Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Rampant Paganism


One of the things we discovered about eminently discoverable Hawai'i is that it is a very spiritual place. Spiritual like Ephesus, that is. The Hawaiians are a very New-Agey bunch, and their islands are full of "sacred" places and objects which you can't miss because they are all marked with signs so that you will show respect for them. These include sacred trees, rocks, and the whole notion of Pele, the volcano goddess of the Hawaiian islands. We frequently saw platforms of lashed-together poles on which offerings had been placed-- fruits and flowers, as far as we could see. We read articles about people finding 'spiritual fulfillment' in the old religions of Hawai'i.

We attended church at Berean Bible Church in Hilo, where we heard a church planter preach (in the absence of the senior pastor due to illness). Afterward, we asked him what the greatest problem of church planting was in Hawai'i. His reply was that there is "rampant paganism" everywhere, and it is nearly impossible to get people there interested in Jesus Christ. I gathered that pretty much anything goes in Hawai'i, but Pele is certainly big, and folk there take her very seriously too. As time went by and we read a bit more about spirituality on Hawai'i, it became evident to us that Pele is real, but she is no 'goddess'. Pele is a demon, one that enjoys being treated with respect and cherished as a symbol of the Hawaiian people, who seem to enjoy being enslaved to her. Some disasters have apparently been averted because of these people making timely offerings during eruptions.

Well, it's understandable, I suppose. There's no place one can go on the Big Island where one is not acutely aware that volcanic activity is at work and imminent at any time and in any place. They date the flows there with signs, even. The earth splits apart regularly and things get wiped out. There is no volcano insurance. If your multimillion dollar resort burns, it burns...too bad, so sad. And if a volcano doesn't get you, a tsunami will. These have hit the Big Island no less than 13 times in the past century. Pele's sister is the sea-goddess. Naturally, a people on a capricious, dangerous island will worship a capricious and dangerous demon-goddess. You can't take a piece of lava off the island, they say, or Pele will have her revenge. If you get off the island with one, and you start having bad luck, you can mail it back to a certain place on the island and they will make appeal to Pele for you. Satan is only too happy to comply with our fearful desires.

Even the National Park Service seems to endorse this stuff, and the visitors' center for Mauna Kea Observatory was not about to pooh-pooh it either. As for me, I sang the doxology in the throat of a fuming volcanic crater. So there.

I did have a bit of fun with it though, after all. This is a picture of me creating a small "Zen garden" on a black-sand beach. Afterwards I sat about 15 feet away to enjoy being with Rich. As I sat there I noticed that people would walk by thoughtfully, almost reverently, considering the 'meaning' of my 'Zen garden'. Two even stopped seperately to take pictures of it. I declare, I expect that if I had gone back the next day, I might have found an offering left there.

At the same time all this was happening, Rich and I were eating a simple lunch of cheese, apples and bread. Three ducks saw this activity and stepped right up to invite themselves for luncheon. They looked so ridiculous that, added to the silly behaviour over the 'Zen garden', I simply collapsed in such helpless laughter that several people stopped to stare.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Heidi said...

That IS cute picture, though. What a wonderful idea, creating a zen garden on a beach. And not surprising that it garnered all kinds of reverence and respect. LOL Glad you're back, and glad you had fun!

9:08 AM  
Blogger craigellachie said...

You know, I've been re-thinking that. Do you think it puts me in "the seat of mockers" to have done that? Not that revering anything but the Living God isn't damned foolishness, but I'm wondering if I 'laid a snare' in a spirit of mockery?

11:11 AM  
Blogger The Clinging Vine said...

Black sand beaches are meant to be "played with," though. If your actual, stated intent was to lay a snare for the spiritually dead, then that was not quite, er, kosher, but if you were simply enjoying making designs in the sand, I don't see a problem.

I wasn't a believer when I was in Hawaii, so didn't "see" all the things you did. Amazing what a difference having "eyes to see" makes, huh?

Glad you're back, safe and sound!

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Heidi said...

Not at all! I agree with Anne: playing with the sand is a completely natural thing to do. I'd have probably dug a hole or made a little pile of sand! You, with your artistic nature, made something pleasing to the eye. Zen gardens ARE lovely to look at, you know, regardless of their so called purpose.

9:29 AM  
Blogger craigellachie said...

Well....the garden was only an amusement, but I have to say I was sore tempted to do it again, for further amusement of a different kind. But I didn't!

1:36 PM  

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