UH Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship - Research Library

Poliahu and Pele: legend as information science

Vredenburg, Keawe
Poliahu and Pele: legend as information science
Hawaiian goddesses Hawaiian gods Legends
This is a legend about a battle between Pele and Poliahu who are considered kupua, (a being that is human with supernatural powers but is not God), among the Hawaiian people. Poliahu is one of the four female kupua on Mauna Kea. She is associated with, and controls, snow. Pele, also known as Keahilele, is the goddess of fire. The story tells of how Poliahu went holua sledding, at an area that is now known as Laupahoehoe, with her three friends -- Lilinoe, (who is the mist that comes from the mountain), Waiau, (the kupua of the underground reservoir of water that comes from Mauna Kea), and Ka Houpo o Kane, (the bosom of Kane who represents the springs of the island of Hawaii). The group was joined by a beautiful and friendly woman visitor, from the southern most part of the island, who indicated that her name was Keahilele and asked if she could join in the competition. Lilinoe kindly offered Keahilele use of her holua and Keahilele joined in the competition who was described as "flying fire" while racing. However, upon Poliahu being judged the fastest racer, Keahilele became furious, caused the ground to shake, and smoke to emerge from cracks in the ground that were formed when Keahilele hurled Lilinoe's holua into the ground with great force. This caused Poliahu to realize that Keahilele was actually Pele, who promised to destroy Poliahu and her mountain. This resulted in a series of eruptions and the battle of snow, mist, and water, against the fire of Pele caused glaciers to form on Mauna Kea. Pele eventually succeeded in destroying the holua slide but the heat of her own fire eventually defeated her. As a result, whatever lava remained in her underground reservoir was turned away from Mauna Kea forever and used to fill the lava pools of Kilauea. This legend describes what is known today as the Laupahoehoe Volcanic series that occurred both during and after the late Pleistocene Makanaka glacial episode on the summit of Mauna Kea, a description of which is included in this document.