Tag Archives: Religion

Christ is Risen

Piece
R: “Christ is Risen!”
O: “He is Risen Indeed!”
Context
On Easter, one would greet another those they meet with “Christ is Risen!” and that person is supposed to respond with “He is Risen Indeed!”
The informant makes this exchange with people at their church and family members when waking them in the morning. They learned it from members of their childhood church.
My Thoughts
This exchange of ritualistic words is to celebrate and proclaim what Christians believe to be the most important part of Easter, the miracle of Christ’s resurrection. It is in response to Jesus’s benediction (after his resurrection) in Matthew 28:18-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. It could also be a method of distinguishing who is a Christian and who isn’t throughout the day.

Meaning of the Dove’s Cooing

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my father, that was told to him in a casual setting during his childhood in a Pakistani village.

Background: The informant was recounting some common sayings that his aunts and older relatives mentioned in their everyday life. This particular saying is an explanation for the cooing of doves, mentioned to him by both of his aunts. Such things were told in a matter-of-fact manner, and widespread throughout the region.

Main piece: 

Aunt: Do you hear the sound of the dove cooing? It always makes the same sound over and over again, ‘Coo coo coo’. If you listen closely, however, you can see that it sounds like it is saying, ‘Yusuf coo’. 

Informant: Why would it say that?

Aunt: It’s been saying that for hundreds of years, after the prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was thrown down the well by his brothers. Ever since then, the dove has been trying to let everybody know what happened to him.

Analysis: This is another myth that I hadn’t heard before, attempting to connect the unique cooing of the dove to a sacred, religious story. ‘coo’ in Punjabi, the language that the informant and those around him were speaking, translates to ‘well’. 

Filipino Customs with Death

Main Piece: When you bury a person it is custom to put in their hands a broken rosary. It’s because Filipinos believe that cutting the rosary breaks the cycle of death in the family, so no one else in the family dies. I also heard that they do this so that the ghost of the deceased rests easy and doesn’t visit the family.  

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 this tradition from her family.

Thoughts: I have never heard of this before but it seems to show superstition and fear of the dead in the Filipino Community. Religion is strong in the Filipino community and plays a big role in their beliefs. The emphasis on religion is shown by the rosary, which is a religious item in Christianity. The circular nature of the rosary also reflects the life cycle, which is why the informant believed that breaking the cycle would change the outcome. I find it interesting how religion affects common beliefs and values which is emphasized with this tradition.

A Filipino Pun

Context:Context: The informant (NA) is a freshman at USC. He lives in a Filipino household and experiences all of the traditions that a family in the Philippines would have. He heard this joke from both his peers and his family. The piece was performed on an online conference through a Zoom meeting with the interviewer (DM). 

Main piece: 

NA: “Why do Filipinos not like salt”

DM: “Why?”

NA: “Because it’s asin”

This is similar to a pun and the main point of this joke is saying that salt which is asin in Tagalog, is a sin, like doing something wrong.

Thoughts: Personally I am a huge fan of puns and wordplay like this. The joke ties English in with Tagalog and it reflects the focus on religion that many people in the Philippines have. It also could reference the preference of taste with Filipino with the lack of salt which has some truth to it since Filipino dishes use fish sauce as their main source of saltiness. It ties in a common habit in cuisine and cleverly merges it with a play on words and with the stereotype of the religious Filipino community

Lacrosse Prayer

“Dear lord. The battles we go through life, we ask for a chance that’s fair. A chance to equal our stride, a chance to do or dare. If we should win, let it be by the code, with faith and honor held high. If we should lose, we’ll stand by the road, and cheer as the winners go by. Day by day. We get better and better. Until we can’t be beat. Won’t be beat. Ruthless”

This is a prayer the informant would say before every home lacrosse game with his team. He did not attend a religious school, but it was a tradition passed down from the upperclassman to perform this prayer. One player would say each line and the team would then repeat the line after them. The final portion, “Until we can’t be beat. Won’t be beat. Ruthless,” is screamed at full volume. The point of the prayer is to focus the players’ minds and get them hyped up for the upcoming game. It was only performed in home games and done so in the locker room, removed from any fans or the opposing team.

I did further research into the origins of this prayer. It was initially a prayer used by the University of Nebraska football team, dubbed the Husker prayer after their mascot, the cornhusker. It is unclear when this change originated but it has spread across high schools around the country.

Papa Legba

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant.

Informant: My grandma showed this to me when I was younger, like 9 or 10. Whenever you feel like you’re stuck, or when there’s no way, you pray to Papa Legba, and he will make the way for you.

Interviewer: Can you describe who Papa Legba is?

Informant: Papa Legba is the lwa of crossroads. Lwa are the spirits that Haitians serve, they’re somewhere between humans and God, but praised higher than angels.

