Author Archives: Jennifer Min

The Gift of Shoes

“You should never gift someone shoes. They’ll wear them and run away from you.”

This folk belief was told to my informant from his mother when he was a child. Because of this, he really never gifted shoes to anyone. Apparently, if you really want to give the gift of shoes to someone, they have to pay you a dollar so they are, in a sense, buying the shoes from you. My informant was not sure as to the meaning behind the belief and how it came about. He suggested that, in the past, perhaps people just did not want the gift of shoes so they came up with this to prevent receiving gifts of shoes.

I have also heard this belief from my mother. It seems to be a pretty widespread belief. I believe that it may have to do with the fear of loved ones leaving. Having loved ones leave you may be one of the most sad and painful experiences. Because people do not want this to happen or do not want to believe this to happen, they may attribute the break in the relationship to something trivial such as the gift of shoes.

Scissor Lock

“I’ve personally, firsthand experienced scissor lock. You know, sleep paralysis. I’ve experienced scissor lock multiple times, but this one is the most frightening and eerie. The whole day was just super eerie. It was one day when I was feeling sick and tired after school. My parents were at work and my sister was off at soccer practice. I decided to lay in my bed to try in sleep. Well, I was starting to drift off to sleep when I heard somebody downstairs, walking back and forth and opening drawers and cupboards. I thought my mom had come back from work early, so I just went laid back down. I got thirsty though, so I went out of my room and yelled downstairs, asking my mom for a cup of water. There was no response. So I went downstairs, but no one was there. Feeling weird, I called my parents and my sister. They all said they had not come home today, and told me I was probably dreaming. But I swear, I wasn’t dreaming, I heard someone. Feeling extremely weird, I decided to just shake it off and go back to bed. That’s when I experienced scissor lock. I experienced it three times in a row, it was the scariest thing ever. What happened was, I went to sleep. Then, I’m not sure if my eyes were even open, or if this was happening in my brain, but I was awake, but I couldn’t move at all. Inside, I was screaming out to my body to move, but I was just stuck, like I was under some binding spell. As this was happening, I saw the dark figure of a lady standing by my bedroom door and staring at me. I freaked out and somehow broke from the paralysis. I was thoroughly scared, but so tired that I just went back to sleep. It happened another time. This time, I could almost feel myself sleeping into scissor lock, even when I felt like I was screaming out to stop. Once again, I was frozen, even though I wanted to yell and flail my arms around. This time I saw the lady again, and she was closer to me, like right next to my bed. She was staring down at me. The worst thing is that I couldn’t even move to escape from her. Eventually after struggling I slightly woke up, groggily. Once again though, I fell back asleep again, almost immediately. This is the last time I had the scissor lock. This time the lady was sitting on me and staring down at me. I was so freaked out after waking up that I turned on all the lights and blasted Christian music.”

As my informant told me this account of his sleep paralysis, he became so scared again that he refused to go home. He said his sister and his other friends had also experienced this scissor lock before, which is the Korean version of sleep paralysis. This experience made him believe in the supernatural. He believes there is some kind of evil out there, whether it is ghosts or spirits or demons he does not know, but there is something. I have heard that sleep paralysis is called something different in each culture, and is scissor lock for Korean. I am not sure why exactly it is called this, although if translated directly from the Korean word for it, it has something to do with being pushed down. This goes along with the idea that sleep paralysis occurs when a ghost or spirit is lying on top of the victim, causing paralysis, which is what my informant saw the third time he experienced the paralysis. I have heard of different accounts of this phenomenon and different explanations for it, including religious ones that it is a demon trying to make scare or lure someone who is spiritually well. I just hope I never have to experience this, as it seems quite frightening.

Hauntings at Elsinore Theater

“There’s a story about the Elsinore Theater in Salem. It’s supposedly supposed to be haunted. I’ve heard that they’re actors and actresses that use to perform on the stage in the past that died, and now they’ve come back to haunt the theater and to watch those who use the stage now. My friend said she read somewhere that the original owner’s daughter died in Elsinore and that she also haunts the theater. There’s supposed to be some place on the stage that’s a cold spot. If you’re on that place while performing, you’ll suddenly feel the temperature drop, and you might see a weird figure watching you. Also, there have been reports of people in the scaffolding area, and also of a dark figure visible from the stage, walking around the aisles during performances.”

This information was told to my informant during a choir benefit concert. She was there with her orchestra to play Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” with the choir. As she was in the waiting room before her performance time, she was talking with some of her choir friends, and they passed on these stories of the theater. She said it was definitely a bit creepy for her, as it was late in the evening in winter, so there was a lot of howling wind and dreary rain. She refused to go to the bathroom by herself, after hearing these accounts, as she was afraid she would encounter one of these ghostly apparitions. Although she does not really believe these accounts to be true, she said something about the theater just seems eerie to her now.

