Author Archives: mkofford

Unlucky #4

Chinese folklore considers the number 4 to be unlucky because the pronunciation of “four” in Chinese sounds like the pronunciation of the word “death”.

The informant is an American who previously lived in Shanghai for two years and attended an international school.

G explained that while living in Shanghai she noticed that some buildings didn’t have a fourth floor. After realizing this omission, she began to notice that the number four was avoided culturally if possible. She asked some school friends about it and they explained that in Chinese folklore it’s unlucky to use the number 4 because it sounds like the word death. G found this superstition to be interesting and continued to notice it, but she never believed in it herself.

Beware The Douen

Douen are mythical creatures with backwards feet that live in the forest and are supposedly the lost souls of children. If a Douen learns a child’s name they are able to call out to the child in their parents voices to lure them into the forest. The backwards footprints confuse both the children and anyone looking for the children. The children are never seen again.

The informant told me this story while we were talking about working in the entertainment industry. C told me that he loved the industry because of its diversity and community. I originally asked about the folklore of the industry but once I said the word “folklore” his face lit up and he told me this story. While working on the show “Saint X”, one of the Dominican crew members told him this legend of the Douen. It stuck with C because of the physical description of the creature, with the backwards feet.

The Douen, although not well known in America, is a piece of Caribbean folklore that seemingly resonated with C. The only physical description that my informant gave me was the backwards feet, implying the rest of the creature is fairly humanoid. I believe this resonated with my informant because of the common proverb in American culture “stranger danger”. The danger of the Douen is directed towards children, emphasizing their ability to be easily manipulated or tricked, which echos the same warning as “stranger danger”. The detail of the Douen needing to know the child’s name is interesting because it serves as a warning against sharing personal information with anyone/anything. It also could stem from magical folklore, where using or knowing someones name can be considered powerful.

The Hawaiian Goddess Kapo

Kapo is the goddess of fertility, birth, and sorcery in Hawaiian mythology. She notably has a detachable vagina.

“Kapo is the goddess with a flying pussy. She and her winged vagina are the hero in many Hawaiian myths. The main one is where she sees one of her sister goddess being raped by another god. She throws her pussy at him and it keeps flying; he’s so entranced with it that he leaves the goddess alone to chase the pussy. It keeps flying and crashes into the side of a mountain. There’s an actual crater in Hawaii named after Kapo.”

In a discussion about folklore, the informant C mentioned the goddess Kapo but then he had to leave for another event. I later received this text from him with another message explaining how he has a personal fascination with folklore and wanted to share this story. The mythology of Kapo speaks to the importance of nature in Hawaiian culture, both in the environment and the nature of pregnancy/birth. I found this piece of folklore to be interesting because of its emphasis on feminine experiences and solidarity. Although my informant didn’t include this, the goddess that Kapo saved was Pele the goddess of volcanoes and fires. Pele is a major deity in Hawaiian mythology because she is the one who created the islands of Hawaii. There are countless myths about women being raped, but very few end in the woman being saved and the hero being another woman. It’s a bonus that they’re both strong female archetypes.

How To Become a Mermaid

Mermaids are mythical creatures that are half human and half aquatic creature. They have a tail and fins with scales instead of legs. Mermaids are rumored to live deep underwater and have become a beloved character in fairy tales.

So the tiny town my mom’s family lived in was on Lake Ontario. I had a friend in this town, and both of us really liked anything to do with mermaids. She told me that some girls in this town had seen mermaids in the lake, which was VERY exciting for me! I told her to ask for more info, and a few weeks later she reported back that apparently, the mermaids have lived there a long time, and some girls were able to perform magic spells that transformed THEM into mermaids, and they left behind their normal life to live with mermaid society. We spent the rest of the summer trying to recreate the magic that would turn us into mermaids. Most of it was stuff from our imagination, but she would come sometimes with lists of spell ingredients or magic words that she found online or got from other kids. We created a whole system of magic elements that we deemed either helpful or useless in getting us closer to transforming, and kept detailed notes of it. sadly, we never figured out how to join the runaway mermaid kid society.”

Wishing in Tunnels

Children in America often believe that tunnels that cars go through can grant wishes. The practice and ritual differs among children but many can agree that tunnels can be magical.

All the ways you can make a wish in a tunnel according to all the kids I was friends with at summer camps:

  • Hold your breath the whole tunnel, if you don’t make it your wish won’t come true
  • Close your eyes the whole tunnel, if you don’t the wish won’t come true
  • Touch the ceiling of the vehicle the whole tunnel, if you don’t the wish won’t come true
  • Lick your finger and if it’s still wet when the tunnel ends then your wish will come true and if it’s dry it won’t

*and obviously you cannot tell anyone you what you wished for cause if you do it won’t not come true*

My personal take away and practice: When I am a passenger I close my eyes and hold my breath, and when I’m driving I just hold my breath.

The informant described this wish magic to me during a discussion of childhood folklore. We originally were talking about wishes in general and their prevalence in childhood. I asked them to write down what they remembered about wishing in car tunnels. This stuck out to me because they noted how they still do this little ritual whenever they encounter a tunnel on the road.