This week, we take a trip back to the Pacific to tell the story of Madame Pele, the Earth-Eating Woman, and Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. We chat about mythology as history, the cutest names in mythology, the history of hula hoops, and how you can find some hair of the goddess whenever a volcano erupts.
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends and folklore. Every week we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is Episode 91: Pele.
Julia: Yeah. I'm excited to wrap up summer with a slightly more tropical-themed myth, and I think it's appropriate since it has been just so, so hot the past couple days.
Amanda: It's true, but it really does put it into perspective that we're not living in a literal volcano, so it was good to remember that things could be more intense than they have currently been in New York City.
Julia: That does help quite a bit.
Amanda: Similarly intense but in a very good way, our new patrons, Alyssa, Gabrielle and Lorraine, as well as our supporting producer level patrons Phillip, Julie, Cristina, Josh, Eeyore, Amara, Ella, Ashley Marie, Neal, Jessica, Maria, Ryan, Phil Fresh and Deborah.
Julia: Yes. You all have the spirit of the volcano within you.
Amanda: And I am just so happy to pour a drink metaphorically and also at some point literally at a future live show for our legend level patrons. These folks get stuff in the mail from us every single month, which now includes a quarterly box from Shaker & Spoon. So, there's custom cocktail stuff. There's syrups. There's citrus things to make your cocktails with and recipes. It's so great, and we are really excited to send next month's box to Cassie, Sandra, Audra, Mercedes, Jacque-Marie and Leann.
Julia: Yeah. Actually, the drink that we drank for this episode was inspired by one of the recipes that Shaker & Spoon sent me two months ago.
Amanda: I love it when a good sponsor comes together, and you guys will hear a little bit more about those drinks in the actual episode, but we are going to start this cool thing, I think, or restart an old thing where we recommend something we love every week. We bring in great sponsors. We bring in great books, but we also do, and listen to, and read a lot of other fun stuff. So Jules, tell us about this week's recommendation.
Julia: This week we are recommending the podcast What the Folklore? It is a comedy podcast exploring strange fairytales and folklore from around the world. So, the kind of stuff that Disney wouldn't teach you, and love it. We do. We do love a good folklore podcast.
Amanda: Yeah. They describe themselves as Mystery Science Theater 3000, but for weird obscure fairytales. So, I think you guys would like it. That's What the Folklore? And it's in any place that you get your podcasts. This week's episode is brought to you by maybe one of the best sponsors we've ever had on this show. Julia, tell us about Stitch Fix.
Julia: Stitch Fix. Well, we'll tell you a little bit more about Stitch Fix in the middle of the episode, but if you go to StitchFix.com/Spirits you can get an extra 25% off when you keep your whole box of clothes, shoes, and accessories for all genders, also kids. Did you know that they had a kids option?
Amanda: I did know that, but I was like, "Yo. That's far in my future, but I super appreciate that you offer it."
Julia: But also, I know a lot of folks have kids who listen to the show. So, that's a really cool option to talk about down the line.
Amanda: Awesome, and we would love to give a special shout out to everyone who filled in our Multitude listener survey. We've gotten over 1,000 responses and that's very exciting for me as a data nerd. If you haven't, there is still time. You can go to SpiritsPodcast.com/survey and let us know what you think about Multitude, your feedback, your sponsor ideas, your episode ideas. If you think that we have just enough episodes, or too many, or too few, whatever. There's a spot for you to tell us all about it at SpiritsPodcast.com/survey. And without further ado, enjoy Episode 91: Pele.
Julia: Amanda, I've made you a cocktail, as you can see in front of you.
Amanda: It's so festive. It has an umbrella.
Julia: It does have an umbrella. It's because I love you.
Amanda: Just like I need at the beach because I'm very pale.
Julia: That is true. Also a hat. Also a lot of sunscreen.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah.
Julia: So I've made you, this time around, a Riki Tiki, which is probably one of my favorite tiki drinks of all time. Just those mango, and coconut, and pineapple juice, and it's delicious.
Amanda: Yeah. It tastes so good that I think I'm going to have a hangover. That's how I know it's a very good drink.
Julia: Yep. That's true. So I've made you this, but there is a story behind it first. A couple of months ago, a mutual friend of ours went on a weird last-minute trip to Hawaii, and one of the first things she told me when she came back was, "Dude. You have to do an episode on Pele." When I asked why, she started talking about how the goddess still had a big influence on the island, and how there was a lot of representation of her all over the place, and I'm not one to tell my friends no. So, I put it on my list of potential topics for research.
Amanda: And to be clear, we're not talking about the Brazilian soccer player, right?
Julia: No. We're not talking about the Brazilian soccer player, but thank you for checking.
