“”Described as “She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land” in ancient Hawaiian chants, the volcano goddess, Pele, was passionate, volatile, and capricious. In modern times, Pele has become the most visible of all the old gods and goddesses. Dwelling in the craters of the Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano, she has been sending ribbons of fiery lava down the mountainside and adding new land around the southeastern shore almost continuously since 1983.””
I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in god, or ghosts, or spirits that dwell in volcanoes.
But I do collect souvenirs. These are usually in the form of rocks. I’ve picked up rocks from all over the world. Sad to say, I’ve never been industrious enough to label the rocks indicating where I collected it. Consequently, I have dozens of lovely, or unusual rocks, none of which I have the slightest clue where it came from. I keep most of them in my head.
For some unfathomable reason, most humans collect souvenirs of the places they’ve been. These days they aren’t even authentic, locally made items: turn over that scowling wooden mask you bought in a remote African village and you will see a small, golden label that reads: “Made in China”. What the hell. We buy it anyway. Ostensibly it’s to ‘remind us of when we visited ________.”
My first trip to the Big Island of Hawaii included a three day stay on the flanks of Kilauea Volcano.
Kilauea erupts almost constantly. We visited an area that was covered with black magma, oozing out of a miles long vent in the mountain’s side. The magma was moving, very slowly, veiled in stinking smoke. It spilled into the ocean with a roar as the cold seawater flashed into steam.
Everywhere you go on the Big Island, you can find hunks of Pele’s magma.
Do not take one, no matter how attractive (which isn’t very) it may be. The legends of bad luck following the tourist foolish enough to take one of Pele’s rocks are legion. Pele doesn’t mind if you visit her. She minds very, very much if you take one of her rocks. WHY, I have no idea: but then, I have never been able to think like a volcano.
The person who takes one of her rocks experiences bad luck.
Of course, this is biologically impossible. It makes no sense. Nevertheless, it happens so often that there’s a cottage industry on the Island, that of providing an address where a tourist may return the rock he stole from Pele, hoping to break the streak of bad luck.
I’m not superstitious. However, I’ve had enough experiences in my life, and know from the anecdotes of others, that jinxes and runs of bad luck seem to exist. I didn’t take a thing from Pele, not even a picture. She allowed me to live in peace.
There is no evidence that luck, good or bad, exists: but we have all experienced it.
There is no evidence that a ‘’’spirit’ can exist in an inanimate object, but somehow, we sometimes and with some things, experience something.
What is it? All I can elucidate is the effect, not the cause.
How often have you had or known of a toddler that is bonded to a blanket or a stuffed toy? Have you ever witnessed the emotional upheaval when that toddler’s blankie or bunbun has been lost? As adults, we try to tell the child that it was ‘just’ a thing…but to the toddler, his life had been destroyed. They grieve, they panic, they cry inconsolably, they are stressed so badly you wish there was something you could do to ease the child’s pain. You can’t replace the item, even with one that appears identical. The child must suffer through his self inflicted pain.
It’s not just us humans that do this: one of the Samoyeds I was raised by had a blanket that she’d been whelped in. She loved it. She licked it, slept with it, and played with it, even as an adult dog. With every washing, the blanket got smaller and smaller, until it was a mere scrap…and one day, without thinking, Mom threw it away.
When Tera realized it was missing, she was distressed. She hunted the house, looking for it, and somehow, she realized it’d gone out in the garbage. She waited at the side of the road, waiting for the garbage man to return her blanket. She mourned her loss as clearly, and as painfully, as any human.
It’s been proven many times that petting an animal produces a calming effect in us.
Animals are sentient, living beings, with a spirit, and in most cases, a sense of awareness.
So why is it that one can experience a calming effect when touching inanimate, non-living things, like worry beads or a soft blanket?
Obviously, there is a neurological explanation. However, there may be something other than neurons influencing one’s response to the feel of an inanimate object.
It’s not as if the thing has a ‘spirit’…but what is ‘spirit’? Living things have spirits. When you walk into a grove of redwood trees, you feel something that is much more than just the expected feeling of insignificance by being this tiny thing next to a gigantic tree. No, there’s a feeling of being in the presence of age, and wisdom, and peace. I’ve touched ponderosa pines and big leafed maples that seem to have a heartbeat, a slow, silent, ponderous beat that cannot be measured, and yet, it’s there.
How many times has the sound of a mountain stream, or the rumbling surf, or crickets in the warm evening, brought you comfort and calm?
