After volcanic eruption, some Hawaiians wondering if destruction's the work of Pele, goddess of fire

Residents near the lava zone on Hawaii’s Big Island having been leaving Ti leaves and flowers in front of their homes and near the cracks on the ground as an offering to the fiery volcano goddess Pele in hopes she will spare them from destruction. 

“Scientists and experts have tried to predict what’s going to happen but they’ve been wrong,” resident Shannon Malina told Fox News Tuesday. “We are in (Pele’s) hands now. She’s coming back.”

Malina, who has been living in a Red Cross shelter in Pahoa, was forced to evacuate her home four days ago because of a volcanic eruption spewing bubbling lava and swallowing up residential neighborhoods. 

She believes it’s the work of Pele, who is coming back to right the wrongs of humanity. And she’s not alone. 

Several people on the island in recent days told Fox News they believe the volcanic instability rocking the Big Island is a warning from Pele. 

“Pele the goddess and the Pele the lava are one in the same,” UH Manoa Hawaii language professor Kaliko Baker told KHON2.”It’s important to know that Pele is as natural to us, Hawaiians, the aboriginals of this island, as the wind that blows, as the ocean that crashes on the shores, as the lava that flows out of the volcano. It’s our norm and when Pele comes we just move because she’s got the right of way.”

Even as she wept over the destruction, resident Linda Jones told Fox News, “Madame Pele: I have love and respect.”

So just who is this all-powerful Pele? It depends on who you ask. 

Pelehonuamea, or Pele as she is more commonly known, is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanos.

Passionate and moody, legend has it that she lives at the summit on Kilauea. 

Depending on which version of the story is told, Pele spent her most of her life locked in fierce feuds with family members and was prone to epic jealous outbursts that usually ended with her burning down everything in her path. 

In one narrative, Pele’s father exiled her to Hawaii because of her fiery temper. She fought with her elder sister, the water goddess, and went so far as to seduce her sister’s husband. Pele’s brother, the king of sharks, pitied Pele so he built her a canoe so she could escape and finally bring an end to the bickering between the two sisters. 

In another version, Pele wanted to travel so she borrowed a canoe and came to the islands with her siblings in search of a fire pit to call home. 

She landed in Lehua, a small crescent-shaped island north of Kauai, but it fell short of her expectations. She went down the chain of Hawaiian islands, testing out Oahu, Molokai and Maui before settling on the summit of Kileua.  

One day, Pele hears the sounds from a hula festival. She follows the drumbeat and finds a handsome chief named Lohiau.

After spending several days and nights together, Pele tells him she has to go but promises to come back for him. She doesn’t. 

Instead, she recruits her youngest sister, Hi`aka. 

Hi`aka agrees but only if Pele promises to guard her beloved forest of Lehua trees and keep her friend Hopoe safe. 

But patience isn’t a virtue for Pele, so when her sister doesn’t return fast enough, Pele burns down the forest and kills Hopoe. 

When Hi`aka finally returns with Lohiau and sees what her older sister has done, she decides it’s payback time and gives into Lohiau’s romantic advances.

In a fit of jealous rage, Pele sets fire to her lover and turns his body into a pillar of rock. 

Then she turns her wrath on her sister. 

“No one said Pele was nice,” Malina says with a little laugh. “But she’ll protect her children, I know she will.” 

The legend of Pele has mystified and terrified residents and visitors for many years. 

According to Hawaiian folklore, anyone who takes a piece of rock, sand, soil or flower from what is now the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, will have to face Pele’s anger. 

There have been thousands of cases of people pocketing “souvenirs” only to return them to the island after falling victim to horrible bouts of bad luck.

Malina believes they deserve it. 

“They are stealing from Pele,” she said. “What did they think was going to happen?”