July 9, 2013

Pele: The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 10:38 am by Babs

Described as “She Who Shapes The Sacred Land” in ancient Hawaiian chants, the volcano goddess Pele was passionate, volatile, and capricious.  In modern times, Pele has become the most visible of all the old gods and goddesses.  Dwelling in the craters of the Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano, she has been sending ribbons of fiery lava down the mountainside and adding new land around the southeastern shore almost continuously since 1983.

Pele was born of the female spirit Haumea, or Hina, who, like all other important Hawai’i gods and goddesses, descended from the supreme beings, Papa, or Earth Mother and Wakea, Sky Father.  Pele was among the first voyagers to sail to Hawai’i, pursued, legends say, by her angry older sister, Na-maka-o-kaha’i because Pele had seduced her husband.  Pele landed first on Kaua’i, but every time she thrust her digging stick into the earth to dig a pit for her home, Na-maka-kaha’i, goddess of water and the sea, would flood the pits.  Pele moved down the chain of islands in order of their geological formation, eventually landing on the Big Island’s Mauna Loa, which is considered the tallest mountain on earth when measured  from its base at the bottom of the ocean.  Even Na-maka-kaha’i could not send the ocean’s waves high enough on Mauna Loa to drown Pele’s fires, so Pele established her home on its slopes.  Here, she welcomed her brothers.  A cliff on nearby Kilauea Mountain is sacred to her eldest brother, to this day, Pele never allows clouds of volcanic steam to touch this cliff.

Her other brothers also still appear on the Big Island mountain; Kane-hekili as thunder, Ka-poho-i-kahi-ola as explosions, Ke-ua-a-kepo in showers of fire, and Ke-o-ahi-kama-kaua in spears of lava that escape from fissures during eruptions.

Of all her siblings, Pele favored her youngest sister Hi’iaka, the most.  Pele, Hi’iaka and another sister, Laka,  goddess of hula, were all patronesses of the dance, but Hi’iaka was said to have hatched from an egg that Pele kept warm during the long canoe ride to Hawai’i by transporting it in her armpit.

After Hi’iaka grew to womanhood on the Big Island, Pele traveled in spirit form to the north shore of Kaua’i to witness a dance performance at a pahula, or dance platform, that still exists near Ke’e Beach.  Here she manifested herself as a desirable young woman, and quickly fell in love with a handsome young chief named Lohi’au.  She dallied with Lohi’au for several days, but eventually her spirit had to return to her sleeping body on the Big Island.  Upon awakening, Pele sent Hi’iaka to convince Lohi’au to come to her.

The sisters extracted vows from each other: Hi’iaka promised not to encourage Lohi’au should he become attracted to her  and in return, Pele promised to contain her fires and lava flows so as not to burn a grove of flowering ohi’a trees where Hi’iaka danced with her friend Hopoe.

On Kaua’i, Hi’iaka found that Lohi’au had died of grief after Pele disappeared, but the graceful younger sister was able to restore his spirit to his body, bringing him back to life.  Together, the two of them began the journey to the Big Island, but Pele’s suspicious nature got the best of her.  Because forty days had passed since Hi’iaka had set out on her assign mission, Pele decided she had been betrayed, and so sent a flood of lava into Hi’iaka’s ‘ohi’a-lehua grove, killing Hopoe in the process.  When Hi’iaka saw the smoldering trees and her dancing friend entombed in lava, she flung herself into the arms of Lohi’au.  In retribution, Pele set lose another stream of lava, which killed the mortal Lohi’au, but Hi’iaka, a goddess could not be destroyed.

The legend has a happy ending, however, as yet another brother of Pele’s, Kane-milo-hai, reached out and caught Lohi’au’s spirit when he saw it floating past his canoe.  He restored the spirit to Lohi’au’s body, and once again, the chief was brought back to life.  Hi’iaka and Lohi’au returned to Kaua’i to live contentedly.

Legends about Pele, her rivals and her lovers abound.  Most of the lovers she took were not lucky enough to escape with their lives when she hurled molten lava at them, trapping them in odd misshapen pillars of rock that dot volcanic fields to this day.

