USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘family’
Folk medicine
Protection

The Story of the Tenrikyo Miracle that Saved My Grandfather

Nationality: American/Japanese

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Japanese

Age: 23

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Sammy is a 23 year old man, born and raised in New York who is a representative with the Tenri Cultural Institute of New York City.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. I never heard of Tenri, can you tell me something about it and a tradition associated with it.

 

Informant: “Ok ok. The teaching of Tenrikyo (sp)”

 

Interviewer:  Can you spell it please.

 

Informant: “that’s T-E-N as in Nancy R-I-K-Y-O, Tenrikyo, ah basically we are taught that our bodies are something that is lent to us from G-D something that we borrow something from G-D The Parent and uh just our minds are our own ah our own. And basically depending on the way we use our minds G-D The Parent will ah show ah us ah the proper way to mature spiritually hum which means basically is to become selfless and in order to do that we basically have to keep our minds from becoming ah or getting rid of our egos basically. And ah what we are taught when we use our minds in selfish manners it is like we are accumulating dust. And when we accumulate dust, we are unable to see our goals as human beings um from what it should be basically. Um and so what we do in the Service the Tenrikyo Service is we ask G-D The Parent to sweep that dust from our minds ah but we are also responsible for our own, you know, how we use it individually. So we have to continue to keep ah fighting ourselves almost not others and fighting ourselves to not to be greedy or arrogant or selfish or anything like that. Ah but if you ever get the chance please read up on and the teachings of Tenrikyo ah it is native to the country of Japanese ah the country of Japan and there is a small town in Tenri where we call our home.”

 

Interviewer: When did you first become aware of this?

 

Informant: “Ah actually I was born into the church.  Ah My Father he ah he was I am a third generation Tenrikyo and basically my father he came to New York to spread the teachings of Tenrikyo and he so started at a church in Bayside Queens, and that is where I was born. My my original, my grandfather was the one who kind of started the faith and he ah he has suffered from ah tuberculosis and he was saved miraculously ah through ah missionary who was walking in Japan, a Tenrikyo Missionary and he was taught the same thing what I actually just said.  And ah realizing that it was his own mind that was the problem he kind of replaced his mind and ah decided that even though he was going to die from tuberculosis he might as well die you know saving others.  And when he, he firmly resolved that mind ah, he was saved from his tuberculosis in some way. My father was born and also I was born after that. So it is kind of nice.”

 

Thoughts about the piece: 

Faith healing belief systems exist in many cultures and modern medicine placebo testing is one way that the power of thought to promote health is being investigated. Tenrikyo is a matriarchal religion founded on miraculous healing. Background can be found here: http://what-when-how.com/religious-movements/tenrikyo-religion-of-heavenly-wisdom/ Another testimonial is: http://tenrikyology.com/343/36-firm-resolution/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Burying St. Anthony in my Backyard

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 35

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 12, 2017 (telephonically)

 

Ethan is a 35 year old man, born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who is employed as food vendor at a local food market. He is a College Graduate iand majored in Business Administration. He is 4th generation American

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. You mentioned that as a child you remember a family ritual. Would you mind sharing it with me?

 

Informant: Of course, I would be happy to.  So anytime anybody would move into a new house it was my grandmother on my Dad’s side, the Catholic side of the family, not the Jewish side, um there is a patron saint I believe St. Anthony which is the Saint of lost things or something like that. And she would give us a little doll; and we would bury it in our backyard and that way if we lost anything we would just pray to Saint Anthony then that object would be found. And I am not sure about the origins but I know that I buried that St. Anthony in my backyard

 

Interviewer:  Did you ever find anything that you lost?

 

Informant: “I once misplaced my favorite batting glove and could not find it.  And ah a few weeks later my grandmother was visiting and she took out of her purse the glove. She asked if it belonged to me. She told me that she took it by mistake when she was bundling her clothes.

 

Interviewer:  Did you attribute this to St. Anthony?

 

Informant: Well I remember being so excited, I think I must have been 10 at the time or 9 cause I was in the 4th grade, when I received the glove from her and I said to her that I guess St. Anthony found it and um all I can remember having the greatest smile I ever saw from her

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: Um not much other than it was a nice little touch that it is a nice little tradition that my grandmother passed down that I was happy to continue forward. While I doubt it worked, this tradition makes me think about my grandma.

 

 

 

Thoughts about the Piece:

Anyone who has lost something has “prayed” to find it but Catholics pray to a specific individual for help. For the text of the prayer see: http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=150  Other stories of St Anthony novena anecdotes can be read here: http://www.holysouls.com/stanthony.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Childhood
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

New Year’s Eve Tradition

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: New Year’s Eve tradition by Alec Shale

Every year while waiting for the new year to begin, we would do a giant puzzle and try to finish it before midnight.

