USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘dream’
Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy

The Golden Dragon

Interviewer: What is being performed?

Informant: Folk belief by Crystal Soojung Choi

When a Korean mother becomes pregnant with a son, she has a dream that a golden dragon appears to her.

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

Informant: My dad told me this story because my grandmother (his mom) had that dream when she was pregnant with my dad. I really like this story because of the mystical qualities surrounding it.

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but my dad was born and raised in the Boseon area of South Korea.

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: It’s a dream that Korean mothers have when pregnant with a son so I suppose it is prevalent in Korean families.

 

Interviewer:  Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: From my father before I went to sleep one night.

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: It could be part of the values of royal families in older generations that a son was desired for offspring and thus, they were welcomed as a precious treasure before and after birth.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: With the appearance of the golden dragon, it could show how precious a child is in a family and that they are treasured and loved.

 

Context of the performance- conversation with a classmate

 

Thoughts about the piece- Other portents of sons include dreaming of cows, tigers, snakes and pigs but dragons are the luckiest. Daughters are symbolized in dreams by flowers, jewelry and other delicate objects. More Korean dream interpretation here: koreancultureblog.com/2015/03/17/try-the-korean-way-of-dream-interpretation/

Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends
Narrative

Mother’s Psychic Dream

The informant told me of a dream her mother had before marrying her father, which has deeply influenced her way of looking at the world:

“Okay so, one of  the earliest stories I remember hearing was my mom, after a few first dates with my dad, came home super worried and didn’t think that she’d get married or have kids or do anything with her life, and then that night, she had a dream, with her college roommates, who’s name is Laura, which is dangerously close to Lauren, but she hated Laura, like hated her a lot, and Laura was driving a car and my mom was in the passenger seat and Laura turned, and Luara was talking to her and “you’re going to be fine, everything’s going to turn out okay” and she like pointed to the back seat and she says that she saw a little girl and a little boy in a carseat, and the girl was older which would be me, and the little boy which would be my brother. i also have a little sister but she wasn’t there. I heard it, I think, when I was younger, oh I’m not, in similar moments, i’m not going to be able to do this and my mom was like “i’m not so sure” but i remember going to bed and thinking I’m going to have a dream like that’d I never have but yeah.”

 

The informant also told me that her family, especially through her mother’s matriarchal line is supposedly psychic, so this dream continues that pattern in her mother. She hopes to someday to have a psychic moment although she is not sure that will happen.

Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Reincarnation

This piece was performed by my co-worker. She was born in India but moved to the United States when she was three months old. Her mother comes from Delhi, but her father’s family is originally from the area that is now Pakistan. She told me this story of learning about reincarnation from her grandmother and learning that her family believed that she (the informant) had been reincarnated.

“So, when I was in middle school… I don’t know it came up but someone asked me once if I believed in reincarnation and I was like, actually I don’t know that much about it even though I am Indian. So I asked my grandma about it when I went home and she was like, ‘Actually we believe that you were partially reincarnated.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa this is really cool!’ So I asked her how she knew and she told me basically after my great-grandpa died (so her grandfather) after he died she did a little prayer, and there’s this whole ritual that you do in India….Basically she did this prayer for about a week, and at the end of the week you have this dream that tells you, or shows you what the person who you’re asking about is doing. In the dream, if you see them praying at a temple, or a mandir as you would say in Hindi, it means that they’re going to stay in the afterlife. Their soul is not coming back, but if you see them, I don’t know, doing something else that would hint they were coming back, they were coming back. My grandmother did it, I think twice, for my great-grandfather and then he, the first time, was definitely staying there. And then later on, when my mom was pregnant with me it was actually…somehow he ended up coming back, supposedly. The reason why it was weird is because this only works, you can only tell if someone is going to be reincarnated if someone else in the family becomes pregnant within six months of the person dying. So, the person died, grandma tried the thing the first time, didn’t work out. but she tried it again later, I think, and then that time… the first time it said he wasn’t coming back,  the second time he wasn’t but it was so close to me being born that we thought, maybe he is. And so when I was growing up, and the signs of reincarnation supposedly are within the first five years of life, my grandma said I used to walk exactly like him and that’s a little sketch maybe that doesn’t mean that much, you could walk like a bunch of different people and it’s not that really specific, but he had such a specific gait that they thought, wow, he’s in her, I guess. And I had a bunch of other things, like the way I would talk, it would be just like him.”

Q: Is it common to try multiple times to see what will happen?

“I don’t think so, my grandma just was curious. I think that was the first time she had ever done it, too. I know there was little bit of confusion when she interpreted, in fact I think that may be why she did it the second time because of the interpretation, and she wasn’t sure.”

 

Even though reincarnation is a fairly well-known kind of folklore, this piece is interesting because it shows that folklore doesn’t necessarily work the same way every time. The informant’s grandmother didn’t seem very experienced with the rituals, so she had to try a second time to make sure she got it right. However, that didn’t make the ritual any less legitimate, as her family still believes she was reincarnated.

 

Folk Beliefs

The Sitting Ghost

Informant was teaching and boarding at a high school in the mountains, a three-hour bus ride away from the city. The dorm was a foreign environment that frightened her. When she finally fell asleep, she was awoken by a strange presence that she sensed at the foot of her bed. She was unable to move, feeling as though something were pressing down on her, though nothing was above her. When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she noticed a man standing at the foot of her bed, fully clad in an ancient Chinese military costume. Since he was watching her peacefully, she assumed that it was an acquaintance from a past life or simply a passing spirit and fell back to sleep in peace, believing that he was there to protect her.

