Outside the Enchanted Tiki Room, Hina Kuluua and Tangaroa-Ru work together to shower refreshing rain on the Edenic lanai. The plaque beside her attributes the happiness of the garden to her, for it is her mists that make orchids boom and rainbows shimmer. Her ability to do that, however, does not have so happy a story behind it.
The story of Hina Kuluua is bound with that of her mother, sisters and brothers. The greatest of her brothers is Maui, the same Maui who conquered the sun. Their mother is Hina, and of her sisters, the most relevant in Hina Keahi. The latter Hina is a goddess of fire and it was one of her exploits that led a jealous and haughty Hina Kaluua to her end. Their exploits were centred around the area known today as Rainbow Falls and the city of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. In the native tongue, the river feeding Rainbow Falls is called the "Wailuku," which means "Destroying Waters." As melting snow from the peaks of Mauna Kea and precipitation from the lush woodlands of Mauna Loa rush down to the sea, they whip up into such a torrent that rocks and trees can be pulled from their moorings and sent out to sea. In the airy cave behind the falls, Hina was said to have her home.
|Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.|
It was for his mother that Maui captured the sun in one version of the story. Hina was celebrated all over the Big Island for her tapa or kapa, which is the distinctive decorative cloth of Polynesia made from the inner bark of trees. In Hawaii, kapa was frequently used as clothing, bedspreads, and for decorative purposes, all depending on the rank of the individual. Across the islands of the South Seas, tapa can be painted or pressed with many types of designs including straightforward pictures of plants, people, and animals. The Hawaiian form predominately uses combinations of geometric shapes. After the bark is stripped, woven, and beaten, it must be laid out in the sun to dry. Unfortunately for Hina, the sun was moving far too quickly for this to happen. Not wishing that his mother's beautiful work should be for naught, Maui tracked the sun down to his home in Haleakala crater on the island of Maui. It was there that he roped the sun and cut a deal that the sun should move at a slower pace for half of the year. Hina could finish her kapa, which became the dazzling clouds of the Hawaiian skies.
|Sample of kapa cloth, Honolulu Museum of Art. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.|
|A pair of modern Tongan women making tapa cloth.|
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The crescent moon adorning Hina Kuluua's hat in the Enchanted Tiki Room lanai is also a reference to her mother. Eventually she grew tired of all the attention over her kapa-making, as well as the unruliness of her family. Looking to escape from the attention, she decided to ascend to the moon. According to W.D. Westervelt, who wrote a book on Hawaiian beliefs in 1910, "When the moon is full, the Hawaiians of the long ago, aye and even today, look into the quiet, silvery light and see the goddess in her celestial home, her calabash by her side."
|The moon behind one of the telescopes of the observatory on Mauna Kea,|
Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Just outside the city of Hilo are a group of mountains that were, at one time, volcanic outlets topped with craters. In more recent times they were sugar cane plantations until those relented to the encroachment of residential subdivisions. Way back before all of that, these hills - Halai and Puu Honu - were the gift of Hina to her daughters Hina Keahi and Hina Kuluua. The following tale was recorded by Charlotte Hapai in Hilo Legends, published in 1920.
The makai and largest hill, called Halai, was the home of Hina Keahi, eldest daughter of the goddess Hina who lived at Waianuenue — the cave behind Rainbow Falls in the Wailuku River — and sister of Maui the demi-god. To Hina Keahi was given power over fire.
In many ways this young goddess aided her people, bestowing upon them the blessing of protection from fire while teaching them many ways in which to use it. The remarkable fact has often been noted, by the way, that although the Hawaiians always lived in grass houses, seldom was one known to be destroyed by fire. Hina Keahi was well beloved by her people and her lightest commands were obeyed meticulously.
Food had always been plentiful in Hawaii. The people cultivated their fields, which yielded bountifully. But one time the crops failed — grew smaller and smaller — and began to shrivel up and die. Soon a famine spread over the land. Crops were allowed to wholly perish because none was strong enough to tend them.
Hina Keahi saw that unless something was done at once, her beloved followers would all die. Calling them about her she commanded that an immense imu [earth oven] be dug in the top of Halai Hill. "Prepare a place for each kind of food as though you were ready to fill the imu. then bring as much firewood as you can," she ordered.
The starving people summoned new strength at this promise and worked for many days preparing the enormous imu. Knowing a human sacrifice would be offered as the only possible result of their labors, they lived in fear and wondered who would be chosen. Still, they never once thought of deserting their work and finally everything was in readiness.
"Fill the imu with wood and heat it," commanded Hina.
As soon as this was done she turned to the wondering people and said: "Listen to what I tell you, and follow my instructions. It is the only way you can be saved from starvation. I will step into the imu and you must quickly cover me with earth. Do not stop throwing earth over me until the last puff of smoke disappears. In three days a woman will appear at the edge of the imu and tell you what to do."
