I've always found Hawaii's syncretism fascinating, that flexibility of imagination and belief that allows its faith practitioners to occupy several cosmos at once. Growing up, it was common to hear an old timer in church speak to the power of Christian faith by relating a story in which the ancient forces could be persuaded through Christian prayer: the drumming of the Night Marchers had been silenced on a camping trip in Waipio Valley only after the invocation of the Lord's name; footsteps from behind while alone in the lava fields on the Apua Point trail ceased after silent bargaining to live a more Christian life.

As the 1990 Kalapana lava flow approached the Star of the Sea Painted Church, members expressed their faith that Madam Pele could be persuaded to change course. They acknowledged that the lives they'd built in Kalapana over the generations had been possible only at the discretion of the ancient goddess. And it was at her discretion that they would remain there.