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How many stories of the Hawaiian Islands have you heard? If you are a culture lover, you may be curious to know what makes Hawaiian culture so rich. In this episode, Bryan is joined with Andrew Fowers of Shaka Guide to discuss three important stories of goddess Pele.
Pele, also known as the goddess of fire, can be quick to anger and a jealous lover. In the three stories, we are about to hear, it’s hard to ignore Pele’s anger. A silver lining about Pele is that she has a conscience, too.
In the first story of how the Kilauea volcano came to be, Pele got jealous of her little sister Hiiaka. Pele sent her sister to find her lover Ohia and bring him to her. Pele gave Hiiaka a deadline of 40 days. Hiiaka failed to meet the deadline. She came back after the deadline had elapsed, but she brought Ohia with her. Pele’s angry got the best of her and destroyed Hiika’s forest. When Hiiaka saw that, she too got angry and embraced Ohia in Pele’s presence. Pele got upset and buried Ohia beneath rapid hot lava.
The second story is about the curse of Pele. According to Hawaiian culture, what belongs to Pele must remain in Hawaii. Many people who visit Hawaii usually get tempted to take away lava rocks or sand as souvenirs. Unfortunately, many of them end up mailing them back because of the many bad things they encounter. Could it be the curse of Pele?
The third story is about the relationship between Pele and the Ohia Lehua tree. This story is evidence enough that Pele is not always bad. When lava erupts, it is usually black and barren. Amazing enough, there is one tree that can withstand that, the Ohia Lehua tree.
This tree is said to close its leaves and pore for it to survive the harsh conditions. The Ohia Lehua tree has beautiful red flowers that some native Hawaiian birds feed on. It is believed that after Pele calmed down, she turned Ohia’s body into the tree and Lehau’s body into its flowers. She did that to join the lovers together forever.
Fast forward today, there is a fungus that is threatening the life of the Ohia Lehua trees, and great effort is being put in place to save the trees.
Listen in as Andrew tells us the stories in depth.

Key Talking Points

  • What is Shaka Guide?
  • Goddess Pele: The goddess of fire
  • How the Kilauea Volcano was formed
  • The curse of Pele
  • The relationship between Pele and the Ohia Lehua tree


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Bryan Murphy 0:00

Well, since you're listening to this podcast, chances are you love Hawaii and I think it's easy to agree that Hawaii is one of the most beautiful and special places in all the world. In additional ways, beauty sunsets resorts, drinks. And you know, it is deep in rich history, culture and legends. And today we are discussing probably one of the most epic legends of all time, Pele, Hawaii's goddess of fire and volcanoes. This is one that you're not gonna want to miss. So stay tuned. Let's cue the intro.

Hawaii's Best 0:34

Welcome to Hawaii's Best travel podcast where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state.

Unknown Speaker 0:46

And now your

Hawaii's Best 0:47

host, Brian Murphy.

Bryan Murphy 0:50

Welcome to another episode of Hawaii's Best where we talk about all things Hawaii, my name is Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best and today I am joined with one of my good friends. Andrew fowers, the co founder and CEO of Shaka guide. Andrew, what's up, man? How you doing? aloha? Aloha. So good to see you. Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Fowers 1:13

Thank you glad to be on the podcast here.

Bryan Murphy 1:15

And it was great. We actually got to meet in person just last week in the beautiful city of LA. That was awesome. Thank you so much for making time for that. Yeah,

Andrew Fowers 1:25

it was super cool, too. I mean, put a face behind the voice, right?

Unknown Speaker 1:30

For sure.

Bryan Murphy 1:31

Yeah. So that was cool to be able to hang out. And you and I we got connected. Man almost like a couple years ago, at least a year and a half ago, you were on episode 14 of the podcast. And we talked all things Shaka guide. And that's how we got connected. And we'll definitely we'll link that episode in the show notes. But maybe for those who didn't catch that episode or haven't heard of Shaka God, or what Shaka guide is maybe you could fill in those listening, just a brief overview of what Shaka is all about.

