This fabled being, according to Emerson, in a paper on “The Lesser Hawaiian Gods,” “could at times assume the appearance of a handsome young woman, as when Kamapauaa, to his cost, was smitten with her charms when first he saw her with her sisters at Kilauea.” Kamapauaa was a gigantic hog, who “could appear as a handsome young man, a hog, a fish or a tree.” “At other times the innate character of the fury showed itself, and Pele appeared in her usual form as an ugly and hateful old hag, with tattered and fire-burnt garments, scarcely concealing the filth and nakedness of her person. Her bloodshot eyes and fiendish countenance paralyzed the beholder, and her touch turned him to stone. She was a jealous and vindictive monster, delighting in cruelty, and at the slightest provocation overwhelming the unoffending victims of her rage in widespread ruin.”
The superstition regarding the Goddess Pele was thought to have received a death blow in 1825, when Kapiolani, an Hawaiian princess and a Christian convert, ascended, with numerous attendants, to the crater of Kilauea, where she publicly defied the power and wrath of the goddess. No response came to her defiance, she descended in safety, and faith in Pele’s power was widely shaken.
Yet as late as 1887 the old superstition revived and claimed an exalted victim, for in that year the Princess Like Like, the youngest sister of the king, starved herself to death to appease the anger of the Goddess Pele, supposed to be manifested in Mauna Loa’s eruption of that year, and to be quieted only by the sacrifice of a victim of royal blood. Thus slowly do the old superstitions die away.
Popocatapetl and Other Volcanoes of Mexico and Central America.
Mexico is very largely a vast table-land, rising through much of its extent to an elevation of from 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea-level, and bounded east and west by wide strips of torrid lowlands adjoining the oceans. It is crossed at about 19 degrees north latitude by a range of volcanic mountains, running in almost a straight line east and west, upon which are several extinct volcanic cones, and five active or quiescent volcanoes. The highest of these is Popocatapetl, south of the city of Mexico and nearly midway between the Atlantic and Pacific.
East of this mountain lies Orizabo, little below it in height, and San Martin or Tuxtla, 9,700 feet high, on the coast south of Vera Cruz. West of it is Jorullo, 4,000 feet, and Colima, 12,800, near the Pacific coast. The volcanic energy continues southward toward the Isthmus, but decreases north of this volcanic range. These mountains have shown little signs of activity in recent times. Popocatapetl emits smoke, but there is no record of an eruption since 1540. Orizabo has been quiet since 1566. Tuxtla had a violent eruption in 1793, but since then has remained quiescent. Colima is the only one now active. For ten years past it has been emitting ashes and smoke. The most remarkable of these volcanoes is Jorullo, which closely resembled Monte Nuovo, described in Chapter XIII., in its mode of origin.