Don’t you feel happiness when you’re on your knees in the garden bed, surrounded by flowers and bees? When I sift the rich loam through my fingers, I can feel the spirit of the soil, a oneness with the earth. It is ‘alive’.
Soapstone does that for me. I love the feel of soapstone. It absorbs one’s body heat in a moment. Its fine, silky smooth texture begs for one to rub it. That’s my test for what I think is soapstone. If my thumb, unbidden, begins to rub it, the rock is soapstone.
I find the action calming. It distracts my mind from whatever is bothering me at the moment. (That usually being my husband’s driving). I keep a good sized rock of soapstone in my husband’s car, and call it “kitten”. It sits in my lap like a sleeping cat, and I can pet it and not think how close we are to the back end of that effing gravel truck.
Having taken this philosophical step, (or a giant leap to a probably inane and illogical conclusion), that being if a thing can have a good influence on a human, can a thing, like a rock, have a BAD influence?
I mean other than the lithic influences humans have used on each other, such as smashing heads with rock clubs, or propelling knapped rocks into other beings with great force.
In this case, I mean, an influence from the rock itself, without human interference, or without the onus of Pele’s Curse to influence one’s conclusions of where all this bad luck is coming from.
There must be something to this. There are too many superstitions in human culture, i.e. touching or ‘knocking’ wood, throwing spilled salt over one’s shoulder, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, to not have some sort of actual basis. These actions use the thing itself to encourage good influences from the item or substance, or deter or deflect bad ones.
How does it explain the bad influence such as a jinx? I’m not superstitious, but I’ve met people who are jinxed. No matter how well they try, things always go badly for them. Not enough to kill them, merely enough to make their life difficult. I knew a horse so jinxed I won’t name him for fear something will go wrong with mine.
Things, too, can be jinxed. Houses. Chairs. Cars. Motorcycles (my last one was so badly jinxed I was lucky to sell it before I was seriously hurt. Then again, maybe all the bad events I had with it were due to it being a Harley, which are usually lemons in all but color.) Computers, god, I think all computers come with an evil troll inside.
But I’d never found something abiotic, something not made by man, to be jinxed.
My husband and I went on a long (over 6000 mile) road trip to Texas. We took a side trip through Kearney, Nebraska, to see the Sandhill Crane migration. It was fabulous, by the way. I love cranes, the Sandhills most of all, and I saw them in the tens of thousands.
We stayed in a motel in Kearney, Nebraska. From the beginning, things went slightly wrong.
Our room had a machine in the walls that sounded like a couple of rhinos were butting fifty-five gallon drums (filled with rocks) over our room. This noise would run for 20 minutes, shut off for 20 minutes, start up again in 20 minutes. All night long. The front desk manager disavowed any knowledge of the noise, but the cleaning lady knew it well. “Oh, yes, room #145. There’s a bunch of water pipes in the wall right behind the bed.”
We would have changed rooms, save for the fact that a hockey team filled up the rest of the motel.
They were your typical bunch of testosterone-charged, 20 something young jocks in the prime of life, getting paid to play a game and without adult supervision. They had never learned to use their ‘indoor voices’ or shut a door. It was shout and slam, for most of the night. They had chosen the same motel we did in which to stay for the weekend.
Their bus driver insisted on parking outside the windows of our room, and ran the damned thing all night. So I was forced to listen to rock and rolling in my room, alcohol charged young bucks rampaging in the hallway, and a bus rumbling outside our window. Guess who didn’t get any sleep?
Perhaps my ensuing lack of good judgment resulted from my being so groggy from broken sleep.
As we were packing to leave, I noticed a large pile of football sized rocks, right under the window or our motel room.
Sitting atop the pile of rocks, I saw a soapstone one. This thing was BIG, about the size of a football. It was easily the biggest piece of soapstone I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful. I had to have it. For once, I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to transport it home. I had a behemoth of a pickup truck, with room to spare in which to transport a rock.
I reached over to pick it up, and got the strangest feeling as I touched it.
A feeling of malevolence surrounded me.
I got the distinct feeling that I shouldn’t take it.
I dismissed it. I wasn’t stealing it. The rock pile had been left over from the construction of the motel. Besides, who’s going to complain about my taking a rock? Look, there are thousands of them here, not quite like this one (it seemed to be the only soapstone one in the pile), but no one is going to miss one rock. I shall take it home and add it to my hoard of soapstone.
The rock had a different idea.
I wanted the rock. I stowed it in the back of the pickup.
