Pele, Goddess of Fire

Pele Searches for Home

Pele Searches for Home © 2004 by Angela Treat Lyon


Pele the Fire Goddess – Pronounced peh-leh or pel-lə – is one of the most well known and revered in Hawaiian mythology. As a sign of respect you may hear her referred to as Madame Pele or Tutu Pele.

She is a goddess of fire, lightning, dance, wind, volcanoes and violence. Her poetic name is Ka wahine `ai honua or the woman who devours the land. She is both a creator and destroyer. She throws molten fountains into the air and governs the great flows of lava. With her power over the volcanoes, she created the Hawaiian Islands and to this day, she has been known to reveal herself throughout the beautiful islands she crafted herself.

No Kahiki mai ka wahine `o Pele,
Mai ka `aina mai o Polapola,
Mai ka punohu a Kane,
Mai ke ao lapa i ka lani.

The woman Pele comes from Kahiki,
From the land of Polapola,
From the rising mist of Kane,
From the clouds that move in the sky.

According to legend, Pele lives in one of the most active volcanoes in the world. She calls the summit of Kilauea volcano, in Halemaʻumaʻu crater home. Although, her reach is throughout Hawaii nei.

Goddess Pele Origins

The Hawaiian (Polynesian) goddess of the volcano, she was born in Honua-Mea, part of Tahiti. One of a family of six daughters and seven sons born to Haumea (a very ancient Earth goddess) and Kane Milohai (creator of the sky, earth and upper heavens).

There are a number of variations in the legends that tell of how Pele first came to the Hawaiian Islands. One of the most common relates that she was exiled by her father because of her temper. The final straw being a fighting with her elder water-goddess sister Na-maka-o-Kaha’i, whose husband Pele had seduced.

Pele’s oldest brother, the king of the sharks, Kamohoali’i, gave her a great canoe, upon which she and her brothers traveled far from home, over the wide expanse of the seas, sailing on this great canoe eventually to find Hawaii.

All the while, Pele battles with her sister Namakaokahai who is a Sea Goddess. During this perilous journey she carried her favorite little sister, Hi’iaka (or Hi’iaka i ka poli o Pele – Hi’iaka in the bosom of Pele) in egg-form all the way to the Hawaiian islands. That makes Hi’iaka the first God of the Pele family to be born in Hawaii.

Elements by Cathrine Langwagen

“Elements” by Cathrine Langwagen

The Creation of Hawaii

When Pele got to Hawaii, she first used her Pa’oa, or o’o stick on Kauai — striking deep into the earth but she was attacked by her older sister and left for dead. She was able to recover and flee to Oahu, where she dug several “fire pits,” including the crater we now called Diamond Head, in Honolulu. After that, she left her mark on the island of Molokai before traveling further southeast to Maui and creating the Haleakala Volcano.

By then her older sister Namakaokahai, realized Pele was still alive and she went to Maui to do battle. Finally, the epic battle ended near Hana, Maui, where Pele was torn apart by her sister. Legend says her bones remain as a hill called Ka-iwi-o-Pele.

Upon death, she became a god and found a home on Mauna Loa, on the Island of Hawai’i. There she dug her final and eternal fire pit, Halemaumau Crater, at the summit of Kilauea Volcano. Known as the Navel of the World, Ka Piko o ka Honua — were the gods began creation. She is said to live there to this day and is thought to be very happy there.


Related Blog Post: Sightings of the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess


  1. I am so glad to see so many here honoring Pelé and Hi’iaka. Unfortunately, many who lived at the estates did not. Seemed more concerned with their possessions than recognize the land was only theirs to steward, not to possess. My wife grew up in Kapoho. Her father was a small cane farmer and fisherman. Whenever he saw Pelé by the rocks where he was fishing, he would heed her warning, thank her, pack up his nets and go home. She never bothered him. When the eruptions that took Kapoho (’56 and ’60) came, they announced on the radio that his house was destroyed. He didn’t believe it, but said, “If Pelé wants my house, she can have it.” It turned out that the announcer got it wrong and their house was one of the few houses left standing. He always knew, if he respected Pelé, she would respect him back. And she did.

  2. Tutu Pele originated on Bora Bora in Tahiti [pronounced as pola or pora in the chants]. For a wonderful 1989 video re: how Native Hawaiians have fought to keep Geothermal from drilling into her [witness the current eruption]: “Pele’s Appeal” [YouTube]. Lived in Puna on and off…over the course of 20 years. On the caldera; near Pu’u o’o; on rd road.

  3. I have known the legend of Pele for years but it is awesome to watch her power and anger explode at the moment . the goddess is very powerful at the moment..

  4. Lacey Novela K. Pua

    “PELE GODDESS OF HAWAII’S VOLCANO’S” This is the name of the book “Marie”?…

  5. I believe you mean she found a home on Mauna Loa, not Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is the home of Poliahu, the snow goddess. Legend says everytime Madame Pele would use her o’o to dig a fire pit, Poliahu would cover her fire with snow.

  6. That was a Great story/article of Pele and her sister!

  7. Thank you for the Pele legend. I have been enchanted by the beauty she created.Is she nit one of Gaia’s doughters?

  8. One day i will go to Hawaii thats a Promise i will go there in the future and thank Pele for Hawaii as it is a wonderful place to be in the world,so i will be waiting for the future.And in the future i shall see the great goddess of Fire Pele,See you there Pele.

  9. What are other volcano goddesses?

  10. rekelle sakaria-kaio

    This was a great article about pele, thank you for the help

  11. When I went to Hawaii last, we went to the big island and visited Kilauea. I thanked Pele for a wonderful experience, I left a bottle of gin and my lei I made in a class I took. When we returned to the ship, before we left Kona, we saw a pod of a hundreds of dolphins cruise past our ship showing the way home. I’ll never forget that day!

  12. The book is named “Pele Goddess of Hawaii’s Volcanos”.

  13. There is a book about Pele, her life, history, religion, and her curse. It is on Amazon, but I believe certain book stores have it. It is very rare to have this book because it is hard to get. I have access to this rare volcano stuff because of my love for them and I know how to find these things. Pele is my favorite volcano goddess and I have respect for her.

  14. Thank you for the wonderful insight and legend. I never knew all these details

    • The reason legend tells us to leave the rocks on Oahu, or face unfortunate events, is Pele’s curse of anyone helping her sister destroy the islands. Volcano Museum has dozens of stones returned to the park from those who faced bad luck at home.

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