USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘appearance’
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Folk Beliefs
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Whole Image (Soul Stealing and Microphones)

This friend of mine has always been one of the most superstitious people I know. Her childhood was split between two households, each with their own unique beliefs and superstitions. Having been quite close for the past few years, I’ve heard innumerable stories regarding strange folk-beliefs her parents taught her as a little girl. When I asked her about her superstitions and pulled out a microphone, she sealed her lips and wouldn’t explain until I’d turned it off. And first, I was a bit peeved, but by the end of her explanation, it made a lot more sense.

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

“Okay so the reason I don’t speak into microphones, no actually don’t – no please don’t. I’ll hold it. I’ll explain it to you, it’s completely legitimate! Okay. So… I don’t believe in speaking into a microphone if there’s no image along with it because my personal spiritual beliefs have to do with the reflection and the way that a person is viewed by other people. Kind of like everyone has a projection, so if your projection doesn’t capture the whole picture it’s wrong. I’ll only be in a video if there’s sound and I’ll only speak directly if you can see me doing it. Think about the way people look at Instagram. If I show you Ben’s insta you only get 3% of his personality. As a means of calculating the projections I give off, I don’t get to know people that well, I’m really picky with people I get to know, and I’m picky with how I represent myself, so I’ve deleted my insta, and I don’t like posing for photos. I don’t like artificial projection, because it goes against my spiritual beliefs. Voice overs for movies are different. That’s acting out a character When representing yourself, I only like the whole image. I don’t take pictures.

 “Partly just growing up, a big part of misunderstanding and getting along with people is getting the whole picture. I grew up never getting the whole picture, I feel like it’s important to be as genuine as possible. If you’re allowing someone to see you and know you as a person, and you only give them a partial image, then, intrinsically, you’re setting yourself up to be stereotyped, and like, put into a box.

 “That’s why I hate telling people I’m vegan. It’s like, yeah, I’m fucking vegan, but I like chicken wings sometimes, you know? I hate being put into boxes because no one will ever kno- you don’t even know yourself. No one will ever know anyone. So why make it easier for people to assume that they can? I’m interested in things, but part of my spirituality is just lack of definition. I just think definition is so limiting… And I’ve also tripped on acid a lot, so I’ve felt more things than human existence. I also – I – Identity is complicated. I think people have crossover, but I don’t think – there’s absolutely no way that there’s a carbon copy of me somewhere else. There’s no way that anyone has a carbon copy. I don’t know. Now you get why I don’t like being recorded! I’ve had a lot of problems with this. In high school, I was – me and a couple of people were going to start a band, and then… we didn’t because I wouldn’t record. It was weird.

 “To go back to the question, I am like – I have depersonalization realization. It’s like a mental disorder. Everyone experiences it differently, but I have a separation between myself and what I make. My ankle for example – I just broke it, but I didn’t really process the pain immediately. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself, but I see a body that my soul is in. It’s kind of like Freaky Friday. I mean, nobody will ever know you. Your appearance has nothing to do with who you are. I don’t give a shit about my body. I don’t eat. I don’t feel hungry, or like feel anything. I only feel things in my brain. That’s why I live inside my brain. I mean I can feel you, but I’m not – it’s not like I don’t have nerves. I just live inside my brain.”

This superstition is fascinating to me, as it ties together a few more common superstitions and builds upon them while following a strange sort of dream-logic. Perhaps the most famous anecdote regarding soul theft and photography is famed Lakota tribal leader Crazy Horse never having his photograph taken. It’s quite common for many Native American and Australian Aborigines tribes to view photography as a fracturing and subsequent thievery of the soul, as the whole concept of photography is freezing a moment of time. However, my friend puts a whole new spin on this as she adds audio and video recordings to the mix. It’s fascinating to follow her complicated web of spirituality, and it really does make you think about how we define ourselves and those around us.

For more information on soul stealing and photography, check out: http://www.bigbanglife.org/?p=404

For a skeptical view of the same, check out: https://www.csicop.org/sb/show/soul_theft_through_photography

Folk speech
Proverbs

Disheveled Girl Proverb

Main Piece: Proverb

Original:

Распустила дуня косы и за нею все матросы!

Phonetic:

Raspustila dunya kosy i za neyu vse matrosy!

Translation:

Dyuna (a slang word that is both a name and means “silly girl”) let down her braids, and all the sailors came running after her.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her mother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

This is a proverb that tells young girls to look presentable otherwise they will be chased by sailors.

Context:

This is told to disheveled girls to convince them to fix their appearance and put up their hair.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this is a very sexist proverb, as it is directly influencing the idea that a woman has to look a certain way in order to not receive unwanted attention from men.

general
Humor
Musical

Children’s Song

The informant learned the following children’s song “while [he] was on Catalina Island with [his], um, Indian Guides Troop as a young man.” Here are the lyrics:

Catalina Magalina Hoopa Stina Walladina

Hoka Poka Loka was her name.

Oh, she dove like a feather and floated like a rock,

When she hit the bottom you could hear her at the top,

Catalina Magalina Hoopa Stina Walladina

Hoka Poka Loka was her name.

Oh, she had two hairs that were on her head,

One was live and the other was dead,

Catalina Magalina Hoopa Stina Walladina

Hoka Poka Loka was her name.

Oh, she had two teeth that were in her mouth,

One pointed north and the other pointed south,

Catalina Magalina Hoopa Stina Walladina

Hoka Poka Loka was her name.

Here is a sound clip of the informant performing the song: Catalina Magalina

The informant said that he usually sang around the campfire as a boy and that “it does seem to be kind of a camp song, uh, something that, uh, that kids sing. And see how fast they can sing.”

The informant appears to find the song mildly amusing: “Izza goofy li’l song that basically, uh, insults the hell out of one poor girl. [snort]”

This song—aside from being a way for children to confound adults as to what on earth their children are singing—seems to be build as a challenge, perhaps even a sort of rite of passage. How many names can you remember? How clearly can you pronounce them? How quickly can you sing them? How much can you get through before you have to take a breath? The song also might be considered Indian fakelore, since it was being sung by a group of children pretending to be Natve Americans but is clearly not a traditional Native American song, though it might be possible to fool younger children into believing that it is. Insulting this girl could be a form of trying to counter the evil eye—if you accuse someone else of being ugly, perhaps you won’t be so yourself.

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