Myths and Legends of the Mauna Loa and Kilauea Volcanoes in Hawaii

Myths and Legends of the Mauna Loa and Kilauea Volcanoes in Hawaii
Spirituality is an important part of Hawaiian culture. There is also a wide range of myths and legends that families have passed down over the years. The two major volcanoes on the Big Island--Mauna Loa and Kilauea--are the source of many colorful stories. They're important to know so that visitors can avoid disrespecting local beliefs and even breaking related laws.

Pele, Goddess of Fire

The most famous legend in Hawaii relates to Pele, the goddess of fire. She is said to live in Kilauea, an active volcano that sits on the flank of the huge Mauna Loa volcano. Legend has it that she is agreeable enough if respected, but woe be to anyone who takes her rocks or otherwise disrespects her. Bad luck--and possibly fire and lava--will rain on that person until the rocks are returned.


Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park, home of both Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes, is also considered to be part of Pele's home turf. That means: Don't take any of her belongings or suffer the "curse" of Pele.


Sacred places in Hawaii are called heiaus and are often related to death, war and other aspects of the state's history. If you see lava rocks forming a circle around an area, don't disturb the area and don't step over the rocks (you could be disturbing some visiting spirit). The penalty for disturbing these sites is $10,000.

Ohia Lehua Trees

Legend says that Pele's sister, Hiiaka, goddess of lightning and overseer of the sacred Ohia Lehua tree, became romantically involved with Pele's lover, Lohiau. A furious Pele destroyed the beloved trees. Today, lava flow continues to kill the red-blossomed trees, which are found at altitudes between 1,000 and 9,000 feet. Not only should you avoid Pele's wrath by leaving the trees alone, but you can also avoid a fine. The trees are protected under state law.


Every Hawaiian island has its own haunted places. On the Big Island in Volcanoes National Park, ghosts are said to appear often in lava fields.


Article Written By Debbie Selinsky

Debbie Selinsky is an award-winning writer based in North Carolina. Selinsky is the former senior editor of "Success Magazine" and deputy director of the Duke University News Service. She has written about travel for many years and specializes in cruise travel, having sailed on more than 100 cruises. Selinsky attended North Greenville University, Oregon Institute of Technology and the Poynter Institute for Journalistic Excellence.

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