USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘babies’
Folk Beliefs

Pregnancy Craving Beliefs

Main Text:

DC: “When you are pregnant and you begin to crave a specific type of food, you must eat the type of food you are craving or else the baby will be born with the face of that food”

Collector: ” When you were pregnant with your son, did you ever ignore a food craving?”

DC: “Yeah, but nothing really happened” *laughter*

Context:

DC is a Mexican woman who immigrated to the United States and has one five year old son. DC mentioned before she told me this belief that when she was pregnant, her mother always told her not to ignore her cravings and she remembers it because of how bizarre it actually is. Despite this being just another folk belief in her eyes, today she continues this belief and mentions it to her friends or family whenever they mention that they are craving a specific food while pregnant. When asked why she continues to pass this belief along, DC responded that it encourages people to eat more when they are pregnant and not feel bad about the “weirdness” and the “changes” that their body is experiencing. She said that she likes to make people feel comfortable while they are pregnant and that sometimes this belief can just be for good humor if someone needs to hear it.

Analysis:

The idea behind cravings in general is a way for your body to tell you what food it needs or what nutrients it is lacking. To couple this with pregnancy, I believe that this folk belief was a way to address the needs of the baby and to make sure that it is also getting all the nutrients it needs from the mother. Another way to analyze this belief relates to the culture of the informant. Growing up in a hispanic family, one is usually encouraged to indulge at family dinners and to specifically not waste food. This in part can be explained by the limited resources of a developing country where water, food and money are very important life aspects.Either way, this belief is passed along by hispanic families who encourage others to indulge in their meals as well as not to waste anything, and both of these aspects would be fulfilled by a pregnant woman satisfying her cravings. Hispanic culture is also one that values new children to a high regard so in a sense I think that this folk belief is representative of the value placed on the birth of new children in that it encourages protecting and fulfilling all of the needs of an unborn child.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Magic
Narrative
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Haunted Babies

The informant was telling me of a belief that there are different kinds of babies. She explains how some babies are possessed by spirits when they are born below:

There is one kind of baby that only cries at night and it cries really loud. We have a specific phrase for them yia cu long which means those babies are haunted by some kind of ghosts, because like when a baby is first born they seem very vulnerable to ghosts, so they can easily see ghosts since they’re just born. If a baby is always crying at night it means yi cu long, meaning they are kind of haunted by ghosts, and so that’s why the baby is terrified and he always cry during the night. So in some of the culture what they will do is they will actually have like a person to do some ceremony in order to get the ghost out of their body or stop them from haunting the baby, so it’s like a witch but not really, and then after that the babies are not supposed to cry anymore during the night.

 

So like one of my mom’s friends, his grandson actually all of a sudden started crying at night everyday and he finds someone to produce the ceremony or whatever, and the baby actually stopped crying.

 

Context:

One day when we were talking she told me she had some interesting pieces of her culture that she could share with me, so a few weeks later we met a little café on campus at USC. We sat outdoors while she shared this tradition with me.

Background:

My informant was raised in China until middle school. When she was sixteen years old she moved to the US where she attended a boarding school in Maryland for high school. My informant transferred to USC for her sophomore year of college.  She was telling me about a superstition in Chinese culture that is practiced when babies are crying. A family friend of her mother had a grandson who was crying and ‘haunted’ by a spirit, and when this ritual was performed, the baby stopped crying at night, meaning the spirit was gone.

Analysis:

I found it intriguing that babies can be ‘possessed’ by spirits because they are weaker and new to the world. Even more so, I think it’s incredibly that my informants family friend’s grandson stopped crying after the ritual was performed, which gives the ritual more credibility.

Folk Beliefs
general
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends
Magic

Babies and the Moon

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

People are very mystical about the moon. If there’s like a really really bright moon its considered really good luck especially in the country where you can see the stars and everything. So if the moon outshines the stars that means one of the best things that’s going to happen in your life is going to happen soon. The moon is so mysterious and unknown, and it probably represents something for everyone. So people in Turkey are also really fascinated with babies. And if like a really little baby is born, they’ll like put the baby on the shovel and put it out in the moonlight. And they say like ‘Make my baby stronger’ and it’s like a whole kill the baby or make him stronger. They think that the moon is like curing this baby, it is bizarre. It’s such a strange area. And another thing like if you put the back of a shovel in the moonlight and if it reflects a certain way then you’ll have this many more days of good crop. There’s so many things with the moon. They truly believe it and really do the shovel thing with the children.

