Every Hula chant or song tells a story. Luckily, a Hula Dancer can portray the story with his/her hands, so you don’t need to be fluent in the Hawaiian language to understand the stories. A Hula Dancer can make you feel like you’re apart of the story through expressions and movements.
There are many Hawaiian chants inviting you to follow the adventures of Pele, the goddess of fire. Until this day, volcanic eruptions on Hawaii Island are attributed to Pele longing to be with her loved one. Some of the most popular Pele legends involve Pele and her lover Lohiau, a chief of Kaua`i, and Pele’s youngest and favorite sister, Hi`iaka.
Pele is said to be the most visible of the Hawaiian gods/goddesses as she dwells in the craters of the active Kilauea Volcano. The legends of Pele represent her as a very passionate and volatile goddess. She has the ability to create, as well as destroy land.
The spirit of Madame Pele is highly respected by natives of Hawaii. There are modern day stories of people believing to spot Pele. One story says drivers have seen an old woman dressed in all white on the roads of Kilauea National Park on Hawaii Island. The woman is said to be accompanied by a small dog. After drivers pick her up, they say the backseat is empty when they look back in the mirror. Locals also try to spread awareness about the importance of showing respect when visiting the lava fields. People of Hawai`i frown upon taking lava rocks from the volcanoes. There was a very recent story in 2016 of an American family who took handfuls of lava rocks and black sand from the Big Island. After feeling “cursed” they contacted the local airlines they flew with and had the stolen items retuned to Madame Pele.
Kumu Hula (teachers) often take their haumana (students) to visit places which their mele (songs) and chants come from. The more a dancer understands what they’re dancing about, the better they can express it. The legends of Hawaii’s gods and goddesses are fascinating, and can be best experienced through the art of Hula.