Interviewer: Can you describe the praying process?

Informant: You fill up a mug with water, then you call your spirit guides, like you pray. You then like spin around, start saluting all four directions, like east west north south. Because he’s the lwa of crossroads, he’s gonna listen to you and make the pathway himself.

Interviewer: Do you practice this prayer yourself?

Informant: Not really, because I don’t practice Voodoo. But I don’t think it’s invalid or has no truth to it, like, obviously praying to a higher being when you’re stuck will help you in some way, like it’ll help you clear your mind at least.

Background: My informant, a 20 year old USC student, is of Creole descent and comes from New York, home of a large Haitian community. Even though she doesn’t practice Voodoo, her grandmother was very much connected to the religion and exposed the informant to the culture from a very young age.

Context: The conversation took place at the informant’s apartment in Los Angeles, no other person was present during our talk.

My thoughts: The religion of Voodoo is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the Western media. It’s a practice that I wish to educate myself further on, and learning about this tradition was very helpful. I found particularly interesting how Voodoo has so many various deities and intricate rituals, all different depending on situations. For Papa Legba in particular, the prayer only requires one participant, which is why I think my informant knew a lot about it as it’s pretty easy to learn compared to other prayers.

Buddha Crossing the River

Context:

The informant is a student at USC studying Bio-Chem. In this account, he recalls religious stories that he heard.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).

 

C: Do you have any stories like from your childhood or from growing up? Anything you might want to share?

S: Yea… I’m Buddhist. Kinda forced into it I guess. Both of my parents are from Burma, I guess.

So when I was in elementary, my parents wanted me to hang out with my Burmese friends but I didn’t speak Burmese. There was a session with the monk but during break or down times, they would tell us stories and stuff.

It was told by a monk. So… I don’t remember the lesson but, most of the stories are about Buddha.

So there’s this one story I remember:

So one day, Buddha was hanging out with his apostles when this one guy said he knows a monk that surpassed him or something.

He was like, “Where? Bring me to him.”

When we went to the monk, we has all frail and sickly.

The monk told Buddha, “I can walk on water. This was done by strict meditation and following the teachings while starving.” This was obviously a lie.

The monk continued, “You’ve only started your path. I’ve gotten this far already.” He was basically challenging the Buddha.

The monk said, “I bet I can get across this river.”

Buddha: “Why would you do that?”

Monk: “It just proves I’m much stronger. Can you do the same thing?”

So Buddha accepted this bet and the monk proceeded to give a ferryman one penny and crossed the river with on a ferry.

 

S: This story isn’t verbatim, but I guess the lesson that I learned was this: Buddhism isn’t a superstitious religion. It’s very grounded. Each city it went and added their own superstitions to make it different and “holy.”

Buddhism is about self-actualization and helping others but it gets muddled in all the lighting candles, and like all the rituals and stuff.

 

Analysis:

It’s interesting to hear religious stories, mostly because of the lessons or explanations that they teach. In this case, the story explores the idea of what Buddhism is or isn’t. It also teaches a fundamental idea in folklore in that, each group makes variations or changes to something that they learn in order to adapt it as their own. This is the same case in religion as each group adds on their own superficial things which may distract or draw away from the core beliefs.

How Purim, A Jewish Holiday, Came to Be: The Story of Esther

The following is a conversation with AJ that describes her interpretation and knowledge of the Story of Esther; the story behind the Jewish holiday of Purim.

 

AJ: So basically, the second in command to the King, named Haman, made a decree that everyone needed to bow down to him, but this one guy named Mordecai didn’t want to bow down to him because you’re really not allowed to bow down to anyone that’s not God. So, Haman then hated all the Jews. So, he made a decree for a lottery, which picked a day that would essentially be “the purge” for killing Jews; you’d have the whole day to kill Jews and you wouldn’t get in trouble. So, the day he chose “the purge” for was on the 13th of Adar, which falls tomorrow (March 20th), I think, and it was called Purim.

So, while this is happening, the King was having a three-day festival party, and he told his wife to come so he could show her off or whatever. But she didn’t come and just had her own party with the girls, and it was so disrespectful to the King that he got rid of her. So, then he held a beauty pageant for a new wife, and he recruited every girl from the city. So basically, Mordecai, from earlier, had a niece named Esther, and they were trying to hide her, but the King’s men found her. When she went to the beauty pageant, the King liked her the most and she was the most beautiful, so she became Queen. Mordecai then told Esther that this [happening] was a sign that she needed to use her position as Queen to try and convince the King that he shouldn’t kill the Jews with the purge system that Haman created. And then basically Esther was really scared because you can’t approach the King, even if you’re the Queen, without him calling [upon] you or using his power on you. So that’s why the Jews fasted for three days, to make sure nothing would happen to her when she went to the King. They fasted because it was custom that you were supposed to fast if you really wanted something to happen […]; fasting helps give you luck. So, she went to the King and asked for a tea party to talk about Haman. So, Esther had the party twice, but couldn’t find her words until the third time when she told the King that Haman was trying to kill her people, the Jews. The King then was like, “What, oh my gosh!” […] there are more details, but anyway, the King sentences Haman and all his sons and they were hung, but only after Haman carried Mordecai on a horse to get his full embarrassment before his death. The lottery decree was able to be reversed because of the King’s power and then the Jew’s were saved because of Esther.

