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Ancient Hula Type Name
Click to hear the pronunciation
Hula Pele (Dance for Pele and family)

 
Further Detail
Dances for Pele and members of her family comprise a large class of hulas and can take many forms. They can be done sitting or standing, with limited body movement or wide free movement; with or without the use of implements or instruments; with the dancers themselves chanting and/or playing an implement, or with the dancers being accompanied by the ho`opa`a. What ultimately determines the manner in which a Hula Pele is performed (beyond the particulars of the hula tradition doing the Hula Pele) are the specific chant involved and the story it tells.

When the focus is Pele herself, the movements are often bombastic, as the dancers attempt to various aspects of Pele: her intensity; her challenging journey to Hawai`i; battles with her sister Namakaokaha`i; her love/hate relationship with Kamapua`a; her destructive lava flows; and general activities around Hawai`i, most notably at the pit of Halema`uma`u on the island of Hawai`i. Pele's role in numerous events of Hawaiian history are well documented, especially those that occurred on Hawai`i island.

As with legend from any indigenous culture, details will vary depending on the source consulted. So, too, is the case with Pele and her family. Accounts vary as to who her parents, sisters and brothers were and why she originally came to Hawai`i. Many of the Published Sources referenced in this Hula Library contain detailed information on Pele, her family, their love adventures, and their extensive activities in Hawai`i. Another historic source is "Pele and Hi`iaka: A Myth from Hawai`i" by Nathaniel Emerson (the same author referenced extensively throughout this Library for his publication "Unwritten Literature of Hawai`i: Sacred Songs of the Hula.")

General Body Position: Kü or Noho (Standing or Sitting)
Can be for Game, Pastime, or Sport: No
Implement or Instrument: With or Without

Published Research Sources

Hawaiian Dictionary (Puku`i/Elbert)
- "Hula Pele" is noted as a "sacred dance in honor of the goddess Pele." The word "pele" (small "p") has come to mean "lava flow, volcano, eruption."

Hula: Historical Perspectives (Barrere/Puku`i/Kelly)
- Pages 79-80 give an account of the origins of Hula Pele on Kaua`i, her first home in Hawai`i and provides a chant example. Page 93 notes a 1943 lecture by Puku`i in which she characterizes Hula Pele as one of the hula from "ancient times."

Nä Mele Hula volume 1 (Beamer)
- This Volume contains a section on Hula Pele with eight chants from pages 62-79. Beamer offers a personal account, chant background, full text with translation, and her chant melody for each.

Nä Mele Hula volume 2 (Beamer)
- Volume 2 contains a section on Hula Pele with five chants from pages 36-43. Beamer offers personal accounts, chant backgrounds, and full text with translation.

Unwritten Literature of Hawai`i (Emerson)
- Chapter XXIV "The Hula Pele" notes that the performance of Pele chants demanded the highest level of formality and dignity. Many Pele chants and their backgrounds are written up. Chapter XXXIII "The Hula Pua`a" shares Pele's many forms.

Hula Pahu volume 2 (Tatar)
- Pages 273, 276 and 300 discuss Hula Pele as Hula Pahu. The pages provide chant examples, such as "Lapakü ka wahine" (accompanied by pahu and hand-clapping), and "A Wai`ale`ale" (accompanied by ipu and püniu, perhaps because a pahu wasn't available).

Sacred Hula: The Historical Hula `Äla`apapa (Stillman)
- Pages 47-50 provide insight into Hula Pele listed in the Papa Kuhikuhi, how "`aiha`a" is associated with Hula Pele, and Hula Pele that are also Hula Pahu or Hula `Ölapa. Pages 27-28 note Hula `Äla`apapa as Inoa no Pele or Hi`iaka (name chants).

Hula Pahu volume 1 (Kaeppler)
- Hula Pele can be found on pgs.180-182, Ch.5 "Other Hula Pahu Traditions," in the context of Pele and Hula Pahu. Noted are Hilo Kumu Hula Akoni Mika and members of the Kanaka`ole and Beamer families. Three Pele pahu chants are listed on pgs.186-187.

Papa Kuhikuhi (Kaläkaua's Coronation Program)
- In Kaläkaua's extensive Coronation program of over 200 presentations, more than 60 performances were Hula Pele. Kumu Hula who presented Hula Pele were Kaonowai and S. Ua.


Additional Notes
Pele's youngest and favored sister was Hi`iaka, whom she carried in egg form from their distant home. Many of the chants in the Hula Pele class end with the dedication "He inoa no Hi`iaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele," or "In the name of Hi`iaka-in-the-bosom-of-Pele." Hi`iaka was the first sister who learned to hula from her friend Höpoe who lived at Hä`ena on the island of Hawai`i. (See chant "Ke Ha`a Ala Puna" for details.)

Another of Pele's sisters plays a key role in hula. Laka is the patron goddess of the hula for whom many chants have been written. Laka's form includes the greenery adorning a dancer's body. Kuahu (hula altars) are dedicated to Laka and adorned with different native elements from the forest, all representing the hula deity.

Not all chants written for Pele and her family are necessarily Hula Pele. While many are mele hula (chants that are danced), others are oli, i.e. chanted, unaccompanied by dancing.

Please see "Published Sources" section above for greater detail on where to find documented research on this Hula Type.

Please also consult the "Kupuna" section at bottom to read and hear what our elders have to share.

Visuals:
Pele in action, 2002 "Mother's Day flow"

Related Chants
`Oaka ë Ka Lani (The heavens flash)
E Pele e Pele (O Pele, O Pele)
Ho`opuka Ë Ka Lä I Kai O Unulau (The sun rises over the sea of Unulau)
Ke Ha`a Ala Puna (Puna is dancing)
Nou Paha (Yours perhaps)
 

Related Implements/Instruments
Ki`i (Doll or puppet)
 

Related Küpuna
Beamer, Nona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha
 
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