Tag Archives: nature

Color Green Protects Eyes

Background: The transcribed conversation between me and the informant shows folk belief on how to protect eyesight. 

Informant: My mom bought a cactus for me… she says it absorbs radiation from computers and cellphones…

Me: Does it really? I’ve heard of it before but I don’t think it actually works.

Informant: I’m not sure, but I fell like it’s just a misconception. Mom says it protects your eyesight…maybe because it’s green?

Me: Oh that kind of makes sense. I’ve heard a million times that green protects your eyes, not sure if it’s true. Where did you first hear that? 

Informant: I don’t know but I’d guess it’s because green is the color of nature and we’re supposed to look at nature more hahaha

Analysis: Cactus or other things can absorb radiation; color green protects eyes. These two are fairly common folk beliefs. They reflect that while we are surrounded by technologies, people can still be suspicious of the constant progress and existence of certain technologies. The association between color green and nature shows that nature is still regarded as healing, healthy, and in control.

Folk Medicine- Mud for Ant Bites

Context: My informant spent most of her childhood playing outside at her grandmother’s house in the early 2000s. She tells me she remembers there being a lot of ant piles at the house, and it wasn’t unusual for her or another kid to stand in one without realizing. Whenever someone got an ant bite, her grandmother would collect dirt and water from the yard and rub the mud on the bites. She says it would always stop the pain, and they wouldn’t itch after you took the mud off.

Remedy: For ant bites, spread wet mud over the affected area. Let the mud dry for about 30 minutes, then wash off. This soothes pain, itching, and swelling

Thoughts: Soil tends to have a lot of nutrients in it like magnesium, potassium, and other minerals that are good for your skin. Even now, clay face masks are becoming very popular for treating skin ailments. I’m sure it has a lot of healing properties for bug bites. It could very well have been a placebo remedy; putting mud on the bites would distract a child who just stood in an ant pile. Either way, the impact of the remedy seems to be strong, as she says her grandmother still uses this treatment for the children she takes care of.

The Legend of the Tawalis

Main piece: The story was about a naughty boy, named Tawi, who was crossing a lake. He was being chased by something, I can’t remember exactly and the people nearby saw him getting chased so they shouted: “Tawi bilis” which means “Tawi faster.” The boy disappeared and at the same time, a new fish was present in the lake. They then named that new fish after the boy who had to swim faster, Tawilis. This lake was Taal lake and the Tawalis is only found in that lake.

Context: The informant lived the majority of her life in the Philippines. She then immigrated to the United States when she was 24. She learned about the legend of the tawalis from her father who told her the story numerous times.

Thoughts: I find this story pretty interesting. It attributes a certain event to the naming of a fish which shows how superstitious Filipinos could be. It seems as though this could be a scary story when given the right context. It could be used as a scare tactic for kids who are naughty. The naughty element in Tawi could be a possible reason why he was being chased in something but since my informant didn’t know, it is up for speculation.

Leaves of Three

“Leaves of three, let it be. If it’s shiny, watch your heiny. If it’s hairy, it’s a berry”

This piece of folklore is a saying to talk about how to identify poison oak. If it has three leaves or is shiny with oil, watch your heiny, meaning that it is likely poison oak. If the plant is hairy, it is a berry bush. This piece of folklore is performed typically outdoors and used for a very practical sense. It is a teaching tool to enable people to identify poison oak, whose oil will cause rashes on anyone who touches it with bare skin.

            The subject learned this piece of folklore from Boy Scouts. It embodies the type of preparedness and learning the boy scouts emphasizes and is a very practical way of remembering the qualities of a poison oak plant. The subject learned it from their Scoutmaster during a camping trip. The subject, of course, made use of it as a practical saying which is its intended purpose. They remember it because of their interest in the outdoors when they were younger, which was the reason they joined Boy Scouts in the first place.

            This saying is not just a warning for kids. It represents technical education through oral folklore. Typically, something like this would just be told by another person or read in a book. Instead, this saying was created in order to help people remember their qualities. Because of this, it takes on a different form and really represents the importance of passing down knowledge to the younger generations.

The Heidelmann Lodge

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from dialogue between my self, GK, and the informant DH.

DH: One of my favorite memories as a child was going to the “Heidelmann Lodge” with my family and getting to spend time with them. 

