The Origins of LomiLomi Massage

The Origins of Hawaiian Lomilomi

Many people ask me about the two most popular styles of Hawaiian Lomilomi: ‘traditional’ and ‘temple’. During the course of my research over the last decade, it has been interesting to compare them and see how they were born out of the insights of their founders as well as some highlights of the Hawaiian culture before the kapu (taboo) had been fully lifted.

Until the Hawaiian Renaissance in the mid-1970s, no one cared much about lomi. The Hawaiian language, healing arts, and even hula dances had been suppressed following the arrival of the European colonists in the 1800s, and it took a profound and exciting event to turn things around. This event was the successful round trip sailing of the Hokule‘a voyaging canoe throughout the Pacific triangle using nothing but ancient navigational methods.

Following in this wake, the Hawaiian language was reborn and the healing arts began a renewal. Besides in small circles within families and local communities in the Hawaiian Islands, lomi lomi was emerging and being shared with Westerners for the first time. The two most prominent teachers were Margaret Machado (Big Island) and Abraham Kawai (Kaua‘i). There were many others doing and even teaching lomi lomi, but these two were the first to teach Caucasians, much to the concern of their Hawaiian families and neighbors at that time.

Aunty Mahea at Lomi Lomi Class

Both of these late teachers had Hawaiian blood and authentic cultural gifts as well as Western training. ‘Aunty’ Margaret studied nursing and Christianity but had the mana (gift of power) from her Hawaiian grandfather; and ‘Kahu’ Abraham infused his teachings with his lua martial arts and hula coaching background while marketing heavily in California and Australia. Margaret attracted many California hippies to her Kona beach house in the 1970s shortly after she received her Hawaii Massage License, and she subsequently developed a lomi routine that was strong in Swedish movements, internal cleansing, professional draping, and praise for Jesus. Abraham traveled extensively and hired professional advertising specialists to promote his work, and he developed a sensual style that claimed to induce kundalini orgasms and have its origins in ancient rites of passage.

LomiLomi Massage Training – The Options

About this time ‘holistic well-being’ became a new industry, while health food stores and massage schools began to proliferate. The world had already been exposed to Huna and Max Freedom Long’s books, and was hungry for Hawaiian wisdom. The average seeker was exposed to two primary pathways: Aunty Margaret’s or Kahu Abraham’s. It wasn’t long before these early students became teachers themselves, spreading these two styles throughout the globe.

By 2000, when I published the first edition of Hawaiian Lomilomi – Big Island Massage, Aunty Margaret was still teaching in Kona, and Abraham had developed a large following in Germany, North America, and Australia. The Hawaiian Lomilomi Assn. was founded, and the Hawaiian elders were excited to be sharing their knowledge with earnest seekers and rejoicing in remembering the traditions that they knew from their earlier years. While some became territorial or competitive, and some embellished the ‘magic’ with stories that were not true, most were humble and continued to walk a pono (aligned, righteous) pathway graced with the aloha spirit.

lomilomi massage traditional training

The truth is that much of the old knowledge has been lost forever, and most of it has been modernized with contemporary twists. Whatever style you may be learning, one thing is certain: The Hawaiian cultural traditions, values and protocols must remain an integral part of the delivery of lomilomi if it is to be authentic and effective. I highly recommend studying from many lomilomi teachers as well as journeying to Hawaii to charge your batteries with the mana (personal power) that comes from these beautiful islands.

To learn more about lomilomi styles and teachers you might want to read my updated 3rd edition of Hawaiian Lomi Lomi – Big Island Massage, now available in eBook format with beautiful color photos. For more information click here.