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In Hawaiian mythology, Hiʻiaka is a daughter of Haumea and Kāne.

Attributes and history[edit]

Hiʻiaka, or the youngest Hiiaka, was the patron goddess of Hawaiʻi, hula dancers, chant, sorcery and medicine.[1][2] Owls were her messengers and were sacred to her. Her common and family name means "carried egg" - "hiʻi", to hold or carry in the arms (as a child), and "aka", meaning embryo - referring to the story of how she was brought to Hawaiʻi by her sister Pele. Her family line is called Hiʻiaka, and they take on the task of bearing the clouds, providing rain, thunder and lightning variously, those of storms and those produced by Pele's volcanoes.[3] Hiʻiaka lived in a grove of Lehua trees which are sacred to her where she spent her days dancing with the forest spirits.

Hiʻiaka was conceived in Tahiti, but carried in the form of an egg to Hawaiʻi by Pele, who kept the egg with her at all times to incubate it. From this, she earned her full name, Hiʻiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele: "Hiʻiaka in the bosom of Pele". Hiʻiaka is Pele's favorite and most loyal sister, although they have also had their differences. Hiʻiaka was the first God of this pantheon (the Pele family) born in Hawaii.

Goddess of Hula and the importance of traditions[edit]

Hi'iaka was the first to dance hula after her eldest sister Pele asked her to do so. Therefore, Hi'iaka is known as a goddess of hula, along with Laka and Kapo (other sisters of Pele). In hula Hālau (hula schools), ceremonies for these goddesses take place.[4]

Oli kāhea are chants asking for permission to enter a place (like someone’s home or a ceremony). These chants are also used when asking someone intelligent, like a teacher, to share their knowledge. In Hawaiian culture, the people are taught to use oli kāhea to ask permission to enter a forest, since many forest are considered the homes of the gods. In hula Hālau (hula schools), oli and mele kāhea are chanted by the haumana (students). The haumana (students) use the oli kāhea to request that their kumu (teachers) allow them entry into the Hālau (school). When chanting oli kāhea, Hawaiians are taught to be humble and to have good 'ano (proper spirit and intention).[5]

The importance of mele kahea, and the responsibility of those receiving mele kahea, is seen in different parts of Hi'iaka's quest to Lohiau. For example, when the chief of Maui denied Hi'iaka hospitality after she asked for permission to enter his home (through her mele kahea), Hi'iaka punished him. When the chief was sleeping, Hi'iaka caught his spirit after it left his body, and killed it (killing him). Therefore, Hawaiians are taught that being on both the giving and receiving parts of oli (chants) require respect and mindfulness of our actions.[6]


In the best known story, Pele once fell into a deep sleep and left her body to wander, and was lured by the sound of a hula-drum accompanied by a wonderful voice. In the Epic Tale of Hi'iakaikapoliopele, it is said that Pele (deity) did not accidentally hear the sounds of the drums and voices. Instead, this version says that Kanikawi and Kanikawa (the gods of Lohi'au and his people) wanted Pele to specifically hear Lohi’au, and later become his wife.[7] She appeared in spirit at a festival on Kauaʻi (in most versions of the legend; another variation has her visit Kauaʻi physically while first seeking a home)[8] where she fell in love with the singer, a young chief named Lohiau. Hiʻiaka had been watching over her, and after nine days she grew worried and sang an incantation to bring Pele back.[9] Upon her return, Pele longed for Lohiau and decided to send a messenger to bring him to her. Hiʻiaka volunteered to go on the dangerous journey, as long as Pele would protect her sacred grove of Lehua trees and her lover, Hopoe (meaning "one encircled, as with a lei or with loving arms").

Pele agreed to Hiʻiaka's request, but insisted that she return with Lohiau within 40 days. She also instructed Hiʻiaka not to fall in love with Lohiau, or even embrace him.


Before Hi'iaka left for her quest, Pele (deity) gifted her with three tools to help her face the trials throughout the quest. The first gift was 'Awihikalani (a critical eye), to help her to foretell the future encounters she would face, communicate with spirits, and grant her the ability to have supernatural knowledge. The second gift was called Ka lima ikaika o Kīlauea (the "strong arm" of Kilauea), to help her defeat her opponents in battle with super strength. The last gift was Pa'u uila (lightning skirt), this skirt had different abilities to help her along her journey. This skirt also had extreme importance due to the fact that it is a female garment, showing the significance of supernatural women in Hawaii not being ruled by male gods.[10]


Pa'uopalapalai (Fern Skirt) was a loyal servant to the Pele (deity) family for so long that she had become like a spirit. Therefore, she was trusted to be Hi'iaka's companion on journey. After the two left Kīlauea, they met a very devout and pious woman named Wahine 'Oma'o (Green Woman), who joined them on the journey after she made her offerings to Pele (deity).[11] Wahine 'Oma'o was a half-goddess. She was the only companion of Hi'iaka who completed the entire journey with her.[12]

Journey/Battles of Hi'iaka[edit]

Hiʻiaka's journey was filled with many adventures, such as dueling with the kupua (demons) of the island forests.

