Tag Archives: legends

Armenian Legend of Akhtamar

Ախթամար

Transliteration: Akhtamar

Translation: Oh Tamar

Description by Informant:

There was an Armenian Princess named Tamar who lived at Lake Van which is a historic lake in Armenia. She was in love with a common man (a peasant). According to legend, the guy would swim from the island to mainland to see Princess Tamar. Tamar would hold a light for him so he could see as he swam in the lake to come see her. One day her father finds out and follows her. As she was holding the light, her father approached her and smashed the light. Therefore, leaving the man in the middle of the lake without any light and direction to swim. Legend says that he died in the lake crying “Akhtamar, Akhtamar!” (Oh, Tamar Oh Tamar!). Those words can be heard to this day at night at the lake. The island was later renamed Akhtamar.

Background Information: This is a famous legend in Armenia, especially near the city of Akhtamar. The legend is kept alive through memorates by people who allege that they have heard the words Akhtamar near the lake.

Context: The informant told me about this legend during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian legend that she knows about.

Thoughts: Legends are often told as a way to tell us what to believe. The island of Akhtamar is no longer a part of Armenia as it has been occupied by Turkey. I think this legend is used as a reminder that this land was once Armenia’s and that in a sense it still is to this day because you can “hear” the remnants of the past through the commoner’s voice crying for his love Tamar.

Woman in White– A Ghost Story

Collector: Please, madam, pray tell us your ghost story.

Informant: Alright. I will tell you now this story of my ghost encounter, encounter with the paranormal. Ok, so, um, it took place in the Netherlands, um, we were going– me and four other girls that were studying abroad in Germany, we were gonna take a trip to Amsterdam, and, um, we took the overnight train, the cheapest option from Germany, which was like, seven different trains and all these transfers throughout the middle of the night, so, we get to, um, the Netherlands, um, to this little town about an hour outside of Amsterdam, where our AirBnb was, it was called [name]

So we get there around like, 11 AM, um, we, um, have a snack and we go check into our Airbnb, it’s like 11:30, 12, and what we didn’t know, but we didn’t mind at all, is that you have to walk through about a mile of forest to get to the airBnB, which it doesn’t say on the website.. [Laughs] Y’know, we’re not thinking anything of it. um, the forest is beautiful, there’s a nice path, the trees are nice and tall, so, we walk through this mile of forest, we don’t think anything of it, and we get to the AirBnB, check in, and we go straight to sleep, since we didn’t sleep all night. And we sleep, all of us, for maybe like 6 or 7 hours, um, and we wake up, and we’re all in great spirits and we all wanna go hit the town in Amsterdam and go party, and we’re all getting ready, listening to music, and by the time we’re ready to leave the airbnb and take the train to Amsterdam, um, it’s about 9pm, i think it was exactly 9 pm. So we have to walk back through that mile of forest to get to the train station to get to Amsterdam.

 So, um, this mile is just one straight shot path, through the trees, the eact one we had come on the way there, just one straight shot path. We set off on the path, and we quickly realize that it is pitch black– and i can’t stress enough that its pitch black, its like your eyes are closed because trees are so tall, they’re covering the moon and the stars, um, so the four of us, we’ve all got our little iphone flashlights, which are only so good, and we’re all spooked, but y’know, we’re big girls, its fine. Um, so, y’know, we’re walking through this very creepy, um, pitch black, literally– and i can’t stress enough how it was pitch black, as though your eyes were closed. It is– i never– Before, I had never seen such darkness in my life.

So, um, we get about halfway through, about a half-mile out, and we come to a crossroads. And, at the same time, all of our flashlights come upon the same thing– a woman, about 15 feet ahead of us, standing completely still, completely straight, she’s wearing a wedding dress, and she’s standing completely still, right in the middle of our path. And we all stop– and, it was about two seconds, all together, or less, that we’re standing there, um, and one of us goes “what’s that?” and we realize we’re all seeing the same time, we take off and run for our lives the way we came back to the airbnb, we are running absolutely for our lives, and we all were looking back, and, um, she didn’t chase us or anything, but when we got back to the airbnb, we were all freaking out, all in tears, crying, it was so scary. And, um, we confirmed that all four of us had seen the same thing, a tall woman in a wedding dress, um, like 15 feet ahead of us, standing completely still. 

