“‘o kāu lehua nō lā ka pua o ka‘u mänai e kui ai” (your lehua blossom would be the one my lei-needle would pierce)


Papahana: Collecting aikāne references from awaiāulu

(to be honest, i collected this a couple weeks ago, before i had a blog. BUT I NEED TO SHARE THIS PASSAGE…sooo)


When i began to think of Hiʻiaka as a site to learn more about desire and sexuality, i was enamored by the relationship between HIʻiaka and Hōpoe. I gave very little attention to the relationship between Hiʻiaka and Whaineʻōmaʻo. I didnt think of it as intimate, because i was too distracted by Hōpoe. But obviously after reading and re-reading different mana of this moʻolelo iʻve come to pay more attention to Wahineʻōmaʻo as well. after all, Wahineʻōmaʻo actually accompanies Hiʻiaka on her journey, therefore theres a lot of material to look at. And any literary material is a gift to a literary scholar.

Because of all this, iʻve been spending the last couple months trying to understand a bit of the shape and movement to the intimacy between HIʻiaka and Wahineʻōmaʻo. Early on in Hoʻoulumāhiehie’s text we find Wahineʻōmaʻo nearly drooling over hiʻiaka:

Auë! Ua ‘ike maila nö kä paha ‘oe i ka‘u mea i ho‘ona‘ana‘a wale a‘e nei nö i loko o ko‘u no‘o- no‘o nou. He aha mai ho‘i kau, e kuko aku ana nö ho‘i au i kou u‘i. A ‘o ia ka‘u i ho‘olä‘au wale a‘e nei nö, inä he käne au, ‘o käu lehua nö lä ka pua o ka‘u mänai e kui ai; ‘a‘ohe ho‘i e hihi, ‘o käua mahü nö këia a ‘elua, kohu maika‘i ‘ole ke kaunu ‘ana i Waiolohia.

He ‘aka wale nö ho‘i kä Hi‘iaka no nei mau ‘ölelo a ke aikäne, a pane maila ‘o ia, “E ao, o kä ‘ia ke kuko a me ka li‘a i ka ‘öiwi (Awaiāulu, 49).

Which Awaiāulu translates as:

“Oh no! You probably perceive my thoughts about you that flustered me so. Oh, what of it! I was lusting for your beauty. The impulse that I had is that if I were a man, your lehua blossom would be the one my lei-needle would pierce; make no mistake, we are both of the weaker sex, so it would be no good to succumb to a passion as turbulent as the surging waters of Waiolohia.”

Hi‘iaka only laughed at these statements, and then said, “Be careful, lest the yearning and desire become an actuality.”

When reading this passage a couple things come to mind:

  1. why the hell would they hoʻonoho mahu as mahū and then translate the passage to say that Wahineʻōmaʻo believes wahine are a weaker sex? when they could have just as easily left it, or used *māhu (steam) or māhū (im not translating this because i think, much like aikāne, we dont really know what this word truly means.. we just know its related to homosexuality and hermaphroditism)… This is, by far, one of the translation choices i disagree with most of any made in this text.
  2. and then when i get past that almost insulting interpretation..  i think about Hiʻiaka and i smile. Look at this woman, she is shuch a player and a flirt. Wahineʻōmaʻo is basically falling over backwards in lust for Hiʻiaka and her response is to merely stoke the fire with a simple flirtation. NO wonder i love Hiʻiaka so much.

But heres the thing, this passage absolutely tells us about Hiʻiaka’s beauty and Wahineʻōmaʻo recognition for her beauty but it certainly doensʻt say anything about actualizing their desire.. thats cool, i have an imagination, iʻm good. But when you put this passage together with one that appears later, we come to find that perhaps Hiʻiaka and Wahineʻōmaʻo’s intimacy only grows during their long arduous journey. These are just some of the reasons i literally jumped for joy when i stumbled back upon this next passage with new eyes.

Shortly after Hiʻiaka and her aikāne and kahu arrive to revive Lohiau, Hiʻiaka offers a series of chants calling out about her kāne. Strangely enough, this is met with sadness and jealously from Wahineʻōmaʻo.


