USC Digital Folklore Archives / Homeopathic
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Stopping a Thunderstorm

Informant: Valerie is a 61-year-old, born and raised in Dorking, England. She moved to Pennsylvania at 40, and to San Diego at 45. She still regularly visits England, where all her family still live. 

Main Piece: “Something that you’re always supposed to do when there’s a thunderstorm is yell back at it. If you’re scared because it’s loud, you just yell back and you’ll scare the thunderstorm too. You won’t be scared anymore, and the thunderstorm will stop.

Background Information about the Performance: The informant was instructed to do so as a child by her parents, and would later pass it on to her own child. 

Context of Performance: The piece is told to frightened children to calm them down.

Thoughts: I have received this advice when I was a child and know that I was very reassured by it. It seems to be a way of both boosting confidence and of stopping the thunderstorm. The idea that one should mimic a natural event in order to stop it from occuring seems prominent in other folkloric beliefs as well.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Folk speech
general
Homeopathic
Magic
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Egg Ritual

 

Subject: Ritual, Superstition

 

Informant: Tye Griffith

 

Background Information/Context: Growing up, I had a nanny who helped raise me, and who had been working in my family since before I was born. Her name is Eva, and she is from Monterrey, Mexico. Eva also worked as a nanny for a close family friend of mine, Tye. Tye and I essentially grew up together, and had the connection of Eva, who I feel linked our two families together even closer. Recently, I was remembering how when I was little and my parents would be either out to dinner or on vacation, Eva would stay with me. But when it was my bedtime, Eva had a very specific ritual she would perform while tucking me into bed. I didn’t remember the specific details of the ritual, other than it involved an egg that she would hover over my head and recite some sort of prayer. I reached out to Tye, knowing that Eva had done this same ritual with her when she was also younger.

 

This was Tye’s memory of the egg ritual:

 

Tye: Eva would get an egg from the fridge downstairs and rub the egg in different patterns across the body while saying a bunch of prayers. And then she would crack it into a clear glass and put it under the bed. The egg would stay there all night while you slept, and in the morning, you would check the bowl, and it would be completely black inside the bowl. Like a black goop. Ew, that sounds really gross when you say it out loud [laughs]. But it would be black in the morning because of all the bad spirits that came out of your body during the night.

 

And then you had to throw the egg out onto the street in the morning. The room wouldn’t smell though.

 

Me: Wait, would the whole room not smell like a rotten egg in the morning? [laughs] How is that even possible?

 

Tye: Magic! [laughs].

 

Conclusion: I was happy that Tye remembered a little more about it than I did, and having her tell me what she knew really jogged my memory. I was still curious about what Eva was saying during the ritual, so I thought about it for a while. I finally remembered a line from the prayer she recited: “Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo.” So, I Googled that one line, and as it turns out, that was the first line to a Spanish prayer called “El Santo Rosario.” I read the prayer online, and it all came back to me. Eva would have me say the prayer every night when she was with me. The whole prayer reads,

 

Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo,

Santificado sea tu nombre;

Venga a nosotros tu reino;

Hágase tu voluntad en la tierra,

Como en el cielo.

Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día;

Perdona nuestras ofensas,

Como también nosotros perdonamos a los que ofenden;

No nos dejes caer en la tentación,

Y líbranos del mal.

Amén.[1]

 

The text of this prayer comes from an excerpt from the book Oración del Enfermo. However, in this book, the prayer is referred to as “Padrenuestro,” instead of “El Santo Rosario,” but it is the same text as the Santo Rosario prayer. Upon further reflection, this prayer is actually the Spanish version of The Lord’s Prayer, but I never connected the two, as I did not grow up in a particularly religious household. The only significant religious practices that I grew up with came from Eva, which were all in the Spanish language. I knew of The Lord’s Prayer in English, but I never made the connection until now, because the Spanish version was so much more prevalent in my life.

 

[1] Cadena, Alvaro Jiménez. La Oración del Enfermo: ¡Señor, tu Amigo está Enfermo! Bogotá: Ediciones Paulinas, 1991. Print.

 

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general
Homeopathic
Magic
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Reiki

Reiki

 

Subject: Healing Ritual, Superstition

 

Informant: Tye Griffith

 

Background Information/Context: Growing up, I had a nanny who helped raise me, and who had been working in my family since before I was born. Her name is Eva, and she is from Monterrey, Mexico. Eva also worked as a nanny for a close family friend of mine, Tye. Tye and I essentially grew up together, and had the connection of Eva, who I feel linked our two families together even closer. I asked Tye about a healing ritual Eva would perform called Reiki when we were little.