Bidding them farewell, Hina Keahi stepped quickly into the red hot imu. Immediately a dense white cloud of smoke surrounded and concealed her. For a moment the people stood transfixed at the sight; but remembering instructions they at once began covering the imu with earth.
Followed then three long days of waiting fraught with mingled hopeful expectancy and anxiety for their goddess. On the third day everyone repaired to the edge of the imu and awaited the appearance of the woman of whom Hina Keahi had spoken.
In the meantime Hina Keahi had not remained in the imu for long. The fire had not harmed her, for she had complete power over it. Going underground she made her way toward the sea, coming to the surface of the earth somewhere near the spot on which the Hilo Boarding School stands today. The place was marked by a bubbling spring.
Once more she disappeared underground and again came to the surface, creating another spring near the present location of the Hilo Hotel. A third time the goddess followed her subterranean route, coming up in a third spring at the place now occupied by the American Factors' lumber yard. Refreshing herself in the clear waters she started back to her home, this time travelling above ground.
Thus on the third day from the disappearance of Hina Keahi those gathered about the imu saw a strange woman approaching from the direction of the sea. As she drew near they noticed a striking resemblance to their own goddess, yet she, they knew, was buried in the imu. In fear they drew away, but the strange woman smiled and told them to uncover the imu.
Reluctantly they set to work, dreading the sight which all had in mind. But when the imu was uncovered they found it filled with cooked food — enough to supply their needs until the rains came and new crops could be grown and harvested. In gratitude they turned to thank the strange woman, but she had vanished.
And to this day one may see the immense imu in the top of Halai Hill, now overgrown with a thicket of feathery bamboo, which the people left open in memory of their timely deliverance.
Her sister was not about to let her take all the glory though, unaware that glory never really played any part of it. Rather, the glory is a consequence of selfless action done for the benefit of others. Hina Kuluua would learn that lesson the hard way. Again from Charlotte Hapai...
Hina Kuluua was the second daughter of the goddess Hina who lived behind Rainbow Falls. Hina Keahi, the elder sister, had received the best of the gifts which their mother could bestow; power over fire and ownership of the largest of the Halai Hills. Known as the goddess of fire, Hina Keahi was indeed very powerful and one time gave spectacular evidence of it in saving her people from starvation...
Naturally everyone looked upon her thereafter as the most wonderful goddess in the Islands. Even her sister's little band of followers did not refrain from open admiration of the beautiful fire goddess.
This made Hina Kuluua exceedingly angry. Her jealousy overwhelmed her; she could not bear to let her sister claim so much glory, and she have none at all.
It was not long after this that another famine swept the land. Hina Kuluua thought fortune was at last coming her way. Here was the very opportunity she craved. Now she would prove her power superior to her sister's and all the people would sing her praises and worship her alone.
In her excitement she entirely overlooked the fact that she was goddess of rain, and not of fire. She ordered an immense imu to be dug in her own hill, Puu Honu. Comprehending her intentions the people at once realized the utter futility of her proposed action and pleaded with her against it; but to no avail.
"Do you mean to tell me that my power is less than Hina Keahi's?" she demanded angrily. "Do you think that I, Hina Kuluua, cannot do as much for my people in their time of need? I will show you! Then you shall recognize Hina Kuluua as the greatest goddess in Hawaii."
"You can help as well and perhaps better than your sister," they argued, "but you cannot do it in the same way. Your power, though it may be as great, is nevertheless entirely different from hers."
Then Hina Kuluua would order them out of her sight and command them to hurry the completion of the imu.
At last all was ready. A group with tear-stained faces was gathered about the smoking imu. Hina Kuluua approached, her head held high in an air of triumph. She stepped to the edge of the imu, cast a glance of disdain toward the wailing women and said, "Cover me quickly. Watch near the imu and in three days a young woman will appear. She will give you further instructions."
Stepping into the imu she was quickly covered with soil. The people had expected a cloud of smoke to appear, but were somewhat surprised to see the little there already was become even thinner and dwindle away to mere nothingness.
Slowly the long days of waiting passed. The third day dawned. All morning the people watched for signs from the imu. Late in the afternoon found their vigilance unbroken; night closed in and still no sign. Dawn once more, another day of anxiety. On the fifth day they could no longer restrain themselves and cautiously uncovered the great oven.
A dark greyish cloud rose over the imu — that was all. Within, the people could distinguish the charred remains of their proud goddees. With reverence they covered the imu once more and carefully smoothed it over.
That is why today you cannot see a deep crater in Puu Honu as in Halai and why the dark gloomy cloud — a sure sign of rain — often hangs low over the one-time home of Hina Kuluua.
Hilo also sits on the mist-enshrouded rainy side of the island, the storms watering the lush, tropical vegetation of that Eastern shore (and either encouraging or discouraging tourists depending on how much "fun in the sun" they're looking for). The ghosts of both sisters are sometimes seen on their hills, in the form of flowing lava for Hina Keahi and rainshowers for Hina Kuluua.
|Mist and rainbows on the Big Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.|