Hawaiian Mythology
by Martha Beckwith 1940



Huna-Hanaia-i-ka-Malama (The woman who worked in the moon), said by Kilinahi Kaleo to be Pele's name as a woman on earth, identifies the Hawaiian goddess with the Tahitian who beats out tapa in the moon; Hina-papa‘i-kua she is called in Hawaiian nomenclature. The home of Pele in this incarnation is at Kauiki on Maui where, as wife of Aikanaka on the Ulu line, she becomes weary of tapu restrictions and escapes to the moon. In a second even more mythical legend, she is lured up by a chief of Hawaii from a land underseas and from her calabash of food the moon and stars reach the skies.


(a) Fornander version. Hina-ai-malama (Hina feeding on the moon) is the grandchild of Kai-uli and Kai-kea (Dark and Light sea) and child of Hina-luai-koa (-vomiting coral) and her younger brother Ku-kea-pua. The parents live under the sea in Kahiki-honua-kele and can take the form of pao‘o fishes. They have ten children, Hina-a-ke-ahi, Hina-palehoana, Hinaluaimoa, Iheihe (in the form of a cock), Moahalehaku, Ki‘imaluhaku, Kanikawa (in the form of a hen), Lua-ehu, a boy in the form of an ulna fish, and two children who have human form, Hina-ai-malama and her younger brother Kipapa-lau-ulu. To Kipapa is entrusted the care of his beautiful sister. He neglects his charge and is banished, but his grandfather makes a crack in the ocean through which he crawls to the place above (Kawa-luna), leaving to his sister the calabash Kipapa-lau-ulu containing the moon and stars for her vegetable and fish food, and takes service with the chief Konikonia. So kindly is he treated that he returns after his sister and she becomes the chief's wife. The two have ten children, five girls and five boys, one of whom is banished for sacrilege and travels to Kaupo on Maui where he dies, and from his dead body springs the wauke plant for making bark cloth. His five sisters, coming in search of him, travel to Oahu where they wed chiefs and turn into the noted fishponds of that island stocked each with its special kind of fish. Kane-au-kai, another brother, comes floating after his sisters over the sea in the form of a rock (pumice?) and is taken for a god by two fishermen on the Waialua coast of Oahu. 

(b) Malo and Fornander version. The woman of Lalo-hana (or Wahine-i-mehani) is the daughter of Ka-hina-li‘i and Hina-ka-alualu-moana (Hina who followed on the ocean). She lives in a country underseas outside of Waiakea, Hilo, Hawaii, where Konikonia is ruling chief (or outside Keauhou, Kona, where Lono is chief). The chief is bothered by always losing the bait and hook from his line when he goes fishing and Ku-ula, the brother of the underseas woman, who is in the service of the chief, tells him that it is his sister who has broken the chief's hooks. Konikonia orders him to fetch his sister to him. Ku-ula explains that he must set up images (ki‘i) of her absent husband Ki‘imaluahaku, tying them a fathom apart to a line beginning inside the chief's house and extending from boat to boat in the sea, and finally letting the end of the line drop down in front of the girl's house. She will believe that her husband has returned from Kahiki and will follow the images into the chief's house. The trick is successful; the girl lies down to sleep in the chief's house and is taken by the chief. After four days she sends for her food calabash (or coconut gourd) but its contents fly up to heaven in the form of the crescent moon, the bright part called kena, the dim part ana. Her brothers come in search of her, borne by their parents upon a wave of the sea, which mounts to the mountaintops and drowns all but the chief, his wife, and his family (ohana), who have escaped to the highest peak. This is the flood of Ka hina li‘i. When the waters subside the chief returns to his own land. 

The two famous chants of the Kuali‘i and the Kumulipo contain allusions to this fishing story. In the Kuali‘i chant, Maui is represented as fishing with the hook Manai-ka-lani, baited with the red feathers of the mud hen (alae bird) to draw together the "table of Laka," the "vast unbroken bottom of the sea." The scene is laid at Kauiki on East Maui, home of the chiefs Kaiuli and Kaikea. The chief of the island of Hawaii is supposed to be the fish for whom the hook is baited.

(c) Kuali‘i version.

