Tag Archives: good luck

Egg Healing

Context:

MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this item from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She knows about this practice from her nana (grandmother) but she has never had it conducted on herself.

Text:

MV: When someone gives you the ojo… the lady, this could be your nana, or like anyone really, they could get an egg and rub it all over your body, and then all the bad energy goes in the egg.

JS: What’s the ojo?

MV: The ojo is when someone puts the ojo on you, like… if I gave you the ojo you’d be getting some bad energy. It’s like I bewitched you.

You pray a little bit and then rub it over your body… you do the cross up here (draws a cross on her forehead with her finger) and then just rub the egg over the rest of your body.

And then some people even say if you crack the egg in a glass of water, and like you see a trail, like in the water from the yolk, that’s the bad energy. But some people don’t do that.

JS: So it has to be, like, a special someone?

MV: Yeah usually it’s the brujería person… a bruja, a witch I guess… all nanas are like that.

Thoughts:

The association of eggs with luck and goodness has long and deep roots. Venetia Newall provides a sketch of the various uses of eggs in ritual, magic, and belief: cosmological models, magical properties, the notion of resurrection, games and festivals emphasizing fertility and fecundity. (Newall) Her study focusses mainly on egg-lore in an Indo-European context but these significances resonate with our example here. The notion here is that eggs have healing properties, capable of dispelling and absorbing “bad energy.” The association of the egg with rebirth, shedding of old ways, fertility, youth, suggests that here, the egg is valued for its life-giving properties. Brujería likely has a long history that cannot be fully examined here but of note in this example is that the bruja, or intermediary, is always an old female – “all nanas are like that.” There is a kind of magic associated with older females which resonates with the egg as a symbol of fertility, the womb, and a source of life. In this variation, the catholic gesture of signing the cross on one’s body is present with some notable exceptions to the mainstream church’s gesture. The cross is made on the forehead, combined with the secular folk magic of the egg. This is not the gesture sanctioned by the catholic church as an international institution, but a gesture that incorporates elements of both secular, paganistic belief as well as religious reference: it is both Catholicism and Brujería, a mix of Christianity with a folk magic which the Catholic church has historically demonized. This healing practice is thus a way of combining multiple sacred traditions and forming a unique model of spirituality that sets secular magic against and alongside the hegemonic colonial forces of Catholicism.

Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs.” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 80, No. 315. (Jan. – Mar., 1967), pp. 3-32

Lifting Your Legs Over Train Tracks for Good Luck

Context: The informant and I were driving in the car when we passed over train tracks and she told me the piece. The piece was collected in its natural performance setting.

Background: The informant is my mother, who is a third generation Irish immigrant. She learned the piece as a child from her parents who would say it when passing over train tracks.  

Piece:

“Lift your legs for good luck!” 

Analysis: I grew up hearing this piece from my mom every time we drove over train tracks. Neither one of us knows why it is good luck, but I believe it is an exercise in controlling something tangible to control the intangible. Train tracks can be dangerous places. By lifting our legs, perhaps we are attempting to subvert this danger. Some variants of this practice involve lifting one’s legs in order to prevent them from being chopped off by the train tracks while other variants threaten that if one does not lift their legs, they will die young.

For another variant of this practice visit:

Edelen, John. “Lifting Feet Over Train Tracks.” USC Digital Folklore Archives. University of Southern California, May 13, 2019. http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=47643.

Giving Monetary Gifts that End in One

NA is describing an Indian custom around the amount of money you should give a gift. 

NA: There is also like when you give gifts, you don’t give like 50 or 100. You give like 51 or 101. It can be any hundred amount, but it can’t be like a ten is has to end in one. 

C: Is it related to luck or anything like that?

NA: I guess it’s so like that, Indian people see it as, when I give you 100 it’s like a hundred full stop. When you do 101 it is like money will keep coming to you. 

Context

NA is a 20 year old USC business student who comes from a Sindhi Hindu family from India. She grew up in southern California as an active Hindu going to temple and fasting on Mondays and active in her Hindu tradition. She is also my roommate and I asked her about folklore she had related to her Indian background.  This information was taken from a casual interview conducted with NA over Facetime. 

