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

Cow Lick Tea

What is being performed?
DA: I don’t do a lot of folk things when I’m sick but my grandmother used to make this thing
called “cow lick tea.”
AA: What is “cow lick tea?”
DA: It’s absolutely disgusting but basically it’s tea with cow droppings in it
AA: Why cow droppings?
DA: I think it’s because cows eat grass so their droppings are really good for you
AA: Have you ever had it?
DA: God no, but my grandmother would always insist and I think she drank it herself

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Why do you know about “cow lick tea?”
DA: My grandmother but I haven’t really heard it from other people
AA: Where is your grandmother from?
DA: She’s from Marshall Texas but she also has Native American Cherokee roots.
AA: What does it mean to you?
DA: It’s gross and I’ll never make it, but I guess it’s interesting.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
“Cow lick tea” is used to alleviate the symptoms of sore throats, headaches, and other head
colds. It is known for clearing nasal passages and is made from cow droppings. It is given to
anyone of any age looking to relieve themselves from the common cold.

Reflection
This is something I have never heard of before but think could be gross. I accept, however, that
I’ve grown up in the city my whole life and have no knowledge about how cows can be
beneficial to humans. I think this is interesting but don’t think I’ll be partaking.

Legends
Magic
Protection

Rolling Calf

Panteha’s mom is from Jamaica, and taught her many legends and folk beliefs from Jamaican folklore. The following is a description Panteha shared with me of one such legend:

“There’s like this legend [in Jamaica] that you’ll be like driving on the road and you’ll hit like, a baby cow and then you like, die the next week…It’s called the rolling calf. It’s like, so hard to explain ’cause the way people talk about it, it’s like it’s a normal thing. But like…If you encounter this animal you’re like, doomed to die. But then a way to get rid of the curse is you’re supposed to like, find a crossroads and stick a knife in it, which doesnt work now cause like, the roads are paved…

I have this distinct memory, I was like five, and we were driving- it was like, pitch black, late as fuck at night and like, literally people in Jamaica plan so they like, don’t have to be driving on these roads after it gets dark, ’cause it’s like, there’s so many folkloric tales and also like, actual crime. But like, we were driving and there’s this place that’s like, right in between Ocho Rios, which is kind of a beach location, and Sav-la-Mar, which is the rural place where my mom grew up. Um and it’s like, right nestled in the middle of nowhere and it’s like this rest stop kind of place, but they have the best Jamaican patty. So we’re like, okay, we’ll stop there, it’ll be great. And it was like, there was like no one there, we were the only people there, and it’s crazy ’cause it’s like, you’re in the middle of the jungle driving on this tiny dirt road, and then all of a sudden it’s like, this neon bright light, so it’s kinda crazy. So we stopped there and my uncle, um, Uncle Paul, was freaking out. He was like, ‘we should not be stopping! We should not be getting out of the fucking car!’ He was like, talking about the rolling calf and he was like, throwing handfuls of coins behind him as we walked and I was like, really amused by it but like, my mom and her sisters were like, really clearly stressed out.”

This piece of folklore incorporates elements of both the contemporary legend and traditional magical practices, such as using coins to ward off evil spirits. It has likely persisted as a commonly believed legend because of other dangers posed by driving in rural areas late at night, and may serve as a stylized means of discouraging people from going out in unsafe environments.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Cow Manure as a Medicine

Background: C.M. is a 58-year-old woman living in Franklin Park, IL. She was born in Chicago, and has lived in the Chicagoland area for all of her life. She works as a nurse practitioner at Nye Partners in Women’s Health, and has been working there for 7 years. Before that, she worked at Loyola University Medical Center as a labor and delivery nurse. She is married and has two grown children.

 

Main piece:

C.M.: I heard this story from my dad. He told me that before he was born, and he was born in 1932, that his mother’s brother, his name was Georgie, but his name was actually just George. His last name was Wilming, W-I-L-M-I… I think? N-G.

 

Anyway, they lived out in Iowa on a farm, I think in Elizabeth, and they were using dynamite sticks to blow out the tree stumps out of the ground, ya know, to clear the land. One of them blew up and – he was there, he was too close – Georgie, and he got injured. He had wounds, terrible open wounds from the explosion. And in order to heal these wounds, they smeared cow manure on him, and they healed! They used home remedies because there were no doctors at that time, and this one worked.

 

Q: And how did your dad learn this story?

 

C.M.: My grandma told my dad, my dad told me, and now I’m telling you!

 

Q: Did the wounds heal completely?

