Author Archives: Nicole Rockholt

Pregnancy Craving Beliefs

Main Text:

DC: “When you are pregnant and you begin to crave a specific type of food, you must eat the type of food you are craving or else the baby will be born with the face of that food”

Collector: ” When you were pregnant with your son, did you ever ignore a food craving?”

DC: “Yeah, but nothing really happened” *laughter*

Context:

DC is a Mexican woman who immigrated to the United States and has one five year old son. DC mentioned before she told me this belief that when she was pregnant, her mother always told her not to ignore her cravings and she remembers it because of how bizarre it actually is. Despite this being just another folk belief in her eyes, today she continues this belief and mentions it to her friends or family whenever they mention that they are craving a specific food while pregnant. When asked why she continues to pass this belief along, DC responded that it encourages people to eat more when they are pregnant and not feel bad about the “weirdness” and the “changes” that their body is experiencing. She said that she likes to make people feel comfortable while they are pregnant and that sometimes this belief can just be for good humor if someone needs to hear it.

Analysis:

The idea behind cravings in general is a way for your body to tell you what food it needs or what nutrients it is lacking. To couple this with pregnancy, I believe that this folk belief was a way to address the needs of the baby and to make sure that it is also getting all the nutrients it needs from the mother. Another way to analyze this belief relates to the culture of the informant. Growing up in a hispanic family, one is usually encouraged to indulge at family dinners and to specifically not waste food. This in part can be explained by the limited resources of a developing country where water, food and money are very important life aspects.Either way, this belief is passed along by hispanic families who encourage others to indulge in their meals as well as not to waste anything, and both of these aspects would be fulfilled by a pregnant woman satisfying her cravings. Hispanic culture is also one that values new children to a high regard so in a sense I think that this folk belief is representative of the value placed on the birth of new children in that it encourages protecting and fulfilling all of the needs of an unborn child.

A Variation of the “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?” Joke

Main Text:

Collector: “Are there any jokes or riddles that you think are funny that you like to tell at school”

SM: “OO YEAH, I have one! And I think it is realllyyy funny!”

Collector: “Okay, what is it?”

SM: ” Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Collector: “Hmm, I’m not really sure. Why?”

SM: ” To get to the other SLIDE!”

Context:

The informant is a 6 year old girl who attends a public elementary school. I asked her to explain to me as best as she could the reasons why she would tell this joke to her friends. Other than saying it was funny, she said that they like to tell each other jokes at recess when they have nothing else to do and when they are bored. I also asked her where she heard this joke from and she said she learned it from another person in her class when they were playing outside.

Analysis:

In addition to this job being “funny” there are other explanations to why the timeless “Why did the chicken cross the road” jokes continued and still continue to be passed along through all of these years. To use a historical explanation, this joke/question first appeared in The Knickerbocker, a New York City magazine. The issue mentioned it as an example of a quip that might seem like a joke but is in fact a straightforward and unfunny solution. This joke was basically an example of anti humor and not too long after it was published, the line was modified and adapted to become an actual joke format, employing various puns and variations because everyone had already known the original answer to it. Because this joke plays off of the anti-humor aspect where the teller tells something that is not funny which the audience expect to be funny which creates a sense of ironic comedic value, it is important to analyze why people like to use anti-humor for their jokes and riddles in order to understand why this joke keeps being modified and told. More often than not, young children are the ones making variations to this “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke so I am going to analyze the culture of children and why they tend to use anti humor.

 Taking a psychological perspective, young children around the age where they are in preschool and shortly after learn the rhythms and formats of jokes and riddles without really understanding how  humor works, resulting in them saying nonsense like it is a joke, but it not really being a joke.
Adding on to this, kids are very reward-based meaning that they begin to realize that when people tell jokes, they joke teller is rewarded with attention and acceptance. So when these young kids tell these kids of anti-humor jokes and riddles that make no sense, they usually get a lot of positive reactions because it is “adorable” even if it is nonsensical (which also partly adds to the adorableness). This positive reaction the is fed to these young children then teaches and encourages them that it is okay to tell more jokes like these, leading to multiple forms and variations of nonsensical jokes, like we see in this collection. Another thing to understand about children who tell jokes is that kids tend to tell unconventional or peculiar jokes because they have not yet understood what exactly a joke is composed of. What makes a joke is that a joke presents some question or situation and then resolves this question. In other words, kids have not grasped the structure of a joke and therefore continue to tell jokes that make no sense to the listener. Kids are also exposed whether it be through school or their families to many jokes that they probably do not understand, so it makes sense that they think it is okay to put random things together into a joke because that is what they believe that people are doing with the jokes that they do not get.
This misunderstanding of the structure of a jokes as well as the attention they receive when they tell a bad joke accidentally leads to kids forming jokes that resemble more of a complex form of humor, that being the anti-joke. In different words, it is in the psychology and culture of kids to form anti-humor jokes and share them amongst each other and their families. For these reasons, this anti-humor then continues to be passed along from playground to home and because it is rooted in the psychology and social culture of the child I believe it will continue to be passed along for years to come.