Iä Hi‘iaka e paeaea nei i këia kau, ua pi‘i a‘ela ko Wahine‘öma‘o wahi kai, a ‘ölelo a‘ela ‘o ia i ke aikäne, iä Hi‘iaka, “He keu nö ho‘i ‘oe, e aikäne. He hana ho‘ohaehae maoli nö paha këia äu ia‘u, e noke mai nei i ke olioli i kö käne. Mea a‘e nö ‘oe ‘o ku‘u käne, mea iho nö ‘o ku‘u käne. ‘O kahi akula nö ho‘i paha ia ‘o ke käne, i noho ‘ia akula nö ho‘i paha e ‘oe. Kä! He aha ho‘i kou ‘ano, e aikäne. Inä penei mau ‘oe, e ke aikäne, e hana ai, ‘eä, e aho ko käua ka‘awale. ‘O ko‘u ala hele nö këia, ‘imi a‘e au i ko‘u wahi e pono ai. I lawe mai nei kä ‘oe ia‘u a nei ‘äina malihini, loa‘a käu käne, a ha‘alele mai ‘oe ia‘u. ‘Ehia kä ho‘i mea aloha, ‘o nei mau iwi. E waiho paha auane‘i o‘u mau iwi i ke kula o Ka‘ea,* e like me ka ‘ölelo a kahiko?” A laila, pane maila ‘o Hi‘iaka, “‘Auhea ‘oe, e ke aikäne, ua hewa kou mana‘o i pane maila. A ‘o ke kumu nö paha o ka hili hewa ‘ana maila o käu ‘ölelo, ‘o ia kou ‘ike ‘ole ‘ana mai nei i ke kumu o ko‘u kau ‘ana a‘e nei i këlä mele. E ha‘i aku au iä ‘oe, a e ho‘olohe mai nö ho‘i ‘oe. Ia‘u i paeaea a‘e nei i ku‘u kau i hana a‘e nei no Ulamawao, a hiki i ka pau ‘ana, i ia wäi ‘ano ‘ë a‘e nei ku‘u mau maka, a ua kuhi au ua ‘ike a‘e nei ‘oe i ia ‘ano ‘ë ‘ana a‘e nei o‘u. ‘O ko‘u ‘ike aku nei nö ia i ke kaikua‘ana haku o käua, ua hele nö ho‘i a kahu ka ‘ena i nä ‘önohi maka. Ho‘omaopopo ihola au, ua huhü ke kaikua‘ana o käkou ia‘u no ku‘u hili ‘ana me ke kanaka näna ka‘a ia käkou i ‘ai mai nei. A ‘oia ke kumu o‘u i kau a‘e nei i këlä kau äu i mana‘o mai nei ia‘u,e ke aikäne, he kania‘ä aloha maoli i ke käne a käua. Na käua nö ho‘i paha ia käne, ua loa‘a ho‘i ia‘u (Awaiāulu, 154)

Awaiāulu’s Translation:

As Hi‘iaka was chanting this chant, Wahine‘öma‘o’s anger surged within her and she said to her aikäne, Hi‘iaka, “You are too much, my friend. What you are doing really drives me into a frenzy, the way you keep chanting about your dear man. You utter ‘my dear man,’ and you say ‘my dear man,’ as though the only thing is that man, whom you apparently chose to lay with. shocked at you, aikäne. If this is how you are going to carry on, then maybe you and I should part. I will take this path and seek what is right for me. Here you have brought me along to this strange place, found your man, and then you forsake me. How very tragic for these bones. My bones may well end up neglected, like the old saying, ‘Left out to dry on the plains of Ka‘ea.’* (Awaiāulu, 145)

While Awaiāulu interprets Wahineʻōmaʻo as angry. My reading is a bit different, i read pain out of the word chosen to describe Waihineʻōmaʻo’s reaction. Nevertheless, it is clear that Wahineʻōmaʻo is feeling forsaken by the presence of a new intimate relationship between Hiʻiaka and someone other than herself.

Mostly what i pull from this passage is the way Wahineʻōmaʻo equates her intimacy with Hiʻiaka with that of Hiʻiaka’s and Lohiau’s. Not only does she push HIʻiaka to recognize the kulana of their (her and Hiʻiakas) intimacy, she displays a great deal of sadness when she feels that intimacy is being forgotten, unrecognized and worse of all replaced.

This is something iʻve been seeing quite a bit in Poepoe’s HIʻiaka in terms of the ways HIʻiaka expresses her anger and disgust at her sister for killing her aikāne (Hōpoe). When these intimacies are equated and compared in by the very people entangled in these complicated relationships i think we learn a lot about how multiple layers of desires and intimacies are functioning in these moʻolelo and since we all know that moʻoelo (and art) reflects life) … perhaps we are learning even more about our kupuna and their intimacies too. At least i hope.

One thought on ““‘o kāu lehua nō lā ka pua o ka‘u mänai e kui ai” (your lehua blossom would be the one my lei-needle would pierce)

  1. I must acknowledge that your profound insights have brought new insights for me. You may not remember but you visited Kamehameha Schools Kapālama to speak with Mr. Oishiʻs class. I was the one who lei-ed you and I was and still am very appreciative of your visit. Now that Iʻve saw this insight on how wahineʻomaʻō and hōpoe were drawn to Hiʻiaka in an intimate way I feel that Hiʻiaka connected with Lohiʻau when it came to the concept of love. Both are “players of the heart”. They flirt and fool around. Maybe that is why they were drawn to each other in the end, despite the jealousy Hiʻiaka wished for her sister, Pele, to inherit? Thank you for your wonderful insights and the amount of time you spent researching and connecting.

    Mahalo, Kapua

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