When the travelers arrived at Puna ma Kai, they met a gorgeous princess named Papulehu. She gifted them with red lehua and maile lei (garland). These are the plants that Puna is famous for. She was kind and gracious, however, she was not devout and did not take the time for prayers. Therefore, she did not last the first battle of the journey. Since she did not pray, she had no spiritual sight during the battle against the mo'o Pana’ewa, whom she was eaten by.[13] Pana'ewa could change into different forms like kino-ohu (fog), kino-au-awa (sharp rain), and kukui (candle-nut tree). Hi'iaka defeated Pana'ewa by trapping her and her followers within a thickening of vines. Many more mo'o, as well as other monsters, are defeated as they traveled across Hawai'i. They also had the help of war gods (named Kuliliaukaua and Kekako'i), as well as shell-conch blowers (named Kamaiau, Kahinihini, and Mapu).[14]

When passing through Maui, Hi'iaka and Wahine 'Oma'o are denied hospitality by Chief Olepau in Iao Valley. Hi'iaka punished him with death by catching his second soul (after it left his body and wondered while he was sleeping). She pounded his body against Pahalele, the rock near Waihe'e.

Hi'iaka and Wahine 'Oma'o headed towards Oahu by passing by the extremely windy side of Molokai, called Kaunakakai. The women came across a mo'o tribe that was causing havoc to women of the area by taking their husbands. Therefore, Hi'iaka and Wahine 'Oma'o exiled the mo'o tribe. They also defeated Kikipua, the mo'o woman who would eat travelers by tricking them that her tongue was a bridge. After she was defeated, Hi'iaka used her pa'u as a bridge to Oahu for safe passage.

Hi'iaka showed respect to her supernatural relatives, the rocks Maka-pu'u and Malei, when they arrived to the rocky side of Oahu through oli (chants). On Oahu, she also crushed Mokoli'i, an evil mo'o, at Kualoa. When they arrived at Kaena point, Hi'iaka pleaded the Rock-of-Kauai to send her a canoe to paddle over to Kauai.The Rock-of Kauai traces back to Māui (mythology), when it was left at sea after his fishline broke. Hi'iaka's request was granted and she arrived on Kauai at Ha’ena to finally reach Lohiau.

When at last Hi'iaka reached Kauaʻi she found that the young chief had died from longing for Pele. She was able to revive him with chanting and prayer, but she was not able to return to Pele within 40 days. Pele, fearing that Hiʻiaka had betrayed her and was keeping the handsome chief for herself, became enraged and not only destroyed Hiʻiaka's sacred Lehua forest, but also killed Hopoe, turning her into stone.

When Hiʻiaka returned, seeing her lover dead and her forest ravaged, she took revenge on Pele and embraced Lohiau. In retaliation, Pele sent waves of lava at the couple. Hiʻiaka was unharmed, but Lohiau was killed by the lava. Again, Hiʻiaka revived him, thus bringing him back to life twice.[15]

Pele, regretting her actions toward Hiʻiaka's forest and friend, decided to let Lohiau choose who he wanted to be with. Some versions of the legend say that Lohiau chose Hiʻiaka over Pele and returned with her to Kauaʻi. Others say he decided to remain with the both of them. Still others say that he retreated to Kauaʻi alone. But it is most widely believed that after their long and dangerous journey from Kaua'i, Lohiau had come to love and greatly admire Hiʻiaka for her bravery, loyalty, kindness and beauty. He chose her for his wife and took her back to Kaua'i to be with him.

The educational Hawaiian website, Living Hawaiian Culture Kumukahi, stated that "During this long and dangerous trip, Hi'iaka realizes her own powers as a goddess. She is the healer of land. Pele creates new land and Hi'iaka follows by healing the land, making it fertile and causing things to grow."[16]

Hiʻiaka sisters[edit]

There were "twelve" or "forty sisters",[17] all daughters of Haumea. [The word /hiʻi-aka/ has the meaning of 'embryo',[18] and is a compound of /hiʻi/ 'to hold or carry in the arms (scil., a child)' and /aka/ 'embryo at the moment of conception; carefully'.]


