“The fire of a volcano can’t be put out, it is the beginning, and the end.”
I love Pele. I love her clarity, her single element simplicity, and especially her enthusiasm for transformation. Pele represents the element of fire, the great transformer, the liberator of potential energy and liquidator of flotsam.
“There are other fire keepers.
We have different names, but we’re all sisters.
We used to be understood better, when you could hear us better.
We move, we change, we protect and balance all the pieces of creation.
And we’re VERY flashy about it.”
Every ancient culture has their fire goddesses. Wadget and Brigid, Hestia or Vesta, all keepers of eternal flames, transformers of death into life. Shadow shamans transmuting material to energy to return to the web of life. Through eons of steadfast belief and ritual, this understanding of the fire element was transplanted to new places by migrations of human feet and thought. The Female Fire Keepers influence may have flourished and ebbed, but for the most part, they were perceived as helpful protectors, their flames a benevolent resource. Such is the usefulness of hot fire in cold climates. Not so for Pele, Fire Goddess, keeper of the volcano at Kilauea.
“People are hard to understand
They come up to the smelly old crater and throw me a ham or a bottle or rum, I don’t want a ham”
“Help me Pele! Help me Pele!”
“I can help you change your life,
Gather up everything that doesn’t serve your spirit, old hurts and bad memories, guilt, grief, clear out the closet and the garage, give it up”
“I can burn them up, but you have to sacrifice these things to have new life.”
Pele’s Pacific post remains apart; her mission unique. She is site-specific for the island world of Hawaii. A place created entirely by VOLCANOES. She is a Fire Goddess surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean. Now that’s a solitary assignment. Maybe it is that aloneness that sponsors her spontaneous interactions with people, all kinds of people. She is known for borrowing bodies and interacting with locals and tourists alike. I am one of those, Yes! Pele is real to me.
A long while ago, when the experience was new, I wrote our conversation down. It was a soliloquy really, describing her millennium long observation of human psyche, and human behavior. Is she an angry destroyer? vengeful and frightening, self-interested and self-serving? I think we have made her in our own image.
“If we ate here together, men and women,
someone would have to be killed for it.
If you touched a rich man’s shadow, you got your head on a stick.
If a woman or a child ate a banana or a coconut they would be killed in a slow way, one broken bone at a time”
“And they said Pele is a danger!
Pele is vengeful! She will be angry if you don’t do what we say!
Pele didn’t make those rules,
Pele didn’t maim children for eating what the mother island had provided for them,
It’s the people that did this.”
“I am the reflection of your fears; I exist for balance”
Maybe only male God’s get to play with fire, and a female Goddess is supposed to just cook on it? People prefer to make the elements “vengeful” and the “wrathful” rather than acknowledge our complete lack of control over the “forces of nature.” These projections may be useful, but not altogether fair. I can’t imagine how hair-raising is it to experience this cataclysm on a small island as a fragile human. Is it what the ants feel when we pound on by their exquisitely constructed communities?
“The ships came in from other places and brought their own Gods
And they said Pele doesn’t exist,
That’s when Pele became a superstition.”
“Except when the ground shakes
And the lava comes to purify and begin again,
Then they remember me.”
“Sometimes they see me when the Lava is really flowing.
But I’m always there, they just aren’t thinking that way.
They are blind until they get scared.”
“They think I show up to watch my handiwork.
It’s not my job, I just get it started.
Lava has lava ways”
So what’s really going on? It’s the hot breath of the Earth made visible. VOLCANOES are Transformation. Is it energy or intelligence that shape shifts elements into endless ever changing compounds in support of life. Maybe not your life or mine, but LIFE on the galactic time line. We are of the earth not on it.
Be safe family in Hawaii, send her love!
Photos by Carol Martell
Please see copyrighted Painting of Pele by Arthur Johnsen