Julia: Fast forward a couple months and Hawaii is all over the news because a lava flow is coming out of Kilauea, the volcano, which is on the main island of Hawaii. Don't get me wrong. This is absolutely a tragedy. There was a lot of folks that were either hurt or had their lives destroyed because of the volcano, but as I was looking into this, I stumbled on a New York Times article titled Madame Pele, Hawaii's Goddess of Volcanoes Awes Those Living in Lava's Path. Expressing reverence for their deity, many living in Kilauea's shadow welcome its eruption, even when it destroys their home. Whoa. The article outlines a lot of reverence that our friend had mentioned after her visit, and this is part of the reason that I really want to dig into this story, since you know how much I love living traditions. Right?
Amanda: Heck yeah.
Julia: Actually, there's a great line in the beginning of the article that I mentioned that I think will have some great context for us to get started. The quote is, "Hawaiians have endured the violent overthrow of their kingdom, annexation by the United States, and policies aimed at obliterating the Hawaiian language, but in a striking display of resilience and adaptability of native Hawaiian culture, the exultation of Pele has not only persisted through the centuries, but seems to be strengthening with every bone-rattling eruption of Hawaii's volcanoes."
Amanda: Please tell me everything you know, stat.
Julia: First, background. Context is important.
Amanda: It sure is, in literature and in life. I haven't said that since my literature degree.
Julia: I know. Oof. It's been a couple of years. Oof, oof. All right. According to Hawaiian religion, Pele is the goddess of fire and volcanoes, and more importantly, is considered the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. But before we get to that, we need to know how we got there, as we always do. Pele was known for her power, passion, jealously, and capriciousness.
Amanda: I love it.
Julia: It's already a great start.
Amanda: I want to be best friends.
Julia: She had several siblings, the most important of those being her brother Moho, her sister Hi'iaka, and her humpback brother named Kamakaua. Other sources list at least five other brothers and eight sisters, but these play the most integral role in the story of Pele. There are four versions of the myth. One where Pele migrates on her own after traveling a long distance, another where she's expelled by her older sister, a third that features a great flood, and another one known as the unnatural birth version.
Julia: I'm going to tell the first two prominent ones for the sake of keeping it simple starting with the migration story.
Amanda: Okay, and this is before Hawaii is created?
Amanda: Got it.
Julia: In this story, the migration story, Pele is one of seven sons and six daughters that were born to the goddess Haumea, the goddess of fertility and childbirth. And interesting fact, actually, about Haumea. She gave birth to all of her children through various parts of her body with Pele being the only one who was born, quote, "the traditional way," which is kind of great. Pele, in the original legend, was considered very beautiful with, quote, "a back straight as a cliff and breasts rounded like the moon."
Julia: She, however, is restless and longs to travel. So, taking her younger sister Hi'iaka and tucking her into her armpit, she seeks out her brother Moho, who is also known as Ka-moho-ali'i. Moho gives her a canoe that's owned by their brother Whirlwind with Tide and Current as her paddlers, and promises that if she goes exploring, he will follow with other members of their family.
Amanda: I love stories where characters are named after things that are now commonplace, and Wisdom is in a tale, and lots of Aesop's Fables have that kind of thing where like, "This person is Sloth, and this person is whatever." The idea that Tide can be one of her rowers is wonderful.
Julia: Yeah, and they obviously have Hawaiian translations for those names, but I'm trying not to embarrass myself as much as possible-
Amanda: Word. Word.
Julia: ... with the translations and with the pronunciation. I'm doing my best. I looked up a lot of these. I'm hopefully not butchering them all.
Amanda: And if any Hawaiian listeners want to record a video of themselves talking about or just even saying the names of these gods and figures, you are absolutely welcome to do so. Tweet it to us or put it in our Facebook group and we will share it to the heavens and back.
Julia: Yes, please. Pele goes. She passes several islands that are inhabited by the gods. One is Niihau, which is the island of the chieftess fire-thrower, or Kaoahi, where she's handsomely entertained by the chieftess, which I bet-
Amanda: Oh. Wink.
Julia: Wink wink. Wink wink.
Amanda: Wink emoji.
Julia: I literally winked at Amanda.
Amanda: You did. I was like-
Julia: Next she heads to Kauai, and appears in the midst of a hula festival in the form of a beautiful woman. She falls in love with the young chief there and determines to take him as a husband, but she has to continue on passing southeast from island to island on which she attempts to dig a home in which she can receive her lover.
Amanda: I love that a lot, and it's also a very good metaphor for get yourself in order, or make peace with yourself. Make peace with who you are and what your situation is, and that is a really good way to get prepared to find love, if that's something that you desire.
Julia: Finally, she comes to what is now the island of Hawaii, and there she is successful in digging deep enough for her home without striking water, which allows her to rest there without disturbing her fiery nature because she's-
Amanda: It also just now occurs to me when you said hula festival that the hula hoop is probably named after hula dancing because hip movement.
Julia: Yeah, dude. You didn't know ... What?
Amanda: Yeah. I just didn't-
Julia: Hold on. You didn't know that?
Amanda: It just didn't occur to me.
Julia: There you go. You learn something new every day. So, elaboration on this migration story becomes very localized. They outline the exact details of where Pele pursued her digging activities. There's a really famous dance song that records the successive steps of Pele's advance from island to island, and here's a clip from it, "The blaze trembles, bursts out about below. The spade rattles in the cleft below. It is I, Pele, digging at the pit in Niihau."
