USC Digital Folklore Archives / April, 2018
Folk medicine

Hoco

Interview:

“I’m from Turkey, there are people called Hoco, who are religious leaders, people go to them as a way to heal their medical problem, problems can be physical problems or like psychological problems, like mental health issues, they would usually go to these people before doctors or after they try doctors and get no results.”

So kinda like a faith healer?

“They believe that these people have mystical powers that allow them to heal people.  They have certain stories that they believe they have djinn inside them.  They bring kids to hoco to remove spirits from the bodies. He uses medical herbs and medicine from nature.”

 

Background:

When asking about any particular things from his culture, the subject described a type of shaman like healer who is held at a great reverence in the country from where he’s from.  According to the subject, this type of faith healer is very prominent in Turkey, and often are the go-to for any type of ailment.

 

Analysis:

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities that tie these hoco to traditional practices of medicine.  While the healing with the power of the djinn might be merely a placebo effect, the use of these herbs reminds me much of traditional Chinese herbal medicine.  While many of these practices seem to be outlandish and impractical to foreigners, many of these remedies are from decades of trial and error.  The magic of these shamans are upheld by the religious and wives that keep these legends alive demonstrating an example of old folk traditions.    It was interesting to discover a country that also still practiced it’s ancient forms of healing through herbal medicine.

 

 

Holidays

Mid-Autumn Festival

Interview:

Is there anything you retained through the years?

 

“In Taiwan?”

 

Anywhere, here, Taiwan, anything you retained through the years.

“During the Mid-autumn festival, we ate moon cakes, in Taiwan and also still here.  And we sit out and enjoy the moon.  And eat pomelos and turn the peel into a hat to put on the kids heads to wear. “

Is there anything else that happened?

“In Taiwan it was a day off. “

Background:

After doing some research, the Mid-autumn festival is a harvest festival that is celebrated by many of the southeastern countries of Asia.  It was often to give thanks for the harvest and gathering of family.  Often also a day seen for praying for longevity and a good future.  Searching up the curious event of fruit hats, it seems that pomelo hats were always mentioned alongside the terms “moon festival” or “Mid-Autumn festival” and even has spread amongst foreigners who know about that tradition.  My father who grew up in Taiwan recounted how this festival was a tradition that he celebrated with his family growing up, and now continued to pass on after he moved to the United States.

Analysis: 

Hearing this from my father filled me with an odd bit of nostalgia.  When I was a child, I recount moments I picked at the white pith of a pomelo peel that found itself onto my head.  Aside from being outfitted with fruit peels, the most vivid memories were seeing mooncakes on the counter and eating with relatives that come in from out of state to celebrate with my grandparents.  It stands as one of the symbolic holidays that represents the importance of family in Tawianese tradition.

Adulthood
Festival
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Quicenera

Main Content:  A quincenera is when a girl turns 15 and they do a big party to celebrate that she is no longer alittle girl but instead a woman. Parents usually start to save money from the day theirdaughters are born because it is very expensive to throw a quincenera. For a quincenera girlsusually wear puffy dresses and have damas (female court) and chambelanes (male court) who are wearing the same color as her dress. First they have to go to church and have a mass. Then they go take pictures and then the party starts. In the middle of the party the girl’s dad takes off the girl’s flat shoes and puts on some heels. Then they give the girl a doll which is the last doll she is going to get meaning that she is no longer a little girl. After the dad and girl dance together. This is one of the most sentimental parts of the quincenera because the next time they would dance together would be at her wedding. After this, there is a surprise dance.  Context: This piece is an interview that I directly copied every word said. The participants name is Jonathan. I had asked the participate in advance over phone if he had any folklore and he asked what I meant by that. After giving a few examples he said he actually did have something to share. So we met in his apartment a few hour later. We entered the kitchen and sat down at the table. Background: Jonathan is a 19-year-old college student whose ethnicity is half Cuban and Half Mexican. He is a sophomore attending UCLA.  Analysis: A quincenera is a common example of Hispanic life cycle folklore. It is more common for woman, but it can also be for a male. A quincenera is transition from a child to an adult. In the quincenera there is a motif, the high heel. It represents a woman and therefore the father removes the flat shoe and puts on the heel. I find it fascinating that there is no scientific evidence stating that when a female turns 15, she become an adult. This transition from childhood to adult hood does have different variations across different cultures. For example, other cultures have a sweet 16. The basis is the same but instead of transitioning to adulthood at 15, it is at 16. 

Folk Beliefs
Magic

reincarnation

The following story is collected from my friend. He is from U.S.A. This interview is done face-to-face. “A” refers to me, the collector. And “B” refers to the participant.

A: “Did you experience anything you would explain as supernatural?

 

B: “I can’t remember now but I know something happened to my best friend.”

 

A: “Can you tell me about it?”

B: “When he was a kid, at one point he didn’t talk with his aunt for 5 years, because she and my friend’s father had a disagreement and they were not allowed to talk. But when he was younger, he loved spending time with her. At the end of 5th year, it was her birthday and my friend finally found the courage to ask his day, if they can tell call and wish happy birthday to her. Then my friends father told him the sad news. Apparently, his aunt died 2 years ago and my friends father did not tell this to him. So my friend ran out of the house when he learned this and started to cry.”

A: “How old was he?”

B: “I am not too sure. Maybe 12″

A: “Continue the story please”

B: “So, he was crying in the street and he saw a parrot standing next to him. He told me that a lady come up to him and  said “oh look this birds like you”. Then my friend remembered that his aunt liked parrots and thought maybe this bird was someway connected to her. Because he never saw that parrot next to his home and the day he tried to connect with his aunt, he saw it.  ”

A: “Does he still believe in it or did he stopped believing once he grew?”

