Author Archive
Childhood
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

1st Birthday – Korean Tradition

Piece:

“A Korean tradition celebrates a baby’s first birthday and it’s super traditional, like the baby wears the traditional Korean outfit and there’s rice cakes that are like rainbow, and there’s like fruit and always a lot of food but the main event is where uhm you set the baby in front of 5 or 6 different objects, and the baby has to choose one. Like a pen is going to be intellectual/writer, a stethoscope means you’ll probably be a doctor, there’s usually something for sports and there’s like other things that the parents want to throw in. Now there’s like cameras if their parents are photographers, or a paintbrush for an artist, but you put the baby in front and the baby chooses one of the things and that’s supposed to kinda predict what they are going to do in life and that’s a big part of the birthday celebration.”

Background Information: The informant is a current USC student with a Korean background. We were discussing childhood stories when she suddenly remembered a big tradition in Korean culture.  After telling me the story, the informant texted her mom inquiring about her first birthday celebration. She didn’t remember what item she chose as a baby, so she asked her mom. Her mom responded and said that the informant had chosen a pen, which as mentioned in the piece, represented intellectual/writer. I asked the informant if her decision of choosing the pen was consistent with her major and she agreed that it was.

Context: I was explaining the purpose of my assignment to the informant by providing different examples of folklore that I had collected from other students. After giving several examples, the informant stopped me in my tracks and began telling me this piece. This tradition is something that the informant’s family participate in. She remembers it because whenever a first birthday is celebrated, a family reunion is planned to witness the tradition. 

Personal analysis: I remember when I was younger, I was watching the movie Tinkerbell with my siblings and one of the scenes included a tradition similar to the Korean tradition that was described. Upon being born, Tinkerbell was placed in the middle of a circle surrounded by different objects. It was explicitly stated that whatever item she picked up first would determine her job in the fairy world kingdom. Now that I’ve been informed that this is a Korean tradition, I’m not surprised that Disney “borrowed” this folklore and incorporated in one of their movies.

 

 

 

 

 

Legends
Narrative
Protection

“Bozho” the lake monster – Tale

Piece:Uhm think about this, my dad told me this story about this one monster and I’ll tell you what the name of it is, so lake Mendota, its called Bozho, so its like a serpentine snake like creature, its like the monster of lake Mendota, my dad said that in all lakes of Wisconsin. Delavan lake, Lake Geneva, whatever, theres a monster that has access to all the lakes,  so if you swim past the designated area like the buoys and shit. It can get you, its too shallow near the shore so it cant swim there, he told me this so that I would stay within the buoys.

Background information:The informant is a close friend of mine from back home. (Wisconsin) He lives in the town adjacent to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, so he is very familiar with the area.

Context: The informant first heard this tale as a kid. His dad used it to scare him from swimming outside the buoys. The informant remembers it because he lives on the lake, so he always has a reminder.

Personal Analysis: I’ve never heard of this lake monster, but I can definitely see why it was used to prevent kids from swimming past the buoys. What scared me from swimming in the lake as a kid was a short story a person had told me. A man had said that if you swim out past the piers, the seaweed wraps itself around your legs and drowns you. Although it’s not a sea monster, seeing the sea weed sway with the current certainly personified it enough to scare me.

 

Legends
Narrative

Beast of Bray Road – Legend

Piece: 

“Okay, uhm aight so first thing is the beast of Bray road, sooo it takes place in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, on bray road, and they say that the road is cursed and haunted, and that a strange wolf like creature roams the area, and if you go there at night with ill intent, you’ll see him and it will try to attack you but it only shows itself to bad people. The first sighting was in the 1930’s but there have also been sightings reported in the 1980’s and 1990’s”

 

Background information: The informant is a close friend of mine from back home. (Wisconsin) He lives in the town adjacent to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, so he is very familiar with the area.

Context: This legend is usually shared during bonfires. Being from Elkhorn myself, people like to bring this up in order to frighten those who are extremely scared of local beasts. The informant shared that he’s heard of this legend multiple times as a kid.

Background Information: I was browsing my phone last semester when I stumbled upon a facebook post that a friend from back home had shared. I clicked on the article and found out that there was a new Netflix documentary on the Beast of Bray road. A Netflix documentary. For those not familiar with Elkhorn, it’s a super small town in the middle of nowhere. A city folk would chuckle at its population size of only 9,000. I didn’t know much about Bray road until I decided to look it up on google maps. Turns out, Bray road is 3 minutes away from where I live. I’ve actually driven on bray road before, not knowing of the “beast” that resided in it. I never saw the beast, but then again, I’ve only been on the road during the daytime.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Don’t split lanes with friends – Superstition

Piece: 

“I can’t split poles, if I’m walking with a group of people I have to choose a side to join them on. I don’t let the pole come between us, uh, our souls are a part of a like a continuous fabric that exists on all the spiritual planes. By separating ourselves on this physical dimension, we are doing irreparable damage to out bonds in the afterlife and the life that comes beyond.”

