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Legendary Setting


Ke‘e BEach

Ke‘e Beach rests at the foot of Makana mountain, at the beginning of the Na Pali Coast. On the peninsula at the back are the Ka Ulu A Paoa heiau and the Altar of Laka. The stone wall visible in the lower middle is from the more recent Atherton House site.


Ha‘ena is most famous for its role in the story of Pele, Hi‘iaka, and Lohi‘au, the subject of a series of hulas and chants, many more contemporary texts, and a range of modern interpretations. Here is a short synopsis:

Pele-honua-mea is the Fire Goddess and maker of land. Coming from Kahiki with her family and her gods, she arrived at Nihoa island and began searching for a suitable home, using Paoa, her divining rod, to dig for a proper fire home. Nihoa was found unsuitable and the family moved on down the island chain, with Paoa testing Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, and Maui, all of which were found wanting. Moving eastward to the fire caverns of Hawai‘i, Pele's clan made their new home in Halema'uma'u at Kilauea.

At a place close to the sea at Puna, Pele fell into a deep dream trance that transported her to the island of Kaua‘i. There, at Ha‘ena, she met and fell in love with the ruling chief, Lohi‘au. When she awoke, Pele longed to see Lohi‘au, and asked her sisters to fetch her lover from Kaua‘i. While the others refused, Hi‘iaka-i-ka-poli-o-pele accepted the challenge. She was given a limit of forty days to complete this task. With her traveled Pa‘uopalae and Wahine‘oma‘o. These three experienced many adventures and obstacles on their journey to Kaua‘i.



Cliffs above Ha'ena

The cliffs of Limahuli Valley, above Ha‘ena.


At Kaua‘i, Hi‘iaka found Malaeha‘akoa, a well known but maimed seer and the keeper of Pele‘s genealogy. Hi‘iaka healed Malaeha‘akoa, who then told her that Lohi‘au was dead. For when Pele had awakened from her dream and left him, Lohi‘au had despaired that he could not find this beautiful women whose company he had enjoyed so greatly, and he had taken his life. Hi‘iaka found that his body has been spirited away by the two mo‘o witches, Kilioe and Ka-lana-mai-nu‘u, who had hidden it in a cave high on the inaccessible mountain side.

Hi‘iaka spotted the shadowy spirit form of Lohi‘au up on the pali and chanted to him, until he finally responded. Hi‘iaka and her friends mounted the cliff to the cave, and Hi‘iaka captured the ghost. Then they began long and arduous revivification rituals, at the end of which Lohi‘au was brought back to life. They all descended back down the mountain on rainbows and cleansed themselves in the sea. After a feast of celebration at the Altar of Laka there at Ha‘ena, Hi‘iaka, Lohi‘au, and company began the journey back to Pele at Halema‘uma‘u on the Island of Hawai‘i.



The landscape of Ha‘ena figures strongly in this story, and many of the sites can still be seen today. Some of them are still used for ritual purposes, as we will learn leater. Meanwhile, we turn our attention to traditions concerning Ha‘ena's neighbors .



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