Tag Archives: hawaii

Hula

Context: The informant is my aunt and will be referred to as L.I. She is originally from Hawaii and is of Filipino descent. She grew up in Hawaii, which is where the Hula dance and its importance, but she now lives in San Diego with her husband (my uncle) and their two children.

Main Text: L.I: “No one speaks true Hawaiian anymore so the Hula is how Hawaiians communicate now, by portraying words in a visual dance form. The two main categories of Hula are Hula Auana and Hula Kahiko. The Auana is much more flowy and common now, it is usually accompanied by song, guitar, and a ukulele. Kahiko, on the other hand, is more like a slap dance like the Samoan Haka and is accompanied by chanting”.

M.M.: “Is there a reason for there being two separate forms?”

L.I.: “The Kahiko is how they communicated in ancient times and the Auana is more modern and Americanized, its a lot more accepted. The hand motions within Hula dances are used to represent the words in a song or chant. For example, the fluid hand motions in the Auana can signify nature: the swaying of a tree in the breeze or a wave in the ocean.”

Analysis: Hula dances have always been an important part of Hawaiian culture, they are performed at all Luaus and weddings. I find it interesting how the Hula dance transformed in order to be more accessible and appealing to visitors from the United States. It demonstrates how the Hawaiian islands adopted to their new identity within the United States of America. The more fluid Auana form of Hula is very recognizable within the continental United States whereas the Kahiko is not.

Pele’s Curse

Context: The informant is my aunt and will be referred to as L.I. She is originally from Hawaii and is of Filipino descent. She grew up in Hawaii but she now lives in San Diego with her husband (my uncle) and their two children.

Main Text: “A well-known myth in Hawaii is Pele’s Curse. Pele is the Goddess fo volcanoes, fire, lightning, and wind. Pele’s curse says that any visitor who takes rock or sand away from the Hawaiian islands will suffer bad luck until they are returned.”

Analysis: Nature is very important to the people of Hawaii and they take great pride in the natural beauty of their homeland. Hawaii is a very popular tourist destination and it is possible this superstition developed to prevent visitors from altering the original landscape. There are many accounts of people mailing back volcanic rocks because they were met with misfortunes like divorce, debt, and death.

Menehune

Main Piece: Menehune is categorized as a mischievous small people. They are like dwarves but not really. They are just small people who live hidden in the valleys of Hawaii. They were there before the settlers and they made the roads, buildings, and ponds. They especially made the waterfalls and streams that connect to the ocean. They’re in a lot of children’s books and are like figures for kids to look up to as hard workers who work at night. I’ve heard them being used as tricksters who mess with visitors if they don’t behave.

Context: The informant is a current freshman at USC. She lived in Hawaii until she graduated high school. Growing up there, she learned all about the customs and folklore of Hawaii.

Thoughts: I like the concept of having a figure to look up to especially since it promotes hard work. It also reflects the respect for the land as well, which I think more people should definitely have. Their secondary role as a trickster also plays as a rule maker for tourists so that they do not go out wandering at night. 

For More information see, “The Menehune of Hawaii – Ancient Race or Fictional Fairytale?” by April Holloway

Holloway, April. “The Menehune of Hawaii – Ancient Race or Fictional Fairytale?” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 11 June 2014, www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/menhune-hawaii-ancient-race-or-fictional-fairytale-001741.

E Ala E!

Main Piece:

Informant: Something we do before the sun rises is a chant called E Ala E. It basically connects us with our ancestors. It means “awaken and arise.” You perform this by saying the chant three times. 

Original:

E ala e

Ka la i kahikina

I ka moana

Ka moana hohonu

Pi’i ka lewa

Ka lewa nu’u

I kahikina 

Aia ka la.

E ala e!

Transliteration:

Awaken/Arise

The sun in the east

From the ocean

The ocean deep

Climbing (to) the heaven

The heaven highest

There is the sun

In the east

Awaken!

Context: The informant is a current freshman at USC. She lived in Hawaii until she graduated high school. Growing up there, she learned all about the customs and folklore of Hawaii. She learned this chant from her family who taught it to her.

Thoughts: It was really interesting to learn about the chant. It shows how my friend still thinks of her ancestors and holds a connection with them through this chant. Hearing this chant and its translation for the first time, if it wasn’t told to me, I would not think that it focuses on an ancestral connection. At first glance, it seems to speak to the sun, so I thought it was a chant to a God of some sort.

Pele, Goddess of Fire

Main Piece: I learned about Pele in my elementary school. She’s the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, dance, and volcanoes. Pele’s home, Halemaumau crater is at the summit of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Any volcanic eruption is supposed to be attributed to her long lasting true love. It’s kind of like her passionate temperament but I’m not too sure why she makes volcanoes erupt. Traditional Hawaiian’s see her not as a destructive although she might be seen as destructive by tourists. One thing you should not do when visiting one of her volcanoes is take a rock or souvenir from the volcanoes or else you will suffer for the rest of your life.

