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Goddess in the Spotlight
by Fiana Sidhe
Lammas 2002, Vol 1-4
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Copyright © 1997 Sandra Stanton, Goddess Myths


Born of the heat of the Earth, the Goddess Pele is like the fire and volcanos that she rules over. Fire can cook for us and warm us, or it can destroy all that we hold dear. A volcanic mountain can be a beautiful breath-taking scene, or it can be a horror when it erupts and strands of Pele’s hair flow down from it, destroying everything in their path.

The Hawaiian Goddess Pele is both beloved and feared. True to her opposite nature, Pele is usually described appearing in the form of a beautiful young woman or as a haggardly old woman.

Many tales are told of Pele in her tempest form, seducing human men. Pele’s greatest conquest was the Prince Lohiau, of the island Kauai. Not knowing that she was a Goddess, Lohiau fell in love with Pele and asked her to marry him. Since she loved him also, they were wed. Shortly after their marriage, Pele had to return to her home in Mount Kilauea, but she promised to return quickly. Sadly, Pele was gone a very long time, and thinking that she had left him, Lohiau died of a broken heart.

eruption and lava flow, Hawaiian volcano
courtesy USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory

Other endings to this myth say that Pele sent her sister Hi’iaka, Goddess of the Sea, to fetch the prince and Hi’iaka and Lohiau took a very long time returning to Pele. As Pele waited for her sister and her lover, she grew suspicious of them and tried to kill them both. Lohiau was killed, but Hi’iaka returned his spirit to his body.

Other Myths are told of Pele wandering up to people in the form of an old beggar woman, asking them if they have any food or drink to spare. Those who share with her are rewarded and spared. Those who are greedy and unkind to her are punished by having their homes or crops destroyed, so that they themselves may have to rely on the kindness of others.

Pele is often depicted as a wanderer, constantly traveling her domain. Sightings of Pele have been reported all over the islands of Hawaii for hundreds of years, but especially near craters and her home, Mount Kilauea, one of the most active volcanos on Earth.

The 1960 Kapoho Eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i
courtesy photographer D.H. Richter and USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory

Volcano Goddess sightings are not just restricted to Hawaii, all over the world people have reported seeing an apparition of a woman in the eruptions of volcanos.

Pele’s most notorious legend is the curse she puts on anyone disturbing or stealing from her home. Some people say that this myth was made up by a bus driver, trying to keep tourists to Mount Kilauea from taking souvenirs from the sacred site. Still, each year thousands of pieces of lava rock are mailed back to Hawaii by people all over the world who claim to have had horrible misfortunes since taking the rocks from Pele’s home.

+ Time Life Book, Gods and Goddesses
+ Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters, by Kathleen Ragan
+ The Book of Goddesses, by Kris Waldherr
+ Goddesses, Heroes and Shaman, by Kingfisher Publications

Graphic Credits
+ Pele, Copyright © 1997 Sandra Stanton, Goddess Myths
eruption and lava flow, Hawaiian volcano, courtesy USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory
+ The 1960 Kapoho Eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i,
courtesy photographer D.H. Richter and USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory
+ lava flow, video courtesy USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory

See (and hear) a Mt. Kiluaea lava flow entering the ocean here.

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