B:” I can’t really talk about my friends beliefs, but I know that, whenever he tells this story to someone, he gets emotional. So maybe he still believes.”

Legends
Narrative

Whitney Levine 22: Russian Strong Man

“My whole family left Russia at the turn of the eighteenth century. My whole family was Jewish during the super anti semitic Minsk Russia. He’s really strong and has this long beard. A Russian cossack comes up to him, calls him an anti semitic slur and pulls his beard. My relative replies, thank you for putting me in my place. When the man puts his hand out to shake his hand, he broke his hand from shaking so hard.”

Context: This is the performance of a family legend by Whitney Levine. Though she is American, her family comes from Russia and is very proud of this legend. She learned it from various family members, the tell the story at holidays and family get togethers, especially from her father who always retells the story to various family members. This legend is a testament to her family’s strength and tradition. In an era of avid anti-Semitism, it is extremely empowering to hear that a family member fought back against injustice. She told it to me during our folklore class discussion, in which we were collecting folklore.
“It’s a story my dad always would tell me and would always tell the whole family the story. He’s not sure if it’s true but it’s a family legend that everyone knows now.”

Analysis: I think the story is inspirational, and depicts a man willing to fight against a bigoted establishment. In a time when so many Jews were oppressed, it is heartwarming to see someone fight back against injustice. That is probably why the story has been passed down through so many generations.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Britt Jacobson 19: Shabbat

“When my grandma lights shabbat candles she puts a white lace shawl over her head and she lights a candle for each of her children. She has seven children so seven candles for them and she also lights two different candles for each of her two dead parents. She does this every friday before sunset, and any female members in the house will do the blessing with her.”

Context: Britt is an American Jew from Los Angeles California. Her family celebrates Shabbat every Friday night (a tradition in which candles are lighted to commemorate Gods day of rest). This variation of the tradition is not typical, but still integrates the typical practice into the mix. Also, lighting candles is pretty typical for deceased family members, so that part is not surprising. I heard this from her during our Folklore class. I personally think the notion of all the girls lighting candles can be thought of as a sort of bonding experience, in which all the females connect with each other to say a blessing. Also, I think this combines the tradition of Jewish candle lighting on Shabbat and the universal practice of lighting candles for the deceased into one tradition.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Stanley Kalu 21: Nigerian Proverb

“There’s a proverb from southern niggeria every day is for the thief one day is for the owner of the house, nigeria has a problem with corruption top down from the government, yes you could keep doing it but eventually you will get caught.”

Context: Stanley partially grew up in Nigeria, and moved to the United States when he was a little older. He heard it from his time living in Nigeria. I collected this piece from him in our folklore class. As he mentions, this proverb deals with Nigeria’s corruption and the thievery problem.

Analysis: A proverb like this maintains the notion that every thief’s wrongdoing will catch up to him eventually and there will be justice for everyone. As many people have been affected by a thief of corrupt person at one point or another in Nigeria, it is probably a comfort to hear that their suffering was not for nothing and the thief will eventually be brought to justice.

Homeopathic
Magic
Protection

Natalie Skinner 19: Clove of Garlic

“My grandma born in 1935 was always told by her aunt that in order to not catch the flu, you have to put a clove of raw garlic around her neck. She did that and never got sick.”
“I heard this when I was five from my grandmother.”

Context: Natalie shared this with me during our folklore class. She heard it for the first time when she was five from her grandmother.

Analysis: back in that time, it makes sense for people to develop folk ideas of how to fix things they had no control over, such as illness. Because of the lack of medical advancements, many people choose to trust homeopathic remedies shared to them orally. This is probably the case with Natalie’s grandmother to an extent.

Customs
Foodways
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Valery Zhukova 19: Pass Out Salad

Valery Zhukova 19: Pass Out Salad
“On New Years Eve, Russians put this salad on the table and it includes potato, balogne or meat, egg, pickles, cucumber, boiled carrot, onion and mayonnaise (can be replaced by sour cream) salt and canned peas. It is said that if you get drunk, one of the people will pass out into the salad and its good luck for everyone for a year. “

Context: Vallery is Russian/ Ukrainian- American. I heard this recipe from her in our folklore class. The culture of drinking is really big in Eastern Europe, so it is no surprise that passing out into the food is one of the requirements for this tradition. Valery learned this tradition from holidays.

Analysis: This food reminds me of an Israeli dish or potato salad that has similar ingredients. It makes sense that these dishes will be similar, as there are many immigrants from Eastern Europe in Israel. Drinking is a large part of the celebratory culture there, so passing out in the food means that people had a good time. This probably sets a good example for the rest of the year.

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle

Ben Stout 19: Tooth Fairy

“When I was a little kid I woke up in a daze and I swear to God I saw the tooth fairy. It was a ball of purple light that floated through my window by the dream catcher then turned green and floated away.

Context Ben is an American with roots in the Midwest. He told this story to me in our folklore class. The tooth fairy is an extremely common belief in America, with most children partaking in the belief. She is an entity typically depicted with wings that collects the fallen teeth of children. In their place, she leaves money. Fairies are historically trouble-making creatures, but the tooth fairy is benevolent and loves children. Bens version of the tooth fairy matches some interpretations of fairies that include balls of light.

Analysis: Teeth falling out is a substantial life event, that may be scary for some children to deal with. They are growing up, and their bodies are aging in a way that might seem mystical or magical. The tooth fairy is a good mediator for that life process, and helps make the journey to adolescence a little easier.

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