Friday, January 27, 2017

Boys for Pele

I was asked by a colleague who is a PhD in psychology but also a practicing curandera (learned from her grandmother) if I had an encounter similar to those I'd be asking you all.

When my older son was about four, we visited the Big Island of Hawai'i. I drove to a sacred monument site with him, to give him a chance to get away from the hotel and his little baby brother. It was very hot.

On the main highway, I passed a woman going south on the side of the road, on the left-hand edge. It was the middle of a dramatic setting, more barren, bleak and moon-like on that side of the island than you may imagine. Nobody was around. I noticed she was very striking, a middle-aged woman but very confident in her pace and spirit. She had a white flowing longer dress, her hair was salt-and-pepper wavy and thick, and the wind made it fly around her dramatically. As I passed, I wondered what she was doing there, as she was not hitching a ride but simply moving along as if carefree.

My son and I visited the sacred site up the road, where it made a fork to the left of the main highway. After we visited, we saw her again, but (it is hard to explain) she seemed coming from another direction, somehow, as if geography or the road or time did not matter. It did not seem to square with where she had been a few minutes earlier. She caught my eye and we exchanged smiles.

Later, I wondered if it was the fire goddess of the islands Pele. I know this is fanciful; she was probably just a native woman out for a walk, but the eerie isolation of the setting, the fact it was very hot and empty there, and the warmth the woman seemed to project all linger. I've never had any uncanny or transcendent experiences, but this one somehow stays with me in a way no ritual or service I have attended has done.  (This entry comes from a online discussion in my Comparative Religions course. I have never heard the Tori Amos album that titles this piece, but it seemed apt.)

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