Julia: It's really, I love it a lot.
Amanda: I was-
Julia: We're going to get into more of that story later, but first we've got to transition over to the expulsion story. So, the expulsion story. It is definitely less feel good than the first. Again, Pele is the daughter of Haumea, but in this she is much closer to the fire god Lono-makua. Because they're both deities of fire, such closeness, or in some stories the fact that they sleep together despite Lono-makua being married to Pele's older sister, the sea goddess named Na-maka-o-Kaha'i, this causes a massive fire in the island that they live on.
Amanda: Oh, wow.
Julia: And the older sister drives her away from their home.
Amanda: Just their emotions are so linked to the environment that it exploded on the outside as they exploded on the inside?
Julia: Right. They're both fire gods. They're both beings with fiery spirits. So, because they had such closeness or because they had such passionate sex, depending on which version you're looking at, just everything goes on fire.
Amanda: I mean, word, and doesn't it feel that way sometimes? Love is fucking crazy. Attraction is fucking crazy, and it feels like, how is the outside going on as normal when this is happening to me right now?
Julia: Yeah. Hell yeah. I just like the idea of a new romance is super passionate and super fiery, and everyone's got that same experience. Everyone knows what's up.
Amanda: I know. I guess language of attraction and romance is always coded in fire-related terms. You know?
Julia: Yeah. That's so weird, right? The fact that that's a thing that just spans all of humanity.
Amanda: Yeah. It does.
Julia: Just very few cultures where that isn't the case.
Julia: Okay. Pele takes passage on a canoe with several of her brothers and sisters and arrives at the Hawaiian Islands by way of the northwestern shoals, but the group is relentlessly pursued by her older sister, and the pursuit only ends in the murder of Pele. Her body is torn apart, and the fragments are heaped up, and her spirit takes flight to the island of Hawaii and finds permanent home there.
Amanda: That's quite a evocative image, this idea of someone fleeing, and then finding real solace somewhere that people still call home.
Julia: Absolutely, and it also, it comes down to that localization, too. I didn't write it down, but the part where Pele's body is torn up and then the fragments are heaped upon is a mountain somewhere that can specifically be referenced to for that story.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Julia: Which, I love origin stories for physical, natural things. That makes me so happy because, genuinely, I don't know. I think that as a culture who is very much science-focused, the idea that things existed and we have stories for them other than, "Oh, millions of years ago a glacier went through here and now it's this thing, or a volcano erupted."
Amanda: Which is also remarkable, but just not as tangible. It's hard. You go to a museum and look at a fossil and be like, "Okay. I know it's amazing, but also, I have to imagine really hard that this was a fish swimming around once." So, you're absolutely right. Being able to tie an actual legend to that right there, or this right here, or this ground under my feet. It just, at least for me, makes me feel so much more rooted to my hometown, or the place that I'm visiting, or my heritage. Stuff like that.
Julia: Yeah. I really like that, and I really appreciate stories where, I don't know. I like the connectedness of people with their land and understanding this place that exists was here before all of us, and there's a reason for that. And the fact that we have to come up with these stories is such a beautiful human relationship to the Earth, and I really enjoy that.
Amanda: Yeah, and maybe especially because you and I grew up in a context of a colonialist country that swept in and replaced existing narratives with its own, and there's lots that's great about the American myth, but there's a lot that's really fucked up. And especially, at least for me growing up in the suburbs, it felt so new. Our hometown was a marsh until like 100 years before we grew up. So there wasn't a ton of history, and old buildings, and cobblestone streets, and all this stuff that when I got to Europe or other places, and looked around, and walked down streets that were older than the US, that was just so magical to me. These origin stories, yeah. You're absolutely right. Whether it's the island getting up at the end of Moana, or some of the stories that we cover, it just really hits home for me.
Julia: Yeah, and man, I just want to touch on that for a second because I saw a really interesting thread on Twitter today, but just the idea that so much of what we consider American myth and American history just exists solely because we eliminated the indigenous stories and the indigenous ... I don't want to say mythology because it's not. When we talk about-
Amanda: Culture. Yeah.
Julia: ... how England was founded or how Ireland was founded, those stories are distinctly prominent, and we traced those back, and it's legitimately the stories that these people believe despite the fact that historians and archeologists will tell us that's not exactly what happened. So, I don't want to ... It's so frustrating to me to know that those narratives were destroyed or at least eliminated for the Western narrative. They're not destroyed because people still-
Amanda: Displaced and de-centered.
Julia: And that's extremely frustrating to me, and I tried my best to talk about indigenous stories and indigenous founding myths and how a people are created and born. I try not to, I don't know, because we look at the stories the same way we look at Christian mythology, you know what I mean?
Amanda: Right, and it's not dead.
Julia: I call Christian mythology, mythology.
Julia: It's still going.
