USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘hawaii’
Legends
Magic

Kiamuki House and the Kasha

The following urban legend was told by a Hawaiian native that she learned from her auntie:

“Theres this creepy looking haunted house on the corner of 8th and Harding that they just tore down last summer but they’re trying to rebuild….they shouldn’t. It’s home to a kasha.  A kasha is a demon that feeds on human corpses and there’s one probably still living on that plot of land.  The kasha first started inhabiting the house after a man killed his wife, son and daughter in his house and buried their bodies on the property.  The bodies of the wife and the son have been found but the daughter’s body is still missing…because she’s now the kasha that haunts the Kiamuki house.  She tried to claim her first victim in 1942.  The police received a desperate phone call from the woman who lived in the house in 1942 claiming that her children were being strangled by a ghost.  The police responded to this call and were terrified at what they saw at the house.  According to police reports, they witnessed the two children being thrown around and strangled by an unseen entity.  After about an hour and a half the policemen were finally able to save the children from the kasha and evacuate the family from the house never to return…but that did not stop different people from moving in. After the family moved out, three women moved into the house and one night the kasha violently grabbed one of the women’s arms.  They quickly called the police and they responded and offered to escort the women to another house for the night.  On their drive, the kasha reappeared and started choking one of the women.  The car pulled over and  the two other women struggled to get the kasha off of their friend.  The policeman also pulled over and tried to help the women but was restrained by what he describes as a ‘large calloused hand.’ Finally he was able to break free and get the kasha off of the woman.  He offered to drive the women to the house but when they got into his car it wouldn’t start so the women returned to their car and all of a sudden both cars worked again.  As they drove down the road the policeman recalls seeing the car door get ripped off of the car and thrown into the road by an unseen entity which then continued to drag one of the women out of the car and strangle her to death while her friends and the policeman watched helplessly”

Analysis: This terrifying ghost story might be more than an urban legend with detailed police reports that are still unexplainable, after all how do you explain someone being choked to death by thin air?  The informant sounded utterly terrified of this house and claimed she will always take a longer driving route if it means avoiding that neighborhood.  The common ghost story motifs are all present in this chilling story because the kasha is a young girl who was tragically murdered who’s purpose is now to inflict harm to others.  However, this goes further than a common ghost story because there are detailed police accounts and multiple accounts of attacks on the property.  This story has been passed down to generations of Hawaiians as a tale of caution to always avoid the Kaimuki House.

 

Folk Beliefs

Whistling at Night in Hawaii

Main Piece: Hawaiian Superstition

 

“It is told that you are not supposed to whistle at night in Hawaii, because it is believed to summon the Menehune who will capture and kill you”

 

Background:

 

My teammate Danny was born and raised in Hawaii, and this is a very common superstition in Hawaii. The Menehune are believed to be dwarf sized people, who live in the hidden valleys and forests in Hawaii, far out of sight of the humans.

Danny told me that he does not remember who specifically told him this superstition, but tells me it is just a generally well known superstition on the islands. He likes this superstition because it is just one of those random things that is known primarily by natives. This is especially interesting because Hawaii is a dominant tourist destination, and this could be one of those facts dropped by tour guides or natives to possibly scare the tourists or add a level of mystery to the island.

 

Context:

 

Like I said earlier, this is most likely a fact told to tourists by tour guides or natives working at a restaurant or something along those lines. It could also be something told by parents to their young kids when they go out to keep them from staying out to late at night, by instilling a little bit of fear in them to keep them out of trouble.

It could also be something found in a tourism book or a history of the islands when speaking of the mythological beings, the Menehune. This also seems to be more of a legend told around a campfire at night or at a luau, because it doesn’t seem like it would be one of those things that you are just walking down the street with your friend and they say “Oh hey by the way, don’t whistle at night or it will summon the Menehune.”

 

My thoughts:

 

I personally think this is sort of a Hawaiian version of the Boogeyman, being one of those things that scares kids into behaving and giving a far out consequence if not followed. Obviously an adult is not going to believe that a dwarf sized human is going to appear solely by the simple act of whistling, but a naïve and imaginative child would most certainly believe it.

I doubt this would come up in any other context aside from the ones told above, but it is an interesting fact that could be thrown around on a vacation with one’s family when visiting the Hawaiian Islands, that could make you seem fairly knowledgeable on the location. I have been to Hawaii many times before hearing this and I had never heard it so I doubt it is used much outside of family superstition.

