Pele’s lava fall?
Lava cascades down into Aloi crater in this image of the Hawaiian shieldvolcano Kīlauea taken during an eruption in 1969. For long Kīlauea was thought to be a satellite of its giant neighbor Mauna Loa. However, research has uncovered that Kīlauea actually does have its own magma-plumbing system. The volcano formed 600,000-300,000 emerging from the sea between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago. She has been active ever since, thus being dubbed as possibly the most active volcano on this planet. A debate is going on whether the summit caldera is a recent feature or has been coming and going since the volcano’s formation. Eruptions are mostly gentle with lava flows quietly flowing down. Because this outpouring of lava occurs so continuous, they gradually build up the volcano in the form of a shield, hence the name shieldvolcano.
The word Kīlauea is translated as ‘much spreading’ or ‘spewing’ referring to its constant outpouring of lava. Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, lightning, wind and fire is believed to live inside Kilaea’s caldera. Pele is a central Hawaiian deity that both creates and destroys and still plays a very important role on the island of Hawai’i. The stories about her vary however. Some stories mention that Pele was send away by her father because of her ‘hot temper’ and her constant fighting with her sister Na-mako-o-Kaha’i, goddess of the sea. She left Tahiti in a canoe and built several volcanoes on Hawaii. Her sister kept putting out the fire and this enraged Pele so much that she was torn apart from her sister and became a goddess. Other stories say that erupting volcanoes are usually connected to Pele’s longing to be with her true love, Lohiau, a chief. Interesting to mention here is that Pele is also believed to often kill off her lovers.
Several Hawaiian volcanic features are named after Pele such as Pele’s hair (threads of volcanic glass created when small particles of lava are thrown into the air and spun out by the wind) and Pele’s tears (lava fountains that produce hot molten droplets of lava). Even a volcano on the Jovian moon Io (the only volcanically active planet outside the earth, so far) is named after Pele.
Image: USGS. During an eruption at Kīlauea lava cascades down into Aloi crater. Image taken in December 1969.
Arlo Nimmo, H. 2011. Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai’i: A History. McFarland.
Pele sounds a lot like the Sumerian/Babylonian goddess of love/war, Inanna/Ishtar. She also had a habit of killing her lovers.