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A milo leaf floats in the hands of healer Mahealani Kaiwikuamo'okekuaokalani Henry.photo by Linny Morris Cunningham
Vol. 8, No. 3
June/July 2005


The Spirit Well (Page 4)

Aunty Margaret Machado

At eighty-eight, Auntie Margaret Kalehuamakanoeluuluuanapali Machado is known throughout Hawaii as a true kahuna lomilomi. Although currently wheelchair-bound and frail, Auntie Margaret received me warmly one voggy afternoon to teach me about this now-world-famous form of Hawaiian massage. We met at her house, nestled among the coffee and macadamia nut trees above the town of Captain Cook.

No discussion of modern lomilomi, or Hawaiian healing in general, can go on very long without mention of Auntie Margaret; she is partly, perhaps even largely, responsible for the survival of the technique and for teaching many of its contemporary practitioners. In 1965, Aunty Margaret became the first lomilomi teacher certified by the state of Hawaii; in 1973, she was among the first to teach non-Hawaiians the ancient art.

True lomilomi is more than just massage. When Aunty Margaret looks at a patient, she seems to see something most of us don’t, perceives subtle imbalances, blockages in a person’s energy field. She’s now retired, but her daughter Nerita carries on the tradition. I watch them do a quick lomilomi demonstration together; the willing volunteer is my fiancée, Andrea. Nerita seats her upright, facing Aunty Margaret, whose eyes snap into sudden focus as she scans Andrea’s face. Nerita stands behind Andrea, and before she touches her, bows her own head for a short pule, or prayer to Ke Akua, to God. Aunty Margaret was orphaned at a young age and raised by missionary parents, and she prays to the Christian god rather than to Hawaiian gods, but the intent is the same: to call on spirit to guide the healer and infuse the touch with love. Nerita begins to massage with rhythmic, gentle strokes along Andrea’s neck. Auntie Margaret directs, "A little to the left, a little more..." The distinctions are too fine for me to detect. Though she speaks in fragments these days, the few phrases Auntie Margaret repeats illustrate the underlying principles of lomilomi. "You have to give a lei of light," she says. "Gotta bring love. More love."

The actual massage is only one part of lomilomi, Nerita explains. There’s also setting intention, establishing trust, offering the pule and using hooponopono to release one’s kaumaha, or burdens, by releasing them each evening toward the setting sun and asking forgiveness. Though Nerita’s strokes were gentle, Andrea’s face has changed after just a few minutes: it’s flushed and filled with gratitude.