Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Don’t wash your head!

Main piece:

You can’t wash your head on Mondays or right before exams.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

I know it from school. I think my parents might have told me. I don’t know if it works. It’s kind of school related stuff. Something inside me says, “Oh what if it’s true.” I don’t want to risk it. But honestly, I’ve washed my hair a ton on mondays and it was fine! For exams, I feel like I’m washing all the knowledge out of my head.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

I would think about it on Mondays and before exams. I wash my hair on Sundays- if I need to wash my hair, I’ll do it on Sunday but if it’s kind of clean I leave it to Tuesday. Even if my hair is super dirty, I’ll just put it up in a bun and leave it filthy until after my exam.

 

Personal Analysis:

This hints about the importance Ana’s culture places on academics. As she mentioned in her telling, she was worried about washing the knowledge out of her brain. I work with her, and she is constantly studying or doing work for class. Perhaps that is why she’s so concerned about losing the knowledge- she’s put in too much effort to sacrifice any of it to a shower drain! As she was telling me this saying, another co-worker mentioned she had heard the same thing from her Indian parents. It seems as though this saying may not be exclusive to Moldova, but has traveled southeast through Asia and to the Indian subcontinent.

Customs
Holidays

Moldovan Gift Giving

Main piece: So, um… we have traditions when it comes to gift giving. If someone gives you a wallet as a gift, the wallet can’t be empty. They have to put like a dollar or a coin or something. And if somebody gives you a watch, you have to give them some kind of money in return to repay the gift. The watch is not so good as a gift because it kind of signifies that the relationship is going to end, it has a time limit.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):\

I observed. My parents did it, I’ve seen other people do it in my country. Someone gave me a wallet once, and I noticed some money in it, so it’s even happened to me. My relatives definitely showed me. I was kind of part of it because I was the one who received the gift. It’s just a tradition that because I already know it, I follow it. Probably if I didn’t know about it, I wouldn’t be so strict. But since my family follows it, and I follow it, I have a kind of obligation to keep doing it.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

This would be any time that a watch or wallet is given, like an presents. Mostly during birthdays, but sometimes during Christmas if you were giving that present to someone.

 

Personal Analysis:

The concept of time in many culture is relatively sensitive. In this telling, a watch is symbolic of time- if you give a watch, you are giving away time with the person you gift it to. But, if the other person pays for it, through whatever symbolic value placed upon the gift, time is essentially bought. With a wallet, emptiness symbolizes a concept that it may never be filled, that the receiver of the gift may never have the money to fill it. In this sense, the present is practically worthless. However, I assume that placing a few bills or coins in the wallet assures that it will be filled at some point, and attract more money in the future.

Folk Beliefs
Magic

Hair is Luck, Don’t Cut it Away

Main piece:

You can’t cut your own hair because you’re going to cut your own luck away.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

My mom I think told me. I don’t like it, I don’t care about it. I never cut my hair anyways. It doesn’t affect me anyways. I’ve had bangs all my life, and sometimes they get hard to keep up. It’s easy to look and think that you can cut just a little bit off, but I would never do that. I just make a hair appointment. I take all of this with a grain of salt but if I can avoid losing the luck, then I will avoid it. It’s not like I have no other choice.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

I was told when I was little. My dad usually gave me a haircut for my bangs- which turned out awful always- but I still wouldn’t cut my own hair.

 

Personal Analysis:

This seems like a way to deter children from cutting their hair by themselves. I personally have cut my own hair more than I would like to admit, never quite succeeding in making it look professional. Then again, I was told not to cut my hair after I had already done the deed- after I found out how fun it was! Ana, who was told her luck would go away if she cut her own hair, has literally never attempted it- even with the nuisance of overgrown bangs. Either she has incredible willpower, or this mild warning was very successful in deterring her from cutting her own hair. I should have asked why someone else cutting her hair didn’t also cut the luck away, but I think I can assume the answer is no. Otherwise, she would have some pretty long hair!

Folk Beliefs

Step Over, Step Back

Main piece:

If you step over somebody, they will stop growing until you step backwards over them in the same way you stepped over them in the first place.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

I don’t remember why I know this, I think my parents told me at some point. Do I like it? Its cute, that’s it. I learned it at home, my parents just told me not to. It’s cool. It becomes a problem in college when people constantly step over you when you’re laying down, and you have to explain this weird Indian custom.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It would just happen if you’re stepped over. If someone steps over any part of your body, you have to do the ritual. I abide by it, oh yeah.