Context: The informant is a current freshman at USC. She lived in Hawaii until she graduated high school. Growing up there, she learned all about the customs and folklore of Hawaii. She learned about Pele from her public elementary school

Thoughts: I’ve never heard about Pele before but her story tells a lot about how people in Hawaii have their own pride in culture. Comparing it to the history that I learned in elementary, this seems much more intriguing. I’m curious about the beliefs that come with Pele, like how one should not steal from the volcanoes. It shows off how the people of Hawaii have come to respect the land and preserve it.

For more information see “Passions of Pele: The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.” by Martini Fisher

Fisher, Martini. “Passions of Pele: The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 23 July 2018, www.ancient-origins.net/history/passions-pele-hawaiian-goddess-0010415.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

Context: The informant is my aunt and will be referred to as L.I. She is originally from Hawaii and is of Filipino descent. She grew up in Hawaii, which is where she learned of this myth, but she now lives in San Diego with her husband (my uncle) and their two children.

Main Text: L.I: “The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle is called Honu in Hawaiian and it’s a symbol of good luck. The Honu represents the link between man, the land, and the sea. It is believed that the green sea turtle is a form taken by the guardian spirit that Hawaiians refer to as Amakua. So if you see people taking photos with green sea turtles, its because they believe it will bring them good luck.”

MM: “And you aren’t allowed to touch them right?”

L.I.: “No you’re not, but there are always so many people that want to touch them because they are such big, relaxed creatures. People think that since they have a shell it is impossible to harm them.”

Analysis: The Hawaiian people are very in tune with nature and treat nature with great respect. It is now illegal to touch, collect, or harm green sea turtles because they are endangered and tourist populations in Hawaii disrupt them. After researching, it seems that Amakua can manifest in the form of several different types of animals as well, like sharks and owls.

Valley of Manoa

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant.

Informant: In Oahu, there’s the valley of Manoa, which now is like a famous hiking trail. The story is that Hine, the wind of Manoa, married Kani, the rain of Manoa. Together they had their daughter, Kaha- she descended from the very rain and wind of Manoa, she’s beautiful and ethereal, and everything. So, Kaha’s promised to marry the prince of the sea, Kauhi. She spends her time secluded from everyone else, up in the air, looking down on the valley of Manoa. One time she saw the chiefs of the villagers of Manoa, and decided to step down from the clouds. She fell in love with him. She stepped down and she was turned into a human being. She wasn’t sad because she always envied the people of Hawaii and Manoa Valley. She married the chief, and made family at the valley. But she knew that Kauhi would be eager to get her back, so she had to stay away from the sea to be safe. One day, she for some reason decided to go out for a swim because it was such a beautiful day. To get her back, Kauhi had turned into a shark and tried to bring her to the ocean. But she had turned into a mortal, so the shark accidentally killed her. After he realized what he did, Kauhi brought her body back to the shore. Her body was buried in the valley where she loved her people. To mourn her, her parents, the wind and the rain, will cry for her even till this day. And that’s why the Manoa Valley gets so much rain and wind.

Interviewer: Where did you hear this story at first?

Informant: My grandpa would just have these stories, he’d tell it to me and my siblings anytime we visited the islands. But when I went to Manoa Valley, there was actually a little sign there at the entrance that described this very story, so I guess it’s a pretty common tale.

Background:

The informant is a 20 year old USC student. She is of caucasian and Japanese descent. Her father’s side of the family is Japanese, and third generation Hawaiian immigrants. The first wave of Japanese immigrants into the islands of Hawaii started in the late 1800s, but the U.S. annexation of the islands sped up the process of this movement. At their peak in 1920s, the population percentage of Japanese in Hawaii was around 45%. According to my informant, the culture that her family grew up in was a mixture of indigenous Hawaiian and Japanese.

Context:

The conversation took place over a Zoom call. The informant was alone at her room, at her family house in Irvine, California. It was a comfortable environment.

My thoughts:

Any culture, around the world, will have a piece of myth that tries to explain natural phenomenons. The Valley of Manoa is especially known for its unpredictable rain and wind that come in waves, and this piece of myth was a very justifiable and poetic way of describing this phenomenon.

The Green Lady

The informant is marked IN.

IN: There’s this one spirit, called the green lady, who wanders around this botanical garden, that I think has water or like some kind of pond in it. She has green scales and jagged teeth, very Shape of Water, and her hair is made up of seaweed, and so the story goes that she had visited that garden with her children and one of them got lost and drowned in the lake. Because of that, she died with a broken heart and is apparently supposed to roam that area, in search of her child. And anyone visiting this garden is told not to leave their kids alone, because the spirit will like, take them as revenge or a consolation to her own child, you know.

Context: I asked the informant at work if he had any Hawaiian folklore tales he could remember.

