The Goddess Pele, known as “She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land” in ancient Hawaiian chants, was thought to be passionate, volatile, and capricious. In modern times, Pele is the most visible of all the old gods and goddesses. She is believed to dwell in the craters of the Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano, where she has been sending ribbons of fiery lava down the mountainside almost continuously since 1983.
The islands of Hawaii visible to the eye are just a fraction of what exists beneath the ocean. Each island exists as a result of volcanic eruptions and Hawaii is made up entirely of volcanic rock. The island chain is riddled with active volcanoes, and one of the most active in the world, is Kilauea located on the Big Island. This volcano has been in a constant state of eruption since 1983, and is often studied by scientists and researchers.
On the Big Island, Mauna Loa takes up more than half of the island surface and this volcano. Rising more than 13,000 feet above sea level, is one of the tallest mountains in the world. The (inactive) volcano of Mauna Kea rises almost 14,000 feet above sea level and also stretches about 15,000 feet below sea level. One of the unique features of this volcano is the glacial deposits, which are thousands of years old.
The oldest volcano on dry land is Kohala, which is almost a million years old. This volcano rose up more than 500,000 years ago, and is over 5,000 feet above sea level. The youngest volcano in the Hawaiian chain is Lo’ihi, which is a baby at around 400,000 years old. Lo’ihi is an active volcano with its last eruption happening in 1996.
There are two volcanoes located in Maui. These are the West and East Maui volcanoes. The West Maui volcano is around a million and a half years old and hasn’t erupted for more than one million years. The East Maui volcano is the third largest of the Hawaiian volcanoes and has erupted more than ten times in the last 10,000 years. The last time it happened was in 1790.
During our retreat this year to Hawaii we will certainly not be missing this incredible opportunity to visit Pele. We are going to do a traditional Hawaiian healing ceremony during the night of the full moon. We do this with Ehulani Stephany, a Kumu Hula (teacher of hula), and a Ali’i Kahuna Nui (high priestess). She has been teaching hula since 1991, and was blessed to have studied under 14 different kumu hula, and numerous Hawaiian practitioners. We will spend the day around the volcano visiting a number of sacred points around the volcano. Participants often are able to see the lava displays during the day and night-time ceremonies. It is a powerful experience to stand in the presence of Pele, the fire Goddess. Of course, there is only one way to find out!