The informant’s family originated in Cuba. Her mother was born and raised in Cuba but her father was born and raised in America. Her Cuban culture and background comes from her mother’s side and folklore that her mom picked up over the years and shared with her. The folklore from this informant comes from family stories that are shared amongst the family as lessons or as advice.
The informant’s cousin Pache was in love with a gipsy and traveled around Spain with him. He taught her how to be a brujería, translated in english as a person who practices voodoo. Her favorite bruja, translated as what the person practicing voodoo creates or potion, to create was a Quemada, in english Quemada is translated as burned, but it is in this tradition a potion used to fend off evil. A Quemada “spell” is made by first an alcoholic beverage mixed together in a huge clay pot, an incantation is spoken over the mixture, the mixture is lit on fire (where quemada comes from), and the people involved drink the quemada. This ritual was meant to get rid of evil spirits so Pache and her boyfriend would do the quemada usually to people who were just married to rid them of evil spirits in their relationship.
Rituals similar to this are definitely not practiced in the culture that I am constantly in. I am not familiar with them, but when I hear about them I am seriously intrigued. It is extremely interesting that voodoo and potions are viewed as a way to rid a person, house, or relationship of evil spirits. When the informant was telling me about her cousin and what she experienced and the rituals that she performs really struck me as interesting. I guess for me, I didn’t realize it was a real cultural tradition in modern culture to practice these types of practices. It is interesting also that Pache usually only performs these rituals when a couple is married and maybe if someone buys a new house. I connect this to religion because people are married and that is an important step religiously, and people moving into a house usually will pray over the house because they want to purify it. With Pache’s Brujería, it is really similar, she performs her ritual at weddings and to rid evil spirits. Maybe in some way the two are connected and that would be another interesting subject to explore.
The informant was born and raised into the American culture and way of life. Her mother’s side of the family is in touch with their Jamaican culture and heritage and as the informant grew older she was able to become more into with the beliefs and customs of Jamaica.
“In the my culture deaths and marriages are often predicted by ones close family members. It is believed that if a family member dreams about someone in their family’s wedding the person being dreamt about will die soon. I think we believe in being able to predict deaths because life and death is a big deal in our culture. Marriage is also an important aspect in my culture as well and is ritualized. When a person dreams about a family member’s death that is consider a prediction of that family member’s wedding.”
I asked the informant if she had ever had a dream like this or known someone who did and it became true. She told me that she didn’t know anyone who had ha a dream like this and she personally has never had one. I asked where she learned this belief from snd she said that she remembers her grandma telling her about it when she was younger before she passed away.
Being able to predict someones death could be a blessing and a curse. Knowing that someone you love is going to die soon has to be difficult to handle. However on the other hand being able to predict a wedding is exciting. Death and Marriage are two major stepping stones in most cultures and they are ritualized because of that. Marriage you are become one with someone else and you are able to start a family, but death is the end of your life and the start of your after life whatever you believe that may be. I think that is why they are both made such such a big deal out of and ritualized with customs and rituals and why cultures have so many beliefs centered around these two major life events.
“‘The walls have ears,’ you know, everyone is listening, shut your mouth, don’t talk. Don’t talk bad about the government, don’t talk…don’t say stupid things, because there’s always someone listening. That’s my parents’…their Soviet upbringing. Because, like, everyone was listened to… I had relatives who, for a joke, went to prison. So that kinda…got pretty well ingrained, just don’t…don’t talk bad.”
My informant moved to the US when he was less than two years old, but the memory of Soviet oppression was so strong for his parents that they taught him to hold his tongue about the government, and authority in general. Obviously, this stems from the horrors of the GULAG and other ways in which the Russian people were oppressed during the Soviet era. The fact that even the Americanized children were taught how to survive in a communist country shows how enduring an impression the repressive Soviet regime made on those who lived under it.
“You should never gift someone shoes. They’ll wear them and run away from you.”
