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.
Her poetic name, Ka wahine `ai honua, the woman who devours the land or earth eating woman, is both creator and destroyer. She throws molten fountains into the air, governs the great flows of lava, and has been known to reveal herself throughout the island of Hawaii. Pele is a goddess of fire, lightning, dance, wind, volcanoes and violence. With her power over the volcanoes, she is also known as the creator of the Hawaiian Islands.
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, at the summit of Kilauea, in Halemaʻumaʻu crater although her reach is throughout Hawaii.
Pele, the Hawaiian (Polynesian) goddess of the volcano, was born in Honua-Mea, part of Tahiti. She was 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, most recently for 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.
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. Pele recovered and fled to Oahu, where she dug several “fire pits,” including the crater we now called Diamond Head, in Honolulu. After that, Pele left her mark on the island of Molokai before traveling further southeast to Maui and creating the Haleakala Volcano.
By then, Namakaokahai, Pele’s older sister, realized she 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 Kea, on the Island of Hawai’i. Pele dug her final and eternal fire pit, Halemaumau Crater, at the summit of Kilauea Volcano. She is said to live there to this day and is thought to be very happy there because it was the Navel of the World, Ka Piko o ka Honua — were the gods began creation.
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 volcanoes on Earth.
Pele is known for her violent temper, but also for her common visits among mortals. She is said to appear either as a tall, beautiful young woman or as a very old, ugly and frail woman. She is often accompanied by a white dog and typically tests people. 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’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 park ranger on the Big Island, trying to keep tourists from taking souvenirs from the sacred island sites. Still, each year thousands of pieces of lava rock are mailed back to Hawaii by guilty people all over the world who claim to have had horrible misfortunes since taking the rocks from Pele’s home and ask for her forgiveness — Check out Photos & stories of returned Lava Rocks.
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 volcanoes.
Sources of Information Include: Answers.com, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park