 

Tye: So, I don’t remember as much about this one, but I remember Eva would do it, and it was supposed to be a transfer of energy from one person to another through the placement of hands. I think she only did it if something was wrong, like if you were sick or in a bad mood or something, maybe.

 

So [Eva] would take our hands and run patterns along your palms with her fingers. And then she would, like, put her hands over yours. I don’t think she said anything while she was doing it or anything though. I’m pretty sure she didn’t. Yeah, Reiki was supposed to send good energy into you if something was wrong, and it was just a ritual involving your hands. It was kind of cool actually.

 

Me: Do you think it worked?

 

Tye: [laughs] I don’t know. I mean, at the time, I remember like fully believing in it.

 

Me: Yeah, me too, actually. I think it was like a placebo effect or something.

 

Tye: Yeah, because I do think if I was feeling sick or something before, and then she did it, I would feel better. Honestly, I think Eva is magic [laughs].

 

Conclusion: I asked Tye about two of the rituals Eva would do with us, and I actually really enjoyed looking back on them. I could tell when we were talking that Tye also had fun looking back on the experience. I do believe that the Reiki ritual worked to a certain extent, but more of a placebo effect type of thing. But when I was little, I did believe it worked. I thought that Eva was performing magic and that the magic was healing me magically.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic
Magic
Protection

Egg Yolk Magic

PP is a teacher who currently resides in Bothell Washington. She is originally from Yakima, WA but her family descends from Guadalajara in Mexico. Much of her family spoke Spanish as their first language and her grandma was the first to immigrate to America. Much of her influences and culture come from that region and her upbringing in a single-mother low income household.

Do you have any stories about bizarre things your family believed?

PP: There are so many weird remedies and superstitions that Mexicans have I don’t even know where to start. One my mother used to do a lot was when I had bad dreams she would put an egg yolk in a glass and keep in under my bed directly where my head was above.

That is very odd, what was the purpose for this?

PP: She believed it would ward the bad spirits away and protect you and it was like a common day dream catcher. The white part of the egg was meant to catch the spirits and the yolk was there for some other purpose I cannot remember but it was specific too. The glass had to be clear or transparent and had to be placed in the right spot. Also, it had to be removed the next morning after.

Do you believe it worked?

PP: Not really. Sometimes it may have just been a coincidence that I happened to not have any bad dreams the next night. I think my grandma was very superstitious about it so that’s what made my mom believe it. I don’t practice that anymore because I don’t believe it actually works. I’m not even sure where the belief came from or when it started because it is kind of random and just doesn’t make any sense.

Analysis:

I researched this belief and it is commonly found in Mexican culture. The egg was used by healers just like holy water because it had spiritual properties to ward off the evil eye or bad spirits. The evil eye can be brought on by many things such as envy or a stare, but the egg yolk was used to heal people when they were sick or anxious or had any mental or physical illness. The belief is still widely accepted among Mexican tradition today and although it is not widely known among other cultures, it is practiced still.

Customs
Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

French Candlemas

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background: 

My name is Keveen. I grew in the South Western part of France, a little town called Brive located between Toulouse and the coastal city of Bordeaux.

Piece:

Another tradition that I remember celebrating every year is “La Chandeleur”, French Candlemas. An early February commemoration of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple that French culture embrace by making Crepes and lighting the house only with Candles, that day being called as well the day of the light marking the end of the Christmas period. I remember making crepes with the family during that time, until I moved out of the house after High School. The tradition of crepes comes from the fact that being round they represent the sun (day of the light), easy to make and cheap, required a bit of agility (flipping them and succeeding at it means the household will be prosperous for the rest of the year. My Grandma never did that but a lot of families keep one crepe, place a coin in it and leave it in the closet for the rest of the year to bring money to the household. Also if you’re able to flip the crepe 6 times in a row you will get married that year.

Piece Background Information: 

Growing up atheist but with a catholic Grand mother from Paris who ended up raising me while my parents were working, I took part of a few religious traditions specific to the French culture, each region having their own interpretation of them.

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Context of Piece Performance: 

In person, during the day at informant’s house in Highland Park, Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Upon further research, I found that French Candlemas, which takes place in December, is generally supposed to utilize the remainder of the harvest from the year on the crepes to symbolize completion of the cycle of the sun (as noted by the informant himself- the roundness of the crepe is similar to the roundness of the sun). I consider this folk belief to fall under homeopathic magic as there are thought to be real world effects (a great harvest in the year to come) due to the similarities between the crepes and the sun. Additionally, this ritual falls within/ is coordinated with the Earth cycle too.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Sealing Fate

Subject:

Korean superstition

Informant:

Eumin Lee was born and raised in the United States, although both of her parents spent much of their lives in Korea. As a result, Eumin grew up surrounded by Korean culture and superstitions. She now studies at the University of Southern California.

