Kahala, the rainbow maiden

Published: 14th September 2012 12:33 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th September 2012 12:33 PM   |  A+A-


A Hawaiian myth

Kahala, the Rainbow maiden, was restored to life after she was killed by evil Kauhi, the Waikiki chief. But what happens if he finds out? Read on…

As Kahala recovered in his home, Mahana, the chief of the Kamoilili was worried that Kauhi would sooner or later find out that she was alive and try to harm her.

The only way to settle the matter was to confront him, he thought. So he began frequenting the usual haunts of the Waikiki chief — gambling dens and drinking houses. One day he managed to taunt him to admit that he had indeed killed Kahala.

“But I can tell you, Kahala is well and alive in my home!” said Mahana.

“Can’t be! I’ve buried her deep down where no one can save her. Anyone who claims to be the rainbow maiden is an impostor!” challenged Kauhi. “I can prove otherwise,” Mahana said.

“Go ahead and prove it then... Bring the Rainbow Maiden before the mountain god Akaaka and all the chiefs, we’ll see who is lying,” said Kauhi. “If you are proved wrong, you’ll be baked alive in an imu (an oven).”

“If not?” asked Mahana with a smile. “Then you can bake me,” said Kauhi.

 However, Kauhi did not want to take any chances. He consulted the kahunas (witch doctors) and it was agreed that they would test the girl to see if she was a ghost. “If it is some wayward spirit, we’ll invoke Milu, the God of the Underworld to come and take it back where it belongs,” they said. They instructed him to spread the leaves of the ape plant where the maiden would walk.” Only a human can walk over them and bruise them while a spirit will leave them undisturbed,” they told him.

On the day of the judgement, all the chiefs gathered with Akaaka who also happened to be Kahala’s grandfather and he alone could be the best judge. A large imu was placed for the sacrifice. Kahala made her way to the spot accompanied by the two spirit sisters. Seeing the path strewn with ape leaves, the sisters knew it was a test. They didn’t want to leave her side in case it aroused suspicion. So they whispered in her ear: “Kahala, make sure to bruise the leaves on either side of your feet too or we’ll be caught.”

Kahala walked up to the chiefs slowly, all the while bruising and damaging the leaves. She had passed the test and was recognised as the divine child born of rain and wind. But Kauhi’s chief kahuna intervened: “There is a spirit’s presence here, I can feel it! I demand another test. Bring a calabash filled with water and I’ll show you the spirit there! “

Now it was believed that the face one saw reflected in a calabash of water was that of a spirit. So a vessel was brought in filled up with water and was placed before the kahuna.

In his eagerness to catch the spirit, the kahuna forgot about his own spirit self and leaned over the water. There reflected was his own spirit which escaped his body to briefly bathe in the waters. Before he could leap back to his own body, Akaaka, the mountain god leaped forward and putting his hands into the water, crushed the spirit with his mighty hands. The evil kahuna lay dead beside the calabash.

As for Kauhi, he had lost his wager and was burnt in the imu. Finally goodness prevailed and the Rainbow Maiden was married to Mahuna, the Kamoilili chief.


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