The Mana Cards
About ten years ago whilst on Hawaii I came across the Mana Cards: The Power of Hawaiian Wisdom and immediately bought the set I still use. First published in 1998, they consist of forty-four excellently designed cards which present symbols, images, and wisdom based on the spiritual, cultural, and Huna traditions of Hawai'i. They can be used for divination, meditation, learning and insight. In addition, there is also a wonderful 194 page book packed full of fascinating information which accompanies the cards.
I have used the cards as a source of inspiration, drawing a single card at a time and meditating on it’s meaning and symbology as well as gaining insights into the lore and knowledge based on Hawaiian tradition. The cards can also be used a divination tool and guidance on various approaches are provided.
Being curious I was keen to find out more about the person who developed these wonderful cards and to find out more about what inspired her to do so. I was fortunate to make contact and find out more and in brief here is what I found.
Who developed the Mana Cards?
The cards were developed by Catherine Becker PhD. She is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Born in Buffalo, New York, many events led her to Hawaii, where she now lives on Big Island.
What are the Mana Cards?
The Hawaiian concept of mana is one of a spiritual force that flows through the universe and animates all things. Each of the Mana Cards has a Hawaiian and English name, an image that symbolizes is essence (surrounded by its various kino-lau--forms), a brief chant that helps to activate the message in the user’s memory, a teaching based on the meaning of the symbol in Hawaiian culture, and an interpretation that can help to reveal the potential of the symbol’s meaning.
The interpretations have been written to make the symbol’s deeper meaning accessible to anyone, anywhere, who are open to different perspectives.
What was the inspiration behind the Mana cards?
A key inspiration was to preserve, honour and share the information about Hawaiian culture. The cards provide tourists and those with an interest in Hawaiian culture a portal to its stories and symbols which they can use to mediate their own paths, relationships, and life situation.
Catherine sought to create a divination system which was based on Hawaiian symbology and lore. Divination (hailona) was an important part of ancient Hawaiian culture. Traditionally divination was practiced by kahuna hailona (an expert who is trained in reading signs). The kahuna hailona would use a range of methods. These included: lot casting, dice throwing, dream interpretation, observing the behavior of animals and other natural phenomena. Catherine herself had previously used divination methods to help make better sense out of her own situation.
Each card has an image of the taro plant on the back of each card. Taro was the staple diet of ancient Hawaiians and the plant had a sacred significance. Hawaiian legends tell of how Papa and Wakea (the earth mother and sky father) first gave birth to the islands, then the taro, then the first human. Taro is sometimes referred to as the old sibling of the Native Hawaiian people. It symbolises the important relationship that the Hawaiians have with the land. It is an example of aloha aina - love of the land – in the same way one would a love a family member.
Catherine’s vision was to link the symbols of ancient Hawaii to a communication system that would be part of a larger celebration of Hawaiian cultural renewal and the restoration of pono (divine purpose and righteousness to the islands). The symbols are seen as a way to perpetuate reverence for taro, Hawaiian culture, and the malama ‘aina (loving care for the land).
How were the wonderful designs developed?
The designs were painted by artist Doya Nardin. Through an almost coincidental incident Catherine came across an image in a magazine of the goddess Pele painted by Doya in 1988. The painting was entitled, "Pele Honua Mea" (Pele of the Sacred Earth). As a result of seeing that image, Catherine made contact with Doya and they began to work together on the design for the cards whilst at Doya’s homestead on a remote piece of land on the side of Haleakala Volcano on the Island of Maui.
How are the concepts and knowledge from the Islands of Hawaii relevant to others in the world?
The knowledge from Hawaii has universal relevance. Catherine comments: “the Hawaiian practice of treating nature as a beloved family member is key to our survival as a species”.
How do you use the cards personally and do you have a favourite approach?
I asked Catherine how she used the Mana Cards. She commented “the draw I use most frequently is the Kukui draw, which involves selecting and meditating on one card to get deeper insight into a specific question or issue”.
This is an approach I also find extremely valuable – the insights that it provides can be fascinating and profound.
Do you have any 'favourite' cards that particularly resonate with you?
When asked if she had any favourite cards, Catherine commented “I love them all”. Indeed all the cards have their own unique qualities and offer their own insights.
How are other people using the cards? Have you any feedback from users of the cards?
Catherine reports some stories about how others have benefited from using the Mana Cards. This includes: people who have been inspired to move to the islands on a journey of healing after a profound encounter with the cards; the granddaughter of a renowned Hawaii kahuna la‘au lapa’au (a highly trained healer who uses plants) who became interested in learning the healing traditions for her culture after using the cards to gain insight on her relationship with her boyfriend as a teenager; a man in prison who had used the messages and symbol to learn how to mange his anger; and in Japan some schools and healing practitioners have incorporated the teachings of Mana Cards into their curriculums and practices along with Hawaiian language, hula, music, and healing arts. All these provide wonderful examples of how the Mana Cards have touched peoples’ lives in different ways.
What would you say to anyone considering using the Mana cards?
I asked Catherine what she would say to anyone considering using the Mana Cards and she replied: “while the Mana Cards provide a portal into Hawaii and Hawaiian Culture, they are not the same as the place or culture itself. They are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the richness and depth that is Hawaii Nei”.
Where can I get the Mana Cards?
The Mana Cards are available from http://manacards.com If you are interested in learning more about Hawaiian culture and a system for divination and inspiration I would thoroughly recommend delving into the wonderful symbols and archetypes contained in the Mana Cards and the rich seam of knowledge in the well researched book that accompanies the cards. I believe that no matter where we are there is something that we can all learn and use to help us on our individual paths.
I am really grateful to Catherine for producing such wonderful cards and for information she has provided me with.