Thursday, July 16, 2015
Okinawa Folktale: Sneeze Blessing
During the last Century, I learned how to respond to a sneeze in Okinawan dialect.
It is nothing close to the "God Bless You" which you may have heard used.
At this point, let's just say it is "Kusukwe."
The image above shows a black cat with the setting sun, glowing on it.
The photo fits with the story you are about to read.
Returning from the fields, at sunset Yama the farmer heard strange noises.
The sounds, coming from a graveyard, sounded like a baby crying.
Peering into the cemetery, Yama saw a black cat.
The cat was making the sounds of a human baby crying; not the sounds of a cat.
The cat was at a grave site and, from within, came the voice of a ghost.
The ghost, told the cat, how to steal the soul of a baby.
It told the cat to meow, from atop a wall near a baby's house.
It would take lots of meowing but, if the baby sneezed three times, the soul could be snatched.
However if, someone shouted "Kusukwe" the soul would be unharmed.
Yama was afraid someone's life was at risk and, ran home to get drunk.
The following night, he visited the home of a newborn baby.
Just as the sun was setting the black cat, appeared on a stonewall.
It looked towards the baby and, began meowing.
The baby sneezed and, Yama yelled "Kusukwe."
The black cat continued to meow and, the baby sneezed, again.
The farmer hollered "Kusukwe" once more.
Black cat, continued meowing.
The third time the baby sneezed, Yama yelled "KUSUKWEE" with all his might.
The cat looked at him, jumped off the wall and, ran.
It never got a chance to nab the spirit of the baby.
Kusuke or kusukwee is nothing at all, like saying, "God Bless You."
In Okinawa, it is an expression to shoo away something evil.
Used, when someone sneezes, there are other occasions to shout Kusukwee.
Walking down a dark alley, have you ever felt something was following you ?
The hair on the back of your neck stands up or, you feel a sudden, cold chill.
An Okinawan would turn around and shout, Kusukwee in the evil spirit's direction.
A literal translation from the University of Hawaii Press:
Okinawa-English Wordbook ISBN 978-0-8248-3102-8 P.102
Kusukwee means: eat shit
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.109