Amanda: Yeah, and mythology doesn't mean fake. It means stories that people tell about themselves, which are often grounded in things that actually happen, and maybe sometimes not. But it almost doesn't matter because it's living traditions that are important to people now, or were important to them then, and are therefor important to us now. So absolutely, and I hear what you're saying. There's a reason why conquering a people is not just about getting control of land.
It's about gaslighting and systematically undoing a culture, whether that's as you indicated, laws against the use of an indigenous language, or separating kids from families, or taking over schooling and making religions illegal. But there's all kinds of ways that those are state tools to disenfranchise, disempower, and really decimate a people. It's messed up, but I think it also speaks to the importance of mythology, and the importance of narrative and being able to tell your own stories in your own terms, in your own way, in your own words.
Julia: Right, and I agree with you. I want to just stress that again, that when we talk about mythology, we're not saying, "Oh, this is fictional. This didn't happen," but rather, "These are the stories of the history of these people."
Amanda: Yeah, and mythology is a little bit more catchy than auto-narrative, or whatever else we want to call it.
Julia: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, we're going to-
Amanda: We're going to have a ... Oh, wait.
Julia: Go ahead.
Amanda: Mythology is like a society's memoir.
Julia: Yeah. I think that's pretty accurate.
Amanda: Boom, boom, boom.
Julia: I like that.
Amanda: That's why I interrupted you, because I thought it was good.
Julia: And now it's a T-shirt, and bye. Okay. We're going to grab a refill on our Riki Tikis real quick, and then we will continue on with the story.
Amanda: All right. We are different heights.
Julia: We are.
Amanda: I don't know if listeners know this, but there's about 10 inches of height between Julia and me.
Julia: That's about right.
Amanda: Is that overstating it?
Julia: No. I think that's about right.
Amanda: Yeah. About 10, and it's very funny, and people love to remark on this. We identify quite a lot with Helena and Hermia from A Midsummer Night's Dream-
Julia: That is true.
Amanda: ... when we were auditioning for our drama club, and it means also that we don't shop often together, and whenever we do and we both find something to buy, we're just like, "Oh my God. Amazing. Amazing day."
Julia: That is 100% true, which is why having someone send us clothing in the mail designed specific-
Amanda: That's us.
Julia: ... for us is amazing.
Amanda: It is so amazing.
Julia: Which is why we are so excited to be sponsored this week by Stitch Fix, which is an online personal styling service that defines and delivers clothes, shoes, and accessories that fit your body, budget, and lifestyle, and it's for all genders.
Amanda: Exactly. You can choose masculine clothes. You can choose feminine clothes. They have a kids option, even, and you basically, you go on there. You fill out a fun survey. I called it Tinder for people with partners who are not currently dating because you just click thumbs up or thumbs down on the different outfits, and shoes and accessories.
Julia: It's so nice.
Amanda: And I found it very fun.
Julia: It's addictive.
Amanda: It really is addictive, and you give them your sizes. You tell them like, "Oh, yeah. My pants are normally too loose in the butt, but too tight in this other place." You can give them notes about your style. You can show them your Instagram, which is like a highlight reel of all your favorite outfits, and also tell them how much money you want to spend. It's not like they only send you expensive clothes that you couldn't actually buy. You tell them how much money you want to spend and how often you want to get a box, or just get one box at a time, and then you get beautiful stuff right to your house.
Julia: Yes. I just got my box yesterday. I was very, very excited.
Amanda: Tell me all about it.
Julia: Amanda, I put on this pair of jeans that Stitch Fix sent me. I've never been more in love with a pair of jeans in my entire life.
Amanda: Oh my God.
Julia: They're so comfy. They fit me so well.
Amanda: Jeans on the first try?
Julia: I'm like, "Amazing." Insane, right? It is so hard to find a pair of jeans that fits perfectly, is your style, and is comfortable, and oh my God. These are just amazing, and I got to also pair that with a cool floral yellow shirt that shows off my arms and stuff like that. It was amazing.
Amanda: Amazing. I got this purple blowy tank top that goes really well with my style. It's actually the same color as my tattoo also, or one of the colors in my arm tattoo.
Amanda: So, I think my stylist may have seen my Instagram and was like, "Yo." And to which I say thank you, person, that was amazing. And this gorgeous yellow handbag. I don't buy bags a lot. I usually go with a backpack, but this one is so pretty that I just immediately grabbed it and wanted to lick it. I just, oh my God. I love it so much, but that is what Stitch Fix is all about, finding you amazing stuff. If you end up keeping everything they send you, all five items in your box, you get 25% off of the price of all of them. So, it ends up being pretty affordable, but if you go to StitchFix.com/Spirits, you'll get an extra 25% off when you keep all the items in that box. That's half off.
Julia: That's amazing, and the best part is too, the whole point of Stitch Fix is they send you stuff. You try it on. If you don't like it, you don't have to pay for it. You just have to send it back to them, and they give you the stuff so that you can send it back. I packed up everything besides the cool shirt and the jeans that I'm 100% in love with, and I can just ship it off from my mailbox and it's amazing.