Analysis

One explanation for addition of the $1 is that it represents the continuation of wealth. It also makes the gift more meaningful by showing the recipient that not only are they providing money but also a blessing of the sort for you to be more successful in the future. Thus, making a gift that may seem somewhat impersonal more meaningful. I also found a tradition of giving a single Rupee coin when a larger monetary amount is not given. Thus, showing an aversion to the finality and absence the number zero represents. In contrast to the potential form growth represented through the number one. Additionally, even though zero comes before one, one is the number we start counting with. As a result, the giving of a Rupee coin is often giving on occasions that represent new beginnings, such as a wedding 

Jumping Three Times at Midnight on New Years

Piece

AM: If you jump three times at midnight [on New Years] you’ll get taller. That’s what my grandparents tell me when I was little. 

Interviewer: Did you do it?

AM: Yeah, but did I get taller. No! I’m 5’2 still. It was just on New Years when it hits 12:00am.

Interviewer: Is this a cultural thing?

AM: Um, I think it is because that is what a lot of like old Filipinos would say when I was little 

Context

AM is a childhood friend of mine and we were having a causal chat on Facetime when I asked her if she had any folklore to share with the database. She is a 20 year old student at Cal Poly Pomona. Her family is from the Philippines, but she has lived in Southern California all her life. She comes from a Catholic household and went to a private catholic school for elementary and middle school.  

Analysis: 

Rituals done on New Year’s Day often represent our desires and hopes for the coming year. Midnight on New Years’s is the most liminal time of year where you might be able to break the natural rules and use that to your advantage and change something about yourself in a way that would not be possible any other time of the year. 

Also, three is a sacred number in Christianity, which is likely why it was chosen for the number of spins as many people in the Philippines and members of AM’s family are Catholic. The role of belief also plays a major part in the transmission of the custom. It was the older generation that enforced the practice and believed in it to a greater extent. AM was only following what was told to her by her grandparents. However, she did not continue the practice and will likely not encourage her children to take part in it as she does not believe in it.  

Aloe Vera Plants to Ward Off Evil

AB: Aloe Vera plants in the front of your house to protect you from evil. I didn’t know that was why we had Aloe plants in the front of our house. I have never heard of that before. 

Context

AB is a 20 year old biology student at UCSB from southern California that is half Guatemalan and half Irish. She is describing a conversation she had with her mother asking her about the aloe plants they had in front of their house. Her mother is a nurse that is originally from Guatemala and lived there until her teenage years. This information was taken from a casual interview over Facetime. Earlier in the interview she talked about how her mother believed people practiced witchcraft and AB thought it was somewhat weird. 

Analysis

It is interested that there had been aloe plants in front of her house and AB had not realized until recently why they were there. However, it seemed that she felt it was more of a superstitious practice than something that really worked. The belief in magic seems to be related to the practice of using magic to protect yourself from people who may use it in a way to harm you. The aloe plant is considered to have many healing qualities both in the field of medicine and folk medicine. This seems to be somewhat of a spiritual extension of this belief. Not only can the plant heal you physically, but heal your spirit from evil energy that is trying to enter your space. Thus, making it the perfect plant to have in front of your house.

“Last Run”

  • Context: The following informant (S) is a 20 year old bike/ski enthusiast. He explains the avoidance of the words “last run” while skiing and the bad luck it can bring to the end of the day. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of any superstitions he held. The informant told me he doesn’t believe in superstitions, but never to say you’re going to take your “last run,” because it might truly be your last if you do. 
  • Text:

S: “Ok… if I’m skiing, or biking, you can’t say ‘Last Run’. Any time I have said ‘Last Run’ or anyone around me has said ‘Last Run’ an we’ve taken a run that is our last run for the day… I have ended up in the hospital.”

Me: “Same. So do you say anything instead of ‘Last Run’?”

