Introduction to the Element of Fire, and the Gods Ku and Pele
Several days ago we talked about the air element. Now that we are on the Big Island of Hawai’i, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk about fire. Why? Because this island is the site of one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, and volcanic activity is a wonderful example of the qualities of fire.
Fire is one of the major forces in the Universe, and as such it has a powerful influence on our spirits, our energies, and our physical bodies. Fire connects us to spirit – it provides that spark of divinity to inspire our thoughts and actions. Its force can be destructive yet also creative – while destroying the old, it creates the opportunity for rebirth and renewal. This is exemplified by the lava that spews forth from deep within the earth, blasting away all that is in its path, while at the same time creating new earth and the potential for new beginnings.
This process occurs over and over in our lives and is reflected in the circle of life that nature surrounds us with. Fire burns, and it heals. Fire illuminates, yet it can be blinding. Fire provides momentum, yet it can stop you in your tracks because it sets firm boundaries. Fire sparks the workings of the body systems – the beating of the heart, the reactions of the nervous system, the purification process of the liver. Without it we are lifeless, and lost in the dark. Within the teachings of our Hawaiian lineage, you can learn how to connect with fire as a source of inspiration and healing.
Ki’i (image) of the God Ku
Fire is associated with the Hawaiian God named Ku. Ku offers the energy of the protector and the provider. He represents the upright growth of plants and trees, of fertility, of the rising sun.
Ku represents the awesome complexities of life, both its negative and positive aspects. He stands for that which is upright and erect. He is the ‘ihe (spear), the god of war who takes life, and the ‘o’o (digging stick), who brings forth life from the earth. (credit to Bishop Museum)
Fire is also the element of Pele, goddess of the volcano. Pele is a wrathful goddess in her destructive energy. And she is most loving and benevolent in her warmth, her beauty, and her ability to create. It is said that after many journeys, Pele has taken up residence within Halema’uma’u, the crater at the top of the volcano. The Hawaiian people often honor Pele at the volcano with (kahea) ritual, (oli) chant, and (hula) dance.
We’ve had our own encounters with Pele under the care of our Kumu Kaleolani. Each has been a different experience reflecting our state of being at the time. One doesn’t approach Pele unprepared and without protocol, for she is demanding. We stand just at the edge of the vast outer crater, within a timelessness comprised of the empty energy of the open space, the constantly moving and changing plume of smoke, sulphur and ash, the sounds of various winds and the cries of far-away birds. We share an offering of berries and awa, and we say what we came there to say. If we are observant and deserving, Pele will answer with her shapes, her colors, and other elemental constructions. One approaches with an anxious anticipation, and leaves with a quickening of spirit that wasn’t there before (and these are also qualities of fire).
O kukulu ka pahu a ka leo hokiki kanawai
He Kua’a, he Kai’okia, he ala muku
Lash the drum of her whose voice severs all law
She is the one, whose back is burning,
She is the one who defines ocean boundaries
She is the path toward the release from human limitations.
(Apologies for not having the necessary Hawaiian fonts to accurately punctuate Hawaiian words.)
~ Ha’awi and Pono