The Curse of Pele: A Tourist Legend

A followup to my #FolkloreThursday article on the Saga of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanos and fire, and her sister Hiiaka.


Some time in the early or mid 1980s, a package arrived at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, containing lava sand taken from Black Sands Beach in 1969. The woman who took the sand evidently loved the Hawaiian islands a lot, as she and her husband returned frequently, despite the gradually escalating mishaps that struck them every time:

1st time-Cut my foot
2nd time-Scraped my arm at airport
3rd time-Lost my hearing and broke eardrum on crater in Maui
4th time-Sprained two toes on cement steps
5th time-Cut my finger
6th time-Husband had heart attack and I fell twice-1st time broke my left elbow; 2nd fall broke my kneecap in two places and crushed it.

Finally, in 1982, our two unlucky tourists saw a display at Volcano House, the historical hotel on the edge of Kilauea volcano, traditionally said to be Pele’s dwelling place. This display showcased letters from other tourists who had suffered the Curse of Pele: bad luck that struck them after they had taken lava rocks from Pele’s volcano. All these victims returned what they had taken, in hopes of lifting the curse. And so this couple did, too. I hope their future trips to the islands went better.

Continue reading

Accidental Witchcraft

Cebuano Sorcery: Malign Magic in the Philippines by Richard W. Lieban (1967)
Photo: Amazon

I rediscovered this on my bookshelf yesterday. The author spent a year in Cebu City, and a year in a rural area of Negros island, recording local beliefs about sorcery, and observing folk medicine practices. The two are related, since folk healers often attribute their patients’ maladies to curses, or other occult sources.

The chapter on aswang is interesting, but I’ve already written a post about that. The Cebuanos also believe in another kind of witchcraft — a curse, really — that they call buyag. The one who curses the victim is called a buyagan.

Continue reading