USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘grave’
Folk Beliefs

Indian Joe

My roommate grew up in Houston, and she told me a piece of folklore from her time at a Girl Scout camp in Texas. She participated in the production of the folklore while she was at camp, but it is not something she believes is true now.

“I went to this girl scout camp, Camp Agnes Arnold, which is a little bit outside of Houston, kind of in the Conroe area. But we had a marker that everyone assumed was a grave for Indian Joe. And you always had to give the grave a very wide berth on your way back to the cabins, because if you stepped on it, it was going to rain for the rest of the week and your entire week would be spoiled because you stepped on Indian Joe’s grave”

Q: Who told you about Indian Joe?

“I…think it was probably a camp counselor at first. Either that or one of the older girls, because I had been going to that camp since I was eight or something, so I don’t necessarily remember the original source. But I remember I would warn other girls to stay away from Indian Joe’s grave so that we would have nice weather”

Q: Did anyone know who Indian Joe was?

“I want to say… I don’t think it was anything more than the basics. He was an Indian who had settled in the area and it was his land and then he had eventually died and been buried in that area, and it was just one of those things, like, show respect for the Indian grave”

In areas where Native Americans once lived, the foklore seems to come from two things: fear and respect towards the Native Americans. In this example, stepping on the rock will result in something bad (the stereotypical “Indian curse”) but it also seems to stem from a desire to be respectful to the grave, perhaps to make up for the past.

Folk Beliefs

Ritual – Mexico

Do not step on anyone’s tombstones/grave. (Referring to the ones that are flush with the ground)


When I asked about any sort of rituals her family upholds, the subject told me that in Mexican culture, you do not step on anyone’s tombstone or gravesite, specifically the ones that are flush with the ground. I asked her why they regard this as a ritual, and she said that it was extremely disrespectful to step on a gravesite, especially because Mexican cultures put a high regard on ancestors and relatives. She said that death is a big part of the Mexican culture, as seen in the Day of the Dead celebration.

I think that this ritual can be applied to most culture, I do not know of anyone who would step on someone’s gravesite due to the fact that it is extremely disrespectful and a little bit eerie. I do not think that the piece of folklore is as interesting as why she regards it as something very important. She made a point that if someone were to step on the tombstone it would be a very bad thing, not something someone could accidentally do and just step off of. I think that this is because of the extreme reverence of the dead in Mexican culture. The Day of the Dead celebration is entirely about this, with a two-day festival dedicated to celebrating the dead by making altars and adorning their gravesites with flowers and food. I think that this ritual is most about the respect you pay to ancestors, which is a popular belief across many different cultures.