 

C.M.: Yup! There apparently was no scarring or anything.

 

Performance Context: I interviewed the informant over the phone, as I am in California and she lives in Chicago. This remedy would be used out on the farm, especially in the early 1900’s, when someone got terrible wounds and there were no doctors around to prescribe any Western medical treatments.

 

My Thoughts: I think that it is interesting how, without access to a doctor, people were able to come up with easy home remedies, coming from easily accessible material, to take care of the problem. However, I am curious how someone figured out that cow manure could be used as a healing salve in the first place! Folk medicines are not always superstitions, they can also be founded in fact. Many folk remedies eventually end up being validated in the scientific community, so it is possible that this one might, as well!

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Kappa Cow

“So I’ve heard from other people in my sorority that in USC’s Kappa Kappa Gamma, every week at Monday night dinners, every girl in the chapter is weighed. And at the end of the weighing, the heaviest girl is named ‘the Kappa Cow’ for the week. Apparently they give her a little plastic cow figurine. It’s messed up.”

This account depends entirely on hearsay, making it all the more interesting. As the informant is a member of a rivaling sorority, it is possible that the story was invented slanderously. However, this particular hazing practice corroborates that image of Kappa Kappa Gamma, as an aggressively looks-oriented sorority, that seems to pervade USC. As with most hazing practices, this ritual promotes unhealthy body image, but reaffirms the dominance of older member of the sorority over the new members. Such practices are allegedly “team-building” and “character building,” at which I roll my eyes.

Childhood
Customs
Holidays
Legends
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Great Han

Every year at hanukah my mother tells the story of hanukah and afterward, when the historical story is done, she tells this story which was told to her by my grandfather:

Item:  So everyone knows about Santa Claus coming down and bringing presents to the Christian children but Santa has a best friend too.  His best friend is named the Great Han.  Every year at hanukah the Great Han sets out in his giant flying menorah with each candlestick filled with presents for the little children.  The Great Han flies around delivering all the presents to the good jewish children.  And you know, when Christian children are bad they get coal, well, the when the Jewish children are bad they get a cow dropped on them.  So every year at Hanukah tim all the little Jewish children go outside and hold hands and dance in a circle around the fire hydrants singing this song.  The lyrics go:

Han Han Han We’re waiting for you now

Han Han Han Please don’t drop a cow

At this point my mom would have me and the friends my brother and I had invited preform the dance.  We’d all hold hands and dance around in a circle singing the song.

This tradition was passed down from my mom from her father.  I believe he made it up.  I have no memory of her preforming it before he died, however.  It only began to show up as a tradition when I was around 11 but we do it every year.  For my mother it symbolizes her connection to her father and for us it was a symbol of community between our family and friends.  The tradition is so silly and lighthearted that it serves as a celebration of happiness more than a tradition of religious significance.  There is an acceptance that the Great Han does not exist and will not drop a cow on you, so there is no reason to be scared.

This tradition was so important to my family that when I went to college my mom insisted that I be skyped in for the telling of the Great Han story.

There is religious significance in it, however, in what it takes from christian folklore of Santa Claus.  Both are male figures who ride on flying objects and bestow gifts to the good children and punishment to the bad children.  It shows an insecurity among the jewish community to equalize their holiday with the much more popular christian holiday by creating folklore around Hanukah.

 

Folk Beliefs

Dung Dreams

Dung Dreams

똥싸는거는, 옛잘에 소가 똥을싸잖아, 소가 길에있는것들 다 막 먹고 똥을싸. 사람들은 지나가다가 길에 많이 이것저것 잃어버리잖아. 그래서 그것들을 소가 먹고 똥을싸. 소 똥에 엽전 (coin)이 나오는거야. 소 똥을 뒤집으면 밑에 엽전있을수있는거지. 똥이 좋다는 얘기는 소 똥이야 사람 똥이 아니고. 오직 소 똥.

 Long time ago, everyone had cows, everyone who farmed. The cows would walk along side the road, the same road as humans did. When humans traveled, they naturally dropped things here and there. The cows would eat this up, whatever it was. And so when it pooped, there was a chance that yeobjeon, coins (the form of money back then) could turn up. That’s why dreams with cow dung are a sign of good luck – not human poop but only cow dung.

Humor

Interruptor Cow Knock Knock Joke

Information about the Informant

My informant is a college student at a community college in San Jose. He’s an avid amateur photographer, and we know each other through going to the same online high school. His family’s very closely-knit, with his parents very involved in the lives of their children. I collected this family in-joke from him while we were visiting the same high school friend outside of Las Vegas.

