The Legend of Pele


The Legend of Pele

Pele is the most well known legend and goddess in the Islands of Hawaii. She is known as Pele-honua-mea, Pele of the sacred land. (But most just call her the Fire Goddess Pele.) Pele is the ruler of the volcanoes of Hawaii, and lives in her home on Mauna Loa. In legend she can appear as a beautiful young woman, or an old and wrinkled woman sometimes waking with a white dog. There are many tales that involve Pele and her rage, but I will only tell a few. In the sections below, I will explain both what the myth tells us and what science tells us, along with some facts. You will be the one to chose which one you believe.

A Picture of Pele

A Picture of Pele

Pele finds her Home

Pele came from the island of Tahiti, and sailed on her canoe until she came across the islands of Hawaii. She first landed on the island of Ni'ihau, and used her digging stick to try and make a deep pit for her home. She needed such a pit to keep the sacred fires protected in. But Pele was followed by her older sister, Na-maka-o-Kaha'i, Goddess of the Sea. Na-maka-o-Kaha'i, was angry with Pele, and flooded-out all the fire pits that Pele created. Finally, Pele's sister Na-maka-o-Kaha'i came and fought Pele near H'ana, Maui. Pele was torn apart and the hill where the battle took place is named, Ka-iwi-o-Pele. Pele's spirit was free, and without a mortal body she became a goddess. She flew to the main island of Hawaii, (the "Big Island") and created a fire pit in Kilauea Caldera. (Halema'uma'u) Where her fires still flame, to this day.

Forming of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands were formed by a hot spot (according to scientists), which resides under the Pacific plate. This plate is moving northwest very slowly across the Earth. It leaves islands in its wake, and now lies under the "Big Island" of Hawaii. At this moment the hot spot is both feeding lava to the Big Island and slowly creating a new island off the coast of the Big Island, called Loihi. The interesting thing is that these facts coincide with the myth of how Pele found her home. Because, Pele traveled from the outer-most islands (the oldest islands) toward the newer island of Hawaii. So it would be like Pele created the islands in the order that facts state they were formed.

The Formation of the Hawaiian Islands

The Curse of Pele

It is well known to locals on the island of Hawaii, that there is a curse upon those who take one of Pele's lava rocks. It is said that he who takes a lava rock, is taking something from Pele and shall receive bad luck because of it. In the old days people were said to die from the curse, but now you only receive bad luck. If you were to spite or irritate Pele in any way, you would be cursed with a bad omen.

The Real Stories

There are tons of rocks that are mailed back to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a year. They are used to getting five or six rocks a day, along with black sand, conch shells, Pele's tears, all enclosed in packages.

One woman wrote to the Volcanoes Park about a heart-shaped rock that she took with her to the Mainland: “I am returning it to you so you can put it back where it belongs. I have had more grief and problems in the last year than I ever have in my life. I don’t know if having this rock has anything to do with it but ... returning it is at least a symbol to me that I am doing something to change the direction of my luck and life.”

Many other people have written back as well, explaining some of the tragedies they've had in their life. And the bad bachi ('luck' in Japanese), they've encountered after taking one of the precious lava rocks.

Lava Rock on the Ground

Bad idea to take the lava rock from it's home.


There are many ways to keep on the good side of Pele. One of the easiest would be to respect Pele and her power. Many Hawaiians, recall ancient rituals, and chant them to the Goddess Pele. Another offering you can make is to give the finest gin, you can find, to Pele's lava. As an offering, showing you respect to her. There are also some basic guidelines that you must follow to stay on Pele's good side. You must keep off the sacred land, of the ancient Hawaiians. You must also, never take a precious lava rock from Pele's land. If you disobey these guidelines and disrespect Pele, you are left to your own fate.

Gin (to offer to Pele)

Created by a La Pietra Student

May 2004

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