USC Digital Folklore Archives / Magic
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Protection

Bendiciones

When you greet each other, combination of being catholic in Columbia, you ask or give a bendicion(blessing). It is a common thing to do every time when you greet each other or you are saying good-bye. It is asking for a blessing basically from the other on the one as a sign of belief and good fortune after dismissing the other one from the phone. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Homeopathic
Material
Protection

Naciemento de JesusChristo

During Christmas time, the whole family gets together right before eating dinner. In this family ceremony, everybody gets a Jesus looking treat, usually something the mom of the family makes, and everybody then kisses Jesus on the forehead and then eats the head. It’s to symbolize Jesus and the Holy Spirit being in you. This always happens between the hours of 2am-3am after Christmas Eve. The time is important, because that is the time in which it connects to the “witch hour” where Evil is supposedly the strongest.

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Eloisa is a Michoacan born lady who has lived in Arkansas since she has been a little girl. She used to be really religious, but after being opened up to human rights, and mostly women rights, she has taken a step back and tried to analyze everything to decide on what she can really identify as part of her.

Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Rosemary Herb as Medicine

In the following interview, a energy worker and herbal and flower essence specialist explains the significance of the rosemary herb:

Interviewer: “What is one of the main herbs you suggest to your patients?”

Informant: “Rosemary is an herbal staple.  It’s a grounding herb that helps your spirit stay connected to your physical body especially during stressful and challenging situations”

Interviewer: “How do people use Rosemary?”

Informant: “You can rub the herb on any part of your body to make you feel more grounded, especially the forehead and in the palms.  Rosemary can also be ingested which will have the same effect”

Analysis: I have used rosemary and believe it works.  I feel more grounded and able to control my own body when either ingesting or touching this herb however I understand that there is a lack of scientific evidence to back up this claim.  I first heard about this homeopathic method from the informant who heard it from her teacher who prefers to remain anonymous.  She does energy work on both humans and animals and has had great success with her controversial methods.  Using the Earth’s resources as medicine has been around since the beginning of time and the informant is building off of their ancient work to discover more about the undiscovered field.

general
Legends
Magic

El Familiar

The following Argentinian urban legend was told by my old high school history teacher:

“There are many urban legends in Argentina, my favorite being El Familiar.  According to the legend originating in the sugar plantation in Salta, Tuchman, and Jujuy, the Argentinian government was struggling economically which meant the sugar industry would take a big hit. However, the titans of the sugar industry found a way around their economic misfortune, by partnering with the Devil.  The Devil promised to protect the sugar industry from the failing economy in return for a yearly human sacrifice.  The sacrifice would be selected by the sugar industry and then dragged to the Devil in Hell by a decapitated black, rabid dog dragging a chain around its neck.  Legend has it, the dog still rabidly wander the sugar plantations searching for its next victim”

Analysis:  Although this is only a legend, it has increased religious practices of protection in the northern areas of Argentina.  The eminent threat of the Devil leads Argentinians to use rosaries or blessed crucifixes for protection.  This is one of my favorite pieces of folklore because I am very interested in urban legends.  Although they are never true, they have a great impact on the communities and culture around them.  In this case, the old urban legend has decreased unwanted activity in sugar plantations and increased religious faith in northern Argentina.

Folk medicine
general
Homeopathic
Protection

Stone Circle Flower Essence as Medicine

In the following interview, a energy worker and herbal and flower essence specialist explains the significance of the stone circle flower essence:

Interviewer: “What are some of your favorite flower essences?”

Informant: “I find the stone circle flower essence to be quite powerful.  It places an aura of solid protection in the energy field so that one does not take on any unbalanced energy from the environment”

Interviewer: “Who do you recommend this essence to?”

Informant: “People and animals under a lot of stress that need balance in their life.  Especially people or animals who are ultra sensitive to the energy around them and therefore have a higher risk of getting hit with negative energy.  They have to be protected.”

Interviewer: “Who is an ultra sensitive”

Informant: “Your sister, for one.  She is very effected by her environment and the littlest thing could throw her off balance.  For example if a big storm came with a bunch of negative energy that could mess up her balance as well as if she got in a big fight with her parents or is stressed about school work.  Anything out of routine could potentially upset their balance.”

Interviewer: “So how should people like my sister take this flower essence?”

Informant: “I make it at home and it comes in a little dropper bottle.  It’s a liquid that can either be ingested or rubbed on the skin or hair”

Analysis: The informant learned all of her practices from her teacher who would prefer to remain anonymous who learned them from a teacher before her.  This folklore is especially important to me because it pertains to my sister.  I have first-hand seen the effects of this flower essence and how it has completely changed my sister’s personality.  She is more patient now and in control of her emotions.  Although there is a lack of scientific evidence, this remedy that has been passed down for generations seems to work at least in the informant’s experience.

Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Scarlet Monkey Flower Essence as Medicine

In the following interview, a energy worker and herbal and flower essence specialist explains the significance of the scarlet monkey flower essence:

Interviewer: “Which herbs or flower essences help with emotions?”

Informant: “Scarlet monkey flower essence is one of my favorite flower essences because it addresses the fear of repressed strong emotions, especially those of anger and powerlessness.  It helps one communicate clearly and directly with emotional honesty.”

Interviewer: “Who would you recommend scarlet monkey flower to?”

Informant: “Well your mom currently takes scarlet monkey flower.  She has expressed and I have observed that she struggles with accepting her emotions so she has been using this flower essence for a few months now”

Analysis: My mother claims this flower essence works and has improved her quality of life significantly as she is happier and more in tune with herself and her spirit.  I agree as she has been much better at communicating with me when she is feeling angry or upset instead of just letting her emotions brew until one day she explodes.  This flower essence has been passed down for generations from the informants teacher to her and now to my mother who excitedly tells anyone willing to listen about the miracle essence.  Although the flower essence is ancient, the informant is finding new uses for it in the ever adapting world.

Legends
Magic

Kiamuki House and the Kasha

The following urban legend was told by a Hawaiian native that she learned from her auntie:

“Theres this creepy looking haunted house on the corner of 8th and Harding that they just tore down last summer but they’re trying to rebuild….they shouldn’t. It’s home to a kasha.  A kasha is a demon that feeds on human corpses and there’s one probably still living on that plot of land.  The kasha first started inhabiting the house after a man killed his wife, son and daughter in his house and buried their bodies on the property.  The bodies of the wife and the son have been found but the daughter’s body is still missing…because she’s now the kasha that haunts the Kiamuki house.  She tried to claim her first victim in 1942.  The police received a desperate phone call from the woman who lived in the house in 1942 claiming that her children were being strangled by a ghost.  The police responded to this call and were terrified at what they saw at the house.  According to police reports, they witnessed the two children being thrown around and strangled by an unseen entity.  After about an hour and a half the policemen were finally able to save the children from the kasha and evacuate the family from the house never to return…but that did not stop different people from moving in. After the family moved out, three women moved into the house and one night the kasha violently grabbed one of the women’s arms.  They quickly called the police and they responded and offered to escort the women to another house for the night.  On their drive, the kasha reappeared and started choking one of the women.  The car pulled over and  the two other women struggled to get the kasha off of their friend.  The policeman also pulled over and tried to help the women but was restrained by what he describes as a ‘large calloused hand.’ Finally he was able to break free and get the kasha off of the woman.  He offered to drive the women to the house but when they got into his car it wouldn’t start so the women returned to their car and all of a sudden both cars worked again.  As they drove down the road the policeman recalls seeing the car door get ripped off of the car and thrown into the road by an unseen entity which then continued to drag one of the women out of the car and strangle her to death while her friends and the policeman watched helplessly”

Analysis: This terrifying ghost story might be more than an urban legend with detailed police reports that are still unexplainable, after all how do you explain someone being choked to death by thin air?  The informant sounded utterly terrified of this house and claimed she will always take a longer driving route if it means avoiding that neighborhood.  The common ghost story motifs are all present in this chilling story because the kasha is a young girl who was tragically murdered who’s purpose is now to inflict harm to others.  However, this goes further than a common ghost story because there are detailed police accounts and multiple accounts of attacks on the property.  This story has been passed down to generations of Hawaiians as a tale of caution to always avoid the Kaimuki House.

 

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic
Protection

Rabbit Feet

I’ve heard people cut off rabbit feet for good luck. I remember when I was growing up in school in the 70s it was really popular for people to carry around a rabbit foot on their backpack or their purse. I can’t remember if it brought you good luck or what. Definitely not good luck for the rabbit. And they were real rabbit’s feet, so gross. But I think I wanted one.

I had heard of rabbits feet being lucky before, but I had never actually seen it in person. I feel like this piece of folklore might disappear with the next generation.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Ghosts for Naughty Children

I interviewed my grandmother who is from Colombia and asked about any superstitions about ghosts. Below, she described how her grandparents got a household of thirteen children to get to bed early by scaring them about ghosts.

