Folk Beliefs

Don’t Place Your Head Pointing North When You Sleep

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: One thing I always do is like I never place, like when I’m sleeping, whenever I move into a new room, and I never sleep on the side where my head is facing north. Like my head is pointing north. Like if I sleep this way, that part can never be north. Like any other direction but north.

Interviewer: Why is that?

Informant: North is just really bad direction for us. Ummm, I think it’s cuz it symbolize coldness, coldness or like winter, or just like, I think ghost as well. Just like all the bed thing situated at north. It just like a bad connotation. South is like, sunny, warm, you know, but north is like cold. So if you play with color, north is like white, grey, blue, darkness. Or south is like, you know, red, orange, yellow, you know what I mean? So like it’s not like such a big deal but I never point north when I am sleeping. So I always check direction when I move to new apartment.

Interviewer: If you sleep with head pointing north, what will happen?

Informant: It just like bad dreams, you won’t sleep well.

Background:

My informant was born in Osaka, Japan. Both of her parents are very Japanese. So, although she immediately moved to Hong Kong after she was born, she learned Japanese and Japanese culture from her parents. She learns this folk piece from her mom. Whenever they move to a new house or place bed in a room, her mom will always check the direction and make sure the bed does not point north. Growing up with this believe, my informant also practices it, and never sleeps with her head pointing north.

Context:

She is a good friend of mine since we both lived in Osaka for a while. This piece was collected as we had lunch at the USC village. I invited her to talk about her culture and we were sharing thoughts while waiting for the food. The conversation was conducted under a relaxing environment and we both feel pretty comfortable sharing our childhood experience.

Thoughts:

I feel in Asian countries, people are really aware of the directions, especially when they buy houses. For example, in China, people like their houses or rooms face south because of more sunshine time. And they say the room temperature in a room that faces south tend to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer compares to other rooms. There is also a price difference in the apartment that faces south and others. If the apartment faces south, it will be more popular and sell at a higher price. However, even selling with a higher price tag, the ones that face south are usually the first batch to be sold out. After I come to America, I realize that people do not put such value on direction, which is one of the big differences I discovered between east culture and west culture.

 

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