Animas, Kappas, and Crow Mothers, Oh My!


By Kathryn Lilley

The history of human culture is rich with cautionary tales that warn the unwary against invoking the wrath of mythical creatures or vengeful spirits. In Japanese folklore, rude people  risked being dragged to a watery grave by scaly, aquatic creatures called “river children,” or Kappas. It was accepted wisdom that the  only way to escape a Kappa was to overwhelm it with politeness and good manners. In Hopi lore, the Crow Mother spirit, as represented by her masked kachina doll, was said to initiate youngsters with a ceremony that involved ritualistic flogging with a yucca blade.image

A week or two ago, I experienced a series of mishaps and general mayhem that led me to suspect that I had somehow invoked the wrath of one of these legendary tricksters. The chain of woe began  when we returned from a trip to discover an ant invasion swarming all over the kitchen floor, which had already been ruined by a wine cooler leak. Then some valuable jewelry seemed to vanish into thin air. And then the pumping system in the koi pond went kaput. One by one, I handled each crisis with some semblance of poise and magnanimity. But when the dog suddenly learned how to outwit his longtime containment system and proceeded to yark in spectacular and extremely odiferous fashion all over the house, I decided I was the victim of an invisible, non-canine evildoer. It was as if a Crow Mother had taken up residence just outside the door of our master bedroom. And there she stood, eager to deliver daily floggings via yucca blade every time I dared get out of bed.

I have a habit of personalizing inanimate objects or situations, and in typical fashion, I got upset at the Negative Nancy who had decided to roil the waters of my domestic harbor. Human cultures have traditionally used various methods to banish dark forces. In my case, I launched an energetic search for alternative, positive sources of energy. I won’t go into the details of my quest because doing so might make me sound crass, superstitious, or even deluded, but whatever methods I used to break the spell, they worked. The kitchen floor is being repaired; the lost jewelry was found; the dog stopped throwing up on the rugs and so far, hasn’t outwitted his new containment system. The counter trend of positive events has even picked up a bit of momentum–I recently received word that a studio is interested in developing something I wrote years ago as a TV movie and series. (I hesitated  before writing that last sentence about about the TV deal–I don’t want to wake up Negative Nancy. Our koi pond system is still on the blink, so I suspect she hasn’t disappeared forver. She may have simply retreated to the back yard where she’s lurking, yucca blade in hand).

Have there been times in your life that you’ve felt inundated with bad luck or some kind of dark karma? Are there any coping strategies you can share?

17 thoughts on “Animas, Kappas, and Crow Mothers, Oh My!

    • Thank you Sue! I admit that thinking I’d acquired an avenging Crow Mother may have been a bit of an overreaction. I have Irish ancestry, so I suspect I’ve inherited a tendency to want to ward against I’ll omens and the like!

  1. Kathryn, my string of bad luck doesn’t quite measure up to yours, but it’s close enough.

    My wife and I recently had bookshelves installed in our den. To save money, we agreed to paint them ourselves. “Ourselves,” in matrimony-speak, means I had a major painting job ahead of me. It was a lot harder than I imagined. But, miracle of miracles, I did it.

    Then came the fun part, moving my boxed-up book collection to its new home. It took two hours to sort them into fiction and non-fiction, then alphabetize by author.

    Moments from setting the last book in place, the whole system collapsed. In the avalanche of pine shelves, hardbound books, and bric-a-brac, a shelf whacked my right shin. The pain didn’t register at first, so shocked was I at the sight of Stephen King, Mickey Spillane, and Patricia Cornwell gazing up at me from their bent and scuffed dust covers.

    Now I have a bookcase to repair, a jumbled pyramid of abused books to re-organize, and a limp from an aching shin.

    • At that point I would have driven straight to Ikea and Get one of theirs. But I can never assemble those successfully, so mine probably have fallen apart too. You Should watch a funny bit with Kate McKinnon describing her epically disastrous DIY project refinishing a bureau!

