In Tahiti, the marae was the temple shrine. The priests held the mantra formulae which was considered so powerful that if any words were omitted or misplaced disaster and death followed. Like all ancient cultures knowledge passed down through the Polynesians as an oral tradition.
The Tahitians called their mythological past ‘the Night of Tradition” . Po was the land of darkness or underworld and Haiwaiki was the land of spirits in the sky or the ancestral home. Hawaiians called Tahiti the ‘spirit land of Kahiki’ suggesting a mythical land.
The brahmins most supreme were the divine chief (whose geneaology was of the gods), the inspirational priest (the oracle and diviner) and the ceremonial priest (who performed the public ceremonies such as birth, marriage, all kinds of official rituals, installations of chiefs, guru to chiefs, priests and bards, or men and women of rank.)
Education took place in sacred structures, which were sometimes destroyed after use. Certain types of education required complete seclusion, celibacy, fasting, special diet. For example a Marquesan student drank sea foam at his graduation feast to increase wisdom. Student priests would study prayers, chants, invocations and rituals. Students in general studied mythology, genealogy, heraldry, astronomy, navigation, geography, art of composition.
It was said that god Tane fetched his knowledge from the highest heavens in 3 baskets, and so for brahmin students their education or course of study was divided into 3 sections, which lasted from April-Oct with daily sessions from sunrise till noon.
Tane was said to have brought with him 2 stones called foam of the ocean and white sea mist (hence the drinking of foam to absorb their mana.
The Shaman, tribal high priest, the intellectual expert or village magician in Hawaii was called kahuna. It is likely that the kahuna played a similar role in all Polynesian tribes with only slight differences and different names. The kahunas were the intelligence behind the ruling king, in the same way that brahmins were to the kings of ancient India.
There was the kahuna nui who was the community high priest. There was the kahuna makaula who was the prophet or seer and could interpret nature’s signs. The kahuna kilo was the astrologer. The kahuna puuone was the engineer, whose job included arranging the water system in the village. The spiritualist was called the kahuna po’iuhane. The kahuna lua was a master of boxing and wrestling. The kahuna hookelewa was the ocean navigator. The kahuna kalaiwaa directed the building of canoes. The kahuna kuauhau recounted genealogies. The kahuna paaoao knew how to avert evil from unborn children. The kahuna hanaaloha arranged love affairs. The kahuna anaana prayed for people after death.
The medical kahunas had knowledge of medicines and poisons. The kahuna ha’i-ha’i would set broken bones. The kahuna lapaau laau was the herb doctor. The kahuna lomilomi was expert in massage.The kahuna hoohanau was the obstetrician. The kahuna ha ha was the diagnostician. If he found no physical cause for the complaint he would send the patient to the kahuna nui for spiritual aid.