Kapiolani Defying Pele
|Size:||43" x 53.5"|
|Frame Size:||46" x 56.25"|
Oil on canvas
CHIEFESS KAPIOLANI (? - 1841)
Chiefess Kapiolani (as opposed to Queen Kapiolani, wife of King Kalakaua) was the daughter of a chief of the Puna district on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Chiefess Kapiolani's bravery was her cloak. She demonstrated this on at least two occasions. The first dramatic and had far reaching effects. The second, was of a highly personal nature.
Her conversion to Christianity was not enough to persuade her people to turn from Pele. Particularly those of the Puna and Ka`u districts for they were close to Kilauea which was frequented with volcanic activity. Pele, though only a demi-god, was perhaps the most visible and most feared of the Hawaiian gods. But her defiance of Pele came from a love for Christianity and she knew if her people were ever to see the light, she would have to break Pele's spell over them.
In December of 1824, Chiefess Kapiolani journeyed from Kona to defy Pele outright and openly. Her family, friends, and attendants all begged her to stop. She said "If I am destroyed by Pele, you may worship her. If I am not, you must turn to the only true God."
When she arrived she walked to the brink of the crater while one of the priestesses of Pele warned her. Ignoring the priestess, she went down into the crater. To emphasize her defiance, she ate ohelo berries (sacred to Pele), and threw stones at the volcano and shouted "I do not fear Pele...." She survived of course and her act was memorialized by Tennyson in "The Friend" in April, 1893, with a poem which ended:
... None but the terrible Pele remaining,
As Kapiolani ascended her mountain,
Baffled her priesthood,
Broke the taboo,
Dipt to the crater,
Called on the power adored by the Christian,
and crying "I dare her, let Pele avenge herself!"
Into the flame-billow dash'd the berries, and
drove the demon from Hah-wy-ee.
Some time later, Chiefess Kapiolani was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctor stated her entire right breast had to be removed. With friends and attendants looking on, the operation was performed WITHOUT anesthetic. Witnesses stated this courageous woman bore the entire ordeal with unbelievable dignity.
credit to Hana Hou Series, Holo Holo Hawai'i, 1999
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