One lover who proved a match for Pele was Kamapua’a, a demigod who hid the bristles that grew down his back by wearing a cape.  The pig god could also appear as a plant or as various types of fish.  He and Pele were at odds from the beginning; she covered the land with barren lava, he brought torrents of rain to extinguish her fires and called the wild boars to dig up the land, softening it so seeds could grow.  Pele and Kamapua’a raged against each other until her brothers begged her to give in, as they feared Kamapua’a’s storms would soak all the fire sticks and kill Pele’s power to restore fire.  In Puna, at a placed called Ka-lua-o-Pele, where the land seems torn up as if a great struggle had taken place, legend says Kamapua’a finally caught and ravaged Pele.  The two remained tempestuous lovers, it is said, until a child was born, then Kamapua’a sailed away and Pele went back to her philandering ways.

Pele’s greatest rival was Poliahu, goddess of snow-capped mountains and a beauty who, like Pele, seduced handsome mortal chiefs.  Pele’s jealousy flamed after she had a fling with a fickle young Maui chief named ‘Ai-wohi-ku-pua, as he was traveling to the Big Island to court a mortal chiefess, Laie.  Paddling along the Hana Coast, ‘Ai-wohi-ku-pua saw Pele in human form as a beauty named Hina-i-ka-malama, riding the surf.  He paused for a brief affair.  Then he went on to the Big Island, where Poliahu seduced him.  He convinced his personal goddess to release him from his promise to his first love, and went back to Kaua’i with the snow goddess.  Pele (as Hina-i-ka-malama) chased after them, eventually winning back the fickle chief, but Poliahu was so vindictive, she blasted the lovers with cold and heat until they separated, and ‘Ai-wohi-ku-pua was left with no lover at all.

According to Hawaiian historian David Malo in his book “Hawaiian Antiquities,” in old Hawai’i, some gods and goddesses, including Pele, were believed to be akua noho, gods who talked.  They could take possession of an earthly being, who became the god’s kahu.  Malo writes, “The kahu of the Pele deities also were in the habit of dressing their hair in such a way as to make it stand  out at great length, then, having inflamed and reddened their eyes, they went about begging for any articles they took a fancy to, making the threat, “If you don’t grant this request, Pele will devour you.”  Many people were imposed upon in this manner, fearing Pele might actually consume them.”  Naturally, people who had seen others destroyed in Pele’s fiery lava flows, were terrorized by such a kahu.  Pele has continued to intrigue contemporary men.  Not long after the old religion was abolished in 1819, the high chiefess Kapi’olani defied Pele by eating ‘ohelo berries at the edge of Halema’uma’u caldera without first offering them to or requesting Pele’s permission.  In open defiance, Kapi’olani threw stones into the molten lava below.  When she was not harmed, she insisted it proved Pele had no power and it was time for Hawaiian people to accept Christianity as their religion.  In 1823, when Reverend William Ellis became the first white man to visit Kilauea, most Hawaiians accompanying the expedition were still in awe of the volatile goddess.  The hungry missionaries began to eat ‘ohelo berries, but were quickly warned to give Pele an offering.  Ellis wrote, “We told them… that we acknowledge Jehovah as the only divine proprietor of the fruits of this earth, and felt thankful to Him for them, especially in our present circumstances.” …We traveled on, regretting that the natives should indulge in notions so superstitious.”  At the crater, the Hawaiian guides “turned their faces toward the place where the greatest quantity of smoke and vapor issued, and, breaking the (‘phelo) branch they held in their hand in two, they threw one part down the precipice, saying:

E Pele, eia ka ‘ohelo ‘au; (Oh, Pele, here are your branches)

e taumaha aku wau ‘ia ‘oe (I offer some to you)

e ‘ai ho’i au tetahi (some I also eat).

To this day, tales of Pele’s power and peculiarities continue.  Whispered encounters with Pele include those of drivers who pick up an old woman dressed all in white accompanied by a little dog on roads in Kilauea National Park, only to look in the mirror to find the back seat empty.  Pele’s face has mysteriously appeared in photographs of fiery eruptions, and most people who live in the islands, whether Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, Pagan or other religion, speak respectfully of the ancient goddess.  After all, she has destroyed more than 100 structures on the Big Island since 1983, and perhaps even more awesome than that, she has added more than 70 acres of land to the island’s southeastern coastline.

