Legends of Maui, A Demi-God of Polynesia, by W. D. Westervelt, , at sacred-texts.com
THE legends about Hina and her famous son Maui and her less widely known daughters are common property among the natives of the beautiful little city of Hilo. One of these legends of more than ordinary interest finds its location in the three small hills back of Hilo toward the mountains.
These hills are small craters connected with some ancient lava flow of unusual violence. The eruption must have started far up on the slopes of Mauna Loa. As it sped down toward the sea it met some obstruction which, although overwhelmed, checked the flow and caused a great mass of cinders and ashes to be thrown out until a large hill with a hollow crater was built up, covering many acres of ground.
Soon the lava found another vent and then another obstruction and a second and then a third hill were formed nearer the sea. These hills or extinct craters bear the names Halai, Opeapea and Puu Honu. They are not far from the Wailuku river, famous for its picturesque waterfalls and also for the legends which are told along its banks. Here Maui had his lands overlooking the steep bluffs. Here in a cave under the Rainbow Falls was the home of Hina, the mother of Maui, according to the Hawaiian stories. Other parts of the Pacific sometimes make Hina Maui's wife, and sometimes a goddess from whom he descended. In the South Sea legends Hina was thought to have married the moon. Her home was in the skies, where she wove beautiful tapa cloths (the clouds), which were bright and glistening, so that when she rolled them up flashes of light (cloud lightning) could be seen on the earth. She laid heavy stones on the corners of these tapas, but sometimes the stones rolled off and made the thunder. Hina of the Rainbow Falls was a famous tapa maker whose tapa was the cause of Maui's conflict with the sun.
Hina had several daughters, four of whose names are given: Hina Ke Ahi, Hina Ke Kai, Hina Mahuia, and Hina Kuluua. Each name marked the peculiar "mana" or divine gift which Hina, the mother, had bestowed upon her daughters.
Hina Ke Ahi meant the Hina who had control of fire. This name is sometimes given to Hina the mother. Hina Ke Kai was the daughter who had power over the sea. She was said to have been in a canoe with her brother Maui when he fished up Cocoanut Island, his line breaking before he could pull it up to the mainland and make it fast. Hina Kuluua was the mistress over the forces of rain. The winds and the storms were supposed to obey her will. Hina Mahuia is peculiarly a name connected with the legends of the other island groups of the Pacific. Mahuia or Mafuie was a god or goddess of fire all through Polynesia.
The legend of the Hilo hills pertains especially to Hina Ke Ahi and Hina Kuluua. Hina the mother gave the hill Halai to Hina Ke Ahi and the hill Puu Honu to Hina Kuluua for their families and dependents.
The hills were of rich soil and there was much rain. Therefore, for a long time, the two daughters had plenty of food for themselves and their people, but at last the days were like fire and the sky had no rain in it. The taro planted on the hillsides died. The bananas and sugar cane and sweet potatoes withered and the fruit on the trees was blasted. The people were faint because of hunger, and the shadow of death was over the land. Hina Ke Ahi pitied her suffering friends and determined to provide food for them. Slowly her people labored at her command. Over they went to the banks of the river course, which was only the bed of an ancient lava stream, over which no water was flowing; the famished laborers toiled, gathering and carrying back whatever wood they could find, then up the mountain side to the great koa and ohia forests, gathering their burdens of fuel according to the wishes of their chiefess.
Their sorcerers planted charms along the way and uttered incantations to ward off the danger of failure. The priests offered sacrifices and prayers for the safe and successful return of the burden-bearers. After many days the great quantity of wood desired by the goddess was piled up by the side of the Halai Hill.
Then came the days of digging out the hill and making a great imu or cooking oven and preparing it with stones and wood. Large quantities of wood were thrown into the place. Stones best fitted for retaining heat were gathered and the fires kindled. When the stones were hot, Hina Ke Ahi directed the people to arrange the imu in its proper order for cooking the materials for a great feast. A place was made for sweet potatoes, another for taro, another for pigs and another for dogs. All the form of preparing the food for cooking was passed through, but no real food was laid on the stones. Then Hina told them to make a place in the imu for a human sacrifice. Probably out of every imu of the long ago a small part of the food was offered to the gods, and there may have been a special place in the imu for that part of the food to be cooked. At any rate Hina had this oven so built that the people understood that a remarkable sacrifice would be offered in it to the gods, who for some reason had sent the famine upon the people.
Human sacrifices were frequently offered by the Hawaiians even after the days of the coming of Captain Cook. A dead body was supposed to be acceptable to the gods when a chief's house was built, when a chief's new canoe was to be made or when temple walls were to be erected or victories celebrated. The bodies of the people belonged to the will of the chief. Therefore it was in quiet despair that the workmen obeyed Hina Ke Ahi and prepared the place for sacrifice. It might mean their own holocaust as an offering to the gods. At last Hina Ke Ahi bade the laborers cease their work and stand by the side of the oven ready to cover it with the dirt which had been thrown out and piled up by the side. The people stood by, not knowing upon whom, the blow might fall.
But Hina Ke Ahi was "Hina the kind," and although she stood before them robed in royal majesty and power, still her face was full of pity and love. Her voice melted the hearts of her retainers as she bade them carefully follow her directions.
"O my people. Where are you? Will you obey and do as I command? This imu is my imu. I shall lie down on its bed of burning stones. I shall sleep under its cover. But deeply cover ine or I may perish. Quickly throw the dirt over in), body. Fear not the fire. Watch for three days. A woman will stand by the imu. Obey her will."
