USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘oil’
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Re-entry into a Home: Indian Folk Belief

Text:

MM: “See when we return home after a long time, then it is supposed to be pretty auspicious that in front of the main door of the house someone pour oil on like both sides of the door – before you like enter the house.”

MS: “Is it usually when the person is already at the door, or before they show up?”

MM: “No like when you show up, you have to wait at the door, and then someone pours the oil and then you’re allowed to enter.”

MS: “Was there ever a time this ritual was done differently?”

MM: “Yeah there was this one time when we showed up somewhere and they had already put the oil on the doorstep and the door wasn’t even open yet and it was supposed to be like a super bad omen. Like you’re supposed to do it the right way, after the people show up, not before.”

MM: “My grandparents believe in this pretty ardently and some people from my parents’ generation do as well, but we kids like definitely don’t see the point and I don’t think I’d like continue to do it if it were just me.”

 

Context:

The informant is a college student from India, currently doing a study abroad program in America. The conversation was in response to my question about any odd things that happened in the informant’s past that she did not agree with but had to partake in anyway. The informant is also bilingual so the conversation happened in a mix of English and Hindi. I have translated the relevant Hindi parts to English as per my own interpretation and in an attempt to retain the meaning as best as possible. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

The informant does not really understand the reasons behind the ritual herself, and is adamant in not taking part in it, but she still acknowledges the proper way to do it and the consequences of messing up even the order in which the actions must take place. I think this ritual developed because there was a time when people would often go away for long periods of time and the lack of communication abilities would imply that there was no way of knowing if and when they would be coming back. Further, there was implicitly more of a risk in travel earlier than it is now. The ritual seems to be a response of gratitude for a safe return as well as a prayer that even return be as safe and sound as this one.

Folk Beliefs
Narrative

Texas Indians with Cadillacs

My informant told me a story that his father told him once as a child:

“My father tells the story that when he was a small boy he lived with his family in Dallas Texas in the 1930’s. Back then local Texans and Native Americans didn’t get along real well. My grandfather used to tell my father that the “Indians” have so much money from oil on their reservations that they all drive brand new Cadillacs. And when the car runs out of gas they simply leave it by the side of the road and walk away from it and just buy another one with a full tank.”

My informant said that his father was a slightly racist man, and although he would never admit it, he did tell stories such as this one that showed it. He said that his father told this story only once or twice when he was younger, but he remembered it because he believed it to be true.

This piece of folklore shows the racial tension between the Texans and the Indians there at the time. There was clearly a bit of resentment that went into the telling of this story. It seems like this story was meant to put down the Indians by painting them to be less economically responsible than the Texans.

 

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