Pele is one of the most well-known and revered Goddesses in Hawaiian mythology. Known as ‘She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land’, she is renowned for her fiery temper. She throws molten fountains into the air, governs the flow of lava and has been known to show herself throughout the islands.
According to local legend, Pele was born in Honua-Mea (part of Tahiti) into a family of six daughters and seven sons. Her creators were Haumea, an ancient Earth Goddess, and Kane Milohai, the creator of the sky, earth and upper heavens. There are a number of variations as to how she came to the Hawaiian islands, however the most common is that she was exiled by her father because of her temper.
When she arrived in Hawai’i she used her Pa’oo (or o’o stick) on Kauai, striking deep down into the centre of the earth. She was attacked by her older sister, the Water Goddess, Na-maka-o-Kaha’i, and left for dead but she survived and fled to Oahu. On the island she dug several fire pits, including the crater now known as Diamond Head, in Honolulu. She then went on to leave her mark on Molokai and Maui, creating the Haleakala volcano.
Pele’s sister realised that she was still alive and went to Maui to confront her. After an epic battle, Pele was torn apart and her bones are said to remain as a hill called Ka-iwi-o-Pele. Upon her death she became a God and found a home on the Big Island, where she dug her final and eternal fire pit, Halemaumau Crater, at the summit of Kilauea Volcano. She is said to live there until this day.
Another well-known myth, Pele’s Curse, has it that Pele punishes visitors that take anything natively Hawaiian from the islands with terrible misfortunes. She considers the volcanic rocks, black sand and pumice to be her children and becomes enraged if they are stolen from the islands. In order to punish anyone who removes them, she casts a curse causing the culprit to become entangled in a web of misfortune that will tear their world apart. Hundreds of Hawaiian rocks have been posted back to the islands due to this legend, along with notes such as ‘Tell Pele I’m sorry!‘.
Pele can be seen in the sea cliffs on the coast of Kona. The rock formation unmistakably resembles a woman lying on her side with long, wild hair and fierce, piercing eyes.