We've been learning a new dance in hula class, a kahiko (ancient) hula called Makani O Kona (Kona Wind). One of the lines of the mele is, "'Ike ia a Hi'iaka au i ke kai." (We see Hi'iaka who travels the seas.)
Hi'iaka, it turns out, is the little sister of Pele, the volcano goddess who resides in the crater of Kilauea, the currently active volcano on Hawai'i island.
Legend has it that Pele left Tahiti with the other Polynesians who were seeking a new home and eventually settled on the Hawaiian Islands. She carried with her an egg bearing her little sis. Once they were safe in their new home, Hi'iaka was hatched.
Although another one of Pele's sisters, Laka, is considered the goddess of hula, all three sisters were patronesses of the hula and Hi'iaka loved to dance with her best friend, Hopoe, in a grove of 'ohia trees near the beaches of Puna on Hawai'i Island.
The flower of the 'ohia tree is the 'ohia lehua, the red flower pictured in the illustration above growing on the trees and worn on Pele's head.
One day Pele's spirit left her body and traveled to Kaua'i, where she met and fell in love with the handsome young chief, Lohi'au. After making love with him for days (phew!), she had to leave him and return to her body, back on Hawai'i. But she asked her little sister to go fetch Lohi'au and bring him back to her so they could pick up where they left off, this time with Pele fully in her body. But poor Lohi'au missed out on that treat. When Hi'iaka arrived on Kaua'i she learned that Lohi'au had died of grief shortly after Pele left him. But with time and great effort, Hi'iaka managed to bring him back to life.
Meanwhile, temperamental Pele assumed that because Hi'iaka was taking so darn long, her sister had betrayed her and was doing the old 'I'm the better sister' thang, by demonstrating her charms with Pele's man. Unfortunately, Pele was the type to get mad and ask questions later. So she flew into a rage and caused hot lava to flow over Hi'iaka's beloved 'ohia grove. Oops! Seems she zapped her sister's best friend, too. Poor Hopoe had been hanging out in the grove, waiting her her hula pal to return.
I love the fact that the Hawaiians imbue their gods and goddesses with mortal traits and flaws. In fact, with three sisters of my own, I identify strongly with the story of Pele and her sisters.
I, of course, am the good one.
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