Goddess Pele :: Hawaiian Goddess of the Volcano

The goddess Pele was supposed to grow up to become a water goddess, but when she discovered matches her fascination with fire took her in another direction entirely!

The headstrong young goddess ignored her mother’s instructions and managed to set her home (the island of Tahiti) aflame while playing with fires from the Underworld.

Pele's older sister Namaka, a sea goddess, threatened to flood the entire island to punish Pele for being so destructive (but then, perhaps, it was for having an affair with her husband). Fearful for the safety of her children, Pele’s parents loaded them into a canoe and instructed Pele to rush them to safety on another island.

 Hi`iaka, the youngest child, had yet to be born. She was hatched from an egg that Pele held in her armpit while she paddled furiously with Namaka in hot pursuit.  It was a long, stressful journey.

Eventually the siblings found a place they could stop, a tiny atoll that was home to only a handful of human tribes. Their arrival created quite a stir since Pele and her sister Hi'iaka were lively young women who enjoyed having a good time, taking frequent breaks from their work to sing, chant and dance. For inventing the sacred dance,  Hi'iaka (also called Laka) was recognized as the goddess of the hula and patronesses of dancers.

Four snow goddesses lived in the mountains on the island.  They were none too pleased with the arrival of these beautiful young upstarts.

Pele set about trying to make a new home for her family, but it was proving difficult because the jealous snow goddesses kept sending blizzards their way. Hopping from one tiny island to another to escape the hard freezes, Pele kept moving southward only to encounter tidal waves sent by her  vengeful sister, Namaka.

Finally Pele laid claim to Mauna Loa on the southernmost island. Mauna Loa is the tallest mountain on earth (as measured from the ocean floor), and even the powerful Namaka couldn’t fling her ocean waves that high!

At last Pele was able to keep her fires lit, but this only increased Namaka’s rage. Soon the two sisters were waging a ferocious battle.

Pele’s fires rose up out of the trembling earth, spewing rivers of lava fiery lava into the ocean, driving the sea away from the coast. As the lava cooled it added to the land mass, and the small atoll was transformed into the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii.

Though victorious, Pele did not emerge unscathed. With the death of her physical body she became a spirit, a shape-shifter who can assume whatever appearance she wishes. 

Often she appears as a shapely young woman, sometimes as a small white dog, and other times as an old woman asking a stranger for a cigarette.

Though Pele then took up residence inside her volcanoes, her exuberant spirit was not to be contained. Legends about Pele and her many lovers and rivals abound.

Poliahu, one of the snow goddesses, became her archrival when the two  competed for the attention of a young chieftain. As he paddled his canoe, Pele surfed the waves beside his boat to catch his attention.  But, after his brief fling with Pele, he had an affair with the snow goddess Poliahu.

He was so taken with the snow goddess that he moved in with her. Pele was not amused!

She managed to win him back from her rival, but the angry snow goddess was not to be outdone. She blasted the couple with fierce ice storms and the lovers soon had to separate.

A struggle of immense proportions ensued. Pele erupted from the volcano, forcing Poliahu to flee with fiery lava licking at her heels. 

The snow goddess quickly recovered her wits, however, and returned with a snow storm so massive and intense that it quenched forever the spectacular fire on her northern island.

Though the two still quarrel neither will ever win for they are destined to forever hold each other in a delicate balance. It is their perpetual clashes that have created the luxuriant and fertile hillsides that grace the Hawaiian landscape. Once she has scorched all that lies on her path, Pele swiftly seeds it with the beautiful flowers that quickly rise from the bed that she created with her fiery anger.

Pele’s jealousy is legendary. Attracted to a handsome mortal named Ohi`a, she flew into a rage when he resisted her seduction while proclaiming his devotion to the lovely mortal Lehua. Furious, Pele killed the lovers.

Before long, Pele regretted the impetuous act, and made amends by joining the lovers together for all eternity, turning Ohi`a into a shrub and filling the branches with soft delicate flowers made from the body of Lehua. 

The Ohi`a lehua tree, sacred to the goddess Pele, is always the first to sprout and grow in the hard earth of a lava bed.           

