Poli‘ahu – Snow Goddess of Maunakea

December 24, 2018

Poli‘ahu – Snow Goddess of Maunakea

Although Hawai‘i doesn’t see snow regularly, during the cooler winter months a blanket of snow will often cover the summit of Mauna Kea. Ancient Hawaiian legend tells of the Snow Goddess of Mauna Kea, Poli‘ahu her name meaning cloaked blossom. Poli‘ahu is the oldest daughter of Wākea and Kāne who dwells at the summit of Mauna Kea. She is Pele’s, Hawai‘i Fire Goddess, sister and archrival. According to Hawaiian legend, Poli‘ahu lives on the highest peak of Mauna Kea on the Big Island, she wears a cloak of fine white kapa that she drapes over the mountain (snow).

One day, Poli‘ahu and her sisters were sliding down the slopes of Mauna Kea when a stranger asked to join their competition. The group shot down the mountain and Poli‘ahu was declared the winner — it was at that moment that the stranger revealed her true identity. Pele, was so angry that she lost that she started to spew hot lava out of Mauna Kea. In order to stop this, Poli’ahu released her snow and asked that her sisters Waiau and Kahoupokane to unleash their underground lakes. Finally, her third sister Lilinoe, goddess of mist and rain, let out a blanket of mist which Poli‘ahu turned into snow. Pele’s lava turned into hard black lava rock.

Today, Poli‘ahu’s blankets of snow cover the summit from November through March. It is asked that if you’re lucky enough to witness the glisten of Poli‘ahu’s blanket of snow, that you tread lightly and respect her habitat.

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