GHOSTS OF THE HILO HILLS.
THE legends about Hina
and her famous son Maui and her less widely known daughters are common
property among the natives of the beautiful little city of Hilo. One of
these legends of more than ordinary interest finds its location in the
three small hills back of Hilo toward the mountains.
These hills are small craters connected with some ancient lava flow
of unusual violence. The eruption must have started far up on the
slopes of Mauna Loa. As it sped down toward the sea it met some
obstruction which, although overwhelmed, checked the flow and caused a
great mass of cinders and ashes to be thrown out until a large hill
with a hollow crater was built up, covering many acres of ground.
Soon the lava found another vent and then another obstruction and a
second and then a third hill were formed nearer the sea. These hills or
extinct craters bear the names Halai, Opeapea and Puu Honu. They are
not far from the Wailuku river, famous for its picturesque waterfalls
and also for the legends which are told along its banks. Here Maui had
his lands overlooking the steep bluffs. Here in a cave under the
Rainbow Falls was the home of Hina, the mother of Maui, according to
the Hawaiian stories. Other parts of the Pacific sometimes make Hina
Maui’s wife, and sometimes a goddess from whom he descended. In the
South Sea legends Hina was thought to have married the moon. Her home
was in the skies, where she wove beautiful tapa cloths (the clouds),
which were bright and glistening, so that when she rolled them up
flashes of light (cloud lightning) could be seen on the earth. She laid
heavy stones on the corners of these tapas, but sometimes the stones
rolled off and made the thunder. Hina of the Rainbow Falls was a famous
tapa maker whose tapa was the cause of Maui’s conflict with the sun.
Hina had several daughters, four of whose names are given: Hina Ke
Ahi, Hina Ke Kai, Hina Mahuia, and Hina Kuluua. Each name marked the
peculiar "mana" or divine gift which Hina, the mother, had bestowed
upon her daughters.
Hina Ke Ahi meant the Hina who had control of fire. This name is
sometimes given to Hina the mother. Hina Ke Kai was the daughter who
had power over the sea. She was said to have been in a canoe with her
brother Maui when he fished up Cocoanut Island, his line breaking
before he could pull it up to the mainland and make it fast. Hina
Kuluua was the mistress over the forces of rain. The winds and the
storms were supposed to obey her will. Hina Mahuia is peculiarly a name
connected with the legends of the other island groups of the Pacific.
Mahuia or Mafuie was a god or goddess of fire all through Polynesia.
The legend of the Hilo hills pertains especially to Hina Ke Ahi and
Hina Kuluua. Hina the mother gave the hill Halai to Hina Ke Ahi and the
hill Puu Honu to Hina Kuluua for their families and dependents.
The hills were of rich soil and there was much rain. Therefore, for
a long time, the two daughters had plenty of food for themselves and
their people, but at last the days were like fire and the sky had no
rain in it. The taro planted on the hillsides died. The bananas and
sugar cane and sweet potatoes withered and the fruit on the trees was
blasted. The people were faint because of hunger, and the shadow of
death was over the land. Hina Ke Ahi pitied her suffering friends and
determined to provide food for them. Slowly her people labored at her
command. Over they went to the banks of the river course, which was
only the bed of an ancient lava stream, over which no water was
flowing; the famished laborers toiled, gathering and carrying back
whatever wood they could find, then up the mountain side to the great
koa and ohia forests, gathering their burdens of fuel according to the
wishes of their chiefess.
Their sorcerers planted charms along the way and uttered
incantations to ward off the danger of failure. The priests offered
sacrifices and prayers for the safe and successful return of the
burden-bearers. After many days the great quantity of wood desired by
the goddess was piled up by the side of the Halai Hill.
Then came the days of digging out the hill and making a great imu or
cooking oven and preparing it with stones and wood. Large quantities of
wood were thrown into the place. Stones best fitted for retaining heat
were gathered and the fires kindled. When the stones were hot, Hina Ke
Ahi directed the people to arrange the imu in its proper order for
cooking the materials for a great feast. A place was made for sweet
potatoes, another for taro, another for pigs and another for dogs. All
the form of preparing the food for cooking was passed through, but no
real food was laid on the stones. Then Hina told them to make a place
in the imu for a human sacrifice. Probably out of every imu of the long
ago a small part of the food was offered to the gods, and there may
have been a special place in the imu for that part of the food to be
cooked. At any rate Hina had this oven so built that the people
understood that a remarkable sacrifice would be offered in it to the
gods, who for some reason had sent the famine upon the people.
Human sacrifices were frequently offered by the Hawaiians even after
the days of the coming of Captain Cook. A dead body was supposed to be
acceptable to the gods when a chief’s house was built, when a chief’s
new canoe was to be made or when temple walls were to be erected or
victories celebrated. The bodies of the people belonged to the will of
the chief. Therefore it was in quiet despair that the workmen obeyed
Hina Ke Ahi and prepared the place for sacrifice. It might mean their
own holocaust as an offering to the gods. At last Hina Ke Ahi bade the
laborers cease their work and stand by the side of the oven ready to
cover it with the dirt which had been thrown out and piled up by the
side. The people stood by, not knowing upon whom, the blow might fall.
But Hina Ke Ahi was "Hina the kind," and although she stood before
them robed in royal majesty and power, still her face was full of pity
and love. Her voice melted the hearts of her retainers as she bade them
carefully follow her directions.
"O my people. Where are you? Will you obey and do as I command? This
imu is my imu. I shall lie down on its bed of burning stones. I shall
sleep under its cover. But deeply cover ine or I may perish. Quickly
throw the dirt over in), body. Fear not the fire. Watch for three days.
