Author Archives: Frank Musoke

Folk Belief – Fort Portal, Uganda

Avoiding curses

“Never ever pick up any money from the ground while walking down any road. If you see money on the ground, either walk around it, or turn around and use another route.”

I first heard this from his deceased great grandmother who was about 84 years at the time.   She told me that such money (that thrown on the road) possessed evil curses and spirits. She said that people possessed with evil spirits would go to witches. Those witches would trap all the evil spirits in a coin or a paper currency and order the patients to throw the money on a fairly busy path. That if a person came across and picked that money, he in turn would become possessed by the evil spirits. Personally, while living in Fort Portal, I never saw anyone attacked by evil spirits carried in money. Nevertheless, I never picked up any money since I heard that advice from my grandmother. Today, however, I can pickup money from anywhere in USA because their spirits won’t attack me.


Personally, I would never walk away from money because I do not believe in superstitions. I think it is only a psychological effect that anyone would believe that money on the ground has some kind of evil spirits in it. I think Gilbert believes in this advice because he thinks, “older is wiser.” I think it is almost customary for human beings to romanticize older ideas. Had that advice been to Gilbert by some one his own age, I do not think he would have taken it that serious. He only took it serious because it was advice from an eighty-four year old woman.

On the other hand, I think Gilbert believes in evil spirits because he was brought up to do so. That is the power or culture. Culture has such a big influence on how a human being’s mind works. Culture is so strong that it can cause two people to perceive the same thing differently. For example, if I found money on the ground, I would call it my lucky day while Gilbert would call it a nightmare. This is because we are raised in two different cultures. My culture calls it lucky and his culture calls it wicked.

Even though he did not recognize it was only psychological for him to believe in that advice, Gilbert seemed to perceive it. As he said, he can pick up money in the USA but not on his native land. Again, this shows the strength of culture and its boundaries. I say he can pick up money in the USA only because he has not been told that it possesses evil spirits. In a way, when he is in USA, his psyche switches to USA’s customs and vice versa when he goes back to this native country.

Legend – Hawaii

“How Hawaii Islands were formed”

Ryan told me this legend, which accounts for the existence of the Hawaiian Islands. He said that his cousins taught this legend to him when he was still a little boy (about 5). He also said that this legend, plus other Maui legends, still exists and in circulation around many parts of Hawaii.

The legend goes like this; Long time ago, there was a young boy called Maui living in Hawaii. Maui had brothers that never let him go fishing with them. They always told him that he was too young to go fishing. On many occasions, Maui pleaded with them to let him go fishing but they declined. One day, as Maui took a walk at the beach, he came across a big dead shark bone. He picked it up and took it home with him. For the next couple of days, Maui secretly fabricated a huge hook out of the bone. After completing it, he, again, asked his brothers to take him fishing. Once again they refused. Maui decided to show them his hook and promised to help them catch fish, which they had been unlucky to catch on their last 4 fishing trips.  With that promise, Maui’s brothers accepted to take him on their next fishing trip. While at the ocean Maui threw his hook in the water and instantly caught something big. Maui’s brothers tried to pull out the catch but Maui suggested that they should drag it to the shores. They drifted their canoe towards the shore while dragging their big catch. Very soon they were tired and decided to pull it out before they got on shore. To their surprise, when they pulled out the hook, it did not have fish on it but a bunch of Islands. That is how the Hawaii Islands were formed.


Like any other Legend, this legend invites negotiations about believe. As Ryan told my conversation with him, it is true that there was once a navigator called Maui who is credited for the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. However, it is completely unrealistic for him to have pulled the islands with his hook. In a way, the legend puts that historical information into a more interesting and fascinating narrative that is – in most cases – orally passed on from generation to generation. There are always passive and active bearers of the legend. Once passive bearers later become active bearers, which keeps the tradition going, and saving the legend’s existence. Like any other legend, the Maui legend builds group identity. By that, I mean that passive or active bearers of the legend often share some kind of identity. It might be tradition, ethnicity, or vicinity; but somehow they share some common aspect. In this particular case, it is most likely to be that they are Hawaiians.

Like any other surviving legend, the Maui legend must have some cultural significance – otherwise it would probably not survive. My best guess is that the legend defines gender roles. As we can see in the legend, Maui (a boy) and his brothers have to leave their home to go fish in the ocean. Though there is no mentioning of any female character in the legend, my best guess is that they are left home at home when the boys or men go to work.  In essence, I think the legend defines the role of a man as the one supposed to go hunting for the family.

Saying – USA

“Make it rain”

I first heard this statement a few years ago from a friend of mine. One of my friends and I were having a conversation about taking our girlfriends out. Of a sudden, this kid asked us if we were going to “make it rain” on them girls. I did not understand what he meant by that. I asked him to explain it to me. He said that to “make it rain” is basically spending money on a girl.

Since then, I too started using the statement to mean that I am taking my girlfriend out. I think Hip-Hop music listeners use this slang more often than anyone else. There is even a song by Fat Joe and Lil Wayne called “make it rain.” In the video, Lil Wayne and Fat Joe basically have stacks of cash, which they keep throwing at the girls in the video. In essence, I think to “make it rain” means to spend money on women. I also think it is more of a misogynist talk.


