Author Archive
Game

Bâū Ća Tôm Cua

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as DD. I am marked as DG.

 

DD: So there’s this game that me and my cousins used to play on the Lunar New Year, and it’s called Bau Ca Tom Cua, and it basically means um Gourd Crab um…it means Fish but it’s referring to a Shrimp, or um and then a Rooster. It’s basically-it’s a simple game where you have a picture of um each of the four items I mentioned, well actually some of them have 6 it’s a fish-a shrimp-, a crab, a rooster, a gourd, and a stag. And you have this little dice where on each of the little sides there’s a picture and you…usually money or candy, usually small change because my cousins and I, you know, small kids you don’t want them gambling with you know, tons of money, and we would put the coins basically on the picture that we thought was going to get rolled. So we would put the dice in a bowl and there’s 3 of them and roll them in the bowl and remove that and the ones on top, if you were right, you got to split the money.

 

DG: Who did you learn it from?

 

DD: Um, I remember playing it with my…cousin, um it must have been something we learned from probably our parents. Yeah its just a pretty common game. And even when I went to the Vietnamese lunar new year festival here, there were a whole bunch of boards.

 

DG: What was the context?

 

DD: It was a game that was traditionally played on the New Year’s, I don’t know if there was a significance for why it was played on the New Year’s… but it makes sense to me that um that at least little kids would have money on the New Year because their relatives would have just given them money.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in a classroom during an assigned period to discuss folklore. However, the context that the game would be performed in would most often be on the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Although she was born in Northern California, her entire family is from Vietnam, and she is one of the first generation to be born in the United States.

 

Analysis:

 

This game is good for cross-cultural teaching, as it is rather simple to teach and pick up. It can be adapted to bet on candy, coins, dice, or more. It is also easily taught to small children, meaning it is highly adaptable and good for bringing up through generations. It is also a quick game to teach, making it good for fairs, etc, where all the players may not be familiar with the game. It also has a specific history, being related to the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Due to this, this is not a game that the majority of the American population will likely know, or have heard of. I personally have learned this game in the past, at a Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration at my university, and found it very fun to play.

Folk Beliefs
Protection
Signs

Vietnamese Child Numbering

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as DD. I am marked as DG.

 

DD: In a lot of Vietnamese families, there’s a habit of numbering the children from oldest to youngest, in the way sort of like nicknames. So we’ll have, um, sister number two is the oldest sister [sibling], brother number three is the second oldest sibling and oldest brother. And, um, interesting thing about that is that you actually start with the oldest one being sibling number two because there’s a belief that if you called them the first child, the spirits will come take the child away. And it’s actually really interesting in my family because my grandparents have nine children and they were supposed to have a 10th but the first born did actually pass away… right after birth I believe, so it did actually fall into that superstition, and it’s something I know my grandmother always believed. Although with my dad’s family they don’t really number the children, but they give them nicknames to symbolize, like, where they are in the order of children. Like…uh my dad is one of the younger ones so his name is trè, which means young, and his youngest brother is út which means littlest. Út usually refers to like the littlest finger, um, so, and it’s even like I still call him uncle út, which means the littlest uncle.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in the sun on a bench on a university campus. However, the context that this numbering was used under was whenever a child was born. It would be numbered whilst still in the womb.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Although she was born in Northern California, her entire family is from Vietnam, and she is one of the first generation to be born in the United States.

 

Analysis:

 

I find superstitions to be the most interesting of all folklore items. In this case, the superstition is that something bad will happen if the children are numbered starting at one. The reason I find it so interesting is because although there’s no solid, scientific proof, people still act based upon the belief, just in case. I find myself doing the same in other superstitions. This is also one that I’ve never heard of before, and one that had proof in the believers’ eyes, with the death of their first child. I also found it interesting that they adapted the numbering system to, in the form of “young” and “littlest.” This appears to be a form of an oicotype, where the folklore belief has been adapted to a new cultural zone.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Santa Lucia/Swedish Christmas Traditions

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as PG. I am marked as DG.

 

PG: Every Christmas on like, I think it was December 6th something like that, the uhh the daughter in the house would put on a ring of candles on her head and bring in breakfast to the mom, and it was Santa Lucia day, which frankly I didn’t know much about, but we did it every Christmas. It was a Swedish tradition, and I learned it from my mom. Another one is we opened our presents the night before Christmas. She swore it was a tradition! She might have just been impatient. And every year I try to get you guys to do it but you always say no (laughs).

 

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The context for the tradition is that these are to be performed in the house of the family. The Santa Lucia one is performed in the morning, by the daughter, and the gift tradition was performed in the living room.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 53-year-old father of two, who is married. He grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. He was raised by his mother alone, who is from Sweden. He comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

This is a tradition from Sweden. I find it interesting because although the interviewee’s mother is from Sweden, PG was born in America, so his only experience with Swedish traditions has been the same few that have been carried over by his mother from Sweden. These are not traditions that have been passed down to his children, showing the power of region for folklore. These traditions are fascinating because they are strictly part of the Swedish culture–it’s not like a more popular folklore item that is seen in most places by most cultures.