Half an hour later, we were almost finished packing up.
My husband came out of the motel and stood next to the truck.
With no warning, with no explainable movement or action, his back suddenly spasmed. One moment he was standing, completely normal, and the next, he was gasping in agony, unable to stand up straight. He could barely breathe without pain.
He’d never had a muscle spasm in his life, and this one came out of the blue. He could just barely move one foot ahead of the other, in terrible pain.
What should we do? We were thousands of miles from home and were on a tight schedule. It was Sunday, and we had no idea where a hospital was, or even if we should go to an ER.
Dennis decided. We continue on, he said. He managed to get into the back seat of the truck, where he lay down in utter agony. I finished packing the truck and we headed out. My mind was preoccupied, and not a little frightened. Had he blown a disc in his back? Was it a heart attack?
For the rest of the day, he was in such pain that he could barely move. I stopped along the way and got some pain killers and a cane.
My knowledge of muscles told me it was solely a muscle spasm, but I am not a doctor. I wasn’t sure (although ultimately I was proved correct). It didn’t make him feel any better. Only TOT (Tincture of Time) and rest would help him. I felt so bad for him. I love the man, more than I love my life, and I don’t like him hurting and me not being able to do much more than what I did.
We continued on and when we got to the next motel, he took a sizzling hot bath and more aspirin. That helped him a lot. However, he was still in pain, and still temporarily disabled.
The next day, we stopped in Texas, where we picked up a trailer we’d purchased.
By now Dennis was able to sit up and drive, so I sat in the passenger seat as we headed out on the highway.
Years and countless miles of pulling trailers while I was in the Army has instilled the boring and yet important habit of keeping an eye on the towed vehicle. Once again, it proved to be a good one. I glanced at the trailer in the right side mirror and noticed the trailer door was wiggling. What the hell?
Then it blew open. At 60 mph.
Thankfully, my husband never questions orders when I shout them. We managed to stop safely and I went back to the check the door.
The door had blown open, even though it was locked AND dead bolted.
We shut it again and made SURE it was secure.
We got to our campground without further incident and thought nothing more of the door.
The refrigerator didn’t want to work right. We had to noodle with it and ultimately ended up running it on electricity. The window blinds didn’t work right and the actuator handles kept snapping off in our hands.
We attributed this to poor design, nothing more.
The next morning, we had the trailer packed up and were rolling at dawn. I was driving, and had backed the truck up to the trailer tongue. Dennis hitched the trailer to the truck.
We started off on the day’s drive. I was only going about 5 mph, as we were still in the campground. I rolled over a speed bump and heard a sccccccccccccccccrrrge. The steering wheel jerked in my hand, the truck came to a sudden stop, without my braking.
We got out and saw why: the trailer hitch had popped off the towing hitch ball. It had fallen onto the tongue jack, the bottom end of which was now totally buggered up after being dragged for a few feet on the concrete.
I’d checked the trailer hitch twice, after Dennis had cranked it down onto the ball hitch. It was locked, as well. Only the fact that I was going slowly, that we had the towing chains properly hitched, and the safety brake had worked on the trailer, did we not have more damage.
After a few moments of scratching our heads, we knew we had to get the hitch raised up, using a jack.
I opened the back of the truck to get out the bottle jack…and noticed the soapstone rock. I touched it. It radiated cold malevolence. It glared at me despite its’ lack of eyes.
I’ll be damned. The thing was jinxed. It hadn’t wanted to be moved. All the mishaps we’d had were due to this jinxed rock.
I picked it up and tossed it. I sure in hell didn’t need another soapstone, no matter how big it was. I felt a weird need to wash my hands.
We got the trailer hitched up and rolled, gingerly, but with increasing confidence that it was properly hitched this time.
We had no more problems from then on. None. Everything worked right on the trailer, Dennis’s back improved so that he could move, still with a cane, but without too much pain.
Can a rock possess a ‘spirit’?
Trees can, rivers can, mountains can. Why not a rock?
If so, this one had it in malignant spades. It punished us for my greedy impertinence. I was lucky in that getting rid of the rock also rid us of a jinx.
I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t pick up boulders anymore, no matter how pretty they may be.
If you are ever in Brantley Lake State Park in Texas, and happen upon a handsome black soapstone rock, the only one amidst a jumble of fossiliferous limestone ones, LEAVE IT ALONE. I wouldn’t even camp near it.
Oh, hell, yes, it has character. All of it bad.