Like many indigenous peoples, the ancient Hawaiians felt a deep connection to the aina (land), and used stories of their gods and goddesses to explain everything from lava flows to the creation of the Hawaiian Islands. These Hawaiian myths and legends are full of passion, betrayal, love, and death, and are sure to astonish you.
- Pour some gin for Pele.
Pele, the Volcano goddess, can be found in many Hawaiian legends. It is said that if you meet a young, beautiful woman in red, or an older lady with white hair, you must greet her with aloha and offer her help. If you refuse to help, death or heartbreak will fall upon your family. To truly be in her good graces, however, you must visit Halema’uma’u crater and give her offerings of flowers, food, and gin.
- Puna + The Dragon Goddess.
In Hawaiian mythology, there were two main goddesses worshipped in the temples: Kihawahine and Haumea. When it was time for Haumea to marry, she took the chief of Oahu, Puna, as her husband. She wasn’t aware, however, that Kihawahine wanted chief Puna to be her husband. One day, Puna was lured out to sea by Kihawahine while looking for the perfect surf spot. Puna was taken to Molokai, where the “couple” lived together in a cave for quite some time, before he discovered that she was, in fact, a dragon goddess with a cruel temper. Eventually, Puna was able to escape with the help of his brother-in-law, Hinole, and made his way back to his wife, Haumea, though Kihawahine never stopped looking for him.
- Never pluck the Red Lehua Blossoms.
In Hawaiian mythology, Ohia and Lehua were young lovers, but one day, Pele met Ohia and decided that she wanted him for herself. When he reected her, she turned him into an ugly, twisted tree. Pele ignored Lehua’s pleas to change him back, and the other gods, feeling sorry for the young girl, turned her into a beautiful red flower and placed her on the tree so the lovers never had to be apart again. Legend says that as long as the flowers remain on the tree, 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.
- Watch out for the Menehune.
Menehune are dwarf-like creatures that reside in lush forests, far from civilization. These 2-foot tall creatures are portrayed as mysterious, but also have excellent craftsmanship, constructing anything they desire. They are credited with building the Menehune Fish Pond on Kauai – in just one night.
- Don’t bring Lava Rocks home.
One of the most common modern legends in Hawaii warns against Pele’s curse, which states that anyone who takes rock or sand away from the Hawaiian islands will suffer bad luck until the items are returned. Whether this myth is the result of Pele, or merely a disgruntled park worker is unknown, but each year, hundreds of visitors send packages full of rocks and sand back to the island to relieve their bad luck.
- The legend of the Hog God.
Kama Pua’a was both a powerful chief and a destructive monster, a hog god with superhuman powers. According to legend, he could shape-shift and command the rain and waters to obey him. One day, Kama Pua’a made his way to the island of Hawaii, to Kalua Pele – the pit of pele – where the fire goddess lived with her people. Pele and Kama Pua’a were married, but not for long as Pele could not handle Kama Pua’a’s hog insticts and habits. The two had great fights; Pele sent streams of flowing lava, and Kama Pua’a called for the ocean waters to rise. Pele eventually called upon the gods of the underworld for help, and Kama Pua’a was forced to surrender and turned himself into a fish. The fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, has a thick skin to withstand the boiling waves through which it must swim to reach the depths of the sea. Hawaiian legend says that the fish can make a noise like the grunting of a hog.
- Don’t bring pork across the Pali.
It is said that Pele and the demigod Kamapua’a – a half man, half pig – had a bad breakup and agreed to never see each other again. The myth explains that you cannot take pork over the Pali Highway, which separates the Windward side of Oahu from Honolulu, because it means that you are symbolically taking Kamapua’a from one side of the island to the other. The legend says that if you try to bring pork across, your car will stop at some point along the journey and an old woman with a dog will appear. To continue on your way, you must feed the pork to the dog.
- Two Naupaka Flowers belong together.
Found along the beaches and in the mountains, the Naupaka is one of the most common plants in Hawaii, and the flowers look as though they have been torn in half. According to legend, Naupaka was a beautiful princess who fell in love with Kaui, a commoner. The lovers could never marry, so Naupaka vowed to stay in the mountains, and Kaui remained near the ocean. Before leaving each other for the final time, Naupaka took the flower from her hair and gave half of it to Kaui. The nearby plants were so upset that the next day, they began to bloom only half flowers in honor of the star-crossed and separated lovers.
- The legend of the Night Marchers.
The Huaka’ipo, also known as the Night Marchers, are the spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors who have been cursed to march the islands for eternity. The Night Marchers are said to march in a single line, often carrying torches and weapons while chanting and playing drums. To protect yourself, you must lie on the ground face down in respect. Otherwise, the Night Marchers will kill you. Or so they say.