Author Archives: Marie Griffith

Nightmarchers – Hawaii

One of the most widespread ghost stories in Hawaii is the story of the Nightmarchers.  The story goes that all around the Islands of Hawaii, ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors still occupy the land.  They are most common around sacred places or old battle grounds, but no one really knows why they still march those lands.  If you were to ever be in the presence of the nightmarchers, you would hear loud beating drums, and they most often come out right before dawn.  You are never supposed to look at the nightmarchers, but instead either look away quickly, or get as far away from them as possible.  Because if they catch you looking at them or you interrupt their march, it could be deadly for you or loved ones.

 I was also told never to sleep with your feet facing the opening of a tent, or any door really, because ghosts and spirits can come and drag you out from where you are sleeping.  So still to this day I try not to sleep with my feet facing any openings, because that is apparently how ghosts take people from their rooms when they’re sleeping.

Tasia knows quite a few Hawaiian legends, but she said that her sister is much more tied to the land than she is.  They aren’t native Hawaiians, but living in Hawaii immerses you fairly wholly into Hawaiian culture (regardless of if you are a native).  I used to stay at the Royal Hawaiian when I was younger as an annual Thanksgiving vacation, and I remember always hearing that part of the hotel was haunted.  I can’t remember who exactly told me, but I just remember being told that there was a part of the hotel where customers claimed they saw and heard soldiers marching through the hotel.  I was never informed of the Nightmarcher tale, but now hearing this story I’m assuming the Nightwatchers were the source of the problem.

Raweno and the Owl – Mohawk/Iroquois

As a Child growing up in a small prairie community, we were constantly reminded of the “special ” relationship that the “Indian,” now native Americas , now aboriginal people’s, now First Nations, had with nature as manifest by the great spirit. As a child in a rural Canadian environment I  had developed my own personal relationship with nature and was always curious of how or what the native/Indian/aboriginal folklore and experience was different than my own.  I made it a point to educate myself on their heritage, and was fortunate enough to hear a folk creation story from a man of Mohawk/Iroquois descent.  The Mohawks used to occupy parts of Ontario, where I am from, so I was very exposed to their culture growing up.

The story of Raweno is a Mohawk creation story that a native of my small prairie community told me.  Raweno was the Great Spirit who created everything: all of the plants, all of the animals.  While molding the animals, Raweno would take requests from the animals so that he could create them as they desired.  The molding and decision process was supposed to be a private interaction between Raweno and the animal being molded, but the owl insisted on watching and giving his input.  Raweno told him to stop interfering, and to leave Raweno to his work.  But the owl continued to give Raweno suggestions, as well as making constant requests for Raweno to change his physical appearance as he saw a wider variety of creatures being created.  Raweno became very angry at the owl’s constant interferences, so he took the owl and shook him until his eyes went wide in fear. He then gave the owl a short neck so that the owl could not stretch his neck to watch things he shouldn’t watch.  He continued by giving the owl big ears to ensure that he can listen to what he is told, and gave him dull colored feathers solely because the owl wanted to be an extravagant bird. And finally, because Raweno worked primarily in the day, he made the owl nocturnal so that he could no longer disrupt Raweno’s work.

It wasn’t until I had you and your brother that I found the book Owl Eyes by Frieda Gates.  She made the story more kid friendly, although there wasn’t anything necessarily kid un-friendly in the original story, and I wanted to share this story I was fortunate enough to hear with you two.  I never told you or your brother that the story I read to you was a native American myth, but now that you are older, I am confident that you can appreciate the heritage of a culture I was surrounded with as a child.

It’s funny how different native creation stories vary from those of the more modern religions.  In Christianity, for example, creation stories are very human-oriented, while the creation stories for native cultures are very animal-oriented.  My father used to tell my brother and I this story from Frieda Gates Owl Eyes, but he would re-phrase it to make my brother and I to make us laugh, like saying Raweno like “Raweenie,” and giving the owl a very high pitched, annoying voice.  He used to tell us this story every night before we went to bed, and I didn’t realize until later that he changed the words, I was always so focused on the pictures (and I couldn’t read).  I actually miss hearing the story every night, as it was a really good bonding experience for me, my father, and my brother.  One of my fondest memories is sharing that moment with them every night.

