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Traditional practice

Lomilomi was made famous around the world by Hawaiian tourism, but is also a traditional practice in the neighbouring Polynesian Islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia, Samoa and Tokelau.
Practitioners use the palms, forearms, fingers, knuckles, elbows, knees, feet, even sticks and stones. It may be performed with or without emollient. Lomilomi practices vary by family, Ahupuaʻa (traditional region) and island.
Throughout the Islands there is also a spiritual practice where spiritual healers, Kahuna and Shaman use traditional Lomi-Lomi to exorcise spirits (Aiku/Aitu) from possessed individuals.
Traditionally in ancient Hawaii lomilomi was practiced in four contexts:

  • As a healing practice of native healers — kahuna lāʻau lapaʻau (healers) and kahuna hāhā (diagnosticians)
  • As a luxury and an aid to digestion, especially by the ruling chiefs (aliʻi)
  • As restorative massage within the family
  • By ʻōlohe lua (masters of the Hawaiian martial arts)
  • Adoucit et assouplit la peau

Like all endeavors in old Hawaii, lomilomi was conducted with prayer and intention. Hawaiian kupuna (elder) Auntie Margaret Machado describes lomilomi as « praying » work. Emma Akana Olmstead, a kupuna of Hana, Maui, in the 1930s, said, « When a treatment is to be given, the one who gives the treatment first plucks the herbs to be used. He prays as he picks the herbs. No one should call him back or distract his attention, all should be as still as possible for they do not want the vibration broken. They knew the laws of vibration. They knew the power of the spoken word. They knew Nature. They gathered the vibration of the plentiful. »

Lomilomi In the Hawaiian and Samoan language, the word used traditionally, called lomi, means « to knead, to rub, or soothe; to work in and out, as the paws of a contented cat. » It may also mean « to take and turn, to shift » as in « the sacred shift within you that is inspired by the healing kahuna… » said twice « lomilomi » for emphasis.


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