The Legend of El Dorado

Main Text:

AC: “I don’t necessarily no why they call it the Legend of  ‘El’ Dorado because it’t not a person, it’s not a thing, it’s a ritual. What this ritual is the ritual in which a person of a tribe of the Muisca civilization in present day Columbia the leader is chosen. So the Legend of El Dorado is the ritual and process through which this selected individual goes through. Typically, actually always I believe, the this individual is the current leader’s or the Casique’s (the leader is called the Casique) nephew from his sister’s side. This is because in the Muisca civilazation women were actually very highly regarded and they were the only people who could really discipline. So they had more power than men in most cases. So it is typically the oldest son of the eldest sister of the current Casique if that makes any sense. So as soon as the individual is chosen he was sent off to a cave in sacred ground. I forget what it is called but it is sacred because of gods and stuff. This guy goes here for like six years in seclusion and he can’t eat what a lot of people would consider luxury. For example stuff like salts, I believe it was like chili peppers and meat. So really the only thing he could eat were like fruits right, so he was on a dietary and social restriction. He could have no sexual pleasure, like he had to have a complete mind over matter kind of situation.

“So something about the Muisca people is…something that is significant to this is their religion. I am kind of jumping all over the place because I haven’t been through it in a while. So in the Muisca religion there was this evil god who came down and started terrorizing the Musica people. Essentially he made the Muisca people turn evil. So then there was another goddess Bachué who is essentially our version of Jesus Christ I guess and she came down and saved everybody and he banished the evil god. Because of all the darkness he caused he made him into the moon in order to illuminate all this hatred, it is symbolic because he caused darkness and now he has to stop darkness in the night. On the contrary, the sun was supposed to represent warmth, kindness, intelligence, wisdom and all of this. So while the Casique, or the Casique-to-be, the nephew was in this cave he was not allowed to see this sun because he wasn’t allowed to really know the wisdom yet. Like he wasn’t allowed to do that yet. right? So, he could only go out at night. And he was… I don’t necessarily know if he was with other nephews of like other sisters because that wouldn’t really make sense or if he was like training with the Casique, like he would like go and help him out. But the point is that at night he would have to march, he would have to stomp really hard in order so that everyone else would know where they are right. And they can’t step on grass because if they like step on grass they can’t hear each other march and they don’t know where a cliff is because it is in darkness, they can’t really see anything. So that is why they have to march while they are out getting food and all that and they have to be back inside the cave before the sun comes up. They can’t see the sun at all for like six years and they are on dietary restriction and social restriction.”

“At the end of the six years they bring this woman, supposedly like the baddest bitch of the tribe to test his temptation and all of that and if he passes then the next and final part of the ritual is to bring him out to Lake Guatavita which is sacred because… so here’s what happened. This is a complete side tangent to why t hey chose Lake Guatavita to do this ritual- so before this ritual I suppose there was this leader. And this leader was always super busy to his wife and like doing this and that and he had sex with a bunch of different women. So this original wife was like ‘man, like what the fuck’ so she started basically fucking this other guy, like she fell in love with this other guy. The Casique and this lady had a daughter together so she started cheating on him and he was like ‘there’s something fucking fishy here right’ like ‘She is getting dick somewhere else and I need to figure this out.’ So he sends this elderly nurse to go and spy on her and he finds out that it was actually true. So they have this big ol’ banquet like in the ruse of something like a banquet for the Casique and he served venison heart to the wife. He is like ‘Here my wife, here is some venison heart’ which is like a super big luxury, it’ deer heart. And as soon as she finished this mother fucker starts laughing like really loud. So then these peeps are like ‘ What the fuck? What is going on?’ and he is all like ‘Bro where is your man at? Like your man is nowhere to be found.’ And she realizes she just ate her man’s heart. So completely heartbroken she goes to Lake Guatavita which is the nearest lake, she brings her daughter and she drowns both of them. The Casique is like ‘ Brooo like I didn’t want that to happen I just wanted them to stop seeing each other.’ So he feels really bad and he sends out a bunch of priests and a bunch of his town and whatever and they all go. The priests go in the water to try and find them and the priests say that they actually saw her and the daughter and that they created a kingdom down there. That they are safe,  they are good, they are happy and that they don’t want to come back up. So now that is kind of like the ritual. They do it to honor an elder Casique’s sacrifice I guess. It is not really a sacrifice but anyways that is why they chose that lake. So the Casique-to-be, the nephew, after 6 years he passes the test and he hasn’t been like talking to anybody. He’s been in this fucking cave for 6 years just eating nothing but nuts and berries and now he is ready for the final part of the ritual.

