Journeys begin when someone says, "I'm hurting so much I'm gonna make you suffer"
This is day 10 of 30 days of folklore magic and I'm talking about the part we both fear and anticipate in folktales and fairytales: the cursing.
Curses & breaking them.
It's easy to find a fairytale containing cursing so it's hard to narrow it down to just one. Disney consumers are familiar with the sleep of a hundred years, the poisoned apple, the stolen voice, and the ticking clock against all odds. But there are so many more examples of cursework in the body of global folklore and I've only scratched the surface in my reading.
When we get right down to it, cursing comes from a place of extreme emotion that is either felt personally by the curser or hired out to a witch, sorceress, fairy, magician, or other helpful mercenary character. Often the hired curseworker is short-changed or betrayed in some way by their employer, but that's a focus for another time.
Some curses once enacted are never resolved. Some curses are lifted in the following story, like a chapter in a book of tales involving the same character(s). Many are both enacted and later lifted in the same tale, and "Green Bird" is a Oaxacan story where the daughter of Great Jaguar is cursed and the secret of how to break it comes via the bravery of her mother, Serpent Goddess.
Kesne loves a man her father does not want her to marry, and when she says so he orders his magicians to curse her so that she becomes a green bird. Green Bird flies into the jungle and lives alone with only the other birds for company. They are kind and generous to her, building her a home and then bringing her seeds to eat.
One day two eagles tell her the king has died, and Kesne gives up all hope that he would break the curse on her. Her mother, however, who has hidden herself away inside her palace since her daughter was banished hears the news and emerges with new life. She goes to the magicians and asks that they break the curse on her daughter.
They tell her the secret and the Serpent Goddess goes into the jungle to find Green Bird and tell her how to break the curse. They know it may take a long time to fulfill, but working together and with the help of the birds of the jungle they manage to do three things: fill 13 jars with tears freshly fallen; weave a rug of feathers of every colour of the rainbow; and fill 13 jar with nectar from all the flowers in the forest.
These three gifts must be offered to Corazón del Cielo, the God of their people, for only he knows how to break the curse. When he hears Serpent Goddess pleading on her daughter's behalf, he agrees to undo the harm her father brought on her and sends a lightning bolt. When Kesne sees it hit the ground close by she shakes with fear, shakes off all the green feathers and becomes a woman once more.
Lesson learned: don't wait for someone whose heart has hardened to forgive you; curses can be lifted when those who love you work together on your behalf.
"Green Bird" from Fiesta Femenina: Celebrating Women in Mexican Folktale, retold by Mary-Joan Gerson and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Cambridge MA: Barefoot Books, 2001), pp. 28-33.