Tag Archives: Hawaiian legend

Legend of Pele

Context: TC is a 22 year old senior at USC, she is also a coworker. T was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii  and is really familiar with a lot of legends. During our break at work I decided to ask her about any known legends she’d like to share with me. There were other people in the break room which created the atmosphere of storytelling and interest was sparked among the other individuals. We all gathered around her while people ate their snacks.

YM: So tell me about this legend of Pele 

TC: Well I’ve heard different things for the story of Pele, but I tell you the one my grandma use to tell me about  

YM: oh yeah ! tell me what you know 

TC: okay so there’s this  legend about this lady in white who haunts or inhabits this one highway called the Pali Highway…. Uh there many variations of this story, depending on which Hawaiian island.  Apparently she is the ancient Hawaiian volcano goddess named Pele. If you are driving down this highway…which is a one lane highway through a dense forest, and very often deserted and you see a lady in white, you are supposed to pick her up and take her wherever she asks to go, otherwise…you’ll have bad luck for the rest of your life? I don’t know … I guess because she owns the land.  Also for some reason if you drive down this highway with any pork in your car, your car will break down, unless you throw out the pork. And, do not take lava rocks home. It apparently angers Pele, and there are “stories” of people who have had a lot of bad things happen to them like the loss of a family member or bad accidents.

YM: did your grandma ever tell you why you’re not supposed to take the lava rocks home or about the pork ? 

TC: Well she would say that the lava rocks are a creation of Pele the volcano goddess, so I think if you take them you take something that is hers and doesn’t belong to you. But I always thought it was because you take the land of the islands. The entire islands are made from lava. We’ve had our land taken from us so I think it’s symbolic to that and uh Yeah I don’t know about the pork….It was just kinda like a given that you’re just not supposed to do that

YM: wow, interesting. Do you believe in this legend ? 

TC: I mean I do and I don’t. I’ve gone through this highway many times and nothing has happened to me, but there are real people from my town who swear things have happened to them. I guess I also see Pele as like a mother or protector of the island so in that sense I kinda do believe in her legend

YM: Yeah I see how she would have a symbolic meaning to you 

TC: Yeah I remember being scared as a child but not anymore… I like knowing there’s this woman who is not to be messed with or disrespected and that we should also respect her land 

YM: thats awesome 

Background info: T shared that her grandmother would always tell stories at the dinner table. The legend of Pele was the most popular throughout the years. She grew up listening to stories about Pele and remember being scared as a child. But as she grew older she realized that it was more about honoring and respecting  their goddess rather than fearing her.  

Analysis: This legend seems to encourage the people of the islands of Hawaii to honor their Gods. I would believe the fear inflicted in their everyday lives by the lady in white seems to encourage them to respect the mother  and protector of their island. This seems to be a religious or otherwise spiritual legend that inclines towards myth. The story is essentially a mythic truth that relates to larger works. In this case it’s the story of the mother and protector of Hawaii. As well as a cosmogenic story of how Hawaii was created. It definitely imbukes meaning and is a sacred narrative that the people of Hawaii should believe in otherwise it will bring you bad juju. 

Ohia and Lehua

Context: TC is a 22 year old senior at USC, she is also my coworker. T was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii,  and is really familiar with a lot of legends of Hawaii. During our break at work I decided to ask her about any known legends she’d like to share with me. There were other people in the break room which created the atmosphere of storytelling and interest was sparked among the other individuals. We all gathered around her while people ate their snacks.

YM: So who are Ohia and Lehua? 

TC: They were young lovers. But one day Pele; she’s a volcano goddess. She met Ohia and decided that she wanted him for herself. But he rejected her so this upset Pele, she then turned him into an ugly twisted tree. Lehua pleaded to pele to turn him back but pele ignored her pleas. The other gods felt sorry for the young girl so they turns her into a beautiful red flower on the tree so the two lovers never had to be apart again

TC:Legend says that as long as the flowers remain in the tree, that the weather is sunny and fair. But when a flower is plucked from the tree, rain falls like tears as lehua cannot handle being separated from her love, ohia

YM: Does Ohia and Lehua represent a specific tree? Or is it any tree? 

TC: Oh yeah its a tree called ‘Ohi’a lehua haha just like their names 

YM: Do you believe this story, what are your thoughts about it ? 

