Pakaka, Foot of Fort Street near lumber yards, was a heiau, or temple. There are several legends connected with this heiau. One of the most interesting is that which tells how the god of the temple came into being.
The story of the god of this temple is a story of voyages and vicissitudes. Olopana had sailed away from Waipio, Hawaii, for the islands of distant seas. Somewhere in all that great number of islands which were grouped under the general name “Kahiki” Olopana found a home. Here his daughter Mu-lei-ula (Mu-with-the-red-garland) was experiencing great trouble being near to childbirth. For some reason Haumea, one of the divine Polynesian ancestors, had stopped for a time to visit the people of that land. When the friends were afraid that Mu-lei-ula would die, Haumea came to help, saying: “In our land the mother lives. The mother and child both live.” The people said, “If you give us aid, how can we render payment or give you a reward?”
Haumea said: “There is a beautiful tree with two strange but glorious flowers, which I like very much. It is ‘the tree of changing leaves’ with two flowers, one kind singing sharply, and the other singing from time to time. For this tree I will save the life of the chief’s daughter and her child.”
Gladly the sick girl and her friends promised to give this beautiful tree to Haumea. It was a tree dearly loved by the princess.
Haumea commenced the prayers and incantations which accompanied her treatment of the sick, and the chiefess rapidly grew stronger. This had come so quickly and easily that she repented the gift of the tree with the beautiful flowers, and cried out, “I will not give the tree.”
Immediately she began to lose strength, and called to Haumea that she would give the tree if she could be forgiven and healed. However, as strength came to her once more she again felt sorry for her tree and refused to let it go. Again the incantations were broken off and the divine aid withdrawn.
Olopana in agony cried to his daughter: “Give up your tree. Of what use will it be with its flowers if you die?” Then Haumea, with the most powerful incantations, gave her the final strength, and mother and child both lived and became well and strong.
Haumea took the tree and travelled over the far seas to distant Hawaii. On that larger island she found no place to plant the tree. She crossed over to the island Maui, and came to the “four rivers.” There she found the awa of the gods and prepared it for drinking, but needed fresh water to mix with it.
She laid her tree on the ground at Puu-kume by the Wai-hee stream and went down after water. When she returned the tree had rooted. While she looked it began to stand up and send forth branches. She built a stone wall around it, to protect it from the winds. When it blossomed Haumea returned to her divine home in Nuumealani,(See “Home of the Ancestors,” Part II., in Legends of Ghosts and Ghost-Gods.) the land of mists and shadows where the gods dwelt.
By and by a man took his stone axe and went out to cut a tree, perhaps to make a god. He saw a new tree, short and beautiful, and after hours of labor cut it down. The night was coming on, so he left it as it fell and went home.
That night a fierce and mighty storm came down from the mountains. Blood-red were the streams of water pouring down into the valleys. During twenty nights and twenty days the angry rain punished the land above and around Wai-hee. The river was more than a rushing torrent. It built up hills and dug ravines. It hurled its mighty waves against the wall inside which the tree stood. It crushed the wall, scattered the stones, and bore the tree down one of the deep ravines. The branches were broken off and carried with the trunk of the tree far out into the ocean.
For six months the waves tossed this burden from one place to another, and at last threw the largest branch on the reef near the beach of Kailua, on the island Hawaii. The people saw a very wonderful thing. Where this branch lay stranded in the water, fish of many kinds gathered leaping around it. The chiefs took this wonderful branch inland and made the god Makalei, which was a god of Hawaii for generations.
Another branch came into the possession of some of the Maui chiefs, and was used as a stick for hanging bundles upon. It became a god for the chiefs of Maui, with the name Ku-ke-olo-ewa.
The body of the tree rolled back and forth along the beach near the four waters, and was wrapped in the refuse of the sea.
A chief and his wife had not yet found a god for their home. In a dream they were told to get a god. For three days they consulted priests, repeated prayers and incantations, and offered sacrifices to the great gods, while they made search for wood from which to cut out their god. On the third night the omens led them down to the beach and they saw this trunk of a tree rolling back and forth. A dim haze was playing over it in the moonlight. They took that tree, cut out their god, and called it Ku-hoo-nee-nuu. They built a heiau, or temple, for this god, and named that heiau Waihau and made it tabu, or a sacred place to which the priests and high chiefs alone were admitted freely.
The mana, or divine power, of this god was very great, and it was a noted god from Hawaii to Kauai. Favor and prosperity rested upon this chief who had found the tree, made it a god, and built a temple for it.
The king who was living on the island Oahu heard about this tree, and sent servants to the island Maui to find out whether or no the reports were true. If true they should bring that god to Oahu.
They found the god and told the chief that the king wanted to establish it at Kou, Ancient Honolulu, and would build a temple for it there. The chief readily gave up his god and it was carried over to its new home.
So the temple, or heiau, was built at Kou and the god Ku-hoo-nee-nuu placed in it. This temple was Pakaka, the most noted temple on the island Oahu, while its god, the log of the tree from a foreign land, became the god of the chiefs of Oahu.