Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pele, or She Who Shapes The Sacred Land, is the Hawaiian Goddess of fire, lightning and volcanoes. Though she is believed to reside in the Halema'uma'u crater of Kilauea, her sphere of influence includes all volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaii, and she is fiercely protective of her island home.

Pele is the daughter of the female spirit Haumea, a direct descendant of Earth Mother and Wakea, Sky Father. According to legend, Pele fled Tahiti by canoe, pursued by her enraged sister Na-maka-o-kaha'i, Goddess of the sea, after seducing Na-maka-o-kaha'i's husband. Each time Pele tried to dig a home in the earth, Na-maka-o-kaha'i would flood her fires. Pele first landed on Kaua'i, then down the chain of Hawaiian islands in order of their geological formation until eventually she made her home on Mauna Loa, a mountain too tall for Na-maka-o-kaha'i's waves.

Pele is believed to be passionate, impulsive and explosive, particularly when jealous or betrayed. A shape-shifter, Pele has appeared as a beautiful young woman to seduce mortal chiefs, then burned them into distorted rock statues, trapped eternally in the lava fields when she tired of them. Her face has mysteriously appeared in photographs of fiery eruptions, and she has appeared as a weak old woman, begging for food, drink or a ride. Those who offer her assistance are rewarded; those who deny her are punished. It is said that any tourist who takes lava rocks or volcanic ash off the island will be cursed with bad luck.

The Pele Defense Fund (PDF) is a grass-roots organization created in the 1980's to protect Hawaiian land and native Hawaiian gathering rights, specifically in Wao Kele O Puna, the largest remaining lowland rainforest just 15 miles south of Hilo along the east rift zone of Kilauea. Large sections of Wao Kele O Puna were scheduled to be bulldozed as part of a $4 billion federally-funded geothermal energy development, an alternative energy method which derives power by tapping a live volcano and harnessing heat from the earth's interior. The Puna project intended to dig over 200 wells and build 5 power plants, clearing miles of forest land for roads, pipelines and cooling towers.

At 27,785 acres, the trees and plants of Wao Kele O Puna act as a natural filter for volcanic gases, assisting with regeneration after lava flows burn through. The forest abounds with medicinal plants, as well as maile and ohi'a lehua used by hula halau's. Approximately 95% of the plants, birds and insects of Wao Kele O
Puna cannot be found anywhere else on earth, and scientists continue to learn from its ecosystem.

After two decades of fighting to preserve the land, the Hawaii State Supreme Court in 2006 ruled in favor of the PDF. The Trust for Public Land purchased Wao Kele O Puna in 2007, then transferred title to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife is now entrusted to manage and care for the land, and the State Legislature allocated $2 million in 2009 to fill the two existing geothermal wells with sand and concrete.

On January 3, 1983, soon after the east rift zone of Mauna Loa was being tapped for the first geothermal wells, Pele exploded! The eruption flooded more than 10,000 acres of the original dig site and has continued for more than 20 years, destroying hundreds of man-built structures and creating over 70 acres of land along the southeastern coastline. Most people who live here in Hawaii, regardless of their religious beliefs and practices, speak respectfully of Pele and her awe-inspiring power. She continues to remind us all that we are caregivers of the island and its resources. We here at Holualoa Inn work together to care for our home and to enhance our land. So as you plan your romantic Hawaiian vacation, explore all the adventure the Big Island has to offer, your Holualoa Inn ohana will be here to remind you - don't take any lava rocks home lest you incur Pele's wrath.

Innkeeper Holualoa Inn

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