USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘rain’
Folk Dance

Mayan Rain Dance

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: There’s a thing that the mayans do for rain, there still are some mayans, but not many. They still do it, and if you go to see it, and it actually rains it’s kinda scary. They do this dance around the fire asking for rain from the rain god Chaac, and then they play this special instrument that is made out of cascaveles. It looks like a big bean with little seeds inside of it to make noise. It’s kinda like a morocco.

Collector: Have you ever seen the dance?

Informant: Yes I have. It’s really cool. They wear these typical outfits. It has like a feather hat and stuff, and they do these paintings on their face with red coloring. They make their own ink, too. I remember when I visited the pyramids, and my tour guide was like “This is where they make their own ink.” Anyways, so they sing in mayan. I can’t understand then, so I don’t know what they sing exactly. The dance itself is just a mixture of movements, nothing very particular. Oh, and it’s also from the south, I think. Yeah, definitely from the south.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: Well, I like this one because of the one time that I went there and I saw them doing it, and then a few hours later it started raining. It was kinda scary at first, but I thought it was really cool. I think it’s interesting to to see how there’s different stuff and cultures inside of one country. And even though they’re praising someone who’s not my god, because I’m Catholic, it’s still cool to see how it works.

I think that this rain dance is particularly interesting because of how my friend told me that the one time she saw the Mayans doing the rain dance, it actually rained. I also then thought about how, if she believed in her God but saw the miracles of another God, would she change her beliefs? I thought it was really cool how even though she still believed in her own God, she could appreciate the different cultures and beliefs of others.

Humor

Jokes about Seattle

BA: There are a lot of Seattle jokes I hear. What do you call two straight days of rain?

What?

BA: A weekend. What do you call the big pointy sign above a tourist’s head?

What?

BA: An umbrella. As you can see, the only jokes I’ve heard about Seattle really just make fun of the rain, or maybe Kurt Cobaine or hipsters. One last one: a tourist goes to Seattle and asks a local kid, “does it ever stop raining here?”. He says, “How should I know, I’m only six”.


 

One of the defining characteristics of Seattle is its remarkably consistent rain, which the informant knows to be the source of most Seattle-jokes.

Customs
Homeopathic
Magic

Panamanian Rain Prevention

“We have this tradition were if you are planning something that involves the outdoors and you don’t want it to rain (if you are having a birthday party outside for example), you fill a cup with water and put a knife in it with the sharp part facing down. The idea is that you are cutting and stopping the water (cutting the rain cycle), making it so that it doesn’t rain outside. The more you think its gonna rain, the more knives you put in the cup. We’ve had up to three knives in a cup in my house.”

The informant explains that placing knives in glasses filled with water is a method that traditional Panamanians use to try to stop incoming rain. Placing the knives in the water symbolizes cutting the rain. This is done with the intention of causing the rest of the day to be filled completely with sunshine. One does not have to acquire absolute evidence that it will rain in order to be able to participate in this activity. One only has to believe that it will rain.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. His maid, whose family has strongroots in Panama, was the one who showed him this tradition. She knew that Jonathan’s mother always looked forward to having his older brothers over for their weekly family dinners and that they would not arrive if it was raining outside. With this in mind, she would put knives into a glass before every scheduled family meal to keep everyone together and happy. Although Jonathan and his family did appreciate the gesture, he did admit that most upper-class Panamanians simply believed the act was innefective witchcraft.

This tradition seems to demonstrate the differences in relationsihp to traditional folklore between the upper and lower classes in Panama. Jonathan’s maid, who comes from the lower class, clearly believes in the power of the knives and actively attempts to help others by using their magic. On the other hand, while Jonathan’s upper class family did enjoy the symbolism behind the tradition, they were not as eager to accept it as a viable tool to prevent bad weather. Innterestingly, both parties were able to respect each other’s beliefs, even if they did not line up very well.

 

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

A Soft Rain

Original Script: “My Grandmother would say when it would rain, like a soft rain, my grandmother would tell me it’s a soft rain, she learned that when she went to Ireland…it doesn’t apply to thunderstorms. Only lightly rainy days…”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jessica grew up in a catholic Irish home. Her family is very connected with their Irish heritage. Her grandmother had went to Ireland a couple of decades ago and learned the term “soft rain,” which only applies to the equivalent of a “sprinkle.” Her grandmother now always uses the term.

Context of the Performance: Light Rainy Days

Thoughts about the piece: When Jessica had mentioned the term to me before; I was thoroughly confused, what exactly what “soft rain” was. Was it rain that did not hurt, like some of the pelting rain that happens in the Arizona Valley (where I am from)? However, after she explained it to me, it did make sense why light rain was called “soft rain.” After researching about the term, I found that many articles published in Ireland, used the term soft rain. For example, there is an article called Detailed Annul Report of the Registrar General for Ireland published in 1892.1 In this report, it tells of what the weather was like the past year in the country of Ireland. I found that usually “soft rain” came up when it was springtime. I also found that because Ireland weather is often rainy, they have many terms for rain: soft rain, hard rain, spitting, and bucketing, were the mot terms that came up through the documented source.

