Recently I went to Hawaiʻi (Big Island) to study ancient Polynesian religion. Little did I know how alive and widespread I would find it (at least some aspects of it)!
|Popular artistic depiction of goddess Pele.|
Don’t frown or scoff at them. We do similar things right here on the US South and East Coasts. We also talk about Sandy, Katrina, Andrew... we give them names, we talk about their personalities, and these are ephemeral, albeit powerful tropical cyclones. People in Hawaiʻi live with their volcanos day in and day out and have been doing so for centuries and millennia.
I heard Hawaiʻians as well as immigrants talking about their volcano goddess more often and with greater passion this time because of the imminent danger of a lava flow burning its way through a local town. It opened for me some interesting insights into the origins of human religiosity, but it also highlighted deep and often neglected aspects of our own Judeo-Christian faith, spirituality, and social and environmental activism. This Sunday we will again listen to Volcanic Yahwism; flowing lava will illuminate for us the nature of the Ardent (Burning) Love of our God.
|A lava flow burns its way through an orchard in Pāhoa|
(source: USGA, Hawaii Volcano Observatory)