Gates, Frieda. Owl Eyes. New York City: Harper Collins, 1994. Print.

Aswang – Philippines

My mom told me a story that my grandma told her, which was basically about one of our neighbors in the Philippines and how she is a shape shifter. 

In the Philippines we call these shape shifters aswang, and what happens is that the aswang actually eats young children.  And so in order to differentiate human beings from an aswang, because these shape shifters can be animals, they can be people, so you can’t tell.  The only way you can tell is through the reflection of a spoon, because when you look at your reflection in a spoon, your reflection is upside down, but for an aswang, if you were to show the aswang’s reflection it would be right side up. 

And so that’s what my mom would tell me about these creatures, and it really freaked me out when I was a little kid, because when I was in the Philippines I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t know who is who, and I could probably die right now.” I was so scared when I was younger. 

I asked my mom whether or not she was familiar with these kind of stories of the aswang, and surprisingly she said no. Where she is from, aswang refers more to monsters and werewolves and things of that nature.  It encompasses a lot of “mythical” beings, so I guess what the main “aswang creature” is really depends on where you’re from.  But the Filipinos do not see them as “mythical”; they consider the creatures real, and have no doubt in their mind that they exist.  That can be seen in this story, as Franceska’s mother and grandmother sincerely believed that their neighbor was a shape shifter.  So Franceska grew up believing she might be eaten at any moment by a shape shifter, and even said at one point contemplated carrying a spoon around with her.

Pele’s Curse – Hawaii

Growing up in Hawaii, I was told never to take any natural objects from the islands.  I’m not sure when I was first told that, I just remember always being told to leave everything where it was, and to make sure what belonged on the islands stayed on the islands.  I’m pretty sure tourists are told this legend, especially because when they want to bring back a cool souvenir from Hawaii they usually go for a lava rock or sand or something of that nature.

The legend goes that if you take a lava rock – I was also told not to take sand or Pele’s hair, a plant that grows on the islands – from Hawaii, Pele will curse you and you will experience bad luck until you return the rock to Hawaii.  Pele is the goddess of volcanoes, and is a very jealous and bitter goddess who holds grudges.   I’ve heard many stories of people who experience bad luck after taking a lava rock from the islands, and in order to break the curse and streak of bad luck they must personally take the rock back to Hawaii.  There are some companies that will take shipments and return the lava rocks for people, but according to the legend the person who took it has to return it themselves or else the curse will not be broken.

This legend taught me from a young age to respect Hawaii’s natural habitat, as well as nature everywhere.  People in Hawaii in general tend to have a lot of respect for nature, and I think this legend greatly contributes to that mindset.

Tasia knows quite a few Hawaiian legends, but she said that her sister is much more tied to the land than she is.  They aren’t native Hawaiians, but living in Hawaii immerses you fairly wholly into Hawaiian culture (regardless of if you are a native).  I go to Hawaii about 3 times a year, and have heard this legend before.  I too have known from a young age not to take anything from Hawaii’s habitat.  I have never experienced the curse as I have never taken anything from Hawaii, but when I used to go to the kids camps in the hotels, the people in charge would tell us stories of people who were cursed with very bad luck after stealing a lava rock from the island.  I too respect Hawaii’s natural habitat, probably even more so than the environment here, which is kind of sad.

How Bora Bora was Formed – Tahiti

So there is another Tahitian legend about how Bora Bora was formed, as well as the hole in the mountain of Moorea. 

One night there was a group of thieves who went to Bora Bora and tried to steal the island to take as their own.  They were pulling part of the island when Hiro realized what was going on, so he threw his lance all the way to Mo’orea to wake up the rooster and make him sing and scare off the thieves.  But as he threw his lance, he threw it across Mo’orea which made the whole in the top, which we now call Mouaputa.  He succeeded in waking up the rooster, who started singing, and scared the thieves away because they thought the sun was rising.  So they dropped the part of the island they were pulling and ran away, and that’s why there’s a piece of island called Toopua in the middle of the pass in Bora Bora and a hole in the mountain of Mo’orea.

