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.

The Power of Garlic

This story is told by a high school teacher who observed the actions of several school janitors in Gary, Indiana.

“In Gary, Indiana where I taught in a mostly-Black high school, the cleaning staff was comprised of white Southern Europeans.  They were mainly Greek Orthodox, and they firmly believed that placing garlic chunks in rooms, drawers, behind stacks of books, on top of doorjambs, etc would keep evil spirits away.  One day I went in our book storage room and threw away all 40-plus pieces of garlic I found.  Within a couple days, it was all back.  Each year when teachers arrived to set up their rooms, there was always at least one piece of garlic in each desk.  Everybody just accepted it – remember this was in 2004 – because the whole Southern European culture in our community so strongly believed in the practice”

Analysis: His story reveals the prevalence of Southern European culture and folklore practices in Gary, Indiana in 2004.  The Orthodox Greek janitors believed that Placing garlic pieces in particular places in a building would keep the evil spirits away.  Although he did not directly speak with the janitors, the other teachers provided an oral history of the old tradition of the janitors placing garlic unusual places and replacing the cloves when needed.  My old high school teacher, Curtis, is an atheist so he was quite skeptical about these superstitious practices, yet there was nothing he could do to stop the overflow of garlic into the school.  The janitors’ will to rid the school of evil spirits was much greater than Curtis’ will to rid the school of garlic because the janitors were so frightened by the potential of evil spirits.





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.