Tag Archives: goddess

Nuwa repairs Heaven


H is a parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


H: So basically, Nüwa is the goddess in China, well not China but in heaven. She’s a goddess in heaven but she was supposed to keep an eye on Earth. But in very old ancient times, somehow the heaven collapsed because the four pillars that hold heaven collapsed and the Earth was not covered because heaven collapsed. And fire went out of control and water flooded the earth and in order to patch the heaven, Nüwa had to do something. So she melted five different colored stones to patch up the sky and she also cut off the legs of a great turtle. I guess the turtle is also a god, you know, and set those legs as pillars to support the sky. And she also helped to put out the fire and drain the flood, you know the water, and basically she helped save the Earth.

Me: Hmm Okay.


I think this story is really interesting because it is about a feminine figure who has a lot of power in the world of gods, which is not something very typical in Western culture. It is also interesting because I do not remember this specific goddess, but I do remember that these pillars are part of other tales in Chinese mythology that surround Sun Wukong, a character in Chinese mythology that I learned a lot about as a child. This story also seems to build on the myths that have turtles in which a city or island is on the turtle’s back, although this story is using the turtle’s legs rather than its back. According to other sources, Nuwa also created humans which is why she is so protective of them and rushes to patch up heaven in order to prevent the fall out onto Earth. In some versions of this story, the five different colored stones that were used to patch the heavens explain why the clouds can be multicolored in our sky. 

Greenberg, ByMike. “Who Is the Chinese Goddess Nuwa?” MythologySource, 5 July 2021, https://mythologysource.com/nuwa-chinese-goddess/. 

Pork over the Pali Highway

Background information: OLP is a 21-year-old student at Georgetown University. in They were raised in the Bay Area, but currently live in DC for school. Their parents met in Hawaii, and they were born in Honolulu. They visit frequently with their family, and their dad was raised there. OLP is white, Filipino, Mexican, and Japanese American.

OLP: You aren’t supposed to take pork over the Pali Highway in Hawaii. This comes from the Hawaiian myth that the goddess Pele had, like, a bad breakup with her boyfriend who was a pig god. So they divided the island between them, so taking pork from one side of the island to the other can anger Pele. This is pretty well-known in Hawaii but I’ve also heard from friends of my parents who said they’ve taken pork over the pali and their car broke down. The superstition says you won’t be able to finish your journey and you might be surrounding by spirits. A lot of locals take this very seriously and I think it’s an important way for people to show respect for Hawaiian traditions as well.

Me: So your family and family friends all observe this practice when you visit?

OLP: (laughs) Well…I’m vegetarian so yes. But yes, especially since so many people have had experiences where, like, something has happened if they tried. And it’s just good to respect things like this sometimes.

This is one of the only pieces of folklore that I collected in which someone had heard the same story directly from multiple people. I think this is very interesting, because it shows that these practices are alive and well, and that although Hawaii is often just seen as a tourist spot or getaway, there are traditions and cultures that need to be respected there. I think it’s really important that pieces of folklore like this – things that come from a time before a specific place or culture was colonized/occupied – continue to be shared and made known.

Saraswati – The reason not to step on paper and books

Main piece:

AI: So there’s a Hindu goddess named Saraswati who represents, like, knowledge, and a folk thing is that she lives inside all, like, books and paper and shit. So anytime you step on paper and cardboard you have to like, ask for her forgiveness for stepping on her. It was literally so annoying when I was little. It was a thing I was taught to do growing up. Whenever I stepped on paper my parents would be like, don’t piss off Saraswati!


The informant, AI, was born in the US, but her parents are from India. Both parents grew up in North India but are culturally tamil brahmin (South India.) She learned this tradition from her parents, and even now, she still avoids stepping on books and paper. This story was collected through a phone call.


I met the informant in high school. We attended a school in Silicon Valley which had a big focus on STEM, and the general culture there was quite academically competitive. I think that this story, while obviously not originating from the Silicon Valley, has a great similarity to the reverence of wisdom and intellect present in SV (although, minus the snootiness). The informant, AI, is still in high school and still in that culture herself––I think the fact that she chose this story is a reflection of the similarities between both cultures.