Kauiki bound to the mainland and towering high,
Hina-ai-ka-malama (lived there),
The alae (mud hen) of Hina was the bait
(Of the fishhook) let down to Hawaii,
Tangled with the bait into a bitter death,
Lifting up the very base of the island,
Drawing it up to the surface of the sea.
Hidden by Hina were the wings of the alae,
But broken was the table of Laka
And the hook carried far down to Kea,
The fish seized the bait--the fat large ulua,
Luaehu, offspring of Pimoe. . . .

"Hina lived in the sea and spoilt the bait--the alae--so that the islands were not drawn together as Maui wished," explains Lyons. The god of the land to be drawn up, called Kea in the chant, is, Lyons thinks, Lono-nui-akea, and the "ulua fish" is the chief Luaehu. 

A second reference to the same misadventure occurs in a Kauai Maui story.

(d) If Maui can hook the fish Luehu on the night of Lono, he can draw the islands together. The nine alae birds who have the secret of fire warn the fish Luehu when the brothers are approaching. Hina teaches Maui how to trick the birds with an image and himself hide and catch the youngest mud hen. The place is shown near Holoholoku where the trick was carried out. Maui now hooks the Luehu fish and the islands would have been drawn together had he not, contrary to his mother's warning, taken into his canoe a harmless-looking gourd bailer out of which emerges a beautiful woman who seats herself behind the paddlers. The crowd on shore shout their admiration of her beauty, the brothers turn to look, and the islands drop away. 

The Kumulipo reference occurs in the latter part of the fourteenth era, just before the enumeration of Maui's adventures and after the birth of Pau-pani-akea, "who is no other than Wakea," and the hanging of the stars in the heavens.

(e) Kumulipo version.

Strewn are the seeds, the very small seeds in the heavens,
Strewn are the seeds of the gods, the sun is a god,
Strewn the seeds of Hina, who is the same as Lono-muku,
The food of Hina-hana-i-ka-malama, of Waka,
Found by Wakea in the deep ocean,
Among the sea coral, in the rough sea,
Hina-hana-i-ka-malama floated as a bailer,
Was taken into the canoe, hence called "Hina the bailer" (Hina-ke-ka),
Carried to the shore and put by the fire,
Coral insects were born, the eel was born,
The sea-urchin was born, the sea-egg was born,
The blackstone was born, the volcanic stone was born,
Hence she was called "Hina from whose womb came various forms" (Hina-opuhala-koa). 

The chant as it proceeds to the story of the "images" is variously rendered by Hawaiian translators.

(a) Liliuokalani translation.

Hina wanted food and Wakea provided,
Set his gods up and well bolstered,
Set them nicely in a row;
Then went after Hina-kaweoa to be his wife.
A fowl was born and clung to Wakea's back.
’Twas a stain, this fowl that grew on the back of Wakea,
Wakea grew angry and tried to brush it off;
Wakea, provoked and annoyed,
Shook it off and it lit on the roof.
That fowl on the roof,
That fowl was a chief,
That came from the seed of Kaeoeo,
That climbs in space.
The heavens did swing,
The earth does swing
In the starry space. 

(a') Ho‘olapa translation (unpublished).

Hina wanted food. Wakea went to fetch it,
Set up images, propped them up,
Set them up proudly in a row,
Wakea in the form of Ki‘i slept with "Hina the reddened one" (Hina-kaweoa),
A moa bird was born, perched on Wakea's back,
The moa scratched the back of Wakea,
Wakea was angry, tried to drive it away,
Wakea was angry, wrathful and troubled,
Tried to keep it off and it flew to the ridgepole,
The moa was a chief,
This was the seed of Kaeoeo (Kaweoa?)
Which spread over the sky,
All over the heavens,
All over the earth,
Yes, over the earth.

(a") Robinson translation (unpublished).

Built up an image and set it on a foundation,
Built up images in a line,
Wakea seized and slept with Hinakaweoa,
The cock rested on the back of Wakea,
The cock scratched the back of Wakea,
Wakea was jealous, began to shrug his back,
Wakea was jealous, vexed and angry,
Banished the cock and it flew to the housetop,
The cock was on the housetop,
The cock was lord,
This was the seed of Kaeoeo
Begotten in the heavens,
The heavens shook,
The earth shook,
Even to the sacred places.