Amanda: Yeah. Shipping is free both ways, and if you end up not keeping anything from the box, then the fee is $20, but if you keep even one thing, that 20 bucks is deducted from the price of the item. Again, even if you end up keeping one thing from every box and you get a box every quarter or every month, I don't know. For me personally, I just super love it. I love this company, but yeah. I love that they have so many sizes. I love the stuff that I got, and they have been super fun to work with. So, you all should go to StitchFix.com/Spirits. Link is also going to be in the description, and get an extra 25% off when you keep all five items in your box. Thank you again to Stitch Fix for sponsoring the show, and now, let's get back to the episode.
Julia: So Amanda, Riki Tiki, taste good? We're good?
Amanda: Julia, so good. I'm so worried.
Julia: I'm just going to keep feeding you Riki Tikis and the story is going to get better and better.
Amanda: Drink responsibly.
Julia: Another key story to the Pele myth is actually the Hi'iaka story, and this is a continuation of our migration story that we heard before starting off with Pele winning the love of the young chief Lohiau. She stays with him for three nights, and then she tells him that a messenger will come and bring him to her house that she is making him, which explains why she is digging for the right spot for the house, and thus finds the island of Hawaii. When Pele returns, her sister Hi'iaka is the only one who is brave enough to act as Pele's messenger. Hi'iaka demands and is given the powers of a god in order to pass through the ordeal in safety, which is important, but also how cool is it they could be like, "Give me the powers of a god," and then she just gets them.
Amanda: Yeah. It's like when my mom or dad would ask me to go buy milk, or pick someone up at the train station or whatever, and I'd be like, "Yeah. Of course I will. Of course I will," because I just want to drive the car.
Julia: Yeah. I want that power. Give me that power. So, Pele tells her sister not to fall in love with her husband-to-be or even embrace him, and that she must return within 40 days, and then she sends Hi'iaka off.
Amanda: Any time there's really specific guidance in a story or a movie, I'm just like, "I bet someone's going to break one of those rules, huh?"
Julia: Hi'iaka leaves Pele in her sacred grove where she is protected by Hi'iaka's friend, Hopoe, which means literally, one encircled as with a lei or with loving arms, which is the cutest fucking name I have ever heard in mythology ever.
Amanda: I love that.
Julia: It makes me so happy.
Amanda: I've read before that Amanda means worthy of love, which is really funny for someone with a major depressive disorder, but also, I think it's adorable and that name reminds me of it.
Julia: Yes. Good. Okay. So, on her journey ... By the way, Julia means downy, like soft, which is ridiculous and also not correct whatsoever.
Amanda: Your hair is soft.
Julia: Not the rest of me though, because I'm all muscle, bitch.
Amanda: You are. You are.
Julia: All right. On her journey, Hi'iaka meets a bunch of badass ladies. She's accompanied first by her old nurse, Pauopalai, or skirt of the palai fern, which is really cute. I like that. Then Wahine'oma'o, or light-skinned woman or thrush woman depending on which translation you're looking at, who was a half-goddess, makes the rest of the journey with her. At one point, they are accompanied by another girl named Papulehu, but the girl does not have the, quote, "spiritual qualifications to survive the dangers that Hi'iaka encounters." I know. That's such a tough bird.
Julia: Yeah. Spiritual qualifications. Fuck.
Amanda: I love it.
Julia: So, the first dangers that they encounter are the evil Mo'o, which means lizard god, but was in fact shape-shifting supernatural lizard demons.
Amanda: Okay. Man, I'm just flashing back to our reptilians episode and being like, "They don't even know their wild theories are based in tradition."
Julia: Yeah. So, the first one that they encounter is a Mo'o woman named Panaewa, who impedes their way first in the form of fog, and then sharp rain, and then as a candlenut tree which entangles the group in a growth of vines. The next that they run into is Kiha and Pua'a-loa, who are defeated because they're caught in the flow of lava. They then come across a shark at the mouth of the Waipio valley, which ceases swimmers crossing the bay, and then they slayed him.
Amanda: Okay. That's very extreme.
Julia: Cool. The final group of Mo'o that they meet are Pili and Noho, who make travelers pay a toll at a bridge to cross the Wailuku river, but the bridge is in fact one of the tongue of one of the giant Mo'o, which then swallows up the travelers.
Amanda: I want it as a Pokemon in my Pokebag.
Julia: It's basically a giant Lickitung.
Amanda: I love it a lot. I think it's adorable, and I have gotten to level 25 on Pokemon in the last week and a half.
Julia: I'm really proud of you.
Amanda: Thanks, babe.
Julia: So, they defeat all of these Mo'o and at last they travel to Kauai, where she finds the young chief, unfortunately, has died from longing for Pele.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: He's like, "Oh, man. I love this woman so much I'm going to die if she's not here." It happens. I get it.
Amanda: I understand that.
Julia: Because Hi'iaka is a badass, she is able to revive him through chanting and prayer, but she was not able to return to Pele within the 40 days because she had to take the time to revive him and also all these monsters and shit.
