Dearest Sister Annie,
I am writing to you from Kona Hawaii on my third week as governess to her Highness Emma Rooke.
She walks timidly on the land almost on tip toes hips swaying gently. I have never seen Emma Lani run, at least not on land. She skims from her beach chair to the ocean water, slides in, and then she is simply grace incarnate. Clean even strokes, and at last in the waves, without hesitation she covers miles swiftly and surely. As governess, I remain on the beach, where the thought the idea of me rescuing my ward is laughable at best. I leave heavy footprints, each toe discernable in the concave shallows, but in spite of walking right behind her, I see no trace of Emmalani’s passing. To my thinking, the Mermaids are a Western invention akin to Centaurs of Greek myth. Lost fishermen and missing sailors gave rise to half human creatures and sea goddesses. Here in Hawaii, each family honors simpatico creatures, their aumakua. These beings are not half human, half animal, stuck in between species. They know they can transform. I myself have witnessed the elders standing in the waves close to shore and CALLING to their aumakua, chanting in their musical way, raising their arms, an outstretched welcome, and Annie, I tell you, the sharks COME. I do apologize for the capital letters, but pray you understand that I use them only for emphasis. You have often inquired as to the native peoples here, especially as regards their traditional beliefs.
As I write this, I have not spotted my ward for quite some time, and am starting to worry. It is hard to convey how at home Emmalani is in the ocean. Annie, the water is warm here, bathwater warm, that temperature after the kettle has been emptied, and it is the second child’s turn to bathe. Neither England nor New England have anything like it.
Thanks be to God, Emmalani is appearing in the distance and moving closer. Her gait belies her reluctance to be back on land, and once again, she tip toes, dripping ocean water to her waiting servant, holding out a dry wrap.
There is a small church here in Kona made entirely of coral. Emmalani’s family dwells near Waipio Valley which can only be reached on horseback through rivers and mud and sliding rock. Her retinue are seen joyfully fording the streams loving the challenge of the journey, almost as though the rough passage makes the destination that much more enjoyable. These Hawaiians are great athletes, thought their sports would terrify our polo players. Years ago, a great slide or Lua was built from the slopes of Mauna Loa (the Long Mountain) all the way to sea, and those daring boys lay down upon heavy boards and rode many kilometers, picking up speed and once in the ocean take to riding the waves.
Honestly, Annie, mermaids are a pale and fragile myth compared to these ocean loving natives.
We are back at Aina Hau, one of the family residences in Honolulu and with a proper writing desk I intend finishing this letter in time for the next post. which here depends entirely upon the seafaring merchant class and the vagaries of tropical weather. While in Waipio, a few of us gathered around the cooing fire to “talk story” with the elders and they told the most shocking tale! As I have written before, there are many gods and goddesses honored here, though many in the royal class have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, some still practice the old pagan ways. Once the widowed Ka’a Hu Manu embraced the true God, all the ali’i were put under the tutelage of Protestant clergy. It is a long and complicated story, but suffice to say, this evening was one of myth and legend, thrilling in its way.
On the island of Hawai’i, there is an active volcano which one can visit and see molten lava up close. It is to see God as his mot awe inspiring to witness the creation of new land, but here, they credit the goddess Pele with bringing the heat and energy of the Earth’s very core to the surface.
Pele had sisters, one of whom was called Kapo. This goddess had a most unusual talent. I am struggling to convey what I heard at that meeting in Waipio for it involves a woman’s’ private parts. I shall forge ahead and relay that in this story, Kapo’s lady parts were, um shall we say, detachable. there are wild boars in the island, another animal that transforms between human and beast. They call this the Pig God. This Pig god is possessed of an insatiable lust, and Kapo, tiring of the constant pursuit, and declaring “is this what you want?”. detaches her lady part, throwing it aside, goes about her business, only to retrieve it later when the Pig God has finished his business.
I know you must be blushing fiercely, and I tell you Annie, it was I could do to keep from covering my ears.
I believe the story arose from the sight of a lava tube, near the volcano, of the red rusty remains of the molten lava passing through – folding redly outward like, well there is no other word for it – labia – such as a midwife would see while assisting in the miracle of birth. The medical word. I mean, a perfect likeness, appearing on the floor of this one tunnel along the volcano coast.
Now I must close and beg you my dear friend to speak no more of this. I give you permission to burn this letter lest I die of embarrassment upon the revealing of it to any but you.
Your sister Margaret