Author Archives: Kirbi Phillips

Festejo Dance

In an interview with my old dance teacher, he describes the traditional Peruvian Festejo Dance:

Interviewer: “What is one of the most famous dances in Peru?”

Informant: “Festejo is definitely one of the most popular dances because it’s so festive and has a good rhythm.   There’s a lot of African influence in the dance so the music is very procession heavy and theres a lot of movement in the hips.  One of the best parts of the dance is that it can be performed in a pair or in a big group, so it’s perfect for festivals and big celebrations!”

Interviewer: “What are the traditional costumes like?”

Informant: “Traditionally the women wear big colorful skirts and blouses and the men wear either colorful pants or a colorful shirt.  The major colors are the colors on the Peruvian flag: red, white, blue, and green.”

Interviewer: “What kind of music do they dance to?”

Informant: “It’s Afro-Peruvian music so there’s a lot of percussion.  The cajon box drum is an especially popular instrument to use when making music for Festejo dancing.”

Interviewer: “What are the origins of this dance?”

Informant: “It was brought over with the African slaves which sparked the African influence over Peruvian culture.  At first, the slaves were discriminated against and their culture was not blended with Peruvian culture until the 1950s when Peru wanted to distance themselves from their Spanish influence and create their own culture.”

Interviewer: “How did you learn about this type of dance?”

Informant: “My friend from Peru taught it to me.”

Analysis: The history of the Afro-Peruvian dance also shares the history of the Peruvian people and the immigration patterns of the area. This piece of folklore is important because it demonstrates how much of an influence African culture has on the region and how it did not have much of an influence until after 1950.  I especially enjoy this piece of folklore because I love dance and learning about how dance influences culture and vice versa.

Rosemary Herb as Medicine

In the following interview, a energy worker and herbal and flower essence specialist explains the significance of the rosemary herb:

Interviewer: “What is one of the main herbs you suggest to your patients?”

Informant: “Rosemary is an herbal staple.  It’s a grounding herb that helps your spirit stay connected to your physical body especially during stressful and challenging situations”

Interviewer: “How do people use Rosemary?”

Informant: “You can rub the herb on any part of your body to make you feel more grounded, especially the forehead and in the palms.  Rosemary can also be ingested which will have the same effect”

Analysis: I have used rosemary and believe it works.  I feel more grounded and able to control my own body when either ingesting or touching this herb however I understand that there is a lack of scientific evidence to back up this claim.  I first heard about this homeopathic method from the informant who heard it from her teacher who prefers to remain anonymous.  She does energy work on both humans and animals and has had great success with her controversial methods.  Using the Earth’s resources as medicine has been around since the beginning of time and the informant is building off of their ancient work to discover more about the undiscovered field.

Le Heron

The following French fairytale was told by my old high school French teacher:

First in French:

Un jour sur ses longs pieds allait je ne sais où
Le Héron au long bec emmanché d’un long cou.
Il côtoyait une rivière.
L’onde était transparente ainsi qu’aux plus beaux jours ;
Ma commère la Carpe y faisait mille tours
Avec le Brochet son compère.
Le Héron en eût fait aisément son profit :
Tous approchaient du bord, l’Oiseau n’avait qu’à prendre ;
Mais il crut mieux faire d’attendre
Qu’il eût un peu plus d’appétit.
Il vivait de régime, et mangeait à ses heures.
Après quelques moments l’appétit vint ; l’Oiseau
S’approchant du bord vit sur l’eau
Des Tanches qui sortaient du fond de ces demeures.
Le mets ne lui plut pas ; il s’attendait à mieux,
Et montrait un goût dédaigneux
Comme le Rat du bon Horace.
Moi des Tanches ? dit-il, moi Héron que je fasse
Une si pauvre chère ? Et pour qui me prend-on ?
La Tanche rebutée, il trouva du Goujon.
Du Goujon ! c’est bien là le dîné d’un Héron !
J’ouvrirais pour si peu le bec ! aux Dieux ne plaise !
Il l’ouvrit pour bien moins : tout alla de façon
Qu’il ne vit plus aucun Poisson.
La faim le prit ; il fut tout heureux et tout aise
De rencontrer un Limaçon.
Ne soyons pas si difficiles :
Les plus accommodants, ce sont les plus habiles :
On hasarde de perdre en voulant trop gagner.
Gardez-vous de rien dédaigner ;
Surtout quand vous avez à peu près votre compte.
Bien des gens y sont pris ; ce n’est pas aux Hérons
Que je parle ; écoutez, humains, un autre conte ;
Vous verrez que chez vous j’ai puisé ces leçons.


And in English:

One day,─no matter when or where,─

A long-legg’d heron chanced to fare

By a certain river’s brink,

With his long, sharp beak

Helved on his slender neck;

“Twas a fish-spear, you might think.

The water was clear and still,

The carp and the pike there at will

Pursued their silent fun,

Turning up, ever and anon,

A golden side to the sun.

With ease might the heron have made

Great profits in his fishing trade.

So near came the scaly fry,

They might be caught by the passer-by.

