Described as "She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land" in ancient Hawaiian chants, the volcano goddess, Pele, was passionate, volatile, and capricious. In modern times, Pele has become the most visible of all the old gods and goddesses. Dwelling in the craters of the Big Island's Kilauea Volcano, she has been sending ribbons of fiery lava down the mountainside and adding new land around the southeastern shore almost continuously since 1983.
Pele was born of the female spirit Haumea, or Hina, who, like all other important Hawai'i gods and goddesses, descended from the supreme beings, Papa, or Earth Mother, and Wakea, Sky Father. Pele was among the first voyagers to sail to Hawai'i, pursued, legends say, by her angry older sister, Na-maka-o-kaha'i because Pele had seduced her husband. Pele landed first on Kaua'i, but every time she thrust her o'o (digging stick) into the earth to dig a pit for her home, Na-maka-o-kaha'i, goddess of water and the sea, would flood the pits. Pele moved down the chain of islands in order of their geological formation, eventually landing on the Big Island's Mauna Loa, which is considered the tallest mountain on earth when measured from its base at the bottom of the ocean.