Author Archives: Megan Angulo

Peruvian Ceremony

The informant is a 21 year old girl raised in Lima, Peru. She moved to the states 3 years ago for college. Her first language was Spanish, and she learned English in the classroom. She never spoke it outside the classroom before coming to America.  She had a more stories about Peruvian culture than I realized was possible. This specific

Informant: Peru is very diverse. It has 3 different regions. It has the highland, the coast and the jungle. It is also very diverse in terms of its different economic statuses. There is a big difference between the very very poor and the very very wealthy, which is unique… not only to Peru… but to a lot of South American countries. There is a lot of tradition.

Me: Can you pick one thing to go in-depth into?

Informant: In the jungle, particually, there is a lot of tradition in using homeopathic medicine. It is like medicine from natural resources. Back in the day, when the Inca empire existed, the Incas gave a lot of value to the sun as their god. And also the motherland as their god. So there are still these traditions going on even now, in smaller, of course, less urban areas. For example, in the jungle we have what are called shamans. We also have them in the highlands, but they are really common in the jungle. They are basically… natural doctors… that heal. But they also do a very ceremonialhealing process in which they sing a song in their native dialect. Theydress up in very traditional clothing and also use natural plants for the healing process. So everything is completely natural. Everything is based on plants and different scents that they use to heal you. There is also this tradition, that I have actually done, in which people believe in plants having a supernatural power in which they can read your future. So when I went to Couzco, I went to this small little town in which there was a woman who claimed she could read the future through Coca leaves. She would literally throw them around sing in Quechua which is the natural dialect of the Incas. And would read your future.

Me: Was she right?

Informant: Yeah, she said that a big change was coming. And it was going to change me a lot and for the better and that I was not going to want to come back. I was going to leave to a place and not come back. And I was going to be really happy and find my passion. I never mentioned that I was moving to a new country. She said it all herself. The whole ceremony occurred in this small room. She had little stands and images of the virgin Mary, as well as a lot of coca leaves and a lot of traditional plants from the highlands. Everything was in Quechua. But she told me my future in Spanish because I don’t know Quechua. It was a very traditional.

Me: So you do believe that this all works?

Informant: I mean, I do believe that it may have some supernatural power. Coca leaves, especially in the highlands, coca leaves are just the most valuable thing in the world. Back in the day, when the Incas had to work in the highlands, they would eat coca leaves because they have high caloric power and would give them energy. It is also really good in tea. It helps with altitude sickness too. Everything in Peru, coca leaves.

At this point the informant began talking about a different ceremony using coca leaves.

My analysis: I found the informant’s account of these events as fascinating.  The way she was so passionate about all the different Peruvian cultures and traditions and could not seem to say enough about any of them was a different experience compared to some of the other people I spoke to. I am personally not sold on the supposedly psychic woman.  I felt as though her predications were similar to horoscopes in that they were overgeneralized. It would be impossible not to find something relatable in that description.  That being said though, 3 years later and the informant is still looking back on what the psychic told her and comparing how similar her life is to the prediction. There is clearly still a huge respect for and abidance by tradition and ritual in Peru.  I gather this is because of its rich history.  The connection to the land definitely comes from previous cultures, as well as the dependance that the people have on the land. When something plays such a large role in so many people’s lives, it is not surprising that it becomes sacred and revered.


The informant is a 20 year old girl.  She is Indian and was raised Hindu.  In this interview excerpt, she is talking about Diwali. She mentioned at the beginning that it is hard for her to distinguish sometimes what is Indian vs. Hindu.