But he thought he better might

Wait for a better appetite─

For he lived by rule, and could not eat,

Except at his hours, the best of meat.

Anon his appetite return’d once more;

So, approaching again the shore,

He saw some tench taking their leaps,

Now and then, from their lowest deeps.

With as dainty a taste as Horace’s rat,

He turn’d away from such food as that.

“What, tench for a heron! poh!

I scorn the thought, and let them go.”

The tench refused, there came a gudgeon;

“For all that,” said the bird, “I budge on.

I’ll ne’er open my beak, if the gods please,

For such mean little fishes as these.”

He did it for less;

For it came to pass,

That not another fish could he see;

And, at last, so hungry was he,

That he thought it of some avail

To find on the bank a single snail.

Such is the sure result

Of being too difficult.

Would you be strong and great,

Learn to accommodate.

Get what you can, and trust for the rest;

The whole is oft lost by seeking the best.

Above all things beware of disdain;

Where, at most, you have little to gain.

The people are many that make

Every day this sad mistake.

‘Tis not for the herons I put this case,

Ye featherless people, of human race.

─List to another tale as true,

And you’ll hear the lesson brought home with you


Analysis: My old teacher first heard this fable when on a French exchange program in high school.  Since hearing it, she has shared it with her daughters and every French class she has taught at the high school.  It spotlights the theme of taking good things as they come to you rather than waiting for something better.  This piece of folklore has special significance to me because I heard it from my French teacher rather than finding it on a website or in a book where you can find the fable today along with any similar tales.  The Heron is a classic example of a French fable because of the use of animal characters and inclusion of a moral to the story.  In my opinion I think it is better written and easier to listen to in French but translating the fable to English has helped the popularity of this particular fable grow.

Yiddish Proverbs

The following proverbs were recited by my grandfather:

“Whomever looks for easy work goes to bed very tired.”

“One fool makes a lot of fools.”

“Better the child to cry than the father.”

“Sorrow makes the bones grow thinner.”

“A meowing cat can’t catch mice.”

“We know when we start out; when we’ll return, we know not.”

‘Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.”

“Let God worry about tomorrow.”

“Don’t depend upon others — do it yourself.”

“The boaster gets stuck in the mud.”

Analysis: The proverbs my grandfather remembered were told to him by his mother at a young age and throughout his life she referenced them.  Growing up with a Jewish family, these proverbs are still very relevant in today’s society.  My mother and aunt normally provide me with a proverb while giving me advice much like my great-grandmother did with my grandfather.  These pieces of folklore are particularly interesting because they have remained mostly constant throughout history.  Previously, they were translated from Yiddish to English but some proverbs still contain Yiddish words that Jewish people still commonly use today.  This collection of proverbs all has themes of working hard, living in the present, and focusing on oneself rather than others.  These themes sound very familiar to me because my mother and grandmother try to give me similar advice today.  This is one of my favorite pieces of folklore because I knew about these proverbs before this class and it has personal relevance in my life.



Yo Mamma Jokes

The following history of the yo mamma joke is told by my old high school history teacher in an interview:

“Yo mamma jokes have been around since Babylonian times.  The earliest record we have of yo mamma jokes comes from an ancient Babylonian tablet which reads ‘..of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?’ Although this joke does not make total since in today’s context of the joke, as a riddle the phrase makes more sense.

Yo mamma jokes were used throughout history by intellectuals such as shakespeare who used the joke in his play Titus Andronicus’ when he writes:

‘Demetrius: “Villain, what hast thou done?”

Aaron: “That which thou canst not undo.”

Chiron: “Thou hast undone our mother.”

Aaron: “Villain, I have done thy mother.”’

Even in ancient times, people were digging jabs at each others mothers as a form of comedy.  The joke later evolved to fit the big screen as it was featured in movies such as the Monty Python  and began its transition into mainstream popular culture.  In later years, yo mamma jokes have been featured on many television shows and movies such as South Park, various Adam Sandler movies, and classics like Remember the Titans and Mean Girls.  Here are some other examples of modern day yo mamma jokes:

Yo momma is so fat, I took a picture of her last Christmas and it’s still printing.

Yo mamma is so ugly when she tried to join an ugly contest they said, “Sorry, no professionals.”

Yo momma is so stupid when an intruder broke into her house, she ran downstairs, dialed 9-1-1 on the microwave, and couldn’t find the “CALL” button.

Yo momma is so fat when she went to KFC the cashier asked, “What size bucket?” and yo momma said, “The one on the roof.””

Analysis:  Although the form in which the yo mamma joke is delivered has changed overtime evolving from a riddle to a joke, the main themes of the joke have remained constant.  The themes of the jokes include but are not limited to weight, intelligence, and beauty.  Other common themes are yo mamma jokes about other people having sexual intercourse with one’s mother.  The yo mamma joke is still prevalent today but not as much as it once was in the early 2000.  This is a very interesting piece of folklore because it is not limited to geographical boundaries.  Overtime, the whole world has learned and created their own variation of yo momma jokes while still maintaining the same themes.