Original Script:

“She’s also taught me to never ever write my name in red ink, because apparently that’s, if you do, it’ll kind of… seal your fate for… like something bad will happen to you, or worst case scenario you’ll die, or something.”

Informant’s Background Knowledge and Relationship with this Piece:

Eumin claims to have just been raised with this policy, and although she does not really prescribe to many of the other superstitions her mom taught her, she still will not write her name in red ink, just because she feels that it is easy to avoid, and that there would be no point in tempting fate.

Thoughts About the Piece:

Red is a strong color, which for the purposes of this superstition I would imagine to represent blood. Following this logic, I would guess that signing your name in this color would be akin to sealing your fate in blood.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic
Protection

Horseshoe in the Garage

The interview will be depicted by initials. The Interviewer is QB and the interview is BL.

QB: What was this story you were telling everyone?

 

BL: So my dad had a horseshoe in the garage for many many years and he was told by multiple people that because his horseshoe was facing downwards that his luck was spilling out of the horseshoe, and so he needed to turn it upwards so his luck would be filled within the horseshoe.

Analysis: Even though this was not the students direct lucky charm, it still had a profound effect on the student themselves. The horseshoe effected the entire family’s luck and now the horseshoe is filled completely up with the family’s luck. I think it shows how just owning the lucky charm can effect how a person feels about their luck.

Homeopathic
Magic

Hat on a Bed

The interview will be depicted by initials. The Interviewer is QB and the interview is BL.

QB: Were there any other superstitions that your dad or family followed?

BL: Yeah there was one more, and basically it was that it was very unlucky to put your hat on top of the bed. I honestly have no idea why that was considered bad luck, but my dad just made it a point to teach everyone not to do it. So yeah…I never put my hat on my bed.

Analysis: Once again I think it is interesting just how much superstition can effect a person. Even though the student had no understanding of why placing a hat on the bed was unlucky, they still made a point to follow the rule. Following the family rules are also very prevalent here.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic
Magic
Musical
Protection

“Sana que sana” song

The folk song/chant: “Sana que sana, colita de rana. Si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.” (Magic healing song repeated at least three time or more if child is hysterical) The literal translation means “Heal, heal with the tail of a toad, if it does not heal today, it will heal tomorrow.” Obviously they are talking about a tadpoles tail or are being funny because a toad/frog does not have a tail, intonating something magical is about to occur. It works as a great distraction when your child gets injured and to stop him from crying because they are being imbued with the belief that the chant will actually make it hurt less especially if they say it in unison. Although my Grandfather tells me that the Chibcha Indians of Colombia, which he is a ¼, use dried out frog/toads all the time for healing and good luck and would even wear them around their neck (whole died out toad) for protection. He tells me that my mom went to Colombia at age 16 and she was given a necklace made out of small stones, which had a small, carved frog in the middle and was told to wear it for good luck and protection.

Analysis: Many frogs in Colombia have a variety of toxins, some medicinal, some deadly so there is more than simple folk belief there might be some factual basis for the song. Growing up my mother would always do the magical healing song “Sana que Sana” that her dad taught her whenever my brother or I got hurt and sprayed the area with Neosporin. She told me that when she was young, her grandmother (my great grandmother) who was a “botanica healer” would always sing the song while rubbing the injured area with some kind of balm. I do find the song soothing and silly at the same time, which is why it was probably so effective as a distraction. In terms of healing, the balm or Neosporin was probably what made it stop hurting and heal faster but rubbing an injury does stimulate endorphins to alleviate pain but the distraction is extremely helpful in stopping the blubbering and crying.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic

For straight hair, shave your head

My grandmother tells the story of the head shaving folk belief. Apparently even though my Grandmother received her cosmetology license in the U.S., and throughout her training they never told her it was true and she never saw any evidence that it was true but she firmly believed in the Colombian folk belief that if you shave a person’s head who has curly hair at a young age then the hair will grow back straight especially if they are very young. So my Grandmother, who hated my mom’s curly hair because it was too hard to style, tried many times to sneak up on my mom while she was sleeping and shave her head when she was a young child (4-8) but always failed because my mom would always wake up screaming. To this day my mom is an extraordinary light sleeper.

Analysis: Even with empirical evidence some folk belief is so strongly ingrained that people will act when it seems against someone else’s best interest. The concept of shaving a five year old girl’s head seems to border on abusive, but the folk belief was so ingrained that even to a highly trained professional the folk belief still remains plausible. Perhaps this is why, even among highly trained brain surgeons like Ben Carson, belief in creation myths remains so strong.

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