Amanda: That's a pretty good excuse.
Julia: Pele, fearing that Hi'iaka had betrayed her and was keeping the handsome chief for herself, becomes enraged and not only destroys Hi'iaka's sacred forest, but also kills Hopoe by turning her into stone.
Amanda: That is a big reaction.
Julia: Yeah, it is. It's kind of a big one. She's kind of overreacting, but it wouldn't be an interesting story if she didn't overreact a little bit.
Amanda: I know, and they're sisters, right?
Amanda: Sisters often means drama in stories, even though my sister is adorable and out of my league in terms of coolness and whatnot.
Julia: She is a pretty cool teen.
Amanda: She is the coolest teen. Even though she's 20, she's still a cool teen.
Julia: She's still a cool teen.
Julia: All right. So, when Hi'iaka returns she sees her friend is dead. She sees her sacred forest is ravaged. So, she takes revenge on her sister Pele and embraces Lohiau.
Amanda: Respect. Unexpected, but respect.
Julia: In retaliation, Pele sends waves of lava at the couple.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: Hi'iaka was unharmed because she's got all those godly powers right now, but Lohiau is killed by the lava, as you would expect because he's a mortal man. Again, Hi'iaka revives him, thus bringing him back to life twice because she is a badass.
Amanda: She's two for two, man.
Julia: Yeah. She's killing it. So, Pele regrets her actions toward Hi'iaka's forest and her friends, decides to let Lohiau choose who he wants to be with.
Julia: Some versions of the legends say that Lohiau picks Hi'iaka over Pele and returns with her to Kauai. Others say that he chooses to remain with the both of them.
Amanda: Polyamory in mythology.
Julia: Yeah. Polyam in the Polynesian place. Yeah. Anyway, poly poly. Woo. Still, others say that he retreats alone back to Kauai, but it is most widely accepted that after their long and dangerous journey from Kauai, Lohiau has come to love and greatly admire Hi'iaka for her bravery, loyalty, kindness, and beauty. So, he chooses her for his wife and they go back to Kauai together.
Amanda: They've also been through a lot of shit together, which is a very good way to get to know and to love someone.
Julia: That is my favorite trope, is where the person goes, and they go on a long journey, and then they reluctantly fall in love with the person who is taking them on this journey.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Julia: That is one of my favorite stories.
Amanda: Oh, yeah. When I first read about Brienne of Tarth, I was like, "Okay. Cool. So, you're my great lesbian mom." But then I was like, "Okay. I mean, you're also on the road with Jaime Lannister, and you don't want to be there," and it's totally ticking all of my enemies-to-lovers fanfic tropes.
Julia: Oh, it's so good.
Amanda: Which is a tag on Archive of Our Own, in case you were wondering. Don't worry, but then I was like, "Oh no, wait. Brienne is definitely queer."
Julia: I also just realized that this is a reverse Shrek, as in someone is sent as a messenger for the person that wants to marry the other person, and then they fall in love on the journey.
Amanda: You could say that Shrek is a reverse Pele.
Julia: That would be correct. Oh no. I've done bad. I made a goof.
Amanda: That's okay. You are going reverse chronological, very understandable, but I like that, that old-to-newish.
Julia: Those are the main stories of Pele. There's a couple of shorter ones. Pele was said to be the rival of the Hawaiian goddess of snow, Poli'ahu. In one story, Poli'ahu had to come down from Mauna Kea with her friends to attend the sled races down the mountain Hamakua. Pele comes disguised as a beautiful stranger and is greeted by the snow goddess, but Pele being Pele becomes jealous of her rival, and in her rage opens up the subterranean caverns of Mauna Kea and throws fire at Poli'ahu, which sends the snow goddess fleeing in terror. Understandably.
Amanda: I mean, it's a good weapon to use. That would be super effective in Pokemon.
Julia: So, Poli'ahu grabs her now burning snow mantle, which I'm not entirely sure what that is, but didn't get much of-
Amanda: A mantle is a dress, right?
Julia: Is it a dress?
Amanda: I thought it was like the top part of a dress, when the dresses were many layers. It's a sleeveless cloak or shawl.
Julia: Huh. I have a beam, stone or arch serving to support the masonry above a fireplace.
Amanda: That also.
Julia: All right. Cool. It's one of those things. Imagine both.
Amanda: No. It's definitely the coat.
Julia: She throws it down the mountain, and as a result, earthquakes shake the entire island as snow unfolds and hits the fire fountains, chilling and hardening the lava that Pele has been spreading.
Amanda: What a great image. Also, that is what happens is that heat and lava escapes into air, when it hits air, and it freezes.
Julia: As such, it is said that Poli'ahu rules the northern part of the island while Pele rules the southern portion.
Amanda: I like it.
Julia: They're heat and snow miser.
Julia: Like I alluded to earlier on in the episode, belief in Pele has persisted despite colonial attempts to eradicate Hawaiian religion. The religion was, quote, "officially abolished" in 1819, which is fucked up, but also something that we discussed when we were talking about Filipino indigenous religions persisting even after Spanish colonialism.
