Category Archives: Sandra Wagner-Wright

THE LEGEND OF `ŌHI`A AND LEHUA

Lehua BlossomIn the midst of an on-going eruption from Kīlauea Volcano, it’s hard to avoid thinking about Goddess Pele who makes her home in the volcano. There are many stories about Pele who is viewed both as a beautiful young woman and an old hag. She appears on roadways, hitches rides, and disappears. Pele is a goddess of strong emotions. She becomes jealous and angry when she doesn’t get her way. One of the most touching stories about the affect of Pele’s jealousy is the Legend of `Ōhi`a and Lehua, joined together for eternity. Here is one version of the story.

`Ōhi`a was a strong, handsome warrior; Lehua a beautiful young woman. Her face was round and glowed like the moon. Her eyes glittered like starlight. Lehua’s back was straight and her hair rippled like a waterfall.

One day Lehau saw `Ōhi`a speaking with her father and blushed. At the same time `Ōhi`a saw the maiden and was so overwhelmed he stopped speaking. Lehua’s father was amused, and offered to introduce `Ōhi`a to his daughter. From that moment, `Ōhi`a had eyes for no other woman and the young couple lived happily together until the day Goddess Pele saw `Ōhi`a in the forest.

Pu`u `O`O cone on Kīlauea, 1983
Pu`u `O`o, a volcanic cone on Kīlauea, 1983.

Pele initiated a conversation, but though he was polite, `Ōhi`a didn’t respond to her advances. Pele was furious. About this time, Lehua arrived with the midday meal for her husband. `Ōhi`a stopped what he was doing to go to his wife. Pele, overcome with rage, transformed into a column of fire. She stamped her feet and the ground trembled. Lava made a ring of fire around the couple.

“Come to me and live,” Pele said to `Ōhi`a. But he refused.

`Ōhi`a lifted Lehua above the lava. As the lava grew around his legs, `Ōhi`a held Lehua higher. `Ōhi`a’ s legs began to turn into wood; his arms became branches. Lehua’s hair billowed in the hot wind. Sparks made her hair look like red and gold blossoms. Lehua the woman became lehua the flower. It is said that if you pick the red lehua blossom it will rain, because of the tears Lehua shed for her beloved.

`Ōhi`a trees grow from sea level to 5,000 feet. The picture below is one I took last year of the tree with a steam vent in the background.`Ōhi`a is one of the first plants able to grow on barren lava rock, because the leaves can close their pores as protection from volcanic gasses.


`Ōhi1a tree by steam vent at Kīlauea

Iʻe_kuku_(wooden_beaters)_and_kua_lāʻau_(wood_anvil),_Hawaii_State_Art_MuseumHawaiians used the wood to make weapons and tools, for example the beaters to make kapa cloth from the bark of the paper mulberry tree (Wauke).

`ApapaneNative birds such as the `Apapane shown on the right feed on nectar from the lehua flowers.

Hula dancers traditionally wear lehua blossoms and buds in their lei. Dancers enter the forest and ask permission to pick lehua blossoms and other plant matter.

The present Kīlauea eruption is destructive to people’s lives and properties. It’s also a time of renewal when new lava rock joins the earth. Perhaps that explains Goddess Pele’s two manifestations and her noted jealous temper.

🌴🌴🌴

Photos of lehua blossoms and steam vent by author.

Pu`u `O`o, a volcanic cone on Kīlauea, 1983. Public Domain.

I`e kuku (wooden beater) and kuala lā`au (wood anvil) used to make kapa. By Wmpearl. Creative Commons Attribution.

`Apapane bird by James Brennan Molokai. Creative Commons Attribution.

“Ohia Lehua, and the Jealousy of Pele.” Love Big Island.

Meghan Miner. “The Cultural Significance of Ohia Lehua.” Hawaii Magazine. Apr. 11, 2016.

S. E. Schlosser. “Pele’s Revenge.” American Folklore.

George Wallace. “Hawai`i’s Legendary Ohia Tree.” Birdcalls. June 30, 2016.

Leilehua Yuen. “’Ōhi`a-Lehua Legend.” Ke Ola Magazine. July-August 2016. 31-35.

SWIMWEAR BY THE SEA

Summer will soon be upon us — the time of year when many of us will be seen in swim wear or, as it used to be called, bathing costumes. Summer wasn’t always synonymous with a seaside vacation. A convergence of factors in the mid-nineteenth century introduced the annual ritual to American life. Railways made… Continue Reading

LADIES, MOTHERS DAY & AFTERNOON TEA

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day, a commemorative day established by Anna Marie Jarvis in 1911 as a tribute to her mother and all mothers. In 1911 the day usually involved church services. Over time the celebration evolved into a sentimental event with all manner of gifts and cards for mom. In recent years mothers, daughters,… Continue Reading

Packing and Travel Hacks

It’s the end of April. Rain is streaming down my windows. I’m thinking about summer holidays — the kind that require a passport or at least an airline ticket. Although I know I’ll enjoy my destination, there are two things I dread: making the travel arrangements and packing. Travel arrangements are fairly straightforward. Packing is… Continue Reading

Natural Gardens in China & Japan

Long before Capability Brown improved English landscapes, Chinese and Japanese garden designers created “natural” gardens. Ji Cheng (1582-1642) observed in the seventeenth century that the purpose of a Chinese garden is to “hide the vulgar and the common as far as the eye can see, and include the excellent and the splendid.” In this photo, there… Continue Reading

The Landscape Gardens of Capability Brown

Although gardening takes place all year round, it comes to mind most readily in the spring. April is a good month for planting trees, shrubs, and annual flowering bulbs that bloom in summer. These might include dahlias and gladiolas. It’s also time to plant seeds for marigolds and zinnias. If you go to your local… Continue Reading

close
Visit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook Page