 

Folk Beliefs

Hawaiian Superstition

Main Piece: Hawaiian Superstition

 

This was told to me by my Hawaiian teammate Danny:

 

“You are not supposed to take sand or rocks from the beaches in Hawaii, as it will upset Pele and she will curse you.”

 

Background:

 

This is more so a superstition that is used for tourists to the islands, as an incentive to not take sand or rocks from the beaches. The goddess Pele, who is believed to curse you for taking them, is known as the goddess of fire, volcanoes, lightning, and is known as the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. It is told that when rocks or sand are taken from the beaches, you are taking away Pele’s home and this is why she curses you. The only way to please Pele is to return whatever was taken, and not take anything else away.

This is another generally known superstition in the Hawaiian Islands, and Danny tells me it is something told to help preserve the environment in Hawaii, and keep nature the way it is and just appreciate it in the moment and not take a souvenir that is a natural part of the earth.

 

Context:

 

This is a superstition told to tourists to prevent them from taking sand and rocks from the beaches to hopefully preserve the ecosystem and not disrupt nature and the islands natural beauty. If every tourist who went to Hawaii took one rock or one bottle of sand, the make-up of the many popular tourist destinations would not be the same, and it could harm the ecosystem of the plants and animals that inhabit them.

There is no other context that this could be told in, other than a parent telling their kid to just leave nature as it is, because if it was made that way, that’s the way it was supposed to stay. Danny was told this by his mother who was a big advocate for respecting nature and keeping everything the way it naturally came to be. It is also a pride thing for Hawaiians, because they want to preserve the beautiful place they live in and keep it from changing unnaturally.

 

My thoughts:

 

I had actually heard this superstition before once when I went to Hawaii. My brother and I had made what we called “beaches in a bottle” one day where we would fill an empty plastic bottle with half sand and half ocean water and a piece of rock or coral, and when we were coming back to the hotel from the beach one of the workers told us that if we took the sand, it would upset the beach gods and we would have bad luck until we returned it back to its rightful place. We immediately returned everything to the ocean and didn’t think to take anything again. This gave me a better appreciation for experiences, and not necessarily needing a souvenir or any sort of memorabilia to remember a place.

Myths
Narrative

How the Islands were fished out of the ocean

Main Piece: Hawaiian Legend

 

“So the legend goes, Maui was out fishing with his brothers in a canoe one day, when he cast out a line. He had something big on the line, and told his brothers to row, and not look back, as it was a bad omen when fishing from a canoe to look behind you while rowing.

The brothers did not look back, and Maui continued reeling in his catch. Once he got it up, it became known that Maui had fished the Hawaiian Islands out of the sea.”

 

Background:

 

Danny told this story as a creation story of the Hawaiian Islands. Maui is a demigod in Hawaiian mythology, being the son of the two major deities in Hawaiian mythology. Danny likes this story because it is a creation story, and although untrue, gives the natives a good mythological explanation of how the Hawaiian Islands came to be that they can pass on as a part of their beliefs.

Danny likes this story because even though it is obviously not true, it is something almost every Hawaiian believes in, and all other people in the world will just disprove with science. He likes that it is a story dating back to the original inhabitants of the island, and gives him a sense of pride in his culture and where he comes from.

 

Context:

 

Danny told me this is a legend that would be told as a bedtime story. He does not remember the exact details but remembers the main story of it, but he does remember it as a prominent story from his childhood. He says his grandmother used to tell it to him and his siblings, and his mother would occasionally tell it as a bedtime story.

There aren’t many other contexts this story would be told in, other than possibly in a children’s book explaining how the islands came to be, or as a tour guides introduction to the history of the islands.

 

My Thoughts:

 

This story reminded me a lot of stories such as the Grand Canyon story where Paul Bunyun dragged his axe behind him as he was walking, and carved out the Grand Canyon, or a Native American story where the Kiowa’s came to earth through a log. Creation stories are generally too far-fetched to be true, but the general consensus of the people who live there is a small sliver of belief in the myth, but more so they serve as something to hold on to as a piece of their cultural heritage.

