|| Design Inspiration || The Goddess Project, April 2015

Meet Pele

This month, my research about Pele (the Hawaiian Fire Goddess) moved me to create a shareable/printable poster instead of a website theme.

(Click on the image below to view it in full, or right click to download it).

Not What I Expected

At first glance, the poster above is not what you'd immediately expect when you think of Pele, the goddess who commands Hawaii's volcanoes. 

In actuality, I spent a large part of the month resisting researching Pele. Why? Because I was afraid of disrespecting my friends and contacts who were Native Hawaiian. (I'd started to feel this resistance when studying the Inuit goddess, Sedna, too.)

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I approached my research with caution. Now, I'm SO glad I started learning about her.

Real-Time Passion, Danger, and Activism

I looked beyond my Goddess Oracle deck, and came across this incredible story that illustrates Pele's power in real-time, in present-day Hawaii.

Last summer Mt. Kilauea erupted, sending fiery lava down the eastern slope and threatening residential infrastructure.

Communities along the eastern slope have held town hall-like meetings throughout the year, but one in particular stood out in the news.

In October, the community of Pahoa, HI met to discuss the lava threat. (You can watch a video about the meeting here.) It begins with a few concerned citizens asking the municipal leaders to PLEASE divert the lava flow to protect their property. The city/state leaders say they WILL NOT attempt to divert the flow because it's too risky. Some people are not happy with this.

"An Important Guest is Coming"

Eventually, a Native Hawaiian woman comes up to the mic and begins to explain why everyone who lives on the Big Island should "simply...let it flow."

"To Native Hawaiians," she says, "Pele is our kupuna – she's our ancestor. So, you wonder where all the Native Hawaiians are? Some of us are here [she indicates the meeting] but some of us are home preparing for an important guest. That's what we do when an important guest is coming."

It's all well and good, she says, for us to have bought our land and our property here, but "the Native Hawaiian viewpoint is this: we will NEVER own our land. This is Pele's home and to come in and say "Pele, you go here" in HER house is hewa." (Translation: wrong).

To the people who were afraid that the lava would burn their houses down she said, "If you respect enough, she will go around."

Pele is Alive

I was so moved by this story. Moved because the goddess is really alive in modern day Hawaii. Moved because her declaration, "We will never own our land," jolted me into a renewed passion for taking even better care of the earth. Moved because her speech made me want to BE her: impassioned, unapologetic, and rock solid in what I stand for.

We Are Merely Guests

And so I created the Pele-inspired poster to remind me that we are merely guests on this floating rock of earth.


The quote evokes reverence for our natural surroundings: "We've forgotten how to be good guests – to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do" (Barbara Ward)


The colors reflect Pele and Hawaii's energy: the serene blue of the Pacific Ocean, the lush green of the flora, the deep volcanic grey-brown, and the pulsing red of Pele's fire and royalty.

Image Style

I picked a retro illustration style that made the poster feel nostalgic for simpler days: The days we as humans knew how to walk lightly and be good guests. FREE DESIGN RESOURCE: These particular images came from The British Library's free-to-use Flickr stream. They have thousands of public domain images for you to download and use. (Make sure to double check the copyright information to the bottom right of each picture).