One sister included Hiʻiaka-i-ka-pua-ʻenaʻena: "The skin of any person she possessed reddened. She was also known as Kuku-ʻena-i-ke-ahi-hoʻomau-honua (beating hot in the perpetual earth fire), and in this guise she was ... guide to travelers lost in the wilderness, and vanished when they found their way. She was also known as Hiʻiaka-i-ka-puaaneane (Hiʻiaka in extreme old age). Lit., Hiʻiaka in the smoking heat."[19]


They also included Hiʻiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele : "One of her forms was the palaʻā lace fern ... one of the first plants to grow on new lava. ... She instituted the eating of fish from head to tail. ... Lit., Hiʻiaka in the bosom of Pele."[20]

Defeating monsters[edit]

Soul-journey in "a deep sleep during which the spirit leaves her body":[21]- "Hiʻiaka fights and overcomes a number of ... monsters.

  • The moʻo woman Panaewa, who impedes her way first in the form of fog (kino-ohu), then of sharp rain (kino-au-awa), then of a candlenut (kukui) tree, she entangles ... in a growth of vine ... .
  • Two moʻo, Kiha and Puaʻa-loa (Long hog), are caught in a flow of lava ... .
  • The shark at the mouth of Waipio valley who seizes swimmers crossing the bay is met and slain.
  • Moʻolau, chief of the jumping mo'o (mahiki) in the land of Mahiki-waena, is defied ... .
  • Two moʻo, Pili and Noho, who make travelers pay toll at the bridge across the Wailuku river, are rent jaw to jaw and the way opened for free traffic."

Shamanic soul-catching[edit]

  • "Refused hospitality at the home of the chief Olepau [or Kaulahea] in Iao valley, Hiʻiaka avenges the insult by catching his second soul, as it goes fluttering about as he lies sleeping, and dashing it against the rock Palahele near Waiheʻe."[22]
  • "Peleula is a famous makaula or seer, but Hiʻiaka prevails over her. Waihinano, the pert sorceress who defies her on Maui, has been brought up by Kapo and Pua, but Hiʻiaka catches and crushes to death the soul of the Maui chief for which they both contend. ... Pele gives Hiʻiaka to Paoa as his wife and he returns with her to Kaua'i".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Legends and Myths of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, 1888.
  2. ^ Myths and Legends of Hawaii, W.D. Westervelt, 2005.
  3. ^ Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes, William D Westervelt, 1916.
  4. ^ Nimmo, Harry Arlo. "The Cult of Pele in Traditional Hawai'i" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Types of Mele Used as Oli | 'Ōlelo". apps.ksbe.edu. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  6. ^ "Types of Mele Used as Oli | 'Ōlelo". apps.ksbe.edu. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  7. ^ Ho'Oulumahiehie. (2013). Epic tale of hi'iakaikapoliopele. Awaiaulu Pr. ISBN 978-0988262911. OCLC 850856673.
  8. ^ "Part Two: Children of the Gods XI: The Pele Myth" from Sacred-Texts.com
  9. ^ Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes, William D Westervelt, 1916.
  10. ^ ho'omanawanui, ku'ualoha (2014-05-01). Voices of Fire. University of Minnesota Press. doi:10.5749/minnesota/9780816679218.001.0001. ISBN 9780816679218.
  11. ^ "Ka Huakaʻi o Hiʻiaka – The Journey of Hiʻiaka". Kaʻahele Hawaiʻi. 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  12. ^ Beckwith, Martha Warren, 1871-1959. (2008). Hawaiian mythology. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 9780559118623. OCLC 501998421.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "Ka Huakaʻi o Hiʻiaka – The Journey of Hiʻiaka". Kaʻahele Hawaiʻi. 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  14. ^ Beckwith, Martha Warren, 1871-1959. (2008). Hawaiian mythology. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 9780559118623. OCLC 501998421.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Glen Grant 1999.
  16. ^ "Kumukahi | Explore". www.kumukahi.org. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  17. ^ William D. Westervelt : Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes. 1916. p. 69
  18. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui & Samuel H. Elbert : Hawaiian Dictionary. U Pr of HI, Honolulu, 1971. p. 64a, s.v. "Hiʻi-aka"
  19. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui & Samuel H. Elbert: Hawaiian Dictionary. U Pr of HI, Honolulu, 1971. p. 383b
  20. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui & Samuel H. Elbert : Hawaiian Dictionary. U Pr of HI, Honolulu, 1971. p. 383a
  21. ^ Martha Beckwith : Hawaiian Mythology. Yale U Pr, 1940. p. 173
  22. ^ Martha Beckwith : Hawaiian Mythology. Yale U Pr, 1940. p. 174
  23. ^ Martha Beckwith : Hawaiian Mythology. Yale U Pr, 1940. p. 184


  • William Westervelt (1999). Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes. Mutual Publishing.

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