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Ka Mo`omeheu o Hawai`i 
Hawaiian Culture

 

Poliahu, Goddess of Mauna Kea

Deities of Mauna Kea

Poliahu - The icy goddess of Mauna Kea was not easy for swains to approach.         
     Poli`ahu, whose name means “cloaked bosom,” or “temple bosom,” is a legendary daughter of Wakea who dwells at the summit of Mauna Kea. As the chill snow goddess, she is the antithesis of her fiery arch-rival, Pele.
     It is Poli`ahu who spreads her beautiful white kapa across the summit of Mauna Kea in the winter, and adorns the mountain with her pink and gold cloak in the summer.
     She is the goddess of  Mauna o Wakea (today often called Mauna Kea), snow,  ice, and cold. The summit of Mauna Loa also is hers, though she occasionally still has arguments with Pele regarding that. She is the eldest daughter of Kane. Her younger sisters are her ladies in waiting. Many men have pursued her.
 

Lilinoe
    Goddess of fine mist. She also is the goddess of Hale`akala, dead fires, and of desolation. She dresses Poliahu’s hair so that it is soft and fine, and floats like a cloud about her. She was married to Nana-nu`u, the mortal who survived the great flood, and made his home in a cave high on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

Waiau (Waiaie) 
    
She is the guardian of the lake which bears her name. She bathes Poliahu, and refreshes her drinking gourd with sweet water which she can fetch by using her bird form to fly from place to place.

Kahoupokane
    She is the goddess of Hualalai, and a master kapa maker. When the heavy rains come from the mountains, she is throwing water on her kapa as she beats it. When thunder rolls, that is the sound of beating the kapa. The flash of lightening is when she flips the bright new kapa over to beat the other side. The morning after a storm, her kapa can be seen drying on the mountains, shining in the sunlight. On a sunny day, when there is thunder and a fine misty rain, but no clouds, you know she is pounding their summer garments.

Birth of Poliahu and Her Sisters

     Haumea, the Earth Mother, gave birth to the islands of Hawai`i. Some of these islands have beautiful mountain peaks. Kane, a male god of life, fresh water, and fertility, loves these summits. When these mountains were young and fresh, his love for them was so strong it took form and created sacred beings who became gods and goddesses of these places.
    
Four of these beings live on Mauna o Wakea (today known as Mauna Kea). They are Poliahu, Lilinoe, Waiau, and Kahoupokane. They were born fully formed women of great wisdom and talent.
     Before he left them to go on other adventures, Kane made a sacred pond, named Waiau for the daughter who tends it. From this pond, his daughters get their water for drinking, and for bathing. The water of this pond must never be dirtied or treated disrespectfully.
     The sisters are always dressed beautifully. In summer, they wear golden pa`u of the finest kapa, which has been pounded from rays of sunshine. In the winter, they add brilliant white kihei, so warm and soft, pounded from sheets of pure white snow.

Lovers of Poliahu
Aiwohikupua
     This Lothario of Kauai pursued the Puna chiefess, Laie-i-ka-wai, and won her heart. They were engaged to be married, but on his way home to Kauai, he stopped at Hana, Maui, and met Hina-i-ka-malama. He played the gambling game of kilu with her, and lost. As he, himself, was the forfeit, he had to agree to marry her. He clapped his hands before the gods, breaking his earlier betrothal before the assembled crowd.
     Noticing a firey disposition and uncompromising personality, (for Hina was actually a guise of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes!) he sneaked away, and returned to Hawai`i to fetch Laiekawai. To avoid sailing through the dangerous Alenuihaha Channel, he followed the Hamakua coastline, planning to continue on past Hilo, and then to Puna to fetch his bride. However, putting in at one reprovisioning place in Hamakua, he met a beautiful chiefess and proposed marriage to her. She, unlike the other two, secured tokens of his betrothal, exchanging her snowy kihei for his feathered cloak.
    
Aiwohikupua returned to Kauai to gather a wedding party so he could bring his bride back to his home island in state. By the time the couple returned to Kauai, Hinaikamalama had heard of his betrayal, and met him with a claim to his forfeit. He had been won fair and square, so Poliahu had to let him go. But Poliahu attacked the couple with heat and cold, so Hinaikamalama was driven back to Maui. Thus, Aiwohikupua, for his infidelity, lost all three of his loves.

Kahanaiakeakua
     Before humans learned to be more than just another kind of animal, they had no chiefs. The first chief was the son of Ku and Hina, and was reared by Kane and Kanaloa, and given the name Ka-hanai-a-ke-akua. He was married to his sister, Paliula. One day while hunting on the slopes of Mauna Kea he became lost in the mist. Every which way he turned, he felt he was traveling farther and farther upslope. The ferns and small creeping plants seemed to cover his path and prevent his return to lower ground. 
     Finally he broke out of the forest onto stony ground, where he was met by a beautiful woman. He was instantly overcome with desire for her. Though he had been cold as he walked, he now felt warm. He felt lightheaded, and strange in his stomach. His vision became black around the edges, and all he could see was the white and glowing beautiful woman ahead of him. When she embraced him, his body felt numb, and when they began to honi, it was as if she inhaled all of his breath, and he became faint. Losing all sense, he simply followed her about, desiring only to be near her. At last she tired of him, and returned him to the forest from which he finally made his way to the home of his parents who nurtured him back to health. He became a very knowledgable kahua in sorcery and sacrifice. Paliula finally forgave him for his infidelity and they were reunited.

Rivals of Poliahu

Pele
     Goddess of volcanoes, fires. Her parents are Papa (Earth Mother) and Moe-moea-au-li`i. She immigrated to Hawai`i from the souther Pacific, along withst of her family. Poliahu did not get along at all with this newcomer.

Paliula
      A demigoddess and sister/wife of Kahanaiakeakua.

Hinaikamalama 
     A human form of Pele who was briefly a chiefess of Maui. Poliahu drove her from Kauai back to Maui.