 

 

 

For another version of this story, see here: Maui (http://kms.kapalama.ksbe.edu/projects/ahupuaa/waianae/wan/wan12maui/index.html)

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Hawaiian Folk Belief/Legend Menehune

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My mother’s mother’s mother and even from before her are from Hawaii but some England roots are interjected into the bloodline as well. My mother’s father’s father’s father hails half from Hawaii and the other half from China and Portugal. But what is funny about most Hawaiians, is that they are not only Hawaiian. They are also Caucasian, Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino, Samoan, Japanese, Korean, e.t.c…….Plantation workers were brought in to work the sugar and pineapple fields and they brought their culture with them.

Piece:

From when I was a little girl, we were taught about Menehune. They are little talented craftsmen,  Hawaiian people who help build things to bless others when no one is looking. When the good deed was done and the giver wasn’t pointed out or identified, we would hear our grandparents suggest that the Menehune did it. :)

Piece Background Information:

Informant already mentioned within their piece that she learned of the Menehune through her grandparents when she was a young kid.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Context of Performance:

Via email.

Thoughts on Piece: 
The Menehune seem to be another variation of other magical creatures in the folklore of other cultures such as Ireland’s leprechauns. There are many different origin stories behind the Menehune, but at the end of the day, the Menehune seem to be used or invoked as a solution to unknown phenomena. This is very interesting and explains why tales of the Menehune are still alive today though they date back so far- parents, grandparents, etc. pass it on to their children.
Myths
Narrative

The fight of the goddesses and creation of Hawaii: Pele and Hi’iaka

The informant, T, is 19 years old. He was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. His parents were also born and raised on Oahu. His grandparents on his mom’s side came from Japan and from his dad’s side were raised on Oahu. He is majoring as an Industrial and Systems Engineer. He considers himself American and is full Japanese.

T- “I did a hula performance a couple years ago and it was based on the story of Pele who is the goddess of volcanoes and her sister Hi’iaka, the goddess of the ocean, and they’re fighting because I think Hi’iaka had a boyfriend, and Pele took him away from her and Hi’iaka got pissed at her. So she chased her around and that is how the islands were formed. Pele would make an island because she is the island of volcanoes and her sister would go there and then Pele had to leave and she had to make a new island and yea”

How did you hear this story for the first time?

T-“My hula teacher or hula kumu”

Is that a common story that everyone knows or is it just a hula thing?

T-“Pretty much just hula people or people who are immensely into Hawaiian culture. Not a lot of people know that story”

Analysis- While this myth is known as an explanation to something as big as the creation of the islands, it is odd that only a small group of people really know the tale and actually tell it. This could be due to the fact that the traditional Hawaiian dance is meant to tell stories of the past as well as to be a way for the people to connect and give something to the Hawaiian gods. In the islands, one can see the constant change of the islands as they are formed by volcanoes and how the lava pours into the ocean to create steam and land. This constant and real fight of the land and the ocean is depicted as the two goddesses fighting.

Myths
Narrative

Maui and the creation of the islands

The informant, T, is 19 years old. He was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. His parents were also born and raised on Oahu. His grandparents on his mom’s side came from Japan and from his dad’s side were raised on Oahu. He is majoring as an Industrial and Systems Engineer. He considers himself American and is full Japanese.

T- “There was this regular boy named Maui who went out with his teacher and they went out on a boat and his teacher told Maui to throw his fishing line into the water and hold it but not look at it. So he would pull at stuff but he would not look at it. He would pull at heavy things and he would fight it and fight it but he would not look, and then like after a while he gave in and looked back and realized he pulled out the islands”

Where did you hear this story?

T-“I’ve heard it many times. I think the first time was in fourth grade we had Hawaiian history class and I think this is one of the histories they went over”

Where do you think the story came from?

T-“There is a lot of fishing in Hawaii and that’s one of the biggest sources of food that they had before the westerners came.”

Is this story more common than other myths about the creation of the islands?

T- “Yea this one is more common. I think so”

Analysis- As mentioned by the informant, Hawaii consists of a lot of fishing, which provides food to the people. During the earlier times, when the stories were beginning to be told, fish would have been a main supply of food. The figure of the child Maui is originally known to be a trickster demigod figure in Hawaiian mythology. The form of the teacher in Hawaii is very common, especially as hula teachers. This is mirrored in the myth combined with the idea of fishing to explain a natural event, the creation of the islands.

For more information see:

Westervelt, W.D. (1910). Legends of Maui, A Demi-God of Polynesia. Retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/maui/maui04.htm

Legends
Narrative

The ghost of a godess

The informant, T, is 19 years old. He was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. His parents were also born and raised on Oahu. His grandparents on his mom’s side came from Japan and from his dad’s side were raised on Oahu. He is majoring as an Industrial and Systems Engineer. He considers himself American and is full Japanese.

