Tag Archives: myth

Madame Pele at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel

T is 70 years old. He is a retired teacher. He was born in Southern California and raised in Hawaii. He was 7 years old when his family moved there in 1959. He is very animated and speaks very quickly. He shared this piece with me in conversation.

“The legend of Pele used to frighten me as a child. She was always seen before a volcanic eruption… someone would see her… she was very regal, tall, long flowing black hair, flaming red dress flowing behind her… she was elegant. She would appear walking somewhere… This was in 1960, what happened was the volcano did erupt and we lived on Kailua at the time, the eruption was on the big island, I forget which volcano it was, but the pumice, that’s when the lava flows on the water, anyway the pumice flows onto the beach… people use it to scrub their face, anyways people said they saw her walking through the wall in the Hawaiian Village hotel. She’s not happy about how the island is going, you know… what’s happened to the native Hawaiians and the Polynesian culture… So I was really scared of her and I used to think I would see her walking through my bedroom but I never did. So if you see her walking around, that means a volcano will erupt pretty soon. They call her the goddess, Madame Pele.”

Pele is part of Hawaiian mythology but interestingly endures in contemporary times through many sightings, sometimes as a hitchhiker, sometimes dressed in white with a white dog, and sometimes as a beautiful young woman dressed in red or as a female figure within lava itself. These contemporary iterations of Pele take the form of ghost story figures. The version T told me coincides with accounts documented on websites such as https://www.hauntedrooms.com/hawaii/haunted-places/haunted-hotels & https://frightfind.com/hilton-hawaiian-village/ and does seem to serve as a cautionary tale or lesson particularly in light of the fact that the sighting happens in a tourist hotel and that Pele is not happy about native land dispossession and the display of Polynesian culture as tourist attraction.

For more information about Pele and contemporary sightings see https://www.academia.edu/189854 & https://www.hawaiimagazine.com/people-cant-stop-seeing-pele-in-the-lava/.

King Śibi and the Dove

This is the story of King Śibi in India, who was a uhh devout Buddhist, so uh in theory he was a devout Buddhist. … Umm one of the Kings of the gods, Indra, wanted to sort of test his faith and see how faithful he truly was. So he and a, and a companion got together and transformed themselves, one into a dove, one into a hawk. And the dove came into King Śibi’s house, palace, and uh and said “I need you to protect me” and he said “Of course I’ll protect you, that’s my role as a King”. Right afterwards the hawk comes in and says “Well I’m ready for my breakfast, where is my dove?” and he says “I can’t let you have the dove because I’m … because he’s under my protection now as the King”. And he says “Well if I don’t have the dove to eat then I’m going to die, I’ll starve to death. So why don’t you have to protect me too, do you have to do something to protect me as well?” And he says, “Well what if I give you … uh flesh off of my arm in the same amount, same weight as the dove?” This is where the pound of flesh came in Shakespeare comes from, an old Indian folklore actually. And umm said, “Ok that’s fine”. So he puts the dove on a scale, one of these scales like they have and he cuts off some of his flesh and puts it on the scale, but the dove is still too heavy. So he cuts the flesh off his other arm and puts it on the scale, the scale still doesn’t bounce. So he starts cutting off his leg flesh, and puts it up there and still the dove is heavier. And finally he somehow manages to raise himself up onto the scale, climbs into the scale himself and just at that moment, both the dove and the … and the hawk transform back into their, their um original form as gods and said, “This was simply a test”. And they restored him to his original health and his devotion was proven.

Background: The informant was previously a monk turned professor of buddhism. They learned this story in their studies of Indian buddhism and through researching and writing papers on the topic. They mainly know about Korean Zen buddhism having spent time as a monk in Korea, however they know about Indian buddhism as well. They picked up this text in their studies of Indian buddhism.

