USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘warning’
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Jasy Jatere

My friend grew up in Paraguay and has a lot of myths and legends that stem from the Guarani tradition.

Friend: “The Jasy Jatere is the God of the siesta. I heard about him from my grandmother. Apparently he would steal kids who snuck off during the siesta, which is a nap most people take during the day. I think the story was told to keep kids from leaving their houses while their parents were sleeping. Like don’t go away or the Jasy Jatere will get you!”

Me: What did he look like?

Friend: “He was supposed to look like a kid. He has blonde hair and is pretty small-framed. But he’s actually a full-grown man. Kids are supposed to think he’s their friend, he plays with them and feeds them fruit and honey, and then, according to my grandmother, he imprisons the kids and pokes out their eyes so that they cannot see to find their way home.”

Me:Did it scare you into napping during the siesta?

Friend: “Yeah I was pretty freaked out by Jasy Jatere. I definitely thought he would come and get me if I wasn’t napping. He’s sort of like the boogeyman of Paraguay.”

Analysis:The Jasy Jatere being a “Paraguyayan Boogeyman” is interesting. In some ways, it is creepy that parents would try to scare their children into staying at home and trying to sleep. Most of the time, these fears dissolve without much consequence. A child grows up and learns not to fear the Jatere, or the Boogeyman. Another connection that could be made to the Jasy Jatere is Peter Pan. It is the same archetype: a boyish creature who seems to be immortal, coming when children are without their parents, to take them away to a far off place– usually never to return home. Many cultures have these types of stories, and I think they play into our fear (and curiosity) of being taken from a loving home  with one of our kind who has learned to survive without the support of parents. transcoder

Folk speech
Proverbs

The Rice Grain Warning

Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.

 

My parents told me that if you do not finish every single rice grain on your plate you have to count how many you have left…Then you have to jump into the river, and every time you jump you have to make a splash sound…So it actually means you take each rice grain individually and then jump into the river again and again until your plate is empty. And every time you jump into the river you have to make a really loud splash sound. Nobody actually does this….they end up just finishing their rice. I mean the adults don’t really expect you to do it…it’s more like a threat so you finish your food.

According to the informant this proverb is more common among older generation. She grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. Though Bangkok is a metropolitan area she heard this from her parents.  It was usually for parents to say to their children when the children do not finish their food. She has heard it from some of her friend also. She said some family has variations of threat when their kids have leftover food on their plate but this is the most common one she has heard. She mentioned that the origin of the splash come from the fact that before cars were highly used it was very common in Thailand for people to live in a house near water (canals, river, and lake) where boat was their main transportation. Many of those houses near the water are farms and gardens where they value their harvests. That is what the informant believes this saying generated from.

She also said that rice is the main part of the diet in Thai food. One of Thailand main export is also rice. In a meal each individual is given a plate of rice. Protein and vegetable are then in the middle of the table as shared dishes. It is then more evident if the individual has rice leftovers on his/her plate.

 

I believe this saying is a warning to teach children to value the food that they eat and the importance to every little rice grain. It is easier to finish the small rice grain on the plate than having to take each grain to the river and jump. As the informant mentioned, Thailand is mainly an agricultural society with majority of crops grown being rice, this is to teach children that every little grains of rice is highly valued. To tell the children that they have to jump into water as many times as the rice on their plate is a reflection of the hardship a farmer would endure to grow the crops.

The informant said she also heard this phrase not from my family but from many movies and TV shows. The characters would usually say it in older movies or movies that are set in older times. Sometimes she said her teacher will say something similar in the lunchroom if students have leftover food. I agree with the informant that this is said as a threat rather as a dare. From her personal experience she has yet to hear that anybody actually jump into water instead of finishing some rice grains.

Digital
general
Narrative

Internet Predator

“…Just remember there are a lot of fucking sickos and psychos and rapists and other terrible people that will say and do whatever they can to get you to meet up with them to hook up or do bad things to you or whatever. It worries me that you spend so much time on the internet. I heard just the other day from a guy at work that some guy was found dead in his apartment after he got some kid he had met through the internet to come over, and it just goes to show that you can’t trust anybody you meet like that. Not even if they aren’t old.”

My informant for this piece is a concerned father lecturing his daughter on the dangers of the internet. There are many tales circulating, many of them quite true, about internet predators that meet people throught the internet and do terrible things to them. This particular warning stands out in that it’s the younger party that’s the actual attacker. This may be a sort of comment on how it’s the younger generation who have a firm grip on today’s technology and maybe a subconcious fear of the young taking advantage of the old in a reverse of the usual “elderly man takes advantage of a young teen” story.

It’s certainly a vague story, but there is something threatening about the open-endedness of it.

