Balladeer’s Blog concludes its examination of the grand and exciting Hawaiian epic about the goddesses Pele and Hi’iaka.
As the previous installment ended Pele was furiously proclaiming that she would kill Prince Lohiau and destroy her sister Hi’iaka for falling in love (ish) while Hi’iaka was escorting the prince to the Big Island to become Pele’s husband. Hi’iaka had spitefully consummated her love for Prince Lohiau right at the base of Pele’s home atop Mount Kilauea. She had done this to punish the fire and volcano goddess for her savage slaying of Hopoe, the goddess whom Hi’iaka had placed in charge of her beloved forests of lehua trees.
Pele’s explosive temper was unleashed at the sight of her younger sister and her intended husband coupling publicly. As she caused a flood of lava to flow down the mountain and encircle Lohiau and Hi’iaka she had cried to all the gods in the Hawaiian pantheon that any of them who sided with Hi’iaka would be declaring themselves an enemy of Pele and would risk destruction or banishment.
Various versions of this tale provide different lists of gods and goddesses destroyed or banished by Pele. Pulupulu, the god of canoe makers, is the one common to most of the lists. With sides drawn all the deities watched as Hi’iaka and her older sister battled.
Pele effortlessly caused wave after wave of lava to flow toward her two targets while Hi’iaka, hopelessly overmatched, had to exert all her divine power just to try preventing the lava from encircling her and Prince Lohiau. At length the situation became hopeless and Hi’iaka whispered a few final words to Lohiau before he died painfully under tons of liquified, molten rock.
In some versions Lohiau meets his death like a shrieking little bitch-boy. In others he faces up to it in a dignified manner. After the elimination of the prince the battle between Pele and Hi’iaka continued for a brief period until Hi’iaka, determined to restore Lohiau to life for a second time, escaped the lava flow by burrowing into the ground.
Actually, the shrewd goddess’ plan was twofold: not only would she free her beloved from the realm of the dead ruled by the goddess Milu but she would make a tunnel that would cause the waters of Milu’s river to rush to the surface. The resulting collision with Pele’s lava would cause a mystic reaction that would destroy Pele, the Earth and possibly a huge part of the rest of creation.
After using her godly powers to penetrate the first and second levels of Milu’s kingdom, Hi’iaka burst through to the third and encountered the suicide god, who eternally hanged from a noose with his eyes bulged and his swollen tongue protruding from his mouth. (Ixtab, the Mayan goddess of suicide, was always described the exact same way)
Shaken but undeterred, Hi’iaka blasted through to the fourth level where she encountered her friends, the fern goddess Pa’u’o’pala’e and the mortal woman Wahine. In our previous installment both had been slain by Pele for refusing to obey her order to kill Lohiau. Hi’iaka restored to life the two loyal friends who had shared so many adventures with her.
As Pa’u’o’pala’e and Wahine fled to the surface Hi’iaka continued making her way toward Milu’s lowest level and the waters of the river. The fern goddess and Wahine arrived topside just in time to see the charred remains of beautiful Lohiau. Pele, still fueled by her never-ending anger, was spitefully gloating at the sight of a Hawaiian man kneeling beside the cleared area around the prince’s remains.
That man was Pao’a, Lohiau’s closest friend from Kauai. He wailed his grief for his late friend, deeply pained at the injustice of Lohiau dying twice because of Pele. The fire and volcano goddess stopped gloating when she heard that and asked Pao’a what he meant. He related to Pele the tale of how Lohiau had hanged himself out of his longing for her. He went on to tell her how Hi’iaka had recovered the prince’s body and his wandering spirit and reunited them.
Pele was deeply troubled by all this. A few stirrings of guilt rose within her. Not only was this tale proof of Lohiau’s original passion for her but of her sister Hi’iaka’s devotion. She could have simply returned home with word of Lohiau’s suicide but obviously wanted to spare Pele the pain of loss if possible.
While Pele contemplated these revelations Hi’iaka continued her efforts to reach the River of the Dead and unleash potential cosmic destruction. Before the goddess could reach her destination Kane, the Chief of the Hawaiian gods, suddenly appeared to block her way. He had been observing all these events from Hunamoku, his island on a cloud, and had come down to Milu’s realm to prevent Hi’iaka from carrying out her plan.
He strictly forbade the goddess from further action of this type and ordered her to accompany him back to the surface. Once there Hi’iaka was surprised but elated to hear her beloved Lohiau’s voice singing a song of love to her. Obviously quite a bit had changed while Hi’iaka and Kane were making their way back to the surface.
Wahine happily brought the goddess up to date on what had transpired. Pao’a’s revelations had significantly softened Pele’s attitude. Pa’u’o’pala’e had followed that up by pointing out to the fire and volcano goddess that Hi’iaka had not succumbed to her feelings for Lohiau until after Pele had destroyed her sister’s precious lehua forest and slain her female friend Hopoe.
Pele had agreed to let the god Kanemilo recreate the slain prince’s physical body and reunite it with his spirit. Hi’iaka and Lohiau were free to marry but would have go to live on the prince’s island home of Kauai. Pele and Lohiau’s friend Pao’a had found themselves attracted to each other so the goddess would save a little face by taking Pao’a as a lover for three days, after which he would be permitted to marry one of her female attendants and return to Kauai, too.
Hi’iaka and Prince Lohiau were happy together until his death from old age. She never remarried but would take occassional lovers. Hi’iaka’s travels throughout the islands had made her revered as the goddess of pathways and wayfarers. Travelers in the islands would pray to her for protection or for guidance if they lost their way.
As for Pele, she would eventually marry the equally volatile Kamapua’a, the wild boar god, and their marriage, too, would be a happy one and would serve to temper both of their fiery natures. +++
A NEW CONTINUING FEATURE WILL DEBUT IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS.
FOR MY LOOK AT THE TOP ELEVEN GODS IN HAWAIIAN MYTHOLOGY CLICK HERE
FOR ANOTHER EPIC MYTH CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2013/03/17/iroquois-epic-myth-hodadeion/
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