Informant: There is this big book called the Ramayana. Basically it tells the story of this god, named Rama. The story of the Ramayana is very long. Like a lot of stories in Hinduism, it revolves around families and their kids and stuff and how the kids always do what the parents ask them to do. Because hinduism focuses around the idea, a couple main ideas, but one of them is that everyone has a duty and you are supposed to do it. So basically in the ramayana there are a lot of stories. There is like 4 brothers and their parents. And their parents are the king and queen. I guess the queen… I am pretty sure… was pretty evil. But basically, Rama was the oldest brother, the queen was like ‘okay, so because I said so, you have to be exiled to a forrest for 14 years.” and rama just did it. He was like “okay, well my mom said i should do this” so he just did it. There might have been another reason, but I am going off of what I learned in sunday school. and you know how much I paid attention in sunday school. So, I am sure if you googled quick synopsis of ramanyan… The general jist is that rama goes to the forest for 14 years, saves the world while he is in the forest and comes back.

Me: Go into as much detail as you can

Informant: Oh f**k, well I don’t really know that or have that for you. But basically while he is away he the forest he also kind of like takes down these demons because there is this bad guy named rabban, r-a-b-b-a-n, something like that. He tries to kidnap, cita, who is rama’s wife. He pretends to be a beggar and all this stuff and cita goes to give him a mango or something and she leaves this magic circle of safety that rama sets out for her. Just to feed this beggar because she is nice and everyone is nice. And he takes her and is like “muahaha now I have her” so rama has to go and save her. And also he goes to the forest with his younger brother, his second oldest brother, named luxxman, he is also a god. It is just like they are all stories of loyalty basically.  Anyways Diwali is celebrated because that is when Rama returns back after 14 years of exile. So basically the way you celebrate Diwali is like you put a bunch of lights out because that is what they did when he came back. Diwali is the festival of lights. SO everything you do revolves around candles. We have these candles called diya, which i think is spelled d-i-y-a. And you light a bunch of candles all around your house. You obviously pray and stuff like that. It is almost… I don’t want to say it is like Christmas… The only reason it is related to Christmas because it is all about lights and stuff like that. So that is why you celebrate Diwali, because it is a happy time when rama comes back. Also, all Hindu holidays go by the lunar calendar, so it is not like christmas which is always on the 25th, it is more like okay, when the indian people who run the world say when the holiday is judging by the moon, that is when we all get the memo that diwali will ahppen. usually it falls around november/december.

Me: Wait, how exactly do you figure out when it is?

Informant: Whoever figures out the lunar calendar tells us. It all goes by the moon. Maybe it is a full moon thing, I don’t even know, but everyone gets the memo

Me: Do your parents tell you, ‘oh wait today is Diwali?’

Informant: You can google it, easily. You can say, Diwali 2015, when it it? everyone knows. You don’t have to go outside with a moon-scope thing and figure out. that’s not our thing, there is someone who does it.

My analysis: The informant makes some insightful comments throughout her telling of the story.  Much of how I would analyze the festival, she already does. Growing up with the informant as my best friend, I have always been aware of the differences between Indian and American cultures. The informant always shows respect towards her elders. She has never truly taken all the gods and stories seriously, but rather takes them for what they truly are, which is means by which we are taught life lessons.

Crash Course in Indian Culture (Holi/Colors/Bindi/Henna)

Continued from the prior interview. Collected from 20 year old female. Indian, raised Hindu. Here she talks about the festival of Holi, as well as the importance of color and how that is demonstrated at weddings and in traditional garb.