In Western cultures this phenomenon is known as sleep paralysis, and psychologists have come up with scientific explanations. In Taiwan, however, the cause is attributed to ghosts. The phenomenon is known as “鬼壓床” (gǔi yā chuáng), which literally means “ghost pressing the bed,” and the symptoms are strikingly similar. Author Maxine Hong Kingston describes this phenomenon as the “sitting ghost” in her memoir The Woman Warrior.

Due to the prevalence of Taoism and Buddhism in Taiwan, the vast majority of the population—regardless of religion—believes in ghosts. Ghosts are not necessarily evil, as anyone could potentially become a ghost after they die. 

Game

to “truck” someone

There’s an old trick/game my cousin warned me of whenever you fall alseep around other people, and it goes like this: if someone falls asleep, you should grab a pillow and flashlight and approach the sleeping person. Slowly begin to wave the flashlight (turned on) back and forth in front of their eyes quietly shouting, “Truck!”…and growing louder with each word, “Truck! Truuuuck! Get out of the way!!” and then, bam! You smack them with the pillow in the face. And so the story goes, that if the act of hitting the person with a pillow didn’t wake them, then you should ask them in the morning if they dreamed about a truck running them over.

Folk Beliefs

Teeth Falling Out in a Dream Means Deceit

My informant told me about a time when he was younger, maybe thirteen, and he had a dream about his teeth falling out. In the dream, his teeth began to feel loose and when he touched them they started to all fall out. He remembers being mortified and having a great sense of anxiety; the dream felt very real. When he woke up, he told his grandma, who lived with him. She got angry at him and told him the dream meant he had been telling lies; this was common knowledge in China. He tried to tell her he hadn’t been, but she wouldn’t believe him. His parents didn’t think much of the dream, though, and didn’t think their son had been telling lies.

He said he remembers the incident because the dream felt very real and it had disturbed him. He’d also been very upset to have his grandma angry at him when he felt he hadn’t done anything wrong. I could even see him become uncomfortable as he remembered the event.

I think it’s interesting to see that while his grandma put a lot of stock in this folk belief, his parents, the next generation, did not. This could reflect a changing attitude in the world and show how more recent generations are more apt to side with science and logic rather than trust old folk beliefs and superstitions. I also think it’s interesting to see that losing teeth became symbolic of telling lies, as if the lies had been so caustic that when they exited the mouth, they caused the teeth to fall out. Or maybe losing teeth in the dream was almost like a punishment for lying. I’ve heard the more modern belief that losing teeth in a dream represents a lack of confidence or feeling of insecurity. Because we use teeth to forcefully chew our food, they represent power, and seeing them fall out could reflect a sense that we have lost power in our lives. Another interpretation I’ve heard of the dream is that it indicates a family member will die, though I don’t know how that necessarily relates to teeth falling out, except maybe because people lose their teeth when they grow old and approach death.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Persian Tale- Man of Baghdad

This is a tale my informant heard from her mom, who is Persian. The story goes that a man living in Baghdad was very poor and so asked God to help him. That night, he dreamt of treasure that was at a certain place in Egypt. When he arrived, though, he was arrested because the police thought he was a thief for some reason. They beat him nearly to death. Later, when the police chief asked him why he’d come there, he said he dreamt that he’d find treasure if he did. The man just told him that he was a fool then. He continued that he’d often dreamt of finding treasure in a certain place in Baghdad but never pursued it because it was just a dream. It turned out that the spot the man had described in Baghdad was actually the house of the first guy. So, he returned home and found the treasure there.

My informant likes this story because of the reversal of fortune, which is unexpected but satisfying because as an audience, we want to see the man succeed after he is brought so low by the world. She also likes it because it emphasizes hope and trusting the universe to give you what you need. The man follows his dream and eventually succeeds, even though the police chief calls him foolish for this. Maybe sometimes you need to be foolish to just do what you think is right or what you think will get you what you want, though.

The tale speaks to a lot of different themes. For one, that we will generally get what we need in life, but it won’t simply be given to us. The man asks God for treasure, but he has to travel to Egypt to find out it was under his own house the whole time. He had to undergo a journey, as well as suffering (being beaten) to get the reward. The story also seems to say that dreams are meaningful. While we might not really believe this, it seems very human to want to, so this story serves as wish fulfillment in that way. The police chief gives the realist view that trusting dreams is foolish, but it pays off for the main character because we like the idea that a dream can guide us to something good.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection
Signs

Lebanese Dream Superstition

According to Lebanese folklore, my informant said, bad dreams should be interpreted as signs of good fortune.  (This would be reassuring to me, as I have had my share of them!).  The superstition says that once a scenario is played out in a dream, it will not be repeated in reality.  Thus, it is also reflexive: a pleasant dream should not be received as a sign of good fortune to come.
My informant was not aware of the origin of this sign-superstition.  He learned it from his family, none of whom he says actually believe it.  I would most likely postulate monogenesis as a model for the origin of this superstition, as it is unique and counterintuitive.
This is indeed a unique perspective on dreams, one I have never encountered before hearing the superstition from my informant.  As with many superstitions, odds are that there is some element of belief somewhere back in my informant’s family.  Otherwise, it would be unlikely that the superstition would have been passed down and remembered by succeeding generations.

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