 

Personal Analysis:

I have been personally involved in this act of folk belief. I made the mistake of stepping over Ankur, and he chased me down until I stepped backwards over him. He is a rather tall man, over 6 feet, so he shouldn’t be too worried about not growing anymore. He doesn’t need to get any taller!

Annotation

This tradition is similar to a Russian tradition:

“It is often considered taboo to step over people, or parts of their body, who are on the ground. It is often said that it will prevent the person from growing (if they are not fully grown already). It is better to politely ask the person to move or to find a way around them. If one accidentally steps over a person (or people), it is sometimes standard to step backwards over them.”


“Russian Traditions and Superstitions.” Weird Russia. Weird Russia, 31 Aug. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Folk Beliefs

Macbeth

Main piece: Okay, so… You’re never supposed to say the name Macbeth within a theater. You’re supposed to refer to is as “The Scottish Play” because the Macbeth is cursed and um there have been many instances of actors or crew getting injured or having bad luck. If you say Macbeth instead of “The Scottish Play” in a theater, you’re supposed to run outside, spin around three times to your left, and spit over your right shoulder. And then… you’re safe.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

I mean… I’ve been doing theater since I was five, and it’s something that’s done at every single theater. There’s not a specific point where I can say I was told it, you would just hear “The Scottish Play” and wonder what it was. If there was a stupid middle school boy who decided to say it in the theater, everyone would scream at him and tell him to go outside RIGHT NOW to un-jinx himself or remove the curse. They would watch him until he finished. My thing with superstitions in general is, like, do I necessarily think that since you say Macbeth in a theater, that means your show is gonna be doomed? No. But since someone said it, everyone will be on edge and be thinking about the stupid curse and mess up. But… what’s the harm in it? You know? You’re not losing anything from participating in the ritual that saves you from the curse, so why not do it.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

In a theater during ANY stage of a production- auditions, rehearsals, performances, strike- even if you’re just an audience member. The only time you’re allowed to say Macbeth is if you’re actually doing the show and in the context of the show. But even if you’re talking about the play and you’re in the performance, if it’s not for the purpose of putting on the play, then you’re not allowed to say it (i.e. in rehearsal)

 

Personal Analysis:

This was a folk belief discussed in class, and it was interesting to hear it brought up again in conversation. I learned more about the history behind saying “Macbeth” as well as the technicalities behind the folklore, which prove to be rather intricate. This particular informant’s retelling was especially compelling. I felt as if I too were a believer, and left the interview feeling like I would never say “Macbeth” in a theater. It also gave me more insight into the culture of stage theater, which is much more community based than I had previously known it to be.

Folk Beliefs

Ghost in the Theater!

Main piece:

Well… most theaters have a ghost. Um, it’s kinda… there are a lot of really weird things that happen in theaters just because you have all of these lights and the wings hanging from the flies. But there are just a lot of random props lying around and as much as you try to keep things organized, things are inherently disorganized. A lot of people work at night, sometimes by themselves, and so most theaters have a resident ghost. If you’re working late at night and you see a prop fall off a table when it seemed pretty stable, it’s easier to say “oh, its the ghost!” than to admit they’re incompetent.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

I was a kid in the theater. I think ghosts give theaters character. Especially if you’re a theater that actors come to on a regular basis- like, actors work there regularly. It becomes a part of the theater’s character.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

I think it really is in a theater that tries to foster a sense of community. It’s not necessarily more professional theaters, like straight laced, down to business theaters that would have its crew sitting around and talking about the history of the theater. It’s more of a theater that acts as a family that would sit around and talk fondly like “Aw, our theater ghost, we all know him!”

 

Personal Analysis:

Ghosts are oftentimes depicted as demonic figures who wreak substantial havoc upon their discoverers. It’s refreshing to hear a recounting of a friendly, albeit mildly troublesome, ghost. Ghosts are also more prevalent among smaller amateur theaters, where cast members work together closely and have the opportunity to connect with one another. Like most folk beliefs, this belief creates a sense of community around the existence of this entity.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Bad Dress Rehearsal, Good Opening Night

