Author Archive
Legends

The Candle Dragon

“My grandpa loved to tell my this story of the Candle Dragon. He told it to me many times when I was younger. It explains why there are four seasons and day and night. There was a mysterious mountain in a rural part of China, where this serpent or dragon type creature with a human head lived. He was almost like a god for the people. His eyes were fiery and bright and when he had them open it was day. When he closed his eyes, it was nighttime. He created seasons when he breathed. So he would breathe in to create the summertime and blow out to make it cold during winter winter. Some versions say he had a sort of candle in his mouth, which is where he got the name of the Candle Dragon. When my grandpa told it, it was more story like, but I’m just stating the main facts of the tale.”

The informant has relatives in China who are very knowledgeable about Chinese folklore, although she was born here in the US. She said that she first heard this story from her grandpa, but other family members knew it as well. It’s a Chinese creation myth basically, describing what makes night and day and the seasons. Of course a dragon is involved, since dragons are respected in the Chinese culture.

I think this story is a cool version of another culture’s explanation for the seasons. It’s interesting how each culture has different aspects that make their creation myths unique to that region, like I mentioned earlier, as this story uses a dragon for example. It’s clever too, with the use of his eyes being the source of the sun and the moon.

Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Rubbing Alcohol Cures

The informant was born in Ventura, CA but her father is from Mexico City and her mother is from Guadalajara. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and partakes in many of the Mexican customs.

“We use rubbing alcohol all the time in my family. When you have a fever, it helps when you soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and you put it in your belly button. Haha, I don’t know why your belly button. But also you grab a wet towel saturated with rubbing alcohol and put it on your forehead. Also on your feet too. I think since it kind of has a cooling effect, it’s helpful. When you’re nauseous it helps when you smell it. My mom uses it all the time. She always has packets of those rubbing alcohol pads and smells them when she is feeling queasy.”

The informant learned all of these tricks from her mother who insisted that she use rubbing alcohol whenever she was sick. She is my roommate and I see her using rubbing alcohol all the time when she is sick with a cold or something. She believes that it is helpful and says that you can’t just use a damp towel, it has to be rubbing alcohol.

While I’ve never heard of these methods, I can understand why rubbing alcohol would seem beneficial. It does have a cooling effect, and it’s scent probably works like Vicks in a way to open up your airways. While I probably won’t use this method anytime soon, since rubbing alcohol seems harsh on the skin, it seems to work for the informant and her family.

 

Folk Beliefs

Don’t Shower When Sick

“So when I’m sick, my mom tells me not to take a shower. Like even if I’m sick for a week, she doesn’t let me shower. She says not to wash your hair because it will make the cold worse. If you sit around with wet hair your body will absorb the cold wetness and it will make you miserable. And even when you aren’t sick, you can’t wash your hair and go out in the cold with wet hair. You need to dry your hair before going out. Also you can’t have your feet uncovered or you will get sick. That’s why I always wear socks when I’m around the house.”

The informant was born in Ventura, CA but her father is from Mexico City and her mother is from Guadalajara. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and partakes in many of the Mexican customs.

She said her mom always told her this, and her dad agrees as well. However, it’s her mom who constantly reminds her to put socks on if she’s barefoot, or to dry her hair before she goes outside.

My parents have told me similar things about not going out with wet hair if it’s cold outside. I’m not sure it really impacts your health in that way, but it’s a very popular myth. I always wondered why Hispanics and Latinos are always usually seen wear some type of footwear, even indoors, and now I understand why.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs

Don’t Watch a Dog When it Poops

The informant was born in Ventura, CA but her father is from Mexico City and her mother is from Guadalajara. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and partakes in many of the Mexican customs. The following is a superstition that is common within her community and family. 

“I’ve definitely heard other people say this too, but I originally heard it from my mom. She says, if you ever dare stare at a dog while it poops you will get a pimple on your eye. So, for example, when I had my dog, my mom would see it pooping and she would see me watching it and my mom would be like DON’T LOOK AT IT! But it’s one of those things where you kinda want to look, since you’re forbidden not to and it’s more exciting. So one day I just decided that I was gonna look, and you know what? I was fine! I didn’t get a pimple on my eye, even those I was nervous I was going to.”

The informant originally heard it from her mom, but says people in her community all believe the same thing. She also said it applies to any dog anywhere. It’s not just your own, and it can be when you’re out in public as well.