 

Analysis: Here informant C tells about some of the rituals that involve the moon in Turkey. She says that the moon is mystical and mysterious and that inspires the large amount of folklore about it, as is also seen in other cultures. Also in Turkey, the people are prized for being strong and independent, which explains why the parents would want their babies to be big and strong, so they put them out under the moon. This is similar in some ways to older customs in Sparta where children were required to prove their strength from a young age.  She also talks about how the moon inspires some agricultural predictions about how the crop will be, since agriculture is so important for this area.

For more about Turkey’s Black Sea region and their folklore, including placing a baby on a shovel, see

Wise, L. (2013, February 23). Folklore and Superstitions of the Black Sea. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/social-studies-help/15017-superstitions-and-traditions-in-turkeys-black-sea-region/

Musical

Tuntun-Tuntun-Taara

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Billi ne chuhe ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Chawkidaar ne chor ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

 

Translation:

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock (Chorus)

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat killed the mouse

Hai!

(Chorus) x 2

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

The guard killed the thief

Hai!

(Chorus)

Analysis: For some reason, similar to many Western nursery rhymes and lullabies, this song is a particularly violent one. It talks about the elimination of a small threat (a mouse) and then of a much larger, much more serious threat (a thief). But this elimination takes place in a very definitive, violent manner–murder, essentially. Unlike Western lullabies, however (some that come to mind are Rockabye Baby, Rain Rain Go Away, Old Daddy Long Legs, and Sing a Song of Sixpence), the violence is not perpetrated on children or seemingly innocent bystanders, but on entities who do pose a real threat to the health and safety of the child and indeed the whole family and therefore could be said to “deserve what they got”. Mice spread disease and could ruin a family’s crop and thereby cause them to starve. Thieves also could cause financial ruin and would not hesitate to do away with any family member who discovered them robbing the house in the dead of night. In rural areas, or places that didn’t have a very trustworthy law enforcement and protection system, the idea that there were people (or animals) that would be able to protect a child from harm must have been very comforting.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general

How to name babies

Informant Background: The informant was born in rural parts of China called Hainan. She lived there with her grandparents where she attended elementary school. She moved to the United States when she was thirteen. She speaks both Chinese and English. She lives in Los Angeles with her mother but travels back to visit her relatives in Beijing and Hainan every year. She and her mother still practice a lot of Chinese traditions and celebrate Chinese holidays through special meals.

 

Babies are named as dogs, cat, rock, or owl as a pet name so that they would not be thought of as human because the parents are not sure if the baby will survive. If the baby survives the first year then the baby will get human name. Chinese parents who want boys would name their daughter to sound like “asking for a son,” “praying for a son,” or boy’s name so that their next baby will be a boy.

The informant said she learned this she was growing up in China. She said that nowadays it is less practiced. But sometimes the child will be given an official name but the parents will still call their baby using the pet name. The practice of naming daughters to “pray for a son” has lessens as well. The informant said she personally knows some girls whose names are homonym of the word son.

 

This shows the importance of why some people celebrate first birthday for their baby even though the baby will not remember the event. It is evident that the celebration is for the family and the community to celebrate the survival and the integration of a new member. This is also similar to some Western culture the belief that children are not yet human unless they survive the first year or two. This also shows the fear of the fragility of newborns, especially in the past where there was no advanced medical practice to ensure the baby’s survival. Parents do not want to give babies human names with fear of the babies dying while the connection is already established. Parents then want to make sure their child would survive before they become an official part of the family. Otherwise if the baby did not survive they would lose an “official” member of family (and society). Giving the baby an official name and last name is to integrate the baby as a new member/individual to the community. Not making that official until the survival of the child is guaranteed can prevent that community from constantly losing their members due to death at a young age. This also shows how the individual identity within society is not established until after the first year of survival.

