USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘door’
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Re-entry into a Home: Indian Folk Belief

Text:

MM: “See when we return home after a long time, then it is supposed to be pretty auspicious that in front of the main door of the house someone pour oil on like both sides of the door – before you like enter the house.”

MS: “Is it usually when the person is already at the door, or before they show up?”

MM: “No like when you show up, you have to wait at the door, and then someone pours the oil and then you’re allowed to enter.”

MS: “Was there ever a time this ritual was done differently?”

MM: “Yeah there was this one time when we showed up somewhere and they had already put the oil on the doorstep and the door wasn’t even open yet and it was supposed to be like a super bad omen. Like you’re supposed to do it the right way, after the people show up, not before.”

MM: “My grandparents believe in this pretty ardently and some people from my parents’ generation do as well, but we kids like definitely don’t see the point and I don’t think I’d like continue to do it if it were just me.”

 

Context:

The informant is a college student from India, currently doing a study abroad program in America. The conversation was in response to my question about any odd things that happened in the informant’s past that she did not agree with but had to partake in anyway. The informant is also bilingual so the conversation happened in a mix of English and Hindi. I have translated the relevant Hindi parts to English as per my own interpretation and in an attempt to retain the meaning as best as possible. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

The informant does not really understand the reasons behind the ritual herself, and is adamant in not taking part in it, but she still acknowledges the proper way to do it and the consequences of messing up even the order in which the actions must take place. I think this ritual developed because there was a time when people would often go away for long periods of time and the lack of communication abilities would imply that there was no way of knowing if and when they would be coming back. Further, there was implicitly more of a risk in travel earlier than it is now. The ritual seems to be a response of gratitude for a safe return as well as a prayer that even return be as safe and sound as this one.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

Adopted Japanese Custom

M is a 20-year-old black woman. She is currently double majoring in NGO’s and Social Change and Communications at the University of Southern California. M grew up in Boston, MA but currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. M primarily speaks English, but she is also fluent in Spanish.

M: I actually adopt everyone else’s superstitions. Like if someone’s like oh, like… Well there’s actually one.

Me: Ok.

M: So I went to a, like the Natural History Museum in Peabody which is outside of Boston which has like a remodeled traditional Japanese house from like the 1940’s, um, and when you walk through it like the guy always tells you not to step on the threshold because it like brings demons into the house, um, and for for whatever reason I’ve, it’s not that I believe in demons, but I also now refuse to step on thresholds of homes and it really irritates my family because when we are all coming home from the grocery store and we have to get into the house quickly I must step over (the threshold) and they’re like ‘can you not suck?’ But it’s only, it’s like the threshold of like the main door of the house, is like especially bad, but then also the threshold of any door is bad, but that’s also why like most, like sometimes in the old Japanese homes at least there were thresholds like built in to the doorways so like when we have doors now, there’s like, it’s just the floor, but in the traditional Japanese home there’s like a threshold, so like a bump under each door, and basically it’s similar to like “don’t step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”

Me:  So do you do that too then?

M: God no. That would be so hard. But it’s like the same thing, like you bring demons into your mother’s home and it’s bad, like demons are bad. But yeah, I don’t do it (step on thresholds) now.

It’s interesting how something learned during an educational endeavor, and something seemingly irrelevant to the informants life turned into a daily practice for her. Even though she is not connected to the culture that the custom hails from, nor does she believe in the superstition, that stepping on a threshold of a door would allow demons to enter someone’s house,  she adopted the practice anyway. Customs migrate so easily now, especially in the United States which is so culturally diverse as well as with the travel that people do. These practices travel so fast that some people who observe such customs do not even know the reasons and the history for why such traditions exist.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Material
Protection

Door Placement

The informant learned this piece of folklore from her mother about how to build a house in China.

“You shouldn’t buy a house with a front door and the back door directly across from each other, because um, they say all the money is going to come in and go straight out.”

I remember hearing something about this being a concept of Feng Shui. I do not know if this custom is directly related but they are certainly correlative.

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