Pele (mythology)

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(Redirected from Pele (Goddess))

In Polynesian mythology (specifically: Hawaii), Pele is a goddess of fire, lightning, dance, volcanoes and violence, a daughter of Haumea and Kane Milohai. She lives on Kilauea.


The story

Her father exiled her (from her homeland, Honua-Mea in Tahiti) because of her temper, most recently for fighting with her elder water-goddess sister Na-maka-o-Kaha'i, whose husband Pele had seduced. She sailed from Tahiti in a canoe guided by her shark-god brother Kā-moho-ali'i, and was followed by her still angry elder sister. Every time she landed on an island and created a new volcanic home, it was flooded out by Na-maka-o-Kaha'i. 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 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 such as asking if they have any food, drink and in more recent times, rides to another part of the island. Those who show kindness are rewarded and spared. Those who are cruel or disrespectful are punished by way of having their homes or crops destroyed. When enraged she may appear as a woman all aflame or as pure flame.

Pele also loves attending social dances, and is known for great jealousy and vengeance when she doesn't get her man. Stories of Pele encounters are common campfire tales. Her presence can be found around the Kilauea Volcano and Halema‘uma‘u Crater in the form of Pele's tears (tear-shaped lava droplets) and hair (babyfine golden strands of volcanic glass).

She is also known for cursing Hawaii visitors who return to their homeland with volcanic rock, and has always been considered a protector of the Hawaiian people. Every year thousands of lava rock pieces are shipped back to Hawaii from around the world from people who claim to have experienced horrible misfortune since removing the rocks and send letters asking for Pele's forgiveness.

After her battle with Na-maka-o-Kaha'i, she found new enemies in the snow-goddess Poliahu whom she fought over Mauna Kea with, and the fertility god Kamapua'a, her sometimes lover.


Pele's other prominent relatives are:



  • The pop musician Tori Amos named an album Boys for Pele in her honor.
  • Simon Winchester, in his book Krakatoa, stated about the Pele myth: "Like many legends, this old yarn has its basis in fact. The sea attacks volcanoes – the waters and the waves erode the fresh laid rocks. And this is why Pele herself moved, shifting always to the younger and newer volcanoes, and relentlessly away from the older and worn-out islands of the northwest."

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