7 Hawaiian Legends Not To Be Ignored

7 Hawaiian Legends Not To Be Ignored

Visiting Hawaii and experience something strange? Maybe you heard the distant and eerie sound of an army marching or maybe your rental car broke down randomly on the Pali highway. Or maybe the strange experiences started once you got home, when you displayed your lava rock souvenir proudly on your mantle. Perhaps you should read up on the ancient legends of the islands -- you don't want to get caught picking that pretty red flower...

Pour Some Gin For Pele

If you want to protect yourself and your family from the lava flow, you have to pay your respects to Pele, the volcano goddess. According to local legends, if you see a beautiful woman with long, flowing hair or an older woman with long, white hair, you must greet her with aloha and offer her help or respite. To really get on her good side, however, you have to visit her at Halemaʻumaʻu crater and give offerings of food, flowers, and gin. Yes, gin -- apparently Pele is a fan.


Don't Take Pork Across The Pali

Pele's influence is everywhere in Hawaii, but perhaps the strangest manifestation of her wrath is the myth that you can't take pork over the Pali Highway, which connects Honolulu with the windward side of Oahu. Apparently Pele and the demigod Kamapua‘a (a half-man-half-pig) had a bad breakup and agreed never to visit each other. If you try to bring pork over the Pali, you are symbolically trying to bring Kamapua'a from one side of the island to the other and Pele will stop you. If you do try, according to legend, your car will stop at some point on the journey and an old woman will appear with a dog. You have to feed the pork to the dog in order to continue through.

pali oahu

Don't Make Eye Contact With The Night Marchers

Be careful if you plan on doing any night hikes or midnight beach strolls. The night marchers are ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors and they're said to roam the islands at night visiting old battlefields and sacred sites. If you hear chanting, drums or marching or if you see torches, you're best bet is to run indoors or to lie quietly on your stomach -- if you make eye contact with the night marchers, you'll die and be forced to march with them for all of eternity. If you happen to have an ancestor marching, however, no one in the procession can harm you.

hawaii legend

Don't Pluck The Red Lehua Blossom

The Ohia tree is often the first plant to grow on new lava flows, but don't even think of picking it's beautiful, red Lehua blossom as a souvenir. Both the tree and flower are rooted in Hawaiian legend. Ohia and Lehua were young lovers: he was a handsome trickster and she was the most beautiful and gentle girl on the island. But, one day Pele came across Ohia and wanted him for herself. When he refused her, she turned him into a twisted, ugly tree. Pele ignored Lehua's pleas to change him back, but the other gods felt sorry for the young girl. They couldn't reverse Pele's magic, but they did turn Lehua into a beautiful red flower and placed her on the tree so that the two young lovers would never again be apart. It is said that as long as the flowers remain on the tree, the weather is sunny and fair. But when a flower is plucked from the tree, rain falls like tears since Lehua still cannot bear to be separated from her beloved husband Ohia.

ohia tree

Keep An Eye Out For The Menehune

The menehune are said to be dwarf-like people who live in the forests and hidden valleys of Hawaii and hide from humans. Legend has it that they lived in Hawaii even before the Polynesian settlers and that they were excellent craftsmen, completing astounding engineering feats like the Menehune Fish Pond on Kauai. They are also said to have constructed an aqueduct called the Menehune Ditch on Kauai, which was built prior to Western contact and is considered an engineering masterpiece because the rocks are carefully squared and smoothed to create a watertight seal. Oh yeah, and they are said to have built it in one night.


Don't Take The Lava Rock Home With You

One of the most well-known myths in Hawaii is Pele's Curse, which -- it turns out -- is not an ancient myth at all. Pele's curse says that any visitor who takes rock or sand away from the Hawaii islands will suffer bad luck until the native Hawaiian elements are returned. The warning is ubiquitous in Hawaii, but it is a modern legend and some people attribute it to a disgruntled park ranger who was sick of people carting off rocks on his watch. Still others think tour guides made up the curse to discourage tourists from bringing dirt and sand onto the buses. Either way, each year hundreds of visitors send packages back to Hawaii full of rocks, sand, and other natural materials in an effort to relieve their consciences and change their luck.

holding lava rock

Put Two Naupaka Flowers Together

The naupaka is one of Hawaii's most common plants found both along the beach and in the mountains. Astute observers may notice that the flowers appear to have been torn in half. According to Hawaiian legend, Naupaka was a beautiful princess who fell in love with a commoner named Kaui. The star-crossed lovers could never marry and so Naupaka vowed to stay in the mountains while Kaui remained along the ocean. Before parting for the very last time, however, Naupaka took the flower from her hair and tore it in half, giving it to Kaui. Even the nearby plants were saddened by the scene, and the very next day they began to bloom only half flowers in honor of the separated lovers.


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