Personal Note:  When visiting Kilauea National Park with my Mom a few years ago… I picked up and pocketed 3 small chunks of lava stone; one for me and the others for friends who would appreciate the stone for its association with Pele.  When the tour was moving on, the guide explained about the “woman in white” and how she frowned upon those taking bits of her island (and hard work) away.  It is said that she will visit you and bring all the wrath she could to punish you for your actions.  Here I am with three chunks of her work in my pocket!  Not wanting to attract attention to myself at the time… I kept quiet and returned to the cruise ship.  When I could, I slipped out to the deck railing… quietly explained to her what I had done, apologized, and tossed the stones over the rail stating that I hoped reaching the ocean helped her work rather than hindered it.  It is important to realize that I risked getting caught throwing things off of a cruise ship which they frown upon greatly.  I thanked my lucky stars for not getting caught, returned to the cabin… and dressed for dinner.  All these years later I have not had a visit from the Woman in White or her little dog and feel that she accepted my apology!  I was sure it is a story told to keep people from weighing down airplanes and cruise ships with chunks of lava… I wasn’t taking any chances!  When I told this story to my High Priestess she explained that people have often resorted to mailing back the stones to the Big Island to escape the bad luck associated with stealing the stone.  Packages are sent from all over the world… so Pele has far reaching affects!  To this day, offerings are made to Pele at the edge of the crater in the form of fruits, flowers and even alcohol.

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January 29, 2013

Hina: The Hawaiian Butterfly Goddess

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , at 9:01 am by Babs

Near the mountains of Hilo, and appearing each one closer to the ocean, are three extinct craters in the shape of hollow hills.  They are called Halai, Opeapea and Puuhonu.  The soil on these hills were especially rich and the area was blessed with abundant rain.  The Goddess Hina, Mother of Maui, gave Halai to her daughter, Hina Keahi, mistress of fire.  She gave Puuhonu to her daughter, Hina Kuluua, mistress of rain.  The women settled on their bountiful lands and their people prospered for a long, long time.

Uli was a kahuna who could see into the future.  Her powers were legendary throughout the islands and she refused Hakalanileo’s request, for she foretold tragedy in their union.  The chief was relentless, standing unmoving in the face of Uli’s arguments, willing to accept any fate for the chance to be with Hina.  Finally, Uli relented and Hina and Hakalanileo were married.  However, it was not without warning.  Uli impressed upon the young chief that he must guard Hina well, for the light of his life would soon be stolen and the winds of change would not bring happiness.  She told him to beware when the night winds blow across the sea from the northern islands.

Several blissful years passed as Hina bore two sons.  The land was peaceful and Hakalanileo became content as his people and his family prospered.  Eventually, Uli’s warning became a faint memory that drifted from his mind.

There lived on the distant island of Moloka’i, a legendary chief, ferocious in battle and handsome in form.  It was said that he killed hundreds of men with his bare hands and piled the bodies high on the alter to Moa’ali’i, the shark god of Moloka’i.  Some say that he swallowed whole, the left eye of these sacrifices.  His name was Kaupe’epe’e and he was the king of Moloka’i.

Songs praising the beauty of Hina, Hilo’s queen, swept through the islands and reached the ears of Kaupe’epe’e.  He became intrigued and sought her out during a secret visit to Hilo.  There, he saw that the poet’s words were true and found himself mesmerized by Hina.  He approached the situation with reckless abandon and formulated a plan to take Hina, risking his life and his kingdom for his new-found love.

It was on an evening when a cool wind blew from the north, Hina and her attendants were bathing in the ocean as they always did, when a canoe slid among them under the cover of darkness.  Hina was lifted into the canoe which slipped soundless away and over the reef before anyone knew anything was amiss.

The canoe landed on Moloka’i where Kaupe’epe’e was waiting.  He carried Hina up the rocky cliffs to his legendary fortress, Ha’upu.  There he kept her prisoner, offering her all she could want save her freedom, for as long as his heart was her captive, he could not let her go.

Hina demanded to be released and shouted hateful words at the handsome chief, but his temper did not flare and he returned to speak with her often during her years of captivity.

Having expected Kaupe’epe’e to be forceful and frightening, Hina was amazed at how kind and gentle he was.  She began to look forward to his visits and a bond grew between them.

As the years passed, Hina’s sons grew to be tall and handsome warriors and jointed their father’s unrelenting search to find their mother.  They were, however, unsuccessful as no clues were left on the night of Hina’s disappearance.  Finally, Hina’s sons went to see Uli, who consulted the signs of prophecy and was granted permission by the spirits to repeat the warning she had given Hakalanileo so many years before.

