The living goddess of Hawaii's volcanoes

    The Star/Asia News Network | Wed, Mar 19 2014

    HAWAII - Mysticism, marvel and sometimes mayhem surround Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes on Big Island, Hawaii. Said to be the home of Pele (pronounced pay-lay), the Goddess of Volcanoes, Kilauea is as spirited and rambunctious as its dweller: spewing molten lava, devouring homes and villages, as well as giving life to new lands.

    Hawaiian legends tell of Pele’s travel from the islands of Tahiti in search of a new home to contain her fires – moving from northwest to southeast down the island chain until she finally settled down in Halemaumau, a crater within the Kilauea caldera where she resides until today.

    By digging with her magic stick, the paoa, she was able to dig fire pits to form craters such as Oahu’s Diamond Head and Maui’s Haleakala, which are now dormant volcanoes.

    Inside the park, I could see smoke billowing from the Halemaumau crater. Venturing further proved futile as rain poured down relentlessly. Perhaps, it was crossfire between Pele and one of her lovers, Kamapua’a. It is said that Kamapua’a would lash at Pele with torrents of rain to douse her fires and send wild boars to dig the soil for seeds to grow.

    I sought shelter at the adjacent Jagger Museum, which houses an impressive collection of equipment and exhibits on volcanology. Equally compelling are the stories and murals of Pele, depicted by local artist Herb Kawainui Kane as a striking woman with smouldering eyes and jet-black lava-flowing hair.

    Pele has often been described as jealous, fickle and tempestuous, and is feared for her destructive nature – ravaging homes and villages, and destroying forests. Yet, she can also be tender and nurturing, as seen in the growth of new scrubs and forests on the lava fields. She is revered for creating new land.

    Next >> A hike through Kilauea

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    The living goddess of Hawaii's volcanoes

    Click on thumbnail to view. Story continues after photos. (Photos: Wikimedia Commons, National Park Service, The Star/Asia News Network)

     

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