Interpretation: This text lays out and reinforces the fundamental belief in Buddhism that one should give up attachments to their worldly possessions. In this case the Buddhist in question ends up being willing to sacrifice his life in order to save the life of an animal. This act also shows equality in all things, with the human being willing to sacrifice his life for the life of the dove. It also shows this by having the dove weigh the same as the human on the set of scales. Similar motifs can be found in tales such as the tale of the Buddhist monk that throws himself off a cliff in order to feed a starving family of tigers. Another version of the text where a monk feeds himself to tigers is found here. (Wu, Ming-Kuo  (2018, May 7). Jataka tale: Prince Mahasattva. Dunhuang Foundation. http://dunhuangfoundation.us/blog/2018/3/7/jataka-tale-prince-mahasattva).

Don’t Sweep the Feet

Informant: My informant is my Mexican mother, who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. While she stayed with her mom for about 16 years before coming to the U.S, she grew up with many superstitions that either derived from her mom or from her grandmother. 

Main Piece: “No dejes que te baran los pies porque luego vas a terminar no casandote.” Translations: “Don’t let anyone sweep your feet because later on, you will end up not marrying 

Context: My mom heard this as a kid whenever her mom was sweeping. However, now that my mom thinks back to when she was small. She doesn’t believe that it literally meant that she would never get married, but I think this was used to intimidate my mom and “encourage” her to look for a partner.

Analysis: I see where this myth is coming from. I think that when this proverb is used illustrates some of the values in the Mexican culture. One of those, is marriage. think it also just demonstrates how much in the Mexican culture; marriage is an important factor to a happy life. When one should know that should not be the case. Unfortunately, because of beliefs such as these back then and still today in the Mexican culture, it’s normal for women/girls to get married at a very young age and have children at a very young age.

Annotation: For more broom lore superstitions/myths similar to this one take a look at the following list of similar brooms myths/superstitions derives from Kentucky folklore

Roberts, Hilda. “Louisiana Superstitions.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 40, no. 156, 1927, pp. 172-173, https://doi.org/10.2307/534893. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.

Sasquatch

Background: Informant was born and raised in Florida, with a very religious father. This story was told to me in person.

Informant: My dad always told me that sasquatch was gonna get me… whenever we’d go up to North Carolina or went to a cabin in the woods. It was definitely a cabin in the woods story. One time I woke up in the middle of the night and I could’ve sworn that Bigfoot was outside and I totally freaked out.

Me: What did you do?

Informant: I immediately went and woke up my dad and told him that Bigfoot was outside. I was so scared.

Me: what did your dad say?

Informant: He didn’t care. He just told me to go back to sleep and that Bigfoot wasn’t out there. 

Thoughts: It’s funny to think about the line that parents will draw in order to play a prank on their children and when they aren’t invested enough to keep up “the bit.” Obviously, my informant’s dad doesn’t really believe in Bigfoot if he was able to wave it off and tell his son to go back to sleep. If he really believed in Bigfoot or had even the slightest thought that. Bigfoot was real or was worried about it, the thought of Bigfoot being outside would have woken him up instantly and he would’ve responded to his son in a different way. 

Hunting Trolls

Background: Informant has a Norwegian background from his fathers’s side and was raised being told about these Norwegian traditions and holidays, and this anecdote was told to me over a FaceTime call.

Informant: We would have a special toll hunt on the seventeenth of May… or syttende mai. Kind of like an easter egg hunt but trolls.

Me: Why did you hunt trolls?

Informant: Umm… it’s because trolls have a negative connotation, like how you’re supposed to clean your house in Chinese tradition on Chinese New Year to get out the bad luck… for us it was trolls.

Me: Did you get a prize for finding the trolls?

Informant: Yeah, we would get rewarded in chocolate.

Thoughts: Syttende mai in Norway is also known as Constitution Day, which is an official public holiday throughout the country. Essentially, it’s a country-wide party—people dress up in traditional costumes, with a lot of parades and drinking and ice cream. Syttende mai is not celebrated in any large way outside of Norway, as it would be like celebrating the Fourth of July as an Irish person—it just doesn’t really make sense to. It’s interesting to me how the informant’s mother brought together various folklores in order to give her children meaning on syttende mai as children born and raised in America. Trolls in Norway are seen to be creatures that are evil and dangerous, and beings that belong in the wilderness, not by the home, so there is even meaning behind the act of hunting trolls in Norwegian folklore, especially since the informant was rewarded for finding the trolls.