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Kilioe and the Naupaka


Na Pali Coast

From where Kilioe lies near the foot of Ka Ulu a Paoa heiau, the view down Na Pali Coast.

"The body of Kilioe," writes Frederick Wichman, "one of the two mo‘o sisters who guarded Lohi'au's body, became a furrowed rock beside the sea that is still used as a birth rock, a place for the safeguarding of the umbilical cord of a newborn. In so doing, the child was placed under the protection of Kilioe. The ancients believed that the fate of the umbilical cord foretold the child's life."

"Kilioe was said by some to part mo‘o" relates Chipper, Frederick Wichman's nephew. "I don't know if you would call her a kupua. But she was also a kumu hula that this area was famous for. And there's a neat mo‘olelo from this area related to the naupaka. The naupaka is a beach plant and a mountain plant, and the Hawaiians call it naupaka kahakai for the beach plant, and naupaka kuahiwi for the mountain one, and each plant produces the half flower. And when you put the two half flowers together, they match. And so there are stories about this on all the islands, several of them are associated with Pele and how she separated these lovers and turned them into plants. And the legend form this area has to do with two hula students, who were students of Kilioe."



"The hula school down here was the most revered of the hula schools. It was not for the faint-hearted to enter into scholarship at this halau, because it was expected that you would literally dedicate your life to learning. There were many strict kapu that governed the protocols of being a haumana in the halau. Part of the kapu was that there was to be no sexual relationships between the students.

"In this story, two of the students, in spite of their dedication, found that they were unavoidably attracted to each other. They could not resist the power of love that was overtaking them. So they prayed on it, and thought about it, and asked the goddess Laka to release them from their vow of dedication, and offered as a ho‘okupu, a maile lei and a haku lei at the Ke Ahu o Laka, and left in the middle of the night."


Entrance to Heiau

Entrance to Ke Ahu a Laka.

Heiau altar

Top of the heiau, presumably the altar area.


"The story says that Kilioe, in the middle of the night, was awakened by a mo‘o who was making some kind of hissing noise, and awoke her to be alert. Because she was part mo‘o, Kilioe had mo‘o watchdogs, you might say. And she listened with her supernatural powers and she could hear the splashing of feet going through Limahuli stream. So she got up and began to chase after the two students that were running away. And she chased them and chased them.



"As she was chasing them, the sun began to come up. She chased them all the way to Lumaha‘i, and when they got the point they realized that she was gaining on them and she would surely catch them, and so the boyfriend told his lover, he said that he was going to stay and hide in a cave here in the cliff, and for her to climb on up that ridge there, and he would distract Kilioe and allow his wahine to escape. So he hid in a cave and she kept climbing up the cliff. And just as Kilioe came by, he jumped out and made some kind of ruckus, to distract her, and she struck him with her ko'o (koko?), her stick, and killed him."



"Then she began following the wahine up the cliff, and when she looked back and saw that her lover had been killed, she lost fight, and so she actually turned around and came down, and Kilioe killed her up there on the ridge. Then Kilioe went back to the halau.

The next morning, to her surprise, a fisherman ame up to see her, knowing that she was a high priestess, closest to Laka, the goddess. And Laka is not only goddess of the hula, but goddess of the forest, and of the wild growth and the plants. So he came to see Kilioe, because to his amazement, every morning he went down to this point to go fishing, and this morning when he came down, there was this new plant that he had never seen before, growing there. And he brought this plant and showed her, there was this blossom on the plant. And indeed, Kilioe had never seen it either."


Naupaka Kahakai

Naupaka kahakai. Photo by Burt Lum.


Naupaka Kuahiwi

Naupaka kuahiwi. Photo by Burt Lum.


"That afternoon, a birdcatcher came down from the mountain, and he climbed down the ridge from Lumaha‘i, and he came to see Kilioe, because as he came down the ridge, which he had traveled often, there was another plant, that he had never seen before, and he brought it to Kilioe. And when she looked at it, and she saw the half-flower that matched the one that the fisherman had brought, she saw that when they went together, they made a perfect match.

"At that time, she realized what had happened, and that Laka had turned these students into plants, and she realized that Laka had released them from their vow, and that she had blessed them, and that Kilioe had really acted improperly in punishing them for what she perceived to be breaking of the kapu."



"And so she went up to Ke Ahu o Laka to make amends, to pray to Laka. And when she got up there, she discovered this lei that the students had left there. And there, to her surprise, on top of the lei, dead, was her mo‘o.

"So in the Ha‘ena version of Naupaka, it's one in which, in a sense, the lovers are brought back together, in the plant kingdom. Although they are forever separated--one grows in the mountains and one grows by the beach--they live together as plants."



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