Pele, Goddess of Fire

Main Piece: I learned about Pele in my elementary school. She’s the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, dance, and volcanoes. Pele’s home, Halemaumau crater is at the summit of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Any volcanic eruption is supposed to be attributed to her long lasting true love. It’s kind of like her passionate temperament but I’m not too sure why she makes volcanoes erupt. Traditional Hawaiian’s see her not as a destructive although she might be seen as destructive by tourists. One thing you should not do when visiting one of her volcanoes is take a rock or souvenir from the volcanoes or else you will suffer for the rest of your life.

Context: The informant is a current freshman at USC. She lived in Hawaii until she graduated high school. Growing up there, she learned all about the customs and folklore of Hawaii. She learned about Pele from her public elementary school

Thoughts: I’ve never heard about Pele before but her story tells a lot about how people in Hawaii have their own pride in culture. Comparing it to the history that I learned in elementary, this seems much more intriguing. I’m curious about the beliefs that come with Pele, like how one should not steal from the volcanoes. It shows off how the people of Hawaii have come to respect the land and preserve it.

For more information see “Passions of Pele: The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.” by Martini Fisher

Fisher, Martini. “Passions of Pele: The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 23 July 2018, www.ancient-origins.net/history/passions-pele-hawaiian-goddess-0010415.

Pele: The Hawaiian Volcano Goddess

Abstract: Pele (pell-ay) is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. The reason this is both a myth and a legend is because the story takes place in both the real world and outside of it. The origin story of how volcanoes in Hawaii came to be and the fact that Pele is a goddess and acts sort of like Greek Gods reason that she is mythological. However, she is a shapeshifter that normally takes the place of an older woman on Earth, so this would make her a legend.

 Background: DM is a 20 year-old  Hawaiian American going to college in California. She grew up her entire life in Hawaii and is very accustomed to the folklore there. She can not trace back the origin of the folklore or when she learned it because it has surrounded her for her entire life. After one piece of Hawaiian folklore came up on a work retreat, I asked her to share the most important ones to her on a later date. DM compares the Hawaiian gods, like Pele, to Greek mythology. They all have their own responsibility on Earth. She dives into the effects of what Pele can do from a story from her father. 

About Pele:

 DM: She is the goddess of volcanoes and takes many forms, but her most common form is an old Hawaiian lady. For context, the only volcano that has a chance of erupting is Kileaua on the big island. Anyway, my dad’s cousin was getting married there, and they were driving home from some party or something a few days before the wedding. And on the main highway, they see this old Hawaiian lady with long gray hair walking on the side. They thought maybe it was Pele, but they were scared so just kept driving. And then on their wedding day, the volcano erupted.

S: So is she someone to be scared of in person like does she cause immediate danger in human form?

DM: Well, I mean, she is a fiery goddess, but she isn’t dangerous. But like you’re supposed to be nice to her, and when they didn’t pick her up she reacted. There are some legends that when a volcano erupts, the lava will go around houses of people who have been nice to her.

S: But like, how do you tell her apart from any other old Hawaiian woman?

DM: You don’t.


Interpretation: Pele seems to have undeniable power and garners a lot of respect from the people of Hawaii. The lesson underlying this goddess is to respect your elders. Especially when told to young kids, Pele seems like a mean old lady that can destroy your house and kill you in a fiery pool of lava if you do not show kindness. Since no one really knows what she actually looks like, the people of Hawaii must learn to be nice to all elderly women or possibly suffer the consequences. This portrays Hawaii to be matrilineal and caring of the females, especially the elders, in the community. If Pele was only a myth, there would be no real lesson to treat elders with respect. Since she take the form of an old lady, and, at this point, becomes a legend, citizens will apply the respectful manner to almost all old women to not take any chances of having a really bad day with some lava.


For more on Pele, see Legends and Myths of Hawaii by David Kalākaua, 1888, page 46.


Kalakaua, David. Legends and Myths of Hawaii. Book On Demand Ltd, 2013.