Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hawaiian Seed Beads

This is a Hawaiian Good Luck Bracelet. A treasure found at a yard sale, it came with a card listing the names of the seeds. Starting at the top: Lucky bean, Job's Tears, Sea Bean, Mauna aloa and wili wili, Macadamia, Elephant Ear and Job's Tears, Goat Eye, Hawaiian Pearl and Sand Box.
Kukui nuts make the most striking Seed Bead Necklaces. The Candlenut tree, Aleurites molluccana grows all throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Allegedly very easy to recognize (we'll verify that!) as it grows to 90 feet in height with a smooth straight trunk for 40 or so feet until it branches out! This nut was of great value to the early Hawaiians for light, navigation, fishing, tanning, dyeing, food, medicine, catching birds, ornamentation and even for the detection of criminals! Can you imagine all that? The nut provides an oil which was used for light, the oil was also used on fish nets to tan them and hinder decay. The nut and the root were used as a dye of fabric and even for tattooing. Poisonous if eaten raw, if you roast the kernels with salt and red pepper it makes a relish that was served with the dry ink bag of squid. Used for skin diseases and also as a purge for infections. To catch criminals, the Kahuna or priests would start a fire. Kernels of a kukui nut would be thrown in the fire while the Kahuna uttered prayers usually asking for the thief to be killed unless he stepped forward. Once the culprit made himself known, as they usually did, then he would be fined heavily.

As the white man came to the Islands the importance of kukui in the economy declined. The oil was used similar to a linseed oil and was gathered in large quantities and exported off the Islands. At one time as much as 10,000 gallons of Kukui oil was exported. What a history this plant/nut has. I wear my jet black kukui nut necklaces with pride and am eager to see this majestic tree on our Hawaiian tour.


Anonymous said...

Looks like you are preparing for a treasure hunt in the 50th State. Have a wonderful time -jp

Unknown said...

Thank you! I have a string of these and always wondered what they were and where they came from.