“Friend: When I was in middle school at a Christian private school, there was this rumor that if you kissed in a hot tub you would get pregnant. I had a hot tub at my house and I remember at my birthday party in 8th grade we started playing truth or dare in my hot tub. One of the boys dared one of the girls to kiss another guy and we all freaked out (but not visibly, because you know, eighth grade is when you’re supposed to be cool about everything). She eventually kissed the guy and then people started talking the whole next week at school about how she was pregnant and she was going to have to marry that kid.”
Me: Why do you think that was a rumor?
Friend: “I think parents didn’t want kids to be messing around in the hot tub, you know where it’s hard to see where people’s hands are. Now that I think about it, I have heard that if you have sex in water and let’s say the guy pulls out right away, there’s still a chance that you can get pregnant. Like if the sperm were to travel through the water? It seems ridiculous that just kissing can do that, but kissing leads to other things. If you’re a parent you probably don’t want your kid getting in the hot tub with someone of the opposite sex no matter what.”
Analysis: I hadn’t heard this folklore about kissing in a hot tub, but I definitely heard that you weren’t supposed to go too far when you’re in water with someone. I think the fact that she was at a private Christian school says a lot about this folklore. Chastity is a big part of the culture, and so kissing overall would be a taboo, in the hot tub or otherwise.
My friend from Paraguay has a lot of folklore about the seven Guarani monsters and the legends behind them. The Kurupi was the strangest of all the seven that he told me about.
Friend: “There are several Guarani monsters I learned about growing up in Paraguay. One of them is the Kurupi, a weird gremlin-like dude with a really long penis. I think he represents the spirit of fertility or something. ”
Me: Were there any stories about him?
Friend: “Yes. In ‘the old days’ a lot of people would say (if they had an unwanted pregnancy) that Kurupi had impregnated them without even entering their home. For example, if you were a single woman or if you had cheated on your husband and didn’t want to get into trouble, you would blame it on Kurupi. His penis is so long that he can go through windows and doors in the night. There are also a lot of stories about the Kurupi taking young women and raping them.”
Me: Did you ever believe the stories?
Friend: “No, I never really believed in the Kurupi. Mostly he’s just a funny little demon that we’d laugh about in grade school.”
Analysis: The Kurupi is certainly the strangest looking creature I’ve ever seen. Besides the initial hilarity of his appearance, the tale of the Kurupi is creative and disturbing. In a place and time where modern medicine cannot explain pregnancies and sex, legends will replace science. This is a clear example where women would become pregnant (by someone other than their intended) and the only way to protect their virtue would be to blame it on the Kurupi. In many ways, belief in a creature like this can settle marital disputes before they even arise. Additionally, however, the Kurupi could have taken the blame for many rape incidents– when a real person was the perpetrator.
LP’s (the informant) family is originally from Mexico. She learned this superstition from her mother who advised her not to eat certain foods when she was menstruating. I remember when I was roommates with LP my freshman year, and her mom would bring her certain foods that she believed would help reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. For the pregnancy part, she said her entire family believed in the tradition and that her mother used this method to determine the sex of a baby, and has never been wrong.
Both of these things apply to women, either pregnant or menstruating women specifically. Therefore, the following needle test is used on a pregnant woman, usually within the home.
“During your period, don’t eat spicy stuff because those make cramps worse. Don’t eat watermelon because that makes it worse too, or any watery fruit will hurt you. It’s bad to eat these when you’re menstruating. Also, when you’re pregnant don’t eat watery foods because they’re afraid the baby will slip out. Ha, it’s so strange….Oh also! When you’re pregnant there’s a test to see if you will have a boy or girl baby. Someone will put a needle on a red string and dangle it over the mother’s stomach when she’s lying down. If the needle starts swinging back and forth it means it’s a boy, and if it goes in a circle, it’s a girl. My mom has done this and has always gotten it right. Also if your pregnant stomach is bulging out, it’s a boy, if it’s round and droopy it’s a girl.”
I’m very curious as to how this needle test came about. Is there some sort of reasoning behind it? LP did not know how it came about, so she wasn’t able to answer me. I’d like to know where they got the idea about the direction of the needle swinging indicating the sex of the baby. Additionally, LP tried to explain the reasoning behind eating certain foods during menstruation and while it seemed plausible, I don’t think it’s scientifically accurate.