GK: Where is this lodge located?

DH: It is located at the Donner Summit, in Northern California. Trukee California to be exact, which is about a 7 hour drive from Los Angeles. 

GK: Tell me a little about the history of the lodge. 

DH: I think it was founded in 1947 by a man named West Heidelmann. It took about two years to build, and there were originally only 10 members at the time. It has always been a part of the San Francisco Nature Friends and now and days requires a membership for entry. 

GK: How does one become a member?

DH: It’s a pretty straight forward process. First you usually need to get a letter of recommendation from an active member. Then from there, you will be able to submit an application and have it reviewed by the board of trustees. And then if you get approved, you are required to put in five “work days”. This includes either cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the bathrooms, or working one of our special days such as: Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day Weekends. 

GK: What is there to do there?

DH: In the lodge itself, you could play ping pong, cards, there’s a piano, board games, and many other things. However during the day, we are usually outside. Depending on the season, we will usually be skiing, or going down to Donner Lake. Both are only five minute drives from the Lodge.  

Background: The informant knows of this organization through his family. They have been members at the Heidelmann Lodge for over 50 years and have been going during the summer each year. This place means a lot to the informant because it is where he got to spend a lot of time with his cousins and other family members. In addition to that, today it serves as a great place to visit his brothers and sister and get to see his nephews and nieces. 

Context: The informant and I discussed this face to face.

My Thoughts: I feel like this place is so much more than a lodge to the informant. It feels more like a gathering place for families to get to see one another. In addition it also feels like a bridge for different generations of a family. For example, the informant went while he was a kid, and got to enjoy all of the amenities and the fun times with friends. Now, he brings his own son to this place, and I’m sure he feels the same way his dad once felt. I’m sure the two have shared many of the same memories in the lodge, as it has supposedly not changed much throughout the years. 

The Indian Paintbrush

Text: So there was this little Native American boy who was born. He was not as strong as the other boys though, so when everybody else got named cool names such a “strong arms” or “fast legs,” I don’t quite remember what he was named, but it was kind of lame. He was not cool. So he’s growing up and he’s not strong so he goes to visit the shaman chief person and the guy’s like, “Just because you’re not strong doesn’t mean you don’t have other talents. Like, you might have something else. I know you’re going to be great!” So this kid is like obsessed with art and painting and stuff, and he’s always been painting as he’s been growing up. So he goes up to the top of this hill one day and he sees this gorgeous sunset and he’s like, “I want to paint that sunset.” Then this vision comes to him of this woman who is like, “Go find a buckskin as white as this,” and she holds up a white buckskin sheet (because they used to paint on leather), “and when you do, paint the sunset on it.” So he’s looking around trying to find this buckskin sheet. He’s painting and he can’t quite find the colors that match the sunset anywhere, and he’s trying to put it all together but he’s having some trouble.  So finally he gets the buckskin, but he still can’t get the colors. So he goes to the hill and he’s like, “Help me I need assistance.” So the vision lady says, “Come back tomorrow.” So he does, and when he gets back to the hill he has the exact paint that he needs on the ends of all of these paint brushes that we’re left for him, sticking out of the ground. And he paints the sunset on the sheet and he leaves the paintbrushes up there and he goes down the hill, and he shows his people his painting. And they’re like, “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” And they go back up in the morning and there’s these new beautiful red flowers that are blooming all over the countryside. And the real flowers are called the Indian paintbrushes and that’s what the Native Americans in that area use for red pigment.

Context: SH is a born and raised Texan studying psychology at USC. Her time in the south led her to be exposed to many different stories with western flairs while she was growing up.  The myth above is a story that she remembers learning at a very young age, and can be assumed to be very specific to Texas, for SH was very clear that most Texas children know this tale. I was told this piece of folklore over lunch one afternoon.

Interpretation: Myths are weird, sacred stories about creations and how the world came to be. In this case, this is the myth of how the Indian Paintbrush flowers came into existence. They don’t have any real world value because they do not interact with our world. If they do, it is considered a miracle. They are held as sacred truths and blueprints as to how we should go about living our lives. Sometimes myths are not easily translated from one language/culture to another. The Indian Paintbrush, however, contains pretty reasonable circumstance that explain how the red wildflowers came to exist when considered alongside other creation myths that would be considerably more outlandish when viewed from a western perspective.