Unknown Speaker 2:02


Andrew Fowers 2:03

thank you so much. So we started a company, it's been over 15 years really. But what we do is we help tell stories about the places in Hawaii as people are driving, and walking. And how we do that is through an app called Shaka guide that as visitors are cruising the island and you know, checking out fun spots, beaches, things to do, we have this Shaka guide app that actually directs them around the island, telling them stories along the way, as well as helpful tips about things to check out what to do, and also safety about what to avoid when you're traveling. So I love storytelling I love especially the stories of Hawaii. Currently, we have four different apps, one for each island 20 tours in total, that basically crisscross every single part of the island. Those are available on the App Store for download. And there is a purchase per tour. But what's cool about the tours is there's no advertising, they are just straight up highly researched content, we take a lot of pride in shaaka guide that the stories are accurate and up to date, especially for culture, legends, folklore, and things that relate to Hawaii, we want to make sure that everything that we share with our visitors is accurate. And so I'm really happy to you know, kind of come on the podcast today and maybe share some of those stories with the listeners.

Bryan Murphy 3:38

Yeah, I think that's great, because there's so much love and respect for the islands that it would be a disservice to not talk about these stories because it is so engrained into what Hawaii is. And I think what you guys have done so well is you've not only told these stories, but you've told them in a way that that gives the respect and the honor that these stories and legends deserve. Definitely Yeah, me personally, I'm not wanting to get on the tour bus and like, do the tour. That's just not my, you know, personality. I love being able to like get out there on my own. That's really what attracted me to Shaka guys sure abs. But I think even more so now. A lot of those traditional tours aren't even open right now. And yeah, that is a great way to also socially distance and to be safe in that way but still explore the islands.

Andrew Fowers 4:35

Yeah, totally now with COVID and even as things recover during COVID that Yeah, so it's a perfect opportunity to still have a great vacation and still have a great time, but just not being crammed in a bus with strangers.

Bryan Murphy 4:50

For sure, when we're on Maui and driving through la Chinatown and you have a you have a set destination in mind like hey, I want to go to you know that Spider this spot. But every single Island there's so much stuff along the way that you don't even realize is is so historic or has so much depth and, and and culture behind it that you just kind of drive right past it. And I think exactly you know, Shaka, God does a great job of just kind of getting you getting you to your destination safely. But also, you know, talking story along the way. And that's what we're doing today we're talking about the goddess Pele. And I think for those of you listening, you've probably have heard Pele in the news. These past couple years with a few pretty major eruptions. And even recently, she's, you know, decided to make an appearance again,

Andrew Fowers 5:41

I mean, if we're thinking about Pele, first off, we need to understand that for many people, she's very much real and alive. And for other people, this is a legend and a folklore. But for other people, this is a real fact. And something that they really believe in is that there is a life force in these islands. And it's governed, and it's controlled by the goddess of fire, Pele. And so just the caveat here is I respect her I respect the stories. I also understand that there's many different interpretations and different versions of the story of Pele. And so the stories that we're sharing here have been researched and cross referenced, to try to give the best interpretation of Pele, the goddess of fire. Today, we're going to be going over three different stories that I personally really enjoy. The first story we're going to be going over is talking about hilly and he aka, basically this story talks about how the Kilauea Volcano was created. The second story is about the curse of Pele, giving you a couple of references from modern times. The third story we're going to be going over is the story about hilly and the ohira. Lay hood tree. So Brian, where should we start? We start with the first story and we're gonna play a bit of that story right now. So

Bryan Murphy 7:12

take a listen.

Unknown Speaker 7:26

Come me.

Shaka Guide 7:45

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not only an area rich with history and geology, but also Hawaiian myths and legends with Pele, the goddess of fire, lightning and volcanoes as the center of the mall. Pele came from a family of siblings who each had a role to play in the shaping of the earth. Many brothers were each named after a destructive force in nature. But Pele's favorite sibling was her little sister, he iaca it is said that Paley brought he aka with her to the Big Island, in the form of an egg from her homeland and Tahiti, and in Pele's warm embrace the egg was incubated and hatched. Though peleus power often left nothing but destruction. He aka on the other hand, was gentle and kind of growing forests were Pele's hot lava cooled, Pele and he aka love the hula, and live together happily in their volcano home. However, though happy and kind of times, Pele can be very moody, jealous and violent, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Volcanic eruptions are known to represent pelase anger. Or maybe they're just molten hot flashes. Either way, if anybody offends her, she will attack the person with molten lava. So I don't know about you. But like I said before, I do not want to get on Matt impellers bad side.

Andrew Fowers 9:24

So there you have like a little bit of a background on Pele and he aka interesting sibling dynamics and in the minute we're going to hear this next story how the sibling dynamics start to have a little bit of an issue, especially over love. And Pele is a very jealous lover. And so let's listen to this next part here.

Shaka Guide 9:51

According to Hawaiian legend, the Kilauea crater was created by Pelley and he aka as the story goes, one day fell into such a deep sleep that her spirits separated from her body. And while her spirit wandered, she heard the most beautiful music of a nose flute.