” So he stands in a certain pose and he does that because this is the first time that he is allowed to be out in the sun, right. And they coat him in gold because- another thing about the Muisca people that is important is that they saw gold not as the Europeans see it. They didn’t see it as a currency. They actually believed that gold not in the shape of a form as in a God or a tool was useless. That is how they valued gold and at the time when all of this is going on I believe like 60% of the world’s gold was located in fucking Columbia. So they saw this gold as symbolism and that it came from the sun god, I forgot his name, so they think that the Casique-to-be is representative of him. So what they do is right before the sun rises he goes outside and golds that pose and what they do-they being four priests- is that they cover him in gold. It is supposed to be symbolic of the knowledge he is supposed to learn from the sun god. Come sunrise he is in this stance that allows him to absorb the most sun, AKA absorb the most wisdom and the most wealth so that he could properly lead his community. All this is to be a leader. He is sacrificing himself to be a leader. He can’t let go of that form right but he is in a cave so how does he get to the lake? He holds that form for hours while priests physically carry him to the lake. Okay so he is holding that shit the entire time covered in gold, mind you. The way they made the gold stick is they cover him in resin so that as soon as the earth hardens the gold would stay like that. So he is in this like now, right, and in this lake they have raft. The priest put him on the raft and they get on the raft themselves. The priests are in the corners and the Casique is in the middle and they bring a bunch of offerings called tumbas or something. All of these gold pieces are the offerings to the god that resides there or the god that made all of this possible. So he goes and as soon as he reaches the center of the lake they stop everything. They stop the raft and there is a bunch of people from the community here watching this go down because it is their future leader. It is kind of like an inauguration for the president so they all show up and they are surrounding this lake and they start lighting these huge pots in order for the smoke to cloud out the sun. The smoke is no longer important because he got all the wisdom that was needed , all the knowledge, everything, so now they block out the sun with all of this stuff. As soon as they reach the middle everybody is dead silent and they had these drums playing from the clifftops and as soon as they reached the middle everything stopped playing. Keep in mind this guy is still holding this fucking stance which is physically draining right. So as soon as they reach the middle they start pushing all these gold offerings, hundreds of gold offerings, into the lake. As soon as they do that finally the last offering- the gold on the Casique. He jumps into the lake and obviously gold is heavy right, so you’ll drown. And you can’t surface until you get all of the gold off of you so if you don’t get the gold off in time you become part of the offering. He scrapes all of this gold of with a Tumi knife and this Tumi knife is important because it is symbolic of sacrifice because they used it in sacrificial rituals and this and that. So obviously if he fails to scrape this off with this knife he becomes part of the sacrifice and this ritual. But of course there are people that are able to successfully scrape off this gold, he emerges and he is now the Casique.”

Context:

I knew AC knew this ritual because it was told in his family so I solicited this this information from him while we were in the car driving to go back to our hometown together for a party. AC says the he thinks the Legend is passed down for two reasons. His first reason is that this lake and city is extremely well known because either Spaniards or Portuguese people witnessed the gold being dumped into the lake and when they told people it got blown out of proportion to people believing that there is an entire city made out of gold. This belief of course then intrigues people, a lot of the time purely out of greediness, to visit Lake Guatavita and possibly even try to loot it and find all of the gold, both of which keeps this story being passed down from generation to generation in these individual’s families. The second reason that he believes that the Legend of El Dorado is passed down is as a way to preserve the Muisca people’s culture. I also asked him if he were to tell this ritual to someone, why he would tell it. He responded that it teaches about the sacrifice of becoming a leader. He continued to tell me that there are certain things that you have to do and give up in order to becomes something or someone that people admire and that he would use this as a teaching mechanism to put “community over self”.