Collector: Was she looking at you?

Informant: So the thing is, is that none of us could see a face. So, it’s not like– when I remember, i don’t remember, like, noticing a certain faceless-ness that, like jumped out at you, but looking back, none of us can recall seeing a face. But, my three other friends, they recall seeing, like, a sort of blueish greenish tint to her skin, which i don’t personally remember, but all three of them remember it. Um [laughs], so yeah.

Context: The informant is a good friend of mine, and is a Lebanese-American young woman studying music. In 2019, she studied abroad in Germany, and so had the opportunity to travel around Europe. This is her personal experience.

Analysis: I must admit that I am a little biased when it comes to this story, both because the informant is my friend, and because it is a frankly terrifying story. There were several things that I thought of first after hearing this experience. One was the location, taking place not only in a pitch black forest, but on a crossroads as well, which are considered to be liminal spaces, or places of transition. Traditionally, this is believed to be where many spirits can be found, in areas where ownership is uncertain, and so other entities are free to “cross over”.

Another element of the story is the woman dressed in a white wedding dress. Many cultures have a version of a woman dressed in white, lingering in forests, rivers, or other more rural areas where a scene of disaster supposedly happened. In many stories, these women in white have been scorned, or hurt in some way, and now wander the mortal plane in despair, or for revenge. The story is almost always connected to traditional cultural roles for women; For example, the woman kills herself after losing her husband to another woman, thus “failing” in her duties as a wife, or drowns her children in a river, therefore failing as a mother. I wonder if this story works as a sort of precautionary tale aimed at younger woman– to warn them of the monster they could become if they do not adhere to their roles. Another popular version of this story is La Llorona, an entity in Mexican folklore. For more information of the White Woman, please look at :

La Llorona (2020). Retrieved April 28 2020, 

from  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Llorona.

White Lady (ghost) (2020). Retrieved April 28 2020,

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Lady_(ghost)


Legend of El Serro de la Campana ( The Hill of the Bell)

 Context: AB is a 49 year old mexican woman that works in the auxiliary department for the USC payroll. I met her with her twice when I applied for on campus jobs. I asked if I could have coffee so she could tell me about known legends from her hometown. 

YM: So can you tell me about some interesting stories you know about 

AB:  Oh my god, yes ! There’s a lot of stories i know about ghosts and stuff, but I have a favorite one in which I had a personal experience 

YM: wow that’s awesome ! tell me more 

AB: Alright so it has nothing to do with ghosts but it is about an enchanted hill. So in San Miguel Tilapa, there had always been rumors and stories that ranchers from outside town would see strange things on this hill on their way to Puebla. It wasn’t specific when these strange things happened but that there were times at night when people would pass by this hill named El Cerro de la Campana, la campana because it was shaped like a bell. And…t is said that this hill would open up because it was enchanted. That the person that had the luck or had the vision could see this hill open up. 

YM: So it was selective ? meaning it only happened to some ? not everyone ?

AB: Yes! not just anybody, because that hill was enchanted. I guess it was for people that I guess the hill wanted to bless. 

AB:They would see the hill open. They would look and would see a store with a lot of beautiful things. So when people would see this they would become enthusiastic and would you know think “ wow what a beautiful store, I’m going in.” The story goes that the person who would enter the store or the hill and do it quickly and come right back out before the hill closes… And a lot of people know this… people that would go in quickly and come back out with an item they grabbed from the store… that item would turn into gold.

AB: But some people at the sight of these beautiful things would get excited and lose track of time and stay in there. They would stay in there for years. For them it seems like a moment that they were in there. And when the hill opens up again, and the person comes out he dies when the air hits him. 