I personally had never heard of this ever before, and when she told me about it I was laughing so hard. I think it’s so fascinating how something can be made such a big deal just by believing it. Since I had no idea this was a thing, I obviously never thought twice about seeing a dog poop. But for her, she said it was this big thing when she was younger. She said she was so curious because it seemed like such a bad thing to do that she always tried to sneak a peak when her mom wasn’t looking so she wouldn’t yell at her.

Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Gua Sha Remedy

“For remedies, there is this thing in Chinese culture where you take a spoon or a coin or something, rub oil on ur back, and then have someone run the spoon along your back as if you were scraping the oil off. If you develop red circle marks or red dots (other than from the scraping), it means you had toxins in ur body and this was like taking the toxins out and you could see it supposedly. Oh and this is called Gua Sha, by the way. Sometimes my grandma would use this on me, but it’s very uncomfortable. I hurts kind of, like a super deep massage. And then they’ll do it for like 20-30 minutes. That’s a long time to be scraping someone’s skin, so of course it hurts.”

The informant is from a Chinese background, although she was born in the US in Northern California. She has relatives that still live in China and her grandparents are very traditional with their remedies, traditions, and superstitions.

This remedy is very popular among Chinese culture, and is truly believed to help relieve pain and bring it to the surface. It can be performed in the home, by friends or family members who know how to do it, or can also be done at various businesses that specialize in this type of therapy.

To me, this sounds similar to the cupping method that is becoming so popular recently. Both of these seem very intense and I’m sure the deep massage feeling is very good to loosen up your body and help regulate circulation, etc. However, I don’t know if I would ever partake in this type of thing. It seems very harsh on your skin and muscles and I don’t think I would have the courage to actually try it. I’m curious as to how this began and what was the reasoning behind it.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Christmas Pickle

“We have a pickle Christmas ornament. This has been part of a tradition in our family since I was a little girl, and now I do it for my daughters. On Christmas Eve, after the kids go to sleep, I hide the ornament on a Christmas tree. We usually have a few trees set up around the house besides the main one in the living room and you can hang the pickle on any Christmas tree in your house. On Christmas morning, the rule is that no one mentions the pickle or prompts the kids to look for it, they just have to remember. Often everyone gets so caught up in opening presents that they completely forget about the pickle until later in the day. Anyways, the first person to find the pickle gets another little Christmas gift. For me though, I just end up getting the same little gifts for all my daughters no matter who finds it, but the one who did find it first gets bragging rights for the rest of the year.”

The informant is originally from the East Coast and has been carrying on this tradition from when her parents did it for her. She doesn’t know where it originally came from, but says she didn’t know of many other people who practiced it. She has also passed on the tradition to her family friends and now they partake it it as well.

This is a tradition that I assume is only followed by various Christians since it involves a Christmas tree ornament. It is a yearly tradition that occurs on Christmas within the home and among friends and/or family.

My family also partakes in this tradition and it has been in my family since I was a little girl. It was always fun on Christmas morning to wake up and see who could find the pickle first. There were many times were Christmas Day would go by and my sisters and I would forget all about it until our mom had to say, “Are you forgetting something?” Then of course we would all scramble over to the Christmas tree. I have to say I have been the pickle finding champion for about 3 years in a row now I think.

Here’s a possible reason for the Christmas Pickle becoming a popular tradition: https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/christmaspickle.shtml

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Birthday Cake Icing Wish

“So for your birthday, obviously you have to have a cake! It has to have your name on it written in icing. Like normal, you get a wish when you blow out the candles. But in my family, you get a second wish when you wipe your own name out and lick the icing off from your name. That second wish is more special. This tradition came about when I was younger. I don’t really remember it exactly, but my parents told me that for one of my birthdays, my brother was jealous. He was jealous of the party they threw for me, my huge cake with my name on it, and of course he wanted attention. So after I blew out the candles, he wiped my name off the cake, ate the frosting, and said, “It’s not your birthday anymore!” Most of the people at the party were laughing about it. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny but now we’ve made it a tradition and just made it into a good luck type thing. It’s something we laugh about every year.”