Annotation: This particular story, though vague in detail, is brought to life in a chilling horror movie by the name of Hard Candy (2005), in which a 14 year old girl (Ellen Page, leading actress of Juno) turns the tables on a pedophile she met through the internet.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Signs

Red Sky

Red Sky At Night, Sailors Delight, Red Sky In The Morn, Sailors Be Warned”

My informant for this folk saying served in the US Navy over two decades ago, and now owns a sailboat in the Los Angeles area. My informant said that he first heard the saying in passing in training for the navy. When he asked what the phrase meant, he was informed that it was a centuries old phrase that described weather patterns in the sea.

Typically, he was told, a red sky at night means calm weather and smooth sailing. On the contrary, he was told that typically when sailors see a red sky in the morning hours, it is connected to weather patterns that call for rain, winds, and storms. My informant stated that he had done more research on this quote, and found that indeed, it does have a scientific backing.  The red color in the sky is due to suspended particles and reflections of clouds, he says, which is good at night and bad in the morning.

My informant tells me that throughout his experience at sea as a Capitan in the navy, as well as sailing his own boat, this phrase has held true “for the most part”. It’s a good way to gauge what’s to come, it’s a good predictor just so you have an idea what’s coming, he says. He says it’s never been the opposite, and that he would trust this saying over anybody else’s word.

I believe that this saying likely originated centuries ago as a warning or useful tip passed from one sailor to another. Perhaps older sailors would pass it on to their children or those new to the sea. Making it into a rhyme, and thus turning this fact into folklore, likely had to do with giving it a ring, and making it easier for sailors to remember the term. Night must rhyme with delight, so the sailors don’t get confused and think that it is the other way around. It seems that it was created as a practical rhyme to help sailors remember the general laws of the ocean at sea.

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Be Careful of the “Mal Aire”

My informant, who is from Ibarra, Ecuador, was told as a young girl:

“¡No te hagas de noche o so no te va a dar el mal aire!”

 Translation: “Don’t stay outside too late at night, or you will get ‘bad air!’”

She explained that mal aire, or bad air, is something that you catch from being outside in the trees, but is not quite a sickness.  She says, “You feel back pain, but it’s not like regular back pain… You just feel weird, like something is not right.”  I felt that way once when I was little and spent too much time outside with my friends.

She was told when she was younger that her uncle caught mal aire while walking through the mountains to her aunt’s house.  The only way to get rid of it is to place a small candle (like a tea candle) on a person’s back and cover it with a glass cup.  If the skin “inflates” and looks like a lump in the glass, it first confirms that you have mal aire and also rids it from the body.

Yet, the threat of mal aire could just be a way to scare children not to stray too far from home, not stay out too late and stay away from trouble.  Additionally, the method of testing and purifying oneself only reinforces the fear of mal aire in children.  For anyone who tries it, when you cover a candle with a glass, it will create a vacuum and as a result, will raise the skin.  By telling children that it this happens only to people who have mal aire, adults can easily prove and scare children with this technique.  To further prove that it will happen to everyone, the mal aire “candle treatment” is similar to an ancient Chinese practice, called “massage cupping.”  For those who use this technique, cupping produces a deep, therapeutic state of relaxation.  This type of “massage” will likely remove the back pain my informant mentioned as well.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Folk speech
Magic
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Urban Legend – Masturbation Leads to Blindness

“Too much masturbation can result in blindness.”

 

My informant first heard this urban legend in his middle school in Downey, CA in seventh grade.  He was in the locker rooms with some of his friends changing after their Physical Education period.  The guys were horsing playing and talking candidly about private issues.  After bouts of laughter and socking each other in the arms, some of them settled down on the bench waiting for the rest of their friends to finish changing.  One of his friends started talking about pornography and how he started downloading them.  Then David asked if any of them had started masturbating.  His friend replied that he did but with caution because he heard from his older brother who was in high school that too much masturbation can lead to blindness.

I do not believe this to have any anatomically scientific basis to it – hence, it is an urban legend.  I think David’s friend’s older brother was playing a prank on his younger brother.  I have heard another variation that masturbating too much results in hair growing on your hand.  I believe people have told this urban legend in the past because initially it was taboo for people to engage in what some people, especially religious people, thought to be immoral habits.  However, nowadays people are a lot more accepting of this behavior calling it natural.

Childhood
Folk speech
Protection

“God don’t like ugly.”

This saying was told to my informant  when he would act out of line as a kid. This usually came as a warning prior to some harsh discipline like a spanking or a grounding.  He said one time he had a temper tantrum in the supermarket over a piece of candy. When he wouldn’t stop his mother harshly warned him, “God don’t like ugly.”, and he knew he was in trouble.

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