Tam grew up in Tahiti, and her family has been there for many generations.  Her grandfather, the one who told her this story, was the primary storyteller in her family.  He spoke Tahitian, but Tam does not, so the Tahitian-language elements have been lost.  But according to Tam this was her favorite story, and her grandfather told her it quite often.

My best friend from high school, Montana, used to go to Bora Bora all the time with her family.  I vaguely remember her telling me a story similar to this one, but not exactly the same.  I believe that in her story, Hiro was the one trying to steal the island, and I don’t remember her saying anything about Mouaputa or Toopua.  I feel like hers was more tourist-y, and didn’t have the same amount of details Tam’s story had.  I feel like there is a disconnect between tourist versions of regional folktales and the versions told by the locals.


Pina and the Pineapple – Philippines

When I was a kid, my grandfather told me a story about pineapples, and in the Philippines we call pineapples “pinya.” And the story goes:
There was a mother and daughter living along the fields, whose names is Osang, the mother, and Pina, as the daughter, who is the only sibling.  Osang didn’t let Pina to do the chores when she was a kid, and ended up doing them by herself instead.  When people ask her “why don’t you let your daughter to do the chores? So she could learn!”  Osang insisted, “I”ll do it myself because she is still young.  I’d rather see her playing, and eating, and having fun.” But then time flew so fast and Osang got sick, weak.  So one time she asked Pina to do things for her, and Pina did, of course with complaints.  That one day her mother Osang wasn’t really able to get up and cook, so Pina went to the kitchen and supposed to cook, but then she couldn’t find a ladle. She screams, she yells, at her mother, that she couldn’t find the ladle. And her mom get annoyed and said, “I wish you have a lot of eyes to see whatever you are looking for.” And then Pina said, “You just love cursing me like that!” After that, a few days later, Osang recovered from her sickness and got up.  She did clean the backyard and noticed there’s a plant that grew while she was doing the gardening, which is the pineapple plant. And the fruit looks like it has a lot of eyes, and then she worried, “This must have been my daughter!  Because I remember how I wished that she had a lot of eyes.”  

And that told me the story that you should learn how to help, even when you are still young, still a kid.  You should be helping your parents, and have patience in looking for something.

Jennifer, who lives in the Philippines but plans to live here permanently, is very aware of her cultural duties in the Philippines.  The Filipino people are very big on respect for their elders, and the women are very aware of their duties as females of the house.  From an early age they learn to cook, clean, do all the chores while the men are working.  Jennifer is the perfect example of this, as she recognizes my grandmother as the “head” female of the family, and goes around doing chores for her without complaints.  She told me that this story, told to her from a young age, helped teach her how to embrace her role in society.  But, at the same time, even though the little girls in the Philippines are expected to help their mothers and learn how to run an household, there is a very big emphasis on having fun and playing outside.  Jennifer says that she never felt like she missed out on her childhood just because she was expected to help around the house.

When I went to Santo Domingo Ilocos Sur, the province my family is from, I got to witness this dynamic first hand.  Even though all the girls were younger than me, they were helping their mothers and grandmothers around the house whenever they weren’t dancing or playing in the streets.  It was a sharp contrast from what I was used to at home, because being from Orange County, the kids there, myself included, generally aren’t given those kind of duties.  But those kids were the happiest children I have ever seen in my life, despite their busy home lives.

The Rainbow Serpent – Australia

So I’m from Australia, and the Aboriginals have stories about how Australia was formed. And these creation myths are called the Dreamtime stories.  One of the most recognized Dreamtime stories is that of the rainbow serpent.

He was all that existed before people and animals, as in the Dreamtime the whole earth was asleep, and all living creatures were sleeping under the earth’s surface.  But one day the Rainbow Serpent woke up and made her way onto the earth’s surface.  The serpent essentially traveled across Australia and formed the creeks and rivers, he formed Ayers Rock, the bends and twists in our land, all of which resulted from the path his body took.  Now he’s dead, and the only place you see him is in the sky as a rainbow, as he is the Rainbow Serpernt.