 

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: Tradition created with my Dad for every New Year’s Eve when I was young. I like it because it reminds me of fun times with family.

 

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

 

Informant: United States, Arizona

 

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

 

Informant: My Family

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: When I was 4 or 5 years old.

 

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

 

Informant: On a New Year’s Day without much to do, we had a puzzle and decided to race to solve it.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: To me, this is a tradition that means time spent with family…. Doing an activity, but mostly just talking and enjoying each other’s company. I intend to continue this tradition with my kids.

 

Context of the performance- conversation with classmate

 

Thoughts about the piece- This informant believes his family tradition to be unique but I have also experienced a quiet NYE with my family. Our activity is preparing and consuming a gourmet dinner. In both cases, an introspective preparation precedes a momentous symbolic shift. Googling New Years Eve at home yields almost 19 million results, even a wiki-how; http://www.wikihow.com/Enjoy-New-Year%27s-Eve-at-Home-With-Your-Family

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eating 12 Grapes on New Year’s Eve

Interviewer: What is being performed? New Year’s Eve Tradition by Elisa Alfonso

 

Informant: Eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve

 

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: It’s a Spanish tradition that is practiced in Cuba. I know about it because I do it with my      family every year and uh I learned it from my Cuban relatives, specifically my grandmother.

 

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

 

Informant: Camaguey, Cuba

 

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

 

Informant: I don’t belong to it but I believe it comes from Catholicism.

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: From my grandmother

 

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

 

Informant: I know that it’s a superstition. And that each grape is supposed to represent a month of good luck in the New Year.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: I really like this tradition because it makes me feel more connected to my culture and my family and it’s a fun thing to do every year. I’ve no idea where this tradition comes from or how it started, but my family has been doing it my whole life. It’s just something fun to do together.

 

Context of the performance- conversation with a classmate

 

Thoughts about the piece- This reminds me of the marketing campaign by Nathan’s Famous to have a timed hot dog eating contest on July 4th and a little research shows that ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’ was also started by marketers- grape growers with a surplus crop. Eight million people watch a midnight broadcast from Puerta del Sol each year. The 12 grape rule can devolve into a competition because they should be swallowed before the clock stops striking. For some grape eating strategies check here: http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/12/28/12-grapes-at-midnight-spains-great-new-years-eve-tradition-and-superstition/

 

Customs
Foodways
Material

Family Recipe

“My dad taught me this recipe, it’s not even an ethnic recipe, just a family recipe for this cool dipping sauce.  You combine paprika and garlic powder and a little water and then this other ingredient I’m forgetting, but it makes for this really good, kind of dry sauce that goes really well on a hamburger or something.  My dad said he picked it up from a diner he worked at, so I guess that means this recipe went from some unimportant condiment at a diner to a staple ingredient at all our family’s meals, which is pretty cool.  But I’m not sure he’s telling the truth about picking up the recipe from a diner, I feel like that doesn’t make enough sense for it to be true, because I’ve worked in restaurants before and no such recipe exchanging has happened around me, but nonetheless, now that sauce recipe is a staple of our family.”

ANALYSIS:

This origin story of a family recipe is super cool because it subverts two common tropes of family recipes: that they are long traditions passed down from the ancestors of the family, and that they are secrets.  Not only did this family recipe start in a diner that the father of the informant just happened to work at of all places, but the informant clearly has no regard for who hears the ingredients, and they are listed very clearly above.  Still, the recipe has quickly managed to become an important part of the family, so it makes me think that maybe this is the beginning of what will become a long family tradition with this family.

general

Second Trip to Dun Huang

The same informant told me another story of a vision that came to her during her second trip back to Dun Huang for more information research for her dissertation.

Informant: The second time I went back to Dun Huang 3 years later. I had to change my dissertation topic because I could not trace the whereabouts of the paintings I wanted to study. As an art historian, I can not write my dissertation base on reproductions I saw on books. So, I went and talked to professors in Du Huang to help change a dissertation topic.

Then I got a premonition: a woman on the bed, and a man next to the person on the bed kneeling. The man was looking at the person on the bed. I could not make out any faces. I would see this image constantly. It really creeped me out. To the point that when I went home, trying to study, the image would always pop out. I had no one to talk to about it either.

3 to 4 months later, it faded away though. After changing my dissertation topic, I went back to Dun Huang again 2 years later. That time I spent a week in japan for a week first, then went to China. Went to Japan to study about temples in Kyoto. Then I went to Dun Huang for research. That time I was so happy, had my preliminary draft for dissertation done. My purpose was to go back for more photographs and final research. Not all the 400+ caves were published, so I had to apply to go to undocumented caves.

