Myth – Hawaii

The story of Hawaii’s native volcano goddess, Pele, is a common tale, known to anyone native of the islands of Hawaii or anyone who is a frequent or even first-time visitor to the beautiful Aloha State.  Pele is the volcanic goddess who continues to find her home, to this day, in the Halema’uma’u crater on Mt. Kilauea, one of the world’s most continuously active volcanoes, which is located on the Big Island of Hawaii.  There are many tales surrounding the legend of Pele.  Essentially, Pele is the volcano goddess who is, in essence, the most revered mythological figure throughout all of Hawaii.

Izach shared a common rule with me, regarding the mystical Pele.  In Hawaii, whether you are on the laid-back and somewhat secluded Big Island or on the popular island of O’ahu, if you pass an old lady on a highway or on any given street, you must pick her up.  That old lady is Pele in human form.  The old lady will appear as though she is in need of help, and, as a rule, you must help her out in any way she requests.

My family and I are frequent visitors of the islands, and on one particular trip to the Big Island, we heard many stories of Pele while we were on our tours.  One in particular stood out to me.  There was a young couple who lived in an area near the foot of Mt. Kilauea.  One fateful day, they heard a knock at their door.  It was an elderly woman, asking to come in.  Seeing an old woman in need of help, they let her in and entertained her.  She sat with them, dined with them, and interacted and conversated with them.  The old woman then proceeded to ask if she could use the restroom.  They let her into their bathroom…. and the old lady never came out.  They came to the realization that there was no one in the restroom any longer.  It was then that they realized they welcomed the volcano goddess, Pele, into their home.

On a similar note, unrelated or related to Pele, Izach’s brother shared a story with him.  A friend of Izach’s brother, who reigns from the island of O’ahu, was in the restroom to take a shower.  He stepped out of the shower into his hot and steamy bathroom with a fogged-up mirror.  Looking through the haze in the mirror, he noticed a figure standing behind him: it was a man, who was clad as a native Hawaiian warrior, complete with tribal tattoos, and obviously not from the current time period.  Unable to believe the image reflected back to him, he looked behind him and saw no one standing there.

Izach, as a native of Hawaii grew up to naturally revere Pele in the deepest regard.  I feel like the Hawaiians’ view of Pele perfectly highlights the way in which they highly value their culture and respect the laws of their land.  They hold Pele in the highest regard, in the same way in which they revere other natural elements of their beautiful islands, such as the sacred ocean or the majestic mountains.

Annotation:  More about Pele and traditional rituals and beliefs regarding the volcano spirit, Pele, have been documented in

Behavior and Beliefs during the Recent Volcanic Eruption at Kapoho, Hawaii

Roy Lachman and William J. Bonk

Science, New Series, Vol. 131, No. 3407 (Apr. 15, 1960), pp. 1095 – 1096

Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science