Pele spirit traveled from island to island in search of the maker of this heavenly music. Finally she came to Kuwait, where she found out a handsome young prince playing his flute and transforming herself into a young and very beautiful woman. Kelly approached Loki Oh, and one over his heart. The couple then spent the next several days together. Back at home he aka began to be worried over peles lifeless body. Finally, Palio woke from her spirit journey and told her sister what had happened, and how she yearned to be together with lo he Oh again, but Kelly could not leave her volcanic fires unattended, or she would die. So she asked he aka to go to Hawaii and bring Loki out to her. Belly even gave he aka a strict deadline of just 40 days and instructed her not to fall in love with the handsome Loki owl. He aka greed as long as Pelley would protect her beloved oh hiya forests while she was away. He aka his journey was perilous to say the least, having to combat many monsters and demons along the way. However, he iaca kept her sister's interest in mind and continued until she found lo he Oh, but by that point, 40 days had already passed. Belly became impatient and jealous thinking that her sister had betrayed her and seduced Loki out in her wrath. Pelley set fire to iatkos forest and burned it down.

But he aka had in fact kept her promise to her sister and returned with Loki. Oh, as asked when he aka saw what Pele had done to her precious forest. in anger and retaliation, she embraced luqiao and full sight of Pele. But the summative keela apparently became furious with jealousy and heaved molten lava at them burying luqiao deep beneath the rapid lava flow.

He aka regretting what she had done, started to dig furiously hoping that she might be able to recover the body of loci on huge rocks flew as she continued digging deeper and deeper. And in the nick of time, he aka his older brother stopped her from going any further. For if she had kept digging. The water would have come in and killed Pelley by putting out her fire. So this according to the kupuna the keepers of Hawaiian legend is how the great Kilauea Caldera came to be. And the moral of the story is always keep your promises and never flirt with your sister's boyfriend. Especially if she throws molten lava.

Bryan Murphy 13:23

So Andrew, is this kind of like where the Bailey that we know this is kind of like one of those catalyst moments, right, this kind of this this jealous heart? Yeah,

Andrew Fowers 13:34

yes. Pele is a very jealous person in all folklore and all stories. And so here we have Pele's true character kind of coming out, she made an agreement with her sister. And once that deadline was exceeded, she got furious and think it's so cool, the visual of this sense of betrayal from these two sisters. And if you were to actually go to the Kilauea Caldera, and see this massive, massive hole in the ground, I mean, the story totally ties it together, that you see this crater being created out of a jealous heart because of a misunderstanding partially, but also this dynamics play between he aka and Pele. And even to this day, there is lava in the caldera there and it's what we call a lava lake. And so very interesting story and legend that I love to tell about the origin of the Kilauea Volcano peles wrath is still very much alive in presence. And this legend has been perpetuated in a different form in modern day there's actually a curse that is surrounding The taking of lava rock from any Hawaiian island, it has been said that you will be cursed

Bryan Murphy 15:05

by Pele, if you do so, you know, I've heard of people who have taken a rock and have felt that, that guilt or maybe a little bit of that wrath and decided to like, I got a, I gotta send this back. And there's post office that that just get inundated with lava rocks does that?

Andrew Fowers 15:26

Yeah, it actually is true. So visitors, they see this really Black Rock, and some of them are very shiny and smooth and just very unique. And so naturally, there's a lot of curiosity like, wow, I want to take some of this home with Ray. And then they start to hear about this legend. And and what happens is they start to attribute the bad things in their life to maybe this lava rock. And actually, I kid you not there was a news article just recently, in the local newspaper here in Hawaii, how, you know, the post office is getting tons and tons of lava rock, and they're basically saying to stop sending them to the post office. Because what they do is they just put the zip code, and then they put the name to like Madame Pele, right. And in the post office, you can tell because this, you shake it and just rocks. Yeah, so the moral of the story is here, I will listen to another story here in a minute. But the idea is just just don't take them to begin with.

Bryan Murphy 16:22

Right? And if you did take one maybe a couple years ago, and you're like, Okay, I need to give it back. It's time to plan another trip to Hawaii and go present them back to Madame Pele. Yeah,

Andrew Fowers 16:33

yeah, exactly.

