Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pele - Stories of the Fire Goddess

18x24 oil on stretched canvas

My rendering of Ho’opa’a (chanters) reconciling to the one God Almighty and the rejection of the goddess Pele
(see her in upper left sky).

Pele, known by Hawaiians to be the mighty and powerful fire goddess who, through myth and legend is, even to this day revered and respected by many native Hawaiians. In Hawaiian folklore she is reported to appear as a tall, beautiful young woman, or sometimes as wrinkled, old woman. I believe a large part of this reverence exhibited was the result of “first-hand” encounters and sightings…or at least perceived sightings of this fabled goddess. There are stories told that before the volcano erupted Pele was seen, sometimes in the company of a little white dog, walking in the area of the volcano. Today hula halau (schools of dance) dance to her honor, not necessarily that they believe she exists, but because it is tradition.

My nephew tells this story of driving with a friend late at night through a desolate area of lava beds on the Kohala coast of the Big Island and coming on a woman walking alone. They stopped to give her a ride and after going a short way, turned to speak to her only to find the rear seat of the car empty. He said his hair at the back of his neck stood on end and he knew he had just had a Pele encounter. My nephew’s recounting of his experience is just one of many such tales. Questionable?? No doubt, but each one telling of their “sightings” swears on their lives that it really happened.

My Tutu Rose believed in Pele - maybe believed is not the right word to use here, but I remember her warnings that we should always revere Pele. She used to tell us that if a woman, whether old or young, appeared at our door for a “handout” – never, ever refuse her request because it would be disrespectful and she would show her displeasure in a not so pleasurable way. As a little girl the Pele stories always intrigued me…I don’t know if I really believed or was just afraid not to believe.

Just had a thought...let me introduce you to this wonderful lady...Tutu Rose. She was always there for us, no matter what the circumstances. I remember her getting up to dance the hula during a family night of "kanikapila" (make music)and this was when she was well into her sixties. I loved my Tutu very much and miss her. She was huge influence on my life.

I mention in one of my earlier blogs how so much of who we are stem back to our childhood events...that goes doubly for the people who came before us...our ohana. They have all molded our character and if we are fortunate enough, we draw all the positive we can from their teachings.

Mahalo Nui Loa Kupuna (Thank you very much grandparent) and aloha till next time.

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  1. A subject near and dear to my heart and rendered so beautifully. Lokelani, I love you Tutu's photograph. Have you painted her already?

  2. Sheila...thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate so much that you are following my blog. Are you originally from Hawai'i? No, I have not painted her, but am thinking about it.