Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Stories of Pele

A Tempestuous event if ever there was one - a volcano in the throes of eruption.  I had to delve into the 'net today to find some stories of Volcanic Gods.  Hawaii's Goddess Pele - Mistress of Fire - still gets mentions.  She's even been credited with a curse on the lava rocks and/or sand taken from her beaches.  There's a website and address out there on the 'net that people can share their stories of bad luck and send back that which they have taken from this capricious Goddess.

Described as "She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land" in ancient Hawaiian chants, the volcano goddess, Pele, was known for her passionate and volatile nature (well, she is the Goddess of Volcanoes, after all...)  It is said she lives in the craters of the Big Island's Kilauea Volcano, and has been sending flaming floes of lava down the mountain to add more land to her island since 1983.

Pele was among the first voyagers to sail to Hawaii, pursued by her angry older sister, Na-maka-o-kaha'i, Goddess of water and the sea, because Pele had seduced her husband.  As an aside, seriously, do NOT want to trifle with the Goddess of Fire - you irritate her and POOF! CRACKLE!  CHARCOAL BRIQUETTE!   Talk about a woman who's a serious hot mess!

Pele landed first on Kaua'i, but every time she thrust her o'o (digging stick) into the earth to dig a fire pit for her home, Na-maka-o-kaha'i would flood her out.  Pele moved down the chain of islands in order of their geological formation, eventually landing on the Big Island's Mauna Loa.

Na-maka-o-kaha'i simply could not send the ocean's waves high enough on Mauna Loa to drown Pele's fires, so Pele at last had a home. Here, she welcomed her brothers, who still manifest... Kane-hekili as thunder, Ka-poho-i-kahi-ola as explosions, Ke-ua-a-kepo in showers of fire, and Ke-o-ahi-kama-kaua in spears of lava that escape from fissures during eruptions. Her other brother, Ka-moho-ali'i, king of the sharks,is said to hold the water of life and ability to bring back the dead, and has a special cliff that is sacred to him.

Legends about Pele, her rivals and her lovers are plentiful. Most of the lovers she took were not lucky enough to escape with their lives when she hurled molten lava at them, trapping them in odd misshapen pillars of rock that dot volcanic fields to this day. 

One lover who proved a match for Pele was Kamapua'a, a pig-demi-god who hid the bristles that grew down his back by wearing a cape. He and Pele were at odds from the beginning; she covered the land with barren lava, he brought torrents of rain to extinguish her fires and called the wild boars to dig up the land, softening it so seeds could grow.

Pele and Kamapua'a raged against each other until her brothers begged her to give in, as they feared Kamapua'a's storms would soak all the fire sticks and kill Pele's power to restore fire. In Puna, at a place called Ka-lua-o-Pele, where the land still shows marks of a titanic battle, legend says Kamapua'a finally caught and ravaged Pele. The two remained tempestuous lovers until a child was born, then Kamapua'a sailed away and Pele was free to once again pursue and punish lovers at her whim.

To this day, tales of Pele's power and peculiarities continue. Whispered encounters with Pele include those of drivers who pick up an old woman dressed all in white accompanied by a little dog on roads in Kilauea National Park, only to look in the mirror to find the back seat empty. Pele's face has mysteriously appeared in photographs of fiery eruptions, and most people who live in the islands-whether Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, or other-speak respectfully of the ancient goddess. After all, she has destroyed more than 100 structures on the Big Island since 1983, and perhaps even more awesome than that, she has added more than 70 acres of land to the island's southeastern coastline.

How does Pele like her tea?  I'm guessing she likes it hot, black, and sweet, with no cream or lemon.

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