The various Hinas in this story are not very clearly differentiated. Thrum says that Hina-kawe(o)a is the mother of the Maui family and hence the same as Hina-nui-a-(ka)-lana (Hinanu), who is named as the mother of the priestly island Molokai, whom Wakea took to wife after Papa (Haumea) had left him in anger, and from whom the island is called Molokai-of-Hina. Elsewhere she is called Hina-lau-ae, whose sacred cave on Molokai dividing Mapulehu from Kaluaaha is called the root (kumu) of the island and is to be approached with reverence.

Hina-opuhala-koa is goddess of the corals and spiny creatures of the sea and appears sometimes as a woman, sometimes as a coral reef. According to Pukui, it is from a shell from her reef that Maui makes his famous fishhook to draw together the islands. In the Hilo folktale of Hina-i-ke-ahi she comes out of the sea with Hina after the purification by bathing of the goddess of fire.

Hina-ke-ka (Hina the bailer), who floats up in the form of a gourd and is taken into Wakea's canoe, is here equated with Waka. In the Westervelt version of the Hainakolo romance, Waka is sent by the sorceress daughter of Hina-kekai, in the form of a great eel to prevent Lono-kai's approach to Kuaihelani. When the eel is drawn into the canoe and the head cut open there steps out a beautiful woman who attempts his seduction. In the Kauai Maui legend the girl in the bailer is a sister of Maui's mother Hina.

As for the food calabash of Hina-i-ka-malama out of which moon and stars escape to the heavens, although the myth may possibly refer to the determination of the planting calendar by the moon and the times of fishing by the rising and setting of the stars, it probably has reference to the spread of families of chiefs who sprung from the womb of the underseas woman taken to wife by the chief of Hawaii, or, more remotely, to the mythical relation believed to exist between the conception by the mother and the phases of the moon. On Oahu the name Kipapala(u)ulu is given to the ruling chief of Honolulu living at Kapu‘ukolo by the sea, who steals the magic fishhook of Kuula, god of fishing. Kuula wins it again through the marriage to the chief's daughter of a child fished up out of the water, who turns out to be the child (or grand-child) of Kuula, and who sends his wife to ask the hook from his father-in-law for a fishing expedition and thus returns it to his own parent. 

The obscure symbolism of these undersea stories links Hina-hanai-a-ka-malama (Hina nourished on the moon) with the matings described in the story of Wakea and Papa, ancestors of the race, from which are descended the lines of chiefs on the various islands of the group. This undersea Hina further becomes the Hina-hanaia-i-ka-malama (Hina who worked in the moon) or Hina-i-ka-malama (Hina in the moon), stories about whom are localized about Kauiki at the eastern point of the district of Hana on the island of Maui and connect her with both the Aikanaka and the Maui legendary cycles. The work she does is tapa making, hence in Hawaii she takes the name of Hina-i-kapa‘i-kua (Hina the tapa beater). As such she is often equated with Hina wife of Akalana and mother of the Maui brothers. As wife of Aikanaka and ancestress of the famous Polynesian heroes Kaha‘i and Laka, she is represented as retreating to the moon out of weariness with her husband's tapus. "Above was Hana-ia-ka-malama" says the chant which tells how her grandson Kaha‘i goes to seek his father by the path of the rainbow. Westervelt has collected the following Kauiki story:

Hina lived on Kauiki and the board on which she beat out tapa cloth may still be seen in the shape of a long black rock above the surf line below Kauiki. She tired of the labor and, packing her calabash, started by the rainbow path to the sun but, finding it too warm, she climbed instead to the moon, although her husband resisted her departure. There in the moon she may be seen with her calabash by her side. 

The stories told of Hina in Hawaii point to an early connection with the Tahitian moon goddess Hina wife of Ru (Lu), ancestor in Tahiti of the Maui brothers. Among the many names given this goddess are those of "Hina who stepped into the moon" and "Hina the tapa beater." 

