A Brief History of Pele: Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes

While it’s been a live volcano for centuries, because of the current large-scale eruptions of Kilauea, Pelehonaumea, or Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes has been in the news. But who is Pele and what are her origins?

Pele is the creator of the Hawaiian Islands and legend has it, she still resides in Kilauea. Born to Haumea, who herself is a direct descendant from the supreme being Sky Father, Pele is known for her power, passion, volatile temper and jealousy. This temper has led to the destruction of many small towns and forests throughout history.

Born in Tahiti, Pele was exiled to Hawaii by her father for her vicious temper. She island-hopped her way across the Pacific, building fires everywhere she went. Meanwhile, her sister older sister Namaka, the sea goddess, was in hot pursuit wanting to extinguish not only her fires, but Pele herself! Finally catching up to Pele, the two sisters battled to the death, with Namaka coming out on top. As she died, the spirit of Pele left her body and moved into the Halemaumau crater on Kilauea. Legend has it the lava that flows from the volcano is an extension of her body. Pele can also shape-shift and appear as a beautiful young woman, an old woman and/or a white dog.

It’s in these shapes that Pele continues to travel the Islands. Should you come across her while she’s disguised in these forms and refuse her requests, it’s been said you will suffer her wrath. Some have reported picking up an old woman dressed in white in Kilauea National Park, only to find their backseat empty once they start driving.

Another way to suffer from the whims of Pele is to remove lava rock from the Hawaiian Islands. Lava rock can be found all over the Islands. But if you’re willing tempt Pele’s fate you should know it’s actually against the law to remove rocks and minerals from national parks. So if you find yourself in Volcanoes National Park or Haleakala National Park and are thinking of leaving with a lava rock souvenir, you may not only find yourself with a lifetime of bad luck but also a stiff fine!

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