Poliahu is a snow goddess, presiding spirit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, is the tallest mountain in Hawaii’s mountain chain; Poliahu lives at the top. (Technically, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on Earth if measured from its base on the Pacific Ocean floor.)
Mauna Kea’s full Hawaiian name translates to “full of white snow.” Mauna Kea is capped by snow, sometimes year-round. Poliahu is a true snow queen, so powerful that she can maintain her identity in the midst of the tropics. Mauna Kea has its own climate: with snow, fog, storms, and hail even in the summer.
Poliahu is a goddess of life, abundance, and fertility. She is the goddess of sacred water. Her pure, pristine, sweet waters flow into Hawaii’s rivers. She is now most famous as Pelé’s rival and nemesis, but she is a great goddess in her own right. Her romantic adventures rival Pelé’s—possibly another reason for tension between them.
Poliahu is the Big Island’s water goddess; Pelé is its fire goddess. Do not venerate them together or keep their images near each other. If you have images of both goddesses or altars dedicated to both, place Poliahu in the north and Pelé in the south with some distance between them.
Poliahu enjoys sledding down the slopes of Mauna Kea. Holua, the ancient Hawaiian sport of sledding on narrow, hardwood sleds, is one of Pelé’s favorite pastimes. She once secretly challenged Poliahu to a race, not initially revealing her identity as a fire goddess. Poliahu won the first two races, but the third time, as she gained speed, flaming lava appeared before her, melting her snow. Immediately recognizing her rival, Poliahu fled to the summit, leaving Pelé to think she had won. Poliahu reemerged with a snow storm so powerful it put out Pelé’s flames and doused Mauna Kea forever.
Poliahu is generally friendly toward people. Like Pelé, she enjoys traveling and was historically venerated throughout the Hawaiian Islands, not just on Mauna Kea.
* Poliahu offers devotees health, abundance, and personal fertility.
* Her gifts include clarity of vision and thought.
Manifestation: Poliahu is sometimes described as Hawaii’s most beautiful goddess. She wears a snowy white mantle.
Iconography: Poliahu is often portrayed as a true White Lady, similar to an ice sculpture of a beautiful Hawaiian woman.
Sacred site: Mauna Kea; Poliahu Heiau, the largest surviving heiau (traditional stone shrine), on the island of Kauai is on a bluff above the Wailua River near Opaeka’a Falls. Dedicated to Poliahu, it is estimated to have been built in the fourteenth century.
See also: Lilinoe; Kahoupokane; Pelé; Waiau