Having an opportunity to visit 'exotic' island paradises was not a conceivable possibility for a young midwestern kid during the 70's. Well, not for this kid. Everything I learned about other cultures came from the three fuzzy channels on our TV. Oh, you laugh, but sadly Fantasy Island and Scooby Doo were big influences in my early multi-cultural learning. Shameful...I know, which brings me back to "The Brady Bunch." For those who don't know, this was a popular show in ancient TV times.
In a particularly educational episode, the Bradys go on vacation to Hawaii. Silly Bobby Brady accidentally removes an ancient tiki from an unknown burial ground. Tsk...tsk...Bobby. Immediately, a string of accidents plagues the Brady family during their vacay. After listening to a wise islander (basically, a tour guide), the Bradys conclude Bobby's naive actions unleashed a curse. The only truly sensible thing to do was to return the tiki. Poof! Accidents stopped occurring. The Brady clan learned a valuable lesson about Hawaiian superstition and so did the wide-eyed, prime-time viewers.
Even though this was just a television show, the episode writers had some understanding of Hawaiian myths, superstitions and legends. Residents strongly respect nature and believe in not disturbing spirits, which are felt all over the islands. Unmarked graves are everywhere and it's not unusual for human remains or bones to be unearthed during construction. If this happens, by law the project must stop. There are a group of archaeologists and a Burial Council that are called to deal with any remains.
Too bad for the Bradys that they didn't have Internet back in the day, but the travel brochure should have included the #1 thing not to do when visiting the Hawaiian islands. Unless you want to suffer a curse from Pele, the goddess of wind, lightning, fire or volcanic inferno, DO NOT take a rock, sand, pebble, shell, or tree branch out of Hawaii. AND, really seriously do not even think about snagging a lava rock as a souvenir. Mailing these items back to the island may not necessarily lift the curse. Many visitors have tried this tactic, but once you piss off a goddess, I'm thinking you're going to be in trouble for a long time. My advice: Whether you're a skeptic or believer, just don't do it - respect the island and the beliefs of the people who reside there.
Many of the islands superstitions are influenced by three distinct cultures: Chinese, Japanese and Filipino. While touring, if you pay attention you will see signs of it just about everywhere you look. Many structures, gardens, and furniture are arranged in ways that promote positive and beneficial energy to the surrounding environment.Feng Shui or Fung Shui, is not simply a trendy ideal, but rather has existed as a way of life for generations. If you visit a local residence, check out the bedroom. Okay, so that's a little forward, but sneak a peak if you get the chance. A true local is likely to arrange their bed so that their feet will NOT point in the direction of the door. It's believed a spirit can literally grab you and pull you by the ankles out the door. Also, never sit with your back facing a door. Everyone knows that's the easiest way for negative forces to penetrate a person.
Moving on to the Japanese... they gifted the belief in what is referred to as the "choking ghost," a spirit that sits on your chest and chokes you while you are sleeping. Not pleasant and is probably the mostly reported paranormal experience shared and reported to police. Also, the belief in "Bachi" (bad karma) is prevalent. While dining out, make certain you do NOT let your chopsticks stand in a full bowl of rice.t would be considered unlucky if you let your chopsticks stand in a full rice bowl unless you enjoy misery. Also, and this is really important, do NOT cut your nails at night. Whew! I'm glad I learned this before I made the critical mistake. Cutting nails is now a day-time activity.
Influenced by the Filipino culture is the belief that everything comes in 3's. Just to be safe, avoid all things of three. This is actually harder to do than one would think. For instance, when taking a photo with 3 people, it's believed that the unlucky middle person will die first. I know there are going to be many Instagram users who just freaked out. I confess, I did know about this particular superstition prior to taking this photo of me with my children (see below). I figured we couldn't avoid the three factor, so if it true, I'm planning on going first anyways.
To mainlanders, these superstitions might sound bizarre, but nearly all natives will tell you they've experienced some kind of phenomena. It's not uncommon for a Kahuna or church leader to bless an event, construction or home to prevent bad luck. Whether you believe or not, I advise being informed so you don't insult anyone, especially, Pele. She is not a goddess to be messed with! If you must have a shell or rock, buy it at a stand and it wouldn't hurt to ask if it has been blessed. Otherwise, stick with bringing home a t-shirt or sarong.