There’s a lot of different versions of this story I think, but I learned this one when I was 8 from an Aboriginal man.  I just think it’s an interesting part of Australia’s culture and heritage.  The Aboriginal people are really rarely recognized and they’re the ones that inhabited this land before us so I think all of their culture should be recognized.

Although Jaime is not an Aboriginal, she has a great respect for the Aboriginal people and their culture.  This is the second creation story I’ve collected for this project, and I’ve noticed that both of the creation stories, both from indigenous people, are animal-centered.  We discussed how this is very common in native cultures, as much of their religions and beliefs stem from animals and their spirits.

Ram – India

There was a king, and he had 3 wives.  And he had promised one of the wives, the third wife, 2 promises.  And she wanted her son to become the next king.  But the next king in line was the son of the first wife and his name was Ram.  So the third wife, who had the 2 promises promised her came to the king and said, “I want my 2 promises.” And he says, “ okay what do you want?” and she says “I want you to send Ram, your oldest son, into the forest for 14 years.  And I want you to make my son the king.”  So the king did, and Ram agreed because he wanted to honor his father and stepmother, so he went.  He was married to a lady named Sita, and she went with him, along with his brother named Lakshmana, whose whole purpose was to be with and protect his brother.  So the 3 of them went to the forest to live for 14 years.  While they were in the forest, they made their own home, and I guess there was a lot of evil in the forest, and there were a lot of priests out there that were being hurt by the evil, so  Ram did everything he could to protect the priest and the holy people and protect them from the evil.  And there is a bad guy named Ravana, and when he heard that Ram was helping protect all the priests from the evil, he went into the forest and kidnapped Sita, Ram’s wife.  When Ram and Lakshmana came back from working out in the forest, they found that Sita, who usually stayed in the house, was gone.  They went out looking for Sita, but they could not find her, but instead found Hanuman, king of the apes, who was half human half monkey.  So Hanuman really loved Ram and what he was doing to protect the holy people, so he agreed to help Ram and Lakshmana.  Hanuman went and got an army of apes and went and found Raven.  Ravana had taken Sita to Sri Lanka, and Ram, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and the army of apes went into Sri Lanka and there was a huge battle.  They defeated Ravana, and at this point it was the end of the 14 years, so Ram took Sita and Lakshmana back to their village, and they all celebrated with lights.  And that’s why they celebrate Diwali in India every year, or the festival of lights.  It’s a huge deal in India, and that’s why the tradition was started: to celebrate Ram rescuing his wife and returning home.

This was one of the first stories my father ever told me, and I have always loved celebrating Diwali, so knowing the story behind it made the holiday that much more meaningful for me.  I’m not sure if this story can be found in the Gita, the Hindu holy book, but I think it might be in there.  But I’m not sure because I always heard the story from my father.

I know very little about the Hindu culture, so hearing this story made me feel a tad more knowledgeable.  I researched Diwali after hearing this story, and seeing the pictures of the candles and lights everywhere really makes me want to visit India during Diwali .. It’s a beautiful holiday.  I tried finding the story in the Gita, but I was not successful.  Dr. Supna said it was considered a religious story, since Ram was considered a reincarnation of Vishnu, but she wasn’t sure if it was actually party of the holy books.  But it is a very popular story in Inida, as Ram and Sita are a very well known pair, and their love is known to be unbelievably strong.  Being the helpless romantic I am, having characters be known for their devotion and love for each other makes me enjoy the story that much more.  How Sita insisted on living in the forest with Ram for 14 years instead of in the comfort of the castle, and the trials Ram went through to get his wife back.  That is definitely holiday worthy.

Urashima Taro – Japan

When my father was still in school, he went to the library and read a book about Urashima the fisherman. 
Urashima Taro was a Japanese fisherman, and it was a folklore legend that the Japanese all read and got in their storybooks.