A, the informant, heard this from her grandmother as well as it just being a common belief of her Jewish culture and religion. Her mother made sure never to go to a graveyard when she was pregnant with her, but she really had no reason to go to a cemetery anyways at that time.
This is a Jewish superstition that applies to pregnant women. However, I know common beliefs about this are held in various cultures concerning women not going into cemeteries when they’re pregnant.
“Pregnant women aren’t supposed to go to graveyards because apparently at the stage they’re in, they’re open to receiving demons. So if they walk through a graveyard…well…the souls are thought to enter them. Them, meaning both the baby and the mother. Then once you have the baby, it will be cursed and so will you. So…just avoid cemeteries when you’re pregnant.”
I feel like I’ve heard this before or something similar. As far as most superstitions, this one makes some sense to me. For those who really believe in a graveyard as a very spiritual place filled with ghosts, it makes sense that they would not want to expose a baby to those potentially harmful spirits. Graveyards already kind of creep me out and I do believe in ghosts, so I could see myself believing in this superstition.
The informant told me this story about her family when I asked about her influences in her writing. She told me that her family has always been interested in psychics as they believe that many of the female members of the family have psychic powers. This stems from the fact that her great-grandmother was psychic – as detailed below:
“So in the light of women in my family having psychic dreams, my great-grandma who was widely tough to be psychic, so this is in my mom’s line, so it’s in that line still, like the matriarchy, she like, could see ghosts, and people like my aunt has claimed to see her ghost, that like she’s like a spooky figure, and i never met, and she had a dream before when my mom was born and I don’t think she had a sister yet, and my great-grandma was like staying with my grandma because she was having trouble with the pregnancy. and my great grandmother had this dream of a baby carriage rolling down this hill, and like chasing after it and not being able to stop it. And then, she told this to my grandma and she told her that she thinks that there’s something wrong with the baby and my grandma’s like no, it’s fine, and she didn’t want to worry her too much about it, but she ended up giving birth to a stillborn baby! I know, it’s that creepy? And i guess now people see her ghost and stuff”
The dream confirms the psychic ability of the Great-grandmother to the rest of her family. Another post that investigates dream in the informant family is “Mother’s Psychic Dream.” This shows that dreams in the female line are very important to the informant.
My informant is the mother of a USC student. She is an immigrant from Cameroon and came to America with her husband and son before giving birth to their daughter.
“A pregnant woman would, should…at all cost avoid seeing what she would consider as ugly until the gives birth. The fear, is that uh, her baby will become ugly if she does. It is also believed that if she eats a cobra before giving birth that it will speed the delivery of the baby. Again, this—cobra—is a delicacy usually reserved for only, for only the men. If you have not realized it yet, my people in every way see women as less than equal to men. A good woman is supposed to be behind her husband. He must have the last word, she must sleep behind him, she must please him at all cost. This is of course…changing with the access to higher education and influence of western culture. Divorce rates are soaring and more women are opting to marry later, not get married, and not have children…husbands are even blamed when their wives are troublesome because they cannot control her!”
Analysis: This belief illuminates the importance of beauty within Cameroonian culture. Especially in the case of the birth being a girl, it would be desired for her to be beautiful so she could marry a wealthy and handsome husband. In addition, the allowance of women to consume cobra during pregnancy demonstrates that women who are bearing children are considered of a higher status than women who are not, because they are allowed to eat foods that are typically reserved only for men (who are looked at with more respect within Cameroonian society). My informant made a point of reiterating that men in their society are more highly valued than women, however also made note that within the western world these beliefs have lost value due to women in the United States being able to attend school and support themselves without a husband. Of course there are communities and families who still adhere strictly to these beliefs even though they live in a western nation such as America.
The informant’s family comes from the Bahamas. She was born in the Bahamas and is a talented Bahamian woman. Her mother and she were extremely close and she learned a lot of the folklore that she shared with me from either her mother or from being with her mother. Eventually her family moved to Florida where they learned American cultures and were able to compare and contrast the two.
