Fire Goddess Pele and the Missionaries


“Had Vulcan employed ten thousand giant Cyclops, each with a steam engine of one thousand horse-power, blowing anthracite coal for smelting mountain minerals, or heaving up and hammering to pieces rocks and hills, their united efforts would but begin to compare with the work of Pele here.”

“Though our mission had now been in the islands nearly four years, yet some of the people of Puna and Hilo were as much afraid of the palapala, as they had been of Pele. Some retained their superstitious regard to the volcanic deities.”

“Some, in their self-complacency, questioned or doubted whether any benefit equal to the trouble, could be obtained by attention to missionary instruction.” (Hiram Bingham)

“Tho’ we do not dispair of benefiting the adults, many of whom are susceptible of religious and moral impressions, & some of whom we hope have already been brought into the kingdom of our Lord, yet generally speaking …”

“… this class of persons are so inveterately addicted to their ancient customs, and so deeply immersed in low and vicious habits, that it is to the rising generation we principally look for the subjects of the transforming grace of God.” (Thurston & Bishop, 1825)

“So far from renouncing their belief in the former Gods of Hawai‘i, it is supposed that more than two thirds adhere to them in some measure, and sacrifice unto them in private.”

“This is more especially the case in the remote parts of the island, where Pele, the god of Volcanoes, has a great number of votaries. Such in brief is the present condition of this people among whom we dwell.” (Thurston & Bishop, 1825)

“Many of the natives still believe that a deity exists in the volcano by the name of Pele. Some tried to dissuade Kapiʻolani from going up to the volcano. They told her that Pele would kill her & eat her up if she went there. She replied that she would go, & if Pele killed & ate her up, they might continue to worship Pele; but if not, i.e., if she returned unhurt, then they must turn to the worship of the true God.”

“Nothing very material occurred during the remainder of the way, except that at every place where they encamped for the night, Kapiʻolani’s first request would be to unite in prayer, to express her gratitude to the Most High for his loving kindness to her through the day. (Goodrich & Ruggles, 1825)

“Taking my field as a whole it has not differed much the past year in its general characteristics from previous years. Perhaps the long spell of warm & pleasant weather may be an exception. For this some believe, right or wrong, we are indebted to Madame Pele who has been most lavish even to prodigality of her warming & burning influences.” (Lyons, 1857)