A woman will stand by the imu. Obey her will."
Hina Ke Ahi was very beautiful, and her eyes flashed light like fire
as she stepped into the great pit and lay down on the burning stones. A
great smoke arose and gathered over the imu. The men toiled rapidly,
placing the imu mats over their chiefess and throwing the dirt back
into the oven until it was all thoroughly covered and the smoke was
Then they waited for the strange, mysterious thing which must follow the sacrifice of this divine chiefess.
Halai hill trembled and earthquakes shook the land round about. The
great heat of the fire in the imu withered the little life which was
still left from the famine. Meanwhile Hina Ke Ahi was carrying out her
plan for securing aid for her people. She could not be injured by the
heat for she was a goddess of fire. The waves of heat raged around her
as she sank down through the stones of the imu into the underground
paths which belonged to the spirit world. The legend says that Hina
made her appearance in the form of a gushing stream of water which
would always supply the want of her adherents. The second day passed.
Hina was still journeying underground, but this time she came to the
surface as a pool named Moe Waa (canoe sleep) much nearer the sea. The
third day came and Hina caused a great spring of sweet water to burst
forth from the sea shore in the very path of the ocean surf. This
received the name Auauwai. Here Hina washed away all traces of her
journey through the depths. This was the last of the series of
earthquakes and the appearance of new water springs. The people waited,
feeling that some more wonderful event must follow the remarkable
experiences of the three days. Soon a woman stood by the imu, who
commanded the laborers to dig away the dirt and remove the mats. When
this was done, the hungry people found a very great abundance of food,
enough to supply their want until the food plants should have time to
ripen and the days of the famine should be over.
The joy of the people was great when they knew that their chiefess
had escaped death and would still dwell among them in comfort. Many
were the songs sung and stories told about the great famine and the
success of the goddess of fire.
The second sister, Hina Kuluua, the goddess of rain, was always very
jealous of her beautiful sister Hina Ke Ahi, and many times sent rain
to put out fires which her sister tried to kindle. Hina Ke Ahi could
not stand the rain and so fled with her people to a home by the seaside.
Hina Kuluua (or Hina Kuliua as she was sometimes known among the
Hawaiians) could control rain and storms, but for some reason failed to
provide a food supply for her people, and the famine wrought havoc
among them. She thought of the stories told and songs sung about her
sister and wished for the same honor for herself. She commanded her
people to make a great imu for her in the hill Pun Honu. She knew that
a strange power belonged to her and yet, blinded by jealousy, forgot
that rain and fire could not work together. She planned to furnish a
great supply of food for her people in the same way in which her sister
The oven was dug. Stones and wood were collected and the same
ghostly array of potatoes, taro, pig and dog prepared as had been done
before by her sister.
The kahunas or priests knew’that Hina Kuluua was going out of her
province in trying to do as her sister had done, but there was no use
in attempting to change her plans. jealousy is self-willed and
obstinate and no amount of reasoning from her dependents could have any
influence over her.
The ordinary incantations were observed, and Hina Kulutia gave the
same directions as those her sister had given. The imu was to be well
heated. The make-believe food was to be put in and a place left for her
body. It was the goddess of rain making ready to lie down on a bed
prepared for the goddess of fire. When all was ready, she lay down on
the heated stones and the oven mats were thrown over her and the
ghostly provisions. Then the covering of dirt was thrown back upon the
mats and heated stones, filling the pit which had been dug. The goddess
of rain was left to prepare a feast for her people as the goddess of
fire had done for herfollowers.
Some of the legends have introduced the demi-god Maui into this
story. The natives say that Maui came to "burn" or "cook the rain" and
that he made the oven very hot, but that the goddess of rain escaped
and hung over the hill in the form of a cloud. At least this is what
the people saw-not a cloud of smoke over the imu, but a rain cloud.
They waited and watched for such evidences of underground labor as
attended the passage of Hina Ke Ahi through the earth from the hill to
the sea, but the only strange appearance was the dark rain cloud. They
waited three days and looked for their chiefess to come in the form of
a woman. They waited another day and still another and no signs or
wonders were rnanifest. Meanwhile Maui, changing himself into a white
bird, flew up into the sky to catch the ghost of the goddess of rain
which had escaped from the burning oven. Having caught this spirit, he
rolled it in some kapa cloth which lie kept for food to be placed in an
oven and carried it to a place in the forest on the mountain side where
again the attempt was made to "burn the rain," but a great drop escaped
and sped upward into the sky. Again Maui can ht the ghost of the
goddess and carried it to a pali or precipice below the great volcano
Kilauea, where he again tried to destroy it in the heat of a great lava
oven, but this time the spirit escaped and found a safe refuge among
kukui trees on the mountain side, from which she sometimes rises in
clouds which the natives say are the sure sign of rain.
Whether this Maui legend has any real connection with the two Hinas
and the famine we do not surely know. The legend ordinarily told among
the Hawaiians says that after five days had passed the retainers
decided on their own responsibility to open the imu. No woman had
appeared to give them directions. Nothing but a mysterious rain cloud
over the hill. In doubt and fear, the dirt was thrown off and the mats
removed. Nothing was found but the ashes of Hina Kuluua. There was no
food for her followers and the goddess had lost all power of appearing
as a chiefess. Her bitter and thoughtless jealousy brought destruction
upon herself and her people. The ghosts of Hina Ke Ahi and Hina Kuluua
sometimes draw near to the old hills in the form of the fire of flowing
lava or clouds of rain while the old men and women tell the story of
the Hinas, the sisters of Maui, who were laid upon the burning stones
of the imus of a famine.