Analysis

“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Interruptor cow.”
“Interrupt–”
“MOOOO.”

Analysis

When asked why this joke was important to the informant, he replied that, “It is or was for a long time the only joke my mom remembered. So when you said, ‘joke,’ that’s immediately what I thought of.” He and his mother do have a tendency to enjoy humor that involves subversions such as the one in this joke. In this case, that the punchline of the joke is the interruption and the derailment of the usual structure of a knock knock joke. Its subversion of the usual knock knock joke structure may be precisely the reason why the informant’s reason remembers it when she cannot remember any other joke, making this joke one that is precious both to her and my informant as the one family joke that they both remember and can share.

Customs
Game
Humor

Cow Tipping

“Basically, you run up to the cow and tip it over” -informant

Cow tipping is a hobby usually found in rural areas where cows are common. The idea is to surprise the cow and push it over, because it looks funny.

The informant tried to go cow tipping with her friends on a weekend up in rural California. However, she found that it is harder than it sounds, because cows are easily frightened and will run away if you run up to them. Furthermore, cows sleep lying down, so you can’t surprise them when they’re asleep. The informant, although disappointed that she could not successfully cow-tip, still had fun with her friends in the adventure. She learned about cow-tipping from back home in Washington, because she lives near rural areas where the custom is more popular.

I have heard of cow-tipping before, because my father grew up on a farm and told me about the custom. However, he also warned me that it is very dangerous, because cows are heavy and might try to kick you. I believe that I’ve seen cow-tipping in literature before as well. I feel a little bad for the cows who are tipped, because it sounds painful and annoying to get stuck on your side like that. I don’t think I would ever actually attempt to go cow-tipping, although it is kind of funny when you talk about it. I think it reflects the need of rural youth to find creative ways to entertain themselves, because they don’t have access to many of the distractions that are available in a city or even a suburb. It would be exciting to get in a little trouble and do something mischievous like cow-tipping, which probably would annoy the dairy farmers. I doubt that adult would partake in this custom, as it seems more suited to the humor of children and older youth.

Festival
Folk medicine
general
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cow Feces

The informant grew up in Tamilnadu, India and has participated in several festivals and holidays. She says that a large part of many festivals and holidays include cow feces. For example, cow feces is often mixed with water and then this mix is used to wash out the front porch of a house. A white powder, which is also ground up and made out of cow feces, is then used to create decorations (folk art) to make the front of the house look good. The informant says that cow feces is very clean and she believes that it causes cleanliness. In some rural areas, cow feces is even used to clean dishes. She says that cow urine is often sprayed around the house the day of a festival so that the cleaned house can be even cleaner. She says that cow feces is also used in many rural areas to build mud huts and many people sleep around and even on it. On a side note of animal feces, elephant feces is also believed to have medicinal properties and if one places a wound in fresh elephant feces, the injury is said to heal faster.

It is interesting to note the complete cultural difference there is between Western culture and Tamil culture. While Western culture is often disgusted by the idea of feces and aims to separate and distances itself as far as possible from feces, the Tamil culture embraces cow and elephant feces. It is believed that these animals have pure feces because they are vegetarian animals and therefore, their feces is not toxic like human feces are. It is so pure that Tamil people use it in everyday form, from cleaning dishes, to the daily art on the front porch, to the infrastructure of the house, to using it to clean on days of festivals and holidays.

folk simile
Folk speech

It’s raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock

My informant first heard this folk simile as a child growing up on a farm in Nebraska.  One day when he was out with his father, it began to rain.  While rain was not out of the ordinary at that time of year, the rain was coming down with unusual ferocity.  My informant recalled that the wind was blowing the rain in every which direction and when the rain hit the ground, it splattered everywhere.   Another farmer turned to my informant’s father and rattled off this folk simile.

Growing up on a farm, my informant knew from experience exactly what happens when a cow pisses on a flat rock.  “It’s splatters everywhere and makes a huge mess,” he explained.  This is not a secret, and anyone can understand how this directly compares with a heavy rainstorm.  But for one to fully appreciate the humor in this simile, they would have to have a first-hand experience to relate to.  For this reason, this folk simile is mostly shared among farmers and others residing in rural communities.

There’s no underlying message that can be found within this simile.  It’s used because it takes something that’s funny to think about, to the folk group, and applies it to an unfavorable situation.  It turns an unfavorable rain storm into something to laugh about.

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