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

Cow Feces

The informant grew up in Tamilnadu, India and has participated in several festivals and holidays. She says that a large part of many festivals and holidays include cow feces. For example, cow feces is often mixed with water and then this mix is used to wash out the front porch of a house. A white powder, which is also ground up and made out of cow feces, is then used to create decorations (folk art) to make the front of the house look good. The informant says that cow feces is very clean and she believes that it causes cleanliness. In some rural areas, cow feces is even used to clean dishes. She says that cow urine is often sprayed around the house the day of a festival so that the cleaned house can be even cleaner. She says that cow feces is also used in many rural areas to build mud huts and many people sleep around and even on it. On a side note of animal feces, elephant feces is also believed to have medicinal properties and if one places a wound in fresh elephant feces, the injury is said to heal faster.

It is interesting to note the complete cultural difference there is between Western culture and Tamil culture. While Western culture is often disgusted by the idea of feces and aims to separate and distances itself as far as possible from feces, the Tamil culture embraces cow and elephant feces. It is believed that these animals have pure feces because they are vegetarian animals and therefore, their feces is not toxic like human feces are. It is so pure that Tamil people use it in everyday form, from cleaning dishes, to the daily art on the front porch, to the infrastructure of the house, to using it to clean on days of festivals and holidays.

Folk speech
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Don’t crap where you eat

My informant first heard this proverb in his dormitory at the beginning of his freshman year of college.  His residential advisor recommended that no one on the coed floor date each other, regardless of how good looking they may appear to each other.  Then, the residential advisor reinforced her point with this proverb.  However, the majority of the residents had no idea what she had said.  She laughed and explained the proverb.

My informant understands the proverb to mean not to get involved in situations that will inevitably come back to haunt you.  My informant explained that, with respect to the aforementioned situation, the resident advisor was suggesting that if anyone were to get romantically involved with anyone else who lived down the hall, it would work out fine until the couple realizes the relationship was a mistake.  At this point, there are always hard feelings, and if you have no choice but to live right next to someone you don’t want to see again, you’re in for a bad time.  The couple would have to share elevators, dining areas, and common space, even after their fallout.  My informant then mentioned that all of the residents of the dorm understood this and adhered to the proverb, except for a few drunken nights.

For this example to make sense, the proverb needs to be broken down.  If you, say, crap anywhere you want to, it’ll be worthwhile until you have to return to an area where you’ve already crapped.  This is especially problematic if you took a dump where you eat, because, while enjoyable at the time, the odor and mess is going to make you miserable whenever you dine thereafter. Similarly, being with a girl has its benefits, but the breakup will make you miserable if she’s still going to be everywhere you are.

I have been told this proverb at work several times with the intent to keep me from dating female coworkers.  This makes sense because I’d be forced to work with that coworker after a breakup and would be expected to perform and interact like nothing had happened. In my opinion, I believe this proverb is just a warning to consider the consequences of your choices.

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