This folk belief was told to my informant from his mother when he was a child. Because of this, he really never gifted shoes to anyone. Apparently, if you really want to give the gift of shoes to someone, they have to pay you a dollar so they are, in a sense, buying the shoes from you. My informant was not sure as to the meaning behind the belief and how it came about. He suggested that, in the past, perhaps people just did not want the gift of shoes so they came up with this to prevent receiving gifts of shoes.
I have also heard this belief from my mother. It seems to be a pretty widespread belief. I believe that it may have to do with the fear of loved ones leaving. Having loved ones leave you may be one of the most sad and painful experiences. Because people do not want this to happen or do not want to believe this to happen, they may attribute the break in the relationship to something trivial such as the gift of shoes.
My informant here brought up the notion of a “Dream Catcher”, and began to tell me about her dream catcher that she had growing up as a kid. She told me that the basis of her dream catcher was that it was a round piece of wood with leather bands webbed inside of it, with feathers coming out of the top and hanging from the bottom. She said that her parents had bought it for her at some point when she was in elementary school in Pennsylvania. She remembers her mom telling her that if she placed it on the outside doorknob of her room, it would catch all of the bad dreams and nightmares that she would have, and would only allow her to have good and sweet dreams.
My informant said that she believed in this notion completely, and left it on her door for years until she moved out of her house in high school. “I don’t think I would have been able to sleep without it” my informant said. She found solace in believing that it was there to protect her, even though she “knew it probably didn’t actually do anything real”.
My informant tells me that her parents told her that it was a longstanding Native American tradition to use dream catchers, and that it had protected them from nightmares for centuries. “It was just something I believed and didn’t think about too much”, she said, “after a while it completely just blended in with my door, it’s like it was supposed to be there”.
I believe that this piece of folklore may have truly been started by the Native Americans years ago, and transferred to many parts of our culture because it is a nice idea and a good way to find solace in your sleep. I feel that it has lived on through parents giving them to their children, perhaps because the parents truly believe in them, and perhaps because they feel that it is a good part of growing up. I would believe that it is mostly children that use dream catchers, but believe that many adults do as well, as a part of keeping a tradition that they have had since childhood.
This piece of folklore came about when I was watching a basketball game with my informant, and the player had gotten fouled and was shooting free throws. The commentator said that this shooter was a “phenomenal free throw shooter, one of the best in the NBA”, and that he had made 16 in a row at this point. My informant looked over at me and said, “he just jinxed him”, and the player wound up shooting and missing the free throw attempt. My informant said “I told you so”, and I asked him what he thought the origins of jinxing were.
My informant told me that he has been familiar with the concept for years, in sporting events, and life events in general. “I’ve learned to never try to predict things, saying that things will be good or that something will happen. I’m afraid of jinxing it” he said. When I asked my informant whether or not he really thought that this piece of folklore was, in a sense, real, he said “you never know”. He told me that more often than not, whenever he feels like he has jinxed something, it usually goes wrong.
My informant told me that he wasn’t sure whether it just felt that way, or if there really was a statistical correlation. He says that he is especially sensitive to jinxing in the world of sports. He says that he never outright says that one team will win, or that a certain player will have a good game if he is rooting for them. He said he just wants to “play it safe” so he doesn’t get frustrated afterwards if things go the opposite way.
He says that sometimes he’ll even try to jinx the team or player that he is rooting against, telling somebody that the team he wants to lose is “going to win”, in hopes that it will jinx the other team. A lot of people believe that it doesn’t work that way, he says, but thinks that he may as well try.
I believe that this piece of folk belief likely dates far back in history, as it seems to be common across the globe and a very common belief. I believe that people believe in jinxing because they only really pay attention to when the jinxing actually works. If a person or team gets jinxed one day, and they end up succeeding anyways, I believe that an individual will not pay as much attention to that event. On the other hand, if a jinx goes through and truly works, I believe a person is more likely to say, “I told you so” or “that always happens”.