Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
(Mark 11:20)

Since my youth I have heard stories about priests in the Marianas many years ago who cursed a thing or things as a kind of corrective punishment for wayward people.  How much of that is just folklore, I cannot say.

It seems odd that a priest should wish "evil" on something, but there is a precedent.  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus cursed a fig tree that bore no figs.  The curse had symbolic meaning, and the motive was to teach people a lesson.

In the same way, the several stories I have heard have at their basis a desire to teach people a lesson from which they will profit.

For example, here's one story an elderly man from Inalåhan told me :

Påle' Inalåhan este chumo'gue.  Si Påle' ha ågang todo i lalåhen Inalåhan.  Guåha cho'cho' gi seputtura para u fan na' gåsgås.  Ya en lugåt di man na' gåsgås manhånao para u fanmangonne' atulai. Ni un atulai ma konne'.  Pues apmåmån Inalåhan ti ma lågua' i atulai.  Si Påle' nai ha matdise i tase.

(A priest in Inarajan did this.  He called all the men of Inarajan to clean the cemetery.  But instead of cleaning the cemetery, the men went to catch atulai or mackerel.  But they didn't catch even one fish.  So, for the longest time, no one could catch mackerel in Inarajan.  The priest had cursed the sea.)

Another story : A priest went to ask a villager for some lemons, which were growing in abundance on the man's tree.  There were so many lemons, that the branches of the tree were nearly touching the ground from the weight of the lemons.  Yet the man refused to spare the priest any.  So the priest cursed the tree.  From then on, not only that one tree, but all the trees of that specific kind of lemon bear no fruit.

I cannot find any evidence for a species of lemon tree on Guam that bears no fruit.  Maybe the story was invented to foster, through fear, respect for a priest's status.

Finally, there is this story, which doesn't quite fit since it has no verbal curse by a priest.  As the niño (little statue of the child Jesus) was going around a village in Saipan for people to venerate, a man refused to do so, saying that the statue was just made of plaster.  Within the year, his house burnt down, all was lost, except the concrete pillars, calling to mind the plaster of the statue.  Again, while I was in Saipan, I could never trace this story back to a known family or house. But the story serves the same purpose; to instill a fearful respect for religious people and things.

Notice that a person was never cursed; things were cursed in order to correct people.  So the intention was to save people - a blessing.  But there it is.  Many of our mañaina did believe it was wise to be careful with the matdision Påle', a priest's curse.  Whether they truly happened or not, perhaps we'll never know.


  1. We once had a lemon tree that for years did not fruit... they exist! After 16 years or so, my father deemed it an unworthy tree and cut it down in accordance with the scriptures. =)