‘Pua mao hau hele’ is Hawaiian for the ‘Hibiscus’ flower – the National State flower of Hawaii
This creative writing task called for me to take something that exists today, and to conceive a myth around how and why this object or ideology came to be. Drawing on my Hawaiian roots (not blood, just a deeply grounded connection to the islands through my mother’s childhood there) I chose to articulate my hypothetical conception of the Hibiscus flower.
Long ago there was a chain of islands that rested peacefully in the ocean. The ruler of these islands, Haumea, the Goddess of Fertility, soon gave birth to her first daughter, Pele. Haumea named Pele as the Goddess of Fire to resemble her difficult time birthing this temperamental child.
Pele enjoyed receiving all of her mother’s attention and would become jealous whenever any of the sea or land creatures sought her mother’s help with their childbearing. She would often retreat to the grassy hills to weep over her mother’s absence; her tears of lava flowing down into nearby creeks and turning the tranquil water into hot magma that would cool into molten rock. Over time, Pele’s tears created such massive boulders of lava rock in the creeks, that these creeks soon ceased to exist.
One day, Haumea traveled to the hills to search for Pele, yet all Haumea could see was a magnificent volcano in the space where the lush hills used to lay. She breathed in the hot air and touched the charcoaled molten rock.
‘Pele’, Haumea whispered. ‘You are now Goddess of Volcano. This is your land, cherish it.’
Not long after, Haumea gave birth to her second daughter, Namaka. This birth was light and Namaka was therefore named as Goddess of the Sea.
Haumea and Namaka shared many wonderful years together looking after the island and the creatures that inhabited it. Namaka would accompany her mother to the birth of sea creatures because, as Goddess of the Sea, it became Namaka’s duty to ensure the preservation of all life that lived in her waters.
As the love for Haumea and Namaka grew throughout the island, Pele slowly became a distant memory. Her volcano stood silent for many years; a lonely mound of molten lava rock.
Eventually, Haumea’s time reigning the island ended, and she passed quietly in the arms of Namaka; who’s tears of salt stung her so severely that she fled to the sea.
Years passed, with Namaka leading the sea while Pele reigned havoc over the land. Pele had been angered by her mother’s death, often erupting in tempers that pierced the once lush lands around her with fire. Eventually, Pele’s lava began to reach the edges of the sea, causing Namaka to react with tidal waves that extinguished the fire. Pele, who was filled with envy that Namaka had spent more time with their mother, erupted in gushes of liquid fire. Streams of lava gushed all over the island, destroying many flora and fauna as it went. But Pele did not stop, she was intent on banishing her sister. Namaka reacted with even bigger tidal waves, one after the other, cooling the land but also killing many of her own sea creatures.
The sisters fought for years; tearing the island apart as they went. Many Gods and Goddesses tried yet failed to stop this havoc; the sisters were simply each too strong in their own elements.
Eventually, these Gods and Goddesses fled to nearby islands, except for one.
Lono, the God of Peace, was a very clever spirit. He cherished the island and refused to let it crumble.
One day, Lono traveled to the sacred ‘Ōhi’a tree; the only tree that stood untouched by the lava and waves. From this tree, Lono asked for the pua mao hau hele flower.
‘Grand Lono I will create anything you ask of me,’ said the ‘Ōhi’a tree, ‘This flower will be sacred. But how do you suppose it survives the inevitable collapse of the island that shall be at the hands of Pele and Namaka?’
‘Ōhi’a tree,’ Lono replied, ‘The only world in which the collapse of our home is unescapable is a world where the pua mao hau hele flower does not exist.’
The ‘Ōhi’a tree accepted Lono’s belief, for this tree had complete faith in Lono to restore the island to how it once was under Haumea’s guidance.
Lono watched as a fine twig grew from the sacred tree’s trunk, floating under the stockier branches. The sacred tree turned still in concentration; not a single leaf or branch moved despite the sea breeze that was drifting through the forest. And then, ever so gracefully, a small bud of amber petals began to emerge from the end of the twig. The ‘Ōhi’a tree seemed frozen in time, yet the sweet petals were unraveling in a thrill of vibrant yellows and oranges that stood as bright in the forest as does the first star in the sky. The petals grew in size as more were born underneath, creating psychedelic layers that were spellbinding to the eye. With all of the sacred tree’s remaining effort, a glowing red stamen emerged from the center of the flower. Lono gently plucked the flower and thanked the ‘Ōhi’a tree for its work.
The pua mao hau hele was born.
Lono traveled to the coastline, making his way across molten lava rock that was once lush flora and fauna, across shores that held the bodies of washed-up sea creatures. He winced at the destruction of his home, yet he was sure he was holding the solution.
Pele and Namaka had moved their brawl Eastern, closer to their childhood home on the windy Ka Lae cliffs. When Lono arrived, Namaka had washed away half the cliff face, while Pele had turned the once-green hills to molten rock. He spotted the sisters making their way further East and rushed towards them, his cunning plan falling into place as he called for their attention.
‘Daughters of Haumea I have your mother!’
The sisters stopped fighting and glanced his way.
‘Lies!’ Pele said
‘Haumea is dead!’ Namaka said.
‘Ah my dear ones,’ replied Lono, ‘but she has been rebirthed!’
Lono opened his hands to revels the sacred flower; it’s enthralling colours glimmering against the bleak landscape. The sisters were captivated by its beauty, too distracted by the way it shone to continue their brawl for now.
‘This is Haumea. She has come back to life! Praise the Sky Gods for granting her wish to be alongside her daughters again!’ cried Lono.
The sisters were struck. They had no reason to question the wise Lono.
‘Haumea wishes to rest on the cliffs of Ka Lae,’ stated Lono as he placed the flower on the cliff face where he and the sisters stood.
‘Haumea has told me that she also wishes to see the entire vicinity of the island, for it is her beautiful home.’
Lono touched the flower and then clicked his fingers. Like magic, the flower multiplied along the edge of the cliff and all the way around the island; creating a magnificent circle of vibrant yellow that separated Namaka’s sea from Pele’s volcano.
Lono prepared for his final compelling speech:
‘Haumea now sits at every point around the rim of this island. She is looking to the ocean as much as she is watching Volcano. She is here to watch over her beloved daughters! You can choose to continue fighting, however, know that if you do, you will hurt your mother for these flowers will easily tarnish from tidal waves and lava.’
With that, and considerably chuffed with himself, Lono left. Pele traveled home to Volcano while Namaka returned to the sea. The sisters never spoke of what Lono said, yet they also never fought again.
Before long, the island was inhabited with more land and sea creatures. The lush green hills slowly took over the molten lava rock, and the ocean harboured a peaceful demeanour. The Gods and Goddesses that had fled returned home, pleased that it had retained its natural beauty. Many more species of plants and flowers flourished than had ever prospered before, and the pua mao hau hele flower, which many grew to believe was indeed Haumea, thrived on the island for centuries to come.
with a honey-soaked heart,