String Figures as a Shaman's Tool


String in Hawaiian is called a Kaula. Pukui’s (1971) definition is:
Kaula – Rope, cord, string, line, strap, thong; lash or stroke, as of a whip (2 Kor. 11.24); arc of a circle in geometry.
Other interesting definitions that may be related are:
Kaula - Prophet, seer.
Kaula wahine – Prophetess, priestess,

I do not really know what the ancient ones did with the string I was not there but I do know that string has been used in many cultures as the tool of a shaman.

A. Johnston Abraham in his book String Figures (1988: 21, 92-94,) talks about the connection between shaman and string figures.

It has been said that Inuit shamans can control the spirit of string figures and that in Alaska, the Spirit of the String Figure could become the guardian spirit of the shaman.

Two string releases were used as proof of membership among Shamanic societies of the Native Americans of North America.

In the Gilbert Islands certain String Figures were made as part of a ceremony of "Lifting the Head," upon a person’s death to help that person’s spirit pass on to the other world.

In Hawaii there is a string figure called Kauhale A Limaloa (Dickey 1928: 147-148) whose chant talks about the demigod Limaloa who builds ghostly houses in the mirage of Mana, an area near Polihale (Kaua’i island) which is the leaping off place of the spirits. One Hawaiian person that we spoke with believes that these houses are the waiting places for the spirits in their journey.

Trained in the Kupua tradition (King 1990) we have worked with the string for divination, manifestation, and journeying. We have felt the energy of the string and have seen the aura of the string expand when focus is directed to it. Everything is alive and responsive. String figures when performed with intent are an ancient ritual that helps one tap into the memories of our ancestors. It can help us to know who we are and more…

© 2011-20 Lois & Earl Stokes