TC: Yes, It’s a love story about lovers who can’t be together but in the afterworld they are together? Pretty much saying that in the end, love conquers all despite all forces trying to break It apart. Whether it’s people or just life.

YM: I believe that

Background info: TC shared that her grandmother would always tell stories at the dinner table. The legend of Ohia and Lehua was popular throughout the years. Most of the stories her grandmother told her had Pele, the volcano goddess that was considered the protector and creator of the island. She grew up listening to stories to appreciate the trees and plants more. Caring for the earth and believing that they have a spirit or are alive is important to T and her family, knowing that nature is alive reminds them that they should care for it. 

Analysis: Although this is a legend of Ohia and Lehua, this story points more towards nature mythology, an allegory of natural processes. The two loves are obviously a representation of nature and their separation is the natural process when the seasons change. Lehua is the official  flower of the island of Hawaii, it seems fit to have a story  for it. It is also recognized as Pele’s flower; it seems appropriate to include the protector and creator of the island.  This myth also holds a significance that TC mentioned, “love conquers all despite all forces trying to break It apart. Whether it’s people or just life.” Which I think is true and this story is perfect to send that message across. 

The Menehune Men – Hawaiian Folklore

Main Piece:

Subject: In Oahu there’s the Pali Road- or the Pali lookout- and I don’t know the specifics. But when King Kamehameha was unifying all the islands of Hawaii, one of the battles took place on this Pali lookout. So it’s known for this gruesome rich history. Along that road- I’m not sure what the relation is- but there’s folklore of “menehune” which are little tiki men. It’s been popularized and like… put everywhere… so they’re kind of ridiculous when you see photos of them. But… it’s like the lore of little menehune. If you’re driving to Pali lookout and you’re taking the drive on Pali Road… If you have red meat in the car, you have to throw it out of the car as an offering to the menehune or else your car is going to break down. And there was never any follow up to what the menehune would do to you but it was terrifying as a kid if we had red meat.

Interviewer: Who told you that?

Subject: My dad. So the menehune men, you always have to look out for on Pali Road or they’d stop your car.

Context: The subject is a Sophomore at studying Law, History, and Culture at USC. She is of Japanese and Ashkenazi descent, and a third generation resident of Hawaii.  She is a very close friend of mine, and is currently quarantined at her home in Irvine due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The following conversation happened over a facetime call when I asked her to tell me some traditional folklore connected to her heritage. 

Interpretation: I have seen how commercialized and popularized the tiki man has become, so it was interesting to hear the culture significance of the symbol. Upon more research, I found that Menehune men reside in the depths of the forest in Hawaii. They are said to be excellent builders, and Hawaiian myth suggests that they were responsible for building the Alekeko Fishpond in one night more than a thousand years ago. This legend was also interesting to me because it had the modern element of the car breaking down in. It makes sense this particular legend was so scary to the subject, because there is something specifically terrifying about beings hidden in a forests, lurking and waiting.

Pele, Kamupua and the Pali highway

Context:

The informant is a 28-year-old woman, of Indonesian and Caucasian ethnicity. Her hometown is Honolulu, Hawaii. While in school in Hawaii, she learned about Hawaiian Folklore. This story was told to her by her instructor.

Main Piece:

There are many stories of the Hawaiian Goddess of lava and volcanoes. The most common are of sightings of an old woman walking along the Pali highway. These are spread throughout our communities and in school so it’s difficult to tell you where I heard it first. Everyone says not to bring pork over the Pali because if you do your car will stop till you get rid of it. I learned later in my senior portfolio research in high school, that it was because Pele and Kamupua’a (the pig god) were lovers but they fought constantly. Kamupua’a stayed on one side of the island and Pele on the other. The Pali highway connects these two sides so if you try to bring pork from his side to her’s she’ll stop you.

Notes:

I am not familiar with Hawaiian Folklore, however after doing a little research, Pele which is pronounced peh-leh, is described as the goddess of lava, of fire, lightning, wind, dance and volcanoes. There are many different stories as to how Pele came to be. Most stories include her sister, Namakaokahai either attacking her, or killing her. In one instance, Pele was said to have seduced Namakaokahai’s husband and was sent away by her father. The story of Kamupua and Pele is well known among locals in Hawaii and the stories come from actual happenings of people accidentally taking pork in their vehicles across the Pali highway. This is due to Kamupua calling the Windward side of the Island, home and the leeward side belonging to Pele. Because of their radical relationship, bringing pork across the freeway is bad luck and the vehicle carrying the pork will stop until the pork is removed.