Shaka Guide 16:34

As I told you, at the very beginning of the tour, we shouldn't remove any lava rocks, or lava, sand or any type of formation to bring home as a souvenir. Because they are all considered as pelase possessions. Now, some say that there is in fact, a curse upon those who remove lava rocks from this island. Don't believe me? Well, listen up. For years now Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park, and the nearby post office have been receiving hundreds of packages with pieces of lava rocks in all shapes and sizes, from places like Germany, Japan, and Australia. Some with postage costing up to $100. And more. Sounds crazy, huh? Why would they ship rocks back to Hawaii? Well, often these packages would come with letters from a sender explaining why they mailed back the rock. These letters tell about all sorts of bad things that have happened to them since they took the rocks home. And I mean, some really bad stuff, like death diseases, employment problems, family problems, appliances, breaking down, you name it. And they are convinced that these are all related to Pele and her curse. In these letters, they apologize and plead with the park rangers to return the lava rock back to where it belongs, in the hope of improving their situation. For that reason, I sure hope you listen to me and didn't take any lava rocks with you. But if you did a bra, good luck. Don't tell me I didn't warn you. Maybe you might just want to turn around and return it. You know, just to be safe. So what do you think? Is Madame Pele for real? Or is Pele, the unseen force that governs the volcano and other unexplained things that we humans just don't have any control over? Or is she just a superstition? Well, I'll let you be the judge of that.

Andrew Fowers 19:00

So what do you think, Brian? Do you think Pele is real?

Bryan Murphy 19:03

I do. I think legends are there to guide us. And I think this legend of Pele kind of helps to identify or at least bring some understanding to what could possibly be there.

Andrew Fowers 19:15

Yeah, definitely. And what I like about this is it gives us certain respect for Pele and her possessions. What I really cringe about is when people disrespect, Pele, and the culture here in Hawaii, you know, there was a time when the lava was actually flowing into the ocean a few years back, and people could actually ride bikes out to see, you know, the lava flow, and you could actually get so close to it, that there were stories about people actually roasting marshmallows and cooking hot dogs next to the lava flow because it was so hot. And this is seen as a major, major offense against Pele and disrespectful. kind of funny at first, but to really understand the culture here is something to be respected. And so what I like about this story and the curse of Pele is it helps reinforce that Pele is one to be respected and one to be cautious of consequences and to obey those rules, those unsaid rules about respect for her and her possessions.

Bryan Murphy 20:25

I mean, you can already hit on it. But just in general, when, when traveling, no matter I think no matter what culture you're traveling yourself into, is to put yourself in the posture of a learner of someone who is wanting to ask questions and to understand and have that sense of empathy as well. Because who are we to go into a culture and try to change it or try to not even one to understand it and just have our own agenda. And I think this is such a great example of just kind of positioning yourself, wherever you travel, we're talking about Hawaii. So no matter you know, what you do, or where you go, even talking about as simple as buying the right type of sunscreen, because that is important to to the land. And just educating yourself on that. Because Hawaii, yes, technically part of the United States is it's really its own culture, its own world. And understanding that is super important, and having these types of stories and hearing legend and super important, because not only will you have an epic vacation or travel to Hawaii, but it'll be there'll be so much more depth and more understanding that, yes, you'll remember that, that sunset or whatever. But more important that Hawaii will leave with you. It'll leave in your heart and having an understanding of its culture will even deepen that.

Andrew Fowers 22:00

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And the last story we're going to talk about is the relationship of Pele, and lay who are here tree. Now just a quick little background on this Oh, here lay who a tree. It is a very crucial tree to the Hawaiian Islands. When lava first erupts. It's black and barren and seemingly lifeless. But actually there is a native tree called the ohira lay who a tree that is able to be one of the first trees to come in and start populating itself and growing on this very rough and harsh lava rock. What's interesting about this oh heel, a tree is actually has pores in it, that it can actually close and open. And this is really important because living next to a volcano, there is a bunch of harmful carbon dioxide and bunch of harmful molecules in the air that could actually suffocate the tree. What this lady who a tree has been, you know designed to do over these many years is it actually can close its pores in its leafs. And this protects it when there is an eruption. And there's harmful chemicals in the air that it can continue to survive. What's also really important about this late Oh Haley hood tree is it has these beautiful red flowers that the native up upon a bird feeds on this is a native Hawaiian bird that is actually very closely reliant on this, it oh here lay who a tree for its survival. So there's a lot of interplay here in the ecosystem for Hawaii. And so much of Hawaiian folklore and culture is actually based around respects and our understanding of this ohira who a tree. It's a very important tree to the Hawaiian culture. And this next story talks a little bit about how that tree came to be. And it's now you expect it's another love story. And I'll just leave it at that.

