USC Digital Folklore Archives / May, 2013
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Palm itching and dreaming of black

“Well since my family is Armenian there are like quite a lot of little beliefs that I have heard growing up from my mom or dad that they themselves probably got from their parents themselves. Like, let’s see an example of this is that when you dream about something black it means someone that you know or such is going to die. This happens because I believe the color black is just seen as like a color that attracts bad luck or bad omens in Armenia. Uhm and then another one that was also very common when I was growing up was like that when your palm itches it means you’re going to get money soon or like in the near. I guess these were just phrases that were passed down as tradition or something of the sort. I remember I used to always like when my grandma or my mom would tell me these stories because it made me think that Armenians were like the coolest people ever!”
The fact that cultures have such traditions make it important to see the superstitions that make people believe to have good or bad omens in life and it is interesting to see how devoted some people are to these beliefs.

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Red envelopes and Tang Yuan

“For Chinese New Year we would visit every member of our family and go to their houses and tell them merry…I mean happy Chinese New Year, and wish them a happy one and give the children of the families red envelopes with money inside them. This is based on Chinese tradition of New Year and it was kind of like wishing them good luck in the upcoming year. Also fifteen days later we would celebrate the lantern festival in which it is tradition to eat a dessert called Tang Yuan – this is glutinous rice flour – and this symbolizes the family togetherness. I liked all of these events because I guess I just related them to seeing my whole family come together and just good family times.”
Many families have these tradition in which they share money or give it to the children in order to make them more excited about the New Year or such family gatherings. Being able to be with family and share such special this is very important for many cultures.

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Sweeping blessings out the door

“I remember growing up my mom would tell me that when you are sweeping the floor in your house, uhm you are not supposed to sweep you know the dirt, directly out the door, you are supposed to sweep it into a pile and pick it up with a damp paper towel or some cloth or something and put it in the trash because If you sweep out the door it will sweep out the blessings from your home. My mom learned it from elders in the village she is from.”
For many families it is very important to make sure that their homes are safe and sound and always blessed therefore there are all these traditions in which they have sort of rituals to make sure that no bad omens enter the house and only blessings enter. The homes are seen as this safety harbor that protects the children and overall the families therefore taking extra steps in order to make sure its safe becomes a very common part of folklore.

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“Sana sana colita de rana”

“Well I remember that when I would get hurt as a young child my grandma and my family would always rub where I had gotten hurt or was in pain and say ,”Sana Sana colita de rana, si no Sana hoy, sanara mañana”. I think it’s almost like the placebo effect, I thought it was like a chant of magic, believing that it would like magically cure me. Now I do it to my younger siblings, or younger children in my family, because I think just the thought of being cured by magic or being reassured that everything is going to be okay tomorrow is very healing not only to the cut but to the spirit in a way.”
In Mexican folklore this is a very common thing to do to younger children, and it is important to realize how folklore comes in to make children feel better and how this idea of “having magic” is idealized in order to make sure the children have something to believe in.  Many folklore stories were made and said particularly for the children in order to give them stories to hear or have explanations for the many things in life that happen that are not always in our reach of control.

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Baseball white lines and peeing on bats

“Okay I got one: baseball, so basically it was self-inflicted but so when I was one I threw toy cars at my mom’s ankles like she was a catcher, then if she put on sesame street, I would go up to the TV and click the button until it went to baseball, and so like keep in mind this is before I could talk. Then as a child I would mainly read baseball stories or books, and then with my one friend we would always test each other on baseball trivia, well basically through all of this conditioning baseball became part of my culture. For example, I like hot dogs, seeds, hats, smell of freshly cut grass etc., because it all relates to baseball. My role models were baseball players like uhm David Eckstein. Also, my family really got around baseball cause of all the time that I forced them to spend spent at lessons or practices, teams, clubs, and all-starts etc. well you get the idea. To make it more obvious think of baseball as like my folklore or myths or history or whatever. So now we have many superstitions within this game like not stepping on the white lines and well (laughs hard) we pee on the bats.
The reason why we don’t step on the white lines is because it can be seen as an omen for bad luck, and well I think it derives from like the fact that if you step on them they might like erase and so it makes the foul line harder to see which is like bad. And the other one sounds so fucking weird so I don’t like to say it often, but anyways we pee on our bats when there is like a cold streak because it is supposed to get rid of the bad luck plus it’s a hell of a lot of fun to do!”

It is very interesting how to many people different things can seem as folklore or their culture to them such as baseball, and its important to acknowledge how important traditions are to people.  Therefore the definition of folklore becomes a little bit ambiguous because it is something we cannot control but there are different things that constitute to different people’s folklore beliefs and therefore they may vary.

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Twitching eyes

“When I was growing up sometimes my eyes would twitch, I know it’s weird, but anyway my mom would always tell me how if your eyelid for your right eye twitches that means something good is going to happen to you soon or like in the near future, but like if your left eye started twitching it meant that something bad was going to happen to you. I guess in a way it was just some sort of superstitions that my mom picked up or like she learned from her family in China and oh yea she also said she grew up with this.”

Little traditions like these make people see things differently or feel more excited about little stuff and it can just be a fun way to pass on tradition through folklore. There are many forms of folklore that were made in order to explain little actions that our bodies do or things that happen that we cannot control or expect and I read that many of these were created because people liked to feel that they were always in control so being able to explain why these certain actions took place was a good way to make them feel more at ease in many ways.

