USC Digital Folklore Archives / Homeopathic
Folk Beliefs
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general
Homeopathic
Magic
Signs

Morning Rituals

Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do you have any rituals that you perform? Whether it’s a family tradition or something you have to do for luck or positivity – anything of the sorts?

 

Interviewee: Do morning routines count? Because they are something I take very seriously! It’s like you and coffee!

 

Interviewer: Sure, go ahead!

 

Interviewee: Morning routines are something I take very seriously. As an individual I like to think of myself as spontaneous and very outgoing but before I can do that I have to complete my morning routine. Very contradicting– I know!…. Spontaneity but orderly. It’s a good mix. So, at night I set two alarms. One 3 hours before I have to leave and one 2 hours to allow myself time to fully wake up. Once awake I turn on my shower to get it nice and hot. Then I brush my teeth and put my contacts in. Then I wash my face and take a shower. Once I’m dressed I call my mom while I make my lunch (I think she’s the most essential part to my morning routine). Then I’m off to work but before I go in I have to get Starbucks or some form of coffee. I don’t want to say I’m addicted, but I’m addicted. My day goes horribly wrong if I don’t have it in my system. Then I’m off to conquer my day and I do it all again the next.

 

Analysis:

This does not seem like a traditional ritual, but the informant’s morning ritual is a ritual nonetheless, just on an individual level. Parts of her ritual can also be classified as superstitions that she holds it extremely dear to her daily life. For instance, her belief that her day goes horribly wrong if she doesn’t have coffee is superstitious. There could be many reasons or coincidences as to why her day might be good or bad – not just whether or not she had coffee. (But as someone else who loves coffee, I completely understand where she is coming from).

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Ear Infection Garlic Drops cure

I asked what I should do if my ear is starting to hurt and I have a slight cold:

Response: “You don’t want to get sick and get an ear infection…especially if your ears are already starting to hurt. You need to go grab the garlic drops we have…they will prevent you from getting an ear infection, but won’t be any good if you already have one. Go grab the bottle and then run the dropper under hot water so it warms up then grab a paper towel and set it down on the table and lay your head down on one side so the drops don’t get on anything else. Just put a couple drops in and let it sit for a second. And make sure it really feels like it gets in there. And then do the other side, you’ll be good.”

 

 

Background: He is 53 years old and raised in Los Gatos, CA. He attended Santa Clara University and now lives with his wife in Los Angeles. He is a father of two.

Context: He shared this home remedy with me in our kitchen when I was beginning to feel sick.

Analysis: In my opinion, believing in home remedies is entirely dependent on how you were raised and the home remedies that your parents practice. My dad told me this remedy, which immediately gives it validity in my worldview. Remedies are such a cool thing that gets passed down through familial lines, and I think is an interesting thing to analyze family to family. You never think about where, when, and from whom you first heard a home remedy once it becomes part of your personal belief system. One home remedy could sound completely ridiculous to someone whose own family holds different beliefs. Who it is that shares with you their home remedy is extremely relevant to whether or not you will try it or accept it as your own folk belief as well.

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).

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic

Aloe Vera

Main Piece:

 

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

 

AF: I know my grandma uses aloe vera on everything, like she grows it outside. But you know, I feel like, um, a lot of Hispanic people do that–they just put aloe vera on everything. Stuff like, well like for things like burns, or acne, or like anything on your skin-not like if you have a fever or something.

 

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in the lobby of a dorm at the University of Southern California. The story itself was told to the interviewee by his grandmother, as they sat in their living room. He was asking her about folklore in order to feel more in touch with his roots.

 

Background:

 

The student is from Huntsville Alabama, but took a gap year in New York City, NY, before attending the University of Southern California as a School of Cinematic Arts major. They are a sophomore, and come from an Italian Hispanic background.

 

Analysis:

 

This is a homeopathic remedy that I myself have used in the past, so I can allude to the strong belief that it works well. In my case, I had used it for acne, as a more natural face wash. I liked how in the telling he added to the cultural background of the remedy, saying that many Hispanic families use aloe vera often. I also enjoyed seeing how this is a cross-generational tradition that was passed down. Additionally, aloe vera is used often by the majority of people for sunburns, but most people don’t tend to think about the other skin purposes of it, so it was interesting to see the cultural insight to more uses from AF’s perspective.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic
Protection

MAL DE OJO

Superstition

Superstition that runs in my family. Basically if you look at a baby you have to touch it because then you will give them the evil eye or in Spanish it’s called “ dar ojo” I don’t know I guess it’s kind of like putting bad vibes towards the baby in the baby feels bad vibes. Kind of like giving the baby MV or showing Envy towards them. The baby’s stomach will start to hurt and they will start gets to get sick. Babies in the Mexican culture usually wear bracelets that protects them against those bad vibes that people can give them like some people can give I buy more than others.

