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Pele and the Deluge

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Pele and the Deluge
Rev. A. O. Forbes

All volcanic phenomena are associated in Hawaiian legendary lore with the goddess Pele; and it is a somewhat curious fact that to the same celebrated personage is also attributed a great flood that occurred in ancient times. The legends of this flood are various, but mainly connected with the doings of Pele in this part of the Pacific Ocean. The story runs thus:

Kahinalii was the mother of Pele; Kanehoalani was her father; and her two brothers were Kamohoalii and Kahuilaokalani. Pele was born in the land of Hapakuela, a far-distant land at the edge of the sky, toward the southwest. There she lived with her parents until she was grown up, when she married Wahialoa; and to these were born a daughter named Laka, and a son named Menehune. But after a time Pele’s husband, Wahialoa, was enticed away from her by Pele-kumulani. The deserted Pele, being much displeased and troubled in mind on account of her husband, started on her travels in search of him, and came in the direction of the Hawaiian Islands. Now, at that time these islands were a vast waste. There was no sea, nor was there any fresh water. When Pele set out on her journey, her parents gave her the sea to go with her and bear her canoes onward. So she sailed forward, flood-borne by the sea, until she reached the land of Pakuela, and thence onward to the land of Kanaloa. From her head she poured forth the sea as she went, and her brothers composed the celebrated ancient mele:

O the sea, the great sea!
Forth bursts the sea:
Behold, it bursts on Kanaloa!

But the waters of the sea continued to rise until only the highest points of the great mountains, Haleakala, Maunakea, and Maunaloa, were visible; all else was covered. Afterward the sea receded until it reached its present level. This event is called the Kai a Kahinalii (Sea of Kahinalii), because it was from Kahinalii, her mother, that Pele received the gift of the sea, and she herself only brought it to Hawaii.

And from that time to this, Pele and all her family forsook their former land of Hapakuela and have dwelt in Hawaii-nei, Pele coming first and the rest following at a later time.

On her first arrival at Hawaii-nei, Pele dwelt on the island of Kauai. From there she went to Kalaupapa,1 on the island of Molokai, and dwelt in the crater of Kauhako at that place; thence she departed to Puulaina,2 near Lahainaluna, where she dug out that crater. Afterward she moved still further to Haleakala, where she stayed until she hollowed out that great crater; and finally she settled at Kilauea, on the island of Hawaii, where she has remained ever since.3

Footnotes

  1. Now the Leper Settlement. 

  2. The hill visible from the Lahaina anchorage to the north of Lahainaluna School, and near to it. 

  3. It is not a little remarkable that the progress of Pele, as stated in this tradition, agrees with geological observation in locating the earliest volcanic action in this group, on the island of Kauai, and the latest, on the island of Hawaii.—Translator. 

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