 

 

For more info about Pele and legends about the Pali highway check out these sites:

 

https://www.robertshawaii.com/blog/legend-behind-hawaiis-goddess-fire/

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/7322206/pork-and-pali-are-recipes-for-disaster/

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/33478838/spooky-stories-pork-over-the-pali/

The Nightmarchers

Context:

The subject is a 19 year old student at USC, her ancestors are Hawaiian and has grown up hearing and experiencing different stories about Hawaiian culture and old folktales. I asked her to coffee to discuss such things.

Piece:

Subject: “The Nightmarchers, are like ancient Hawaiian warriors who basically walk during certain parts of — in certain parts of like Hawaii, and, like, um, if you see them, they appear as just a bunch torches – glowing torches. And as they come towards you, you’re slowly going to see a strange procession, it’s like a parade, but sad. Procession, get it, like Pet Semetary?”

Interviewer: “Yeah, I do.”

Subject: “And they’re ancient Hawaiian warriors, and if you look at them it’s said that you’re going to die, or someone you love is going to die soon. So you’re not supposed to look at them.”

Analysis:

Upon further research, I’ve found that these Nightmarchers are deadly ghosts of previous Hawaiian warriors. On the nights honoring the Hawaiian gods Kane, Ku, Lono, or on the nights of Kanaloa they are said to come forth from their burial sites, or to rise up from the ocean, and to march in a large group to ancient Hawaiian battles sites or to other sacred places.

If a mortal looks at these warriors without fear or defiance, they will be killed violently, unless a relative is within the Nightmarchers. Legend also states that planting living ti shrubs around one’s home will keep away evil spirits, and will cause the huaka’i pō to avoid the area.

Night Marchers

“You shouldn’t whistle at night because you’ll get hunted down by the night marchers. I’ve never really gotten a description of what the night marchers are, but if you get hunted down by them, it’s also bad luck, and then, also, if you hear drums it’s night marchers, so go in the other direction. My sister, she’s in marching band, and one time she was whistling, and her friend just yelled at her across the field like, ‘Don’t whistle! You’re going to get hunted down by the night marchers!’ I asked her, ‘What are the night marchers?’ She just (she shrugs and shakes her head) and ‘Just don’t whistle at night.’”

Background Information and Context:

As the informant said above, she learned about this superstition from her sister, who had shared the experience of being warned about this superstition. They encountered this superstition in Hawaii, where they live.

Collector’s Notes:

It is interesting how the informant and her sister were warned not to whistle at night without ever truly understanding the background for the superstition. It makes me wonder if the person warning her sister even knew what the night marchers are, or if she was merely echoing a warning given to her by someone else. Many superstitions exist and are followed ‘just to be safe’ even though the reasons why it causes bad luck are unknown. Moreover, I was surprised that my informant never thought to look up the night marchers on the internet, because a simple Google search showed me that her bad-luck-causing night marchers were actually Hawaiian warriors whose appearance meant death.

For more information about the Night Marchers, see “Friday Frights: The Legend of Hawai‘i’s Night Marchers” in Honolulu Magazine

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.

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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.

Hawaiian Legend Night Marchers

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:

Adults loved telling us Night Marchers stories as kids and scare the bejezzes out of us!!! So scary.

I was told that the Night Marchers are spirit warriors on the way to war. They are souls that do not want to be bothered and we have to respect their anger for they fight to avenge their deaths. Especially when it’s a full moon, night marchers are welcoming new warriors to join them. They often chant and grunt, and bang their weapons. Their torches has a frighteningly deathly fire that is easily seen at night. They rarely march during the day.

Piece Background Information:

Informant already mentioned within her piece that she learned about the legendary Night Marchers through adults when she was a young kid. 

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Context of Performance:

Via email.

Thoughts on Piece: 
Similar to the way in which La Llorana is meant to keep kids from wandering out at night the legend of the Night Marchers might be a way for parents to keep their children from wandering about. The fact that my informant still, to this day, finds them so scary reflects that the legend was effective in doing just that. Upon further research, the legend of the Night Marchers might tie into a history of colonialism.
For more information on Night Marchers, see Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian mythology. Honolulu: U of Hawaii Press, 1971. Print.