I have been to the Elsinore Theater myself, although I have never heard about these possible hauntings. It is an old and beautiful theater, and I could see how rumors like these could have arisen. For me, places where art is made such as music and plays, these places seem a bit romantically scary. It is almost as though past performers or composers, or the subjects of the plays or music seem to linger around in these areas of high emotion and passion. Elsinore Theater seems to be one of those places where even fairytales can come true.

Jiggle-O

“In our orchestra at our school, we have a tradition that has been past down since . . . I’m not even sure when. But for the three whole years I’ve been in orchestra we’ve always done this tradition. It’s something called Jiggle-o and we do it before concerts. It’s something kinda weird and funny, but it might be hard to explain in words. So what we do is, first we privately gather in a circle by ourselves in some room. Then, one person starts off the process by saying ‘Jiggle-o, jig-jiggle-o,’ and then everyone says the phrase together again, ‘Jiggle-o, jig-jiggle-o.’ Then, the person who started it yells someone else’s name in the group in this way, ‘Hey _____!’ So for example, ‘Hey Jenny!’ And then the person responds with ‘Hey what?!’ So the whole sequence goes like, ‘Hey Jenny!’ ‘Hey what?!’ ‘Hey Jenny!’ ‘Hey what, hey what?!’ ‘Show us how to jiggle-o!’ Then everyone shouts together, ‘Show us how to jiggle-o!’ Then the person, in this case Jenny, yells, ‘My hands are high, my feet are low, and this is how I jiggle-o!’ As she says this, she will perform some dance move, usually something goofy or funny or crazy. Then everyone watches, and shouts together, ‘Her hands are high, her feet are low, and this is how she jiggle-o’s!’ And then they all perform the dance move together. And so on, then Jenny will start the whole process over and call on somebody else, until everyone has had a chance to perform a dance move. I don’t know if I explained it well . . . but yeah this is our little tradition thing before concerts that we do. It’s just a lot of fun and goofiness.”

My informant was unsure as to where this ritual/game came from originally. Probably one of the orchestra members brought it in from somewhere else, perhaps from a team-bonding activity from a sport. She said that it just helps the members of the orchestra to loosen up before concerts as people may become stressed or nervous. Doing fun little things like this help them to laugh together and relieve stress before going onto the stage. Also, she believes that it helps their teamwork, since jiggle-o requires teamwork and synchronization, and members of the orchestra bond as they act silly together and laugh together.

This seems like a cute and funny activity to do, something that allows people to get close to one another as they show their crazy sides. It was strange to me that the name of this game is jiggle-o, which is pronounced the same way as gigolo. When my informant first told me of the ritual, I was a bit confused and surprised, because I thought she was talking about a gigolo, which is a male prostitute. I’m not sure if these are connected, but maybe the activity had some Freudian roots, as they are showing each other how they “jiggle-o.” Nevertheless, it seems like an interesting and effective team-bonding activity, one that can help them loosen up before big concerts. Perhaps I will use it for an icebreaker game or when goofing off with friends.

 

“The Crane Maiden”

“A long time ago in Japan, there lived a young and poor farmer. One day while working, he comes upon a beautiful, hurt crane. The crane had an injured wing due to an arrow. He takes the crane back home and nurses it back to health. Once its injury mends and it is healthy enough, he lets it go back into the wild. Around a few days after this, or something, a beautiful woman appears at his house and tells him that she is lost. Since the winter is harsh, he invites her to stay. He falls in love with her and allows her to stay the next night, and the next, and so on. Shortly after, they get married. Although they love each other, money is difficult to come by, especially due to the hard winters making his line of work difficult. So then, the woman offers to, make cloth and weave silk to help support her husband. However, she gives one condition, the request to be left undisturbed while she’s doing the whole time she is doing her whole weaving thing. The husband isn’t allowed to see at all. Each time she goes in the room to weave, she stays inside for days at a time and the husband respects the promise he made and doesn’t really disturb her. She comes out with a really, really nice and expensive, shiny looking cloth that they’re able to sell for more money than they’ve ever really had. With the popularity of the cloth the wife was able to make, the other farmers and neighbors began to wonder more of how she made it. This also made the husband wonder and wonder, as his greed for more money also grew.  So, one day while she was at work, he actually opened the door. Surprise! He opened the door to find a crane sitting there, taking and using its own feathers to be woven into the cloth. Having been identified, the crane changed into the wife, who told her husband that she had to leave now because he had found out her identity. Even if the husband repented, she flew back into a crane and left the husband, flew far away, and is never to be seen again.”