 

For another version of the Saint Lucia tradition, see Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker (2014).

general
Narrative

Horse Thieves and Gambler Descendants

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: One story is my dad used to swear we were descended from horse thieves and, um, gamblers. He had all kinds of tales and he would just swear that all-that the relatives had gotten kicked out of Appalachia? No, Georgia area, the Georgia area, and then the Appalachia area. That must have been Mississippi river because they were supposed to be river gamblers and horse thieves. He also swore that his dad was Jewish, which is how he got the name, but everyone else says no he wasn’t. So I’m not sure.”

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The context for the narrative is that it’s told to the children in the family, usually during bedtime.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

I enjoyed hearing this piece of narrative folklore because most of the other folklore I’ve captured has been part of a larger scheme or culture, whereas this one was very individual to the family that created it. Additionally, it was one of those pieces were it could be true, but the interviewee didn’t believe it to be so, which is what made it folklore, instead of just history. It was interesting to see how the attitude surrounding the piece can make or break the folkloristics of the item.

Legends
Narrative

Devil’s Trail

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: Up around JPL and La Cañada, um there’s different times, even the Indians thought that there were demons, although they didn’t call them that, they called them negative spirits, but because that was known, there was some big name scientists that started an occult up there, and they would have satanic ritual sup there, and there’s a place called the Devils Trail up there. And they would-in fact up in the 50s, a few children disappeared up there in that area, I mean they were running up the trail with their parents, they turned the corner, and they never saw those kids again. Yeah it’s not even really a great trail now, there’s just something funky about it. But um when we went up there hiking that one time up there, and Dad was throwing his knives at the trees, this sort of blood looking stuff was coming out of them. And to this day, I have never ever seen that in any other tree. And I looked it up! I can’t find it. Now Danny [the interviewee’s brother] said he found it but I looked and I can’t find it. So to this day that is not a trail I want to ever go on again.”

 

DG: Where did you hear this from?

 

LG: I’ve heard the Devils Trail from a lot of people, I’ve seen it on the internet, heard it from different people, including my mom, and seen it on TV. It’s kind of like one of those-it’s a warning, but I think it’s also like a lot of the time like egging people to go onto it. But I think it’s mostly like a warning, to parents like don’t let your kids go on there. But they’ve had like um a couple teenagers disappear in that area too. Yeah don’t go there.”

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The context for the tale is to be told to your children, mostly in the JPL/La Cañada area, to warn them about going out on the trails alone.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

This story has one of the marks of a folktale, in how it is most often used to warn young children about the area. Interestingly enough, LG has also heard of it in the context of “egging” on other children to do it. This is a very local tale. Someone from New York would not understand what the Devil’s Trail meant, except maybe in the context of a different trail. Having been on this trail myself, I can attest to how terrifying it can become. My own experience was that the trail suddenly became dark and freezing, during the middle of the day. This folktale is also interesting in that aspect, as it shows that many people can have different experiences of the same item.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: Oh, um, one saying is “a stitch in time saves nine.” There’s not much to say, I honestly think she just wanted us to get stuff done on time (laughs) you know like, get it done, now, instead of later. I heard it from my mom um who heard it from her mom. And both of them were really prompt, and my dad was more like (click noise).

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The proverb was used by the interviewee’s mother whenever her children or husband were late.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background. She has two siblings.

 

Analysis:

 

Proverbs tell us much about both the worldview of the country that the interviewee inhabits, and the family of the interviewee. In this case, the proverb is talking about how if you do something quickly, time will be saved later. In America, time is something that is highly valued. Americans tend to bustle about, trying to get everything done, and rarely taking time to enjoy it. In the interviewee’s family, time was also heavily valued. They were always early, and that’s something that LG also brought down to her children. This shows that proverbs can be more than just words, they can also carry down behavioral attitudes.

general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Riverbed Ghost

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: So one of the ghosts, and usually I saw this one outside, is you would see, and just for a brief moment, the riverbed that used to be under our house in the old days, before California developed up more, and that’s what you would see. When you saw that ghost, you saw that time period. And i-it, it didn’t look anything the same. And then it would be gone. And that’s the only time you would see them, they would both pop in together and then they would both pop out together. So it was him on the land he was on. And I didn’t even know there had been a riverbed until I found out later.” But pretty much everyone who had been at our house has seen a ghost.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

This is a local ghost story, to the point where you would have to spend time in the interviewee’s house in order to see the ghost. As such, this folklore does not show up often, but has been corroborated by the interviewee’s siblings. I’m inclined to believe it’s true, given the later-found-out fact that there is, in fact, a riverbed below the interviewee’s house.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection
Signs

Black Cat Crossing the Street

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: So like, when my mom was driving she was really superstitious so if there was a black cat anywhere around it crossed the road, it didn’t matter if you had to go back two miles, that’s how far you were gonna go around up around it. And to this day I still don’t wanna cross a road that a black cat’s just crossed. And I know it’s dumb, but…just can’t do it. Just can’t.

