USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘heart’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Protection
Signs

Death Ritual

Me: do you have a ritual you do when you lose someone close to you?:

“When I was seven years old during one summer my cousin who was three years older than me passed    away right around her birthday. She had a rare heart condition that no one really know about… I was with my younger cousin     who was visiting me when we both got the call and found out. Now whenever I       see a heart shaped rock I always pick it up for her.”

Me: When did you start doing that?:

“I started doing it right after it happened I think. When we went to her actual funeral we all put heart shaped rocks on her grave during her ceremony, and ever since then it’s been something I’ve always done.”

 

Background: Zoe is a twenty-year old girl from Aspen, Colorado and currently attending USC.

Context: Zoe told me this story at brunch discussing the pain of experiencing a family member who passes away.

Analysis: I was very touched by this story that she shared with me because losing someone important to you is a very intimate, difficult, and emotional thing to share. I have been fortunate enough to only have lost one person in my immediate family in the years I have been alive, so I could not fully understand what losing a close friend or cousin would feel like at such a young age. Everyone has a different understanding of what happens after death and what capacity we have to maintain in contact with the deceased when we are still living. I think collecting something beautiful that reminds you of a special person you lost is a really amazing way of remembering what they meant to you. Zoe has a physical manifestation of remembering her cousin, which I think is a really incredible away of believing that she is seeing a little piece of her cousin every time she comes across a heart-shaped rock in nature.

general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Alpha Phi Omega Initiation

“I don’t know how long it’s been in practice, but like every time like we wear pins, like a pledge pin on the right side [of your chest] when you’re pledging and then you put it on the left when you have been initiated. So, ‘cause the left side is your heart, so like the service pin is more on your heart like, you’re like in. Um, and then during the initiation ceremony we like light candles for each, kind of characteristic we talk about, um, and then we also, when people are ushered in to the initiation ceremony they’re, they have to close their eyes and not look and they get in a line with hand on shoulder, like in lines of maybe ten people and then someone leads them who’s an active member already to lead them to the place of the initiation. And then once they’re all there, um, they can open their eyes and then they, everybody says their name in order and they say the oath repeating after the person leading the ceremony. Um, let’s see. That happens once when you find out you’re gonna become a pledge and that happens another time when you’re initiated to become an active member. The pledging period is, like, a semester long, basically . . . It just seems like it’s always been done that way and so, when I experienced it as a pledge, it’s how I also experienced it as an active, like it, it feels like it’s always been that way.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies biology and is currently applying to medical schools. This interview took place in the new Annenberg building when I was having a conversation with another friend about superstition and the informant started to volunteer information about the rituals that have taken place in her life. She is a part of the campus service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, or APO and has been for all four years she has been at USC. APO is co-ed and is somewhat culturally removed from USC’s other Greek life. It states its principle values are “leadership, friendship, and service” and the members of this service fraternity are supposed to embody those values in their everyday lives.

 

This ceremony is clearly a liminal moment that has been ritualized. It is a way for new members to join the fraternity on a consistent basis while knowing that they have the approval of the active members. Essentially, it is a way of very clearly establishing who is a part of the frat, who is not, and who is in the process of joining. I thought it was interesting that the informant interpreted the movement of the service pin from the right side to the left side as having to do with the left side being where your heart is. Part of me believes this interpretation is influenced by her studying biology and the human anatomy currently being the most important area of study in her life, while the other part thinks this is probably the original symbolic meaning of the movement. Having the pin on the right side of your chest makes it merely a form of decoration, at most an acknowledgment that you are interested in being a part of this organization. However, as soon as you move it to the left side of your chest, it is a statement that the organization is a big part of your life as it is next to one of your most vital organs.

 

The repetition of the initiation ceremony is important, as it gives the active members and pledges a period to adjust to the change in the community. It is noteworthy that the active members light a candle for each “characteristic” that an APO member should embody, i.e. leadership, friendship, and service, as this means three candles are lit and three is an important symbolic number in American culture. I think the reasoning behind making the pledges close their eyes when they are led to the ceremony has more to do with symbolism than it does with keeping the location of the ceremony a secret. The pledges are going to find out where the ceremony is as soon as they open their eyes, so there is really no reason to think that keeping the location a secret is an important part of the ritual. Rather, I think it has to do with the fact that when the pledges close their eyes they are in a location that represents their lives before APO, and when they open them they are somewhere that represents the their new lives with this fraternity. This action also increases the suspense and sacredness of this ritual. That an active member leads the lines of pledges into the ceremony shows the approval of the existing members of APO and is an important step in making this outgroup a part of the in-group.

