(a Hawaiian Legend)
Long ago in Hawaii, the divine wind and rain gave birth to a child known as Kahalaopuna. She lived in the Manoa Valley. There, she danced across the rocks and sky, painting a rainbow bridge of colors.
Kahalaopuna was so lovely that two chiefs fell in love with her — Kauhi of the Waikikis and Mahana of the Kamoililis.
Kauhi belonged to the family of the shark god, and he was jealous and cruel. When Kahalaopuna refused to marry him, he became furious. He decided that if he could not be her husband, no one could. And so he killed her and buried her in a place that he was sure no one would find her.
But Pueo, the owl, saw the rainbow goddess was gone, and so he began to scratch away at the dirt until he reached her body. He brought her back above ground and reunited her body with her spirit.
Kauhi was furious and killed her a second time. Again, Pueo rescued her. Again, Kauhi killed her. This went on many times until at last Kauhi buried Kahalaopuna beneath the koa tree.
No matter how hard Pueo scratched, he could not dig beneath the tree’s enormous roots. He feared Kahalaopuna was lost forever.
But Kahalaopuna’s spirit did not give up. Her spirit wandered the land, searching for help, and found Mahana, the noble Kamoilili chief. Kahalaopuna’s spirit led Mahana to her grave. When the chief saw the ground disturbed, he began to dig, and he dug and dug until at last he found Kahalaopuna’s lifeless body.
He carried her home to his elder brother, a kahuna, or sorcerer.
The sorcerer was at last able to invoke two spirit sisters, the family guardians. The sisters coaxed Kahalaopuna’s spirit into her body while the kahuna uttered magic chants to restore her back to life.
And so Kahalaopuna was returned to life, and Mahana nursed her back to health. As he did, their love for each other deepened. But Kahalaopuna feared that as long as Kauhi was alive, she was not safe.
And so Mahana visited Kauhi and taunted the chief.
“You failed to kill Kahalaopuna,” he said. “She is safe. And she loves me.”
Kauhi laughed. “Kahalaopuna is dead,” he said. “The woman you love is an imposter.”
He challenged Mahana to present the woman he loved to the chiefs of the village.
“If I am wrong,” Kauhi said, “you may bake me alive. But if this is only a spirit, you will die.”
When Mahana quickly agreed, Kauhi became suspicious. So he went to see his own family sorcerer and asked him to invoke the spirits of the underworld.
“Tell them to capture any wayward spirits and carry them to the underworld to be punished,” Kauhi said.
The sorcerer spread leaves of the ape plant over the ground. “If a human walks over these leaves,” he explained, “they will be scattered and torn, but the spirits will leave them undisturbed. However, if there are spirits surrounding Kahalaopuna, they will be banished to the underworld and she will be baked alive.”
The day of judgment arrived. The oven was prepared for the punishment. The chiefs, gods and judges assembled, including the mountain god, Akaaka. He was Kahalaopuna’s grandfather.
Kauhi watched carefully for the maiden’s arrival.
And as Kahalaopuna made her way toward that path strewn with ape leaves, her spirit sisters recognized the test. They knew if they departed, she would not be safe, so they whispered, “As you walk this path, scatter as many leaves as you can, so the spirits of the underworld won’t discover we are here.”
Kahalaopuna paid attention, and as she walked she left a wide trail of scattered, broken leaves. The sorcerers and priests declared, “Here comes Kahalaopuna, the rainbow goddess.”
“We must have another test!” Kauhi’s sorcerer defiantly urged. “I have another: A reflection of a face in the water is the face of a spirit.”
With that, he demanded the guards bring forth a calabash full of water.
So eager was he to catch sight of a spirit, he leaned over and presented his own spirit face, but before he could lean back to restore his spirit to his body, the mountain god leaped forward. He grasped the reflection in his hands and destroyed the sorcerer’s spirit.
The guards seized Kauhi, and he was baked alive for his crimes. The land was given to Mahana and Kahalaopuna, and they lived a long and happy life, always sheltered by a rainbow.