Author Archive
Legends
Narrative

The Mammoth Shrimp: A Legend

In Galveston, Texas there’s this restaurant that has a huge giant shrimp as, like, I guess a statue or whatever and apparently, like, late in the 1800’s they went fishing and they literally caught this, like, huge giant shrimp that was like 4, 5 feet tall and like 6 feet long and, like, they caught it I guess and that’s what their whole, like, restaurant is, like, surrounded by, like, that whole superstition – or not superstition – that, like, the whole legend of that huge giant shrimp actually swimming in and living in the ocean right outside Galveston.

The Informant, my housemate, is an Econ major at USC. He was born and raised in Texas. The Informant told me about this local legendary catch at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. When I asked if he thought the legend was true, he responded that he didn’t really know. All he knows is the restaurant’s fried shrimp is “fucking amazing.”

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/canadian-fishermen-shrimp/

Considering the largest shrimp on the planet are about the size of a person’s arm, this legend is almost absolutely false. In fact, this is eerily similar to a viral news story in 2013 that reported a 320lb shrimp caught along the Canada coast. Snopes declared this false, however, and showed that the photo was clearly doctored to replace a large catfish with a shrimp.

I enjoyed the story. I think it’s convenient to have the rumor be set in a time where records of such a catch would be spotty at best. When I was listen to the Informant speak of the huge giant shrimp of Galveston, I immediately thought of Randy’s Donuts here in Los Angeles, a drive-through donut shop that wields a massive 26-foot donut as a sign. Sadly, there’s no 26-foot donut either, with the largest one ever at 16-feet.

Folk Beliefs

GamGam: A Ghost Story

It’s not exactly a ghost story. I mean, I didn’t really see a ghost exactly. When we moved into GamGam and PopPop’s house after they passed, I remember just feeling GamGam’s presence.  I can’t explain it exactly. I’d just feel like she was there keeping me company. 

One day, I was in the kitchen and no windows were open. There was a stillness in the house. Then I noticed that a note that was magnetted to the refrigerator was moving – and for quite a while. It never happened again, but I always felt like GamGam was there and wanted me to know.  It was very nice.

While the Informant’s story may not directly involve a ghost, it definitely involves paranormal activity. When I asked if she believed in ghosts, she replied an instant “absolutely!” She then equated ghosts and souls. She believes in old souls and new souls, relating natural wisdom to the age of a person’s soul. A ghost is an unsettled soul, with unfinished business, waiting for a new body. Essentially, ghosts are souls in transit.

This story means a lot to the Informant. She told me that one of the first things that GamGam, slang for grandmother, said to the Informant was that she was an “old soul.” A physical object being manipulated is a common motif in ghost stories, with the Informant’s involving the magnet.

I enjoyed the story. It’s a strange form of a ghost/spirit story. Instead of the intent to frighten, like in typical ghost story fashion, this one seemingly had a happy ending. GamGam just wanted to show the Informant that she was there, have her presence recognized.

Folk Beliefs

Garden Grove Ghost

In March 1933 there was a huge earthquake and Garden Grove High School collapsed. There was a little girl, a Freshman, named Elizabeth and she was the killed when the wall caved in. She was trapped under the rubble in the Hall of Fame in Heritage Hall for hours begging for help, but no one came to save her.

 Nowadays, students say they can still hear her ghost pleading for help.

The Informant was born in the US and grew up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County. Her parents are both from Vietnam. She is an Economics and Mathematics major at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, told me this story as I distracted her from her own schoolwork on 4/22 at around 2am.

It seems like whenever there is a disaster or tragic event, up pops a ghost story. Ghost stories also appear to be a youthful storytelling technique. So, it’s not surprising that a ghost story exists about the tragic death of one of the areas high schoolers.

