na lomilomi…

On Thursday night, we got the opportunity to spend the evening at the Papakolea Community Center watching the practitioners of Na Lomilomi o Papakolea, a group of practitioners of healing massage, have their monthly workshop and do a little healing work on each other.

In true community fashion, the group was about an hour and a half late, but the spaghetti dinner with Leonard’s malasadas for dessert was worth the wait. Undoubtedly, it was the most I’d eaten in one sitting since arriving in Hawaii.

After dinner, they set to work preparing a foot soak for members of the group. The foot soak was intended to pull the toxins out of the feet of the practitioners, and Auntie Ethel was trying out a new herb.

One of the practitioners was in charge of shuttling back and forth with fresh rounds of hot tea, and the participants sat with their feet soaking for an hour. Jeff and a helpful young assistant prepared numerous rounds of three different teas, running from participant to participant topping off the tea surrounding their feet in the plastic dishpans on the floor.


What a good night for a warm foot soak too, one of the coldest I’ve felt in Hawaii. It was raining all evening, and a cold breeze was blowing from one side of the community center to the other through the open doors at each end.

Wrapped in our jackets, our group of MSW students watched the workshop and wished we had warm pots of tea to stick our feet in too.

After the foot soak, each participant got a foot massage with olive oil with cedar in it, a gift, Auntie Ethel kept reminding us, from a First Nations tribe from Canada.

The tribe had sneaked the cedar through customs, a forbidden item, but couldn’t bring enough to make a tea and instead infused the oil as a gift to the Na Lomilomi group.

The practitioners examined the water surrounding each participant’s feet, and pointed to debris in the water as the toxins that had been sucked out. I think the real healing is more likely in the warmth of the tea than in the removal of toxins, but whatever the explanation, most of the participants were already feeling the effects of the healing ritual as we said our goodbyes and headed home to town, back down the mountain in the dark rainy night.

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About smalltownskyline

would-be photographer, ethnographer, historian, sociologist, activist, dreamer, humanitarian...
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