USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘angel’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
general

Active Angels

This friend of mine has always mentioned that his family is very Christian, while he himself is more secular. He believes in God, and prays regularly, however he is a bit skeptical in terms of miracles happening here on Earth. Having grown up in San Diego in close proximity to his grandparents, who are even more religious than his parents, he often shares stories from his childhood, many of which involve church or some other religious attribute. Though he attends Mass somewhat regularly here at USC, college has made him even more of a skeptic than before.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“Is it okay, if this is like, religious? Alright so, it was like evening. It wasn’t dark, it was almost dark. That time between five and six pm. You know what I’m talking about. So I’m at Torrey Pines Cove. Er, no that’s not a thing. La Jolla Cove. But it’s near Torrey Pines, anyways so. I’m there, and I’m climbing on the cliffs. I started off on just little ones, but then I got to bigger ones, and it was sort of like, more dangerous. My mom was talking to my dad, and like, just, they were walking around and stuff. And they didn’t see that I had moved on to more dangerous areas. And, I am afraid of heights, I don’t know if you know about this. But I don’t like being up high ever. I can’t look down if I’m higher than like a story. A third floor freaks me out. So anyways, I’m at a cliff – I can’t remember how far it was, but when I was a kid it felt like really really really far. You know? Like a giant gap. So I look down and I’m like way high up. And I look down and am like, holy shit? How am I gonna get down? And I didn’t know. My mom saw me at this point, and she couldn’t climb that high up, she was freaking out. She wouldn’t climb that. She was like, ‘oh my God, he’s up there, you know, he’s gotta climb down or something’. I was just frozen, I was there the whole time, and then. This guy was at the top of the cliff, and went and like helped me down. Like, I don’t – he didn’t, okay. This is hard to envision, but he went and like walked down and helped guide me down the rock face. And then, like. And then he was like, ‘there you go’, and then walked away. And then my mom was like, ‘that was an angel. A guardian angel’. Because we didn’t see any guys up there, like – it didn’t look like. She didn’t recall anyone being up there, and he just showed up. And then got me down. And then left. And my mom was like, ‘that’s a guardian angel up there’.

“My grandmother used to tell me stories about what my guardian angels looked like. And it was really like, it was a way for me to bond with my grandmother on a deeper level. Sort of supernatural, like, are there really angels out there that are everyday people? She would make up the stories. She was like – this was like what guardian angels would do. Like if I had a big test coming up, she was like, ‘the guardian angel is watching. He’ll help you with the answers,’ or I don’t know what it was. Help you study – that’s more ethical. So, but yeah. She was a big believer in angels, like active angels. Not ones that were just up there. She was like, ‘nah, they’re out there. They’re helping people’. And I always thought that was just good Samaritans. People that were like, ‘yo, this kid’s on a cliff face. I need to help him out.’ You know? And we just didn’t see him. That’s what I think happened. But my mom has a different take that that was my guardian angel like stepping in. Like, ‘this kid’s about to die’.”

This story fascinates me, as I never really think of angels as walking among us. While I, myself, believe in a higher power with a sort of spiritual-hierarchy of subservient deities (aka God with His angels, a Creation God with Nature Spirits, something along those lines), I’ve never really pictured them as being physical incarnates that interact with us one-on-one. Though my friend claims to have interacted with one face to face, he still is a skeptic that it was, in fact, an angel. It beautifully illustrates the sharp generational divide in beliefs, even if those beliefs share a common root.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Protection

The Parking Lot Angel

This friend of mine has always mentioned that his family is very Christian, while he himself is more secular. He believes in God, and prays regularly, however he is a bit skeptical in terms of miracles happening here on Earth. Having grown up in San Diego in close proximity to his grandparents, who are even more religious than his parents, he often shares stories from his childhood, many of which involve church or some other religious attribute. Though he attends Mass somewhat regularly here at USC, college has made him even more of a skeptic than before.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“Another angel story, my grandmother says there’s a parking-lot angel that she has that follows her car around. And every time she’s gone to places to park she just always manages to find a spot. And she would tell me that every time. She went to like parking lots and stuff, and she used to tell me stories.”