The informant grew up in the area, with many friends and family attending the school in question. Unsurprisingly, this ghost story spread via word of mouth from classmates. The story spread from across schools and across classes. The informant says she would never step foot into Heritage Hall because, even though she’s skeptical about the existence of ghosts, in the off chance that they do exist, she doesn’t imagine them as being friendly. Whereas the typical viewpoint sees ghosts as the wandering spirits doing the scaring, she views ghosts as the scared ones. They’re stuck, scared, and angry.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but my belief system on souls is more complex. I don’t question the tragedy that occurred, but if I take a step back and think about it, I question the idea of the “haunting.” For the sake of argument, if I were to accept there are ghosts, why would they haunt their place of deaths? If I were a spirit in the afterlife, I would want to stray far from my tragic place of death and be in the surroundings of my happiest moments.

Legends
Narrative

Bigfoot: A Legend

Okay so Bigfoot is this big giant black human ape furry creature. I don’t know what it eats, and I don’t know what it does but -um- Oh! I heard that it creeps up to people’s homes at night and watches them sleep and it doesn’t like to hurt people, but it seems to be really curious.

I’m not so sure about the Yeti, it’s like the thing – the abominable snowman – is the snow version of Bigfoot so it’s like big and white and scary. Much more violent and dangerous. I don’t really know where it lives, but it’s not the Pacific Northwest like Bigfoot. Honestly, if I had the time, I would probably go searching for Bigfoot.

The Informant is Vietnamese. She was born in the US and grew up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County. She is an Economics and Mathematics student at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, revealed her staunch belief in Bigfoot (and skepticism of the Yeti) as I distracted her from her own schoolwork on 4/22 at around 2am.

Bigfoot is a legendary legend. The mysterious creature has nearly become a pop-culture icon. Though Bigfoot is thought of as an American folklore mainstay, depictions of similar creature preexist the United States and even exist in other countries, a possible example of polygenesis.

The legend of Bigfoot can be traced back to Native tribes throughout the United States. In fact, accounts of similar looking and behaving creatures exist in the oral traditions of many Native American tribes. Even more interestingly, if we look at linguistic groups of native languages, each one has a different name for what is now known as Bigfoot, further suggesting that the legend is not one of monogenesis.

In Māori mythology, the Maero, a large and hairy wildman would prey on humans using stone tools and sharp claws. The Maero is a devil creature in Māori folklore, with the creature a sworn enemy of the people. Whereas Bigfoot is rumored to peer into people’s homes at night, tainting their feeling of privacy and security, the Maero is said to have ruined the tapu (sacredness) of the Māori’s homes.

I had no idea how old the legend of Bigfoot was or that various versions existed in other continents. I’m not a believer in the legend nowadays. It is theoretically possible that a species inhabited the forests thousands of years ago, but I believe they are long gone now.

For a more in-depth folkloric analysis on Bigfoot, see the article ‘”The “Truth” about the Bigfoot Legend”‘ by Linda Milligan posted here.

Folk Beliefs
Magic

Wealth Mirror: Folk Belief

So in a lot of Asian cultures we believe in Feng Shui -um- which has a lot to do with balancing and good fortune or things that can cause uhh bad luck or harm you and, my family particularly, we have a mirror hanging above our front door from- on the inside side and the point of the mirror is that it reflects all the good wealth or good fortune that could be trying to leave the house and keeps it inside.

 Something really similar to that is we believe that -um- houses that are shaped triangularly, that are built right in front of a window or a room is bad luck so, for example, the house across from me from my bedroom has a triangular roof and my mom put a mirror in my window in the corner to ward off evil spirits. So mirrors can be used both ways, but its more meant to keep out the bad spirits and good spirits in.

The Informant is Vietnamese. She was born in the US and grew up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County. She is an Economics and Mathematics student at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, taught me about a use for mirrors aside from vanity in many Asian cultures as I distracted her from her own schoolwork on 4/22 at around 2:30am. Her entire house is set up to maximize energy flow. Although she doesn’t believe in the full power of Feng Shui (Qi as the lifeforce), she believes in the power of Qi.

Feng Shui dictates the placement of various items to correctly direct vital energies (Qi) to maximize happiness, health, wealth, etc. There are many directives with Feng Shui and most involve the use of mirrors to either amplify good energies or reject bad energies.