The Stone Ñusta (Princess) of Pisac

Original
“Okay, esta es la historia de una princesa, una Anusta Inca, y esta es la historia de donde es la abuelita, toda la familia de tu abuelita Elva, de Pisac.

Hay un cerro a que le dicen Apu, que decian que era el protector del pueblo, Pisac. La princesa, hija del ese entoces, el principe, el rey de esa zona, Inca, era unica hija. Y le dijeron que el unico que se podia casar con ella era el que construiera un puente de piedra en una sola noche, en el Rio Vivilcanota que esta a la orilla del cerro del Apu. La condicion era de que ella tenia que subir el cerro toda la noche mientras el novio construia el puente de piedra en el rio.

Mientras ella subiera, no podia mirar para atras. El el momento que ella mirara para atras, todo se convertia en piedra. El tenia que construir el puente, y ella tenia que subir el cerro. Esa era la condicion para que se pudieran casar.

Entonces, el principe que era del otro pueblo, y que el matrimonio de ellos iba a constituir la allianza de los dos pueblos, estaba muy enamorado de ella y dijo que el iba a intentar de hacer el puente en una noche. Entonces en la noche que el estaba haciendo el puente, el estaba casi casi terminando, y dice la leyenda que todo el mundo le silvaba, que ella escuchaba como que la gente la llamaba por su nombre y que le silvaba y ella no podia voltear. Pero cuando ya se estaba amaneciendo, ella sintio que alguien la llamaba mucho mucho mucho, penso que ya podia voltear porque ya estaba amaneciendo, y el todavia no habia terminado el puente. Y entonces cuando volteo, todo se volvio de piedra.

Entonces cuando tu te vas al pueblo de tu abuelita, tu ves a una princesa, que es como una formacion de roca y de piedra, y tu ves unas rocas en el rio, como si se hubiera hecho un puente que no se ha terminado, ya l final, una roca grande que dicen que es la estatua del principe.”

Translation
“Okay, this is the story of a princess, an Anusta Inca, and this is the story from where your grandmother is from, and your whole grandmother’s family, in Pisac.

There is a hill that they called Apu, and they say that it was the protector of the village Pisac. The princess, the daughter of this, at the time, prince or king of the Inca village, was an only child. And they told her that the only man that she could marry was a man who could build a bridge made of stone in just one night, in the river Vivilcanota at the shore of the Apu hill. The only condition was that she also had to climb the mountain all night, while the fiancé built the stone bridge at the river.

While she climbed she could not look behind her. The moment she looked behind her, everything would turn into stone. He had to build the bridge and she had to climb the range, that was the condition so that they could marry.

So, the prince who was from a neighboring village, and the matrimony of these two would constitute the alliance of the two villages, was very enamored by her and said that he would try to make the bridge in one night. So at night when he was making the bridge, he was almost almost done, and the legend says that everyone was calling her and whistling at her. And that, she would hear people calling her name and whistling and she could not turn around. But when the sun was rising, she heard someone calling her a lot a lot a lot, and she thought that she could turn around now because it was already a new day… but he had not finished building the bridge yet. And so when she turned around, everything turned into stone.

So when you go to your grandmothers village you see a princess, who is like a rock formation made of stone, And you see some rocks at the river, as if someone had made a bridge and had not finished it, and at the end of that, you see a big rock that they say is the statue of the prince.”

Context: The informant is my mother, a Peruvian woman whose parents both come from villages near Cuzco, Peru. She grew up in Lima, the capital and the most metropolitan city in Peru. Peruvian culture, however, is deeply rooted in pride about their myths and legends, and these forms of folklore are widely known. I actually inquired about Inca creation myths on my own, but realized that this is a prime example of folklore.

Analysis: I spotted some of Propp’s functions in this myth, as well as some of the classic elements of myths, as this is a fairly traditional structure for a myth just with a bit more detail.

