Tag Archives: socks

Sickness & not wearing socks

My friend Justine is Chinese-American, and her parents are doctors who practice holistic Eastern medicine. She shared the following folk belief with me:

“Something that like, my family weirdly believes–and I’m gonna equate this to, like, Eastern medicine or like, myths in Eastern medicine–but my family hates it when I don’t wear socks because they think that if you don’t wear socks, that’s the first like, way you can get a cold. Because like, your feet–and this is true–your feet are like a good signifier of your body temperature, so like, if your feet are cold it means the rest of your body is probably gonna feel cold too. And like, if you are cold you are more susceptible to getting a cold…Also no cold drinks, because it’s like the colder your body is, the more susceptible you are to getting sick.”

Like many folk beliefs and practices in East Asian medicine, this one is not necessarily based in empirical scientific proof, but this does not mean there is no truth to it. Remedies and folk beliefs formerly dismissed as “superstitious” have often been tested and proven effective by the medical/scientific institution, and subsequently incorporated into Western medicine. This belief reflects a general practice in Eastern medicine of focusing on overall bodily wellness rather than quick cures for acute illness.

Jade Mountain Ghost

Information about the Informant

My informant is a freelance editor and translator living in Taiwan. She was born in Taiwan and has lived there essentially her whole life, except for a few years in America. She told me about a ghost story that she heard from one of her college classmates that he actually supposedly experienced.

Transcript

“The first one is our class—my undergraduate classmate told me this. He’s one of those—he belonged to a club for…for—mountain climbing kind of stuff—a hiking club. So, they went to the tallest mountain in Taiwan—that mountain’s called Yu Mountain. ‘Yu’ is for like ‘jade.’ Jade Mountain. Although if you just pronounce it, it’s just Yu Mountain.’ So they went to the place that was just…just very remote, with no one around. So they—some people would build little huts for their—so that they could all be together. Sleeping. So they were all sleeping at night. Then—because Yu Mountain counts as a…um…a—lots of people who go there to climb have accidents, that kind of mountain, so there are a lot of ghost stories. So their…their hut, so people say, used to be some people—because Taiwan during springtime sometimes has times when it suddenly gets really cold, and it seems some people don’t bring enough clothes there, so they froze to death. So…so…that hut people said was haunted.

So my classmate, his team had a total of about twenty people. Both guys and girls. He said at night, he’d been sleeping till late at night, he…he…maybe it was early morning or midnight, he felt that there was a girl trying to wake him up. Telling him, ‘I’m cold.’ She borrowed from him a pair of socks. And so he just kept sleeping like that, half-awake, walked over to his sack, and got a pair of socks for that girl, and that, dong, fell asleep again. And then—and then, the next morning he woke up, he suddenly remembered this event, and so…and so he began to ask all the girls on the team, ‘Last night, did one of you come and borrow a pair of socks from me?’ Everyone denied it. So he went to look at his socks and, sure enough, he was missing a pair. And so…so they began to be very scared. And everyone went to check their pairs of socks—everyone went to check if they had—who had slept—because, you know, when you get tired on high mountains—to see if one of them had in a drunken-like state stolen his pair of socks. Everyone—no one’s socks had his—his pair of socks. No one’s sack had his pair of socks.

[laughs] They were so scared that they hurriedly packed up and quickly ran away from that part! And when he got back, he told us this ghost story.”

Analysis

This is an interesting piece for me as the story strongly resembles a variant of the Western “Vanishing Hitchhiker story. In the Western version, a driver picks up a hitchhiker and, because it is cold, the hitchhiker borrows a piece of clothing, usually a jacket or a coat, from the driver. The driver drops the hitchhiker off at his or her destination, which is usually a cemetery. One way or another, the driver will meet with someone who knew the hitchhiker after this incident and the person will reveal that the hitchhiker has been dead for years. In the variant that this account by my informant reminds me of, the driver then goes to the cemetery and finds the gravestone bearing the name of the hitchhiker, with the borrowed piece of clothing draped over it. I was surprised that, in this case that my informant told me about, there was no ending where the borrowed socks made a reappearance in a cemetery or some area associated with the deceased, but then as the ending of this purportedly real experience had all those involved run away in fear, that would not have been possible if they never returned to the site. It is interesting the resemblance this bears to the Western hitchhiker story though, so much so that I am almost inclined to suspect some tampering, either someone setting up the situation deliberately such that it was similar or some changing of details after the fact. But if true, then this would be a strong case of a memorate, where someone’s actual experience becomes part of an established folkloric culture.

For more about “The Vanishing Hitchhiker,” visit:

Brunvand, Jan Harold. “The Vanishing Hitchhiker.” Uploader. Bernd Weschner. 1981. <http://bernd.wechner.info/Hitchhiking/vanish.html>.

Original Chinese

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Lucky Socks for Basketball

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“So I used to play basketball and when I played well I’d mark my socks, so if I played well I’d always wear the right sock on the right foot until I played bad and then I’d switch them up.”

I think this is a good example of contagious magic. According to my informant, the thinking behind this is that if he plays well with a certain sock configuration, the socks must either be causing the good performance or they must soak up some of the “mojo” of the good game and will lead to good games in the future. However, once he starts playing poorly, it’s obvious that the sock configuration has lost its magic and needs to be reconfigured. This is a way for him to relieve pressure from himself and stay calm in stressful games. If he does well, he will continue to do well thanks to his lucky socks. If he does poorly, it is not because his game is bad, but because his socks are no longer good luck socks and simply need to be changed. By rationalizing his basketball performance like this, my informant is able to stay cool and confident under pressure. Furthermore, the belief is that luck can be recycled, as long as he finds the proper order for his socks.