Author Archives: Camila Doring

Lentil Salad=Money

RITUAL DESCRIPTION: Consumption of lentil salad on New Years Eve to bring wealth.


CONTEXT: This woman told me that her most prized ritual is that every New Years Eve she and her family would eat lentil salad in order to call wealth. She said the little lentils symbolize coins. Her mother and entire family did this as she grew up. The little “coins” are meant to be abundance and eating them is calling wealth into the upcoming year.

THOUGHTS: I see how lentils could be like little coins. I find this ritual interesting because lentil salad is popular in France but I never knew it had this double meaning. It seems to make sense although I’ve never heard of such an interesting food on New Years Eve.

Knock on Wood

GESTURE: Knocking on wood when speaking of one’s good fortune


CONTEXT: This woman was saying how happy she was and how lucky she felt and immediately knocked on a wood surface next to her. She says she learned this gesture from her family. Whenever you speak of something good in your life or something positive you want to happen you must knock on wood.

ANALYSIS: This traces back to Jesus who she says was the step son of a carpenter, Joseph. Also Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross, she says when we knock on wood we are saying “God help us” or “God willing.” It is an anti-jinx mechanism that is supposed to prevent you from bad luck.

THOUGHTS: I learned this when I was a baby and have always practiced this gesture. Every single time I am grateful out loud I knock on wood or anytime I say something that I want to happen/come true. For me the wood symbolism doesn’t really matter, but the act of doing it unconsciously makes me feel like I have anti-jinxed myself.

Cemetery Gesture

DESCRIPTION OF GESTURE: When you see, come across, or pass a cemetery you must immediately touch your hair with your hands.


CONTEXT: This gesture was taught to her by her grandmother who was from Finland. She never knew where she learned it from but employed it her whole life. She said it meant you were adverting death. A way to not call death upon yourself, sort of like the evil eye. She said if you would see the dead they would come for you and since your hair was already dead it is a way to come into contact and save yourself.

THOUGHTS: I do think this gesture is very unique and seems to be very specific. I find the part about our hair already being dead fascinating and seems to make a little more sense to me. 

Oaxacan Legend

TEXT: “Una vez, en mi pueblo, había una niña bonita y joven. Tenia como dieciséis anos. Ella se enamoro de un hombre muy viejo. El hombre tenia como cincuenta y estaba todo gastado por la vida. Todos en el pueblo le dijeron que no salga con el pero ella deicidio vivir con el. Despise de un tiempo, la niña se empezó a very muy vieja. Le salieron arrugas y su pelo se hizo feo y seco. Empiezo a actuar amargada y cansada. A cambio, el hombre salía y cada día se veía mejor. Empiezo a caminar mas derecho, su piel resaltaba y su pelo se oscurezco. Tenia mas humor y actuaba mas joven.”


CONTEXT: Female, 42, Oaxacan

ANALYSIS: This woman is from a pueblo in Oaxaca. We were discussing a relationship between a woman and man with a very large age gap. She then told me this myth. I asked about the origin and validity and discovered it was a myth that is told to girls when they want to date older men. It is used to discourage inappropriate relationships but also to point out the psychological occurrence of chameleonizing within a relationship. She said her aunt told this to her when she was young and an older man was courting her in her village. It worked and she decided not to go out with him.

TRANSLATION: “Once, in my village, there was a pretty and young girl. She was about sixteen years old. She fell in love with a very old man. The man was about fifty and was all worn out by life. Everyone in town told her not to go out with him but she decided to live with him. After a while, the girl started to get very very old. She got wrinkles and her hair became ugly and dry. She start to act bitter and tired. In return, the man went out and looked better every day. He began to walk more straight, his skin stood out and his hair darkened. He had more humor and acted younger.”

THOUGHTS: I think this myth obviously very dated and I can see the tactics used to instill fear or a bias around taboo relationships. While I think we now live in a modern world where nothing is as rigid and there is room for experimentation I do understand the psychological aspect portrayed here and can see why its use would be employed.

Aztec Legend-Mexican Flag Origin

TEXT: “El pueblo Azteca recibió un mensaje de uno de sus dioses, Huitzilopochtli, que les dijo que se asentaran en las tierras donde encontraran una águila en un islote, sobre un nopal comiéndose una víbora.”


CONTEXT: This Aztec legend is incredibly integral to Mexican culture. The man told me this is something everyone knows. It is so important to the foundation of the Mexican people and state. He says it is the essence of what is Mexican even without the Aztec roots. He knew about this legend his whole life, but believes he learned it from his parents and then again in school growing up as a young boy. It is symbolic of Mexican heritage and it is what was incorporated into the creation of the Mexican flag. The flag depicts the exact setting. He says everything is symbolic, the cactus that everyone eats in Mexico, the eagle as a powerful bird and a symbol of strength, He says it is a very nationalistic emblem and it is as symbolic and important as the Queen of England he says. It is even on the coin.

TRANSLATION: The Aztec people received a message from one of their gods, Huitzilopochtli, telling them that they need to settle in the lands where they come across or find an eagle atop a small island, sitting on top of a cactus eating a snake. 

THOUGHTS: I also grew up and learned this legend as a child. I always recognized it on the flag and the story was ingrained in my mind. It is such a symbol of nationalism and is rooted in culture.