Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This story was told at the November storytelling session:

All people know that on all Hallow’s Eve you dress up as dead so that the spirits who are allowed to walk the Earth that night do not pull you back to the grave with them. What most people do not know is that there is another day that mirrors this one in May called May’s Eve. The people of Ireland know this very well and on this night no one goes outside. Everyone stays in with doors and windows locked. Family and friends are invited over and there is much merriment and laughter for it is the laughter that keeps the spirits who walk the Earth away on this night. Many years ago there was a woman named Peggy. Peggy’s husband had just died the previous year and she was very sad even though all her friends and family were gathered around her on this evening of May’s Eve. She was sitting and thinking when she decided to go for a walk. The sun had not yet set, and she needed some fresh air, so she slipped out of the house unnoticed. She was walking for awhile and thinking when all the sudden she looked around and she had arrived at the field she and her husband had kept when he was alive. It had been a long time since she had tended to this field. It had weeds where potatoes and carrots had once been. Her husband had encouraged her to plant a few rose bushes near one end saying that food for the belly was all well and good, but they needed to have food for the eyes as well. She found these bushes all grown over with weeds and she stooped down and began pulling at the weeds furiously, pushing back to reveal a single rose. She stopped and stared then she noticed the sky was as red as blood. The sun was setting just above the trees. She started with a fright. Everything was dead silent. No cows were mooing, no tree was blowing, dead silence. She was suddenly very afraid. She knew she had to get back to the house quick for anyone out on May’s Eve when the sun went down was as good as dead. She tried to run but her legs felt like lead. She couldn’t move fast enough. The sun had set and she was turning the corner towards her street when she heard *clop*clop*clop. She turned and saw a goat standing behind her. His hooves *clop*clop as he walked closer. He stopped and started into her with glassy yellow eyes. Peggy shuddered and turned around to keep going. She ran as fast as she could until she heard a *tap*tap*tap. She whisked around expecting to see the goat, but he was no where in sight. She kept going, and that’s when she saw him sitting perched on the stone wall just ahead of her near her house. She could hear the laughter and see the light. So close. The goat was sitting upright with hooves crossed over his chest and his back legs dangling and hooves *tap*tap on the stone wall. He started at her. She looked away and kept moving past. Nothing happened. Just as she thought she had made it, the goat leapt off the wall and onto her back. One hoof one each shoulder and sides. He was grasping tight with a mighty pinch. She could feel the breath from its nose buried in her neck. The growl from its throat was not of this world. It held to her fast crippling her movement. She struggled to get to the door. She was within reach, but the goat pinched her tighter and she could barely move. She was hunched over nearly crawling. The thing had her, she couldn’t reach the door. With the little strength she had left, she reached up and blessed herself - crossing her heart. The goat snarled. She did it again. He was growing furious. She did it a third time. The goat released her and she flung herself at the door. She was inside. The goat was gone! Her family and friends came rushing toward her. They assured her she would be alright. She was frantic. They helped her to her feet and told her to stand up. She revealed that she was standing. She could stand no further. Her back was still hunched. She had been crippled by the demon and now bore the mark of the beast. She lived to tell her story many times but she lived a lonely life because no one wanted to go to near the woman who bore the mark of the beast.

Two other people related stories of their travels in Japan, Malaysia, and India.

One man was visiting a family in Japan for the first time. While there an Uncle of theirs died and he was invited to the funeral. He agreed to go. In Japan, bodies are cremated and but buried. He said that the body was downstairs in this place they went. Upstairs they ate dinner and then returned downstairs and the body had been burnt and was not only bones. It was custom for everyone present at the funeral to take a pair of chopsticks and pick up a bone to be placed in an urn. He was observing this custom not thinking he would have to be a participant, but when it came around to be his turn, the family insisted he use the chopsticks to pick up a bone. He tried to object since he was not very skilled at using chopsticks, but the vehemently insisted. He tried and ended up dropping the bone. He was mortified and quickly picked it up with his hand and placed it in the urn. The family was shocked, but there was nothing that could be done about it. His story ended here.

Another man talked about his travels to Malaysia and India. The Asian sense of humor is very different from most. He said he was teaching English and the children would laugh at their classmates when they got something wrong, or if they injured themselves. To what extend this is actually true, I am not sure, but I do know that their sense of humor is based on something very different than what most Americans know. In India, he told of a city where all Hindus try to go to die. Here it is said the soul can be released from the cycle of reincarnation. The Ganges river is very sacred, but it is also very unsanitary. This I knew. Sewage drains empty into the river, yet they see it as untarnished Holy water fit for drinking, bathing and blessing. They also burn their dead, but in the case of a mother who dies in childbirth or during pregnancy, her whole body is thrown into the river because it is said to be pure. He said in one place he had been eating dinner at a restaurant up top a roof and the smoke from a fire was blowing overhead. He didn’t think much of it till he went downstairs and saw that the fire was one used to burn the bodies of their dead and there were many wailers gathered around mourning the deceased. It is said that the more people who mourn your death, the better afterlife you will have, so often people hire mourners to be at the deceased’s funeral. This seems like it could be true, but it was interesting to hear about another nonwestern culture nonetheless.

Dejame que te cuente is a Spanish book about stories told by psychologist Jorge Bucay.

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