The informant shared that this tradition was unique to her family, so it’s not a widespread custom. I think the story is very humorous, especially with how the tradition started. She even said that she tells other people to do it as well. When she buys a cake for her friends, she will get one with their name on it just so they can lick off their name and make their second wish. Many times, occasions like this do turn into family traditions. Sometimes during the first time it happens it seems inconvenient or upsetting, but later on it becomes something to laugh about. I think it’s a fun tradition and clever as well. It’s a cute custom that I want to incorporate into my birthday celebrations.

general

Ghost in the Guest Room

“So we have this room in our house, which is what we use as the guest room. Except, we usually never let anybody stay in there or go in there at all. We always keep the door shut nowadays. I’ve always been convinced that my house was haunted but this room especially is..well…weird stuff has happened in there. When I was little it was kind of like my playroom. I had all my toys in there and would leave them all over. My mom told me that one day I was playing in there and she came in to get me for lunch. No one else was home. After lunch, when we went back to my playroom, a few of my toys were up on the bed. We didn’t have any pets at the time, so we’re still confused at how that happened. Also, for people who have stayed in there, a few had said they would see things in the mirror…so I mean eventually we just took down the mirror. Oh and also, you can’t light a candle in there. Everytime we try to, it just goes out. Everyone will say, oh it’s just a draft blowing out the candle, but seriously, we’ve tried putting it everywhere without fans or open windows. It doesn’t light. It goes out like someone blows it out. The room creeps me out so much, I don’t think I’ve gone in there for years.”

The informant told me these stories based on personal experiences or what she heard from others. She has lived in the same house her entire life, until she came to college, but she occasionally goes back to visit. I asked her why they didn’t move out due to this obvious paranormal activity, and she said because it really was only confined to that one room. No one ever got hurt, so her family likes to think it’s just a friendly ghost. In my opinion, I would move out of there. I’m a firm believer that ghosts are real and friendly or not, the paranormal presence scares me.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Cats Can Harm Fertility

“My mom believes that cats have these…well I don’t know….but if you have a lot of cats, it just affects women’s ability to have kids. I don’t know why, she just says that. I think it has to do more with cat litter. Something about the chemicals in the litter can harm your fertility. It’s not necessarily the presence of the cats themselves, but they’re linked in a way. When my friend brought over her kittens to my apartment, and my mom saw pictures I posted, she freaked and thought I bought cats. She said that I would need to get rid of them and deep clean the apartment. I mean, they weren’t my cats, but I don’t believe in her superstition so I didn’t really care.”

The informant was born in Ventura, CA but her father is from Mexico City and her mother is from Guadalajara. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and partakes in many of the Mexican customs.

She originally heard this superstition from her mother. Apparently, her mom’s friend owned a bunch of cats when she was growing up and later when she wanted to have kids, she couldn’t. Her mother figured it was because of the cats. Therefore, she has never allowed her family to own cats, but they have had dogs before. 

I personally don’t believe in this at all. I myself own two cats. It’s possible that cat litter has chemicals that aren’t very beneficial to one’s health but if you’re not ingesting it, I don’t see it as a problem. Many people are afraid of cats as well, and think they are generally causes of bad luck. This could be the case as well, as seen with the black cat superstition.

 

Context:


My thoughts:

Customs

Shooing Away the Devil

“Then there’s like the spitting thing, like shooing away the devil. So if you wanna make sure that the Devil doesn’t get to you, your mother or grandmother doesn’t literally spit on you but they make the motion and that type of sound. It’s like a “tsoo tsoo” spitting sound. It’s to make sure the Devil stays away, and not just when you’re a kid. So like my grandmother will say to me now, “You’re so pretty” or “Your hair is so pretty” and then she’ll do the spitting type thing. You can’t be vain, you need to stay humble and not let those kind of comments inflate your ego.”

This is a cultural practice that is widespread throughout the Jewish religion and many others. She explained how commonly used it is throughout her whole family, and her grandmother is very adamant about upholding it.

Family members and friends will often partake in this. Whenever complimenting or praising someone, they do this to make sure that they do not become egotistical and prideful, which would make them susceptible to the Devil’s influence apparently.

I’ve heard of similar actions in other cultures or seen it in films even. When discovering the reasoning behind it, it does seem to make sense, especially if one truly believes they need to protect someone from the Devil’s clutches. It’s similar to the evil eye, as they both refer to remaining humble even when people admire you or praise you.

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