It’s a sight in Hilo as regular as evening rain: groups of Japanese women wearing colored tour badges and clutching small bags board buses at the airport bound for Kilauea volcano. While their husbands in Honolulu play golf, these women journey to Hilo for the day. Men play for par while some women seek fertility.
Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of fire. She rules volcanos, and consequently, the birth of new land. As such she is viewed by many as a powerful symbol or fertility. Women seeking to conceive or who wish for a child of a particular gender have sought Pele’s help. The story goes that if a woman makes a precious offering to Pele, she may receive help conceiving a child. The small bags carried by many of the Japanese women to the Big Island contain gold and silver coins, which they throw directly into the hot lava, before it has cooled to stone, as an offering to her.
If pregnancy does ensure, but goes awry and results in miscarriage, the Japanese recognize the importance of the event. They offer a cultural view of the aborted fetus, called “mizuko”, which literally translates as “water child”, as a being who has not fully solidified yet, according to Daddytypes.com. The Bhudda takes a special form, called “jizo”, to watch over these lost creatures and help them find their way into life through another form.
In American culture, we have few words or concepts to help mothers grieve their lost children who were not fully formed. Perhaps we can adopt the concepts of mizuko and jizo, just as some Japanese women have adopted Pele.