H. Arlo Nimmo

Cultural anthropologist

Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai´i. A History

Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai´i. A History. 2011. Jefferson and London: McFarland & Company, Inc. 

Pele Volcano Goddess of Hawaii. A HistoryThis book is a biography of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele and a history of her religion. It is intended for the general reader but H. Arlo Nimmo has cited his sources for those who wish to pursue further investigation. The book is based on the English-language literature about Pele, including translations from Hawaiian and European languages. The first three chapters discuss the traditional literature and religion of Pele. Subsequent chapters discuss the ongoing belief in Pele in post-contact Hawai´i, including her manifestations, her ceremonies, her new roles, her alleged “curse” and her current religion. Appendices include “Siblings of Pele,” “Places in the Hawaiian Islands Visited by Pele” and “Epithets for Pele.”

ISBN: 9780786463473, 239 pages, 19 photos, 3 maps, 3 appendices, bibliography, index.

The following reviews were written for LibraryThing: Early Reviewers. (www.librarything.com)

For fans of Hawaii, anthropology and mythology, this book is a jewel of information. . . . H. Arlo Nimmo’s thoroughly researched book offers fare for both the casual reader and the anthropologist. . . For those of us without a scholarly bent, it is a fascinating read. . . I definitely recommend this book!  Nulla (Feb 19, 2012)

A well-researched and enjoyable survey of beliefs and practices concerning the goddess Pele. The author begins with a good discussion of the traditional mythologies and religion of the islands, and proceeds through early-contact accounts, to 20th-century attitudes . . .  I found the concluding chapter on Madame Pele’s new cultural roles, and the resurgence of indigenous religion both interesting and heartening.  Rowntree (Jan 30, 2012)

This is an interesting book on several levels. It is anthropology of Pele worship in Hawai’i. It is a biography of the goddess Pele, with a family tree and history of their travels over the Pacific Ocean. . . An interesting and well documented read, and I do recommend this for all personal and library collections of Hawai’i and Pacific Island cultures.  hadden (Jan 30, 2012)

WOW! I just finished reading the book . . . and am more than impressed . . . Customs as diverse as not bragging and sexuality are explained by the myths . . . Other cultural norms, such as the unviability of promises, the importance of chants and hula dance, and the injunction not to be lazy or arrogant are explained in the mythology . . . The second half of the book is weaker, being mainly bibliographic notations of Pele sightings, writings and art about Pele and the commercialization of the religion . . .  the writing is concrete and clear.  Bidwell-Glaze (Dec 31, 2012)

Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai’i: A History is overall a wonderful resource for those interested in or studying less mainstream mythologies. . . . However, I found that it took quite some effort to get through the first half of the book. Though well researched, it sometimes felt as if every single sentence was accompanied by a citation . . . That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of Nimmo’s monograph. Here were the much more human stories–urban legends about Pele as a “vanishing hitchhiker,” tales of environmental protests to protect the deified land, and accounts of how the Pele religion has been woven throughout Hawaiian culture, up to contemporary times. thedharmabum51 (Feb 19, 2012)

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