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Chiu Chow bonding us

“Well when it comes to my language, Chiu Chow, it was the first language I learned and my grandpa wanted my parents to teach me that language since he wanted the tradition to be passed down to every generation including all my cousins and uncles aunts, any who the whole family. My grandparents grew up from a small village in the eastern coast of china where they spoke the native language there and my grandpa now wanted every generation in his family to know this language as well. The language, I remember hearing my mom say came from a village on the east coast of china called Shantou. Not a lot of people know that language because well clearly it’s like not as popular as Mandarin and the rest of the like more popular languages. Doesn’t really influence us much but if I had to say something then uh I guess it makes our family feel more connected? And my mom found friends who speak the same language as well so it brings them together in ways that I guess like only a language can bring them together. I like having kind of my own secret language with my family cause like not a lot of people know it, but I know it’s not secret but still makes me feel cool.”

When it comes to smaller towns a particular article of folklore that unites them is the language, and in this case being in such a small environment allows them to share the language with those close to them and anyone else who knows it becomes as close as family.  Even though it is not a commonly know language the people that have actually learned it from their parents have managed to pass it on in order to make sure it prevails and future generations of this family are able to hold on to this form of folklore that unites them so much.

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The “mal de ojo” (evil eye)

“So my mom has held this belief for a long time that there are like some people in the world whose stare or glance is more powerful than others or it’s supposed to be scary, and well because their stare is so powerful, it has an effect on new born babies. And if these new born babies looked upon someone with such a stare they would like tend to get sick or maybe even die because they are too young to withstand the stare, I know it’s sad. So when I was a new born my parents were, you know, walking around with me being proud parents and whatever when we came home that night I began to get sick for the next few days and I threw up and wouldn’t sleep and cried and was just like in pain. So my parents immediately took me to the hospital but they could not find anything wrong with me and they couldn’t explain why I was as sick. And so finally one of my mom’s friends had a look at me and said ‘la niña tiene el mal del ojo’ which pretty much meant someone who had the evil eye looked at me and I got sick. Uhm and well there are a few ways to cure that: the first is to let the person with the evil eye carry the baby but my mom didn’t know where to find that person, because she didn’t even know when it happened! so instead she had to do something else she got an egg and passed it over my head three times while saying three our fathers at the end of the last our father the yolk broke inside and after that I got almost instantaneously better. So then this story was passed down by her mom because the same thing happened to my aunt.”

Every culture has to have some scary stories or superstitions about the supernatural and I believe it is just a way to unite those cultures because they are all found under the same belief. The way that fear is inflicted it helps people have stories to tell to their children in generations to come.  Even though this started a long time ago as a superstition it is quite strange that it is still so common nowadays for people to fear this supernatural thing that can actually harm people physically.

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Pupusas and rellenitos de platano

“Okay let’s say pupusa and rellenitos de platano pupusas are made from corn flour beans, cheese, meat – which can include chicken or pork – and well these are very common ingredients that can be found almost anywhere in Latin America…I learned about them from my mommy who knows how to make them, and trust me they are so good I can eat them for DAYS. It’s a native dish so it has been passed down by like tradition I guess you can say, even before the Spanish came it was like just a simple meal but it is special to us because it’s something that has been passed down to us by our ancestors, wow I sound so fancy. Sorry any who, one ingredient you can use in a pupusa is the Loroco, the Loroco is an indigenous plant of El Salvador, it’s not really found outside of Central America. Rellenos de platano are mashed up platanos filled with either refried beans or like crema, well cream whatever, so you mash up the platanos, stuff them with either the beans or cream., fry them then roll them in sugar, my mom also showed me how to make these. I kinda feel like making food with my mom was a really well good way to make sure I was more involved in my culture and such, plus I love cooking so it was great and it made me learn about my past family members too. But man those meals are good!”

Another means of folklore that is very good is the way that cultures unite through food, it is a means to come together as a family. Food is a good way to learn about one’s culture because not only you learn about the plants that one can find from the place we are from but get to interact with families who teach us the recipes.  Maybe even so these recipes will be taught to our children by us in hopes that they will keep the traditions and continue this sort of folklore for generations to come in order to make sure that it gets passed on.

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Idioms to scold

“I can’t think of any monsters… but there are these Chinese idioms that my parents would always say whenever they commented on my, well bad behavior, it’s usually a 4 word phrase that doesn’t really mean anything word for word, uh it is kinda like English idioms, like for example: spread oneself too thin, or things like that, but has a long history behind it that has some random and specific moral that relates to whatever they’re referring to. They’re actually pretty cool to know, there are thousands or some ridiculous number of them, so referencing them can actually be considered like being very knowledgeable/scholarly I believe. I just remember my parents scolding me with these random Chinese phrases that meant nothing to me but they’d keep repeating it and eventually I’d understand the meaning behind them too … and I just guess this is significant because well like I grew up with it so it made me want to like learn them because were parents were ALWAYS fucking saying them, it’s just another aspect that influenced my culture and folklore and such growing up, you know? And now I know a few so I’m proud of myself.”

Words of scorn are often very common when talking about folklore because they are used to shape the children’s actions and make them do more things that the parent found acceptable or such. It is the kind of folklore that allows the shaping of children through scolding or other means. It is also interesting that these words have probably been passed down from many many generations and form a very important part of the lives of many cultures because they grew up with it so they want to make sure that their children have this knowledge as well.

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