general

The Heart

심청이 (Shim Chung-yi) – Heart-yi

The Story:

심청이는 여자의 이름이였다. 심청이의 아버지는 눈이 멀었다 – 안 보이셔. 그리고 가난했다. 어느날 심청이가 자기의 몸을 중국 선원들한테 팔았지. 옛날에는 선원들이 이직 시집을 못 간 여자의 몸을 바다에 빠트리면 가는길이 안전하게 된다는걸 믿었었지. 그래서 심청이는 집을 떠났고 받은 쌀은 아버지가 먹을수있게 저장에다가 넣었지. 중국 선원들이 가다가 심청이를 바다에 던졌어. 물에 빠지면서 거북이가 심청이를 받아서 용공으로 데려갔어. 용공에서 임금님이 심청이에게 물었지 “너 는 어떻게 여기까지 온거냐?” 심청이는 그래서 자기가 어떻게 온걸 설명해주었다. 임금님은 심청이의 예쁜 마음 보아서 다시 자기의 집으로 데려주었고 심청이에게 말 했다 “돌아가면 너의 아버지 눈이 보이것이다. 심청이는 돌아가서 아버지랑 행복하고 풍부하게 살았다. 

Shim Chung is the name of a girl. She lives with her father and he is blind. They are a poor family. One day, Shim Chung sold herself to a group of Chinese people for money. Back then, sailors believed that when a girl who is not yet married is thrown into the water, their voyage will be safe. Shim Chung received rice in payment and stored it in the storage for her father to eat. After she left, her father called out for her but there was no reply. Shim Chung was thrown into the sea and a turtle caught her as she fell, and brought her an underwater kingdom (dragon home). The king asks her how she ended up there and she explained her journey. He tells her she has a kind heart and when she returns her father’s eyes will open. She is returned home and calls out to her father, and he is able to open his eyes. They became rich and happy.

 The Analysis:

The ultimate moral of the story is that a kind daughter will bring wealth and happiness to a family. Shim Chung is the name of the girl in the story but it is also a play on words, which means heart. She has a kind and beautiful heart, selfless and caring only for others and not herself. Her beauty is not skin deep and resonates throughout her personality. The king of the underwater kingdom takes notice of this and sends her back to land. Kindness and goodness will never lead one astray, so everyone should live their live for others, not for themselves. 

Folk Beliefs

If you tell a lie, god will strike black spot on your heart

“If you tell a lie, god will strike black spot on your heart”

My informant was first told this by his father when he thought he was telling a lie. It reflects the strong religious beliefs of his father. I asked my informant what would happen if he had a black spot on his heart, and he wasn’t sure. Despite this, this threat succeeded in scaring my informant into telling the truth.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Folk Tale – Armenian – Mother’s Heart

Folk Tale – Armenian

“There’s this story about a man who betrayed his mother. So he’s a momma’s boy but his wife hates her and so gives the husband an ultimatum: kill your mother or I will leave you. He’s sad, but he does it… rips out his mother’s heart, throws it on the ground. Then weeks later, he is walking home from the market and he trips on his mother’s heart and falls, skinning his knee or something. The mother’s heart says from the ground, genuinely concerned: ‘Oh my dear boy, please don’t be hurt.’ I believe this story is a metaphor for a mother’s infinite and unconditional love, even in complete betrayal.”

I agree with the informant’s interpretation of this tale. Even in the ultimate betrayal, being matricide, the mother is still loving and concerned for her son. Even in death, she reaches into his life. This story very effectively portrays the power and scope of a mother’s love for her child. Furthermore, the conflict that exists between a mother, her son, and his wife is portrayed in this tale. Often wives and mothers become jealous of each other, because both want to be the primary woman is the man’s life. The mother has cared for her son throughout his life, and now another woman has entered and, in some ways, replaced her. On the other hand, when a man remains too dependent on his mother after marriage, his wife may also become jealous and believe she is not enough. This dynamic is extremely gendered, but it nonetheless is depicted in an exaggerated manner in this story. The son is too dependent on his mother, so the wife forces him to murder his mother to prove his love and dedication to his new wife. This dynamic between these roles is exaggerated in this story, but it effectively exhibits the conflict that often exists.
This jealousy between new wife and mother is depicted in many stories, and often is portrayed as a struggle between the women. An example of this is the film, Monster-in-Law (2005), directed by Robert Luketic. In the film, a humorously violent struggle ensues between a mother and her son’s new fiancé (Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez).

[geolocation]