Laka - The Goddess Of Hula

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Hawaiian history and mythology on Laka, the Goddess of Hula.

• General: Educational • General: History • General: Legends / Mythology

Guide Series: Hawaiian Mythology
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Maui - The Demigod
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Pele - The Volcano Goddess

Who Is Laka?

In Hawaiian mythology, Laka is the goddess of Hula. The name Laka means "gentle" and "to attract". She is often credited with creating Hula on the island of Moloka'i, though some mythology suggests that Hi'iaka, the sister of Pele - The Volcano Goddess, created the Hula as a way to entertain Pele.

Some stories also suggest that Laka was Pele's sister while others suggest that Laka was actually the daughter of Kapo who was sister to Pele (as well as Kane Milohai, Kamohoali'i, Namaka and Hi'iaka).

Regardless of who created the dance, Laka is considered the Goddess of Hula and worshipped as such. There is an ancient Heiau dedicated to her in the city of Haena on the island of Kaua'i, see our Haena, Hawaii Guide.

Laka's Hula Influence

The Hula is far more than a simple dance. It's a complex way of telling stories with fluid movements and mele (chanting or singing). The hula was used by ancient Hawaiians as a way to record their history and pass it along to future generations.

Although it's popular in touristy luaus as a way to entertain guests who've had a few too many mai tais, it's still serious business as well. For example, Hawaii's Merrie Monarch Festival is a professional level, annual hula competition that's a big deal in the islands and still goes on today.

Laka And The Forest

In addition to being the Goddess of Hula, Laka is also known as the Goddess of the Wild Woods or the Goddess of the Forest and thought of as the light that nourishes plant life. It is said that Laka rules over all vegetation with plants like the Lama, Maile, ie ie, ki, ohelo, Hala Pepe, ohia lehua (see Lehua Blossoms And Ohia Trees), and Palai being sacred to her.

Many of these plants have their leaves and flowers used in Lei making and are then used in traditional hula dances. Some are also used to adorn an altar. After the dance is finished, the altar is dismantled and every leaf is taken to the ocean and release as a way to honor Laka.