Monday, July 21, 2008

Aikane and the Gay Love of Hawaii's Kings

Polena pa'a 'ia iho ke aloha i kuleana like ai kaua.

(In love tightly bound, you and I share equal rights.)

Okay, get this.

In 1779 Captain Cook was the first non-Polynesian to explore Hawaii.

His crew kept journals that included some amazing revelations:

They learned of concubines (often male) whose business, as the journals put it, "is to commit the Sin of Onan upon the old King" - a reference to oral sex. "It is an office that is esteemed honourable among them," continued the shocked log writer, "and they have frequently asked us on seeing a handsome young fellow if he was not an Ikany [aikane] to some of us."

The Hawaiian word aikane referred to a whole rank of people who were granted special political and social status as a result of a sexual role with the royalty, and who increased their mana, or spiritual power, this way, since royals were believed to be descended from the gods.

Cook's sailors recorded the kings of Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island all having male aikane. "A shocking inversion of the laws of nature, they bestow all those affections upon them that were intended for the other sex," gasped one log entry. "They talk of this infernal practice with all the indifference in the world."

To underscore the point, the great uniter of the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha, even kept his own aikane, according to the ship's logs: "He with many of his attendants took up quarters on board the ship for the Night: among them is a Young Man of whom he seems very fond, which does not in the least surprise us, as we have had opportunities before of being acquainted with a detestable part of his Character which he is not in the least anxious to conceal."

WOW. Putting aside the judgement of the European prudes who wrote about it, the aikane and their special role with the Kings of Hawaii are a really great bit of Hidden Gay History!

Thanks, Matthew!

Here's more about the historical tradition of Aikane - a website where the Petroglyph image above and the top quote was from.

The other quotes included are from an article in the latest "The Out Traveler" magazine, adapted from the book "The Out Traveler: Hawaii" by Matthew Link, Alyson Books, 2008.

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