Analysis:

AC mentioned that he believed this legend is passed down due to the greediness of colonizers and the widespread belief that El Dorado is an entire city made of gold. To add on to his analysis, many people today go searching for this city of gold and they more likely than not explain to people what they are doing which keeps this legend passing right along through any society that has any concern for wealth and riches. Many modern day examples really put this greediness on display, such as the movie The Road to El Dorado and many others like it. This folklore legend has been adapted to fit media in such a way that this legend of the “City of Gold” is reaching more and more people which causes more and more people to tell the legend in hopes that one day someone will find it and get h off of the gold that they find, even though most of these people do not realize that this is a legend about gold being dumped into a like to accept the Muisca’s future leader.

In addition to the greed analysis above, there are two other parts to this legend that can be analyzed: the culture’s relations to gold in Columbia as well as the role leadership plays in many people’s cultures. To start with the gold analysis, one needs to know a little of the history of Colombia. Gold in Columbia used to be in great abundance before South America was conquered and taken advantage of by the Spaniards. To make the first part of the analysis simpler, I will be using the Tumaco region of Colombias an example to represent Colombia’s vast wealth in gold and what this meant for the indigenous people at the time and for generations to follow. In the Tumaco region since B.C. and early A.D. times, metallurgy was a huge cultural aspect for the indigenous peoples living there because of the enormous amounts of gold and platinum available in the land. Even though the land was constantly looted for its precious metals, much like Lake Guatavita has been in history, the gold that was found on this land formed a large part of the culture of indigenous tribes because it allowed them to make precious cultural artifacts representing their gods among the things and animals they found to be sacred. Knowing the vast amount of gold found in just one region of Columbia one can begin to appreciate the amounts of gold that spanned Colombia as well as appreciate the art and cultures that formed from this gold. This history of metallurgy and the presence of gold explains one reason why this legend has been passed down and will continue to be passed down. Gold has always been a part of Colombia’s history and even the first Spanish Conquistadors acknowledged this and called it sacred land. Because of this sacredness many cultures and tribes, such as the Muisca themselves, were built around the presence of gold and this legend is passed along as a way to remember one’s origins and history.

The second reason that could explain why this legend gets passed along today still is the large influence of leadership that appears in the legend. The entire legend and the ritual performed in the legend is all about picking a leader worthy enough to represent one’s tribe, village and culture. As AC touched on in his explanation for why he would tell someone this legend, I would like to expand on the leadership lessons that this legend could teach. This legend has survived throughout history because everything in life has a leader no matter how big or how small. The school has its principle, the university has its president, animals have their pack leaders. young children have their parents, et cetera, and each one of these leaders were in one way or the other picked for this position. Leadership is very universal and can be arguably taught in any civilization around the world, which is what makes the telling of this legend so powerful and long-lived. This legend teaches about disciple, self-restraint, perseverance and sacrifice, all of the qualities that one would teach someone for them to be a successful person in society, not even a leader per se. In other words, I believe this legend is passed down because in one part the lesson of leadership is very universal and comprehensible in almost any culture and it teaches future leaders of any kind in any place and in any culture  the qualities that one needs in order to survive in this rigid world.

Seaweed Soup on Birthdays -A Korean Tradition

Main Text:

HK: “On somebody’s birthday it is tradition to have seaweed soup”

Collector: “Can it be any kind of seaweed soup?”

HK: “I don’t think it really matters, but there are a lot of traditional recipes for seaweed soup out there”

Context: 

HK moved to the Unites States from South Korea when she was in kindergarten. After being raised in different parts of Asia an coming to the United States HK has acquired many traditions, customs and folk beliefs that have been passed down from her family. The ritualistic act of eating seaweed soup at someone’s birthday is just one example of a ritual that HK told me during my collection helps to keep her culture alive. She said that at least for her family specifically, having rituals and customs like these allow for people living in the Unites States to still connect with their family and homeland in Korea. This connection that HK feels to her culture and family is one reason that she says that she will continue to educate and pass down this seaweed-eating ritual. Another reason that she says that she remembers such a ritual is that it has happened on every one of her birthday’s so that if she evert had a birthday without it, it would not actually feel like a special moment anymore to her.

