Oli: Hawaiian Chants for Wisdom, Well-Being and Preservation
For thousands of years until the 1820s, Hawaiians relied on story-telling for remembering – for wisdom-keeping. Before the missionaries applied a Latin-based alphabet to the Hawaiian language, Hawaiians passed down stories of history and myth from generation to generation through song, hula and chants – oli.
Through oli the Hawaiians recorded information – births and deaths, tales of love and triumph, genealogy – and preserved prayers. Hawaiians of every social rank, from the maka’aiana – common people – to the royal ali’i, composed poetic chants, an ancient tradition that is unique to Hawaiian culture.
Depending on who heard a chant and how they interpreted its double meanings (koana), the oli beautifully depicted events and people through imagery and themes in many different ways. This use of koana proved especially significant when the missionaries arrived in Hawai’i and tried to end the practice of oli and hula.
Because of koana, Hawaiians were able to compose rich chants that seemed plain but carried deeper meanings amongst one another – a practice that allowed Hawaiians to share their most intimate thoughts and emotions.
There are different types of chants that are performed in various styles, from fast and rhythmic to soft and drawn-out. They are beautiful, sorrowful, joyful, proud. Oli carries a great spiritual energy, mana, and connects us to our ancestors, allowing us to see the world through their eyes and bring their values into our modern lives.
In our lomi lomi healing retreats, oli plays a significant role in connecting us with one another, with our practice, and with our ancestors.
In ancient times, lomi lomi practitioners learned to speak with the spirit within each plant or stone. From the ‘aina we request assistance with our healing work, approaching injury and disdain from a holistic healing perspective rooted in the wisdom of our ancestors and in Aloha.
Healing chants and prayers offer us today a technique for connecting to our inner wisdom and becoming receptive to intuitive guidance, so that we can bring alignment to the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional levels of the person we seek to heal.
This chant is about life, health and well-being.
“E Ola Kakou” expresses that we are life, we are vitality, and when we come together with our knowledge in Aloha, we are united in divine guidance.