HAWAII ISLAND(KHON2) — Perhaps you’ve heard people refer to Madame Pele in relation to the eruption of Mauna Loa, but who is she and what significance does she have to our host culture? Two Hawaiian cultural practitioners from Hawaii Island explain.

To the Hawaiian people, Pele is the goddess of the volcano, she is the molten lava according to Kumu Leialoha Ilae-Kaleimamahu.

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“The story of Pele just speaks to the creation of our lands really when we look at it,” she explained.

Those stories passed down for generations in chants and song

“And they speak in rhyme. And they speak that way because they needed to be remembered.”

Hawaiians respect her power, but she’s not viewed negatively according to Hawaiian cultural practitioner Kalei Nuuhiwa.

“We don’t think of her as an entity that destroys or that is angry,” Nuuhiwa said.

She said Pele is a positive force that helps bring forth new life

“It creates new earth, new worlds, new lands for us, new possibilities, cleans out whatever needs to be taken out, in terms of maybe invasive species in the forest or those kinds of things, explained Nuuhiwa.

And Pele’s been very active from the 2018 eruption of Kilauea to Monday’s eruption of Mauna Loa at Moku aweoweo.

“It’s an exciting time,” Nuuhiwa said. “We’re all awestruck. And Pele belongs to all of us in Hawaii because each island has a story about her. And so she just reminds us, once again, of our mortality, and then again of the connection to those who have passed.”

Nuuhiwa said Madame Pele is also a reminder of the connection the Hawaiian people have both with the environment and their ancestors.

“Because they experienced the same things too,” she explained.

And Ilae-Kaleimamahu said it’s important for everyone to heed the kapu (rules) and kanawai (laws) for their own safety when trying to glimpse Pele in all her glory.

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“Trust and believe that there is a greater force at work,” explained Ilae-Kaleimamahu. “And maybe sometimes the best way to do it is through the lens of seeing pictures from afar. Getting too close may not be in your best interest. So I would say keep to the kanawai and the kapu, which is when Pele is in residence, try not to be in the same space.”