…is performed if a woman is pregnant at her baby shower. A ring is paced on a string and she holds one end of the string in one hand and the other end of the string in the other and pulls the string so that the ring will move. If the ring swings back and forward the baby is predicted to be a boy, and if the ring stays in the middle of the string the baby is predicted to be a girl.
The informant born in the Bahamas and raised in Florida, learned this custom as a young girl. Her mom would take her to baby showers of her mother’s friends. “It was so exciting” the informant said, “to go and experience the pregnant ladies as they would celebrate the new life they were creating”. At these baby showers, very similar to the ones we in American are use to, they perform different customs or rituals to either predict the baby’s gender, when it will be born, and just as a well to celebrate the almost to be mother and the new life she would carry inside of her. To explain it to me (a Wyoming resident with no exotic traditional background) the informant said, “You know like the old wives tales? That is kind of what this is. I know you’ve heard of the saying If the belly is high the baby is a girl and if the belly is low the baby will be a boy, it is really similar to that I guess. My culture just does it [the string and ring custom] for fun, but we actually believe in it [its results]”.
When asked how this tradition started, the informant replied, “I’m not sure, I’ve never asked where they got it from, I just remember it being performed at almost every Bahamian women’s baby showers I’ve went to. I am sure the ones where it wasn’t performed, probably the woman pregnant wanted the gender [of the baby] to be a surprise”. If mothers don’t perform this when they want the gender of their baby to be a surprise, I suspect that usually the custom has correct answers which is really neat.
I think that this custom, ritual, or tradition is sort of similar to the “belief” that Americans have about pregnancy from old wives tales. I was extremely happy when the informant connected her custom to a belief that I was familiar with to help me understand why they do it. Similar to here, I think that the custom is sort of for fun, but when it boils down to it, whatever the results of either how a person is carrying their child or what the string and ring test shows, is a legitimate prediction of the gender of their child until it is born and they are able to learn the truth.
You drink miyuk gook (seaweed soup) as a mom while you’re pregnant to give good nutrients to the child. Miyuk is known to cleanse the blood, so it is good for pregnant women. After the child is born, the child eats seaweed soup on his or her birthday every year to continue to receive good nutrients as well as to remember the mother who bore him or her.
Miyuk also helps make the breast milk healthy. The mother ultimately eats miyuk gook for the health of the child.
Pontianak is a female ghost, or the Southeast Asian equivalent of the vampire. A woman could become a pontianak by committing suicide upon discovering that her husband is cheating on her, or if the woman dies during pregnancy. They live on banana trees, and there are many banana plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. When I was a kid, my grandmother would warn me not to get too close to banana trees. Or don’t look up when you’re near a banana tree. They like to hang upside down too. I’ve never seen one and I haven’t known anyone who’s seen a pontianak, but they’re usually seen by village folks. Pontianak have long black hair, long fangs, and a white dress, and they usually haunt only men. They don’t suck blood like Western vampires do, but they suck out your organs.
The informant grew up hearing stories about the pontianak. The legend of this creature could be a reflection of expected gender roles in Malaysian and Indonesian societies, and also fertility and faithfulness.
Informant: “This is how you do it. Take a pin, needle, or wedding ring and attach it to a thread. Then you hold the dangling item over mom to be’s belly while she is lying down. If the needle or wedding ring swings in a circular motion, you will be having a girl. If it moves in a to and fro motion like a pendulum, you will be having a boy.”
Me: “Did you try it?”
Informant: “I did and it worked for me! But it’s just an old wives tale.”
Analysis: This is a very common thing to do when one is eager to know the gender of one’s baby. It was thought to originate in Italy, except instead of a wedding ring, they used needles on threads. Due to female roles back in time, needles and threads were more common in an expecting woman’s life than nowadays. Using the wedding ring as opposed to the thread was thought to originate in Ireland.
Pregnancy is one of those exciting events, and the gender prediction always arouses the curiosity of others. There are several “old wives tales” on predicting the gender of a baby, however some of them contradict each other. According to testimonials online, people will often end up with an even split of results -50% of the tests will predict a boy, and 50% will predict a girl. This suggests that there is little truth or evidence to support the effectiveness of the tests, which may be why the informant was skeptical to believe in it despite the fact that it worked for her.