Turkish Cricket Dance

P.N. – “Right now, I just realized how much of a theme Nature is in all of our dances.  Nature plays a huge part in our own understanding of the world.  It’s why we have these two characters, Karagoz and Hacivat, who represent the dichotomy of the city and the country, fighting.  There’s a reason why we have this constant back-and-forth of going from the city to the farmland.  I think the reason for this is that there are only a few really big cities in Turkey, and people who live there are very, very different from the people who live in the villages, and we have so many villages . . . Everybody comes from a village, and they move to the city.  Only the newer generations are from the cities.  On that subject, folk dancing has given me a deeper connection with nature. A more sub-conscious thing.  I didn’t see how it impacted me before.  I think Turkish culture teaches you to respect nature.  SO . . .”

-“There’s this dance where, again, we’re crickets; and we have these spoons that we click to sound like the chirping noises.  We dance in a circle together, kinda going around, to the music, and as it slows down the music breaks and somebody sings in the tone of a prayer.  Here, we bend down and click our spoons.”

And that connects you to nature how?

“I guess because we’re portraying nature.  It adds a much more mystical aspect to it, because, like, we have such a disconnect – especially now – with nature as an entity, because we use it more as a backdrop.  These dances help me keep nature here at the forefront.  Because; think about it, we exist because of nature, and I don’t think we focus on that enough.”

 

For me, this dance brings to light a very different topic.  While this person’s other dance reminds her of hardship and oppression, this one brings up thoughts of responsibility.  The environmentalist thought that everything we do counts, and that it is our duty as inhabitants of this planet to be mindful, is mightily prevalent here.  It makes me wonder how the idea of environmentalism, modesty, and perspective play roles in our everyday lives, as well as in our cultures. 

Rain Song from Living Earth Camp

Abstract:

This piece is about a rain song that is sung at Living Earth Camp when it hasn’t rain in awhile. It stems from “native” songs, but there is no evidence.

Main Piece:

“L: I went to like a nature camp in the years I was in middle school over the summer. So it was like a sleepaway camp, but it only lasted a week. And it was weird because it was mostly white people, but they’d be like “oh this is the ancient song, this ancient rain song.” I don’t think they realized how problematic it was. We had this one time when it hadn’t been raining lately, like we we in a drought or something, so they took us down to the river and said “so we’re going to sing this rain song.” So you sing this when you are splashing the water around and it goes like “wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah, wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah. Washa-ta-day-ah-day-ah-day-ah.” And you do that over and over again. And it actually ended up raining the next day.

C: Wow, so it worked?

L: Yeah, so now I have all this white guilt singing it.

C: What is the camp’s name?

L: Living Earth Camp. And it was or felt very spiritual and connected to nature. But it was still like a $500 camp for a bunch of kids to cover themselves in mud.

C: Where was it?

L: Like an hour away from where I lived, so still in Virginia.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old girl from Charlottesville, VA. She attended this camp for 3 years in middle school and learned this song the first year she was at the camp when she was in 6th grade.

Analysis:

Rain songs that are based on “native” traditions never seem quite genuine, but the intention behind them is interesting. I thought it was curious that a rain song has to have roots in “native” folklore, and not from somewhere else. This reminds me of learning of tourist items that were labeled as “authentic” or “native.” I think a lot of people try to go back to the roots of Native culture because of it’s connection to the Earth and spirituality. Though there is more to Native culture than that, in today’s popular culture that is what is most projected. Since children are little, we learn that there are certain things to sing to cause things to happen. When we want the rain to come, we sing things like this – the rain song, to bring rain. When we want rain to go away, we sing “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” It is important to recognize when songs are a bit problematic like the informant did as well.

“Nature Organizes Best”

Context & Analysis

The subject is a good friend of mine who has been going through some difficult times recently; I believe this is a very grounding (and likely comforting phrase) for her to remember. It has a similar tone to ‘Whatever’s meant to be will be’. I also think it is interesting that the phrase is not necessarily religious—and the subject is not religious herself—yet she still mentions spiritual ideas like God in her description of the proverb.

Main Piece

“My parents say this thing in which, it’s like,  “Nature organizes best”, which just means that a god—not necessarily god, I don’t know, in which, like, the way of the universe is working out that everything is supposed to be the way it’s meant to be—kind of like karma almost, but a little more to it than that. Like whatever’s happening in your life in the moment is supposed to happen because nature is organizing for you to learn and to grow and to become the best version of yourself which is something that my parents have always said to me when bad things are happening or when good things are happening. That things aren’t necessarily in your control and that, like, there’s something else out there and it’s not just you and that the world is working in your favor.”