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

Hong Ahn (Egg Rub Remedy)

Barbara is a Chinese-American who graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Her parents are from Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States, before giving birth to her in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles. She recently received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and is currently working at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles. Her hobbies are baking, exploring hipster cafes or restaurants, and reading thriller novels.

Original Script

So whenever I like fell down or had a nasty fever my mom would put this egg—she would boil an egg and she’d cut them open and then you’d have to slice it and then you take out the yolk and then you put a real silver coin in it where the yolk was and then you put the egg in a like cloth like hanky and then you twist it and then you rub it against wherever you‘re hurt like if you got a headache you put it on your forehead and then if you have like a bruise on your knee you’d put it on your knee and then you’d have to keep rubbing it and then the coin would suck out all the bad vapors from that area all the negative stuff and then the coin would turn to different colors so like it depends on what color it is. It means like different things. So if the coin turns black or blue it means you have too much like cool air and red and orange it means it’s too much hot air or like yi-hei and then that means like you’ve been eating too much fried food instead—you’ve had like too much hot air. Well that’s it, so the coin sucks out all the bad stuff that’s been making you hurt.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first learned of this Chinese remedy when her mother performed it on her when she was sick as a child. She felt much better laying on her mother’s lap and feeling the pleasant warmth of the boiled egg gently rubbed on her face.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

This traditional Chinese medical treatment involves continuous pressured strokes over the skin with a rounded tool. It has been practiced by practitioners, who believe the treatment releases negative elements from injured areas, stimulates blood flow, and encourages healing. Nowadays, Chinese parents often use this remedy on their children whenever they have a fever or a cold or whenever they feel depressed.

My Thoughts about the Performance

This is a remedy that my mother has also practiced on me when I was sick or unhappy. Common spots parents rub the boiled egg on are the forehead and eyes. The warm sensation of the egg, while laying on one’s parent’s lap, gives a sense of security and calm to the child. I find it fascinating how this ancient folk medicine maintains a continued presence in today’s world, passed down by generations of families. In the past, this treatment seemed to have a more respectable and legitimate status. Now, it is generally treated as a placebo effect to comfort people, specifically children.

folk metaphor
Folk speech

He’s an Egg

The informant is a graduating senior at the University of Southern California, studying Creative Writing and Social Sciences with an emphasis in Psychology. She was born in Egypt and originally held Egyptian citizenship, but moved to the United States when she was quite young and is now an American citizen.

This expression is a somewhat crass way of calling a person dull.

“Can I tell you an expression that’s kind of dirty? Yes? Excellent. So, so the first boyfriend I had, my dad came over and met him, and I asked, “So what do you think?” And he said, “He’s kind of an egg,” but he said the word “egg” in Arabic, so I was like, “What? I’m so confused as to what you mean by that.” And he’s like, “You know, an egg.” And I said, “Go on, dad,” and he told me apparently, in Arabic, you call someone an egg to signify that they’re like a testical. They just kind of hang there. They’re more or less useless otherwise. Um, so that’s what my dad thought of my first ex-boyfriend. He called him a vanilla egg, because he was really white. It was really sad, he kinda just hung there like a testical, but it’s a common expression!”

When do people use it?

“When they’re trying to describe people that are really dull and really….basic bitches, basically. Someone who’s there, but you don’t necessarily need them to be there, you don’t kind of like them, they’re very average. They just kind of exist.”

And what’s the Arabic word for egg?

“Baydatan ( بيضة).”

Analysis:

I find it interesting that this expression indicates a dismissive view of male genitalia, where the testicals are viewed as dull or not particularly useful. It’s especially compelling when compared to how patriarchal western societies refer to testicals as the “goods,” the “family jewels,” and other terms that indicate value. This expression does highlight the reproductive value of testicals by referring to them as eggs.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Healing With An Egg

This is one of the weird things he (my stepdad) actually did when we were kids…

So he would grab and egg and if we were sick, he would rub us down with alcohol and then rub us down with the egg wherever it was aching/hurting… focused on that one spot. So like for a headache, a stomachache, or if they had a leg injury—like issues where they couldn’t walk, and then he also had sage and a lot of other plants (that’s the only one I can remember by name), that he would burn, so it was kind of like incense and the smoke from that would also be spread over your hair and body. It was an actual like clump or branch, not small—but a bundle of sage, yerbabuena (I don’t know what the name of the plant is in English, but it translates from Spanish into “good herb”) and a few others. He would get a glass, usually like a taller glass, so you could see the different densities of the egg, and the cloud—the whites, and… depending on the shape of that, he could see what made you sick, like he would “read” it. I told him people did that during the Salem witch trails and died for it, but he really (thought) he could read it.

