Tag Archives: cow

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.

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.

Chinese Folk Belief and Folk Tale – Weasel the Trickster

This folk tale was collected from my Father. My father was born as a farmer’s son into a veteran’s family in Taipei, Taiwan. His father and mother ran away from China to Taipei during the Chinese Civil War. Much of his cultural practices and beliefs are taken from the mainland Chinese culture. Because of his background, he is considered a “mainlander” in Taiwan (Chinese in Taiwan are divided into Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese or indigenous). My father graduated from Iowa University with an MBA. His B.A was obtained in Taiwan.

During one of our telephone sessions, he mentioned the following story his mother had once told him in Chinese. I’m paraphrasing and translating it here to the best of my memory:

“Your grandmother once told me this story about tending cattle. There’s a big rat-like creature…um, a weasel. Yes, a weasel. It attacks big and small animals. So, back in the day, “cow” boys, who tend the cattle, would take the cattle into the mountains to graze and then bring them back after they’ve had their share of grass. And the weasel though it wants to eat the cattle… can’t–they are much too big. So the weasels, being as sneaky and clever as they are, would come around to the back of the cow and plunge its claws into the cow’s behind. Reaching in, the weasels would pull out the cow’s intestines and tie it to a tree. Feeling pain, the cow would run forward which would cause more of its intestines to be pulled out which would result in more pain which would result in the cow running faster. The cow would run and run until it collapsed…which is when the weasel comes and eats the cow. While I don’t really believe that weasels are able to do this, parents often tell their children this folk tale as to scare them into standing more alert and being more prudent when they are tending the cattle. This way, the children will be ready when real dangers, such as mountain wolves, appear.”

As we can see from what my father said, the implicit moral of this folk tale is to be extra prudent when tending the cattle. We can confirm it as a folk tale because it is not a story to be taken seriously. Although the tale is set in the real world, my father reiterates that no one actually believe weasels have the ability to hunt cattle like the tale depicts. Interestingly, the main character of this folk tale is a weasel. In his description of the weasel, my father describes the weasel as a sneaky and clever creature, but more sneaky than clever. This suggests that the weasel is the trickster character, similar to the fox in Western folklore, in Chinese folk tales.

I, the collector myself, have heard another folk tale featuring the weasel as this sort of trickster character. In this one, a chicken invites a weasel to dinner during Chinese New Year only to find himself the dinner of the weasel. I believe this attribution of the trickster character to the weasel is due to its small size, agile capabilities and carnivorous nature.

Tradition – Botswana

So at traditional weddings we have to kill an entire cow. Dowry is dealt with in number of cows. For example, if two people are getting married, the man pays a certain number of cows for the bride. And at funerals it’s more like a celebration. We also kill a number of cows for funerals. The president of Botswana just retired. So at every village, city, or town that he went to they gave him a cow from each place.

Ruchira said that all of these traditions show the importance of cows in the culture of Botswana. According to Ruchira, other than diamonds, cows are the second biggest part of their economy. Historically, cows are also a really important part of life because they were how people sustained life. They did this through the trading of cows. They traded them as a commodity instead of using money. It has been a recent development for the people to sell cows to meat companies for money, and cows are very valuable. Ruchira roughly estimates that cows can reach up to two thousand dollars in value.

In Botswana, cows have remained a symbol of wealth through time. The more cows an individual owns, the wealthier he or she is considered to be. People of the villages know who is wealthy by word of mouth and by just noticing the number of cows that a person owns. In the past, Botswana was mostly rural, and the people viewed cows as investments in the sense that they can provide milk, meat, and labor power. The people invested in cows rather than deposit money at the bank. Ruchira feels that this is logical and that cows are more beneficial than money in the bank. He said that nowadays people in Botswana keep cows mainly to maintain tradition, and people still maintain the traditional view that cows and diamonds equate to wealth.

Besides a difference in economy, the concept of dowry is also different between Motswana and American culture. According to Ruchira’s account, the groom pays the dowry in Botswana; while in America, the dowry is traditionally provided by the family of the bride. Also, Botswana’s preservation of the tradition of keeping cows as a sign of wealth ties into the idea of maintaining an identity. Although the people of Botswana actually sustained life with the ownership of cows in the past, people continue to carry out the tradition during modern times to preserve this part of their identity.