YM: and that’s because they were in there for a song long that the air sort of kills them ? 

AB: aha right.. That is why they have to go in quickly and come right back out as soon as possible. You know people were found dead there and no one knew what had happened to them. The people would then remember that they had disappeared long ago

YM: wow and people knew of people that had come out?

AB: yes and this people would say that the item they had grabbed had turned into gold… and something actually happened to me and my sister on that same hill when I was 13 years old. I remember when I told my dad about what we’d seen he got super mad at us because during that time there were no crops of any kind. You couldn’t even seed any plant and on that hill we saw a plant with two HUGE tomatoes… I mean HUGE, out of the normal kind. And me and my sister were surprised to see this, my sister being the older one said we shouldn’t go up and pluck them since… sometimes there were snakes around. So we went our way… on our way back the plant wasn’t there anymore! When we got home I told my dad what we’d seen and he exclaimed “ why didn’t you guys pluck them ! it was money!” so the enchantment was the tomato plant. Had we plucked them they would have turned into gold. At the time I didn’t know about this, if I had I would have snatched those babies hahaha 

YM: hahaha oh my god… so the enchantment wasn’t just a store? 

AB: no, there were all kinds of enchantments that people saw that were strange but the most common one was the store

YM: that’s so interesting 

AB: And years after around 1994, people dug up part of the hill to plant cane and underground they discovered gold ! the government even came to claim the gold. It’s true… I guess the hill would bring out its gold in a magical way to the people it thought were deserving of

YM: What ! that is crazy! Amazing. So you believe this ? 

AB: Yes 100%, I think there are parts of the world or land that are more magical than we think they are

YM: Beautiful 

Background info: AB was born in Tilapa, Puebla. As a child she would often pass this hill and it wasn’t until her strange encounter with the hill that she learned about this legend. Years would pass by and never again did she see a strange thing . 

Analysis: This legend includes a memorate: personal experience explained by traditional narrative. This experience reinforced the belief that this hill is enchanted for AB. It also seems to have localized history inside the contemporary realm. However this history is unofficial. You can tell this legend was also reinforced by FOAF (friend of a friend) telling. Meaning these strange occurrences that happened to people were passed along from people to people. The legend is liminal, in between or right on the line between the real world and a supernatural world. 

Lady Triệu

Background: My informant is a Vietnamese college student. Their parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when their parents were around 20, for religious and other reasons. My informant’s identity and worldview is largely shaped by their Vietnamese culture and immigrant upbringing. One of my informant’s main life goals is to one day move back to Vietnam and be in their homeland. My informant is interested in studying decolonization and has done so in college. Thus, this story about Vietnamese decolonization is especially important to them, although they did express that they are not certain about how this history of Vietnam being colonized affects their identity.

Context: Context: This conversation was recorded on a zoom meeting that we had on a Monday evening. My informant is a friend of mine, and the conversation occurred in both of our rooms. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. After our call, some other people joined the zoom call and the atmosphere was generally friendly.

Main Piece:

For most of our existence as a country(Vietnam), we’ve been colonized, and mostly by China. So we have a lot of like … we have stories about warrior people who fight and like try to rebel against China, meaning that and a lot of these stories are usually women. Because apparently Vietnam used to be a matriarchy or something so a lot of our stories usually involve women fighting against China. 

Here’s this woman. Her name is Lady Triệu. Orphan woman. But she lives with her brother and his family. And her sister in law was kind of horrible to her. And so she killed her sister in law and runs away to the mountains and like starts mountain training. And her brother tries to convince her to come down and that sort of thing but she doesn’t because because she wants to train and so she enlists in the army. 

So sometime between like the mountains and her listing she gets married has baby or at least one baby.

And like in all the depictions of her. It’s like she’s a fierce woman with long boobs. And when she goes into battle she throws her boobs over her shoulders.

