Author Archives: Karie Villanueva

Time and Date of Birth Superstition

“Every person has a specific birthdate and time of birth. You are not suppose to give away this information because with your birth date (Lunar calendar birth date) and time of birth, a person can cause harm to you because it is a unique part of your being.”

The informant is originally from Ohio and moved to Los Angeles, California after pursuing her undergraduate education. She comes from a predominant Chinese background, where she learned the language growing up and lived in a Chinese-oriented neighborhood. Although, she claims that she does not use the language herself or live by traditional Chinese customs. She told me about this superstition after I had, unknowingly, disclosed my date and time of birth to a member of my laboratory. Although, it was ironic because she disclosed hers as well. She learned it from her parents and performs it (for the most part) for the sake of respecting the demands of her parents and Chinese customs. A big part of Chinese culture includes a vast number of superstitions and beliefs, as the informant had mentioned. It was particularly compelling, because she believed it to be a form of voodoo. The superstition is originally recited in Mandarin, but the informant provided a translated version.

While many Chinese people today many not believe in the “do’s and dont’s” of their superstitions, it seems they are still practiced because it provides continuity with the past and provides each family with an identity. Alternatively, it appears that Chinese parents instill these superstitions in their children as a way of teaching them moral lessons and etiquette for purposes of everyday life. The idea of relating it to voodoo was also interesting, because superstitions often have negative connotations in order to place emphasis on the “wrong” so that it can be avoided. The “wrong” in this case would be a person attempting to take advantage of another person.

Sun Wukong: The Monkey King and His Journey to the West

“The Monkey king and his two friends escort a Buddhist monk to retrieve sutras (canonical scriptures that reference Buddha’s teachings) from India. Throughout their journey, they encounter many enemies that try to stop their journey. The Monkey king was given this task due to his previous troubles to the Heavens. Being a rebellious child, he caused much chaos to the heavens; this eventually got him punished to imprisonment by Buddha himself. They have to battle hordes of demons. The task of journeying with the monk was a lesson to teach him how to live with enlightenment.”

The informant is originally from Ohio and moved to Los Angeles, California after pursuing her undergraduate education. She comes from a predominant Chinese background, where she learned the language growing up and lived in a Chinese-oriented neighborhood. Although, she claims that she does not use the language herself or live by traditional Chinese customs. She said that Chinese tradition was full of folk tales and told me about this tale about a monkey king. This tale in particular, was of interest to her, because she said it reminded her of herself after leaving her family to establish her independence in California.

She found it to be a rather funny coming of age story about a half man, half monkey character. And she learned it after hearing it from her parents and viewing Chinese movies that referenced it. It is originally recited in Mandarin, but the informant provided a translated version. The informant could not recall most of the tale.

After looking at the authored version of “Journey of the West” tale (Cheng-en, W. (2005) Journey of the West. Silk Pagoda. pp.1-1406) it seems to be a series of tales rather than a single one. Moreover, the tales seem to have a hidden political message that could be understood by knowing China’s sociopolitical context at the time these tales were created. Basically, the monkey king is given this mischievous, rebellious personality in order to battle against the “demons,” which refer to the government at the time of the Ming Dynasty. Its seems like a kind of backlash to the conformist view suggesting that people should not be obligated to abide by their ruling government. As a result, the tale was used not only for the purpose of entertainment but to criticize China’s political system and society. It is analogous to the creation of China’s internet meme, Grass Mud Horse, which was used as an attack against the Communist regime and Chinese government.

Carabao Proverb

“If you play with dirty carabao, then you will be dirty too.”

The informant is a vibrant, friendly invidual, who lives by his Filipino proverbs and typically uses them as part of his daily speech. After telling me about the discussions he has with his teenage daughter about personal life issues, he recited this one in particular. He mentioned it was difficult for him to tell his daughter about bad influences/friendships without sounding negative. In this case, using this proverb seemed to be the best choice for him due to its subtle tone and interesting reference to the indigenous water buffalo. He claims that by using proverbs as a source of guidance, his daughter does not disregard his advice entirely.

I remember hearing the same proverb from my father, who is also of Philippine descent. He performed this if he suspected mischievous behavior, or if he thought my friends were bad influences. It seems indigenous to a part of the Philippines called Ilocos Norte (up North of Philippines), which is a place characterized by rural living even to this day after modernization. Interestingly, the national animal of the Philippines is the carabao. As a dog is recognized as man’s best friend, Filipinos see carabao as their faithful partners in life. In rural areas, farmers rely on the carabaos’ mechanical work and cooperation to get work done. In this case, a dirty, or unproductive, carabao, would slow down farm production. In relation to friendships, it can also symbolize the impediment of an individual to develop towards maturity. Therefore, it seems reasonable to use the animal as a symbol to teach individuals about forming relationships and personal development.