Urashima was known in his village as a good man.  One day he saw a group of boys torturing a turtle, and saved the turtle from their cruelty.  A few days later when Urashima was fishing, the turtle came back and invited him to the Dragon Palace, which was a magical kingdom under the sea.  So Urashima hopped on the turtle’s back, and was taken to the underwater palace.  When he got there, the turtle transformed into a beautiful princess named Princess Otohime.  He stayed as her guest for a few days, then asked Otohime to take him back to his old mother.  Otohime tried to keep him there, but Urashima had duties as a son.  So, when he left, Otohime gave Urashima a box called the Tamate-bako and told him never to open the box.  He promised he would not open the box.  When he came back out to the ground, he found out that his town was changed and his mother wasn’t there anymore.  He realized it had been at least 100 years since he went underwater to the palace. He didn’t know what else to do, so in the end he opened the box.  Smoke came out all around him and made him into an old man, and he died from old age.  The box was what made him stay young, and when he opened it he became his real age.

My father thought that Urashima was a beautiful name, but he didn’t know that in Japanese Urashima was a male name.  He was thinking that just because we have a strong Spanish influence in my country, the Philippines, that anything that ended with an “a” would be of female gender, and anything that ended in an “o” would be of male gender.

This folk story is very important to my grandma’s identity, as she was named after Urashima the fisherman.  Her father took out the “h” and named my grandma “Urasima,” as he thought it was a unique, female name.  She told me that when she was a little girl, she used to be teased by her schoolmates for her unusual name.  In the Philippines, children are often named after saints, as the Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country.  When she went to be baptized, the father refused to baptize her because of her name, so he gave her a new one.  So my grandma is baptized under the name Josefa, but registered as Urasima in the city hall.  She never liked her name, and now just goes by “Racing,” which is still just as unusual in her eyes.  So she has a very negative connotation with a story that I myself really enjoy.  I can respect Urashima for his choice to leave an “ideal” life to honor his duties as a son.  There is a loyalty and respect for his parents that is also very common in the Filipino culture.  So while my grandma looks at the inspiration for her name in a negative light, I see it in a more positive light.

Since I knew my great grandfather first found this story via book, I knew that it had to be published somewhere.  I couldn’t find a version that was published in my great grandfather’s time, as there are so many modern adaptations in children’s books and such, but I found a translated version of a Japanese fairy tale book originally published in 1945.  That’s the oldest version I could find.

Dazai, Osamu. “お伽草紙 (Otogizōshi).” Trans. Ralph F. McCarthy. Otogizoshi: The Fairy Tale Book of Dazai Osamu. Chūō-ku, Fukuoka: Kurodahan Press, 2011. Print.

‘Aumakua – Hawaii

When I was in elementary school, we took a field trip to some fish reserves on Oahu.  There are fish ponds there that let the fish in to feed, and once they are big enough they are let back out because they are grown up and won’t be eaten.  The people who run these reserves take only what they need and let the rest of the fish go, so it is good for both the fish and the people.  There is an ‘aumakua who takes care of the grounds,  and by legend takes the form of a shark.  ‘Aumakua can take the form of many different creatures, and are protective deities that usually come back to protect or help their families. 

I never saw the shark there, but as a kid it helped me feel better that I thought the fish were being looked after.  I also started to wonder if I had any ‘aumakua protecting me, even though I am not really a native Hawaiian.

Tasia knows quite a few Hawaiian legends, but she said that her sister is much more tied to the land than she is.  They aren’t native Hawaiians, but living in Hawaii immerses you fairly wholly into Hawaiian culture (regardless of if you are a native). I have never heard of this one before, and I have been told quite a few Hawaiian legends from my many trips there.  Finding native Hawaiians, however, is harder than you would expect, as I wouldn’t say they make up the majority on the islands.  There are a lot of Japanese, Filipino, and Samoan people there, but not necessarily a lot of true Hawaiians.  So I would imagine that these stories hold much more meaning for them, and they would probably have many more tales to tell.  And I would imagine their variations would be a little different.