out by a superior or executed
by strangulation. A warrior captured by the enemy could be gutted
like a pig and have every joint in his body dislocated while still
alive so that he could be bundled up and carried off the field as
a sacrifice to enemy war gods.
groups tattooed themselves differently, and one very prominent example
is Chief Kahekili (“The Thunderer”) of Maui . He took
his name from a Hawaiian thunder god, and as a permanent reminder
of this, he had one side of his body tattooed black from head to
toe. Likewise, the most elite of his warriors were also tattooed
this way, and were known as the Pahupu (“Cut in Two.”)
warriors were celebrated by their communities, who looked to them
for protection from the Big Island armies that often invaded Maui
. Through discipline and sacrifice, the Pahupu forged their minds
and bodies to insure that they were always ready to serve their
king and community.
Kahekili conquered Oahu in 1782, he stationed many of his Pahupu
warriors along the north shore from Waialua all the way to Kuaola
and Kaneohe . Today, there still stands a heiau (temple)
atop a hill overlooking Waimea Bay know as Pu’u O Mahuka.
It was from this vantage point that the notorious Chief Koi and
his chapter of the Pahupu stood guard over that corner of the island.
Today, a short hike down a dirt trail will offer you a beautiful
view of the ocean and beaches below.
summary, the Pahupu tattoo style was truly unique among all others,
and it’s not a style that is seen on even the most hardcore of today’s
outlaws. It was a style that set them apart even among other warriors,
and it will probably be a very long time before the world sees anything
like it ever again.
Chong is a member of Worldwide Motorcycle Club and is the owner
of Dreamworld Tattoo
in Waimanalo. Hawaiian Chopper is the owner/publisher of Gerald
Chong's article, Kahekili & The Pahupu. Mahalo nui for the use
of this article on DaBarefootWarrior.com!