While the volcano in Iceland was creating havoc for travelers and the airlines in Europe and beyond, I gained a new understanding of how the earth is continually being renewed and ‘growing’ through this same type of chaos and destruction.
Thanks to Keane Akao, our host for Disciples’ Journey 2010 in the Diocese of Hawai’i, I joined several Christian formation colleagues in observing a native practitioner offer prayers and gifts to Pele at the edge of the Kilauea crater on O’ahu. We stood in silence as he draped himself with a red cloth and white cloth and began to chant. His movements and expressions sang to Pele, giving thanks and asking for discernment for those of us gathered. Kneeling, standing and reaching out to her, his hands and arms as well as voice told a story, even though the dialect was foreign to us. After tossing offerings, including poi in ti-leaves, he began to drum and chant. Softly and to a crescendo, many of us observed a bird flying in the crater. Others noticed the color of the volcano’s plume grow grayer and dark while expanding. Lastly, he crept, kneeling to the edge of the crater, leaning over the precipice to offer one last prayer. He slowly backed up on his knees, to join us as we walked away, having given our prayers to the goddess.
We had a chance to ask questions and learn more after we had a time for reflection. It was a sacred moment and one of those ‘thin places’ that one often describes when the holy is near. Some might say we participated in a pagan ceremony as observers. But it was one of majesty, understanding that there is something beyond us that is continually part of creation – not man made. We concluded by singing the doxology – 5 of us in English, and Keane and our guide in Hawaiian.
Later that day, we journeyed to the ocean, to see where the anger of Pele flows into the sea. Although it was
daytime and we couldn’t see the fire and flows, the black lava flows were warm to the touch and the crevasses were glowing orange. It was desolate and beautiful at the same time. Little wisps of fern were poking through the hard rock. The island is growing each day. With each lava flow and eruption, more land is made. The earth is being re-created continually.
Whatever culture we call our own, we are small in comparison to the forces of nature, the beauty of the earth, and the Spirit that broods over the waters and land of this island Earth, that we call home.