The cardinal sin of mirror placement is to position a mirror facing a door. This reflects Qi that enters right back out the door. The Bagua mirror, an octagon with wooden backing and an individual symbol on all eight sides. The concavity or convexity means the world; a concave mirror will absorb bad energy while a concave mirror will reflect it away. If a Bagua is placed inside the house, it must be concave.

I grew up with light influence of Feng Shui. My mom was always moving furniture around and reorganizing photos on tables to “improve the Feng Shui,” but I always thought it was an aesthetic thing. I’d be hard pressed to believe that a mirror can increase my wealth and good fortune, but if I run a cost-benefit analysis, there’s nothing to lose.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Dark Bright: Proverb

If close to ink, dark. If close to light, bright.

The Informant provided this Vietnamese proverb to me at around 2:30am on 4/22 while she did homework. She is an Economics and Mathematics student at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, said this proverb was burned into her brain by her Vietnamese parents while she was growing up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County.

Her interpretation of the meaning is that if you surround yourself with bad influences, bad people, or a bad environment, you’ll turn out bad as well. And if you surround yourself with the opposite, successful people, you will be the same. Essentially, you are a product of your environment.

This is similar to a proverb from the Bible. In Proverbs 13:20, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Although this proverb does not have a poetic aspect like the Vietnamese oicotype, I would assume most cultures have a similar proverb. A main function of proverbs is to impart wisdom and parents generally want the best for their children. I would be surprised if a society that uses proverbs did not have one to warn children about the type of company they keep.

I love the linguistics of this proverb. It has clear poetic aspects even though the entire proverb doesn’t rhyme. The actual words used confuse me a bit, because I see ink as a problem in an analogy puzzle. If I were given this analogy puzzle, “ink” would not be one of my guesses:

____ : Dark :: Light : Bright

Ink sticks out like a sore thumb, but that aside I enjoy the poetry of the proverb and the underlying meaning.

Myths
Narrative

Origin of the Elephant Head: Mythology

So there’s this God named Shiva and his wife and they were married – obviously, since wife (laughs) – so apparently his wife would always take showers in the middle of the day and then her husband Shiva, the God, would walk in and she hated that because she felt as though it was very disrespectful and so she decided one day to create a protector -um- that was gonna be her Son.

 So she basically built him up out of I can’t remember what, but I… and this boy was really strong and, like, the husband got very upset because the kid wouldn’t let him into his own home when he wanted and the kid just wouldn’t let him in so one day he decided, fine! I’m gonna have to be the one to kill this kid and get rid of him and so he ended up slicing off his head and then his wife, the mom of the child, got super upset. So the only fix was basically… the way she fixed it was getting an elephant head stuck on the kids head and that’s how Ganesha was formed.

The Informant, my housemate, is of Indian descent, but was born and raised in the United States. She learned this Hindu myth along with many other Hindu mythologies through her parents and when she was visiting her grandparents in India. To her, it’s just a story. She doesn’t follow the Hindu religion or believe in the sacred myths.

The sounds like a brief summary of the Ganesha origin story, but with one discrepancy. In the Hindu canon, Shiva is angry because Ganesha won’t allow him into the bathroom while his wife is showering. He uses his divine powers to kill him right there and then.

I’ve always been interested in Hindu mythology because of the dramatic and vibrant origin stories for the Gods. Even for someone who isn’t Hindu, the mythology is a fun read and has interesting ways to impart wisdom.

Folk Beliefs

Peas and Cabbage: Folk Belief

Okay this one might sound a bit strange. So every 1st of the year after New Year’s Eve, my family uhh, during lunch time, we always cook cabbage and black-eyed peas, oh and sausage -um- y’know just for the taste, and cabbage was for money and black-eyed peas were for good luck.

 So, like, that would predict that whole year so, like, the luck and the money and hopefully, like, you eating more of one of each would, like, give you good fortune for either one of those throughout the year.

