Tag Archives: hawaii

Pele: The Hawaiian Volcano Goddess

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Hawaiian American
Age: 20
Occupation: NA
Residence: Hawaii
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): NA

Abstract: Pele (pell-ay) is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. The reason this is both a myth and a legend is because the story takes place in both the real world and outside of it. The origin story of how volcanoes in Hawaii came to be and the fact that Pele is a goddess and acts sort of like Greek Gods reason that she is mythological. However, she is a shapeshifter that normally takes the place of an older woman on Earth, so this would make her a legend.

 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. DM compares the Hawaiian gods, like Pele, to Greek mythology. They all have their own responsibility on Earth. She dives into the effects of what Pele can do from a story from her father. 

About Pele:

 DM: She is the goddess of volcanoes and takes many forms, but her most common form is an old Hawaiian lady. For context, the only volcano that has a chance of erupting is Kileaua on the big island. Anyway, my dad’s cousin was getting married there, and they were driving home from some party or something a few days before the wedding. And on the main highway, they see this old Hawaiian lady with long gray hair walking on the side. They thought maybe it was Pele, but they were scared so just kept driving. And then on their wedding day, the volcano erupted.

S: So is she someone to be scared of in person like does she cause immediate danger in human form?

DM: Well, I mean, she is a fiery goddess, but she isn’t dangerous. But like you’re supposed to be nice to her, and when they didn’t pick her up she reacted. There are some legends that when a volcano erupts, the lava will go around houses of people who have been nice to her.

S: But like, how do you tell her apart from any other old Hawaiian woman?

DM: You don’t.

 

Interpretation: Pele seems to have undeniable power and garners a lot of respect from the people of Hawaii. The lesson underlying this goddess is to respect your elders. Especially when told to young kids, Pele seems like a mean old lady that can destroy your house and kill you in a fiery pool of lava if you do not show kindness. Since no one really knows what she actually looks like, the people of Hawaii must learn to be nice to all elderly women or possibly suffer the consequences. This portrays Hawaii to be matrilineal and caring of the females, especially the elders, in the community. If Pele was only a myth, there would be no real lesson to treat elders with respect. Since she take the form of an old lady, and, at this point, becomes a legend, citizens will apply the respectful manner to almost all old women to not take any chances of having a really bad day with some lava.

 

For more on Pele, see Legends and Myths of Hawaii by David Kalākaua, 1888, page 46.

 

Kalakaua, David. Legends and Myths of Hawaii. Book On Demand Ltd, 2013.

 

 

Vanishing Hitchhiker Pele

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: This myth was performed in an apartment to an audience of 3 people.

Background: The informant is from Hawaii, where this myth is popular.

“Pele was the goddess of Lava. One of the things that goes around that’s like a, I don’t know if it’s a myth. She was into some guy, but the guy was getting with her sister so she became some lava monster and chased him away. But they say if you’re driving under the mountain, because there’s a tunnel that goes under the mountain. That if you see an old lady with like white hair there and she’ll try to hitch hike. They’ll say that that’s Pele and sometimes she’ll just appear in your back seat.”

Car rides can be very boring, so it makes sense that the legend of Pele would be adopted into the form of a hitchhiking old lady: It serves as an interesting story which can help to pass the time during monotonous car trips.

Menehune

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: This legend was performed in an apartment to an audience of 3 people.

Background: The informant is from Hawaii, where this is a common legend.

“Menehune are mischievous little creatures who will go around and steal objects. If something goes missing in Hawaii, we’ll blame it on the Menehune. “

This legend probably is a convenient excuse for those who easily lose things.

Coconut Willy Song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 78
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Malibu, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/1/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hawaiian

The lyrics to “Coconut Willy” according to Marjie Hughes are as follows:

 

“Coconut Willie lives in a tree,

plenty papuli it’s easy to see,

all the malahinies, think he’s a king,

they come to Waikiki to see his opu swing!

One night when the moon was high,

Willie took a trip to Molokai,

he flew so high he touched the sky,

thought he was a Minah bird and tried to fly.

Ho ho ho ho.

When the tourists  come to town,

Willie treats them with a smile not a frown,

he rubs them with oil so they won’t boil,

he doesn’t like to see a piece of shark bait spoil!

Ho, ho, ho!

Coconut Willie lives in a tree,

plenty papuli it’s easy to see,

all the malahinies, think he’s a king,

they come to Waikiki to see his opu swing!”

 

Background Information: Marjie is a 78-year old women living in Los Angeles, California. Her father was in the navy; when she was 7-years old she moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and lived on base where she learned to play the ukulele (year was 1947).

Context: Marjie is my grandmother and has sung this song for me with her ukulele since I can remember. I most recently heard her sing her version of Coconut Willy this spring while vacationing in Hawaii with my family. I have grown up hearing her play this song, and when I asked her when she first began playing “Coconut Willy” she shared that she learned the song living in Honolulu and continued to play it with her sisters at family gatherings.

Analysis: This song has been a personal part of my childhood, as I was raised hearing it sung as both a lullaby and sung when on vacation or somewhere tropical. Because of that, this song carries a very specific connotation for me, so it was interesting to consider the song from another perspective, since I know many people must perform it in different ways. For my Grandma, this song reminds her of living on the navy base as a child and singing songs while playing the ukulele with her two sisters, one of whom is no longer living and the other with severe Dementia. Songs carry extreme emotional content that is very individual person to person.

Kiamuki House and the Kasha

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Hawaiian
Age: 34
Occupation: Fitness instructor at the Ko Olina Marriott resort
Residence: Oahu, Hawaii
Date of Performance/Collection: April 4, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hawaiian

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.

 

Whistling at Night in Hawaii

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pacific Islander
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

 

Hawaiian Superstition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pacific Islander
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

How the Islands were fished out of the ocean

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pacific Islander
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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)

Hawaiian Folk Belief/Legend Menehune

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Hawaiian
Age: 43
Occupation: Mother
Residence: Maui
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hawaiian

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.

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

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese
Age: 19
Occupation: Industrial System Engineering
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.