Analysis:

According to HK when asked why the meal of choice for a birthday is seaweed soup she said that it is related to another ritualistic act what they give to the mother after giving birth because it helps to nourish the body. One obvious interpretation of why it is a Korean tradition to eat seaweed soup at the birth of a child and at a child’s birthday party is the nutritional value of seaweed. Seaweed has high quantities of calcium, magnesium, iron and other important nutrients.  It makes sense for a mother to eat this after brith for this reason because magnesium and iron will aid in a quick recovery of the energy and bloodlust that naturally occurs at birth. The second reason for why this tradition may have occurred in the first place and is still being passed down is the accessibility to seaweed. Most of Korea is bordered by Ocean where seaweed is highly accessible. This accessibility could lead one to believe that seaweed has been eaten as this tradition for centuries because it is cheap and easily accessible to even the common folk. This ease in retrieving and eating the seaweed has led to South Korea pressing about 90 percent of the country’s seaweed crop and to cultivate it they just let it grow on ropes that float near the surface of the water by tethered boeys.

To summarize, in addition to the explanation that HK provided of feeling close to one’s family and culture, there are two other explanations that help understand the reasons that it is traditional to eat seaweed at birth and on somebody’s birthday: The first reason is its obvious nutrient values that help growth and recovery of one’s body and the second reason its Korea’s ease in accessing such a food and its large farming industry that has been built around this access.

 

“Three On a Match” Superstition

Main Text:

Lighting three cigarettes with the same match is bad luck.

Context:

DS said she heard this over the years of smoking and people had mentioned it to her if she was using matches. She said that she remembers it because she used to be a heavy smoker and it came up fairly often so she would avoid using the same match to light multiple cigarettes just in case in order to avoid any chance of bad luck falling upon her and her family. When I asked her if she would pass this belief along to anyone she said she probably would not because it never really made much sense to her and she does not see many people smoking with matches anymore.

Analysis:

To understand why this piece is passed down it is important to go back to the origins and see where it may have originated from and the theories for why the folk group smokers think “three on a match” is bad luck.

One of the origins of this phrase comes all the way form World War I. If three soldiers were smoking cigarettes during the dark hours of the night then superstition held that one of them was going to die. This is because they believed that striking the match on the box would alert the enemy to the presences of the soldiers and as the matched burned to light the second cigarette the enemy would have time to aim his gun in the direction of where he now knows that the soldiers are. Finally as the third cigarette was being lit up the enemy shooter would be able to see and shoot the third soldier. I think this theory is important because it begins to explain why many smokers in America know and hold this belief because they were taught and/or experienced it way back in the early 1900s. When the war ended in 1918, many of the men who fought in the war came back to the America and shared this superstition they had when out in the battlefield to their families and friends who were also smokers and I believe that this is one of the reasons it caught on initially and still carries on today, even if people do not know why they say it.

Another theory that can be used to analyze how this superstition originated and why it still gets passed along is the theory of the Holy Trinity. Many very religious people that I have known and spoken to in my lifetime believe that using the Holy Trinity symbol (or performing things in threes) as a casual act is very disrespectful to the Holy Law. People who do this they say are helpless in the face of evil (even to the devil himself). To apply this to smoking, this notion has spread and said that those smokers who do light three cigarettes from one match disrespect the Holy Trinity, cause evilness (or bad luck) to come upon them and “light the fires of hell” themselves with that one match that they used. People who happened to be religious who also smoked more likely than not shared this belief with the people that they smoked with and this is how it spread around the smoking community.

The final theory took some research but it explains this folk belief in a more reasonable ( to corporate America at least) way. This theory is about Ivar Kreugar who was a deceitful businessman who bought many matchmaking factories in the 1920’s and monopolized them. This made him rich and powerful to the point where he could spread an entire superstition without question from those he told it to, probably the matchmakers and smokers themselves. The theory goes that Kruegar made up this superstition and then got it to spread among the smoking community as a way for people to use more matches which allows him to sell more matches and make more money.

To summarize, there are three theories that I believe help to explain why this superstition was formed and how it spread to smokers in the United States. The first theory is that during Wold War I this superstition was shared among smokers on the battlefield as a way to make sure that they keep their matches and noises associated with using them hidden from the enemy to not disclose their location and get killed. The second theory is that doing something casual such as lighting a match in threes disrespects Holy Law because of the Holy Trinity and causes evil to come upon you. The third and final theory was that a businessman by the name of Ivar Kreugar monopolized many matchmaking factories in the United States and created this superstition as a way to have people buy more matches so that he could make more money.