Ohia & Lehua
Last spring I had a chance to take a nice walk on an old military road in the heart of Oahu with my dear friend Kelliann. She grew up here in Hawaii and knows a lot of cool spots to explore and this road happened to be one of them. While out there we walked off to the side to get a good view of the rolling hills around us and came across the Ohia Lehua plant. I'm no expert on plants and horticulture and all that jazz but the legend behind this plant is really quite interesting. As she explained the history of it I remembered that a couple months earlier I had heard a bit about this really neat plant while helping a friend film some promotional videos for Kualoa Ranch. I like a good story and the Hawaiian culture has a ton of them. Quite a few involving Pele. I found the legend in a short and condensed version so you can get the drift of it. Hope you enjoy. 

Here is the legend:

A long time ago, there was a handsome Hawaiian chief named Ohi'a. He was in love with a beautiful Hawaiian maiden named Lehua. Ohi'a and Lehua had promised to be true to each for always.

One day, Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, saw Ohi'a and wanted him for herself. Pele was know for her angry tantrums and jealousy. When she got angry, she would call forth burning lava to destroy everything around her.

Pele appeared to Ohi'a as a lovely woman. "I am the goddess, Pele," she said, "and I want you for my husband."

When Ohi'a heard her, he was afraid. Ohi'a knew if he refused to marry Pele, she might get really angry, but if she was just testing his love for Lehua, then if he said yes, she'd still be angry. Either way Pele could destroy his land and kill all his people. Ohi'a didn't know what to do.

"Before I answer, will you promise not to use your volcanic power no matter what I answer?"

"Yes, I promise," answered Pele. She didn't tell Ohi'a that she had many other powers that she could use.

"Then, I cannot marry you," Ohi'a said, "for I have already given my heart to beautiful Lehua and have promised to be true to her. Besides, I am only a mortal and not worthy of marrying a goddess."

Pele was furious. "How dare you defy me!" she cried. "If I can't have you then no one will!" With that, she cast a spell and turned Ohia into a twisted tree with gray leaves.

When Lehua saw what Pele had done to Ohi'a, she begged to goddess to change him back, but Pele ignored her and left for her home in the volcano, still angry.

Lehua sat at the base of the tree that was Ohi'a and cried. How can I live without Ohi'a?" she sobbed. "I would give my life to change him back."

When the other gods heard poor Lehua, they took pity on her. They each tried to change Ohi'a back, but Pele's magic was too powerful. At last, they came up with a plan that would unite the lovers forever.

The gods cast a spell that changed Lehua into a beautiful red flower on the Ohi'a tree. Ohi'a and Lehua were together at last, and Pele could never separate them.

(adapted from "The Goddess Pele," by Joe Mullins, Aloha Graphics and Sales, Honolulu, HI, 1977.)

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