 

Babies usually that have the bad eye are usually very restless and can get very fussy. They’re always uncomfortable they get nightmares. Embracement protect them from those bad vibes. I have a bracelet and it has a little Saint on it that protects them. I have one. Another thing that people do is they put on egg under their bed which absorbs all of the bad vibes and you might also have to light a candle but I’m not sure.

 

I’ve had my bracelet and have changed it because I’ve gotten big which also symbolizes how much ive grown.  Luckily me and my brothers have never gotten the evil eye because we have won the bracelet since we were babies and also I heard that you can get the evil eye even if you’re not a baby so one time a person came up to me and started touching my hair because they didn’t want to give me the evil eye because if they hadn’t touch my hair it would stop growing.

 

Background info

They send form it feels really protected and believes in the Superstition just in case it’s real so she always Where’s her  bracelet Wherever She Goes. She really feels like with her bracelet it means a lot to her because of how much she’s grown and it’s a symbol of faith as well since the bracelet has a little saint on it. It also helps her to not give em be towards others.

 

Context: In an article it explains “the evil eye, is a widespread superstition rooted in medieval Europe and rampant in Latin America. The idea behind the superstition is that a look can literally curse people, particularly children, making them sick. Across Latin America and Spain amulets are employed to protect against the evil eye, and folk remedies and witch doctors are relied upon to cure its curses.  It has been widespread in many places and in mexico it is connected with faith since the amulet has a saint on it

 

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general
Gestures
Homeopathic
Kinesthetic
Protection
Signs

Vicks Rub and the Sign of the Cross: Mexican Healing Gesture

Leah Perez studies Latin American History at the University of Southern California. She was born in Gardena, California and moved to Torrance, California at a young age. Her parents are both Hispanic; her father is Puerto Rican and Mexican, and her mother is Mexican. Leah’s entire extended family speaks Spanish, and while Leah grew up speaking English, she has gained some fluency in Spanish by communicating with her relatives. Her immediate family observes Mexican traditions and has imparted many of these values to Leah and her siblings. In the excerpt below, Leah describes a specific gesture used to cure sickness that relates to her family’s Catholic background:

 

Leah: “So when your kid has the flu… for some reason, Mexican moms like, obviously use Vicks [vapor rub for decongestion], but if you put it on in a cross-shape, it supposed to… help. Like, they’ll apply it in the shape of a cross on your feet or your forehead or whatever.”

Isabella: “Does that signify God helping you recover?”

Leah: “Yeah, and it expels the demons. It has a lot to do with the Catholic tradition.”

 

Here, Leah describes a folkloric gesture that has religious overtones. In addition to applying Vicks vapor rub to help their children recover, Mexican mothers will supplement the healing process with a religious gesture. This practice marks a synthesis between American and Latin American customs. Those who practice this tradition acknowledge the utility in Western medication (i.e. the Vicks rub), but they also feel these treatments are more effective if they are supplemented with Catholic symbols and gestures.

 

Though Leah is not religious herself, she still practices this tradition at times. It has acquired significance in her life because she associates it with her mother and her childhood. This typifies cultural inheritance between older and younger generations.

 

Folk medicine
Foodways
general
Homeopathic
Material

Mexican Tea Remedy for Menstrual Cramps

Leah Perez studies Latin American History at the University of Southern California. She was born in Gardena, California and moved to Torrance, California at a young age. Her parents are both Hispanic; her father is Puerto Rican and Mexican, and her mother is Mexican. Leah’s entire extended family speaks Spanish, and while Leah grew up speaking English, she has gained some fluency in Spanish by communicating with her relatives. Her immediate family observes Mexican traditions and has imparted many of these values to Leah and her siblings. In the excerpt below, Leah describes a tea remedy for menstrual cramps that is used in place of pain medication:

Leah: “My family in New Mexico boils the corn hairs… like, the corn silk. You make a tea out of it when you have menstrual cramps, and it’s supposed to be a remedy for that. It tastes like shit though. It’s solely for the functionality of it.”

Isabella: “Does anyone like the way it tastes?”

Leah: “I think it depends on the sweetest of the corn, so that the silk can taste better. The silk is the little hairs… you know, when you shuck corn, you have the little hairs… little fine fibers that are underneath the husks. They’re yellow, and that’s what you make the tea out of.”