Me: So like, just for, like, so I can categorize this. Like do people actually think this happened?

Think of it more like like the story of Hercules where it may happen, but a lot of the stuff is exaggerated, all the time.

Thoughts: Thoughts: This was interesting to me because I was previously unaware of Vietnam being colonized by China. The first time I heard of this story was in friendly conversation and we made light of the fact that the woman is primarily characterized as having long boobs. This was obviously sexualized in our discussion and I wonder if that feature had the same context when it was told throughout history. Lady Triệu also plays into the tendency of warrior leaders in uprising who tend to become historical legends or folk heroes.

The Soo koo yant

In my grandparents’ native country of Dominica, the tradition is to pass on to the upcoming generation intriguing stories that would transcend generations. In an effort to dissect this legend I’ve been told when I was little, I turned to both my grandparents for clarity.

D: “One particular belief in Dominica is that some older ladies engaged in witchcraft and that they should be avoided.  Those older folks were called “soo kooyans”, pronounced –“Sue koo yan”.  

It is said that the soo koo yants can only engage in witchcraft at night time.  That they have to shed their skins in order to transform themselves into evil spirits.  It is believed that when these beings are transformed they receive superpowers that enable them to fly and travel long distances but that they have to return to their homes before daylight otherwise they won’t be able to return to their human form.  The soo koo yant enters people’s homes through small openings and feeds on human blood leaving bruises on the body.  It is believed they need human blood for their energy and they live in the countryside.”

D: “Others are claimed to have traveled from Dominica all the way to the United Kingdom and returned to Dominica with attire such as a dress that belonged to the Royal Family.”

The informant later explained that nobody could afford this woman’s dress and no one had seen her dress in all of Dominica. The fabric was never found on the island. According to the lore, these people are afraid of certain plants. 

D: “When one wants to know if an older person in the community is a soo koo yant, they would get a special grass, named “Pat Pool” a patwa word that translates to “chicken foot”, and when these people are walking on the sidewalk that if one should send or scatter the grass in their path that they would panic and turn around and not dare walk across or over the grass, this goes on to this day when younger folks hear that someone is a soo koo yan they would engage in this act to verify if they are really witches.” 

H: “When a soo koo yant travels at night, you see a bright ball of light that is coming and it descends on your house and then it tries to open windows to break in. It comes while you’re sleeping. Sucks up your blood. And it has to move before daybreak. When it wants to rest it jumps from tree to tree.”

H: “It takes a ritual or spell to turn itself into a witch. When a soucouyant leaves its home it says certain words to remove their skin and they put it into a wooden box. It has to come back before daybreak to put on their meat suit. And they’re afraid of salt and pepper. Older people would salt the doors and windows because it would burn their skin.”

For the informants, this legend is important to them because it is a story that is passed down through generations to be wary of those around them because everything is not always as it seems. According to lore, Soo koo yant is basically an old hag. While in most communities the elderly are regarded as trustworthy and caring, this legend carries the message that this isn’t always true. My takeaway from this story is that those who are constantly overlooked can sometimes be the devil in disguise.

Pele, Kamupua and the Pali highway

Context:

The informant is a 28-year-old woman, of Indonesian and Caucasian ethnicity. Her hometown is Honolulu, Hawaii. While in school in Hawaii, she learned about Hawaiian Folklore. This story was told to her by her instructor.

Main Piece:

There are many stories of the Hawaiian Goddess of lava and volcanoes. The most common are of sightings of an old woman walking along the Pali highway. These are spread throughout our communities and in school so it’s difficult to tell you where I heard it first. Everyone says not to bring pork over the Pali because if you do your car will stop till you get rid of it. I learned later in my senior portfolio research in high school, that it was because Pele and Kamupua’a (the pig god) were lovers but they fought constantly. Kamupua’a stayed on one side of the island and Pele on the other. The Pali highway connects these two sides so if you try to bring pork from his side to her’s she’ll stop you.

