USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Coin’
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Healing Coin

Form of Folklore:  Folk Belief (Medicine)

Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised in Glendale, California.  Most of the folklore he has been exposed to comes primarily from his father, who is of Arabic decent.  Other folklore has been attained either through media sources (i.e. Reddit) or through personal life experiences in America.

Context:  The interview was conducted on the porch of another informant’s house in the presence of two other informants.

Item:    In Arabic culture, if you get a bump or a cyst or anything that creates a bump on your arm, one thing you can do is to get a large coin, put it on the bump and wrap up your wrist (or wherever the bump is) really tight.  And this makes the bump go away.

Informant Comments:  The informant’s father told his older brother to use this folk medicine to get rid of a bump he had on his wrist.  After a day or so, the bump did, in fact, go away.  The informant does not know if this folk medicine will always work, but based on what he has seen, it seems to work most of the time.  Either way, he believes trying this remedy could not hurt.

Analysis:  This folk belief (medicine) is common among Middle Eastern cultures.  The act of placing a coin on a bump or cyst and tying it tightly may be construed as having an implied focus on the power of the coin to heal (possibly by some sort of magical aspect).  On the contrary, the coin is of little essential importance; any flat hard object would suffice.  It is, in fact, the constant pressure which helps the bump or cyst disappear.  Not always, but most of the time, cysts will pop and bumps will become less inflated when pressure is applied to them.  It seems that people had realized the correlation between placing pressure on a bump and having that bump go away; thus, they came to the plausible conclusion that they should place a large coin on the bump before tying it in order to increase pressure even more.  This folk medicine is rooted in this rational progression.  Whether it always works or not, it is a method of healing developed through logical thought and passed on from generation to generation.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection
Signs

Penny Superstition

If I see a penny on the floor and it’s tails, I have to flip it over and leave it there or else I will get bad luck.

My informant told me about this superstition while we were walking.  I had spotted a penny on the floor and was going to pick it up until he stopped me.  Then, I asked him where he had got this idea from.  He told me that he was sure that somebody had told him but was unsure about who the specific person was.  Nest, I asked him whether he really believes that picking up a tails penny would be bad luck.  He said that he did not but it does not hurt to listen to this superstition.

I feel like this superstition derived from the other superstition that finding a penny that is heads up is good luck.  Somebody might have wondered how to respond if they were to find a penny that was tail side up, and simply come to the conclusion that the opposite side should provide good luck.  Following this, the whole act of flipping the tails coin to heads helps increase the chance that somebody else will find the good luck penny.  For me, I believe that this superstition is a way for people to feel good about themselves in a small way.  By flipping the coin to heads, a person would feel like they have first of all vanquished the potential for bad luck and at the same time, saved somebody else from it.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Mexican Refranes (Proverbs)

Here is a series of Mexican proverbs that my informant told me she uses or hears every day as she told me verbatim:

“If you are with bad people, like when somebody tells you a refrán. That means something to make you think about the things you doing.”

“Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.” (Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are)

“If you have bad company, if you have bad friends people can tell you hey you don’t do that because you have a bad friends but you say im not doing anything bad and then people say ‘Dime con quién andas’ ok? tell me who you’re with and I tell you who you are. ‘y dire quién eres’ people are going to think you are the same you have with bad people, but you are not bad. But people are going to think you are the same. ‘Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.’ Tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

“Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.” (Those who walk with wolves learn to howl)

“You are still with bad people and then you are not bad, you are a good girl but the other person are a bad person. No no bad only they are younger they… you are with a people but you are not bad and then we say ‘Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.’ Those who walk with wolves learn to howl. You learn to do the same.”

These two are similar in that they are about who you surround yourself with, in the second case, “wolves.” They’re about how you should be careful because we are easily influenced by others, and perceived in terms of people we choose to be with, even if you are good. Wolves are dangerous vicious animals that run in packs, so this is a warning not to get involved with bad people, who can turn you and make you “howl,” or be bad like them.

“Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.” (Be good without looking at who)

“‘Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.’ Be good no matter who are. Be good with a person no matter how a person is. That’s one we use more. Be good no matter. Be good without looking at who.”

This refran is about being good to everyone, no matter who they are, how they may seem. Treating others well is very important to my informant and she believes strongly that you shouldn’t judge others.

“Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces.” (Tell me what you’re showing off and I’ll tell you what you lack)

“This is a nice one. You know especially we in Mexico, maybe you know people like this. People who, how how you use the word when you have friend and they said ‘Oh I have this Oh this cost me a lot money Oh this very expensive Oh mine’s is better oh blah blah blah.’ They always telling you they have the best or you know if I get if I have my dog oh yes I have dog and then I have a shoes oh I have a shoes or I have a new bed or some ‘I have this’ all the time I’m telling you what I have ok. They always telling you what they have. You know people like this. ‘Blah Blah blah.’ They are always trying to tell. And they they say ‘Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces’ That means persons talk about they have they have when you realize what they have they have, really they don’t have nothing. That’s why. You telling me you have a lot a lot and maybe when I go to your house, you have nothing.”

Because my informant comes from very humble beginnings in León, Guanajuato, México, she can’t stand materialism and thinks that people who are obsessed with things and showing off are either fake, liars, or as the proverb suggests are lacking otherwise. This lack is likely a more metaphorical lack, like they have something perhaps emotionally or spiritually missing from their lives or are unhappy. This saying has probably become even more applicable since she moved to the United States, where image and things is a part of daily life and are even more in your face.

“No soy monedita de oro.” (I’m not a gold coin)

“If you have somebody… I don’t know if I say in the right way or no. Ok, you ah you like me, ah? Because if I say ‘I love you’ (Te quiero) that means I want you, and if I say you don’t want me, you don’t want me ah? This is when you have somebody and that person don’t like you and we say this most of the time, all of the time all the time because you know you find most of the persons they don’t like you. We answer ‘Oh good, I’m not gold coin.’ ‘No soy monedita de oro.’ If you are gold coin, everybody want you. If you are not gold, not everybody want you. Somebody can say ‘Oh I don’t like her,’ or somebody say ‘Well, I don’t like you.’ Well good, ‘No soy monedita de oro’ and everybody loves gold, so it’s good that they don’t all want you. Not everybody loves me. We use that every time, everyday, all situations. That’s the most popular in Mexico. ‘No soy monedita de oro.’”

I found this refran to be the most interesting because the connotation or the reason why she says it seems somewhat contradictory at first. I’m not a gold coin is considered a positive thing. It’s good that you aren’t gold because then everyone doesn’t like you, everyone doesn’t want you, love you. This tells me that self-esteem in Mexican culture has a different slant in that it truly comes from the self as opposed to from affirmation from others, and also in the sense that not being perfect is a good thing. This saying emphasizes uniqueness and the imperfection of humanity as good and safe. It’s not as important that everyone love you because not everyone is good and you shouldn’t want everyone to love you. That she ends telling me this particular refran, which she explains to be the most popular and commonly used one she knows from Mexico, it really highlights the motif that you need to be cautious with people. You don’t want everyone to like you. It’s almost a giant Freudian defense mechanism, because again, the other motif is that not all people are good, or good for you to be around, though you should treat everyone well (even if you don’t like them).

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