As Hina-nui-ti-‘a‘ara (Great Hina of scented herbs) she is invoked by fire walkers and in the ceremony of the ti (ki) oven, and is therefore always dressed in garments of scented ti leaves. As Hina-ta‘ai-fenua and Hina-fa‘auru-va‘a she accompanies Ru as canoe pilot in his voyagings to and from Tahiti. As Hina-nui-te-araara (Great Hina the watcher) she watches in the moon over travelers on earth at night and as Hina-tutu-ha‘a (Hina the cloth beater) over cloth beaters for the gods. On earth her home is at the peninsula called Motu-tapu in Raiatea. Not far inland she spreads out her tapa at a place called Tutura‘a-ha‘a-a-Hina (Hina's place for beating cloth), where a long stone represents the fallen breadfruit tree whose bark she uses. One night she stepped into the moon and is hence called Hina-i-a‘a-i-te-marama (Hina who stepped into the moon). From the banyan tree in the moon she stepped upon and broke off a branch, which floated to Opoa and grew into a tree there [a myth which strangely resembles the Hawaiian legend of Haumea and the tree gods]. 

Perhaps it is the popularity of this moon goddess in Hawaii which has brought her into the Pele cycle as one of the forms taken by the fire goddess in her life on earth. In romance Hina-i-ka-malama is a beautiful chiefess of Hana district on Maui who contends with her rival, the snow goddess Poliahu, for the embraces of their mutual lover. A Pele myth recounted by Westervelt from Hawaii represents Pele from the volcano on Maunaloa on the south side of the island as pouring fiery lava over the land while Poliahu from lofty Maunakea at the other end of the island spreads her cooling mantle of snow. 

Laie-i-ka-wai version. The young chief of Kauai when he goes to seek the beauty of Puna makes a vow to enjoy no other woman until he has won Laie. At Hana on Maui he is attracted by the lovely Hina-i-ka-malama as she rides the famous surf at Puhele, and he turns in at Haneoo. The chiefess falls in love with the handsome stranger and wins him at a game of konane (Hawaiian checkers). He excuses himself until his return and goes on to Hawaii, where he courts an even more beautiful chiefess in the person of Poliahu, who also promises him her hand. When he finally loses hope of winning Laie-i-ka-wai, he "claps his hands before his god" to free himself from his rash vow and proceeds to a marriage with Poliahu, whom he fetches home with a great cortege to Kauai. While the festivities are proceeding at Mana, the disappointed Hina, apprised of her lover's duplicity, appears and claims the forfeited stake. Aiwohikupua is obliged to relinquish himself to her embraces, but the angry Poliahu envelopes the lovers in alternate waves of unendurable heat and cold until they are obliged to separate, when the mountain goddess retires to her home attended by her three maidens, Lilinoe, Waiaie, and Kahoupokane, and Aiwohikupua finds himself bereft of both ladies. 

The episode gives opportunity for a realistic scene at a kilu game where the kaeke dance is being presented. Hauailike, a friend of Aiwohikupua, plays much the same secondary role as a lover of Hina-i-ka-malama as Paoa of Pele in the Hi‘iaka legend. Clearly the composer here has in mind Pele in her human form as Hina-i-ka-malama, and the whole episode must be regarded as inspired not only by the kilu contest between Pele-ula and Hi‘iaka for Lohiau's affection, but by the traditional rivalry between the two mountain goddesses.

Among the ten children who are named as offspring of the sea goddess Hina-luai-koa through marriage with a brother of the same parents, as recounted in the myth of the undersea woman with which this chapter opens, the oldest-born is the daughter called Hina-a-ke-ahi (Hina of the fire), a name corresponding to Pele's in her character as a god. Hina-ai-malama (Hina who eats the moon), the youngest sister and the only one with a human body, has the name attributed to Pele as a woman on earth. In the Lalohana version the girl who feeds upon the moon is daughter of Ka hina-li‘i, parent in some versions of the migrating Pele family. The flood sent by her parents which sweeps over the island is called, as in the Pele migration version, the sea of Ka-hina-li‘i. It must be clear by this time that "sisters" and "daughters" are often to be understood as manifestations of the same deity in several forms, each of which has its distinct place in myth and ceremonial. On the other hand deities drawn from different sources may become identified with a single dominating figure. Associated with the Tahitian Hina of the moon as the presiding genius of the ti oven is "a chieftainess of this world" called Vahine-nui-tahu-ra‘i (Woman who set fire to the sky), who commands the lightning. The relation of this figure to the Kalaipahoa sorcery in the form of a streak of light and its close connection with the Pele family are doubly significant. Life through fertility of the female here on earth is the dominant conception of both fire and moon worship, and that of the unity of the race through descent from a divine ancestress is the social incentive for merging the two as different aspects of a single divinity, who is Haumea or Papa in Hawaii, Hotu (fruitfulness) in Tahiti.

