Author Archives: Emilio Guerra

Never lick envelopes- Egypt

Informant: “their is this story in Egypt.. its like.. its not an ancient legend, its like a legend a from recent history cause it’s about envelopes right..that um if you lick envelopes… you never never lick envelopes you put the water on it… if you lick envelopes there is this one lady who cut her tongue and when it healed it healed over an egg that a cockroach had laid on the envelope and then the cockroaches crawled  out of her tongue when they were born. It was disgusting so you never lick envelopes  (laugh)

Collector: how did you hear about this?

Informant: my mom told me about it.

Collector: who told her about it?

Informant: uhh i don’t know we are Egyptian.



I recorded this from Sam Yassa while we were studying for other homework earlier in the semester. what i find interesting about the story is it’s logic. A cockroach could definitely lay an egg on an envelope and the egg could probably hatch within a tongue. I don’t know if the original story is fictitious but the idea that it could be true i don’t think can be dismissed, furthermore. It has enough belief so that many people as sam’s account tells don’t lick envelopes in Egypt. Another possible reason for this custom could be manners or a belief that envelopes are dirty and therefore ought not be licked and have it’s contents ingested. The Last possible analysis that i could imagine is that companies or people who sell the little bottles with water and sponges could have spread the story in order to find use in their inventions.

Puddles- Egypt

Informant: “My mom told me that if you where to like leave your house or your apartment complex or whatever, and there is an unusual puddle of water, like just random right, never seen a puddle of water accumulate there before for any reason.. you have no idea why it’s there, but there is a puddle of water… it means that someone deliberately put it there to curse you. Ans so by all means you have to move around the puddle of water you cant cross over it you cant come near and you cant touch it… FYI it’s all about curses”

This story comes from sam’s family, his mother specifically. His family is from Cairo but his parents parents are from the south of Egypt which is the “hicks ” of Egypt. he claims that the south is where more traditional folklore and superstitions come from. His family are Coptic Christians. Sam believes that these superstitions are neither christian nor Muslim but actually developed in ancient Egypt.

This superstition I think could only develop in a country that lacks rain. In a city where it always rains i doubt very much that people would question where a puddle came from. Sam says that puddles are not unusual but that if a puddle forms in an area that you find unusual it means someone has tried to curse you. I have never noticed an unusual puddle, they kin-dove just happen and are a part of the city, but as this account of Egyptian Folklore shows, Egyptian Culture does notice unusual puddles, and over time they have ascribed to it the meaning of an attempted curse. I don’t know how the belief began for obvious reasons but i can definitely see it as an accident that became a belief and then a practice. Maybe someone stepped on an unusual puddle as someone noticed it was unusual and later had an accident, then someone believed this puddle was to blame because of it’s unusualness, then ascribing a sense of witchcraft, after the belief manifested in people i think people began practicing this type of curse by putting water in front of peoples homes and thus cursing them in belief. Also the negative connotations of unusual puddles could be due to the waste of water in a dry climate.


Informant- Obviously they didn’t have any vacuumes back in the day, its all sweeping right, you had to sweep the whole house if you wanted to clean it, umm… if you needed to sweep at night.. you couldn’t just sweep at night .. what you had to do had to spit on the broom.. to make sure that it wasn’t cursed and once you did that then you were free to sweep at night.

Collector: why is that?

Informant: i don’t know

Collector: is there any correlation between water and spitting?

Informant: ” Well like i know another story.. this doesn’t count.. but to give an example of spitting. but i remember we were walking in this mall and they have like horse drawn carriages or whatever in southern california.. and the horse.. the horse pooped..right as we were passing by.. and my mom was like you have to spit.. you have to spit at it to reject it’s evil it gives you when it does that.. she was joking obviously she doesn’t believe that..

Collector: the evil that the horse pooped?..that hilarious.

Informant: yea yea Spitting kinda wards off those spirits.. so it goes with the broom.. you have to spit on the broom make sure there are no spirits on the broom.. and you are thus not cursing your house by sweeping it.


This story comes from sam’s family, his mother specifically. His family is from Cairo but his parents parents are from the south of Egypt which is the “hicks ” of Egypt. he claims that the south is where more traditional folklore and superstitions come from. His family are Coptic Christians. Sam believes that these superstitions are neither christian nor Muslim but actually developed in ancient Egypt.


This custom contradicts western culture. I find it interesting that we tend to believe spitting is a bad thing, a disgusting thing that people without etiquette or education do, but spitting is natural and necessary to take out unwanted things from our mouths. As Sam’s account tells us, the people that share these beliefs in Egypt Spit in order to protect themselves, I wonder how this practice is seen in public, whether some find it gross or socially acceptable because of its protective meaning. Maybe the spirits themselves are disgusted by the spit and decide to leave because of it.

Babies and Voodoo dolls cure- Egypt

informant: ” babies get sick often right .. cause obviously their immune system isn’t developed fully.. but for people of ancient times and for less educated people.. they don’t know that.. they don’t know how the immune systems developed and what not. So when a baby gets sick its obviously not a medical reason.. so they have like a sort of voodoo doll a paper voodoo doll. and instead of this culture instead of the voodoo doll being something that you use to inflict harm on someone the voodoo doll is used to ward off evil .. so what they get is they get the paper voodoo doll and the doll is supposed to be the baby and you get a needle and you poke the eyes of the voodoo doll over and over and you say something to the effect of from this eye to the other eye i brake this jinx or i brake this curse and you keep doing it for a while i don’t know how long i missed that part.. cause anyone could have jinxed it right..  and so your just kinda like from this eye of this person i’m breaking the jinx on my baby  .. i don’t know it gets kinda dark.. but you get the doll and you burn it so that spirit is burnt while you do that . and then while it’s burning you take the baby and you pass it over the burning voodoo doll back and forth and then once the burning turns into black ashes. you take the ashes .. you take the ashes and put a black cross on the forehead.. both palms and both feet. and you let the baby sleep it off and the baby is supposed to be good in the morning but obviously you didn’t do anything to make it heel. that one is really interesting its really dark my mom told me to pray afterwards .. God let not these stories actually curse us..