“If an Armenian makes a serious face and says he will be VERY busy in the morning on a weekend, that means he is invited for Khash. Khash is a tradition and a dense soup of beef tripe and trotters, and seasoned in garlic. It is prepared overnight and served early in the morning upon sunrise with dried Lavash, the armenian bread. Other items to be served with khash include vegetables, and vodka. Khash was the food of the poor. It is made strictly from beef trotters which was the only piece of animal available after the wealthy obtained the richer parts of the cow. Having only dirty cow feet, the poor organized a great feast and celebration that eventually began to be noticed and used by the wealthy. Ultimately winning its way into the popular culture, the meal has won itself a great popularity and widespread acceptance. If you ever visit Armenia, don’t be shy when you’re invited for Khash! You will become a part of a memorable ritual! It is interesting to me because of its never-failing nature of bringing joy and laughter around a single table.”

The informant was born and raised in Armenia and moved to the United States when she was about fifteen years old. She told me that it was a complete culture shock for her, because everything seemed segregated and not in sync as the Armenian culture. We were discussing family gatherings during a lunch outing at an Armenian restaurant. She told me about this food called “Khash,” which happened to appear on the menu. She claimed it was a food for togetherness, which brings family and friends together on a random morning on a weekend that nobody can really say “no” to. It is often performed in Armenian households, because the people of Armenia can organize a feast by spending the least amount of money and enjoy it as a result.

Armenian children learn about this tradition from family, while organizing their first Khash weekend. It is interesting to her, because she claimed that she has developed senses to know when a day of Khash is coming. Anyone is invited regardless of social rank, and typically those who are invited will show up for the event. She made note that in preparation of Khash, the table is set with minimal silverware and eating utensils.

After hearing many forms of Armenian lore, there appears to be this recurring theme of communal ties. It is representative of most Armenian institutions, where restaurants often serve family style portions and churches are typically open to the public. Even though the majority of the Armenian community are geographically isolated, they seem to use folk foods and rituals to bind them spiritually. This is one of many instances where we find Armenian customs seeking to find some unity with their culture and people. Something that has been previously undervalued, such as Khash food, can be what binds the people of a nation together. I believe the whole preparation, rather than the food itself, has some significance in perpetuating togetherness among Armenians.

The Legend of Sasuntsi David

“Msra Meliq, the king of Arabia kills the king, Lion Mher, who was the leader of his nation, and takes his son David to raise. Due to the unnatural strength of the young boy, the king can no longer keep him, so he gives the child to his uncle to raise. As David grows, so do his powers. It is believed that he had weapons that no one else could hold. His horse would fly across town and he could alone destroy large groups of enemy soldiers in one strike. David is represented as a statue in the city of Yerevan swinging his sword back and forth and flying his horse, Kurkik Jalali. The legend of David of Sasun has been integrated in many baby names of Armenian sons. Even my brother is named David, who my father believed would be the hero, the savior, the symbol of our nation.”

The informant was born and raised in Armenia and moved to the United States when she was about fifteen years old. As a child, Sasuntsi David was one of the most common legendary figures that is attributed to explaining the history of Armenia. The legend of David of Sasun is about a young boy who grows up as the hero of the nation. He has become embedded as the symbol of Armenia and determined as the reason their nation still stands today. She learned this as an early child in grade school. In grade school, it is part of the general curriculum to learn the legend to memory and know the hero’s godlike powers by associating it with hope for their nation. She finds this particularly legend compelling. Despite the fact that it is a legend, there are many facts pointing to an actual existence of parts of the legend, such as there being a door of David’s son hidden in the mountains. The legend says that Mher, who was the successor of the supernatural powers and father of David, deemed that the door had some powers. And the people, today, believe that this door will someday open and a new hero will emerge.

I believe the legend of David of Sasun serves as way for Armenia to establish its national identity, since many Armenians are spread out across the European nation. For example, there are Russian-Armenians, Lebanese-Armenians, and Persian-Armenians. It’s a way of saying, “Here I am,” and to convey that their people have not lost a sense of their roots. It also seems that a large part of instilling this legend in school curriculum can come from attempting to have Armenians become well knowledgeable about their culture and history. Just like the United States teaches U.S. history and the national anthem to instill history of the U.S. to its citizens, certain countries have used folkloric means to instill their own history to their people.