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Legendary Setting



Kohala Mountain, looking East. Kawaihae would be on the far right, at the edge of the photograph.


“There will be general agreement that the islands were born of Papa and Wakea,” Sam tells. “But with regard to specific events that occurred that early on in specific areas, you’re not likely to find too much written. We are talking on the scale of entire islands. Hawai‘i is born and Maui is born, and not just Kohala. Kohala is born along with the rest of the whole island of Hawai‘i. There are some exceptions, like Waolani on O‘ahu is pointed to as the place where human beings were created."



Pele, goddess of the volcano, is also associated with the creation stories. Sam explains, “There are various craters that are present from Kaua‘i all the way down to Hawai‘i, which are pointed to as places where the goddess Pele lived for a while. But I’m not familiar with her visiting any specific ones in the Kohala mountains, although there are very prominent cinder cones along the ridge. Maybe some place-name research might come up with some connections there.”

Pele came to make her home in the Halema‘uma‘u fire pit of Kilauea crater, and the stories of her and her family are numerous, stretching across the entire Hawaiian chain. Here on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, her story intersects with that of another legendary being: the pig-god Kamapua‘a.



Cinder cones

Some of the cones atop Kohala Mountain. These are near Kahua Ranch headquarters.

Locations of Kaliuwa‘a and Kilauea—homes to Kamapua‘a and Pele—relative to Kawaihae.


“Kamapua‘a is mostly a Kaua‘i and O‘ahu kupua," Sam continues, "born on Kaua‘i of Hina and Kahiki‘ula as a premature kind of formless fetus. The parents wanted to discard him, but the grandmother Kamaunuaniho, said ‘No, let me take care,’ and so she placed it on the kuahu [altar] of the family and prayed, and in a little while there was a pig. And that pig kupua is pretty famous for being able to change into a human being or a humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, or a variety of different plants and animals, all mostly forms of Lono."

“Kamapua‘a was living in Kaliuwa‘a on O‘ahu, having ousted Olopana, the chief there, when he started having dreams of flames. And these dreams would keep him up and they were driving him crazy. And he new that the flames were coming from the island of Hawai‘i, from Kilauea, so he decided he would go there to put the flames out.”


Pele - Kamapua‘a map

The approximate territories of Pele and Kamapua‘a correspond to rainfall and volcanic activity. The rainfall contours show Kamapua‘a territory to be the wetter part of the island. The red line indicates the approximate boundary between the Hilo and Puna districts, where their territories meet. Hilo is the wettest district, while Puna has active volcanizm. The boundary on the Western side of the island is uncertain.


“The story as I know it,” Papa says, “well, like anyone else, people like control, so you always have Pele and Kamapua‘a butting heads together. Finally they came to an agreement, so they drew the line. That’s why, when you look at this Big Island, you go from Hilo all the way across to maybe Anaeho‘omalu on this side. That’s all Kamapua‘a territory. Then you look on the other side, that’s all Pele’s. You can tell where Pele is: all the lava flows and stuff like that. That’s how it is. You look at this island like that. But the other islands are not like that. No, they’re different. Just this island.”



“Kohala actually doesn’t figure much at all in the story,” Sam says. “It’s more Hamakua, Hilo, Puna, and Ka‘u where they engage in battle. At first Kamapua‘a tries to woo her, but she sees him for what he is—a pig—and will have nothing to do with him. So it escalates into battle. And then they strike a truce. Both of them are very powerful, he being the kupua of wet forest and rain and for Lono forms essentially; and Pele being Pele: fire and heat.

"So they eventually divide up the island, and she takes the dry side of Ka‘u, and for him is Hilo, Hamakua, and the wetter parts of Puna. He gets the windward side and she gets the dryer side. They live for a little while together as lovers, but eventually they tire of each other. So the whole of Kohala is the realm of Kamapua‘a. In fact, any wet forested area will be considered the realm of pua‘a."


Wet Forest

Wet forest like this, at the top of Kawaihae, is the realm of Kamapua‘a.


Pele's lands

Looking back at Kawaihae across the lava flows of Pele's lands.


“The Hilo folks say that basically the Kohala - Kona boundary, at the bottom of Waikoloa, is where you cross over into Pele’s territory,” Sam remarks. “Kauku is a cinder cone in Hilo, and that marks rather the furthest incursion of Pele into the realm of Kamapua`a when she chased after him during one battle. It marks the start of Pele's influence as you move toward Puna, but it is clearly in Puna and Ka‘u that you find the realm of Pele. You go into Hamakua and Hilo and you’re in the realm of Kamapua‘a. His is the windward area, the wet area.”

“People don’t realize that thing still works here today.” Papa sighs. “People believed that in the past, because they lived with it. They can tell, if you’re on the Kamapua‘a side, you know what to expect. On the Pele side, you know what to expect. You see, if you’re living on the Pele side of the island, you never can tell what’s going to take place. So as long as you understand that, when it comes, you just have to live with it. That’s all. You cannot say anything."



“We live on this area. When you get flood, we have flood. So what you can do, you have to prepare yourself. You know, when the flood comes in, it just fills up this area. You say ‘Well, you know this is Kamapua‘a side.’ Because when Pele went after him, he went into the ocean and he turned to a humuhumunukunukuapua‘a [reef triggerfish]."



Now we turn to learn more about the lands around Kawaihae, and it's interaction with these neighbors.



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