Gods and Myths of Hawai`i
Hawai`i Resource Library
The Gods of Old
Hawai'i were many, told in Mele (song) Oli (chant) and Hula (dance).
Each Island had its own variation. Here are some of them. see: King
David Kalakaua. 1888: The Legends and Myths of Hawai'i, Charles E.
Tuttle Co., Library of Congress 72-77519
"Rising upright" God of war and power and the Sunrise. The sons of
Chiefs were dedicated to Ku to assure that they grow up to be great
worriors. Ku is the master God, his wife Hina the earth mother. At a
Heiau dedicated to Ku the offering of human sacrifice, usually a chief
captured in war, his mana (spirit and power) would be preserved by his
ceremonious death and transferred to those who partook in his flesh. The
priests and only those of rank (ali'i) would attend the prayer as the
body was place upon an alter strapped to a log, a fish hook in the mouth
of the victim to symbolize the drawing up of the land.
of the woodsman, creative parent of man and all other living creatures.
Identified with sunlight, fresh water, and other life-giving things. The
forests were sacred to Kane. Life was sacred to Kane...no human
sacrifice. The Kumulipo ONE Chant of Creation) describes: Kane, assisted
by Ku and Lono, opposed by Kanaloa, makes the heaven, earth, sun, moon
and stars . All is dark and chaotic (po). On O'ahu between Kualoa and
Kaneohe on a red hill at Mokapu , comes the light (ao) and man where the
red is mixed with bluish and black soil. He is call Huli-honua "made out
of earth". Kane's affair with Hina produced the first man. The first man
noticed that his shadow always clinged to him. He falls asleep and when
he awakens, a beautiful woman lies by his side. He calls her
Ke-aka-huli-lani "the shadow from heaven". Each Hawaiian family
worshiped Kane under the name of their own Aumakua "spirit in the form
of an animal or bird". The spirit of Kane is everwhere.
Lono: God of agriculture, farming rain, and peace. Associated with
clouds, yet dwells in the water. At Heiau dedicated to Lono the Kahuna
(priests) would pray for rain, abundant crops or relief from sickness or
trouble. Offerings to him took the form of pigs, taro, sweet potatoes,
and kapa. He was honored at the annual Makahiki celebrations during
which time, war was Kapu (forbidden).
"leaning down" Sunset. Wife of Ku with the power of growth and
reproduction. Through the woman must all pass into life. Goddess of tapa
beating and women's work, had an affair with Kane that produced man
(kanaka). Hina's affairs become the example for the polygamous nature of
Hawaiians. Her offspring become the lesser Gods and spirits.
The squid God, was looked upon with distrust. God of the sea and in some
parts of Hawai'i a rival of Kane. Kanaloa was the leader of the first
company of spirits placed on earth after earth was separated from
heaven. These spirits, spit out by the Gods, were not allowed to drink
awa (intoxicating liquor) and rebelled. Naturally they were defeated and
cast down into the underworld, land of Po, region of departed spirits.
As with Kane, Kanaloa make a man but this man was made of stone. In
revenge, Kanaloa seduced the wife (Ke-aka-huli-lani) of the first man
made by Kane. For this, man and woman are banished from Mokapu (eden).
Kanaloa is responsible for man's troubles and sickness.
Pele, The Fire Goddess: Haumea waiting for her
child to be born, was told by the elders of her village that a "spirit
child" will be born to you on a night when the earth shakes, lighting
splits the sky and thunder rolls down the valley. That night arrived and
Haumea went into a cave and came forth with a child. They named her
Pele was different from her brothers and sisters. She
would not play with them in the water. Her uncle, Lonomakua was the
"keeper of the flame". he knew all of the secrets of fire, but till now
had no one to pass this knowledge to. When Pele was a few days old, he
saw the reflection of fire in her eyes.