Shaka Guide 24:09

There was once a young man named oh here, his beautiful lover was named Li Hua pelo became attracted to the handsome oh here, but he was completely devoted to les Hua and ignored pelase advances. in a rage and out of jealousy. Pele killed the lovers. scolded by her sister, Kelly's hot temper cooled and she became remorseful for what she had done. With a heavy heart she turned Oh, he his body into a tree, and Lahu his body into the flowers of the tree. And then this way, Pele helped join the lovers together, forever. See, what

Bryan Murphy 24:48

I like about that is the pay isn't all that bad, right?

Andrew Fowers 24:52

Well, she definitely has a conscience, right? Sometimes she makes rash decisions, and I think we'll do that at Time and yeah, what you know what I like is that the human part of her, you know, she's she's a God, but she definitely makes mistakes. And she tries to write it when she does.

Bryan Murphy 25:11

Yeah, not to mention that she killed both of them. But

Andrew Fowers 25:15

well in a, in a way, it's also a gift to the Hawaiian people by telling them that she joined them together and in the form of a tree that memory lives on. But yes, there is a lot of death and destruction in these stories, and in Pele, and in a lot of the folklore and stories for Hawaii. But there's also a lot of love. It's very interesting. You know, I've been storytelling about Hawaii for many, many years. And it's always, someone always dies, and it's usually related to love. And usually pelase is somewhere in their story

Shaka Guide 25:55

or in it right?

Andrew Fowers 25:56

Either she killed them, or she was jealous of them. What I like about this is just the meaning of this lady who a tree every year they have the Merrie Monarch festival out in Hilo, Hawaii, when they do that festival actually much of the beautiful tiaras and lays and much of what they're wearing is made of the Oh, hula, hula flower, it's a very beautiful has these long strands with a flower at the core of it. It's just a beautiful flower. That's important to like I said many of the birds and trees here and just as a side note, this ohira a tree is under attack right now it's there is a very aggressive fungus. That's called a rapid ohia death, that is somehow being spread by the wind by people. We're not exactly 100% sure of how this fungus is spreading. But what this fungus does is it actually suffocates the tree. And I told you this tree can open and close its pores. But that's for its leafs, this fungus actually attacks the bark of the tree. And what it does is it grows in the bark. And as a result, the tree cannot properly send water to its higher branches. And eventually the tree dies. And so there's just been a huge amount of trees and these old old hole here trees that have been, you know, growing for 50 years or plus, they're starting to die. And so there's a big effort right now in Hawaii to try and preserve them

Bryan Murphy 27:33

is that something that is found just on the island of Hawaii or throughout?

Andrew Fowers 27:37

It's found on all the Hawaiian Islands, I've been hiking in the highest peaks have a wahoo here and you'll see these beautiful old or here trees. They're also a huge oh here forest in the Volcanoes National Park in the surrounding area. This actually started in Big Island. But now it's made its way to all of the islands, especially impacting the Big Island. So it's something we're trying to work on. Maybe Maybe we could ask Kelly to help us out. I mean, she's solved a lot of other problems. Maybe I don't know if lava will help or something. But yeah,

Bryan Murphy 28:14

I mean, she she created this one, so maybe she can help save it. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 28:18

yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Bryan Murphy 28:20

Andrew, this was not only educational, but I think for those listening and even myself just, you know, offering even more depth into Hawaii and its rich culture. So thank you so much for your time and providing these incredible stories.

Andrew Fowers 28:35

Yeah, thank you. I love sharing them. I mean, not everyone has the chance to drive, listen to this tour in the Volcanoes National Park. So I just wanted to give everyone a little sample of some of the storytelling that we do here a Shaka guide. I'm Hope you enjoyed it. Awesome.

Bryan Murphy 28:51

Well, guys, thank you so much, again for listening to another episode. And if you've made it this far, I just want to ask you to just take a couple extra minutes and leave a review and rating below that has really helped the show quite a bit. We are one of the top Hawaii podcasts out there right now. And that is thanks to you. So I just totally appreciate you and being a part of this community. Also, we want to hear from you. So go to speak pipe.com slash Hawaii's Best. And you can leave any questions that you might have for myself or Andrew or maybe some stories that you would like to hear about. Also, I'd love to hear just even some of your experiences in Hawaii, so go to speak pipe.com slash Hawaii's Best to do that. Thank you so much for your valuable time. Appreciate you. Until next time be well. Aloha.

Hawaii's Best 29:41

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.