Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of fire. She lives in Kilauea crater, the Hawaiian islands' site of active volcanism. She has an extremely bad temper and is known to wreak havoc on people in her disfavor, or to spare those who offer proper prayers or kindness. Her intensity is in proportion to the power and destructiveness of volcanoes. Pele is a beautiful woman, who presents herself to her people in various disguises, either as a lovely young woman or a very old hag. Often the disguise is discovered after the occurrence of a supernatural event associated with the mysterious old or young woman.
Folklore and worship of Pele persists to this day, far more than any of the other old Hawaiian gods, who were banned in 1819, only a few decades after the islands were "discovered" by europeans. Some scary modern stories involve her appearances and disappearances in automobiles while people are driving. Many people swear that they have actually seen Pele, or know of someone who has.
The red flower of the Ohi'a Lehua tree is sacred to Pele. In this drawing, she wears a headband of lehua flowers, as well as a maile lei with lehua interspersed. Pele has been described many different ways, with red eyes, fire hair, or black or white hair, too. She has worn a muumuu, or a robe, or a tapa garment. Here, she also comes with a lava-flow holoku (muumuu with train), which gives off a smoke cloud.
Kwei-lin Lum copyright 1999