USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘rain’
Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

Rock Hair Superstition

The following is from a 20-year-old USC student.  She is describing a superstition she was taught.  I will be represented by K and she will be represented by A.

 

K: So, tell me about some superstitions you have.

A: Uh, yeah, so… my… my grandma used to tell me, back in North Carolina, if it’s raining… with- when the sun is up, like it’s not cloudy and it’s raining- and you look under a rock, you’ll find the color of your future husband’s hair… It’s… true story.

K: So, what does this piece of folklore mean to you?
A: Uhm… to me it means that… uh, my husband’s going to have brown hair… and every day I look for him… Thanks Grandma!

Context:

This conversation took place in my living room with a group of people.  The informant brought up the superstition taught by her grandma and I asked her if I could record it for this project.  She agreed and we all listened to the story.

My Thoughts:

Like most superstitions, it is clear that this one is not necessarily accurate, but something fun to believe in.  The informant’s grandma told her about this when she was younger, probably trying to give her something to believe in and look forward to as a lot of adults do with kids these days.  We see this in a lot of Disney films with the idea of believing in a better future and looking forward to a happily ever after.  It is likely that this belief is meant as a happily ever after type.

Folk Beliefs
general
Magic

A Cat Giving Birth

Description

“They say that when the sun is out and it’s raining, a cat is giving birth. My mother would say it all the time, but I remember one time we were in the car and we were driving, I was a toddler. It’s raining and it’s sunny, and she would say, ‘Oh look, a cat is giving birth right now.’ I asked her, ‘How do you know, mom?’ and she was just, ‘It’s just true.’”

Context

This conversation came when I was discussing the rain back where I am from, and this informant as well as another discussed their beliefs surrounding rain while the sun shines. The informant heard it first from their mother, when they were in the car and driving, as outlined in the description.

Analysis

I found it interesting that I had two different people from two different cultures reflecting on this belief that there had to be something happening because it was raining and sunny at the same time. The closest thing I remember believing is that after a rain, or if there was a rainbow while it was still raining, there was a little leprechaun and a pot of gold at the end of it. My friends would make jokes about God peeing onto Earth, of course, but that was the most of it. I love that different cultures have different explanations, but I cannot begin to think what witches and rain and sun have to do with each other.

 

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
general
Signs

Puerto Rican Witches Getting Married

Description

“In Puerto Rico, they say a witch is getting married.”

Context

I was sitting with a few informants as we all discussed our cultures and our different belief systems. After one informant randomly offered their thoughts on what the Persians believe about rain when the sun shines, this informant gave me this tidbit of information. She went on further to explain that the origins of the belief are unclear, but that whenever it rained while the sun was shining, she had clear memories of her mother pointing at the sky and saying it.

Analysis

I found it interesting that I had two different people from two different cultures reflecting on this belief that there had to be something happening because it was raining and sunny at the same time. The closest thing I remember believing is that after a rain, or if there was a rainbow while it was still raining, there was a little leprechaun and a pot of gold at the end of it. My friends would make jokes about God peeing onto Earth, of course, but that was the most of it. I love that different cultures have different explanations, but I cannot begin to think what witches and rain and sun have to do with each other.

 

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.

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