This story was told to my informant by her mother when she was a little child. She would listen with her brothers as her mother told the story, and they would listen to it as if it were a fairytale. Her mother pointed out that the man’s kindness to the crane was rewarded as a beautiful woman appeared the next day. My informant learned that kindness is rewarded and being a good person is beneficial for the self too. She remembered wondering about this beautiful cloth that the swan would weave and what it would look like, a cloth made of feathers.

This story seems to have to different parts. One is the reward for doing good deeds, but the other is the opposite, the consequences for bad deeds. Once the man takes in the hurt crane and nurses it back to health, he is rewarded for his actions by the reappearance of the crane in the form of a beautiful woman who becomes his wife and weaves beautiful cloth for him that he makes a great profit off of. However, once he starts to become greedy and eventually breaks the promise he made to his wife opening the door on her weaving, he is punished as he loses his wife and the profit from the cloths. For me, it is a cautionary tale as it illustrates that once life leads to a more successful path, people often change and forget the mindset they had before of thankfulness.

 

The Sound of an Insect

“One night, a man couldn’t sleep because of the sound of an insect. He got so annoyed that he asked a wiseman how to not let the noise bother him. The wiseman said to bring in chickens, so the man did so and complained about the extra noise they were making. Then the wiseman said to bring in pigs, so the man did so and complained about the noise even more. Next the wiseman said to bring in a coyote and the man did so and complained about the howling on top of everything else. Lastly, the wiseman said to bring in an elephant, so the man did so and was surrounded by so much noise that it made him even more furious. Finally, the wiseman said to be rid of the elephant, then the coyote, then the pigs, then the chickens and then asked the man, now is it quiet enough for you to go to sleep and the man nodded and went to sleep.”

My informant was unsure of where exactly she had heard this story, she said probably from a friend. But for some reason, she found that it stuck with her, because she found the content to be profound. For my informant, this story meant to make sure to appreciate the little things in life. Often in life, problems can become greater than expected, and she often thinks she can make them better by doing things to help, but these things do not necessarily make them problem get better, but make it worse instead. It also tells her that if she first learns to deal with little problems, then she can later deal with even bigger problems without feeling overwhelmed. The story illustrates to not complain about the present, since the future is unpredictable and things can turn much worse later, so to enjoy the present.

This story reminded me of a different folklore that I collected, the one about fighting heat with heat. In that tradition, in order to fight the heat of summer, people placed themselves in even hotter conditions, so that the original condition would not seem so bad. This seems similar to the story above, in that when things start to get worse, past smaller trials seem trivial. For me, this story seems to remind to count your blessings. For example, although finals and papers may seem like a huge trial to me at the moment, if I had experienced true poverty or homelessness, or the death of my parents, my current state would not seem so miserable. I must know that I am blessed in this way.

Remembrance Day

“In Canada, we have a holiday called Remembrance Day on November 11. It’s for remembering those who died in service for their country. We remember these brave men and women for their courage and devotion, even in the face of extreme hardship. For this holiday, we wear red poppies on our clothes for support. This tradition is supposed to come from the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” from World War 1, I think. I remember reading that poem in school. On this day, we usually attend different ceremonies and visit memorials. The most remembered wars for this day are the World Wars and the Korean War. I remember my friend mentioning that she really appreciates that her grandfather, who fought in the Korean War is honored by the Canadian government as a war veteran who fought well for his country. Especially since this war is often called the Forgotten War.  This day reminds us as to why we must work for peace every day of the year.”

The informant finds this holiday to be an especially important one, because she believes that it is essential to honor anyone who has allowed future generations to be able to live in piece. It is also important to her because some of her family members fought in wars, and it allows her to honor and remember them, and to see others honor and remember them. In our everyday life it can often be easy to forget such important things, so have a Remembrance Day is important to re-remember those who have allowed us to have peace.

Remembrance Day closely resembles Veterans Day, and even happens on the same date. I thought they might be identical things, but from researching it on the Internet, it seems as though Veterans Day is something unique to the United States whereas Remembrance Day is celebrated by many different countries of the world. Personally, for Veterans Day, I do not think I do anything special to commemorate those who have fought. Remembrance Day seems to be a bigger deal in Canada, with many national ceremonies happening. I think that the act of wearing red poppies is a nice sentiment, as it is a physical symbol of what he day is about.

Weddings in Taiwan

“One thing I remember is when my sister got married in Taiwan, there were a lot of Taiwanese traditions that we went through that I think are traditional marriage customs. Like, first my brother-in-law came to our ‘house’ that our family was in, and had to be welcomed in by us to get my sister or else he couldn’t come in the door. Then, he had to formally ask my parents if he could marry my sister, and then he had to bow and give my parents money. Then when my sister left ‘our house’ my little sister had to pick up a fan that my older sister threw out the car window and neither of them could look back and my little sister had to take the fan and put it under her pillow, which was one way to ensure a happy marriage. After that we moved to my brother-in-laws house, but before my sister entered, she had to step over a pot of fire onto a tile and the number of pieces the tile broke into signified the number of children they would have.”