 

How did you come across this folklore: “I refer to these as “sketchy stories from my (step)father/sketchy things he did when I was a kid…”

Other information: “My dad has a lot of stories like these, but my mom was big on not sharing them, or letting us hear them—so I heard this in my teens, when were allowed (finally) to ask and he would actually answer… my mom said it would invite bad people/things to us or something…”

The healing comes from the idea that the egg will absorb the pain/sickness, which will then be transferred into the contents of the egg, and then be revealed in the glass to tell a reader the source of the pain/sickness. There are a number of groups that link eggs and healing, especially by way of transference. Folk medicine, although not based on any empirical scientific evidence, can still be effective, which is why many traditional practices are still practiced.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Mexican Egg Massage

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Mexico but he has lived in Southern California for nearly all of his life.

 

Context: I was talking to Fabian about Mexican stories and folklore.  He shared with me the following superstition that is prominent in his family’s village where his grandmother still lives.

 

Item: “If someone is feeling bad, not always, but sometimes.  What they do is they get this massage with an egg that has been dipped in holy water.  They just kind of rub it on your back, arms and stuff.  Then they make the sign of the cross on your back, chest and forearms.  It’s supposed to be a blessing kind of thing.  Once you’re done, you crack the egg in a cup of water.  When you do it, the egg, which has been shaken from being rolled around your body, has a very opaque yolk which kind of represents the evil from your body.  The yolk is then released from the egg, and, supposedly the evil, which is contained in that opaque yolk, is then released from the body and dispelled into the water.  This is usually done by older women.  There are some people that have a lot of knowledge/spiritual energy to them that perform a lot of these massages for people in the villages.  A lot of the older women – the grandmothers – mostly know how to do it.”

 

Informant Analysis: Many superstitions in Mexico involve direct contact and touching using crosses, since Mexico is such a religious place.

 

Analysis: This superstition seems to involve the idea of contagious magic, the idea that things that have been in direct contact can have influence and interact with each other.  The informant’s comment that many superstitions involve direct contact and touching seems to reinforce that Mexican beliefs heavily involve contagious magic.  It makes sense that Crosses are used due to the deeply religious nature of the country.

 

The opaque egg yolk symbolizing the presence of evil brings about the idea of order being good and disorder being bad.  Something being jumbled up represents disorder, something that civilization and society has tried to eliminate.

 

The fact that older women usually perform this ritual exhibits the very powerful position that they have in Mexican familial hierarchy, as they are revered as being knowledgeable and beyond reproach by anyone else in the family.  The informant recounted a time when he yelled at his grandmother and was ostracized from his extended family for months after.  It is possible to disobey/yell at other family members, but the grandmother is off limits, showing the position they hold in Mexican familial structures.

Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

Spider Cooked Egg

Informant Background: The informant was born in rural parts of China called Hainan. She lived there with her grandparents where she attended elementary school. She moved to the United States when she was thirteen. She speaks both Chinese and English. She lives in Los Angeles with her mother but travels back to visit her relatives in Beijing and Hainan every year. She and her mother still practice a lot of Chinese traditions and celebrate Chinese holidays through special meals

 

in the days my grandparents told me that to get a governmental position you need to pass certain exams. The exams happened in one day and it is really hard. You can’t get a job unless you pass this test. So to get good luck for that exam day the night before your mother would have to catch a spider in your house, put the spider in the egg, and cook it. You can put the spider in by cracking open the top a little bit and then put the spider in. Then you can still boil the egg. Then you have to eat it before you take the test. This will help you pass the test.  

This is a folk-belief about how to create good luck.  The story was told to the informant by her grandparents who live in an area called Hainan. According to her this was what her great-grandmother did for her grandfather before he went to take his test.