Background information: The informant is a USC student. The informant decided to share this story because it is a piece of wisdom that he would like to pass on.

Context: This is a superstition that the informant first heard during his freshman year at USC. His roommate shared this superstition with him, and he believed it to be true immediately.

Personal Analysis: When I was home last summer, I was walking with my best-friend at a mall, when suddenly a person walking the opposite direction decided to walk between my friend and I. After the person split my friend and I up, my friend told me not to let it happen again. Confused, I asked him why, and his response was “cause man, just don’t, it’s bad if you let it happen. If you are ever in a situation like that again you have to pick a side with your friend and both go in the same direction. You can’t let someone or something split your bond” My best-friend didn’t go on to explain the superstition like the informant did, but I believe both follow the same fundamental concept. Now I follow this superstition whenever I’m walking with a friend or a group of people.

 

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Persian New Year Tradition – Superstitions

Piece: 

“My community, the Persian community, so Persian new year is on the spring equinox which is the first day of spring, it’s supposed to symbolize the start of the new year, but just like a new beginning, everything is starting to bloom again, so one of the things they do for Persian new year is they obviously, everyone all of your friends and family, they set up this table called a Haft-sin, and it’s basically 7 things that starts with the letter s, so they have grass, and then the tuesday before new years, theres this thing called Chaharshanbe Suri, so this is based on the Zoroastrian religion, Zoroastrian it’s one of the oldest religions of the world, dates before like 10,000 years old, uhm and what they do is basically, everyone, your friends and family, set up logs in sequence usually 7 logs, and you like jump over the logs, and that’s supposed to symbolize the fire getting rid of all the bad stuff, the fire cleanses you.”

Background information: The informant is a USC student. He is of Persian descent. This tradition is embedded in his community so it carries substantial weight.

Context: This tradition is celebrated annually, unlike the American New Year, the Persian New Year is celebrated on the first day of spring.

Personal Analysis: The Persian New Year is something that Professor Thompson mentioned during one of the lectures. It was reviewed during the discussion of the spring Equinox. The Persian New Year is also called the “Iranian New Year”, and the celebration is called “Nowruz” The lecture proved to be accurate as the informant confirmed that 7 items are placed around the table called the “Haft Sin” I was shocked to hear that they partake in jumping over the fire in order to be cleansed. Most cultures associate fire with “hell” or “satan”, but in the informant’s culture the fire represents something positive.

 

Customs

Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas – New Year Tradition

Piece:

“For New years my family eats collard green and black eyed peas. The black eyed peas symbolize good luck and fortune, the collard greens represent money and wealth. So that’s like a story for new years.”

Background information: The informant is a USC student, she is from the Bay area but has family scattered all over the south.

Context: This is a New Year’s Tradition that never changes. The informant began doing it ever since she was a little kid. She still partakes in the tradition to this day.

Personal Analysis: Different families have different customs and traditions for New Year’s. My family does a similar thing. Instead of collard greens and black eyed peas, my family celebrates with grapes and champagne. Each person eats 12 grapes, each grape symbolize 1 month out of the year. Everyone has a glass of champagne that they use to give cheers to everyone else in the room. You have to go around and “clink” (touch glasses) with everyone before you can drink it.

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Cin – Turkish Demons

Piece: We have these things Cin, pronounced jin, uhm and like plural you would say cinler, because there are plenty, and they’re like these little demons, uhm I’m like hella fucking scared of these, these little shits, parents and grandparents can use these to scare little kids out of doing literally anything, and the biggest one being staying out until dark. Uhm the main one was my grandmother would say that after the sunset prayer, because in Turkey a mosque prays 5 times a day, and so like the equivalent of a preacher, at the top of the mosque sings a prayer 5 times a day, the one that represents sunset, if you stay past that prayer, these things would come out and eat you or haunt you.  You can actually release these on people, like a curse, we had a few like old women in my village who had a very powerful third eye and if they said a bad prayer towards you, they could curse you with these like “I release the cins on you” or something like that. So some people if they were cursed I remember hearing, uhm they could not sleep for days, they would wake up from their sleep because they see these in their dreams. But it seems like a dream even though it’s actually real, they are there, its just once they disappear, like the people who are cursed they think they are sleeping, but they are actually awake when they see theses creatures, it’s just that when they’re terrorized enough, they think they have woken  up from a dream, or a nightmare.