S: “Yeah… we say either ‘2 minus 1’ or… ‘9 more runs’ or ‘8 more runs’ if you’re referring to two more runs. So 8 is if you’re referring to two more 9 is if you’re referring to last.”

Me: “Is there a reason for those numbers?”

S: “Nope. That’s just what works.”

Me: “Have you always done that?”

S: “I’ve done that since I broke both bones in this arm saying it was my last run.”

Me: “Did anyone teach you?”

S: “Yeah… everyone I grew up riding with. It is a known tradition throughout the action sports world… like any… any athlete performing at a high level knows that tradition.”

  • Analysis: Growing up in a ski town, I knew from a young age never to refer to my last run as my “last run.” We would often find code words to signify that we wanted this run to be our last for the day. I had always said “grilled cheese” or “second to last” or “2 more minus 1.” I have heard countless stories of people getting hurt on their last one after announcing it was their last run. I myself made this mistake when I was 12. After proclaiming I was doing my “last run” for the day, I made it almost to the lodge when a snowboarder hit me and broke my wrist. I never will say “last run” again. 

Chicken Wishbone

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: Remembering my mom used to make chicken when my sister and I were younger, if she was making chicken, she would take out the wishbone and set it to the side. And we would have to let it dry, or hollow out for a day. And next day, my sister and I, we would each pull one of the sides of the bone, and whoever got the larger piece would have good luck. And it is based on how it snaps. If it snaps with a bigger side, that’s what signifies luck. I am not really sure why, but yea…

Interviewer: How do you feel about this activity?

Informant: Umm, so my sister and I would always be excited when we were younger, we don’t really do it that much anymore. It’s just a big part of our childhood. I would always lose.

Interviewer: Is it because she pull harder?

Informant: I think it might just been… I guess one of the leg of the bones, not really a leg, is thicker and my sister would always get the first pick. So…

Interviewer: Is she older or younger?

Informant: She’s older.

Background:

My informant was born in San Francisco and moved to Virginia when she was four. She came back to the west coast for college and she felt the culture is really different. For this piece, she knew from her mom, and she and her sister were always excited to practice it when they were younger. For them, it is a way to get lucky, but more importantly, this activity reminds them of their childhood. Though my informant always loses because her older sister gets to pick first, this activity reflects my informant’s caring personality and her family relationship.

Context:

This piece is collected in a causal interview setting. My informant and I finished our class and were talking as we walked to the USC village together. We then sit in an outdoor space and collected some folklore from each other.

Thoughts:

It reminds me of some similar belief in China. But instead of chicken bone, we flip a fishbone, and if the tip stays on the top, it represents good luck. This activity usually takes place during family dinner and is viewed as a fun competition among kids. The chicken wishbone activity mentioned above, not only brings fun and excitement for kids, but also stimulates better bonding among siblings. Although sometimes some kids lose and get disappointed, it is still an important part of their childhood memory. A lot of the times, I find that people practice certain activity not because they truly believe it, but because it adds fun to life, or it makes them feel better. For the case of my informant, even she is not fully convinced that wishbone brings good luck, she still gets excited when she is a child.

 

Peruvian New Years Tradition: Run the Suitcase Around the Block

AS is a USC game design major who’s family hails from Peru, she enjoys spreadsheets, Dungeons and Dragons, and spreadsheets about Dungeons and Dragons. AS grew up in Texas after her family moved there from Peru.
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AS: My family had a lot of traditions for New Years, I’ve heard a lot of people do this one though

AS: We fill like a like a suitcase of some sort and we run it around the block and that’s supposed to represent like good luck in traveling and like safe travels and all that stuff.

AS: So my mom makes me do it every year cuz you yeah gotta have that good luck

MW: Do you have any particular attachment to this?