Main piece: Okay, so… if you have a terrible dress rehearsal- well, what I should say is, how your production does in its final dress rehearsal is supposed to be an indicator of how your first performance is. BUT if you have a terrible dress rehearsal, it means that you’re going to have a great opening night. And if you have a great dress rehearsal, it means you’re going to have a bad opening night.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Um… again it’s something that, this is a universal thing, this happens at all theaters. It’s universal knowledge. There wasn’t a specific instant where I realized that this is what everybody thought. It was something I just heard over and over. As I did more and more performances, it’s something I myself found more accurate. I think it makes a lot of sense. It can really kind of scare your cast into trying their absolute hardest. If you’re in a show and you have a terrible dress rehearsal, it’s easy to feel defeated and think the show isn’t good, it’s never going to be good. But because of the superstition, if you have a terrible dress rehearsal, you’re going to try that much harder to overcome everything that happened in the dress rehearsal. There’s a really beautiful energy in not knowing if the production is going to work. If you know that your show is amazing, then you sit back too much, and you don’t try as hard, and you don’t really bring yourself to the stage, and you don’t really plant yourself in the present. The, kind of, energy in throwing it all together and hoping something sticks… you are giving so much more of yourself as a performer.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

In the final dress and opening night of a production. That’s pretty simple haha. It’s not something that carries across. If you have bad rehearsals all the time, you’re not going to have a good opening night. Its very specific to the dress rehearsal.

 

Personal Analysis:

While I have done some plays before, none have been serious enough to accumulate folk beliefs. This opposite outlook on the status of dress rehearsals is an interesting way to counteract the potential anxiety accrued from having a bad practice run. The underlying intention is to calm the nerves of the performers so that they feel confident in acting the next day. While I am not convinced that having a bad dress rehearsal removes the mistakes from a performance, I am convinced that tacking on a positive connotation to the act serves to dispel the frustration associated with a less than satisfactory dress rehearsal.

Myths
Narrative

Virgin Mary in Mexico

Main piece:

So, uh… what was the year? Around 1500s I believe, it’s in Mexico City, there lived this old, humble man. His name was Juan Diego. So he was on his way to church, early in the morning, and he heard a voice call out to him. So he went to the nearby hill, kind of like this mountain top. When he got there, he saw this really beautiful woman. She said to him, “Juan Diego, I am la Virgen de Guadalupe,” …um, “and I am the mother of Jesus Christ.” So Juan Diego, being a devout catholic, was extremely emotional, and went to church for his sunday morning class, and told everyone there that he had just met the mother of Jesus Christ. However, no one believed him. This was the first time the Virgin Mary had been personified in Mexico. So the image he saw is the traditional spanish looking virgin that we know today. Which is why no one believed him, before the image didn’t exist before then.

So, the next time he goes to church, it’s early in the morning again, and he hears her voice again. He goes to her and he sees her again, and he tells her that no one believes him. They think that he’s lying, and they don’t understand why the virgin mary would appear to a commoner and not some high class member of the clergy. So she gives him a pile of white roses and she tells him to wrap them up in his white tunic. He does, and she tells him to hold them there and release them onto the ground when he gets back to the church in Mexico City.

So he does that, he wraps them in his tunic and when he gets to the church, he tells everyone that he saw Virgin Mary again. And again, no one believes him, and he says “I have proof this time!” So, he extends his robe and drops the roses, and in the place of the roses is the image of the virgin mary with her green tunic and dark hair, tan skin, and it is said that that tunic that Juan Diego took to church is the same one that is still up, framed in the oldest church of mexico. I believe its in Mexico City. And that’s how we got the image of the Virgin Mary. At least the Mexican version. So she’s personified as a mexican woman whereas the image of the Virgin Mary in spain has blonde hair, lighter skin, lighter eyes.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

I know it because my mom told it to me. She told it to me a long time ago, thats why the details are a little messed up. So I grew up in a very catholic, at least through my mom, household. My mom’s side of the family is very catholic, as is most of the mexican population. I had a baptism, first communion, I went to church- not as often, so we’re not that devout. But the fundamental faith is still present in my mom. So while I don’t consider myself a strictly devout Catholic, I do believe there is a bit of faith in me, in some sense. To me, it’s very much about faith and believing. Also, I think I really like that this really mystical being appeared to someone of such humble origins. That’s why Catholicism is so popular among countries, because its a humble religion. You don’t have to be rich to believe. It’s kind of believed that everyone’s equal, and even if you’re poor, if you live by these certain values, you have an equal chance of getting it to happen as a rich person does.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

Usually, it would be around some sort of Catholic ceremony, so whether it was if my sister getting baptized, or my first communion, or some other celebration, such as the virgin mary’s birthday- that’s very celebrated in Mexico- or simply if I just asked. I asked her a lot about Catholicism, and she’s happy to tell me whatever she can.