T- “Pele is the goddess of volcanoes so like currently the big island, which is the furthest right island in the Hawaii chain, is like active like a volcano erupting and it is said that Pele lives there. In the volcano in the big island. There’s many ghost stories about her like that. Like there is stories about an old lady asking for hitchhiking on like a highway and they ignore her and keep going, but after a few minutes the guy looks in his rearview mirror and he sees Pele sitting in his back seat and he freaked out. Yea there’s like a lot of stuff like that. “

Have you seen this ghost?

T-“No I haven’t but I have some friends that experienced some ghost or something during a 6 grade camp trip”

Do you tell this story?

T-“I only share it when I have in depth conversations about my culture, which isn’t often”

 

Analysis- The fact that the informant does not share the story to others proves that he does not really believe in it. He, however, understands and considers it as part of his culture. The story is also meant to show the power that the Hawaiian gods have, according to the local people. The driver is not able to escape from Pele even if she is alone in the middle of nowhere and appears to be helpless. It is a demonstration that people are nothing when it comes to the gods and that you should make them angry.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative

Cursed Rock

The informant, T, is 19 years old. He was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. His parents were also born and raised on Oahu. His grandparents on his mom’s side came from Japan and from his dad’s side were raised on Oahu. He is majoring as an Industrial and Systems Engineer. He considers himself American and is full Japanese.

T-“ Pele is the goddess of volcanoes so like currently the big island, which is the furthest right island in the Hawaii chain, is like active like a volcano erupting and it is said that Pele lives there so you can’t take lava rocks from the big island or its said that Pele will curse you or something”

Is it only from the big island? Can you take it from the other islands?

T-“Well you’re not supposed to take it from the others, but it is well known you’re not supposed to take it from the big island. That one I think everyone knows that”

Did you hear this since you were little?

T-“Yea since I was little”

Do you know if there are any laws behind it?

T-“I don’t think there is any laws but there’s like Hawaiian laws which like you can’t enforce them”

Do share this story?

T-“Yea. This is one of the ones that I mainly tell other people when we’re talking or having in depth conversations about my culture”

Analysis- While there are no official laws, the story of the curse could be a way of the natives to protect their land. By scaring tourists into believing in the curse, they can ensure that the land will not be disturbed and/or damaged. The fact that most, if not all, of the people know it and tell it can be seen as possible proof of this. Since the locals do not have the power to enforce this law, the curse story could have been made up. Overtime, however, it appears that the legend has been canonized and is becoming more known and accepted by the people to be true.

Foodways
Myths
Narrative

Origins of the Hawaiian Kalo Plant

The informant is an 18-year-old college student attending university in Hawaii. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, California, but has a great deal of family living in Hawaii who she visited frequently when growing up.

While I was on a hike with the informant in San Ramon, California over spring break, I asked her if there were any Hawaiian myths or legends regarding the islands themselves, and she explained to me the history of the taro plant.

“Father Sky and Mother Earth were brother and sister, and they had, kind of like an incestuous relationship, and their first child was a stillborn and they buried it in the ground. That’s what taro plant is, in Hawaii it’s called kalo, and they use it to make a dish called poi. It’s really important to Hawaiians because each taro plant is like the first stillborn, and it’s kinda cool because a taro plant is a stem and a big leaf and there’s a little circle part in the middle that is supposed to be the bellybutton”

The taro plant, called kalo in Hawaii, is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine. This mythology incorporating the taro plant with the origin of the Earth itself shows how much importance Hawaiians place on the land. The land is often still viewed as being Mother Earth, and it is of the utmost importance that Hawaiians are respectful to their ancestors. So, it follows that Hawaiians must be extremely respectful to Mother Earth herself, their land, and this myth encourages every resident of the newly declared state to do their part to take care of their home and warns against wastefulness. This explains why so many native Hawaiians find it necessary to be rude to tourists and foreigners who carelessly destroy their sacred home. The informant said that anyone from Hawaii knows of the origin story describing kalo, and so I asked if there are any specific rituals or techniques that are employed when harvesting the plant. She said that she was not entirely sure, but she does know that you are supposed to pick the root a certain way so as to not hurt the stillborn child. Through this belief, the idea that it is important to not harm the land and to respect it is emphasized once more.

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