My husband told me that we had to go our separate ways him being non-religious and me becoming super religious. Then one night he told me that he wanted a divorce. He had told me that there had been another woman while I was in China, someone else had been in my house and in my bed with my husband.

After talking to my best friend, she told me that the premonition was what happened a year later. Except for the woman on the bed was not me, but another woman. The image I saw was a vision.

 

After hearing this story, I felt that this was incredibly sad and extremely personal. I was against putting this story on this website, but she said it was in the past and that it is something that it was fine for me to post this. This was an incredibly spooky story for me to listen too. It felt like it was going to be something like a memory or something, but it ended up being a very sad story with a terrible twist to the ending of the story. having the same vision haunt the informant for many months, only to finally understand the vision as a premonition for the event that was to come about in the future.

Folk speech
Humor
Riddle

Riddle – Name three consecutive days

Informant is my mother who loves riddles. She is known to challenge entire dinner parties with this one riddle, often with nobody able to solve it. She presented this one at a family dinner because there was a guest present who hadn’t heard it before. She says she didn’t make it up but doesn’t remember where she heard it. She thinks she probably learned it from her father when she was younger, living in Cherry Hill, NJ.

 

Here’s the riddle:

Q: Name three consecutive days without using these words: Monday…….Tuesday…….Wednesday…….Thursday……Friday.

A: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow!

 

I think what makes this riddle memorable is the misdirection in the instructions. Of course, the trick is the use of the word “days.” Because of the nature of the trick, when you know the riddle it’s painfully obvious, but without knowing it can be hopeless. Before one has heard the riddle (like any riddle), the right answer is unclear. But after hearing the solution, it seems so obvious. I think it’s like an initiation to her, a rite of passage at the communal dinner table.

general
Legends
Narrative

The Origin of Adjorlolo

Context: When I told my roommate about how I was collecting folklore, he offered to talk about some of the stories he’d heard over the course of his life.

BackgroundMy roommate comes from a mixed-race family, one side of which originates from the Ivory Coast of Africa.

Dialogue: It is said, that my great-great-grandfather, who lived inn Ghana, who was the first man to be called Adjorlolo, um, had sixteen wives, and… I’ve heard between eighty-four and ninety-six kids.

Analysis: This one is pretty straightforward in terms of being a simple piece of folklore about a family’s origins. I found it interesting that the number of offspring from the first Adjorlolo was debated amongst the family. Also interesting was the fact that this was only the great-great-grandfather, which leads only so far back in time. A really good example of how a family’s history can be lost to time quicker than expected, to the degree that legends of eighty-something children and sixteen wives can spring up and become rooted in the family’s history by the time its fifth generation comes around.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Fatherly Advice

Context: I collected this from a friend on a trip over Spring Break, after he’d heard me talking about folklore with another friend I was collecting from.

Background: A piece of advice in the form of a proverb my friend’s dad taught him to live by.

Phrase: The most important thing is to think. The second most important thing is let other people think.

Analysis: The piece is simple, really just some advice that’s important for parents to give to their kids. My friend specified this was something his father told him every time he “did something stupid,” but I appreciate that the proverb refers to the world beyond yourself and stresses the importance of respecting other peoples’ minds.

Foodways
general
Material

Conserving Chili Oil

Context: I collected this from a high school friend when we were on a camping trip together over Spring Break.

Background: My friend is Chinese on his mother’s side, and she grew up in a poorer part of Communist China.

Dialogue: Recently, when my mom cooked, she would kind of be leading me through what she was doing, because I was gonna be going to college and needed to know how to cook for myself, live on my own and everything, and in the the past, like, three years I’ve helped her with cooking, helped her with dinner and everything. Um, and specifically, there is a sauce that we had at my house. My entire childhood we had this sauce. It was a, a special chili oil that actually her mo- her father made for her. Um… and I think I’m diverging but that’s fine! But the— this chili oil, like, it’s kind of like… You know how when people make sourdough you need to have, uh, like a seed sourdough batch that you use to build the next one, and then each sourdough is like a build on that previous sourdough? The chili oil was kind of like that, so she would have this— er, her father would have this chili oil that he, he had made a very long time ago, and then it would run low, and then he would just build on what he already had… Um, and so then the chili oil that we have in my house is vastly different from where it began, and honestly I have no idea if he was the first one to make the chili oil. But it’s in little glass jars now, so, it’s… become a little modernized now, at the very least.

Analysis: I really love how symbolic this is of the passing of the family line, and has some connections to the idea of ancestors living on in the form of little bits of chili oil that are still left over from decades earlier. It’s very unique as well, for something out of Chinese culture, and really reflective of how the Communist regime in the country affected the poor, what will the recycling of materials for each fresh batch of chili oil.

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