 The Informant was born and raised in Texas. He’s an Economics student at USC. The Informant, my housemate, told me about his odd New Year’s ritual/folk belief at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. He said he has done this ritual with his family since he was little and it has morphed into what he calls a superstition (folk belief). If he lets the 1st of the year go by without cabbage and black-eyed peas, his outlook on the year is bleak.

This is apparently a common ritual meal in the South. Peas have been a humbling food for years. It’s said that the food was too lowly for Union soldiers to eat during the Civil War and thus peas were the only food left for Confederate Soldiers. They considered themselves lucky to have just have a meal of peas, possibly giving rise to the food’s lucky connotation. Cabbage is eaten to bring prosperity in the upcoming year. The leafy green leaves represent money.

Based off of the Informant’s own statement that this folk belief is strange, I was surprised to discover this was far from an uncommon yearly ritual meal. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a single black-eyed pea, but maybe I’ll eat some peas and cabbage next January 1st. Can’t hurt right?

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Salt Moat: Folk Belief

My dad would frequently get big containers of salt and then her would just open them up and then sprinkle it all around the house, so in essence there’d be an outline of salt around the house and it was more of I guess a superstition of us believing that it could help fend off, like, negative energy or just occurrences that would happen that would be… would just be any sort of negative thing. 

The Informant, my housemate, is an Econ major at USC. He was born and raised in Texas. The Informant told me about his dad’s way of warding off negative energies at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. He spoke like he was skeptical of the actual powers of this salt border and he admitted he doesn’t truly believe. He says he doesn’t believe in the positive effects, but would be slightly worried about the possibilities if his dad skipped the salt.

Salt seems to be the center of many folk beliefs – from the conversion magic of throwing salt over your left shoulder after a spillage to ward off bad luck, to this border of salt to keep bad energy out of the house.

This folk belief seems odd to me. In my opinion, this sounds more like a story parents tell their children to hide the fact they’re planning on killing all the snails ransacking the garden.

Myths
Narrative

The Anunnaki: A Myth

Hrmm, I mea- I’m not sure you wanna use this.  Alotta people have ridiculed Sitchin’s work and if you submit this, people will probably think that your Mom’s a nutcase (laughs).

 Okay so here goes: The Anunnaki are the (quote) “ones who came from heaven.”  They’re told of in the Sumerian texts and the story goes, at lease according to Sitchin in his Earth Chronicle books – which’s been wildly panned by all the scholars – is that the Anunnaki were extra-terrestrials who came to the Earth about five-hundred-thousand years ago to mine for gold. They uhh that they needed the gold to replenish their atmosphere on their planet called Niburu.

 So because Nibiru takes thirty-two-hundred years to circle the sun, they lived incredibly long lives. The miners – the Anunnaki – got restless and wanted help with their work, so the Anunnaki used their scientific expertise and created the Adamu – that’s Adam in the Bible – by mixing their DNA with the native creatures already existing on the planet. I always found it interesting that this story is probably the basis for the Adam and Eve story in the Bible. 

The Informant has always been interested in unconventional explanations for nearly everything. The disclaimer above is genuine, her interest does not entail belief. She believes stories can be valuable inherently, with truth underlying them playing a lesser importance (a natural folklorist!). I’m almost certain she first learned of the Anunnaki for the first time on the show Ancient Aliens. It piqued her interest and she began reading Zecharia Sitchin.

According to Sumerian mythology, the Anunnaki are descendants of the sky-god, An. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, there are contradicting accounts of the Anunnaki, including the number of gods or even their function. Perhaps there were rivaling religious factions even in 2144 BC.

The mythology is written in stone, literally, but the academic world has widely rejected Stitchin’s creationist myth of the Anunnaki as an alien species responsible for creating homo erectus as a slave race to mine for gold. He has been accused of misrepresenting the Sumerian texts and mistranslating Sumerian to fit his claims.

Although this myth turned creationist myth is strange, oddity is a characteristic of mythology. The truthfulness of sacred myth, by definition, is questionable. Stitchin’s work is a good story and surely an interesting premise, but nonetheless a blatant exaggeration of the surely sacred to the Sumerian people in Mesopotamia.

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