Hina Ke Ahi was very beautiful, and her eyes flashed light like fire as she stepped into the great pit and lay down on the burning stones. A great smoke arose and gathered over the imu. The men toiled rapidly, placing the imu mats over their chiefess and throwing the dirt back into the oven until it was all thoroughly covered and the smoke was quenched.
Then they waited for the strange, mysterious thing which must follow the sacrifice of this divine chiefess.
Halai hill trembled and earthquakes shook the land round about. The great heat of the fire in the imu withered the little life which was still left from the famine. Meanwhile Hina Ke Ahi was carrying out her plan for securing aid for her people. She could not be injured by the heat for she was a goddess of fire. The waves of heat raged around her as she sank down through the stones of the imu into the underground paths which belonged to the spirit world. The legend says that Hina made her appearance in the form of a gushing stream of water which would always supply the want of her adherents. The second day passed. Hina was still journeying underground, but this time she came to the surface as a pool named Moe Waa (canoe sleep) much nearer the sea. The third day came and Hina caused a great spring of sweet water to burst forth from the sea shore in the very path of the ocean surf. This received the name Auauwai. Here Hina washed away all traces of her journey through the depths. This was the last of the series of earthquakes and the appearance of new water springs. The people waited, feeling that some more wonderful event must follow the remarkable experiences of the three days. Soon a woman stood by the imu, who commanded the laborers to dig away the dirt and remove the mats. When this was done, the hungry people found a very great abundance of food, enough to supply their want until the food plants should have time to ripen and the days of the famine should be over.
The joy of the people was great when they knew that their chiefess had escaped death and would still dwell among them in comfort. Many were the songs sung and stories told about the great famine and the success of the goddess of fire.
The second sister, Hina Kuluua, the goddess of rain, was always very jealous of her beautiful sister Hina Ke Ahi, and many times sent rain to put out fires which her sister tried to kindle. Hina Ke Ahi could not stand the rain and so fled with her people to a home by the seaside.
Hina Kuluua (or Hina Kuliua as she was sometimes known among the Hawaiians) could control rain and storms, but for some reason failed to provide a food supply for her people, and the famine wrought havoc among them. She thought of the stories told and songs sung about her sister and wished for the same honor for herself. She commanded her people to make a great imu for her in the hill Pun Honu. She knew that a strange power belonged to her and yet, blinded by jealousy, forgot that rain and fire could not work together. She planned to furnish a great supply of food for her people in the same way in which her sister had worked.
The oven was dug. Stones and wood were collected and the same ghostly array of potatoes, taro, pig and dog prepared as had been done before by her sister.
The kahunas or priests knew'that Hina Kuluua was going out of her province in trying to do as her sister had done, but there was no use in attempting to change her plans. jealousy is self-willed and obstinate and no amount of reasoning from her dependents could have any influence over her.
The ordinary incantations were observed, and Hina Kulutia gave the same directions as those her sister had given. The imu was to be well heated. The make-believe food was to be put in and a place left for her body. It was the goddess of rain making ready to lie down on a bed prepared for the goddess of fire. When all was ready, she lay down on the heated stones and the oven mats were thrown over her and the ghostly provisions. Then the covering of dirt was thrown back upon the mats and heated stones, filling the pit which had been dug. The goddess of rain was left to prepare a feast for her people as the goddess of fire had done for herfollowers.
Some of the legends have introduced the demi-god Maui into this story. The natives say that Maui came to "burn" or "cook the rain" and that he made the oven very hot, but that the goddess of rain escaped and hung over the hill in the form of a cloud. At least this is what the people saw-not a cloud of smoke over the imu, but a rain cloud. They waited and watched for such evidences of underground labor as attended the passage of Hina Ke Ahi through the earth from the hill to the sea, but the only strange appearance was the dark rain cloud. They waited three days and looked for their chiefess to come in the form of a woman. They waited another day and still another and no signs or wonders were rnanifest. Meanwhile Maui, changing himself into a white bird, flew up into the sky to catch the ghost of the goddess of rain which had escaped from the burning oven. Having caught this spirit, he rolled it in some kapa cloth which lie kept for food to be placed in an oven and carried it to a place in the forest on the mountain side where again the attempt was made to "burn the rain," but a great drop escaped and sped upward into the sky. Again Maui can ht the ghost of the goddess and carried it to a pali or precipice below the great volcano Kilauea, where he again tried to destroy it in the heat of a great lava oven, but this time the spirit escaped and found a safe refuge among kukui trees on the mountain side, from which she sometimes rises in clouds which the natives say are the sure sign of rain.
Whether this Maui legend has any real connection with the two Hinas and the famine we do not surely know. The legend ordinarily told among the Hawaiians says that after five days had passed the retainers decided on their own responsibility to open the imu. No woman had appeared to give them directions. Nothing but a mysterious rain cloud over the hill. In doubt and fear, the dirt was thrown off and the mats removed. Nothing was found but the ashes of Hina Kuluua. There was no food for her followers and the goddess had lost all power of appearing as a chiefess. Her bitter and thoughtless jealousy brought destruction upon herself and her people. The ghosts of Hina Ke Ahi and Hina Kuluua sometimes draw near to the old hills in the form of the fire of flowing lava or clouds of rain while the old men and women tell the story of the Hinas, the sisters of Maui, who were laid upon the burning stones of the imus of a famine.