  2. If one is spiritually minded, a robust faith with an eternal perspective is best. A Jewish carpenter once said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

    If one wishes to confine one’s thoughts to the natural world, I recommend the Stoics. They anticipated Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by 2000 years. For a highly accessible introduction, pick up The Stoic Art of Living by my friend, the philosopher Tom Morris.

  3. I’m sorry that you are having those problems, Kathryn. You also had that break in, too, which I would count as part of the chain. I wish I had some good suggestions. When I have had cascading problems they have usually been of my own making (as a friend of mine told me, “The common denominator here, Joe, is you.”). I ended one very, very long series of problems when I stopped drinking. I ended another by staying celibate (voluntarily) for a year. Otherwise…if possible, hit the reset button. Take care of the immediate emergency — pen the dog, repair the pump, etc. — and do NOTHING for one hour. Sit in the middle of the floor or lie down on your bed and do nothing. It will put things in order. Hang in there.

    • Thank you Joe! Yes, what I told loved ones at one point is that I needed a safe place to vent the agitas of my psychodrama du jour without dragging in others (including as of today, the entire blogosphere). 😎

  4. I have a good friend who suffered a massive stroke while working which left him paralyzed on the right side. His wife divorced him after that. He had a buddy who offered him a place to live, the basement of his late parents home, in exchange for watching the empty place. The next year he developed cancer in his right eye and had it removed. He’s lived on disability, alone, and spent the last year creating inspirational videos for Youtube. Two weeks ago he discovered that he has stage four cancer of the stomach which has spread everywhere. He will probably not live to see his 50th birthday in December.

    When I get hit with a series of unfortunate events, my coping method is to call my friend and talk to him. After a ten minute dose of his enthusiasm and positive outlook, I just tell myself, “Shut up, Dave, you don’t know how lucky you are..”

    • That is an amazing story about your friend, Dave. Yes, it’s important to keep a perspective on all of this. Whenever I verbally complain about something minor, I try to catch myself by saying, “First World problem.” Yup, that’s what I should have written today, instead of blaming the Crow Mother. I have a tendency to overreact. 😀

  5. Kathryn, I’m so glad to hear you’re coming out the other side of this. Good and bad things always seem to come in multiples. For ten years we’ve lived in a house that has been in recovery from the horrible, cheap people who built it 25 years ago. We have learned that when one thing goes, two others are right behind. Needless to say, when one water heater recently went, we went ahead and replaced all three!

    • The same rule applies to smoke detectors, we learned the hard way, Laura. The problem with the smoke detectors in our house is that it’s a three story house with a very open floor plan–which means, in order to reach one of the detectors, we practically need a fire department ladder and crew to change the dang battery. So naturally we procrastinate, with predictable results.

    • That is a good one, Sheryl. I should learn to think that way, rather than assuming things will get worse. Thanks for commenting today!

  6. Deep breaths, someone to talk to, and a plea to a higher power. And then time. For every negative, there’s a positive (or so I learned in science class), so things should balance out eventually. And it looks like things are picking up for you. However it happened, I’m glad to see the tide is turning. And best wishes on the potential TV deal.

    • Thanks, Staci! Usually these Hollywood “deals” evaporate into the ether somewhere along the way, but the news gave me a much needed injection of positive thoughts!

  7. Sorry you went through this, Kathryn. About 15 years ago, Don and I were going through a real rat year: he had stage three cancer, we were being audited by the IRS, and then my agent called and said, “Are you sitting down?” Never a good start to a conversation. Turned out the entire publishing division was being wiped out, including my Francesca Vierling series. I was devastated. The good news is, I took a series of dead-end jobs to pay the mortgage, and that gave me the idea for my Dead-End Job series. And Don recovered. The IRS, well, that was ugly, but we got it resolved. Good will come out of this, I know. And you’ll have some terrific stories for your books.

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