“Beware when night winds blow across the sea from the northern islands.”  The island north of Hawaii was Moloka’i.  Hina’s sons decided that their mother must be a prisoner in Ha’upu, the impenetrable fortress, and they resolved to go on an impossible mission to rescue her.  Chiefs from the other Hawaiian islands agreed to join in on the attack to finally bring the fearsome Kaupe’epe’e down.

Over one thousand red war canoes made their way to Moloka’i with Hina’s husband, sons and mother leading the way.  Warriors paddled hard and chanted while war drums pounded a steady beat.

One canoe was dispatched ahead bearing the promise that the fortress would be left untouched if Hina was released.  Kaupe’epe’e would not comply, answering instead that Hina lead a happy life and that he would rather die than give her up.

Kauppe’epe’e’s forces stood ready.  Each movement of the enemy was observed and planned for.  The great fortress was filled with warriors ready to give their lives for their chief.  Kauppe’epe’e looked upon his men with sadness in his eyes, for he knew that he could not guarantee their survival.  He granted pardon to anyone who wanted to leave, but none did.

When darkness fell, the army from Hilo began swarming up the rocky cliffs.  Kaupe’epe’e had planned for this and unleashed a wall of rock that had been prepared earlier.  Boulders rushed down the gorge where the men were climbing and screams of death echoed shrilly throughout the darkness.  Blood washed down over crushed bodies and the first battle was decided.

The Hilo force, however, had been very resourceful and while Kaupe’epe’e had been occupied with the frontal assault, warriors had begun a rear assault as well.  Trees had been cut down and lashed together to make a monstrous shield which could be moved forward while protecting those behind it from spears, rocks, and arrows.  Every night, the shield was moved forward and every day the army from Hilo came closer to the fortress that was once considered invincible.

One day, heavy storm clouds moved in turning day to night.  The wind whipped in all directions and rain fell as though the land was pointed by a waterfall.  Kaupe’epe’e posted a few guards and brought his men in the fortress to keep dry.  This proved to be a mistake, for the men from Hilo pushed their mighty shield right up to the fortress walls in the cover of darkness and began swarming over the walls.  The guards’ warnings were swallowed up in the downpour and the wind and the army of Hilo swept  through the fortress, cornering and killing Kaupe’epe’e’s warriors.  Kaupe’epe’e was pierced through the breast with a spear wielded by one of Hina’s sons.

“For her sake, you live as I die.  Honor your queen mother.”  Kaupe’epe’e’s last words escaped his lips as his body fell lifeless onto the blood-soaked floor.

Hina was found unharmed deep within the temple and she was returned to Hilo.  The once formidable fortress, Ha’upu, was torn apart so that not one single stone remained in place.  The body of Kaupe’epe’e was recovered and honored with a royal burial.  His bones were hidden on his beloved Moloka’i.

Hina lived the rest of her days with her sons and husband as the graceful queen of Hilo.  However, she would often go alone to the ocean where she would watch the tossing waves.  There crept into her eyes a wistful joy whenever the winds from the north blew through her hair and across her face.

Hina is the champion of words and ideas.  She is a butterfly goddess representing meaningful communication between women and facilitator of sharing the truth between women and men.

Suggested Mantra: Communication

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I share truth
  • I feel release through communication
  • It is easy to articulate my feelings
  • I release my anger, I embrace joy
  • I connect with my needs, and let them be known
  • My insecurity is replaced with wisdom

Gemstones:

  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Aquamarine
  • Turquoise
  • Light Blue Stones

More about Hina:

Hina is a Butterfly Goddess of the Pacific Islanders.  She is known as the first woman hence the Hawaiian word for woman: wahine.  She lives in the moon, having traveled there on a rainbow path via the sun.

She represents meaningful communication and the sharing of truth between women and men.  Her message is to forgive past transgressions and give up negative attitudes that prevent you from growing as a person.  In short, she helps you make the choice to be more heartfelt with others and fly free from the cocoon that binds you.

As a communicator, her inspiring speeches and ideas give birth to new ways of thinking.  She is a messenger, a carrier of news and creator of ideas.  Whipping her followers into fervor of idealism, her speeches vibrate with inspirational energy.

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