Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Pele and the Ohelo Berries

Miriam and Alice love the stories of the Hawaiian goddess Pele, especially when Pele is acting mean and getting even with people who do things she doesn't like. Here is a story about Pele and the ohelo berries. These berries are real, and they grow on the new but cooled-off lava flows and big dunes of volcanic ash at the volcano Kilauea where we visited. We saw lots of this lava: maybe there were some ohelo plants there.

Ancient Hawaiians believed that Pele makes the lava and ash that came from the volcano. When Pele first came to the Big Island, she found birds called nene, 'i'iwi and 'amakihi eating the berries. She decided that these were her favorite food too. She didn't want to share them.

The Hawaiians say: "Do not pluck the ohelo berries lest we be surrounded by rain and fog." This means you shouldn't cause trouble: you must not gather or eat ohelo berries when you are going to the volcano Kilauea. Otherwise, Pele will be angry, and make rain and fog. In the fog, you could get lost.

The Hawaiians also believe that when you get to the crater, you can pick the berries. Before you eat them, though, you have to toss a few berries into the crater for Pele. On the way home, if you gave some berries to Pele, then it's ok to continue picking and eating berries. Or you can take some home. But you'd better give some to Pele first!

The other way you can get some ohelo berries is to plant some ohelo plants in your garden -- if you live up on the mountain in the Big Island. But it's very hard to grow them, so most people have to eat cranberries or blueberries.

This story and picture are from "Delicious 'ohelo berries rooted in folklore" by Duane Choy in the Honolulu Advertiser. Mary Kawena Pukui was a collector of Hawaiian tales and sayings, and she recorded the old saying about the fog and rain.

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