USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘curse’
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Signs

Mal de Ojo

Main Piece:

“This happens when a person has a very strong stare. If they stare at a newborn with their glare the child will get a really high fever, convulse, and die. The only cure is to have the person with the evil eye carry the baby. That is the only way to reverse the evil done. I know babies who have died from this curse.”

Context:

The informant is a 77-year-old Spanish speaking woman, born in Mexico. She believes this to be true. She does not think those with the evil eye necessarily know that they have that power.

Analysis:

It seems that this belief is a way to explain sudden deaths of infants. It is a way to explain the unexplainable.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Never Say Macbeth

Content:
Informant – “You know the story of Macbeth. There are a lot of witches in that play. Legend has it that the curses that they say are real. If you say the name of the Scottish Play in a theater needlessly, that theater is cursed. The name summons the witches and curses. To reverse it, you have to run around three times in a circle and spit, or say your favorite curse word. You also get shunned by your cast, which is not fun.”

Context:
Informant – “I heard it from my freshman theater teacher. He was crazy. I said Macbeth in class once and he yelled at me ‘YOU NEVER SAY THE SCOTTISH PLAY’S NAME.’ He almost threw a chair at me.”

Analysis:
I can’t think of any practical application for this superstition, so I believe it exists to create a more complex theater subculture. If you know about it then you are more of an theater person than those who don’t.

Folk Beliefs
general
Magic

A Wart in Your Eye

Main Piece:

I asked the informant if she remembered what she told me would happen to me if I stared at dogs having sex… She laughed and then: “Yeah, I told you you would get a perrilla on your eye.” I asked her to describe what that was, because to this day I have no idea what it is. “Well, I am not completely sure of what it is. When I was young my mother, in El Salvador, would tell me not to stare at dogs when they…you know…because a perilla would appear in your eye. I think it is a kind of wart, or something similar to a wart. I am not sure. I just knew it was not something I wanted to grow out of my eye!”

 

Context: The informant is a middle-aged woman, born in El Salvador. She learned this myth from her mother. She believes that this was a way to maintain a child’s innocence, and to stop them from learning about sex too early.

Analysis: I agree with the informant; I think this myth was created to stop kids from growing up too fast and raising questions about what sex is.

Legends
Narrative

Legend of the White Lighter

 

Informant: You know those groups of musicians that die before the age of 24?

Interviewer: Sure

Informant: I think there’s like one person who died with like the story of using a white lighter so there’s always that curse… you know, don’t use that white lighter. It’s cursed. Something bad is going to happen, it’s bad luck. Literally, like, smoking with my friends, one of them, we were smoking at his house – he thought his parents weren’t going to be there for a while. We were like “oh man, only lighter we have is this white lighter, let’s use that” We use it and his parents come back wayy earlier than expected and were like “oh we left something here” and saw us in the middle of our smoke session outside.

Interviewer: Any others?

Informant: One of my friends was looking in his car for a lighter and the only one in his car was a white one in the glovebox or whatever. I guess this house or parking lot he was at called the cops and they came up and arrested him. Pretty sure he ended up with a possession charge.

Interviewer: Oh wow…

Informant: Yeah man stay away from those white lighters.

Context: My informant is a twenty one year old from a midwestern town bordering a legal marijuana state and an illegal marijuana state. This story was told while sitting around a table in a college dorm common room – my informant sat across from me and told me his story in person.

Background: My informant knows this story because it’s been passed between nearly everyone he knows who smokes – white lighters are never good luck. To him, it simply means to never use a white lighter – he admitted after our interview that he still makes a point of avoiding white lighters.

Analysis: The Story of the White Lighter is a classic example of an urban legend. Though my informant cannot necessarily verify its authenticity, his story nonetheless takes place in recent history. Interestingly, we can see here the actual evolution of the story. Not only does the interviewee sum up the general origin of the story and the gist of it, he also adds his own experience to it – one in which he himself was also cursed by the white lighter, thus adding further legitimacy to the story. Anyone who has a bad experience with a white lighter can add their own run-in with its curse to the story relatively easily, thus allowing the legend to more easily spread.