The following abstracts from other Polynesian groups offer some interesting comparisons with the theme of the underseas (or underworld) woman drawn up to become a chief's wife and the mother of chiefs. The terms translated "upper" and "under" in some cases may mean "windward" (east) and "leeward" (west).

Samoa. (a) One of five "sons of ocean" named Papa-usu-i-au has for wife Gaogao-o-le-tai. Their children are Sina-lesae‘e and Pili. Sina goes above to Manu‘a and becomes the wife of Tangaloa. Her brother follows and takes the chiefess of Manu‘a for his wife and their son becomes chief. There comes upward from the land below a woman named Sau-mani-lalama to fish with torches. She is snared and becomes wife to the chief (Tui) of Manu‘a and it is from Pili and his issue that divisions of labor and island settlements are named. (b) To Light and Darkness is born Tagaloa-ui. He takes to wife Sina-so‘umani and Tae-o-Tagaloa is born and becomes the first Tui-manu‘a. 

Tahiti. (a) Ta‘aroa has produced the "gods of the four classes" and now wishes to produce mankind. He bids Hina go to Ti‘i-maaraatai, a man and her brother. He follows her and himself taking the form of this Ti‘i they become man and wife. Their son is Ti‘i. Hina's daughter Hina-ereere-monoi becomes the wife of Ti‘i and Taata (kanaka, man) is born. Transformed into a beautiful young woman, Hina becomes his wife and Ouru and Fana (Ulu and Nana) are born, from whom come the human race. (b) The oldest daughter of Ti‘i and Hina, "she who ate before and behind," is Hina-‘ere‘ere-manua. In order to lure Hina from her tapu enclosure where she is kept by her parents, Tu-ra‘i-po or Ti‘iti‘i-po gets Matamata-arahu (Printer in charcoal) to display patterns of tattooing in charcoal. Thus the art is taught in Tahiti. 

Mangaia. Wakea breaks out of the darkness of the underworld into the light of the upper world. He brings Papa up-ward, in one version luring her by sprinkling coconut meat in the cave leading out from the underworld. From these two spring the people of Mangaia. 

Marquesas. (a) After Hina and her brothers Fifa-the-greedy and Paoe escape from their demon mother, Hina descends to Havai‘i and the brothers are taken into service by two chiefs, Fifa by the greater chief of Hanaiapa and Paoe by his younger brother, the lesser chief. Hina has directed her brothers to keep her supplied with food and Paoe obeys her. The chief becomes curious and asks about his sister's beauty; Paoe looks up at the full moon and compares his sister to it in loveliness. The chief asks for her as his wife and she consents. The greater chief however desires Hina and she consents. He puts his brother to death, and she becomes the wife of the greater chief. (b) The woman living in O‘o-va‘u, a land "under" the sea, is drawn up in a net to become Pohu's wife. 




Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com


1. Coming of the Gods
2. Ku Gods
3. The God Lono
4. The Kane Worship
5. Kane and Kanaloa
6. Mythical Lands of the Gods
7. Lesser Gods
8. Sorcery Gods
9. Guardian Gods
10. The Soul after Death
11. The Pele Myth
12. The Pele Sisters
13. Pele Legends

14. Kamapua`a
15. Hina Myths
16. Maui The Trickster
17. Aikanaka-Kaha`iI
18. Wahieloa-Laka
19.  Haumea
20. Papa and Wakea
21. Genealogies
22. Era of Overturning
23. Mu and Menehune
24. Runners, Man-Eaters, Dog Men
25. Moikeha-la`a Migration
26. Hawaiiloa and Paao
27. Ruling Chiefs
28. Usurping Chiefs
29. Kapua Stories
30. Trickster Stories
31. Voyage to the Land of the Gods
32. Riddling Contests
33. The Kana Legends
34. The Stretching-Tree Kupua
35. Romance of the Swimmer
36. Romance of the Island of Virgins
37. Romances of Match-Making
38. Romances of the Dance
39. Wooing Romances
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