Kalei's Kahuna Nui - Tucson News Now

Kalei's Kahuna Nui

Honolulu, HI (KOLD) - Her full name is indeed a mouthful.

Tyler-Marie Kalei Hulu Mamo O Kohala Mau.

The name refers to a lei made of feathers picked from the now extinct Hawaiian Mamo bird. At one point in history, the black and gold feathers were plucked then turned into clothing and head dressing worn by Hawaiian royalty, including King Kamehameha.

It’s fitting then that the name came in a dream by a woman who might as well be royalty within the Mau family tree.

“She’s kind of on a pedestal,” said Mau. “She carries our family’s legacy.”

 She is Leimomi Mo’okini Lum. Mau’s great grand-aunt.

“She’s actually, I wouldn’t want to say magical, but she is.”

Magical because, according to Mau, she saw visions of Arizona’s fiercest outside hitter before Mau ever entered the world.

“When someone is born into our family,” said Mau, “she dreams about it before we even know. Then she says, ‘this is what is what your child is going to be and represent in our life and in our family.’”

But Aunty Momi is more than just a seer. She is the Kahuna Nui, the Chief Priestess, of Mo’okini Heiau, a 1500 year-old temple located on the northern end of the Big Island of Hawaii.

“It’s a really powerful place,” said Mau. “It’s kind of like our church. It’s very, very sacred.”

The temple is a healing place now, a far cry from its original purpose when it was built by Kuamo’o Mo’okini in 480 AD. Stories passed down through oral history tell tales of human sacrifice to the war god Ku.  But as generations passed, the temple was rededicated. In 1978 Aunty Momi, a direct descendent of Mo’okini, stepped away from a career as the first woman police officer in Honolulu and became just the 7th woman Kahuna Nui in the temple’s 1500 year history. It was then that she dedicated the temple to the children of the islands.

“We all go there. Try to go there once a year,” said Mau. “But our family is traditional in that type of way. Hawaiian.”

To call Aunty Momi spiritual is to scratch the surface of this priestess who also happens to be Catholic. As Mau describes, her abilities stem from a place of pure faith, from a culture and tradition cast aside by unrelenting time.

“The mana,” said Mau. “We call it divine power. It’s like strength for our family. I don’t necessarily think that it’s something that anyone can just believe in. I think it has to be something you have to be brought up to understand.”

When Arizona opens up play against Kansas State Friday in the Wahine Invitational, it will be the first and last time Mau plays in her home state while wearing a Wildcat uniform.

“It’s actually one of the most important times playing in my life,” she said.

Mau has been nursing an injured shoulder and back. There’s a chance she may not be ready to go. But then being back home may be just the rejuvenation Mau needs to fly like the bird Aunty Momi saw in her from the very beginning.

“The people that I do it for are all back home,” said Mau. “There’s nothing I want more.”

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