Furthermore, upon more research, I found a book that documents Irish literature named Irish Literature: Irish Authors and Their Writings in Ten Volumes by Justin McCarthy published in 1904.2 While reading this book, I found that many authors, all ranging from poets to writers, used the term “soft rain,” notably, when talking about beauty or spring. It is interesting that the Irish say, “báisteach bog” (which is a rough translation for soft rain) because other adjectives in Irish relating to soft, such as lách, are related to the English words of soft, delicate, and lovely.3 This could explain why many of the Irish authors used the term “soft rain” when speaking about beauty.

Additionally, when bringing beauty into the term, it is interesting that the Irish use the term “soft rain” because it is applicable to the equivalent of “beautiful rain” or “pleasant rain.” Perhaps because of the frequent rainfall and thunderstorms in Ireland, it is literally “beautiful” and “pleasant” when there is a light rain. This light rain can also be correlated with springtime and it literally bringing beauty into nature because it waters the vegetation in Ireland. (This also correlates with the first source mentioned in the “soft rain” bringing upon vegetation).

Thus, the Irish speak for “soft rain” is a correlation to rain bringing in a pleasant atmosphere to Ireland due to the frequent rainfall Ireland’s weather is usually composed of.

1 Unkown. Detailed Annual Report of the Registrar General for Ireland. Vol. 28-32. N.p.: Ireland, 1892. Google Books. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

2 McCarthy, Justin, Maurice Francis Egan, and Charles Welsh. Irish Authors and Their Writings in Ten Volumes. New York: P.F. Collier, 1904. Google Books. Web. 01 Apr. 20.

3 “Google Translate: English to Irish.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

‘Ohi’a Lehua

The informant is my younger sister, and over Spring Break, she and her friend had stayed with me. This is one of the legends she told me while we were getting ready for bed.


 

There was a man named ‘Ohi’a and a woman named Lehua, and they were in love. But the goddess of fire, Pele, was also in love with the man. Out of jealousy towards the Lehua, and to punish ‘Ohi’a for not returning her affections, Pele cursed ‘Ohi’a into a tree so that the couple could no longer be together. Lehua was devastated, and would cry day after day next to her lover who was now a tree. Out of pity for Lehua, Pele turned her into a blossom on the tree, so the couple could be reunited. To this day, if you pick a flower from an ‘Ohi’a Lehua tree, it will start to rain, because you have separated Lehua from her lover, and the rain is her tears of grief.

Background & Analysis

The informant was raised in Hawaii, and she had heard the legend from friends and teachers at school, as well as from the guides when taking tours of different Hawaiian gardens. The informant does believe in the legend and the superstition of Lehua blossom picking, so she will not pick any flowers from the tree. In the past, a classmate of hers had done so once on a field trip, and within the hour, what was a sunny day, became cloudy and rainy.

This legend has a hint of Romeo and Juliet to it, in that the lovers cannot bear to be separated from one another. It’s also a bit tragic, given how when one goes down, so does the other. This legend is very widespread throughout Hawaii, and this particular variation illustrates the power of Pele, as well as the power of love.

*For another version of this legend, see <http://www.lovebigisland.com/big-island-mythology/ohia-lehua/> or <http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/10/peles_revenge.html>

Folk Beliefs

Killing Spiders Brings the Rain

So, if you kill a spider, it will rain the next day. But I don’t think it really works because I’ve killed a lot of spiders, and it haven’t really been raining the next day. I learned it when I was little from my… I think it was my parents, but I’ve known it for…well it feels like forever.

 

Stina is from Sweden and she says that this is a common belief in Swedish culture. She does not, however, find it to be true. She said that she’s killed many spiders and it has never really rained the next day. She said that the one time that it did rain, rain was already in the forecast for the next day and that she just happened to kill a spider the day before.

 

This belief about killing spiders differs from my own. I have always been conscious about not killing spiders for a number of reasons: spiders trap flies I their web and so they are valuable to have around; I also have had a number of experiences where I killed a spider and, that night, I had horrible dreams that I was being attacked by giant spiders. Since those dreams [some years ago] I’ve only killed one spider. I am not particularly arachnophobia, so I have no real issues with spiders. I would never kill a spider unless it was physically harming me.

 

Based on my experience, my version of Stina’s story would read, “If you kill a spider you will have nightmares that night”. 

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Salt Cross

Form of Folklore:  Folk Belief

Informant Bio:  The informant was born in Yerevan, Armenia, where she attended a Russian school.  At the age of fourteen she and her family moved to America, where she was formally introduce to the English language and had to continue going to a school where the primary language was English.  She has had exposure to both Armenian (from her youth and family) and American folklore (by living and studying in America).

Context:  The interview was conducted in the living room of the informant’s house.