In spanish, followed by a full english translation below:

Ay aver…sobre los fantasmas. Pues eso era lo que nos contaban nuestros abuelos. Como no había luz, entonces ya a las siete se ponía escurecicimo y ellos se sentaban a contarnos historias para que nos diera miedo y para que nos dormiramos temprano. Entonces, ellos siempre decían que en las casas y en las fincas viejas habían era fantasmas de gente que no habían podido poder cansar nunca después de la muerte. Le ponían nombres distintos como el guerrero cojo, o el patasola, o la llorona. Era gente que no podían descansar porque habían cometido un error grave o habían echó alguna cosa mal echa. Entonces contaban eso y decían que ese espíritu estaba viviendo ya en la finca, y que o sí nosotros habíamos echo algo malo como, por ejemplo, comer nos unas naranjas que estaban para los huéspedes, o cualquier cosa que se crecía en la finca, las papas, los plátanos, eso era pecado comérselo por que era para que nosotros lo comiéramos como la familia. Entonces si uno de los niños se había comido un banano o un maduro o una naranja sin permiso, se moría del miedo, que el espíritu de algún fantasma lo cogiera. Entonces en cada instancia inmoral los abuelos tenían un cuento, como uno nuevo para decir nos a no robar, o cualquier cosa incorrecta. Y la manera de castigarnos no era ellos los abuelos, si no Dios, porque la gente que se moría después no podían descansar y venían a vengarse de las casas de los niños que hacían lo mismo que ellos hicieron. Por un lado ya estábamos en la oscuridad y nos daba mucho miedo de un espíritu, y los abuelos eran terribles entonces hacían que se cayera un plumero, o un libro, o que sonarán unas campañas que habían puesto listo para que suenen más sustosas. Como nos daban tanto miedo nos acostábamos temprano, nos tapábamos con las cobijas y nos durmiéramos rápido. Éramos trece niños nosotros y generalmente mi mama y mi abuelita. Ella venía mucho a ayudar por que éramos tantos niños! Casi cada año había un niño nuevo en nuestro casa, y éramos nosotros cada tipo de niño — los gritones, los locos, los felices, los que lloraban mucho. Te puedes imaginar por que hicieron esas historias de los fantasmas. Como más nos hubieran haber puesto a dormir!

ENGLISH:

Ah, let’s see, about the ghosts. Well, those are the kinds of stories our grandparents would tell us. Since there was no electricity, well it would get very dark in the house around seven and we would all sit around together and they would tell us stories so that we would get scared and so that we would go to bed early. So, they would always tell us stories about how in old houses and ranches like ours there were the ghosts of people who couldn’t leave earth after dying. They would give them different names, like the crippled soldier, the one-footed man, and the crying woman. They were all people that couldn’t rest in peace after death because they had committed some fault, or had done something quite sinful. So they would tell us these stories and would tell us that those spirits were living on our ranch, and that if we are ourselves had committed a sin, such as eating the oranges we had reserved for guests, or anything that grew on our land that was off limits, such as our potatoes, the plantains, touching any of those was bad because al that food was to eat as a family, not to steal individually. So if one of us kids ate a banana or an orange or anything without permission, one would be incredibly frightened, that a ghost would come and get them for stealing. So for everything immoral like that our grandparents had a story, like some new one to remind us not to steal. And in that manner it wasn’t ever the grandparents that would punish us, but God himself, because the people that died couldn’t find peace after their loss of life, and they would come to reap vengeance in the houses of those children that also committed their sins. On one hand we were already in the darkness of night, and we would be so frightened of a vengeful ghost, and yet our grandparents were so mischievous that they would make a broom or book fall randomly. Or even worse, they would make some bells they had chime in a way that was more eerie. These effects would make us so frightened that we would go to bed early, and we could cover ourselves with our blankets, and we went to bed quickly. We were thirteen kids in my household and generally it was my mom and my grandmother looking after us. My grandmother would come often because we were so many of us kids. Almost every year for a long time there was a new child in my household, and we were each of us every kind of kid – screamers, wildcats, the joyful ones, those who cried very much. You can imagine then, why they used these ghost stories; how else would they have put us to bed!

Analysis: I found this story very touching, even if my grandmother and her siblings’ experience must have been tough. I can imagine why the grandparents used these tactics to keep the children morally just and from staying up al night and over-running the ranch. My father actually used to do similar things late at night – he would tie up objects with fishline and make them fall and tell me there were ghosts in the house. I got very frightened and would go to bed very early as well. There seems to be a widespread tradition surrounding ghosts in childhood in Colombia. Often enough, these beliefs are intertwined with the predominantly catholic belief system.

Contagious
Magic
Protection

Protective Superstition: String in Mouth

You always hold a string in your mouth when someone is cutting or pinning something on you, and that way they won’t cut you by accident, or stick you with the pin.  I’m not sure how or why, but my grandmother was a seamstress and her mother was a seamstress, and you can bet nobody ever pinned or cut anything on me, when I was trying it on, you know, without a string in my mouth.  My mother and my grandmother, they just wouldn’t do it.  I don’t know why, it’s just how it was.

 

Informant does indeed come from a family of seamstress.  The interviewer was unable to verify other sources for this superstition, but it is clearly a sort of contagious magic: that if the person holds a string in their mouth, the wholeness of that string will somehow keep them whole.  It probably also serves a more practical purpose–reminding the person to stay still and quiet while the seamstress works on them.

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