Amanda: Yeah. It happens. People find a way.
Julia: Yeah. People find a way, and it's amazing.
Amanda: And of course, the dominant narrative of that society would be like, "Oh, yeah. No. The state made a choice and everyone listened to the state." When in fact, most of life happens underground.
Julia: Yep, and correct. However, there is a great story about how an English missionary named William Ellis in 1823 was on the island trying to find a location for his mission statements. Already terrible.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: Not a great place to start.
Julia: He takes this long journey up Kilauea with very little food, and as such, eagerly eats some berries that he finds growing on the side of the volcano. The berries are called ohelo, which is considered sacred to Pele, and traditionally prayers and offerings had to be made before eating them in order to appease the goddess because you're taking her sacred berries. That's fucked up.
Amanda: Well Julia, why would a colonizer learn anything about the place they're going to take over?
Julia: I know, right? Exactly. Shortly after, there is a seismic event that opens up a volcanic crater and exposes an active lava lake, which local Hawaiians feared was a sign that Pele was not pleased with the violation by the missionary.
Amanda: That's a very reasonable conclusion.
Julia: Yeah. It absolutely is, 100%.
Amanda: Also, Seismic Event is a pretty good band name.
Julia: Yes, it is. Absolutely. Fuck. Here's a little science corner, because I like science corners. So, several phenomena in volcanism are named after Pele. Pele's hair are volcanic glass fibers that are formed through the stretching of molten basaltic glass from lava. Wind carries the light fibers into the air and they're blown away from the volcanic vent.
Amanda: Google imaging right now. That sounds-
Julia: Do it. They're fucking beautiful.
Amanda: ... that sounds amazing. Like, bird's nest of glass made out of volcanic lava? That's amazing.
Julia: It legitimately looks like hair. It's really, really cool.
Amanda: Oh my God this is really trippy. It looks like a bird nest. That's amazing.
Julia: Yeah. The next one are called Pele's tears, which are pieces of solidified lava drops formed when airborne particles of molten material fuse into tear-like drops of volcanic glass.
Amanda: Man, the Earth is so metal.
Julia: Limu o Pele, or Pele's seaweed, are these thin sheets and shattered flakes of brownish-green volcanic glass splatter that resembles seaweed in appearance, and are formed when water is forced into and trapped inside lava.
Amanda: So cool. Also, incredible that human beings ever figured out how to make glass. That is so dangerous, and so finicky and I'm amazed.
Julia: The Pele's seaweed is fucking metal because it's just water and lava meeting, and then they create this beautiful green-brown glass. It's insane.
Julia: I love it so much. So, after all this Pele is known as Pele-honua-mea, or Pele of the sacred land, and Ka wahine 'ai honua, which is the earth-eating woman.
Amanda: So good.
Julia: As well as the quote, "She who shapes the sacred land." All great titles.
Amanda: There's no higher honor or power than that.
Julia: Her home is said to be the fire pit at the summit of Kilauea, which is one of the Earth's most active volcanoes, but her domain encompasses all volcanic activity on the big island of Hawaii. It is said that her body is the lava and steam that comes out of the volcano, but she is also known to change form, appearing as a white dog, an old woman or a beautiful young woman.
Amanda: You know I love a shape-shifting goddess.
Julia: She's also regarded as the goddess of the hula. Though her sister Hi'iaka is said to be the first person to ever dance hula, Pele is a significant figure in the history of hula, and there are many hula dances and chants that are dedicated to her and her family. The hula dedicated to Pele is performed in a way to represent both her intense personality and the movement of volcanoes.
Amanda: I love it.
Julia: Going into the final thoughts of the episode, if you're ready for them.
Amanda: I am.
Julia: I would love to take a moment and talk about living memory focusing on how an active environment can affect day-to-day and that affects, in turn, belief and religion.
Amanda: Yeah. I guess two things come to mind, first off, which is that making peace with an environment that can be hostile to you and can be dangerous is really lovely, and I don't know. It's just something that I really respect. It would be easy to say, "Oh, volcanoes are evil. Oh, lava is evil. Lul, it's not pagan, it's fine." That kind of reaction where anything that could be dangerous or takes some thinking to get used to is just scapegoated or pushed to the side, and this is another take on it, which is like, "Hey. This thing is super powerful. There's a good reason it's there. There are ways to stay in contact and in favor, and when bad things happen, it's a story we can talk about. It's a way we can wrap our minds around a thing that otherwise seems unfathomable," as always happens with mythology.
Julia: Yeah, and I think that when you think about ... Obviously we didn't grow up in cultures that had volcanoes, really. I've never seen a volcano. I don't know if you have.
Amanda: I've seen a dormant volcano.
Julia: Okay, but that is something that I can't comprehend, let alone comprehend living next to and having it be such an active part of my life, but I can think about the sea. I can think about the ocean, because that is something that can exist and be totally fine most of the time, until it's not. And you have to have that certain amount of respect. The ocean can be a blast. The ocean can be fun as hell, but the ocean can also murder and drown you.