                    Pele's plant


Of all her siblings, Pele loved Hi`iaka most. But even she, the one Pele had so carefully nurtured, was not to escape the fury of Pele’s wrath. 

As a young woman, Hi`iaka and her best friend, the poet Hopoe, spent much time together, singing and dancing, and tending to the groves of the Ohi`a lehua trees. Pele thought she could trust this gentle sister and sent her to retrieve a handsome chieftain she had recently seduced. His name was Lohi`au.

Pele warned her sister that the chieftain was a magnificent male and that she would not tolerate any flirtation between them.  Hi`iaka agreed to go, asking only that Pele promise to take care of her beloved gardens while she was away.

Pele was asking a lot!

Hi`iaka’s journey proved perilous and lengthy, for she met many demons and monsters along the way. Arriving too late, she found Lohi`au dying. His heart had broken from worry that Pele had forgotten to come for him.


Using every bit of magic she possessed, Hi`iaka restored the young chief to life. Though they were powerfully attracted to each other, Hi`iaka kept her promise and returned with Pele’s lover, their relationship still chaste.


Hi`iaka had been gone so long that Pele began to entertain fantasies of her sister lying in Lohi`au’s arms. Furious that Hi`iaka would betray her, Pele burned Hi`iaka’s beloved grove to the ground, accidentally killing her friend Hopoe.

When Hi`iaka returned and discvoered what Pele had done, she retaliated by making love to Lohi`au, right there in Pele’s view, on the lip of the volcano’s crater.

Enraged, Pele erupted and the unfortunate young man was burned to death. Hi`iaka, realizing how much she loved him, descended into the Underworld and freed his soul.

 One of their brothers reached out and caught Lohi`au's spirit as it drifted by his canoe, and the lovers were soon reunited. They returned to one of the other islands where they lived together in contentment.

Though she was quick to anger, Pele seldom held grudges. She realized she had been wrong to distrust her sister. And she regretted that she had caused Lohi`au’s death not once, but twice.

Pele was quite sorry for her actions. Besides, another lover had already caught her eye so she was quite content to leave the young lovers in peace while she went about her own affairs.

Like a volcano’s lava that creates new land, the goddess Pele reminds us that, even fiery eruptions and emotional upheavals are followed by new life and change.

As an archetype Pele is a passionate and creative force that transforms and rebuilds the landscapes of our lives.



Read the abbreviated version of the myths of the  Goddess Pele

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  Pele, and the other goddesses gather here:      : : : : :   aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty   ::demeter   :: persephone  ::  psyche   ::::  tara   :: white buffalo calf woman  ::   the Titan mnemnosyne and the muses    :: Artemis (Diana) :: rhiannon   ::   Norse goddesses frigga & freya ::   ::  isis,Egyptian goddess of magic ::  :: the Titan mnemnosyne and the muses    ::  athena, goddess of war and the crafts     ::  hera, goddess of marriage  ::  hestia    :: demeter   ::  hecate, goddess of wicca   ::  fiercely independent atalanta ::  ondine (French)   ::Nut, Egyptian goddess and Mother of All Gods ::    : : : : : :  brigit (celtic)   ::   bast, the cat goddess, also know as bastet or basthet)  ::iambe (she of the poetic stanza) ::  sophia   ::    Japanese goddess amaterasu   :: Inanna   :: dark goddess kali   :: parvati   ::  sedna  ::  yemaya, yoruban goddess of the ocean :: iambe   :: baubo   :: ix-chel ::  basthet  ::  ma tsu (see mazu) ::   ix chel, rainbow goddess ::   saint brigid, celtic goddess and saint brigid ::   sophia, goddess of wisdom ::   hera, wife of Zeus  :: baubo, goddess of humor:: Nut, Egyptian goddess and Mother of All Gods ::    : : : : : :  The Goddess Quiz (a personality test online) reveals your inner goddess archetype.nbsp;nbsp;: : : : : :  Tags: goddess,  gods and goddesses,  goddess symbols and  shrines,  goddess statues,  goddess shrines, Greek myths, goddess jewelry, Greek goddesses, goddess quiz, personality tests online, personality types, goddess jewelry, personality quiz,  goddess gifts, jewelry, goddess pendants, and career personality tests.