Personally, I have heard this statement being used a couple of times. Particularly, I heard it being used in a song make it rain – a song by Fat Joe.   I like the way Anthony describes the slang but his description does not seem to coincide with the one given in Mo’ Urban Dictionary: Ridonkulous Street Slang. In the dictionary, Peckham describes to “make it rain” as basically having a stack of money in a strip club and throwing it all over women (page 162). Anthony’s explanation might not be exactly similar to the one given in the dictionary, but it does not mean it is wrong. That is the nature of folklore. It is always available for grabs. That is why one can find a folk racist joke being performed in a movie and at the same time being used in an advertisement.

I have even heard people use this slang in a sexual context. A friend of mine used it when talking about a pornographic movie he had just watched. He said; Simon made it rain on her.” By that, he actually meant that Simon ejaculated all over her. What we are seeing here is that different people to mean different things can use the same phrase. That means; to understand what is being meant, one has to understand the lore used by certain folks. In essence, one has to be in that folk group.

Annotation: “Make it rain.” Mo’ Urban Dictionary: Ridonkulous Street Slang. First ed. 2007.

Game – USA

Children Nose Game – America

I first learned the nose game from my cousin when we were little kids. We played the game whenever an older person like my mother had assigned a chore. Basically, we used the nose game to decide the person to perform the chore.  Other than my family members, I do not remember seeing anyone else play the nose game. Although, my friend Grant once told me that he played it with his brothers at their house. I actually never tried to find out the origin of the game and why it was played that way. However, since my family mostly plays it, I like to think it is my family’s game.

The nose game goes like this: – “As soon as a chore is assigned, everyone around touch their noses as quick as possible. The last person to touch the tip of their noses is obligated to accomplish the chore. However, in some occasions, the fastest person to touch the tip of their noses would actually do the work.” I do not know why the rules of the game changed from the first person not to do the work to actually him doing it.

However, I believe it was because some individuals were too quick to touch their noses and might never have done any work. Therefore, it was a way of catching them.


When Jordan was telling me about the nose game, it made not much sense to me. However I do know that there must be a reason behind its existence. Apart from being used as a method to find a person a particular task, I think the game is part of Jordan’s family culture. It is part of their folklore. It is part of what defines who they are. That is perhaps the one best reason behind the games existence in Jordan’s family. The game might sound and seem ridiculous but its subsistence that conveys some sort of relationship in Jordan’s family.

Just knowing the game might be enough to be considered a member of this family. That is how strong folklore can be. People always talk about bloodlines as a way of relating people, but folklore is equally important. Folklore like Jordan’s family folk children game can create a strong relationship between different people.  It is because folklore seems to pass on from generation to generation-through passive and active bearers. Therefore, no matter how much sense I can make of it, this folk game has a social importance in Jordan’s family. The game can make Jordan’s family to identify with each other.

Counting-Out Rhyme – Kampala, Uganda

Baganda Children Counting

Ding Ding Donge

Ding Ding Dong

Waliwo   Afuuye  Naduuka  Emisinde

Someone farted     and run    a run

Omwana wa   Obote

Child        of   Obote

Atambula Awuunya        Nekiibi                         Mu   Mpale

Walks       smelly      with human waste               in     pants

Charles had this to say about the game. “I and several other kids played this game when we were still little kids living in Kampala, Uganda in the late 80’s. We always played it after smelling a foul smell or after hearing a sound of someone breaking wind. Basically, someone (always an older member of a group) would attempt to find the guilty person using this rhyme. He or she would count from child to child with each word of the rhyme. The last counted individual at the end of the song would be deemed guilty.  After supposedly locating the guilty party, everyone else would laugh at them as well as calling them “Child of Obote.” That often caused the supposedly guilty child to cry. In general, the game had to be played once. However, sometimes it would be repeated if the supposedly guilty party protested the verdict. Only Luganda speaking children played this game. Older people who often joined in making fun of the guilty individual supported it.” When I asked who Obote was, Charles said he was a former president of Uganda who was unpopular among most Baganda people because he exiled their king.


When Charles was telling me this rhyme, it meant no sense to me at all. However, when I critically analyzed it, it started making sense. I figured out some morals in the Baganda culture. First and foremost, I figured that it is considered immoral to fart in public. I say so because of the fact that; after playing the game and finding out who had done it, all kids would laugh so loud and make fun of the guilty party. If farting were not immoral in this culture, then I would not think that this rhyme would end in someone crying. Therefore, I think the rhyme was formulated to help teach children to control their bodily emissions.

Apart from that, I also figured that this rhyme had a political message it passed on the kids. In a way, this rhyme is divisive since Obote was an unpopular president among the Baganda. Hence, I would say that parents use support this rhyme to instill hatred for Obote in their children. The question would then be; why is it still being used after Obote’s death? Well, I think it is used more as a campaign against Obote’s political party. I would not be surprised to hear that Baganda children do not support the party to which Obote belonged. This is because they grow up associating Obote to something immoral (farting). Last but not least, I think that this rhyme teaches children to respect elders. I say so because it is always the older kid in the group who performs the rhyme.