Author Archives: Jacob Tamkin

Baba Yaga

Main Story:

“I heard this story from your great grandparents who were from Ukraine. It’s famous it’s called Baba Yaga, I was also told it was called The Witch. But pretty much… If I misbehaved as a kid my great grandparents would say the Baba Yaga or Witch will find me and capture me and take me to her hut in the woods. They also told me when I was behaving well that the Baba Yaga would bring me, sweets. Today, I heard Baba Yaga is a witch in the woods who eats people, but I had never heard that as a kid. It was pretty much if I was good Baba Yaga would reward me and if I was bad she would capture me. Luckily I was never taken away to her hut in the woods.” 

Context:

I asked my father about stories that had been orally passed down to him from his parents or grandparents.

Analysis:

I had heard of Baba Yaga before I asked my father, I was interested in the fact that his grandparents used Baba Yaga in a very different way than most people. They used it as an incentive rather than a scary story to tell children. 

Huldra- Scandinavian Folktale

Main Story:

“My father immigrated from Sweden when he was twelve years old after his parents died a few years earlier. He came with five dollars in his pocket but a very strong work ethic.  Growing up he lived with family members that often told him folklore so I’m glad you asked me! One of the main ones I heard was about The huldre or Huldra? I believe it was huldra, but she was a very beautiful troll who lived in the woods. She would seduce unmarried men and take them into the forest where she would not let them leave unless they married her. She had a tale of a cow so if she was married, in a church, her tale would go away.”

Context:

The interviewee’s father told him these stories as a boy. I had remembered my girlfriend telling me that her grandfather had immigrated from Sweden. He, unfortunately, passed away a few years ago. I asked her father if he had heard any folk stories from Sweden. Luckily he remembers a few his father told him as a boy.

Analysis:

I had not heard many Scandinavian folk stories so I enjoyed learning about this one. I was interested that Scandinavian folk stories often portray trolls. It seems like a unique theme that carries through quite a few folklore stories. 

Dayenu

“My family does this thing called ‘Dayenu.’ So whenever I go to my grandmother’s for Passover she hands us each a stalk of Leek or green onion. After we each receive one we hit each other over the head with it.  I’m not sure if other people do this but it symbolizes the Jews leaving Egypt for us. It also symbolizes that when he hit each other we’re not supposed to think about the slaves in Egypt. My grandma requires this every year before we eat.”

 Context: 

Dayenu has other names in different regions but is mainly practiced in the Jewish community in Iran and Afghanistan. The informant learned of this story from their grandmother during the Passover feast as a kid. I enjoyed learning about it but the informant said he thinks it’s odd and doesn’t feel good because sometimes the younger family members will hit hard on purpose. 

Analysis:

I can see where getting hit over the head with a vegetable can hurt. The informant and I both agree that having a  meaningful tradition like this keeps the family close and beliefs going. I think it is awesome that this tradition has been carried on for so many years.

Money Dance, Nigerian Wedding Folk Custom

“At weddings in our family and I know in most Nigerian weddings we throw large amounts of money at everyone it’s not even the married couple, literally everyone gets money thrown at them. We typically all stand in a circle and the elder members of the family will sometimes throw thousands of dollars each in the middle with bills ranging from singles to ten’s. My family calls it the money dance but I know some call it money spraying. This is pretty much to symbolize a showering of happiness and good fortune in their future lives together. It also shows how much the group cares for each other.”

Context:

Money throwing is pretty common at Nigerian weddings. My informant learned this from going to weddings in his family as a kid and young adult. My informant was born in Philadelphia but his parents moved from Nigeria with other family members and brought many of the customs with them, including this one. He said it his favorite part of going because who doesn’t love traditions that involve free money. 

Analysis:

Hearing this made me really want to implement this tradition in all weddings. It is a super cool Nigerian tradition that I had never heard being practiced in any other culture. I find it fascinating that so many different countries and cultures have very unique traditions when it comes to a wedding.

The Three Weddings- Nigeria

“The first one is the traditional one with a ceremony where everyone is dressed up with a lot of wine, then there is the official one in the church that’s recognized by law, and the third one is the celebratory feast. Nigerian weddings are no normal one and done, these ceremonies can go on for a long time over a whole week. When you’re invited to a Nigerian wedding plan on blocking out your whole week for this party. The feast is the best out of the three, the grandmas make some goooood Nigerian food man, I’ve been to three weddings and have never been more full in my life than that. The three weddings are fun but besides the feast, the other two can get extremely boring.”

Context:

The informant gives a recount of his personal experience at a 3-part Nigerian wedding that he has been to a few times. 

Analysis

My informant gives me a retelling of his favorite part of the Nigerian 3-day wedding process. I found it interesting but understandable how he, along with most young people, would enjoy eating the most. It is an interesting practice because the weddings I have been to are a one-day celebration that consists of a ceremony and then dinner.