Item:    Armenian Transliteration – “Yerp vor andzreve galis, aghov khach petke arvi getinu vor kuturvi”

English Translation – “When it is raining, you need to make a cross on the floor with salt so that it will stop”

Informant Comments:  As a child, growing up in Armenia, the informant believed that making a cross on the floor in salt actually was the reason why the rain would stop.  Now, she no longer believes this and has not passed this folklore on to any of her children.  She does not think making the cross would be a bad thing, but simply thinks it is not a necessary act to stop the rain.

Analysis:  Making a cross on the floor may have some connection with the fact that most Armenians in Armenia are Christian.  Since rain is sometimes considered to be the “tears of God”, perhaps making a cross on the ground that the rain falls on is a way of making the tears/rain stop.  The roots of this folk belief could be numerous; this is merely one possibility.  I do not think that it is in anyway required to stop the rain.  However, if children would like to feel that they are in some way in control of the weather (even when they are not) I see no harm in telling them about this folk belief.

Earth cycle
general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

청개구리 (The Green Frog) — Korean Folk Tale

My informant told me about a story he had heard in Korea, told to him by a teacher when he was in elementary school:

“Once, there was a frog. A green frog, I guess, or–never mind, it doesn’t really matter. Just a frog. Uh, this frog was really disobedient and never listened to his mom. So if she told him to go one path, he’d go on the other one, and if she told him to shower he wouldn’t, and stuff like that. He just, like, does the opposite of whatever she says. A really mean frog kid. Anyway, so the mom is on her deathbed or something, and she thinks like, because he’s always done the opposite of whatever she says, she tells him to bury her in the ground so that he’ll take the opposite and bury her in the ocean, you know? She actually really wants to be thrown in the ocean, but she tells him the opposite. And so she dies, but uh, the frog kid feels guilty for all the crap’s he done in the past and chooses that moment of her death to decide to do exactly as she says. Which uh, sucks, obviously. So he buries her in the ground thinking he’s finally done the right thing when he’s making this huge mistake that’ll make her spirit or soul or whatever suffer forever. [Silence] And that’s supposed to be why when it rains, the frogs cry. Like, the rain reminds them of the ocean which reminds them of the mother that never got buried where she wanted to be. And they get sad, and they cry.”

My informant said that it was most likely a story disseminated to Korean children in order to instill obedience, to parents and elders at a young age. The tying of the story to the frogs’ crying is mainly a way to connect it to reality and make it seem more believable. That the wayward actions of one frog had caused such collective sadness in the entire frog community also seems to imply that a child’s disobedience to his or her parents is a massive enough act of disrespect that it can tear a hole in the fabric of society. Korean children, my informant said, are thus educated from a young age to respect not just their parents, but all of their elders, through this and other stories.

I found it interesting that this particular story, the one that this informant remembered, was one that had used sentiment and empathy to convey its message to its audience. My informant said that he had heard many stories too, of children being kidnapped by monsters in the night if they disobeyed their parents, but that “The Green Frog” was always the one that stuck with him. Instead of using intimidation and fright tactics, this folk tale trusts in a children’s love for their parents, and evokes its moral only indirectly, implying, you wouldn’t want to make your parents sad, would you? This was probably the reason why, my informant said, that this folk tale has always been one of the ones he has remembered over the years.

general
Humor

Shadow Creature Prank – American

“So, my brothers and I when we were young probably early, I guess eleven or twelveish – that area, um, it was raining outside, we all shared a room you know and bunk beds. And we were looking out the window, just watching the rain and stuff. And I gotta an idea to like scare my brothers, because they were young and gullible, to tell them that I saw a shadow creature sneaking around the rain in in th in the back in the yard and everything. Um, and my middle brother swears he saw it. They got freaked out and scared and it was a good laugh. About a month ago – which is like 10 years later – my brother brought it up, he brought it up to me and he’s like, ‘Remember a long time ago we saw that shadow creature?’ And to this day he still remembers that shadow creature and believes that it was there. And I, I totally made it up.”

The informant is a 26-year-old cinematographer who grew up as a military brat moving every couple of years, before coming to Los Angeles, California for college and to work in the motion picture industry. He is the oldest of three boys and was recently married.

The informant when asked about this prank said that he thought “it was a good prank at the time” and a funny ghost story. He said it was especially funny that his younger brother still believes he saw the creature after being told repeatedly that the informant made the whole thing up. He said he added that he “was always teasing them.”

The informant is has the personality of a prankster and loves to throw people for a loop in order to get a laugh, so I definitely agree with the informant’s analysis in that regard. That the type of day was a slow, rainy sort makes sense as well, as the informant was clearly looking for something to do that day and why not go to his favorite pastime of teasing his brothers. I would mention that the context that his brother, who lives in Northern California and doesn’t get to see the informant very often, was most likely in the hours before the informant’s wedding when the sky was drizzling off and on. This original context definitely lends itself to nostalgia – as a major life change was about to take place.

[geolocation]