Notes:

I am not familiar with Hawaiian Folklore, however after doing a little research, Pele which is pronounced peh-leh, is described as the goddess of lava, of fire, lightning, wind, dance and volcanoes. There are many different stories as to how Pele came to be. Most stories include her sister, Namakaokahai either attacking her, or killing her. In one instance, Pele was said to have seduced Namakaokahai’s husband and was sent away by her father. The story of Kamupua and Pele is well known among locals in Hawaii and the stories come from actual happenings of people accidentally taking pork in their vehicles across the Pali highway. This is due to Kamupua calling the Windward side of the Island, home and the leeward side belonging to Pele. Because of their radical relationship, bringing pork across the freeway is bad luck and the vehicle carrying the pork will stop until the pork is removed.

 

 

For more info about Pele and legends about the Pali highway check out these sites:

 

https://www.robertshawaii.com/blog/legend-behind-hawaiis-goddess-fire/

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/7322206/pork-and-pali-are-recipes-for-disaster/

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/33478838/spooky-stories-pork-over-the-pali/

The Fair Folk

Context:

The informant is a 35-year-old Caucasian male of Irish and Polish descent. He will be referred to as DB. The Folklore piece came to him from his father’s side of the family which is his Irish side. The story was shared by his grandmother and is told in his own words:

Main Piece:

The Fair Folk (or Fae) were fairytale creatures that lived “under” Ireland in what was known as a Faery Raft. They loved humans, loved tricking them, and loved marrying them or trapping them. If you fell asleep, you could be lulled into the Faery raft. You NEVER ate or drank in the presence of the Fae. If you ate or drank anything from the Raft, you were trapped there for 100 years. Little kids were usually taken because the fae loved them and loved raising them in the raft, and then letting them go hundreds of years later when they got tired of them as children. They also loved wagers, and could be tricked out of things like magic, gold (leprechauns), and favors if you could best them at things. They loved riddles, they were the reason you would lose mittens or socks or your favorite things, and they were most active under a full moon.

Background:

DB was told this story of the Fair Folk by his grandmother who enjoyed telling him these stories when he was a kid. DB finds the story important because he isn’t connected to his Irish roots and this story is a way to stay connected to them as well as to his grandmother. He doesn’t believe in the Fair Folk however, but he feels the tradition of passing on the story is important, and he believes in that.

Notes:

The story of the Fair Folk seems to be a tale told by parents to their children. Like many other creatures in stories shared from other countries, these fairies are known to be tricky or mischievous. The story seems to be a warning to protect themselves from their tricks. They also serve a purpose as an explanation for missing things. When something in one’s home goes missing, this is a way to explain why. People need to have an explanation for things to put them at ease. When something cannot be explained, it creates more questions, so it seems like these creatures are made to explain what can’t be. Talismans made from steel or iron are used to protect against fairies and their negative magic as they are unable to touch or be near these metals.

 

 

Parrot Legend of Los Angeles

“If you have been in Los Angeles for a little bit, eventually you notice the parrots. It’s weird because you wouldn’t think parrots live in Los Angeles but there are tons of these very loud and annoying green parrots. There are a couple different stories about why they are here, like, one of them is that these green parrots escaped from the LA Zoo and had no predators so now there are way too many. That’s the main one I heard. I think the other one I heard more recently is that they came from some guy who ordered these pet parrots and they got loose.”

Context: The informant grew up in Pasadena, California and was home from college at the University of Chicago. We were at her house and I prompted her with what reminds her of home.

Informant Analysis: “Honestly, I never thought about where the story came from, I just kind of assumed it was true. I guess, it’s like, you never really think about where the parrots came from unless they are being particularly loud.”