 

DG: So you learned that from your mom?

 

LG: I learned it from my mom. Every single time we saw a black cat. And our street had a lot of black cats (laughs). So, yeah.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The black cat superstition itself was used whenever a black cat was seen, especially so when in a car.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

I find it interesting that there is one specific color of cat that has this superstition surrounding it. I also find it interesting that if there is reason for the black cat, in particular, to be cursed, the interviewee was not aware. This shows that as folklore is passed down, it evolves. The interviewee’s mother may not have known why black cats are cursed, and her mother’s mother may not have known, but there was an original reason for the superstition one day. It’s also interesting to see how strongly the participant avoided black cats-including going so far as miles out of the way to avoid crossing a black cat’s path. This was a superstition so strongly believed that it disrupted the participant’s daily life at times.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Eucalyptus Oil

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as DD. I am marked as DG.

 

DD: Um my-the basic, the default remedy that my grandmother would go for is…a bottle of eucalyptus oil. And um whenever I was sick, no matter what the ailment was, she would, you know, tell me to rub it on myself. So if um if I had a headache, put a drop on like my temples or if I had a stuffy nose, put some right below my nose, if I had a stomachache rub some on my stomach, um something that-it’s crazy, my dad’s a dentist and he’s generally a skeptic of a lot of these you know, Vietnamese old wives’ tales, but this is one that he still swears by, and I think there is some method to the madness. I think um the eucalyptus oil is kinda like menthol it’s kinda warming it’s basically a natural icy hot, so I guess it does have a very you know the same like icy hot like warming cooling effect. So I think that’s why it like works for a variety of different effects.

 

DG: So you heard this from your grandmother?

 

DD: Um it’s something that like pretty much all of my family members know. Um my grandmother and my mother are the ones most likely I guess to take care of me when im sick, so um that’s where it came from I guess. And my dad, who’s a doctor because he’s a dentist, he still swears by it. Like it’s to the point where I even brought a bottle with me to college, like after a particularly grueling dance practice Ill rub it on my calves if they’re sore, or if I have a stuffy nose I’ll use some.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in a classroom during an assigned period to discuss folklore. However, the context for the homeopathic medicine to be used would be whenever the interviewee was feeling ill, whether it be a cold, or a sore muscle.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Although she was born in Northern California, her entire family is from Vietnam, and she is one of the first generation to be born in the United States.

 

Analysis:

 

This homeopathic cure is one that seems to hold a lot of weight, as it has a similar feeling to Tiger Balm or Icy Hot, and also is one of the ingredients used in both ointments. It is used incredibly commonly. It reminds me of the use of aloe vera, where both are natural ingredients from plants, used as a soothing cure. I also found it interesting that the interviewees medically trained father believed in eucalyptus oil as a cure, despite neither of them being entirely sure of its proven qualities. I think this shows the power of hearing these cures from above generations, and also points towards it working, as they would not continue to believe in it if it did not work.

 

For another version of this riddle, see Eucalyptus Essential Oil: Uses, Studies, Benefits, Applications % Recipes (Wellness Research Series Book 6) by Ann Sullivan (2015).

Myths
Narrative

Virgin Mary

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as BDV. I am marked as DG.

 

BDV: I feel like Filipino’s in general focus a lot on the Virgin Mary… Ok, so yeah there’s this woman named Mary, she marries this man named Joseph and…because I guess you are supposed to marry virgins back then ,she was a virgin so Joseph was like “ok cool”, and then the angel Gabriel comes down and announces to Mary that she is pregnant, and she doesn’t know what to do because she’s a virgin, she’s like “how did this happen,” so she tells Joseph and instead of freaking out-well he probably does freak out-but he says “it’s ok I forgive you. We’ll just deal with this baby.” And and it’s unclear whether he believes she didn’t sleep with anyone else, but but yeah and then she goes to tell her sister Elizabeth and Elizabeth is like wow I’m also having a baby and she’s going to name her son John, because the angel also told her to name-told Elizabeth to name her son John… Um, yeah.

 

DG: Where did you hear it, like from your family?

 

BDV: No, I aggressively went to Sunday school when I was younger because my parents made me, and I-that is how they told it… No they probably told it more eloquently but they told the story. I didn’t read the bible much when I was younger.

 

DG: How old were you when you heard this?

 

BDV: Um, I would say probably 5–kindergarten.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting outside of a coffee shop at the University of Southern California. The interviewee heard the story of the Virgin Mary while at Sunday School, and also later at home.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She is the fourth generation to grow up in America, but is Filipino. She speaks several languages, with English being her native language.

 

Analysis:

 

This is one of the most common stories that is known about the Bible. Most people, even if unreligious, know at least part of the story of the Virgin Mary. I did actually find it really interesting, though, because although I’m no longer religious, I did grow up Christian and I had never heard the part about Mary’s sister, Elizabeth, so that was an interesting addition to the story. I also was intrigued by the participant saying that Filipino’s are often very into the Virgin Mary story-it made me wonder what about it in particular made it such an item of interest, more so than in other cultures?

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