Author Archives: Kayla Adams

Macbeth in the Theatre

Context: Subject had worked Theater production in high school and had been exposed to many superstitions surrounding ideas of bad luck, prevention, and reversal methods.


[Speaking face to face in a lounge while studying for classes]

“The whole Macbeth rumor… where if you are in a theater and you say the word ‘Macbeth,’ you have to leave the theatre and… is it spin backwards in three circles, or forward…?”

“Um… I feel like it might be backwards”

“I think you have to spin in three circles backwards and like… spit or something. Um, and basically, people are very superstitious about it, even if it’s not… even people who aren’t generally superstitious or worried about it. Like my friend who studies stage management at Syracuse… um… was like… complaining to me about some kid who said Macbeth in the theater and refused to do the circle thing and their play went horribly… And she legitimately believed it was his fault. And in a way, it’s interesting because just since you think it’s going to ruin the play, like you subconsciously ruin it yourself… so that’s interesting.”

Introduction: The informant was introduced by fellow theater crew members when they joined stage production in high school.

Analysis/Interpretation: This is interestingly, a common phenomenon seen within the theater community. Given that I hadn’t been exposed to theater until becoming employed at one, I hadn’t been exposed to any theater folk beliefs or customs. As of recently, I have come to see more commonalities between theater-based folklore. Specifically, regarding Macbeth, it seems as though much of what is actively practiced and reinforced within the theater community, consistent amongst even the most different regions is contingent upon ideas of prevention of bad luck from pursuing during a production.

Sleeping Near Air Conditioning System (Chinese Belief)

Context/Background: The informant is Chinese-American and grew up with different Chinese folk beliefs. One in particular, involves the idea that one cannot sleep next to air conditioning to avoid damage done to the face as heard from her mother.



“So, my mom, I think it was just because there’s this thing in China when you get too cold and your body just starts hurting. Have you like- have you ever just too cold and your stomach starts hurting a lil bit and it’s just like… ouchie. Well, yeah, so uh in order to prevent that, my mom- I’m assuming my mom just told me this- but it was this thing where she would tell us stories about how, if you slept near grates- like fan grates when they’re like on the floor of your house… Have you ever had air vent grates on the floor of your house?

KA: Umm, I haven’t, but I know that’s a thing.

“Okay, well I used to sleep near it because I… I used to lay by it because it was cold and the like… So like, my mom told me, and it was common knowledge that if you were close to it, and you fell asleep, your face would literally fall off and it would move to one side and then your face would just be on one side.”

Introduction: The informant was introduced to this belief from her mother.

Analysis/Interpretation: I find it interesting how much of these folk beliefs tend to come from parents and it makes me wonder if there’s a higher underlying meaning to it. I think this may have just been something passed down, so it wasn’t questioned by the informant, but I would find it useful to search further into the reasoning behind a sleeping story such as this.

Birthmarks and Beauty (Chinese Folk Belief)

Context/Background: This informant is from China, but currently resides in the U.S. In their culture, there are many belief systems and stereotypes based on features within the modes of attributing value.


“[In Chinese culture], the most beautiful people have moles and birthmarks bc the gods were jealous of the beauty so they want to make them imperfect.”

Introduction: As a part of Chinese culture, the informant was immersed in its social principles and beliefs; this being one of them.

Analysis/Interpretation: When I hear this, I think it’s actually really touching because of the idea brought forth that something that makes someone “imperfect” actually being very much worthy of admiration. I’ve found in American culture at least, there are pervasive ideas surrounding imperfection, and while they may not be specifically steered towards birthmarks, there are many standardized and normalized ideas of beauty. Additionally, this does not go to characterize or ostracize an entire region, but merely accentuates my appreciate for small parts of cultures that challenge a traditionally enforced idea of what validates someone.


Polish Christmas Eve

Context/Background: The Informant is of Polish descent and her grandparents and mother strongly identify with the Polish culture. Growing up, her grandfather orchestrated a celebration for their family which was centered around Christmas Eve and engaging in the tradition of sharing a “piece of you,” to show love and appreciation while celebrating largely at night with much festivity.


“Like… in Poland, we celebrate on Christmas Eve and you go to a midnight mass, but when you’re having dinner. you like… exchange… you like have your own wafer. My grandpa’s the one that orchestrates our thing, but you walk up to everyone in your family and you tear off a piece of their wafer and tear off a piece of you and it’s like showing them you love them ’cause it’s like… you’re giving something to them. We do that every Christmas Eve. And in Polish tradition, you stay up really late on Christmas Eve and eat a ton of food.”

Introduction: The Informant’s Family

Analysis/Interpretation: I’ve previously heard about some experiences from families that stat up until midnight (Christmas Eve, transitioning to Christmas Day) and celebrate in the middle of the night, opening presents and what not. This is a little different in the aspect of the wafer tradition. I find that custom to be very sweet and reaffirming in order to build onto your relationship with your family. I also think that because the Grandparents organize it, there’s something additionally special that’s added because there’s a sense of them passing on to the following generations and organization for them. I can personally understand this in some regard because on my mother’s side of the family, it’s always her older relatives that organize the events, particularly the family reunion they hold.

“Every grain of rice has a destiny”

Context/Background: The informant’s mother used to have a saying that she would express to them growing up. Pertaining much to emphasizing not wasting food, there is an element of attributing energy and value to it.


“So growing up… my mom used to say every grain of rice had a destiny whenever you threw any sort of food away- it wasn’t just about rice, but just food in general. And it was basically just like something that her and everyone in her family- and I’d assume, our ancestors before that- would always say to like… encourage you not to waste food ’cause they were very like… economical and practical about that… and… yeah. I think it’s just like… every piece of food… or the value that was behind it was that every piece of food like has a certain amount of energy to it and that energy is like… if you… if you get the food, you’re supposed to ingest that energy and use it to fuel your body and if you throw it away, then you’re like… throwing away the like, potential energy of that food that it was supposed to give you.”

A) Some earlier datings referencing the “destiny” and a “grain of rice” can be found in studies referencing an Indian Subcontinent which indicates that “every grain has a name (of who will eat it).”

Introduction: She was first introduced to the saying by her mother who would recite it to her family in an effort to get them to appreciate food and not waste it.

Analysis/Interpretation: I think this proverb is very valuable cross-culturally because of the emphasis placed on the value of not wasting and appreciating any food you’re given access to. I think there are definitely similar elements across different cultures. Growing up, in my aunts home specifically, there was a large emphasis on not wasting anything on the place which was very known and heavily present.