Adulthood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

That Haldi Glow

Collection: Indian wedding substance – folk object

After a prior discussion about Indian weddings, the informant continued to describe the second day of the celebration.  In the morning of the second day, the couple is physically painted with haldi by the families. Haldi is also known as turmeric which contains cleansing qualities and produces a glowing effect on the skin.

Context/Interpretation:  The couple’s cleansing is both literal and symbolic. According to the informant, it is important for the couple to be cleansed by their families prior to the unification. The yellow haldi represents blessings, purification, and it is supposed to ward of evil beings.

 

Folk speech
general

Farsi Curse #1

Background: Lauren was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Her parents are both Persian Jews, and Lauren considers herself Persian as well.

Context: I called Lauren on the phone since she attends university in Florida and recorded our conversation. I have transcribed what she said over the phone below. She was sharing with me her favorite Persian curse words and phrases.

Lauren does not know how to write the curse in the original Farsi. The pronunciation is based on how Lauren said the phrase during our interview, keeping in mind that she is not a native Farsi speaker. Her first language was English and she also learned Hebrew growing up, and while she understands Farsi her speaking capabilities are, in her own words, limited.

The phrase: “pedar sag”

How to pronounce it: ped-ah-r sag

“It means your dad is a dog. My friend’s mother used to just blurt out this word all the time when I was at their house. Matin is from Iran, and she knows this word because its a common word that Persians use when they want to cuss, but it was never really used in my house because my parents did not really say cuss words. Matin had no problem. You would say this word towards someone when they’re being annoying. She would use this word towards her dog, which is more appropriate, but normally people would say it to someone who’s bothering them.”

 

Folk speech
general

Farsi Curse #2

Background: Lauren was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Her parents are both Persian Jews, and Lauren considers herself Persian as well. Lauren does not know how to write the curse in the original Farsi. The pronunciation is based on how Lauren said the phrase during our interview, keeping in mind that she is not a native Farsi speaker. Her first language was English and she also learned Hebrew growing up, and while she understands Farsi her speaking capabilities are, in her own words, limited.

Context: I called Lauren on the phone since she attends university in Florida and recorded our conversation. I have transcribed what she said over the phone below. She was sharing with me her favorite Persian curse words and phrases. She had just shared her favorite, which is published under the title “Farsi Curse #1”.

The phrase: modar genda

How it is pronounced: moh-dar jen-deh

“Another word is modar genda which means your mom is a whore or prostitute if you want to be polite. I learned this word in elementary school and I never really knew what it meant until elementary school when I asked my parents and they gave me a full definition of it. This is definitely more offensive than pedar sag (Farsi Curse #1). People use it for fun, but mostly as an insult to someone if they are bothering you. It’s not really used like just as an expletive that people might say “oh fuck” but more directed at a specific person as an insult.”

 

Folk Beliefs
Game
Gestures
Humor
Legends
Magic
Material
Old age
Signs

MS College for Women: Old Maid’s Gate

Title: MS College for Women: Old Maid’s Gate

Category: Curse/ Conversion Magic

Informant: Lieanne Walker

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 60s

Occupation: Blue Collar— Homemaker, stockman, Home Depot Employee, etc.

Residence: Columbus, MS

Date of Collection: 4/21/18

Description:

The Old Maid’s Gate on The Mississippi College for Women’s campus has a curse associated with it. Women entering campus on foot from a certain drop off location will sometimes purposefully avoid the gate in order to not have to go through a charm of reversal in order to undo to curse. The gate is on the corner of campus in a  central location (making it a nuisance to avoid or have to follow through with), and appears to look like any other marble statue. However, if a woman is entering campus through the gate (and there are only a limited number of gates that one can enter the camps through), then she has to walk backwards under the gate all the way down that sidewalk of campus until she reaches the statue at the end of the park, turns around, and kisses it— This statue is known as the “kissing rock.” If the woman passing under the gate fails to do this, then she will grow up to become an old maid.

Context/Significance:

The “W” as the college is known, is famous for a few ghost stories and superstitions. This one in particular is special since there is a way of reversing the outcome of the curse. Since the “W” is a women’s college, its not surprising that this story would revolve around something bad that could happen to women in particular. Becoming an “old maid” is an irrelevant but somewhat universal fear shared by a majority of women, and the “W” being a location that houses a large number of women at a young age, it’s not surprising that a common fear at that location would be ending up alone.