Collector: what do you guys call the voodoo dolls

informant: i don’t know

Collector: do they practice voodoo in Egypt?

Informant: No not really anymore

Collector: did they used to?

Informant: Like way back in the day


Informant: You fully appreciate how much literacy plays a part in your life like people back then couldn’t read even the bible so they didn’t know it was contradicting their beliefs

what percentage of Egypt is christian

like 20 i think.


This story comes from sam’s family, his mother specifically. He was born in Cairo and his  family is from Cairo but his parents parents are from the south of Egypt which is the “hicks ” of Egypt. he claims that the south is where more traditional folklore and superstitions come from. His family are Coptic Christians. Sam believes that these superstitions are neither christian nor Muslim but actually developed in ancient Egypt. He moved at a young age to Bakersfield and now attends the University of Southern California.


I found this story interesting because of many reasons, one thing to point out is that this voodoo in Egypt is somewhat like Santeria because it shows traces of syncretism with christianity. Although the ritual involves a doll and fire and non christian practices, the ash is then used to draw a cross over the forehead which is a christian practice during ash Wednesday. Santeria is usually associated with a Spanish conquered culture but in Egypt i don not know what we would call it, because the syncretism is with Coptic Christianity, and the routes of Voudon are much more direct since Egypt resides in Africa. I also found it interesting that voodoo dolls are meant to cure not harm, maybe my informant was lacking information, or maybe it reveals what it’s syncretism with christianity has meant for the rituals particularly making them more pacifist in magical nature rather that dark in magical nature because it would be considered a sin.

Dave is a name dropper- Joke- USC Law School


Dave works for a big corporation and they are all grabbing drinks one night..

Dave is a name dropper

He claims to know everyone

Pretty much every you can know who is famous

Dave knows them

They go out grabbing drinks and his boss calls him out : “there is no way you know everybody.. Ill make it easy for you since we are going back to LA tomorrow lets go hang out with tom cruise since you know tom cruise .

They fly back to LA, they get off the plane.. on the first day of work… his boss goes “if you have a minute let’s go back to Tom Cruises Place .

They get up to the Gate at Tom Cruises place, the boss is  in the drivers seat.. rolls down the window

The security guard says “sorry sir this is a private residence. “

Dave leans over and goes: “O hey Johnny hows your day going”

The security guard says DAVE! Holy shit you should have told me you were coming

The gate rolls open. And sure enough tom cruise comes out of the house walks up to dave and gives him a secret handshake.

They grab a couple drinks together… and the boss wants to leave because dave proved his point and he thinks he got lucky.

Next day at work the boss says to dave

“I got a person you definitely don’t know”

“just to prove my point this weekend me and you are flying on a company jet to DC. Lets see if you know barrack Obama.

Dave is Down and his boss thinks he’s bluffing

Friday evening they pack their bags and fly to Washington DC. They go to the white house where Barack Obama is giving a press conference, Obama is answering all these questions and when he finishes he sees Dave in the Back, he tells the Secret service: “Holy shit Dave is here its fucking dave!”

Secret service guy goes up to dave and dave says Holy shit Larry I haven’t seen you in forever.

Larry says common back smoke a cigar in the back yard with barrack.

Dave says : can my boss come?

Larry the secret service guy says: Of course a Friend of Dave is a friend Of barracks.

They get to the Back, Barack and dave are catching up on old times but barrack is a busy guy so he finishes his cigar and he tells dave: don’t be a stranger, you should come back more often but I have to fly off to japan, So dave and his boss fly back to LA

On the plane the boss tells dave :

“This is ridiculous how do you know the president of the united States.

Dave says: We used to play basketball together in High School

Well how do you know Tom Cruise >

I used to date Tom cruises sister.

The boss says alright.

Next weekend we are settling this

We are going international

There is no way you know the POPE.

They go saint peter’s Basilica the next weekend for mass

The pope is on the Balcony, Dave and his boss are in the audience.

Dave goes: There is just way too many people out here he is not going to see me out here. Im going to go tell Giovanii i’m here

Boss: who is Giovanni ?

Dave says he is a security guard.

The boss is down there waiting for the mass to start while dave is going up to find the pope.

Dave goes up there and does his thing with the POPE

Comes back down real quick cause mass is coming up shortly

Dave comes back to the spot where he left his Boss. And the boss is on a stretcher getting taken away, he’s unconscious

Dave goes “ Shit what the Hell Happened?

One of the random people goes, All I said was who is the guy in the funny hat hanging out with dave and your boss feinted.



Tyler Sheets is a grad student at the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law. He grew up in Hawaii and has lived in a wide range of places from Denver to Kansas, to Hawaii to San Diego to Amsterdam. He is a surprisingly good story teller and writes as a hobby. This specific story he says was heard at the law school.


Not much strikes the eye immediately, but I think this can be seen as an account of a culture that is obsessed with celebrity and hates name droppers or show offs. I have spent too much time hearing people talk about how they met someone famous. For some reason our culture is happy seeing people they see on tv in real life, getting to know them would be one thing, but saying hi and snapping a picture suffices. The boss represents the care people give to celebrity, as if dave proving his coolness and his knowing them, while dave is represented as more famous in the end and as someone who doesn’t really care about celebrity but rather revels in it without need. Furthermore i found the hierachy of celebrity intersting. Tom Cruise from Hollywood, to The leader of the “Free world ” to the Pope