Pele: The Goddess Of Fire
PAHOA, HI - MAY 12: Street art depicts Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, on May 12, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. Source: (usatoday.com)
The Woman who Devours the Land
Pele the Fire Goddess, not the soccer player, is the most well-known goddess in Hawaiian mythology. She is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, volcanoes, and even violence. She is known as both a creator and destroyer.
Legend says that Pele was born in Tahiti. Her family had six daughters and seven sons. Her parents were Haumea the Earth goddess and Kane Milohai the creator of the sky. There are several versions of how Pele came to Hawaii. One version says that she was exiled by her father because she had a bad temper. Another state she seduced her sister's husband. One of Pele’s brothers gave her a huge canoe and she and her brothers traveled to eventually find Hawaii.
The Sisters Battle
Pele’s sister Namakaokahai was furious at her for seducing her husband. Namakaokahai is the Sea Goddess so she tried to get to Pele during her journey. Pele first landed on Kauai where her sister attacked and thought she killed Pele. Pele escaped to Oahu, where she dug fire pits, including what we know as Diamond Head. Then she went on to Maui and created the Haleakala volcano. Now her sister has realized that Pele is still alive. An epic battle ensues between the sisters. It ended near Hana where Pele was torn apart by her sister. Legend says her bones are in a hill known as Ka-iwi-o-Pele.
The Creation of Hawaii
Pele left her mark on all of the Hawaiian Islands, but the Big Island of Hawaii is her final destination. When she died, she became a god. She went to the Big Island and dug her final fire pit, Halemaumau Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano. This volcano is known as the Naval of the World. Legend says this is where gods are created.
Don’t Take a Lava Rock!
There is a popular belief that if you take a lava rock from Hawaii you will anger Pele and you will have bad luck until the rock is returned. According to some, this was made up by a park ranger who wanted to discourage tourists from removing things from the park. While this was likely made up, Hawaii gets hundreds of lava rocks returned via mail each year. Those who return them claim to have had the worst time of their lives since taking the rock. Some people even bring the rocks back in person, just to be sure it is returned to Pele. It is illegal to remove anything from the National Park, so curse or not, it’s best not to take anything at all.
Mount Kilauea is the most active volcano on Earth. It is huge with an area of four square miles! It has been very active since 1983. The most recent eruption was in 2018, where fissures opened up in the middle of neighborhoods. The Big Island is getting bigger. As the lava flows from the volcano into the sea, it hardens and forms more land mass. Whether you believe the Pele Goddess legend or not, the volcanoes of Hawaii are spectacular and dangerous.
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