Background information: The informant is a USC student. Originally from a small village in Turkey, she relocated at the age of 10 to the United States.

Context: Apparently these demons were introduced to kids at a very young age. They are used to keep kids in line whenever they want to act rebellious. The informant remembers these so vividly because they used to scare the living daylight out of her as a kid.

Personal Analysis: A trend that I have noticed among interviewees is that most of their parents use some sort of story to control their kids. It’s almost as if “fear” is the only way parents can assert dominance over their children. This collection is another example of just that: Parents using fear tactics to control their kids.

For another version of this myth, see Ilargia.franceserv.eu. (2019). OLD FEARS IN TURKISH CULTURE. [online] Available at: http://ilargia.franceserv.eu/index.php/articles-posts/etudes-studies/42-old-fears-in-turkish-culture [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019].

Folk Beliefs

Wake your body, but don’t forget to wake your soul – Mexican Superstition

Piece: 

If you take your kids with you to the ranch, let’s say when you go work the field, and they fall asleep on the floor, because they are tired or because you are working. And you know how in the field the dirt is loose, and you know, when kids are young they are innocent, they are innocent until they become adults. So when they are kids, their soul is still really innocent too, because they don’t know anything yet. If you tell them that a certain bad spirit is nearby they won’t know what to make of it. So if your kid happens to fall asleep on the ground, the beliefs of the old times are that you have to grab a twig, or a branch and start hitting them. You have to yell their name and hit them at the same time. You do this so that their spirit can return back to their body when they wake up. You’ll know you accomplished this because they wake up crying. The same goes for when you fall somewhere, you know when you fall and you get spooked? It’s like your soul stays in the place where you fell. So when this happens, after someone has fallen, they will go grab a branch and start hitting themselves in order to wake their soul again.

Background Information: The informant was my aunt. She grew up in a small village in Mexico where superstitions and legends are very prominent.

Context: This is a very commonly known superstition amongst farmers in Mexico. Most villagers would take their kids with them to work because they had no babysitters to watch them while they were farming the fields.

Personal Analysis: As I was listening to this superstition, I was reminded of my younger sister. When she was younger, she would always wake up crying. My family and I never understood why, but after hearing this superstition I was introduced to a possible explanation.

Legends

La LLorona – A Mexican Legend

Piece: 

The only thing I grew up with is probably the same thing you grew up with, The legend of La LLorona. The legend states that a woman once drowned her kids in a river and forever hated herself for it. So when she died her soul still mourned the loss of her kids so her ghost roams the streets of Mexico crying for her kids. People say that if you hear her, and she sounds like she’s far away, then it means she’s really close to you. The same goes for the opposite, if you hear her close-by it means she’s really far away.

Background information: The informant is my cousin who grew up in a small village in Mexico. He is about 7 years older than I am.

Context: As described, this is something the informant heard a lot as a kid. Parents would use the legend of La LLorona to frighten their kids so they wouldn’t stay out too late at night.

Personal analysis: I never thought the legend of La LLorona would become such a well known legend. Seeing Disney turn it into a movie really put into perspective how exploitative capitalism can be. I take great joy in hearing legends like this being passed down from family members. But seeing a corporation use it to make money greatly discredits it.

For another version of this legend, see Mexico.mx. (2019). Horror Stories: The Legend of La Llorona. [online] Available at: https://www.mexico.mx/en/articles/horror-stories-the-legend-of-la-llorona [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019].

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Narrative

Heal, Heal, little tail of the frog – Spanish Saying

Piece: “Something I heard a lot as a kid was Sana sana colita de rana, si no se sana hoy se sanara manana. Heard it from my grandma as a kid, she said it to me all the time, she’s a baller”

Background information: The informant is a very comedic student with an Argentinian background. Although he resides in the US, he strongly identifies with his Argentinian roots.

Context: This is a hispanic saying used whenever you got hurt as a kid. You’d run to your mom/dad crying about a new injury and they would say this while rubbing the area of pain. The informant heard this a lot from his grandma and it stuck with him because it’s a saying that’s used a lot in Latin countries. The saying translates to “Heal, heal, little tail of the frog. If you don’t heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow.”

Personal analysis: I can personally vouch for the informant. I also heard this a lot as a kid. Every time I got injured I would run to my mom and she would say this saying to make the pain go away. Although there’s no healing happening, it was used as placebo to force you to think that if it didn’t heal today, it would heal tomorrow. Almost like a reassurance that everything would be okay. The saying served no real purpose except that it would make you stop crying as soon you heard it. The saying includes the line “tail of the frog” but I never got around to asking why it was mentioned.  I just accepted it and moved on.

 

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