The banana is an essential to Pacific island life. It is a staple food brought to Hawai`i by the earliest canoes of Polynesian settlers. Although it is said to have originated in India, it is at the heart of myth and stories world-wide. Some say this plant grew in the garden of Eden.
Polynesian legends, proverbs and similes abound about mai`a. Hawai`i legend tells that a brother of Pele brought the banana to Hawai`i from Tahiti. It is believed to be bad luck to dream of bananas, to meet someone who carries them, or to bring them on a fishing trip. Some similes speak of a person’s skin being like a ripe banana or of a person being as beautiful as a young banana leaf. Many tales regard the banana plant as a person. Mai`a is kinolau, the body form, of Kanaloa, the Hawaiian god of healing.