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Poli`ahu and `Aiwohikupua

Of the relatively few myths and legends mentioning Mauna Kea, the oldest primarily concerns Poli‘ahu, called "The beautiful snow goddess of Mauna Kea" (Pukui and Elbert 1971:396). She first appears in the story of Laieikawai, a Hawaiian tradition recorded by S. N. Haleole and published in 1863 (Beckwith 1919). Martha Warren Beckwith summarized the story as follows:

The young chief of Kaua'i [Aiwohikupua] when he goes to seek the beauty of Puna makes a vow to enjoy no other woman until he has won Laie-i-ka-wai. At Hana on Maui, he is attracted by the lovely Hina-i-ka-malama as she rides the famous surf at Puhele, and he turns in at Haneo‘o. The chiefess falls in love with the handsome stranger and wins him at a game of konane (Hawaiian checkers). He excuses himself until his return and goes on to Hawai‘i, where he courts an even more beautiful chiefess in the person of Poli‘ahu, who also promises him her hand.

When he finally loses hope of winning Laie-i-ka-wai, he claps his hands before his god to free himself from his rash vow and proceeds to a marriage with Poli‘ahu, whom he fetches home with a great cortege on Kaua‘i. While the festivities are proceeding at Mana, the disappointed Hina, apprised of her lover's duplicity, appears and claims the forfeited stake. Aiwohikupua is obliged to relinquish himself to her embraces, but the angry Poli‘ahu envelopes the lovers in alternate waves of unendurable heat and cold until they are obliged to separate, when the mountain goddess retires to her home attended by her three maidens, Lilinoe, Waiau and Kahoupokane, and Aiwohikupua finds himself bereft of both ladies [Beckwith 1940:2220].

compiled and written with the aid of Dorothy B. Barrere, Bishop Museum

Cultural Resources Reconnaissance of the Mauna Kea Summit Region

REPORT 1. Ethnographic Background of the Mauna Kea summit Region
by Holly McEldowney

REPORT 2. Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey
by Patrick C. McCoy

Prepared for Group 70
November 1982
Dept. of Anthropology
Bishop Museum


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