The island Pele and her village were living on was being
consumed by frequent volcanic eruptions. The villagers and Pele's
jealous sister Namaka blamed Pele and Lonomakua for this. Banished from
the island, Pele and some of her sisters and brothers, who loved her,
sailed away. The amakua (guardian) shark god Kamohoali'i safe guarded
Pele's journey. Lonomakua gave Pele a magic stick "Pa'oa" to help her
find fire at her new home. Her mother gave Pele a magic egg.
For many months Pele followed a star from the northeast,
which shown brighter than the rest, and migrated toward it. One morning,
Pele awoke to the smell of something familiar in the air. In the
distance could be seen a high mountain with a smoky haze hiding its
peak. Pele knew she had found her new home. She named the island
Pele, carrying her magic stick Pa'oa, went up to the
mountain where a part of the earth collapsed into the ground. She and
placed the stick into the ground. Pele called this place Kilauea. Inside
the Kilauea Crater was a large pit. She named it Halema'uma'u, maumau
being the fern jungle surround the volcano. Halema'uma'u would be her
There was a fire God living on Kilauea named 'Ailaau
(forest-eater). He and Pele both wanted Kilauea for their home. They
started throwing fire balls at each other causing considerable damage. 'Ailaau
fled and still hides in the caverns under the earth. Pele alone would
rule the Island of Hawai'i. The people of the island loved and respected
the Goddess Pele. The egg her mother gave Pele hatched into a beautiful
girl. Pele named her new sister, Hi'iaka'i-ka-poli-o-Pele (Hi'iaka of
the bosom of Pele). Kamohoali'i, the shark god taught Hi'iaka the art of
Pele fell in love with a man she saw in a dream. His
name was Lohi'au, a chief of the island of Kaua'i. Pele sent her sister
Hi'iaka to fetch Lohi'au on Kaua'i to bring him back to Hawai'i to live
with Pele. Hi'iaka would have forty days to bring Lohi'au back or Pele
would punish the girl by hurting Hi'iaka's girl friend Hopoe. Upon
reaching Kaua'i, Hi'iaka found Lohi'au dead. She quickly rubbed his body
with herbs and chanted to the Gods for help; bringing the young chief of
Kaua'i back to life. Grateful for Hi'iaka's help, Lohi'au agreed to
return with her to the Big Island.
The forty days had passed. Pele suspected that Hi'iaka
and Lohi'au had fallen in love and were not coming back. In her fury,
Pele caused an eruption which turned Hopoe into stone. On here return to
Hawai'i with Lohi'au, Hi'iaka found Hopoe, a statue in stone. Hi'iaka,
filled with sadness and anger decided to take revenge. Leading Lohi'au
to the edge of the Halema'uma'u crater where Pele could see them,
Hi'iaka put her arms around Lohi'au and embraced him. Furious, Pele
covered Lohi'au with lava and flames.
The two sisters, anger subsided, were remorseful. One
lost a friend the other a lover. Pele decided to bring Lohi'au back to
life to let him choose which sister he would love. Pele was sure Lohi'au
would choose her. Lohi'au chose Hi'iaka. Pele, with aloha, gave the two
lovers her blessing and Hi'iaka and Lohi'au sailed back to Kaua'i.
Pele still lives on Hawai'i where she rules as the fire
Goddess of the volcanoes. The smell of sulphur reminds the natives that
she is still there in her home, Halema'uma'u. Her fiery lava building a
new island to the south, still submerged, named Loahi.
The people of Hawai'i still melo o Pele (sing and chant
for Pele) and Kilauea.
"E ola mau,
e Pele e!
Long life to
Kamapua`a, The Hog Child: was born on Kaua'i of the
union of the Goddess Hina and a handsome Kaua'i chief named Kahiki-ula.
The Kumulipo, Chant of Creation describes the birth of the half God,
half Hog child:
was of great size and with it he dug the earth,
He dug until
he raised a great mound,
He raised a
hill for his Gods,
A hill, a
precipice in front,
offspring of a pig that was born."
Kamapua'a has the ability to change into many forms. As
a giant pig, he has supernatural strength and the ability to destroy
farms and crops. Because he is a hog, he is pursued to be used as
sacrifice or to be eaten.