 

EK:  So, then what do you, and other Jews, do to celebrate for Purim?

 

AJ: Um, okay, so we fast for a day, which is tomorrow (March 20th), the same as the 13th of Adar, and then we read this story at night before we have a big feast. Also, it’s a custom to give each other food baskets to friends and family during this time.

 

EK: Interesting, so what does this story mean to you, as someone who is Jewish?

 

AJ: Basically, I know it because through being Jewish and it’s just a story that’s identifiable to all Jewish people because everyone in the religion celebrates the holiday, so it just brings us all together and we get food baskets in the process, haha.

 

My Interpretation:

It is very clear that the Jewish religion places a lot of emphasis on the stories of their religion and the sacredness of their celebrations. These origins seem to date back thousands of years, as well as the worship during the sacred holiday. During Purim, I watched AJ strictly abide by the rules of fasting throughout the day; obviously this is a holiday that Jews take very seriously. As this story is a part of their culture and religion, it seems that many Jews know it by heart. When AJ was sharing the story, she did not have to think twice about many of the details, like it was common practice for her to recite.

Muslim Traveling Superstition

Main Piece (direct transcription):

Mom: Before dad and I went on our honeymoon to Madrid, dad’s mom held up the Quran, and so did his grandmother, and we actually had to walk underneath the Quran to prevent anything evil from happening to us in our travels.

Me: It wasn’t just for the plane; it was for all of your travels?

Mom: Well, they didn’t state it, but I felt it was like their way of confirming that our trip would be as safe as possible.

 

Context: The informant, my mother, is a pharmacy administrator living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She was originally born in New York but moved to New Mexico with her family at a young age.  Her father, a playwright and artist, was invested in his Native American heritage.  From her travels around New Mexico, moving from place to place when she was young, and also hearing stories from her father and my father, who is from Iran, she has gathered a variety of folktales.  My dad is originally from Iran, and all his family members are also from Iran, so my mom and I were talking about Iranian superstition and folklore that my mom has experienced while being married to him.  Since my grandmother is heavily Muslim, and is a very superstitious woman, my mom has learned about most Iranian superstitions through her.

 

 

My Thoughts: This is interesting because it is my mom’s, who is American, viewpoint on Iranian superstition.  Even though my grandma and my great-grandma did not explain to my mom why they wanted them to walk under the Quran before their travels, my mom was able to guess the purpose of it.  Although different cultures have their own superstitions, I feel like many feelings of superstition and fear are universal.  This superstition made me think about how different individuals express different feelings of things such as fear, excitement, and happiness.  People in America might say, “Have a safe flight!” or “Safe travels!” before a major trip such as a honeymoon; however my Iranian family wanted my parents to walk underneath a Quran to express this sentiment.

Demon Baby of Hull House

Storyteller:

“Do you know about the demon baby of Hull House? Hull House was a settlement home developed by Jane Adams, the godmother of social work. And in 1902 a baby was born outside of Chicago, outside of wedlock, where it was born with horns and a tail, and cloven feet. Unable to keep the baby, they brought it to Hull House where it could be cared for and most importantly prayed for…but nothing could fix it. They kept it away as it started to become a draw. And so they kept that baby up in the attic where it wouldn’t bother anyone or be bothered by them. And it’s said that still today, you can see that baby up in the window…”

Background Info: The storyteller lives in Chicago and it is a story that buddies of the storyteller had been telling while living in the city.

Context: I was with my family and I was telling them that I had this project coming up and told them some of the stories people had told me for it. That spurred a conversation where everyone started sharing their pieces of folklore and this was one of them.

Thoughts: I was immediately captured by the title of this story. When the storyteller asked me if I had heard of a demon baby I was intrigued. The storyteller’s performance was captivating because the storyteller used a tone of voice that many use when telling creepy stories. I read up on the story after it was told and I discovered that some people refer to the baby as a “devil baby” and there are many different versions including an Italian version and a Jewish version which can be found here:

Addams, Jane. “The Devil-Baby at Hull House.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 Oct. 1916, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1916/10/the-devil-baby-at-hull-house/305428/.