Informant: In the spring we celebrate Holi, h-o-l-i. That is when everyone throws colors at eachother . That is for a couple of reasons. This one is hard because I don’t know the whole story about it, I just know the general gist. There is a demonness, like a bad guy who is a woman. And her name is holika, h-o-l-i-k-a. That’s where the name comes from. And I am pretty sure she was evil and somehow either she just died in a fire or someone killed her using fire, but because she finally died, we all celebrate holi as we all are hapypy becuasse spring came out of that. So holi is also the celebration of the start of spring. That is why you throw colors and stuff because spring… colors… happy. So when you celebrate holi, everyone has a bunch of colored powder and a bunch of water and you just kind of throw them at eachother and you say happy holi. It is also a happy time. I don’t think… maybe it is just we never celebrated them… but we don’t have any depressing holidays. You know how like Jewish people have Yom Kippur and stuff like that. We don’t really have that because there is no like, in Hinduism there’s not really like in Christianity and Judiaism where hthey have sins and atonement and all that crap. Hinduism, which is really why I like it, it is not about doing bad things and making up for them, it is more just about positive ways to live your life. So that is why they are all around central tennents like karma… doing good things comes around. That is a huge thing for Hinduism. There are a lot of other stories. There are books. The ramayan is all about rama, but there are a lot of gods in Hinduism. There is another book that is about a lot of them. It is called the mahabaharta. That is the story of ginesh, who is our elephant god. There are a lot of stories in it, but one of the stories that is the most important is talking about ginesh and how he is with his parents and basically the reason why in Hinduism your parents are so important is because someone told ginesh “circle around your world twice.” And what he did was walk around his parents twice because your parents are supposed to be your world. There are just a lot of loyalty stories like that. There is another story, that is called the gita, I think that is g-i-t-a. bhavagad gita. People chant that.

Me: what do you mean they chant it?

Informant: there are a lot of verses to it and sometimes when you pray, some people have whole chapters memorized and they will say them. But that is a very long story. That story is about a normal human guy named arjun. He is in a war. It is a war between 2 families. He is on one side and all of his brothers are on the other side. And he doesn’t know whether he should or shouldn’t fight against his family. He doesn’t know what to do. So he is visited by a god named krishna, who is one of the gods that is always depicted as blue. And the god coaches him and talks him through what he should do. And that is basically the whole gita. It is another story about loyalty and karma. Those are the main things of Hinduism which is again why I like it. It is really not an intrusive religion. It is very spiritual, like these are some good things that you should keep with you as you live your life. It is a pretty chill religion.

Me: Where did you learn all of this?

Informant: Sunday School. When I started to go to Sunday school in kindergarden, it was held out of a temple because it was very few people. But then it expanded and all of these indian people came out of no where. Then there was like hundreds of kids so we started having it at an actual elementary school because we needed to have classrooms. It totally expanded… because you know indian people run the world. It got crazy. We had a website, they published a text book for us. We got sweatpants and sweatshirts. It went crazy.  There are a lot of kids who already know everything because their parents teach it to them, obviously my parents know it too. My grandparents reallyyyyy know this stucf because older generations know it more. My parents wanted me to go to Sunday school because they wanted me to make some indian friends. It wasn’t really about learning hindi. My Sunday school we had language class and we had culture class. The culture class was where we learned all of this religious stuff. Or culture stuff. We talked about the differences between americans and Indians and all that kind of stuff. And hindi class, like language class, is specifically where you just learn hinidi or gidrathi. Hinidi is the language my mom’s side of the family speaks and gidrathi is the langage my dad’s side of the family speaks. They’re from 2 different parts of india. We just learned hindi because I think hindi is the national language of india so my parents were just like, ehh. My mom is very fluent in hindi, she is a hindi teacher so they were like, just learn hindi. So that is what we learned. That is all hindu stuff. As far as indian cultural stuff goes… but then again at the same time, if we are going to talk about weddings as being an indian thing. At the same time, there are a lot of different religions within India. They all have different wedding. Muslim weddings are way different than hindu weddings. And so I guess this is still hindu, but the whole idea is like, everything is still really loud and fun and colorful. Brides wear red, you know that. They always wear a sari. We put… in English it is henna… in hindi it is mehndi. I wish I knew the significance of it. I honestly think it is just a really beautiful art form. I am sure there is a story or a reason why we put it on, but I think it is just another way to make you look really beautiful. It goes on your hands, your feet, sometimes up your arm to your elbow at least. So the bride gets the most intricate mendhi, and everyone else in the bridal party gets both of their hands done. They make weddings really colorful because it is such a happy event. White is actually a sad color. So at funerals, when we have them, everyone wears white. No one wears black. Black is never worn to anything. And also, we don’t really have funerals. People don’t really get buried. We have cremations. Hindus believe in reincarnation. So if you are burned than your ashes go up and you can come back as something nice if you did good things in your life.