Kamapua'a's affair with the Fire Goddess Pele produces a
child that becomes the ancestor of the commoner class. Kamapua'a gave
Kamehameha and his troops safe passage throught the forest at Nuuanu
after which he defeated the Chiefs of O'ahu at the Pali.
Mau'i, The Trickster: Mau'i was the son of Hina and a
man named Akalana. He was conceived after Hina, while looking for
seaweed, found a man's loincloth on the beach and put it on. She fell
asleep and on awakening Mau'i was born.
The exploits of Mau'i are many. Mau'i's first feat was
getting fire from the mud hens while they were roasting bananas. From a
mud hen he learned that fire is made by rubbing sticks together.
Mau'i next stopped the sun from moving so fast. Mau'i
was sitting on the trunk of a large tree and lassoed the sun's rays as
the sun as it came up. The sun pleaded for its life and finally agreed
that the days shall be long in summer and short during the winter
While still a child, one day Mau'i went fishing with his
brothers. A big fish took his magical hook and for two days, Mau'i
battled with this fish. The fish transformed in to land. As the land was
finally drawn to his canoe, the line broke and the fish vanished. The
land that was brought to the surface is the Hawaiian Islands. The
islands are separated by water because Mau'i did not pull the land all
the way out of the water.
Mau'i Lifts the Sky:
Long ago the sky rested on the earth. Plants and bushes
flattened their leaves and pushed and pushed, raising the sky a little.
Still the world was dim and dark for the sun could not be seen. Still
men were creeping and crawling about in darkness.
"This is not good!" said Mau'i. He braced himself and
pushed the sky up to the tree tops. "Now men can stand and walk about."
Still the world was dim and dark. "I'll push it higher," Mau'i cried. He
braced himself and tossed the sky up to the mountain tops. There, that
was better! But still the world was dim and dark. "One more push is
needed!" Maui said, and lifted with his mighty strength. He tossed the
sky up where it is today.
Now the sun could come bringing light and warmth.
Sometimes the clouds come low and rest upon the mountains. Rain pours
down. But not for long, for the sky knows if it presses on the earth as
in the old days, Mau'i will come again and toss it up so high, the sky
may never come back!
Why birds can be seen:
Long ago birds were invisible. Men could hear the
whir of their wings and listen to their songs, but the birds
themselves no one could see - no one, except Mau'i. One day a
visitor came from another island and challenged Maui to a boasting
contest. A crowd gathered and listened with delight as each man
boasted of his island—its mountains, waterfalls, and forests.
"I must win!" thought Mau'i, and aloud he said,
"I'll prove to you that we have something here that you have never
dreamed of." Secretly he called the birds. They lighted all about on
trees and bushes and filled the air with song. The boastful visitor
was silent while the crowd listened in wonder. "Spirits!" they
whispered. At last, using his mighty power, Mau'i caused them all to
see the little feathered singers.
The boastful man exclaimed, "O Mau'i, you have won!
In my island there is no such wonder."
Ever since that day birds may be seen as well as
Mau'i's wife Kumulama was abducted by Pe'ape'a-maka-walu,
the eight eyed bat. Mau'i learned to fashion a kite out of leaves and
the ieie vine on which he flew through the air and rescued his wife from
the bat. Mau'i cut of the bats head and ate its eyes in revenge.
Finally Mau'i went to Waipio valley on he Big Island of
Hawai'i where the Gods Kane and Kanaloa are having a party roasting
bananas. Mau'i tried to steal the bananas and had his brains bashed in.
The red colors of the rainbow were formed by Mau'i's blood.
KAHILI, Symbol of Power
Halihali mai ‘oe i ka po‘e lahui Hawai‘i. Ka ala nui
Ea like me ke ka‘awila. Imua a i hope. Ma lela no hana like kakou, a‘ole
hakaka, a‘ole hukihuki, ALU LIKE.
People of Hawai'i lets get together. The road to
Sovereignty is like the Spokes of a Wheel. Go forward or back. The way
to work is together. Don't fight or argue, COME TOGETHER.
June 1, 1995
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