And so, understanding this thing is so much bigger than I am, and I cannot tame it even if I tried, but I respect that and it brings so much life to the people in my community that it's hard not to respect that. It's hard not to both fear and respect at the same time, and I can really appreciate communities that live in dangerous environments because they learn how to both respect and fear a thing.
Amanda: Yeah, and maybe it doesn't even come off as dangerous if that's like, "That's what it is. We live on the ocean. Our town gets flooded a lot. That's what it is." It's not something that occurs to us to think of as atypical until and if you travel outside of that.
Julia: Yeah, like hurricanes. Hurricanes are a big thing where we live.
Amanda: We're like, "Yeah. No. Tape the windows. Get some gas. Get some water. Hang out. It's fine."
Julia: Yeah. Creating a figure that is supernatural, that is bigger than you, that is beyond human is something that's really beautiful to me, especially with something that is so powerful. But also, again, that's the cool thing about mythology is we're giving it this anthropomorphized nature to it. It's fiery, but it's also like it gives, like loving. Pele gives. She loves things. She wants to create a home in the story that we're telling, and it's absolutely beautiful that we can see both. I love duality, as you know, and I know you love duality as well, but something that gives and takes away. Something that can destroy and also build is really, really important to just understanding human beings in general.
Amanda: Yeah, and something I love about the geographical mythology in particular is that it really just invites you and almost mandates you to pay attention and to look closer to home. And maybe not everybody has the same instinct I did growing up, which was to really look as far as I could afield, and get a sense of what was around me, and wanting to travel, and wanting to learn, and wanting to read about lives that are different than mine, which I also love.
But it was only with age, and maturity and learning more about my hometown that I was able to say, "Huh. You know, there's actually really fascinating stuff right here." And mythology that is about the ground you walk on, and the materials that your house is built out of, and whatever else, the words that you say every single day to describe mundane things, that is just really like an invitation to look at little closer that I've really come to appreciate.
Julia: Yeah. I want to talk about the fact that one of her titles is earth-eating woman, and we talked about this a lot with the Kali episode where a woman who is able to consume, but is not thought negatively of, but rather is respected for her power. And I want to touch upon that again because I think that's a really important thing that we don't always see in a lot of stories.
Amanda: Yeah, and she is a literal homemaker. You know?
Amanda: She is the one tilling the earth and getting their house ready and even though there are, obviously, lots of ways in which domestic labor is coded as female, the idea of a house that I put together brick by brick or shingle by shingle, doing it all myself, I love that image of a woman doing that.
Julia: Right, and it's a very Western thing to code that as male, like a man builds a house for his wife with the sweat of his brow and his own blood and stuff.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah.
Julia: But the idea that she is like, "Yo." First off, she is a goddess. This guy is a mortal, and she's like, "I like this guy so much I'm going to go build him a house. I'm going to go travel across a bunch of islands and find the perfect place for us to settle down." And I love that. Just the idea of passion and consuming something just fiery within her is instinctual for her, but also something has ignited it, and the fact that it's that passion that makes her want to create something is absolutely ... It's very sweet when you think of the story like that. Even if they don't end up together, it is very sweet.
Amanda: It's not some Jane Austen-ish where people are just sitting in the sitting room doing their needlepoint and yearning, which is-
Julia: That's a sick Jane Austen burn.
Amanda: Also very relatable. Don't get me wrong. Also what was societally permitted at the time. Don't get me wrong, but there's a lot of quiet despair in Jane Eyre in a way that, again, I love. I really do in lots of ways, but this is kind of cooler, which is like, "I like you. I'm going to build you a house." It's just, it's great, and I like someone that much. I totally get it.
Julia: Yeah, no. I've totally had those moments where I just, "I love you so much I'm going to make you something so cool." You're mad about how much you like this person.
Amanda: Yeah, "Let me assemble you an elaborate charcuterie plate."
Julia: "I'm going to build you that Ikea furniture."
Amanda: It's so sweet, and there is something really romantic and domestic about making a home for someone or together with someone. It's, again, one of those little moments that's like, "Oh, man. Human beings have been human beings forever. Stories have been relatable forever." And to ascribe to the god a sort of passion that might be outsized, but it's still a really relatable and human-feeling passion. That's something that makes human beings divine, and that makes passion divine, and even impulsive passion, and passion that might be a little bit ill-advised, or a little bit dangerous, or led to some consequences. This story might not be permitting it, but it's still explaining it and making people who do experience that level of longing, or passion or freneticism a little bit less alone.
Julia: Yeah, and I think that's what I want to leave our listeners with this week. I hope that our listeners can find something that they feel that strong a passion about, whether it's for a person, whether it's for a project, whether it's for just like, "I want to make a really good meal this week." Whatever you have passion for, I hope you find it and I hope that Pele adds that little spark of fire in your soul.
Amanda: Yeah. Go be land-eaters.
Julia: Absolutely. Go be land-eaters. Eat that earth, and remember to stay creepy.
Amanda: Stay cool.