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

Ghost Hauntings as a Means of Familial Connections


An individual from Saratoga, California passes down the folk belief of ghost hauntings, a belief that has been present in her family for numerous generations. The belief comes via a family legend that was passed down to her. According to the legend, a distant relative was living in New York. The relative’s mother was living in California. The night that the mother passed away, despite being on the other side of the country, the relative was woken up suddenly in the middle of the night to find that the rocker that her mother had sat in for years began to rock. Supposedly, this was due to the soul of her mother clinging to the closest link between her and her daughter as a sign that she had passed but was still with her. This legend was passed down from generation to generation. My source continues to pass it on to her kids. Being an agnostic family, the legend is often viewed as confirmation that even when family members pass, the soul of each and every family member is still connected.


Half of this country believes in ghosts. Being convinced of their existence is nothing new. What I found interesting about this interaction is that rather than the ghosts being a vengeful spirit or a means of torturing the mortal world, the belief in ghosts was a means of reassurance in the everlasting bond family. Typically, ghost stories are cautionary tales or legends retold to startle other people. This, however, was a legend filled with optimism that despite passing away, your loved ones will always be present, giving hope to a family that does not practice any religion or faith with an after life.


Raksha Bandhan


“Theres a festival every year for the bond between a sister and a brother. The sister will tie a knot on the brother’s wrist so that signifies their bond… its like a bracelet type thing. There’s a certain type of string for religious reasons but it’s really any kind of string. It’s gotten pretty elaborate now but that’s only to make it look good. The ones that I use are just a very simple red band. In our family, all our cousins do it, 9 cousins total. Eight of them are girls so I’ll have eight bracelets on my wrist, and I’ll give them each a gift. In our family, it’s money, so I will give them each $50. So it’s like they give me love and I give them money… It’s not always money but that’s how we do it in our family. The girls also give us sweets, it’s like a ritual to show the love between a brother and sister. So you keep the string on as long as possible and you’re supposed to let it fall off by itself. I’ve kept mine on for as long as a year. The knots are called Rakhi. It’s a certain time of the year, but I don’t remember what the date is. For the actual event, you have a chair and you have a fire that’s lit, and you put a dot on the brothers forehead, you tie the knot, and you feed them the sweet. The the next one comes… Oh, the sweets are just desserts, and there’s usually a variety of them.”


My informant loves the festival, because he likes anything that brings family together. But now there are more generations who don’t care as much. Whereas before, 50 or so people would show up, now only 40 or 30 people come because people are living in different places, and people don’t want to go. He still does it though, but it is hard to get everyone together all at once.


This a festival that is held annually, and each family with host their own. It sounds like each family will have different variations as to who attends the festival, what sweets they have, and what kind of gifts they give.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this festival really stresses the importance of family in Indian culture. However, it’s interesting that it is only about the bonds between siblings, and not the bonds between elders and offspring like most other Asian countries. An image of some sample Rakhis are shown below.