AS: I mean I would still do it if I didn’t live in South Central LA and that’s dangerous

AS: I guess it’s it’s it’s kind of just like a superstitious thing to me

AS: Or it’s just like it’s a cute tradition that makes New Year’s feel different than what like normal people celebrate even it doesn’t have like a very deep impact I guess it also fills me with nostalgia for things you did as a kid so you feel like you should do it anyways.
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Analysis:
The symbolism of running around the block mimics the cyclical nature of the calendar year and separates it from the idea of linear time. The suitcase is also filled, meaning that the carrier takes home with them when they travel and provides a direct connection to home and family life. Likewise, the fact that you run around the block and return to the starting point sort of carries the message that no matter where you go you can always return home, this centers the importance of home even in a tradition that’s all about travel. The desire for safety also reveals anxieties about leaving the home. Travel to new places is scary, a journey into the unknown thus the hope for good luck works in combination with the carrying of the known with you and the promise of a safe return to that known space.

Driving on Eggshells

Context: Following a conversation I was having with my father about warding off the evil eye, I asked him about another ritual we often performed – specifically, whenever one of our family members got a new car. 

 

Background: Persian culture often uses different foods, herbs, or spices as symbols. The egg often represents fertility, rebirth, or something new. In this case, the egg is used to celebrate the new while simultaneously keeping away the evil eye for that new endeavor. This ritual is a different way of warding off the evil eye, practiced in instances of large purchases.

 

Main Piece: “Persians are very superstitious and sensitive when they talk about anything very good happening or having something expensive. They are nervous about other people judging them or cursing them. So any time one of you gets a new car, I take out the eggs and I start drawing the circles. The circles are supposed to represent an eye, or the evil eye I guess. I think in my head to myself of anybody I can think of off the top of my head that would look at us with a negative energy because of our purchase. I draw as many as I can in place of those people, and say their names while I draw the circles and say a prayer that the new car won’t bring a bad fortune. After I finish drawings, I put the eggs in a paper bag and I usually have you drive to a different street from our house, put the eggs in front of the wheels of the car, and tell you guys to drive over it. It sounds a little silly. But the idea is that you shatter any possible evil eyes that would come your way for getting this car. It’s for precaution, just to ensure protection and good luck.”

 

Analysis: The notion of the evil eye is particularly sensitive for the Persian community. Persians have a number of different rituals that they perform to ward it off depending on the circumstance and situation. This one in particular ties to significant purchases. Some others are burning sage, hanging an evil eye charm in the vehicle, or keeping prayer books within the car.

 

The Red String

Context: I noticed a friend had tied a red string tied around their wrist. As a Jew, I knew that many people who visit Israel usually come back with red strings from Jerusalem. However, my informant does not identify with any religion, so I was curious to ask how he came across one. In the piece, my informant is identified as K.G. and I am identified as D.S.

 

Background: The red string is a part of Jewish and Kabbalah folk traditions surrounding the idea of Ayin Hara, or the evil eye. It’s historically believed that tying the red string on your wrist will ward off bad luck or negative fate. The string is worn to protect many different things. In some instances, it’s used to protect the fertility of a woman, protection in times of war, and others use it to make a wish. Despite the circumstance, it is to be worn until it falls off naturally.

 

Main Piece:

DS: “How did you get the red string? I always get those when I’m in Israel”

KG: “Honestly I ordered a bunch of these online, there’s a Rabbi from Jerusalem that sells them in L.A.”

DS: “But you’re not Jewish, what inspired you to get one of these?”

KG: “Yeah, I know, but you know it’s never about religion for me. I got it for all the evil eye stuff and all that but it has a different meaning for me. There’s a lot of bad habits I have. I feel like I talk badly about people a lot and gossip, among other things. When I look at it or feel it on my wrist it’s a little reminder for me to do better. To stop engaging in these tendencies I have that I absolutely hate and want to change. I definitely wanted it as protection especially now that I’m doing really well at work, but it’s also for myself and to remind me to be better and do better, so that I can be the best version of myself and put my bad habits behind me”

 

Analysis: While the red string has an ancient and historic ritualistic tradition behind Jewish folklore, I found it very interesting that someone who has no tie to any religion was using it for his own purpose. I found it refreshing for someone to take a piece of another culture’s folklore and adapting it to make it their own, especially as an aspect for self reflection and improvement.