• USGS_Fissure 8_June 7 2018
  • USGS_Kapoho_June 3 2018_2
  • lava leilani

Living with Tūtū Pele

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Kīlauea, the home of Pele

Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, is the home of deity Pelehonuamea, who resides in Halema‘uma‘u crater. Pele represents magma or lava, and can be seen as both a creative and destructive force. Through kānāwai, or natural laws, of Pele, we can see how Native Hawaiians adapted to her presence and this ever-changing environment. 

Kānāwai (Natural Laws) of Pele

"The kānāwai sets the foundation for the idea of "kapu," or sacred. Sacred, or kapu, is sometimes benevolent, beautiful, beneficial and touchable. Sacred, or kapu, sometimes exists outside of the realm of living organisms, [and] it [can be] dangerous, untouchable, chaotic, and uncontrollable." 

Ke Kua ‘ā Kānāwai – A law of hot rock

"This law communicates that if there is even a hint of sulfur in the air or the presence of steam coming out of the ground, the land is hot. There is a 100-percent chance this land will erupt. Don't build a subdivision on the slope to the ocean because the subdivision will be very temporary. So the 'kua ‘ā kānāwai' warns that the ground is still volcanically active. It is not just a warning; it is a law of nature."

Kalapana home

He Kai‘okia Kānāwai – A sea-separating edict

"This is an interesting kānāwai, because you can use that particular kānāwai anywhere. It is the sea-separating edict, but it really has to do with boundaries. You can use it for something mundane as your wife or your husband. If I were to use it, I would place a kai‘okia on someone I loved. This means that this is my property, [and] no one will touch [it] without notification. Kai‘okia in a relationship, for Pele, cuts a path to the ocean in which direction her footprints travel."

Kapoho (smaller) 

Kīho‘iho‘i Kānāwai – A law of quick restoration

"After inundation by an eruption, quick restoration is immediate, that is, as soon as the heat of the land begins to fade, things will begin to grow again, beginning with lichen, ferns [and] ‘ōhi‘a trees. Then a forest takes life on the new land, and a green mantle will cover the land to begin the cycles of life again."

- Pualani Kanahele -
 "Conversations with Pelehonuamea: A Workshop Combining 1,000-plus Years of Traditional Hawaiian Knowledge with 200 Years of Scientific Thought on Kīlauea Volcanism"