Author Archives: Jacob Tamkin

Ghost Month- Taiwan

“This is another folk superstition that I found very odd while living there [Taiwan]. It was this thing called Ghost month, I believe it was September, but essentially it’s a month when you don’t leave your clothes out to dry, you don’t look over your shoulder,  and you don’t leave the house at night too often. They also do some things like surgery, no swimming, no moving houses, and no weddings. I think it’s everything you can do to hide from the ghosts and not to reveal your home’s address. Taiwanese believe the ghosts haunt the island for the whole entire month.” 

Context: 

When the informant was in Taiwan his host family made sure to reveal these practices to him in order to prevent him from being haunted by the ghosts on the island. His host family was pretty relaxed on the custom but many people still take this folk superstition very seriously. 

Analysis: I found this superstition extremely interesting, all of the practices and things you’re not supposed to do seem to be kind of excessive, but I do see how the Taiwanese people can hold onto this tradition on the chance the island does become haunted during ghost month. 

White Crysanthemum-Taiwan

“ Another Folk tradition or I guess a superstition is that you don’t give white chrysanthemums unless it’s someone’s funeral. If you do then it is considered extremely rude and you wish death on the person. While I was in Taiwan I don’t think I saw them in a normal flower shop but you have to order them specifically for a funeral.”

Context:

The informant found this information out while living abroad in Taiwan and asking his host father what flowers to get for his host mother’s birthday. He warned him anything but the white chrysanthemums.

Analysis:

I find it odd that a flower can symbolize such a harsh meaning, and typically when I think of a funeral I think of dark colors, black usually, not a beautiful white flower. This is a very unique folk custom that I believe is mainly tied to Taiwanese culture. 

Jade- Taiwan

“Hey man, glad you called this is a super cool thing my host family in Taiwan did and I’m glad you got to experience it when you came to visit, but pretty much by gifting a piece of Jade to guests it’s their way of showing first their wealth. It’s a way for them to kind of subtly show off haha, but it’s also supposed to protect you from injury. For example, when my host mother gave mom a Jade bracelet it is supposed to add a sort of extra life. If you fall the Jade is supposed to break and take the force of it so it protects you from harm. I think this Jade symbolism is pretty common in Taiwan and China.”

Context:

The informant, ST, had lived in Taiwan for a year and I was able to go visit him and participate in this custom by receiving a Jade necklace. ST learned this while living with the host family in Taiwan for a year. 

Analysis:

This is a very cool custom that I am very happy I got to participate in, I find it very interesting that Jade, a rare substance can provide safety. My grandmother actually had a Jade bracelet and fell while walking and her bracelet broke and she only had a scraped knee. So this tradition seems like it works. 

Ghost Mattress

Main Piece:

“My grandma lives in Maryland and she once bought a mattress from a friend that was old and worn out, obviously had been well lived in. So the first night that she was sleeping on the new “old” mattress she at first thought she was dreaming but then believed she saw a little girl crawl out from beneath the bed and into her room. After that, she dragged the mattress out of her house and never looked back.” 

Background:

This story comes from a classmate’s grandmother she’s 70 and lives in Maryland. It is a true story, or at least a story her grandma believes is true. 

Context:

I learned of this story from a classmate, AO. AO shared her grandmother’s story with me in a breakout session when we decided to trade family ghost stories. 

Thoughts:

This story was very spooky. It could have been a great horror movie scene. This story is going to make me rethink buying a used mattress in the future. A ghost story like this is an oral tradition and is unique to Ms. O and something she had shared with family members until Alison was nice enough to share it with me.

Afterlife- A Personal Folk Story

Main Story:

“I’ve told you this story before and it really means a lot to me, I was super close with my grandfather so it makes it seem like he’s up there watching us when I think about this story. So I was at his house in Palm Desert in the room I usually stay in that has a view of the mountains in the distance. That mountain range would be impossible to hike on, no trails whatsoever and no one has ever hiked it, and none of us had ever seen anyone hike it. But that one morning I was looking out the window and saw a figure in the distance climbing up the mountain. I thought it was weird but didn’t think too much of it. Then maybe five minutes later we get a call that my grandfather had passed away. I truly think it was him making his final journey and hiking the mountains that he loved waking up to every day.”

Context:

My father had told me this story many years ago, and I had always kind of remembered it, but I asked him to retell it to me for the purpose of this project. My father loved his grandfather so much, they were best friends so when he died it was very hard on him and this story helped him get through it and believe that no one ever is fully gone but can live on through other people.

Analysis:

This story is so interesting to me because we really do have no idea if there is or isn’t an afterlife and how one makes the journey after death on earth. Like my father told me I believe him that it helped with the healing process and that it helped instill a belief in him and passed down to me and my siblings that people who die can live on through you. This is an oral story that can easily be passed down to my children in hopes of instilling a bit of faith in knowing that one doesn’t die for good.