He ola ka wai, he wai ke ola!
Water is life, life is water!
Akaka Falls cascades 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge feeding the lush forest. It is a Wailele (waterfall) symbolic in myth and legend.
The main Hawaiian God, Kane, the creator, is the keeper of the precious Wai (water). He is the giver of life to the earth and all who dwell there.
“He Wai a Kane
Aia e-hea ka Wai a Kane?
Aia i-lalo, i ka honua, i ka wai hu,
i ka wai kau a Kane me Kanaloa
He wai-puna, he wai e inu,
He wai e mana, he wai e ola.
E ola no e-a!
The Water of Kane
Where flows the water of Kane?
Deep in the ground, in the gushing spring,
In the ducts of Kane and Kanaloa,
A well-spring of water, to drink,
A water of magic power, The water of life!
Life! O give us this life!”
(Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, 1909)
People of old deeply appreciated and honored life giving Wai, the very element that sustains all life. The purity and vibrancy of the water determined the health of the island and the people. Strict Kapu (taboo) was used to maintain the clarity of the water of life.
Hawaiians honored the Akua (gods) who guard the Wai to preserve its Ma’ema’e (purity).
Hawaiian legend tells the story of Akaka Falls, where a handsome young warrior chief named Akaka lived with his wife in the little village of Honomu.
But Akaka also was in love with two beautiful goddesses, Maile and Lehua, who he would secretly meet in the forest when his wife was away.
When his wife found out about the affairs, Akaka was deeply ashamed and ran into the forest. He was so saddened that he lost his footing, fell of a steep cliff and turned into a huge waterfall.
His lovers, Maile and Lehua, were heartbroken. They cried so hard that they turned into the two smaller falls on each side of Akaka Falls. According to legend, a smaller flow downstream called Kahuna represents Akaka’s faithful wife, still by his side.
If you listen closely on still and moonless nights, you can hear his wife, muffled by the roar of the falls, still calling for Akaka.
Tradition says that if you strike the large rock at the top of the waterfall with a Lehua twig or wrap a Maile lei around it, rain will fall, because Lehua and Maile always made Akaka’s wife weep.
The indigenous Hawaiian Ohia Tree also is vital of Hawaii’s natural ecosystem and water supply.
The Ohia Tree is the first form of life to grow directly out of the hardened black lava.
Its beautiful red flowers are called Lehua, which means “Flower sacred to the Gods” in the Hawaiian language. The red Lehua flower is the official flower of the Big Island of Hawaii. Native Hawaiians used to make a medicinal potion out of the Ohia Tree’s bark and leaves. It was meant to spark a strong, passionate, inward fire to grow, bloom, and rejoice in life. The Ohia Lehua Tree is said to grant visions of the future, offering inspirations to manifest personal transformation. It signals the completion of one cycle and illuminates a new beginning.
The Ohia Lehua Tree has been sacred to the Hawaiian people since ancient times and is often mentioned in legends, hula, songs, and chants.
The Lehua is also known as Pele’s Flower. In Hawaiian mythology, Ohia and Lehua were two lovers. The Volcano Goddess Pele desired Ohia. But Ohia only had eyes for Lehua. His rejection made Pele so furious that she turned him into a tree. Lehua was devastated by losing her lover. Out of pity, the gods turned her into a flower which they placed on Ohia’s tree. Hawaiians believe that it rains when a Lehua flower is picked from the Ohia tree, signifying the tears of these eternal lovers.
The Ohia Lehua Tree is a powerful symbol of all that is Hawaii.
Vital to Hawaii’s natural ecosystem, the Ohia Tree provides an essential food source for native birds and bugs. The bark of the Ohia tree captures the mist of the forest and lets it slowly seep into the ground, which replenishes the Island’s water supply.
The Ohia tree is Hawaii’s iconic tree that is most responsible for replenishing the Island’s water sources. Now it is being attacked by a fungus disease and seriously endangered.
At one time, Hawaiians bathed, swam and drank from the abundance of clean, clear water on the Islands, Today these same waters are often tainted with disease and pollution.
We all can contribute to prevent further contamination with attention, awareness and Aloha!
Take on the challenge to protect the Island’s precious water sources by avoiding pollution and waste!
Menehune dolls Akaka and Lehua were created in honor of Hawaii’s precious water sources and Ohia forests.