Author Archives: Kelly Williams

Myth – Hindu

On a certain day in the Hindu calendar, which usually falls in October, you are not supposed to look at the moon for the entire night. If you do look at the moon you will receive bad blessings. The only way to get rid of these bad blessings is to if another person tells you the mythological story of why not to look at the moon.

In Hindu mythology there is a story of a god who one day ate too much. He ate so much that he fell off of his vehicle. When he fell the moon started to laugh and make fun of the god. Then the god cursed the moon saying that no one will look at the moon’s face. So on that day, the day the moon laughed at a god, no one is supposed to look at the moon. But if they do, they will receive bad blessings.

Upon hearing this story I decided to look further into the specifics and found another, very similar version of this mythology in Hindu Feasts and Festivals by Sri Swami Sivanadanda. In this version, Lord Ganesha is the god mentioned. He is an embodiment of  wisdom and bliss and has a small mouse as his vehicle. Ganesa is the first god, he has the head of an elephant- the biggest of all animals- and rides on a mouse- the smallest of all animals. This denotes that Ganesha is the creator of all creatures (Sivanadanda 43).

On his birthday Ganesha was going to different houses accepting offerings of sweet puddings, which he loved. After eating a lot of pudding he set out on his mouse at night. Suddenly the mouse stumbled because it saw a snake and Ganesha fell off. Ganesha’s stomach burst open and all of the sweets spilled out. Ganesha stuffed the sweets back into his stomach and used tied the snake around his belly. The moon and sky laughed after witnessing this. Annoyed, Ganesh pulled out one of his tusks and hurled it against the moon and cursed that no one should look at the moon on the Ganesh Chaturthi day or else they will earn a bad name. If someone does look at the moon by mistake then the only way he can be freed rom the curse is by repeating or listening to a different story of   how Lord Krishna cleared his character regarding the Symantaka jewel. (Sivanadanda 44)

This story also has central ties to the Hindu doctrine of Karma, essentially “what goes around comes around.” In this case, if you laugh at a high god, you will be cursed. This story also serves to teach respect for the spiritual superiors despite mistakes or faults they may have, scoffing at any high god will not go unnoticed.

Ganesh Chaturthi day is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar and as mentioned earlier, usually falls in the fall, in October.


Sivanadanda, Swami Sri. Hindu Feasts and Festivals. Himalayas, India: The Divine Life Society: World Wide Web Edition: 2000. download/ hindufest.pdf.

Joke – Scotland

At a restaurant an old Scottish man looked at the waitress and said: “I have a story to tell you about my Scottish friend.  He went to a restaurant and ordered soup. When the soup came the man immediately called over the waiter and said: “Waiter, there is a fly in my soup!”  Immediately the waiter responded;  “Oh Sir, let me take that one away and bring you another.”  But the old Scotsman said “Oh no lad, just make him (the fly) spit it out!”

My mom told me this joke and she said she heard it from her great-grandfather, William Henry Moore. William is from a small town near Glasgow, Scotland and came to the United States in the 1930s. He lived in Long Island until retirement when he moved to Dunedian, Florida. Dunedian is a predominantly Scottish town and is known for its ancestral ties to Scotland.

“Scotty,” the nickname for my great-grandfather, would invite his Scottish friends over in Dunedian and tell stories, play bagpipes, and smoke cigars fairly regularly. When ever my mother came to visit she often heard this joke, but remembers never hearing any jokes/stories etc. about other nationalities, only Scottish.

This joke pokes fun at Scotsmen as penny-pinchers. Wanting every little bit of their money’s worth, even the miniscule droplet that a fly might have consumed. The joke is told traditionally with a narrative and a punch line. This joke can be categorized as a Blason Populaire joke because it pokes fun at the popular conception of a Scotsman.

A joke disclaims responsibility of the teller, however when joke is about an nationality and the teller and audience are of the same ethnicity I do not believe any responsibility can be disclaimed. Because Scotty and the other men never told stories about other nationalities they took more responsibility for their words then perhaps a French man telling the joke.

The joke telling was also part of a tradition/habitual folk practice that my great-grandfather took part in. The congregation of Scotsmen in Dunedian was a regular occurrence because all the men there were retired. When Scotty lived in New York he and his fellow Scotsmen usually were working long hours in industrial jobs and therefore the coming together and sharing of stories, songs, cigars etc. was less frequent.

In my family today we do not carry on a Scottish tradition of bagpipes, kilts, etc. Scotty has passed and so has his wife but they both made it a point to tell my mom and her Kelly Williamssiblings the stories about their lives and a few jokes etc. The kilt is still in my immediate family and other Scottish items are divided between my mother and her siblings. On several occasions my mom has made it a point to tell me about my great-grandparents, whom I never met, so that I can continue passing on their story and spirit.

Recipe – Swedish


2 pkgs. Dry yeast

¼ c. very warm water

1 t. cugar

1 c. milk, scalded    2 t. anise seed, pounded

1 c. water     3 c. light rye flour

½ stick margarine    2 t. salt

½ c. molasses     yeast

¼ c. light brown sugar    4 c. white flour

Dissolve yeast in water and sugar. Scald milk, add water, margarine, molasses, brown sugar and anise seed. Add salt, stir in rye flour and mix well. Add dissolved yeast and beat. Add white flour gradually beating well after each addition. Turn out on floured board and knead using only as much flour as necessary. Put dough into a well greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover with waxed paper and a towel. Set in a warm place and allow to rise until double in bulk. Punch down. Turn out on floured board and with a sharp oiled knife cut into two parts for large loaves or into three parts for smaller loaves. Form into rounds and let rest covered for 10 minutes. Grease bread pans. Form dough into loaves, cover and let rise until almost double in bulk. Bake in a 375 oven. After first 20 minutes, brush tops with warm water. Continue baking another 10 or 15 min. Test for doneness by removing a loaf from pan and press sides, and tap bottom. Place loaves on a rack, brush with hot water and cover with a cloth.