Here, Leah describes a homeopathic remedy that is used to treat menstrual cramps. Though she admits to disliking the tea’s taste, Leah still drinks the remedy when she needs relief from menstrual pain. Both she and her family acknowledge the health benefits associated with the tea; moreover, its main ingredient (corn) is tremendously important amongst Latin American communities. It is a food staple throughout Central and South America so it is not surprising that it appears throughout homeopathic recipes.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general
Homeopathic

Hierbabuena Tea Remedy

Nicolas Estrada is a Mexican-American lawyer working in the greater Los Angeles area. His parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico before he and his sister were born. They settled in Southern California and quickly began to assimilate to the new culture. Nicolas’ parents imparted both Mexican and “American” customs to him and his sister but placed a stronger emphasis on American culture; for example, they taught Nicolas Spanish, but encouraged him to speak only English in public. This strong emphasis on assimilation influenced Nicolas’ relationship with Mexican culture, but he can still recall some Mexican traditions that were practiced in his home. In the excerpt below, Nicolas describes one of the herbal remedies his mother would use to treat upset stomachs:

Nicolas: “My mother would brew different teas instead of going directly to store-bought medicine… if we ever had upset stomachs, she would make us hierbabuena tea… it was a mint tea. My mom told us it had healing properties.”

Isabella: “How would your mom prepare the tea?”

Nicolas: “She would steep the tea leaves in a pot of hot water and then we would drink it without any milk or sugar. We would only drink the tea in the morning or mid-day, though… never in the evening because it would keep us up. I honestly think it works and I still drink mint tea to this day… although I buy already prepared tea bags instead of steeping the leaves.”

Here, Nicolas describes an alternate form of treatment used in place of traditional medication. His mother was more confident in this herbal remedy because it had cultural significance and was endorsed by other members of her family. The hierbabuena tea remedy is an example of a folkloric remedy for these very reasons; while the medical community doesn’t officially endorse the treatment as an effective means of relieving stomach aches, it is still widely used throughout Mexico—and as Nicolas demonstrates here with his anecdote, it has been exported to different countries.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Don’t Bring Pork on the Pali Highway

“In Hawaii, there’s a big stigma about the Pali Highway. You’re not supposed to carry pork on it from the windward side to the leeward side because it has to do it the belief in the Hawaiian gods The windward side, [my sister] said it was the Kamapua’a, which is the pig god, and then the leeward side is the embodiment of his ex-girlfriend, which is Pele, which is the goddess of fire. If you if you bring poured across the Pali Highway from windward to leeward, you’ll get cursed with bad luck. You’re supposed to bring tea leaves to protect yourself, and that’s why you don’t drive with pork.”

Background Information and Context:

“[I learned about the superstition] through one of my teachers, my Modern History of Hawaii teacher, I believe, because he used to tell different stories and things, so use telling the history of the island and about how we have a really like big mixed culture but also, like, indigenous Hawaiian cultures. So, I would modern Hawaiian culture, at least, is like an amalgamation of a bunch of different things that are mixed into [indigenous Hawaiian culture]. So, different superstitions, too. All of the older aunties and uncles, especially native Hawaiian and aunties and uncles, will be steadfast about superstitions, but I have never met anyone who like really really strict about this one. Still, even if they’re not really really strict about it, like they don’t super believe in it, they won’t do it anyway because it’s just one of those superstition things that you just don’t do.”

Collector’s Notes:

What I find most interesting about this superstition is that, although the informant has never met anyone who truly claimed belief in the superstition, she considers it something you “just don’t do.” This shows the power of cultural expectations and explains why superstitions are so resilient to fading. Moreover, I find the informant’s knowledge of and education about Hawaiian history and culture intriguing because she was neither born in Hawaii nor is she of indigenous Hawaiian descent, showing that the adoption of local traditions does not have to occur from a young age.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Night Marchers

“You shouldn’t whistle at night because you’ll get hunted down by the night marchers. I’ve never really gotten a description of what the night marchers are, but if you get hunted down by them, it’s also bad luck, and then, also, if you hear drums it’s night marchers, so go in the other direction. My sister, she’s in marching band, and one time she was whistling, and her friend just yelled at her across the field like, ‘Don’t whistle! You’re going to get hunted down by the night marchers!’ I asked her, ‘What are the night marchers?’ She just (she shrugs and shakes her head) and ‘Just don’t whistle at night.’”

Background Information and Context:

As the informant said above, she learned about this superstition from her sister, who had shared the experience of being warned about this superstition. They encountered this superstition in Hawaii, where they live.

Collector’s Notes:

It is interesting how the informant and her sister were warned not to whistle at night without ever truly understanding the background for the superstition. It makes me wonder if the person warning her sister even knew what the night marchers are, or if she was merely echoing a warning given to her by someone else. Many superstitions exist and are followed ‘just to be safe’ even though the reasons why it causes bad luck are unknown. Moreover, I was surprised that my informant never thought to look up the night marchers on the internet, because a simple Google search showed me that her bad-luck-causing night marchers were actually Hawaiian warriors whose appearance meant death.

For more information about the Night Marchers, see “Friday Frights: The Legend of Hawai‘i’s Night Marchers” in Honolulu Magazine

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