Me: Do you know why white is sad? Because that is the opposite of American culture

Nayna: I think it is because how people see white as pure and clean, that is our thing. So white is pure and cleansing so you wear that just to celebrate because when you creamate someone that is their purest form. You are burning them. I think that is why white is a nice color like that. Because black is just like never touched. We never wear black to anything. I don’t think white is really a sad color actually, it is really just a very full circle, ending color. Everything else, happy events, everything is always colorful. Weddings are always super colorful. Colors are hugely symbolic in the hindu culture. Holi is huge. You make these things called remgolis and they are basically big pieces of art and they are all different shapes and you color them in with the colored powder. Color is huge. Like indian women wear bindis on their foreheads when they wear their indian clothes. But also when religious ceremonies happen, you put a tikka on your head, but you use red powder and make a dash. That’s religious. Bindis are more for fun, to be pretty. More art and decoration for your body. There is a lot of hindu things. Boys, when they turn 11, 12, 13 or 16, some teenage year, they have something called a thread ceremony and only boys have it. It is like a right of passage, becoming an adult thing. It is a lot of prayers. You get threads tied around you as a bracelet and you keep it on for a while. We actually use a lot of thread in Hinduism. I think temples have what they think is holy thread. It is really just normal red thread. A little prettier. There is some red, some gold. We do a lot with thread. Another thing we do is, it is called rakshabandan. It is a brother sister day. Sisters tie a rakhi, it is like a bracelet, on their brother. It can just be a piece of red yarn or a thread. My sister and I like to make it fun, so we make a bracelet for our brother. So basically that is supposed to be protection for him. For all bad things that could come his way. So raksha means protection. Bandan means to tie. So literally tieing protection on your brother. And then your brother gives you like a present or something on that day. You feed him something sweet. You tie your rhaki, and he gives you a present. So it is like sisters protect brothers, brothers protect sisters, something like that. Oh by the way, I think I was supposed to tell you that like the bindi. The significance is that it is supposed to be like a third eye. So it is supposed to ward off evil. It is supposed to look over you. Red is really important. It used to be in the olden days that married women would put the same red power that you put here [touching space between eyes], they used to put it in their parts. In the part of their hairs. That is supposed to signify that you are married.

Me: Do you know why the part of their hair?

Informant: I guess it just so that you do not have to wear it on your forehead. It is very old. People do not walk around with that anymore. It used to be. Married women also tend to wear a red bindi. And widowed women wear a black bindi. My gradmother, when her husband passed ago, way before I was born, she always wears a black bindi on her forehead. Sorry… I keep talking!

Analysis: The informant does a lot of subtle analyzing of what she is saying as she goes.  She clearly takes a lot of traditions and myths with a grain of salt.  Rather than actually believe xyz, she believes in the moral behind it.  She already understands that reason why there are a lot of traditions and stories which makes my analysis much less needed.

Danish Tounge-Twister

The informant is a 19 year old male whose mother is Persian and father is Danish. He is not fluent in Danish, but knows little bits and pieces. He told me about a series of tongue twisters that he learned growing up.  His cousins would tease him with these tongue twisters because Danish is one of the hardest languages to pronounce.  Here is one of the ones he best remembers.

Danish: Fem flade flødeboller på et fladt flødebollefad

Translation: Five flat cream puffs on a flat cream puff plate

Analysis: This would be the equivalent to something like “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore. But if Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore then where are the sea shells Sally sells?”  Because Danish is such a difficult language to learn, tongue twisters such as these are something that Danish people can take pride in knowing how to say.  I cannot even figure out the phonetic pronunciation of that tongue twister.  The translation is not particularly important, though, considering the point of the phrase is not to be thought-provoking but to be hard to say.  There are tongue twisters like these in almost every language, so it is a widespread practice and fun thing for all different people to participate in.