Also, during the time that this tradition was probably established, in earlier years it was more common for women to have to rely on men for a sustainable lifestyle. Marriage held more importance and it was something you’d never want to be cursed from if possible.

Personal Thoughts:

My Aunt attended the “W” when she went to college and I remember her telling us the story of the old maid’s gate. When my mother tells the story she say s what happened was that her family was taking Aunt Chris back to school one semester and everyone was piled in the car to drop her off. When they arrived at the College my Grandfather prompted her to get out of the car. Aunt Chris refused and asked to be dropped off at another open gate to the school. My grandfather was refusing until she told him the story of the Old Maid’s gate and how she didn’t want to have to go through the ritual in order to carry her things back to her dorm. While they sat in the car, they actually watched another girl go through the conversion as they watched— They then agreed to drop her off at another gate.

Annotation:

For additional history behind MS College for Women’s Old Maid’s Gate, read an exert from:

Golden Days: Reminiscences of Alumnae, Mississippi State College for Women

MLA Citation:

Pieschel, Bridget Smith. Golden Days: Reminiscences of Alumnae, Mississippi State College for Women. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2009.

Customs
general

Lil B NBA Curse

The informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He has recently become a huge fan of the NBA and he describes something that the casual NBA fan would not know much about. In this piece, he talks about the “The BasedGod’s” curse to me (AK) which was popularized over five years ago by a rapper by the name of Lil B.

For some context, Lil B became a viral sensation with many provocative rap videos and tweets. He refers to himself as the “Based God” and he has drawn a very loyal fan following due to the hilarity of his tweets and rap videos. He is also known for the “Based God” curse which he has given to star athletes who have disrespected his rapping ability.

DP: So I don’t know the entire story, but I do know that Lil B and Kevin Durant (famous basketball player) had beef a few years ago.

AK: What exactly caused the beef?

DP: Well … KD basically said that Lil B is a wack rapper and that his music sucks. Lil B responded to this by dropping a video titled F*** KD and giving him the “Based God” curse.

AK: What does this curse entail? Is there any way to become uncursed?

DP: In this context, he meant that KD would never win a championship. Also, KD was recently lifted of the curse because he decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors and Lil B is a huge Warriors fan.

I found this entire piece to be hilarious. After some further research, I found Lil B to be very outspoken on twitter and most of his fans simply quote him out of the absurdity and comedy of some of his proclamations. Most of his songs have a comedic element to them and in his F*** KD song he states that he could beat Kevin Durant in a one on one game of basketball. For some NBA fans, however, the curse does hold some merit as Kevin Durant is perennially one of the best players in the league, yet he has never won a championship. While most rational fans scoff at the claim that the curse is the reason why, a small but significant subset of fans contend that the curse is the sole reason why. I’m not sure which side of the argument I’m on, but I do find humor in the fact that Lil B has gained so much fame over a simple tweet and video.

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Old age

Compliment or Curse?

Informant: The informant is Thomas, a fifty-five-year-old man who has lived in Westchester, New York for his entire life. He is a financial consultant for hospitals, has two children, and is of English and Russian descent.

Context: We sat across from each other at the kitchen table in Thomas’s house one afternoon during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: When I was little, my grandmother always told me about her belief that if I, or anyone for that matter, complimented something in her home, she felt that I wished her dead because I wanted the item. I was at her house one day when I was about twelve years old, and she had just gotten a new coffee table in her living room. I admired it, and she responded, “You wish me dead!” Then she went to my dad and said, “Your son wishes me dead; she wants my coffee table.”

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece of folklore?

Informant: I like this piece of folklore because after she died, my family said that I should be the one to get the coffee table. It’s still in my living room today, and every time I look at it, I smile and recall what she told me.

Personal Thoughts: I think that this piece of folklore is interesting because I had never heard of someone being offended by a compliment, or taking a compliment as a curse. What I like most about Thomas’s story is that his family got involved in accepting and appreciating the folklore after his grandmother had passed and gave him the coffee table. In a sense, the tradition can then say alive through Thomas.

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