This story is just so innocent and sweet. A little old grandma who has come to the conclusion that the reason for her exceptionally good luck when it comes to finding parking spaces is her very own guardian angel. Everyone I’ve told it to since I’ve heard it has smiled and said, “hey, that’s not such a bad explanation”. Perhaps the parking lot angel is busier than we know.

 

Tales /märchen

Woodcutter and Angel

Main Piece:

 

나무꾼이 나무를 하다가 숲 속에서 도망치는 사슴을 만나게 된다. 사슴은 사냥꾼이 쫓아오고 있으니 자신을 숨겨달라고 말한다. 말하는 사슴을 신기하게 여긴 나무꾼은 사슴을 숨겨주고 뒤쫓아 온 사냥꾼은 다른 곳으로 보내서 구해준다.

 

사슴은 은혜를 갚겠다고 하면서, 나무꾼에게 선녀들이 하늘에서 내려와서 목욕하는 선녀탕이라는 샘을 가르쳐준 다음 선녀를 아내로 삼는 법을 나무꾼에게 알려준다. 나무꾼은 사슴이 가르쳐준 때에 선녀들이 목욕을 하고 있는 샘으로 갔더니 과연, 선녀들이 하늘에서 내려와 날개옷을 벗고 선녀탕에서 목욕을 하자 나무꾼은 사슴이 가르쳐준 대로 날개옷을 하나 훔쳤다.

 

날개옷이 없어진 탓에 한 명의 선녀는 하늘로 올라가지 못했으며 다른 선녀들은 날개옷이 없는 선녀를 내버려두고 간다. 나무꾼이 선녀에게 자신의 부인이 되어달라고 하자 하늘나라로 올라가지 못하게 된 선녀는 할 수 없이 나무꾼의 아내가 된다.

 

사슴이 ‘아이 셋 낳을 때까지는 결코 날개옷을 돌려주면 안 된다’고 경고했었는데 아이가 둘 뿐인 상황에서 애원을 못 이기고 날개옷을 돌려줬다가 선녀가 아이 둘을 양팔에 한 명씩 끼고 그대로 하늘로 날아올라가 버렸다

 

A woodcutter meets a deer who runs away in the woods. The deer tells that a hunter is chasing him. The woodcutter who wondered about the talking deer hides the deer, and tells the hunter who comes after him that the deer has gone to another place.

 

The deer tells the woodcutter that the female angels come down from heaven and bathe in the spring, and how to make one of them his wife. The woodcutter went to the spring and when the women from heaven were having a bath, he hid clothes of one of the women.

 

One woman could not go up to heaven because her wing clothes were gone, and the other women left. She marries the woodcutter.

 

The deer warned, ‘You should never give the wings back until you have 3 children’ When he had only two children, the wife begged for the wing clothes and he gave them to her and she went away with children to heaven leaving the woodcutter.

Background Information:

This story is widespread throughout East Asia. There are different versions with a similar structure. Unlike other stories, it is hard to find any special lessons from this story.

 

Context:

This story is performed as many different forms like puppet animation, song or TV comedy.

 

Personal Analysis:

This is a tragic love story. It’s told to kids but it’s not really about romance. The woodcutter was deceiving to be lying to his wife about the clothes for a long time, but it is sad that she leaves him so suddenly. Her eagerness to leave makes it seem like there was no love to begin with. It might teach a lesson to follow instructions to live a good life, because the woodcutter didn’t listen to the deer.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Devil in Angel’s Clothing

Informant Tahereh Behshid is 78 years old and recalled a proverb she was taught as a young child.

I wanted to know if you could possibly talk about some proverbs you might have used when you were a child in Iran, and the context that you would use those proverbs in. So… do you have an example for me?

“Yes, my name is Tahereh Behshid, and the thing we usually heard from parents, it was [speaking in Farsi] ‘shaytan delah baseh fereshte.’ The devil in angel’s clothing. That means you watch out for the people, they come to you, around you. When they act very nice to you, you have to see what their intention is. So… that’s what it was.”

Analysis: Like many proverbs passed from parent to child, this one deals with imparting a valuable life lesson in very few words. Tahereh grew up as a poor woman in a rapidly modernizing urban area of Iran’s capital, and so with the influx of strangers to her hometown, this advice was likely to be especially valuable. She taught the same lessons, albeit in English, to her own children in the United States, who then passed them on to their children.