Ghosts in the Attic

The informant is a 20 year old girl and also my current roommate. I have always been aware of her belief in ghosts, and in this interview, I asked her to tell me about her experience with ghosts in her home. She currently resides in Mission Hills, Kansas in a home built back in the 1800s. Her home is right on the border of Kansas and Missouri.

Me: Can you tell me about the ghosts in your house.

Informant: *Thinking* I don’t know where to begin…okay…So… I moved upstairs into my sister’s room. It’s third story of my house, and it is right next to the attic. When we first moved in, there was this really creepy closet that had all of these… like… graffiti markings around it. There were these rules in it, that said ‘no breathing’ ‘no eating’ ‘no sleeping’. Really creepy stuff. But a teenager lived there before we got there so we were like ‘okay whatever this is really creepy. This teenage is on crack or something’ and didn’t think anything of it. But I moved upstairs. I have always been really kind of scared of it. And my sisters all left so it was just me living upstairs on the third floor and I would always hear things at night, but I never really thought anything of it. I would hear footsteps up and down my hall… Didn’t think anything of it. And then it got to a point where my mom was finding underwear with the crotch eaten out of it… really freaky stuff. We found out we had a rat problem. But besides the point, we got rid of those and I was still hearing footsteps down the hallway and stuff. Then finally, one day, I was sleeping and I heard purring. Like a cat in my ear. And I was like ‘okay I am not making this up.’ Shot up in my bed and there was a bat flying in circles around my bed. So I screamed and ran out! We caught the bat and it was fine, whatever. Then, after 2 weeks of me being afraid of my upstairs, I went back to sleep in my room and I was sleeping and I felt something slapping both of my cheecks. I opened my eyes and it was another bat. And it had landed on my face. So, swatted that away, but we could not find it. I had to get a series of rabies shots. Wasn’t fun. Then, after that, I continued on, kind of got used to the shadows and footsteps in my hall. Then one night, I was not feeling well and I was home alone so I slept in my parent’s bed and I had my best friend sleep in my bed. But she left at 6am that morning, and I had no idea why. She didn’t talk to me for like 2 days and then finally called me and was like ‘did I ever tell you what happened to me at your house?’ and I was like ‘no what happened?’ and she said she was laying in my bed, she heard a big thud on the wall behind her from the attic, and she shot up to see what it was. Didn’t see anything, laid back down and then heard someone sprint down the hallway. She shot up and there was a man at the end of my bed, staring down at her. She screamed and he disappeared into thin air. She went underneath the covers and did not sleep for the rest of the night and left as soon as the sun came up.

We always tell these stories as jokes, just being like ‘oh yeah there is a ghost on my floor’ but now we are serious because Audrey first hand saw it. We told my friends, and they all told us we were full of shit. Even one of my friends who dose not take to this stuff was like ‘no way you are so full of shit.’ Really did not believe me. I had a huge group sleep over on prom night and she, my friend Madison who doesn’t believe in any of this stuff, was like, ‘I never wanted to tell you this, because I don’t believe in this stuff, but I saw him standing by the pool table on prom night. I didn’t believe it until the next morning when I walked over to the pool table to see what was making that weird shadow, and there was nothing there.  So it had to have been him.’  Ever since, I always say I swear there is a ghost there. I think he is friendly. I think he just lost his way, but he is nice. I think he is just protective. I just think he isn’t happy with strangers sleeping in my house.

My analysis:  Similarly to the other informant I interviewed about ghosts, this informant also believes that they mean no harm.  Both women have views of ghosts being very docile and simply lost.  I would say that this story is an example of a memorate. The informant had it in her head that there were ghosts in her house, so when her friend came to sleep over and heard weird noises/saw a shadow, she immediately jumped to use this as evidence of their being a ghost. In reality, it could have been a dream, or a shadow from a tree, but instead the informant deemed it as the ghost. From there, what was initially just a joke became real.