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Mo‘ōlelo Chapter 1: Peleʻs Origin

Updated: Jan 30


Pele's Voyage to Hawaiʻi by Herb Kawainui Kāne

Pele, the goddess of volcanic fire and creation, is perhaps the most well-known of all Hawaiian deities. The natural wonder of erupting Kīlauea on the Big Island of Hawai‘i has captured the fascination and curiosity of many visitors and locals alike. There are many stories of her numerous exploits throughout Hawai‘i and different variations have been shared and passed down generations through verbal mo‘ōlelo (stories), chants, and translated written word.


One such mo‘ōlelo is of Pele’s voyage throughout the Hawaiian Island chain in search of a new home for herself and her loved ones. This journey will be shared in a twelve part series, interweaving stories to complete Pele’s epic quest.


Pele’s origin does not begin in Hawai‘i, but upon the islands of Kahiki (Tahiti), far away from where she will eventually make her home. Here, Pele was born to Haumea (an earth mother) and Kāne Milohai (a sky father) amongst numerous brothers and sisters, each with their own exceptional power.


As she grew, Pele’s uncle, Lonomakua, took special interest in the young girl as he could see she possessed great potential. He gifted her with a supernatural ‘ō‘ō (digging staff) named Pāoa. This allowed Pele to focus her power. She would poke and prod the earth and leave scorch marks wherever it touched the ground. Lonomakua encouraged Pele to practice with Pāoa in order to improve her mastery over volcanic flame.


Nāmakaokaha‘i, Pele’s older sister, had been gifted with command over the ocean and as such made a captivating cove her home. It is said, as Pele grew more powerful in skill and more beautiful, Nāmakaokaha‘i, became fearful that her sister’s ambition would smother the homeland and was jealous of her beauty. They were sisters yet they were also rivals. There are even tales of Pele seducing Aukelenuiaiku the adulterous husband of Nāmakaokaha‘i.


On one particular day, Pele was in thought and had become distracted. She accidentally caused a devastating lava flow which destroyed the cove which her older sister had made her home. This enraged Nāmakaokaha‘i. Because of this, her family pleaded for Pele to leave thus she face her sister’s wrath.


Pele’s brother, Kamohoali‘i, a shark god, gave her the canoe of her brother Puahiuhiu, the Whirlwind, and his paddlers Keaulawe, the Tide, and Keauka, the Currents as a means of travel. Pele tucked her sister, still in the shape of an egg, under her armpit. Her sister, Hi‘iakaikapoliopele – “Hi‘iaka in the bosom of Pele”, would become Pele’s favorite.


They begin their sail and thus a journey to find a new home begins…


Join us next month for Chapter 2!

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