Tag Archives: hawaiian

The Hawaiian Goddess Kapo

Kapo is the goddess of fertility, birth, and sorcery in Hawaiian mythology. She notably has a detachable vagina.

“Kapo is the goddess with a flying pussy. She and her winged vagina are the hero in many Hawaiian myths. The main one is where she sees one of her sister goddess being raped by another god. She throws her pussy at him and it keeps flying; he’s so entranced with it that he leaves the goddess alone to chase the pussy. It keeps flying and crashes into the side of a mountain. There’s an actual crater in Hawaii named after Kapo.”

In a discussion about folklore, the informant C mentioned the goddess Kapo but then he had to leave for another event. I later received this text from him with another message explaining how he has a personal fascination with folklore and wanted to share this story. The mythology of Kapo speaks to the importance of nature in Hawaiian culture, both in the environment and the nature of pregnancy/birth. I found this piece of folklore to be interesting because of its emphasis on feminine experiences and solidarity. Although my informant didn’t include this, the goddess that Kapo saved was Pele the goddess of volcanoes and fires. Pele is a major deity in Hawaiian mythology because she is the one who created the islands of Hawaii. There are countless myths about women being raped, but very few end in the woman being saved and the hero being another woman. It’s a bonus that they’re both strong female archetypes.

Maile Leaves – Hawaiian Traditions

The informant explains that it is tradition in Pacific Islander culture to wear maile leaves during major life events/luaus. Some examples of times worn are first communions, graduations, weddings, family celebrations, and major commencements. This can be considered a big honor in Pacific Islander families and mostly only worn by male individuals in direct relation to islander blood (either born islander, or married in/accepted). The female version of the maile leaves is the traditional lei; however a male can wear both a lei and the leaves, but females will only wear the leis.

Context – Maile leaves are a very common piece to wear during major celebrations in Pacific Islander culture. As lies are very well known among many cultures and popular culture associated with Pacific Island culture, Maile leaves are not as well known as they are more specific to male participants during celebrations — almost as if it is “closer” to the culture although this may not be exactly correct. Maile leaves are often seen within depictions or pacific culture, however they are not as well noted or acknowledged by those outside the culture. The most common knowledge about gear worn similar to the maile leaves is the flower lei that is used both within the culture and outside among tourists, western culture, and costumes.

Analysis – The practice of wearing maile leaves, particularly in relation to those with pacific islander blood can serve as a way to remember and practice tradition among your heritage. The informant expressed major emphasis on the honor and “rules” of wearing maile leaves which preserves the long practice of pacific islander culture. This is a way in which you can keep the memory and heritage of an area relevant and a part of major moments in a participant’s life. Especially since many of the pacific islands are smaller territories, the practice of culture is important to those with pacific islander background because it preserves and creates space for agency of an area.

Shaka Handsign

Shaka Hand Sign – closed fist, thumb and pink extended

This hand gesture is very common in Pacific Islander culture and has spread over time to surfers and many Californian individuals. Original to Pacific Islander culture, the Shaka hand sign was a signal of Ohana or family, and even the broader belief of Shaka which was like “good vibes.” There are multiple variations as to what people think of and use Shaka for, but for the informant who is Pacific Islander, they found it to be an extension of the good/loving vibes of Ohana and to live life with the disciplines of having good days and the beliefs of Ohana.

Hawaiian and East-Asian New Year Traditions

Main Piece:

Subject: So… the first thing I can think of is- I think it’s broadly East-Asian Japanese at least in Hawaii- but on New Year’s Eve up until New Year’s, aside from cleaning the house and leaving the door open to welcome the New Year, you also light fireworks to scare away any bad spirits. So all throughout Hawaii on New Year’s Eve and through New Year’s after at midnight… there’s fireworks going off and it’s like amazing and super fun.

Interviewer: What’s your personal experience with that tradition? Where’d you experience it or learn about it?

Subject: Um… I grew up with it visiting relatives in Hawaii in Oahu. And it’s not specific to any one island. It’s- as far as I know- practiced all throughout Oahu and on the other islands as well.

Interviewer: Does it mean anything personally to you?

Subject: *laughter* Um, yeah it’s kind of… in general the celebration of the New Year… it’s not just the lighting of the fireworks. You gather with all your family, you eat, and there’s Kalua Pig, which is a traditional Hawaiian dish and it’s cooked in an underground oven called an Imu and smoked with tea leaves. Every part of celebrating, whether it’s preparation throughout the celebration or even after when you clean up and you have the Buddha shrines set up for family members- and that’s more Japanese- but they all contribute to something important to the day itself. Everyone has a role. It’s little kids playing with sparklers. It’s old people watching them. It’s all inclusive.

Context: The subject is a Sophomore 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 loved hearing about this New Year’s celebration specific to Hawaiian and East-Asian culture and its existing outside the commerciality of American New Year’s celebrations. The subject seemed to note many traditions which originated across different East Asian cultures. Upon further research, I found there are a number of other dishes specific to different cultures and ethnic groups served during the Hawaiian New Year Celebration, such as eating Sashimi for good luck, or Korean Dduk-Gook, or rice cake soup. Hawaii is one of the most culturally diverse states in America, so there seems to be a lot of mixing of dishes and traditions. I also specifically found the scaring away of evil spirits with fireworks to be very fascinating, because while setting off fireworks is globally practiced, the origin of the practice comes from seventh century China. I thought it significant that Hawaii still recognizes and acknowledges the belief behind the practice. 

The Peach Boy in Hawaii

Main Piece

Informant: “A story that I heard a lot growing up was about this boy who was born from a peach. They called him Momotarō. He was considered a blessing to this older couple, who had not been able to have kids, but had always acted humble and hardworking. They got the child as if they were being rewarded, and it’s explained that the Gods sent him to be their son.”

Collector: “That reminds me of a lot of stories, especially religious ones, too.”

Informant: “Yeah, that premise isn’t the most unique, but the peach makes it memorable. He grows up and then decides to leave and go fight some Oni, which are a type of demon. He has some animals that help him on the way, and I think one of them is a duck….Yeah. There are a dog, a monkey, and a duck. They stop the demons and then get to take their treasure.”

Collector: “Who told you this story?”

Informant: “My mom would tell me it, but I think most people in Hawaii know it. It’s Japanese, but there are books and a lot of stuff for kids based on it.”

Analysis

The story of Momotarō seems very easy to compare to a lot of other stories in Western culture, be it Superman or Moses. The popularity of it seems easy to comprehend, given the good values and morals that it is supposed to set forward for young children. The fact that the informant learned this story growing up in Hawaii exhibits how strongly connected those two geographical places are, and how the culture of Japan affects the state to this very day. It fascinated me that the  work generally is told the same in Hawaii, and that not many oicotypes were known to the informant. It can be assumed that the printed version of this book that popularized in the 1970s for the Bank of Hawaii’s 75th anniversary played a large part in the spread of this story in the same variation. The authored Momotaro: Peach Boy declares itself  an “Island Heritage book” that promotes its impact on Hawaiian culture.