Saturday, June 10, 2006

the tree is out there ...

Have you ever had a supernatural experience? A strange encounter that is totally inexplicable? Heird weird noises, seen eerie things? Had a run-in with a ghost or a specter?

When I was a kid, my dad often took us out to the jungles of Guam on the weekend. We would pick pugua, or betel nut, for personal consumption of Pop and his relatives, and also to sell to others. We'd also trudge along and through the small rivers, catching shrimp and eel for the dinner table, often taking our lunch break at a waterfall pool -- usually Sigua Falls -- "sigua" means "sweet" and the water there, thanks to natural filtration, is very sweet.

If you've ever been to a tropical rain forest -- which is what Guam's jungles are -- knows that they are very different from temperate forests with the big, tall trees, like most U.S. forests are. The ground in a tropical rain forest are covered by fallen leaves of different kinds, old tree limbs and the like. In short, it is far from neat or clean.

But one day, while still early on in our boonie stomping, we came through some dense underbrush to this spot in the jungle. In the center of this semi-open space under the canopy was this huge banyan tree, which are said to be the dwelling places of taotaomo-na -- think of capricious, sometimes malignant spirits inhabiting giant, towering bodies. They are beings to be feared and respected.

This turned out to be just one of those trees.

How did we know?

There was a perfect circle around the tree clear of any and all debris, with a diameter of about 30 feet. Just dirt. Like it had been swept.

My dad said something called "g├ągao," which means to ask permission. If you respectfully ask permission of the taotaomo'na, they will allow you to pass unmolested (get your minds out of the gutter, dirty girls!). He said it, we passed -- quietly and respectfully -- and waited till we got way beyond the tree before we picked anymore betel nut.

*cue spooky music*

Taotaomo'na translates into "people of the past." Chamorros believe the taotaomo'na are spirits of our ancient ancestors that live in the forests of Guam. They can be capricious, and either help you out or hurt you. There are many people who have reported being touched by a taotaomo'na, leaving them with large bruises shaped like fingerprints.


ArtfulDodger said...

Oh I love stories like that, a window into another world. Thanks for that one Dman. My Grandfather had a huge farm when we were growing up and out in the exact middle of one large field was an old whitered black tree that had once been struck by lightening. That tree was EVIL, all us kids knew it was EVIL. And if you rode a horse anywhere near the tree the horse would rear up, go nuts and throw you. That, and the EVIL laughing that came from the tree at night. :)

Chrissie said...

Dodger... MAYBE there is a homeless guy living in that tree? *L* My very small town has about 5 homeless people... they hang out in this empty lot between the ghetto market that has an awesome gut truck in the parking lot and the greyhound station... Anyway I saw this one guy standing at the base of the tree, talkin away. ( yes i was waiting for some yummy tacos)... thinking to myself, huh. thats weird. And all of a sudden this arm shoots out of the tree grabs what the guy is offering up. The guy on the ground isnt crazy! He was talkin to the tree dweller!
CLEARLY one of those time you think to yourself... never seen that before! ;)

Duane... maybe it was a crazed Japanese war vet who swept the floor n lived in the tree :D

Suze said...

I'm neither superstitious or believe in ghosts, spirits or Evil but I do believe things sometimes occur which have no explanation.

As you know England is renowned for it's ghosts. It always makes me laugh when they show Most Haunted, what a load of crap. If ever you get the chance watch it. Its low production, low intelligence ghost busting. :D

ell said...

sounds like something out of an episode of creepy canada. perhaps you should write to them and they'll do a location shoot there.

think i know someone who's been on that show....


ArtfulDodger said...

I can see the day when ALL of the Random Guam Facts come together in ONE story... I think that's where this blog is going.. I know it! Your evil plan is exposed Sir! Haha!

Thank you Chrissie for sheding the light on this nefarious plot. WWII Jap soldier lives in that tree, he's stolen all the parking meters to fund his crazy cave painting business, saving enough money to open a new theater called Agana, which is Chamorro for AhHa!

See? It all makes sense now.

Grace said...

Oooh, so cool. I love creepy stories like that. I've gotten my share of scary occurrances too :)

DZER said...

dodger: sounds like a tree of the devil!

chrissie: eww ... homeless people in trees. And the crazed Japanese holdouts were all gone by that time! :P

suze: English ghosts are all polite and stately ... ours are a bit more ... primeval LOL

ell: are you offering yourself and Madame X to play unwitting victims to the touches of a taotaomo'na? heh

dodger: I should go back and save all of them ... would be a fun book :)

grace: did it give ya goosebumps, darlin'? ;)

Shay said...

That's so cool!!
I wonder why the ground is swept clean under those trees - no wonder your ancestors assumed that someone/something must live in those trees!

kathi said...

That's a cool story. Liked Chrissie's story too.