Pele (pronounced peɪleɪ, pay-lay or pel-lə) is the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes as well as the creator of the Hawaiian islands. Pele also carries a staff, which she uses to know if the ground is dry.
Arrival in Hawaii
There are a number of variations in the legends that tell of how Pele first came to the Hawaiian islands. One of the most common tells that she was one of a family of six daughters and seven sons born to Haumea (a very ancient Earth goddess) and Moemoe (a name having to do with purposeful dreaming). She lived in Kahiki and longed to travel, so she borrowed a canoe from a brother and came from the northwest with some of her siblings, landing first at Lehua, a small volcanic cone sticking up out of the water just north of Niihau. Another variation says she was chased from her homeland by her angry sister, Namakaokahai, an ocean goddess. Pele's essence is fire and she dug into the island to find a firepit to live in, but was unsuccessful and went on to western Kauai. Traveling along the Na Pali to the north shore she dug again but only found water (at the Wet Caves) and journeyed inland to the very ancient peak now called "Puu ka Pele" (Pele's Hill). Still having no luck she followed the Waimea Canyon to the south side, dug around Poipu for awhile, then went on to Oahu, Molokai, Maui and finally Hawaii where she found a place for her family to live at last in Kilauea.
Pele and Poliʻahu
Pele was considered to be a rival of the Hawaiian goddess of snow, Poliʻahu, and her sisters Lilinoe (a goddess of fine rain), Waiau (goddess of Lake Waiau), and Kahoupokane (a kapa-maker whose kapa-making activities create thunder, rain, and lightning). All reside on Mauna Kea, except Kahoupokane who lives on Hualalai.
One myth tells that Poliʻahu had come from Mauna Kea with her friends to attend sled races down the grassy hills south of Hamakua. Pele came disguised as a beautiful stranger and was greeted by Poliʻahu. However, Pele became jealously enraged at the goddess of Mauna Kea. She opened the subterranean caverns of Mauna Kea and threw fire from them towards Poliʻahu, with the snow goddess fleeing towards the summit. Poliʻahu was finally able to grab her now-burning snow mantle and throw it over the mountain. Earthquakes shook the island as the snow mantle unfolded until it reached the fire fountains, chilling and hardening the lava. The rivers of lava were driven back to Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. Later battles also led to the defeat of Pele and confirmed the supremacy of the snow goddesses in the northern portion of the island and of Pele in the southern portion.
In Popular Culture
- Pele appears on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in the episode "The Good, the Bad, and the Luau" as Sabrina's cousin, who gives her the final clue to the family secret.
- Pele appears in a 1969 Hawaii Five-0 episode 'The Big Kahuna' in which her appearance is faked by a couple of crooks intent on frightening their uncle into selling his property to them.
- Pele was also referenced in an episode of Raven entitled Heat, in which she is alluded to as the cause of a severe heat wave, as well as being a mysterious woman who leads Jonathan to causing an explosion.
- Simon Winchester, in his book Krakatoa, makes statements about the Pele myths.
- n the 1990s a character claiming to be the goddess Pele appeared as a villain in the DC Comics comic book Superboy. Pele later reappeared in the comic book Wonder Woman where she sought revenge against Wonder Woman for the murder of Kāne Milohai, who in that story was her father, at the hands of the Greek god Zeus.
- In Marvel Comics's Chaos War event, Pele appears as an ally to Hercules and the daughter of Gaea.
- In the Wildefire book series written by Karsten Knight, Pele is one of many deities that are reincarnated in teenagers along the centuries.
- The musician Tori Amos named an album Boys for Pele in her honor. A single lyrical excerpt from the song "Muhammad My Friend" makes the only outright connection, "You've never seen fire until you've seen Pele blow."
- In 2004, American composer Brian Balmages composed a piece entitled "Pele for Solo Horn and Wind Ensemble"
- Pele is mentioned in the song "Hot Lava" by Perry Farrell on the South Park Album.
- Steven Reineke created a musical composition called "Goddess of Fire" which was inspired by the story and life of Pele.
- An eight-woman world-beat band called Pele Juju was based in Santa Cruz, California.
- The song Budding Trees by Nahko and Medicine for the People references the Hawaiian goddess Pele.
- In Borderlands and its sequel, Pele is referenced in the rare weapon named "Volcano", which the ammunition can explode causing fire damage on impact.
- Pele appears as a demon in the video game Shin Megami Tensei IV along with several other deities.