 

Personal Analysis:

The informant told this true to the mythological mindset- she held it in sacred truth. She recounted the myth as if it was part of her belief system, even though that story is mentioned nowhere in the bible. Catholicism is different from other Abrahamic religions, like the different sects of Christianity, but it must not be forgotten that the believers of the religion would like their own form of identity. In Mexico, Catholics take pride in this particular story of the Virgin Mary because it links her to their country. It is their own form of romantic nationalism.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Bury the Broken Glass

Main piece:

I did theater growing up, all through elementary, middle, and high school, and my theater teacher was a character. She basically spoke exclusively in proverbial terms, or in, I don’t know, sayings and quotes, and very very superstitious as well. And so, this one time we… we were a part of a competition play where different high schools from my state would travel to one high school to perform and we’d be judged based on how we performed. And, we did not do that well, we- well, our performance was really, really good. I think it was one of the best performances I’ve ever been in; it was an absurdist play. But, it didn’t make it through. And earlier that day, a cast member had broken a mirror in the dressing room. She found out about it later, and she was livid. She was really, really upset that we didn’t tell her about it, and I guess she went back to the dressing room and grabbed the mirror, and took it with her home, and brought it back later, maybe a week later or something to bury it at the high school where we broke the mirror because I guess she heard somewhere that you need to bury the shards of the mirror to reverse the curse of the seven years, uhm….. So she’s pretty crazy, she’s awesome, I love her, but definitely… pretty wacky.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Oh, she told us, yeah. She told us, like, the next day, “I went back and I buried the mirror… in the ground of the high school. It just reminds me of her character, and uh… I think, I don’t believe in superstitions, and this is kind of out there, but… yeah. It doesn’t mean anything to me especially, I don’t think there was a curse and that’s why we lost, I just think that they either didn’t understand the play, or didn’t like it for whatever reason, and I don’t think it was reversed once she buried it or anything like that. I wouldn’t bury a mirror… definitely not.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

You bury shards of a mirror… when you break it. Whenever you break it- it’s not exclusive to performances or anything.

 

Personal Analysis:

This superstition is not directly linked to theater, though the informant refers to it as if it were specific to the stage because that was the only time he had heard of it performed. Mirrors are often the source of folk belief, thought of to posses magical powers. Breaking a mirror in many cultures is considered bad luck, though I had never before heard a remedy to this curse. The informant also mentions a 7-year curse. I assume that to be associated with the breaking of the mirror itself- if it shatters, the curse –whatever it may be– lasts for 7 years.

Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Holidays
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Pine-needle in the Rice Cake

Main piece:

On Korean thanksgiving, it’s called Chuseok, and this is the holiday where families will meet up at the oldest relative’s house- like oldest one alive. And one of the most important dishes served at Chuseok are called songpyeon, which are rice cakes. They’re filled with pine nuts, and some brown sugar, they’re like dessert rice cakes, and really good. You can generally get rice cakes any time, but these rice cakes are special for this time. It’s kind of like a yule log, you wouldn’t make a yule log in the middle of the summer. When you make these rice cakes, you will get a pine needle- oh, by the way, when you’re making these rice cakes, they’re steamed on a bed of pine needles- so you’ll put a pine needle in one or a couple of the rice cakes and if you pick a rice cake and eat it and find a pine needle in it, it means you’re either going to get pregnant or married. Like, soon.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

A long time ago, my mom made these with me and she told me about it. But I was also taught about it in Korean school, when the holiday came around. They made us make them too. I think it’s every Korean child’s rite of passage to learn how to make rice cakes. That and dumplings. I’ve gotten the needle but it’s because I wanted a needle. I made my mom find one for me, which meant she ripped some open until she found one. But like not enough that like the whole thing is ripped apart. Just enough so that she could peek inside it… and I could have the pleasure of ripping it open!

The rice cakes are so good, they’re so yummy. Korean’s love predicting things, and like family values. The faster you get married, the faster you have grandchildren, the better. I didn’t get pregnant. I know it’s a pine needle- if I had chosen it on my own, I wouldn’t be scared of getting pregnant. What, the pine needle is going to impregnate me? (I wish.)

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

You’d only eat the rice cakes on Korean thanksgiving. I don’t actually celebrate it as much as I used to, but i think it’s in september or november. Oh— just kidding, it’s august on the lunar calendar, which means it’s in september! The day changes depending on the lunar new year.

 

Personal Analysis:

This piece reflects the importance the Korean culture places on family. The pine needle is representative of two predictions, marriage and pregnancy. After the interview, the informant revealed that men who chose a rice cake with a needle in it would only retain the prediction for marriage, while women held both predictions. Besides the obvious, men cannot get pregnant, the prediction does not extend to the man in the sense that he will get someone pregnant. If a woman chooses a needle and is single, her prediction would be marriage before pregnancy. This comments on the taboo of children out of wedlock in the Korean culture, as well.

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