The naming of baby girls to “pray” or “ask” for a son seems very strange but yet understandable since Chinese culture is a patrimonial society. The particular way of naming of baby girls is the direct reflection of how Chinese culture preference in male and how male is the dominant gender. Daughters are then perceived as the stage before the baby boy is born. The parents then use the daughters to pray for a son. Naming their daughters to sound like they are saying “praying for a son” forces them to say it constantly in hope that it would come true.

This shows again how an individual is integrated into a community through different methods; also when the individual is integrated.

 

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Magic
Signs

“If you eat a double cherry when you’re pregnant, you’ll have twins.”

The informant, then twelve years old, first heard this phrase from her uncle, whose wife was pregnant at the time.  Her uncle and aunt were gathered with the family and announced their pregnancy.  Later after dinner, the family was eating cherries together and was discussing whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, when the topic of twins came up.  The informant’s uncle saw her aunt eating a double cherry and said, “Did you know that if you eat a double cherry while you’re pregnant, you’re going to have twins?”  My informant doesn’t really believe that this is true because she does not believe in superstitions, although it is a superstition that everyone in her family likes to joke about, because it also happened to come true.  Her aunt ended up giving birth to twin girls six months later.  This is why the informant likes to retell the tale, because it makes the superstition much more mysterious and believable when it actually comes true.

I believe this superstition is highly unlikely to be true because the events are completely separate, and that the informant’s story just happened by coincidence.  However, superstitions are always driven by the chance occurrences that happen to confirm them, making some people believe that they’re true while they may completely be random happenings.  I believe the informant tells the story only to joke around, poking fun when pregnant women are around.  The superstition is so seemingly arbitrary that people tend to believe that nobody could possibly create such a fantastical story up, so it must have some sort of truth behind it.  This is how the superstition of double cherries is spread and dispersed.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Game

Earwick, Nosepick, Facelick

Earwick, Nosepick, Facelick

It’s a game the source’s mother, used to play with her, her brother and her sister. The rules of the game are as follows: “two people race to see who can complete three tasks first. They have to stick their finger in the other person’s ear and nose, and then lick their face. The game can be started by either person at any time.”

When the source and her siblings were kids, they thought it was just a game, but when they were older, their mother explained that it wasn’t really a game at all. It turns out she was testing for cystic fibrosis. She was really only trying to lick their faces, and if it tasted salty it would mean they had cystic fibrosis. Healthy kids are supposed to taste like flour.

The source’s mother invented the game so her kids wouldn’t run away every time she tried to test them. She added the steps of picking the nose and ear because it made the source and her siblings laugh.

 

I believe that while the game started as a way to practice a folk medicinal test, the reason why it caught on in the family, and why they still occasionally play it now is because it is a way for the family to playfully get close to each other. All of the actions performed in the game are fairly intimate gestures, and at the heart it’s a way for the family to stay close.

Folk Beliefs
general

Babies!

Debbie Cook and Linda Richter

Kingwood, Texas

March 11, 2012

Folklore Type: Folk Belief

Informant Bio: Debbie is my cousin and Linda is her mother and my aunt. Debbie grew up in Kingwood her whole life. She was a teacher for elementary and middle school, but will soon be a stay at home mom. Linda was a stay at home mom. They both are incredibly sarcastic and humorous. Debbie just had a baby.

Context: I had flown home for Spring Break the evening before we drove almost an hour to my Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank’s to see Carey, Debbie, and their new baby Ashley. As Ashley was amusing herself with some suspended toys, I asked Debbie what some of the things she got told when she was pregnant were.

 

Item:

D: Everybody at work; older women, in the elevator, strangers, would tell us all this stupid stuff. They said she was going to be a girl cause I was craving sweets instead of the savory. Girls ride high; boys ride low. There’s supposedly a test with a ring and a string and if it turns a certain way it determines the sex.

A. L: Women lose a part of their brain for every child they have.

 

Informant Analysis: They both saw the different beliefs as kind of stupid and untrue. People were just trying to be a part of what was going on.

Analysis: I think the part about people trying to be a part of Debbie’s pregnancy and interacting is probably true. The things that were said had a lot to do with figuring out the sex of the baby, and women losing their sanity while pregnant. Pregnancy is really hard. Debbie was especially sick. I think women like having the connection of giving birth with each other, and talking about those sayings or those experiences is a way to welcome a new member to the crazy mommy club.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

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