Background: The informant is Hawaiian, with Japanese-American family. He heard this story around from locals in the area around this botanical garden.

Analysis: I think that this story is very similar to La Llorona in nature. It also functions as a story to tell children to get them to stay with you while visiting this area, as it will scare them to be alone with a fish-like spirit with jagged teeth.

Kalo: A Staple Plant of Hawaii

Abstract: Kalo is a plant that is named after the stillborn of Sky Father (Wakea) and Mother Earth (Papa), two Hawaiian entities. Kalo is a main staple for Hawaiians culturally, but is mostly used for food. When born, Kalo was a stillborn, and his parents buried him in the ground. His mother was so sad that she began to cry and, from her tears hitting the soil, the plant, Kalo, began to grow where her son was buried. Kalo is used in many traditional Hawaiian dishes and serves as a symbol for respecting the earth.

 

Background: DM is a 20 year-old Hawaiian American going to college in California. She grew up her entire life in Hawaii and is very accustomed to the folklore there. She can not trace back the origin of the folklore or when she learned it because it has surrounded her for her entire life. After one piece of Hawaiian folklore came up on a work retreat, I asked her to share the most important ones to her on a later date.

Kalo:

DM: Kalo is the origin of so many Hawaiian things, but mostly for food. There’s lau lau, which is the pig roast that is wrapped in Kalo, and poi which is this purple paste made out of Kalo. Both are like traditionally Hawaiian. So anyways, there are these two entity things, Sky Father and Mother Earth. Wakea and Papa. They have human children somehow I don’t know (laughs), but Kalo was the name of one of their children who died when he was born. Then Papa buried the stillborn and she was so sad about it that she cried, and her tears went into the soil. Then, out came Kalo.

S: Does anything happen if you disrespect the Kalo?

DM: The earth is everything to us. I don’t know. Bad harvest maybe.

 

Interpretation: The connection between Kalo being a product of nature (the sky and the earth) and also a main food staple showcases the connection that the Hawaiian people have with nature. Not only do they rely on nature for their mythological origin stories, but they directly connect it to their survival. The story of Kalo can be used to demonstrate that Mother Earth went through a lot of pain in order to provide food in kalo. Since she went through so much pain to feed the people, Hawaiians should be respectful to her and thank her by taking care of the land. This thought process is demonstrated when DM states “the earth is everything to us.” The origin stories reflect this close relationship to the planet that Hawaiians share. Since the foundations of being Hawaiian are to respect the planet, the main stories on which people grow up on encapsulate this mindset and ingrain it in the minds of the youth.

 

Menehune: Hawaiian Mischief Ghosts

Abstract: The Menehune (men-ay-hoo-nay)  are a group of Hawaiian dwarf people that cause mischief in Hawaii, but especially in the woods at night. They were kicked off of their land and are now seeking revenge on those that inhabit it. They are mischievous ghosts that are responsible for causing things like sleep paralysis and are blamed for things that happen at night in Hawaii. They used to be real and were the first people to populate the Hawaiian islands until they were forced into extinction by settlers from Tahiti.

 

Background: DM is a 20 year-old  Hawaiian American going to college in California. She grew up her entire life in Hawaii and is very accustomed to the folklore there. She can not trace back the origin of the folklore or when she learned it because it has surrounded her for her entire life. The Menehune are pretty ingrained with the Hawaiian culture. At a work retreat, we were talking as a large group about sleep paralysis. DM intervened talking about how ghosts are responsible in Hawaii for this feeling. I immediately identified this piece of folklore and asked to speak to her at a later time about it.

 

 

The Menehune:

 

DM: The Menehune are like little dwarves that haunt Hawaii in the woods and at night. They were killed off by settlers, but archaeologists have discovered bones and stuff and they were actually very small.  But anyways, if anything happens at night, it’s them. Basically, a lot of people have sleep paralysis where like they can’t breathe or move. So they say, like mostly people that were camping, say that it’s because the Menehune are sitting on their chest.

S: Do people claim to see it or is it just spiritual? Like what else do they do besides cause sleep paralysis?

DM: It’s really just spiritual, but they were real people at some point. And really, since Hawaii is so rural, they can be blamed for like anything. Sound in the woods? Menehune. Tree falls over? Menehune.

 

Interpretation: There are a couple lessons that can be taken from the Menehune. The first being to respect the land and people of other countries/regions. The Menehune are only haunting Hawaii because they were kicked off of their own indigenous land and killed off. So, when this story is told to younger children (as it is done to build culture into young lives), there is an untold lesson to not be disrespectful or take something from someone that is rightfully theirs, or there might be some consequences. This kind of story is modeled in other cultures as well, such as the haunting of old Native American lands by chiefs and warriors.

The second lesson that can be taken away is to stay away from the woods at night. In attempts to keep their children from doing anything too risky, parents might tell the stories of the Menehune haunting and harming people in the woods so that their kids stay safe.