Collector Analysis: As the informant said, people tend to only be reminded of the legend is while they are currently being annoyed by the birds. The legend itself carries on because most people do not know the truth or falsity of the legend. Of course, it could be possible that these parrots are indigenous to this area, but most do not believe that such a tropical looking bird could be from here. I think there is actually an undertone of politics intermixed with this legend. The idea comes from the worry of invasive species and trade imports. Recently, there has been a lot of fear over Chinese imports bringing in beetles that destroy our pine trees. The parrot idea of importing this invasive species that are a nuisance may be a legend generated or propagated because of this similar fear.

The Pig at the Baptism

Main Piece:
“The story goes that a family… they were getting ready for their first child’s baptism and first birthday. So, the family invited many people to the party and had decided to serve a whole roasted pig. A week prior to the baptism/party, the family had gotten a really fat and big pig. That whole week they fed the pig lots of food in order to get it bigger and more fat. The day before the party and before the pig was to be killed, the family starved the pig. I am not sure why, maybe to cleanse it or something. Well the pig was used to eating lots of food, so it was really hungry that whole day and night. The next morning which was the day of the baptism/party, the father went outside to kill the pig, but the pig was gone. He called his wife out and she then noticed dirty prints on their house floor. The father and mother followed the prints into their child’s crib, they screamed and were horrified to see the pig eating their child. The pig stared at the parents and its eyes were blood red.”

Context:
The informant is a 77-year-old Spanish speaking woman, born in Mexico. She first this story as a child and would then tell it to her children and grandchildren. She believes the pig was possessed by the devil, that the pig was evil from the beginning.

Analysis:
This story is a twist on the cruelty we inflict on pigs when we kill them for food. I believe that this story helps people come to terms with why we should kill pigs and eat them. If pigs could they would inflict the same pain to humans. In some ways this idea of the pig eating us makes us feel better about why we eat them.

Ogopogo Lake Monster

Context: The informant is a Canadian-American who has family from the regions surrounding the Okanogan lake, reportedly the home to the “Ogopogo,” a monster treading the waters.

[Speaking face to face]

“So it’s like… Ogopogo, and it lives in… yeah I think it’s the Okanoga. But, um, yeah right so Ogopogo is basically Lochness Monster for Canada and it says like… it’s to live in Okanogan Lake in British Columbia. And it was, according to Wikipedia, it was allegedly seen by the first nation peoples in the 19th century. Um… so it was like… as far as Canadian folklore goes, it kind of all I know.”

KA: How did you hear about that?

“My mom, I think, yeah. Um… but like, everyone knows about Ogopogo in my family, ’cause like, most of my family is from British Columbia. I mean, the Okanogan- like my family lives in the Okanogan, so wait… where is Okanogan Lake because I might’ve actually been there. Oh right, I’m actually closer to this lore than I thought. Um, my aunt lives in Colona, and it’s IN Colona, where the Okanogan Lake is. It’s a very big lake, but… yeah. I think even if you go to the… I think there’s like some mini golf type thing there in Colona, and they have like, an Ogopogo monster… like… in the place. It’s like a family fun center”

Introduced: The informant knows of the legend due to it being socially constructed around them, having family from British Columbia. It was primarily introduced through Informant, (LG)’s mother.

Analysis & Interpretation: The Ogopogo is clearly comparable to the infamous Loch Ness Monster of Scottish folklore. I find it interesting how though it is perceived as such a prevalent part of Scottish culture and identity, particularly regarding inhabitants of areas directly surrounding Loch Ness, it is such an internationally recognized legend. As someone from the U.S., I grew up hearing of Loch Ness and not necessarily attributing that to a specific region; Essentially, anywhere you went with a body of water could potentially be home the infamous Nessie. I’ve found that many children may tend to generalize it and attribute it to their own location. But beyond this, the Ogopogo, very far from reported Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) sitings, has exemplified the globalization of a multi-version mysterious lake creature.

 

For similar renditions of the hidden lake monster tale in other regions, refer to the Scottish based “Loch Ness Monster” legend at:

History.com. (2019). Loch Ness Monster [Video file] https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/loch-ness-monster-video