My informant was unfamiliar with the traditions herself as she is Chinese and lived in America for most of her life, and found them very different and interesting. She was not really sure of the meaning for these traditions other than entering a new stage in life.

As discussed in class, marriage is one of the most celebrated occasions in life, so marriage traditions are abundant in most cultures. Now that I know may of the seemingly innocent traditions that people partake of are actually Freudian, I viewed these traditions in a similar light. I found it interesting that my informant’s sister had to step over a pot of fire before finding out how many prospective children she will likely have. This seems to have a Freudian angle as fire can signify passion and sexuality. Also, I have heard that fans can signify union, so perhaps the tossing of the fan can mean the new union formed and a loss of the female’s innocence, which the little sister keeps as she should still have this innocence. This may not be the actual significance of this action, but I interpreted it in this way. Other actions seem to show the traditional way of the woman leaving her home and entering her husband’s. At least in Korea, I know that often newly wed couples will live for a couple years with the husband’s parents. This seems significant in this particular wedding as well, as the husband “bought” his wife from her family by offering money, and they moved from her house to his.

Greetings in Indonesia

 

“When you greet someone in Indonesia, they only touch your hands on the tips very gently using both hands. So if describe it, it’s like you stand facing each other and put your palms together. And then with your hand, you will touch the other person’s hand only on the tips. This is hard to explain in words. They never grab your hand to shake it like in the western way. Also, if you are a young person and you greet the elders, first you kiss the elder’s hand and then you bring the hand onto your forehead gently. That’s how you show your respect. Between females, when they greet each other, they share kisses on both cheeks, also very gently almost not using their lips.”

This way of greeting, for my informant, looked very elegant and polite. She thought it was a better way than the custom of shaking hands in Western culture. It is very polite which is an important part of the culture in Indonesia. It also shows respect to each other and to elders, which is another important part of the culture. This way of greeting is more personal than just shaking hands, it helps to start relationships between people in the correct path.

For myself, I also find this way of greeting to be very elegant. In Korean culture, we also show respect to our elders by bowing, although handshakes are also common. Handshakes can sometimes have different connotations than just greetings however, as we are even taught of the best way tot deliver a handshake in professional situations. A firm but not too overbearing grip is usually recommended, as different pressures can have different meanings. When there is tension between two people, they are often depicted as aggressively shaking each others hand, trying to win over each other with the strength of their grip. In this way handshakes can almost be something condescending or something used to analyze the other. However, the Indonesia custom is not like his as it shows deference to each other and affection in their relationships.

La Llorona

“La Llorona is a tragic story about a mother that went crazy because of love. La Llorona used to be a beautiful woman who married the man she loved. They later had children and she was very happy, until it began to be apparent that her husband was no longer interested in her. He would be gone for long periods of time and only come back like once in a while to see the children. This drove her crazy and made her start to feel resentment toward her children. Then, one day she ran into her husband with her boys on the street. He was with some other woman, who looked beautiful and ric. Once again, he only talked to the children again and completely ignored her, walking past her as if she didn’t exist with the other lady. She went into a fit of rage and murdered her children by throwing them into a nearby river. Then she realized what she had just done and so she went after them and drowned in the river herself. After her death, she floated up to heaven, but wasn’t allowed in. The angels asked her where her children were and told her she could not enter without her children. So she was destined to come back down to earth, not alive nor dead, searching for her children. People say you can still hear her cries as she walks all over the earth, looking for her kids.”

My informant read this story during Dia de Los Muertos in her school. She was very shocked by it then, especially as she was a child. Because part of the legend that has become attached to it is that as La Llorona stalks the earth, she snatches children who are out in the dark and drowns them like she did her children, my informant became very afraid of the dark, especially to go outside at night. Her friends would tell her of people they knew who had actually seen La Llorona at night floating along a river and vanishing. Because of this, this legend was something that terrified her at night and gave her nightmares, although now it just seems like a legend to scare children into behaving.

This story is quite terrifying, and as it seems to target children especially, I can definitely see how my informant would have been shocked after reading this story. I would have reacted in much the same way if I had read the story as a child. In the story it seems as though she greatly regretted murdering her children, being forced to haunt the earth because she did not have her children with her when she went to heaven, may have turned her hostile once again to children. Although frightening stories like this may scare children into obeying, I personally do not think such scare tactics should be used. I can still remember frightening stories I was told as a child that would basically immobilize me because I would become so scared.