Childhood
Game

Mafia

A group of people sit in a circle and close their eyes.  Someone is selected to play God.  God is the narrator of the game, and always someone who has played the game before.  God walks around the circle two times.  The first time he walks around he selects who will be the mafia by tapping a player once on the shoulder.  The second time around he selects the angel by tapping that person twice on the shoulder.

God then says “Mafia wake up?”  The mafia then chooses who they would like to kill by pointing at them. God then says “mafia go back to sleep”.  Then God tells the angel to wake up and asks “Angel who they would like to save”.  The angel can save anyone in the circle including themselves by pointing at them.  God then tells the angel to go back to sleep and the townspeople, which consists of everyone, including the mafia and the angel, to wake up.  God then tells a fictionalized version of the nights “events” where someone was murdered.  The person who was murdered is now out and no longer has to go to sleep when God tells the rest of the townsfolk to, so they learn who the mafia is, but must keep this information a secret.

If the angel chose to save the same person the mafia chose to kill, God will add on a twist ending where the person does not die.  God then narrates a town summit where the townspeople meet to arrest who they believe to be the mafia.  Everyone accuses who they believe to be the culprit and the town takes a vote.  After the vote the person who the town believes to be the mafia “put to death” in a narrative told by God and the townspeople are told to go back to sleep.

The game then repeats from the beginning with God telling the mafia to wake up, then the angel, then the townsfolk.  If the townspeople chose the actual mafia, no one is dead in the morning and the game is over, but if they chose the wrong mafia, another person dies and they rehold the town summit.  The game repeats until the true mafia has been put to death.

My friend used to play the game when she was in high school and they had substitute teachers but it was also a staple game at camps and in any large groups.  The target age are generally adolescents as the subject matter is much darker than other children’s games.

The game is very different from most other folklore that deals with mystery and death in that it turns the sinister topic into a game and makes it fun.  A town plagued by the mafia is not a light subject matter but in the contact of this game if becomes something fun.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Story of Repentance

Informant Background: The informant is a student in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Indonesia. His parents moved to the United States and they now live in New Orleans. He speaks only English but he said his family still practice many Indonesian traditions especially folk-beliefs. He travels back once in a while to Indonesia to visit his relatives.

 

A serial killer who has killed hundreds of people realized at the end of his life how much evil he committed. He thought to himself something like: what am I going to do? Then he had a revelation toward the end of his life. He then heard of this city which consists of good people…you know where those people can teach him how to become a good person if he can reach the city…The people of that city can also teach him how to repay his since so he can reach salvation.

So this guy, the serial killer, starts walking to the good city. But he was really old, you see, so the serial killer dies on the way to the good city. The angels then wonder if he should go to heaven since he did have the intention to become good, or hell since he never made it to his destination. They decided to take the distance between his starting point and the city of good. If the man passes the half way point then he would go to heaven. But he didn’t pass the test, so an angel carried him pass the half-way point and brings him to heaven. So basically this story is pretty much saying that the intention to become a good person outweighs the evil in the past.

A story of repentance form Indonesia. The informant was told this story by his grandparents from Indonesian. The goal was to teach children to be good, want to be good, and continue to do good things despite past mistakes. The intention of the story was to teach that wanting to become good outweighs the bad things in the past.

 

 

I think this story reflects similar principles as karma. The serial’s killer intention to become good is so that he can go to heaven. He knows that his evil past will result in evil ends for him. He is doing good to expect good things in return. It is also evident that the intention to become good is so that he can eliminate or counter balance the evil he committed in the past. I think this story indirectly teaches children about karma and the consequences of good and bad actions.

This also reflects the idea of the ideal binary opposition in morality: the good and the bad. The character and the city are set as complete opposite of each other. The two are separated into pure ideal of how to judge morality. The killer is characterized as the definition of extreme “bad” while the city is defined as extreme “good” and filled with good people. The criteria of judging the good intention of the killer is a binary where the boundary is the halfway point of his journey.

This binary opposition of good and bad is blurred when the angel carried him pass the half way point so he can go to heaven due to his good intentions. The fact that only the intention to become good saves the killer from going to hell, in my opinion, makes the story effective. Since the goal of this story is to encourage people to have intention to do good things regardless of their past, the fact that the killer went to heaven shows how easy it could be to correct the evil past through simple change in attitude.

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