This recipe comes from a recipe book that Rene’s aunt (his dad’s sister), Inez Wendell, wrote called My Yesterday, Your Today. The cookbook includes all the traditional Swedish recipes that she grew up making as well as stories about the Swedish influence in her upbringing and other stories from her past in relation to her heritage.

Rene says that she learned probably learned the recipe from his greatgrandmother who came to the United States from Sweden. His great-grandmother passed the recipe down to his grandmother and finally to his mother who Rene says “made the Rye bread all her life.” Rene’s great-grandparents on both is father’s and mother’s side came to the United States from Sweden and brought these recipes with them. Specifically they came from Orebro, Sweden which is where this recipe likely originated. Rene’s grandmother and mother also used to make the rye flour base for the bread from scratch, however because this is so time consuming this practice has been replaced with store-bought rye flour.

Rene carries on the tradition of making the rye bread because his female siblings and his mother are no longer able to. The bread is always made on holidays and special occasions such as birthdays. The bread is not only reserved for these occasions though, it can be made at any time and usually accompanies dinner and can be served with any spread, typically butter or occasionally a jam. If there are leftovers from dinner the bread is often ate in replacement of toast for breakfast the next morning.

Folk Ceremony – Hindu

The Hindu ceremony known as Upanayanam, is performed as a coming of age ceremony only for boys that traditionally relates to the time in India when children were sent to school to learn with a Spiritual Master. With the Spiritual Master they learn the arts, sciences, math, mental strength etc. A priest and family members attend the ceremony where they all watch and celebrate. From the ceremony on out the boy wears a thread across his chest, and will receive a second when he marries.

During the ceremony the boy sits down while the priest sets up types of rice, oils, and makes a fire. The priest begins chanting prayers and makes offerings symbolic of sacrifices-offering foods water/liquids with the intent of humbling yourself before God. The prayer and offerings last about two hours. After that the father of the child and the priest tie the string around the child. Which is believed to bring the child strength and luck in the future. Throughout the entire ceremony the boy keeps his eyes closed.

Kunaal recently had this ceremony performed for him. He said that in modern society Hindu boys have the ceremony when they go off to college or before they leave the home for an extended period of time. After the ceremony you are no longer regarded as a boy but as a man. The ceremony is only for men because traditionally, Hindu women did not leave the home to be educated.

It is obvious that this tradition has very close religious ties with the presence of a priest, prayers, and offerings. Typically a strong-believing Hindu family would have this ceremony vs. a Hindu family that does not practice their claimed religion very closely. This ceremony can also be categorized as a form of initiation. The ceremony initiates a boy into the outside world and recognizes him as a learner of the world. The liminal period is signified by the time the boy must keep his eyes closed, from the beginning to the end of the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony the boy’s eyes open to represent being opened to the outside world and to manhood.

This ceremony appeals only to a specific group and serves to establish an identity for the Hindu man. The man constantly wears the white string across his heart. Kunaal wears his under his shirt every day and rarely takes it off. When he is marred he will receive a second string that he will also wear at all times. The practice of humbling oneself before God with offerings is also a rite of passage. The boy must be recognized not only by his family and community as a man but also by his God and the priest serves as the middleman in this transaction.

For Kunaal the ceremony was very important. It is difficult to leave home and an environment that constantly reminds him of his background/beliefs. With the Upanayanam ceremony Kunaal said that he feels as though he has his family and priest’s blessing to leave the household and become an honorable man.

Superstition – Oahu, Hawaii

On the island of Oahu in Hawaii there is a curse that comes upon anyone who brings pork with them on the Pali road at midnight. If they do it is said something bad will happen, such as your car stalling out or angry spirits coming to taunt you. The Old Pali road connects Waikiki to Waimanalo but has since been turned into a highway. The curse of taking pork over the Pali at midnight relates to a feud between Pele, the goddess of the dry side of the island and Kamapua’a the half-man, half-pig god of the wet side of the island. When you take pork over the Pali, from the wet side over to the dry side of the island, Pele is angered because you are bringing Kamapua’a into her domain. Therefore, as the saying goes; Don’t bring pork over the Pali at midnight!

Sam’s father is a native Hawaiian, and although Sam was born in California he spent much of his childhood frequently visiting Hawaii with his family. Sam cannot remember exactly when he was told about this curse but he guessed it was when he was very young, around 5 or 6 years old. He said it was a family tradition to sit around in the evening and sing songs and tell stories about the islands, especially the close ties with nature.

When Sam was a teenager he said he and his friends went on the Pali road at midnight with a piece of bacon. They hiked off of the highway onto the old road that was not paved over. After about thirty minutes of snooping around with their bacon in hand, nothing had happened. The boys left in their car.

Sam does not really take the curse seriously because he rarely is driving around the Pali highway with pork in his car at midnight. Also, because he has tested it out and nothing happened, he believes its just an old superstition used to scare little kids and keep teenagers off the deserted road late at night.

Hawaiian superstitions are very closely tied with the identity of the Hawaiian people. Because the tourism industry is so prevalent and the “authentic” Hawaiian experience is exploited, superstitions such as the pork over Pali tradition serve more as ways to remember the roots of the Hawaiians and the Polynesian beliefs versus a scare tactic to keep kids from being on the highway late at night.

Furthermore the story behind the superstition serves as a constant reminder of the Polynesian belief system. Because the objects are very specific in relation to the superstition the reason behind it is more easily remembered. I think parents tell this folklore to their kids because at a young age they are more impressionable and the story will likely make a bigger impact on them then it would on a adolescent who is less likely to take their parents seriously.