The Goddess Pele is a Hawaiian volcano and fire goddess. She is known as the goddess who shapes the sacred land. Pele is the volcano, the expression and embodiment of divine creative power. She is the Flame of Passion and the Fire of Purpose.
Our next legend is an exhilarating story about Pele and what happens when she gets angry and jealous. Believe me- you don’t want to make her mad.
The Eruption of Pele’s Anger
In the time of the chief Kahoukapu the great festival of Lono Makua was being held at Puna on this land Hawaii. They were carrying the god about the land and taking in the offerings of chiefs- much taro and kumara, many fowls and pigs red feathers, garments, mats, dried fish. These things were all collected for the god and laid upon the ahus, and there were boasting contests, hula dancing and sport of many kinds. The chiefs were skilled in sliding down the hill on papa holua, the risky sleds.
It was Kahawali, the handsome chief of Kapoho, who was riding down the slope. He was racing with his sled, his friend Ahua was against him. Kahawali ran to the track with his sled in one hand; he took the left rail with to the other hand and threw his body on the sled and dived. The people all applauded and shouted when Kahawali came down whizzing like a surfer on his well-oiled papa holua. Ahua slid well, indeed, but Kahawali was the winner.
The great noise of the people caused Pele to descend from Kilauea to watch the games. The goddess left her home in the burning crater, stood near Kahawali’s sliding-place and admired his skill. Pele, who was in the form of a woman, watched Kahawali and challenged him to race with her. A woman broke the tapu of the chiefly sport, the sport of chiefs alone!
Kahawali let the woman ride the track. She did not know the skill of sledding and Kahawali defeated her. All the people applauded him. Jealous Pele asked the chief, “Then let me try your sled, your papa holua whose runners are more oily.”
Said Kahawali crossly to this person, “Aole! Do you think you’re my wife that you can use my papa holua?” He then took his run, ran past the goddess, leapt on his sled and raced downhill.
Pele stamped her foot and the whole land shook. The people cried in fear. She called her word to Kilauea and all the burning rock came out, the fire and lava- the mountain’s blood. Then Pele changed, she changed from woman into akua (deity) again, and came rushing down the sliding place with all her fiery creatures. Roaring thunder, leaping rocks, streams of burning lava followed her down the hill.
When Kahawali reached the bottom of the slope he looked behind and saw the anger of Pele pursuing him from Kilauea. The people fled with screams. Kahawali took his spear which he had planted in the ground before the race, and grabbed his friend Ahua.
The burning lava came from Kilauea; it poured upon the people and burned them all. Pele came in fire-form riding on its wave as her anger showed. The singers, dancers and drummers were all devoured by Pele.
“The Eruption of Pele’s Anger,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.
Kahawali and Ahua came to the high ground of Puukea to Kahawali’s house and family. The chief threw off his cloak to run more quickly. He ran to his house of his mother at Kuki’I and made hongi (rubbed noses) with her. He said to her, “Compassion great to you! Pele comes devouring!” He then came to his wife. They made the hongi and said farewell. “Stay here with me! Let us die together!” she said. But Kahawali answered, “No, I go. I go.” Then he made the hongi with his children and said to them, “I grieve for you two.”
The lava came on. Kahawali ran and came to a deep ravine. He could go no further. Then the chief stretched out his spear with a powerful word and made it stretch the chasm. He laid it down and walked across. Ahua followed behind.
Pele came speeding with her fire to eat the chief. Kahawali came to Kula where he greeted his sister. He only had time to say, “Aloha oe!” and ran down to the sea.
Kahawali’s youngest brother came with his canoe from fishing out at sea. He saw Pele’s anger and Kilauea pouring fire. Kahawali and Ahua jumped into the canoe and paddled out to sea. The flaming Pele saw them getting away and hurled great burning stones at them. The rocks fell around and singed the sea, but they did not hit the canoe of Kahawali.
When Kahawali had paddled a certain way the east wind blew, it drove them from Pele’s anger. Smoke and ash came after them. Then Kahawali set his broad spear upright as a sail and they sailed across the sea to Maui where they rested for the night.
Then they sailed to Molokai, afterwards to Oahu where Kahawali’s father and sister lived. There with his father and sister afterwards remained and dwelt quietly in their home.