 

I think this folk-belief is very strange. The informant herself also stated how she finds this method very strange as well. Regardless of peculiarity, this shows the family’s involvement in one individual event; that different members of the family are linked together through different objects and methods. In this case it is the mother who has to cook the egg because it is common in a Chinese household that the mother is the cook in the family. This reflects how the mother has to support her child and bring him luck even though the method seems strange. The spider also has to be found in the house. This also shows a different living arrangement situation depending on culture. In Western Culture after the child reaches a certain age he/she would leave the family house and live separately. In this case it is evident that Chinese family tends to maintain as one household.

This belief is a method of how to deal with one of life transitional period. People associate themselves through different identity, one of them is occupation. In this case, the exam is important as an official way to achieve that particular job identity and how the family helps the individual.

It also shows how the egg is eaten to enhance the individual’s belief in his own luck. This shows it is important to believe in good luck is whether or not the spider-egg has magical power or not. Similar to the placebo effect, believing is a big part into feeling lucky.

Game
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Egg War

Form of Folklore: Holiday Ritual

Informant Bio: The informant was born in Yerevan, Armenia, moved to Moscow, Russia at six months, then to Detroit Michigan at age three. Since she was five years old, she was raised in Glendale, California. Most of the folklore she knows is from her mother (passing down traditions she learned) and from peers at school. Her mother remains as her main source of cultural folklore (Armenian) whereas her friends in school exposed her to the folklore of American culture.

Context: The interview was conducted on the porch of another informant’s house in the presence of two other informants.

Item: On Easter morning, after the eggs are painted and put out on the table (it’s part of breakfast). So we basically eat the eggs for breakfast. And before we eat them, the way we open them is like… um… taping the top of one egg against the bottom of the other, so the pointier side is hitting the flatter side. And if it cracks that egg, that means you like won the egg fight. And if there’s a few people playing, you move on to try and crack theirs. And then if you win all of it, you’re egg is like the sacred egg and you don’t eat it; you put it aside and you eat one of the ones that was weaker.

Informant Comments: The informant believes that this Easter ritual is a pleasant way of getting the family together to play an innocent game. She enjoys playing the game and believes the best part is being able to eat all of the loosing eggs and saving the winning egg for another day (another war). Everyone wonders if the egg will be able to beat the rest of the eggs the next day also.

Analysis: This Easter ritual seems like a harmless game that can bring some excitement to a regular morning breakfast. This egg war is very common in Armenia (where the informant is from). This ritual, unlike others, brings out some good natured competitiveness in the family member. Luckily, it almost never leads to an argument since the strength of the eggs the members of the family have chosen have nothing to do with the people who chose them; thus, no egos are wounded. Essentially, only good can come from adapting this Easter ritual because it starts the day off with a certain level of excitement and offers an initial topic of discussion for the rest of the meal.

Folk Beliefs
general
Material
Protection

Superstition – Persian, Armenian

To protect a car from bad luck, an egg is placed right in front of each tire of the vehicle. Then the owner drives the car forward, slowly crushing the eggs.

Mary learned this from her Persian-Armenian neighbors in Glendale. She said this is done when you buy a new car—almost like an initiation ceremony for the car. She said she is not sure exactly how this is supposed to work, although she thinks it may have something to do with “crushing evil.”

I am not sure how to go about analyzing this, but I thought it was an interesting piece as it combines a very ancient form of superstition—magical superstition, and a very modern object—the car. No doubt this tradition has started after the invention of cars, and after the wide distribution of cars among the Persian-Armenian communities. I thought there must be some older Persian custom that involves the crushing of eggs for good luck, but was not able to find any. At any rate, this tradition is concerned with an issue that concerns us all—motor safety. If Persian-Armenians had previously crushed eggs for some form of protection, it makes sense why they would try to adopt this to the car—we now, after all, spend much of our time in cars, and we are all aware of the dangers of the road.

As for the eggs, they have been symbolically important for so many cultures. Eggs seem to usually connote good rather than evil, so I am not too sure about Mary’s idea of symbolic crushing of evil. The wheels are like the ‘legs’ of the car, and are very important to the car’s reliability and maneuverability—perhaps, then, it is an attempt to instill some of the egg’s protective power into the very rubber of the wheels.

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