Author Archives: Roy Gantz

What comes at the end of a rainbow?

Background: The informant is a 22 year old college student. They have a silly personality and love to tell jokes, and this is one that they have been telling their entire life. 

Informant: Let me tell you a joke. What comes at the end of a rainbow? What you ask? A “W”. Ahahahaha. 

Me: Where did you hear this joke first? Who told you it?

Informant: It is from, um, the internet. I looked up: “great jokes” and I found this one and nobody laughed at this joke so it’s been my life mission to make someone chuckle. 

Me: Who do you usually tell this joke to?

Informant: I tell this joke to all audiences because it’s very friendly. You can tell it to 5-year-olds, you can tell it to 85-year-olds. So I tell it to my grandpa, I tell it to my best friend, my grandma who has passed, unfortunately. So, I tell everyone these jokes because no one laughs and it puts a smile on their face because it makes them feel awkward. 

Reflection: Beyond hearing the joke itself, I think this interaction with the informant shows how jokes are used by people to determine who is in their ingroup. The informant said that when they tell this joke they are trying to make others laugh, and that most don’t find it funny. However, if someone does find this joke funny then the informant feels they can be close to that person. 


Background: Informant is a 19 year old, Jewish American college student from New Hampshire. They shared this story about their family and how it relates to their Jewish tradition and culture. The informant has been through Jewish education and experiences the holidays every year.

Informant: So, one really bizarre story is the story of Lillith. So, Lilith is rumored to be the first wife of Adam, and so it’s very controversial in Judiasm because Orthodox Jews follow what I’m about to share. So, Lillith escaped the Garden of Eden to gain independence so in some ways it’s been adopted by feminist Jews who see Lillith as regaining her independence. But, largely she’s seen as a sort of she-demon. So basically Lillith left the Garden of Eden and was not allowed back in because she was replaced with Eve. So we commonly know Adam’s partner to be Eve. So, she returns and is furious with men. So for this reason Orthodox Jews do not cut boys’ hair for an extended period of time because the idea is that in the night, if Lillith passes over and sees a child with short hair they see it as a man, so then Lillith will kill the baby boy. So, it’s this really intresting thing where she steals the children of Adam and Eve because she’s jealous and also a feminist twist. 

Reflection: This story was so intresting to me. As the informant told it and inserted some of their own opinions on it using a modern lens, I saw how folklore changes over time. This piece of folklore reflects people’s changing opinions on women, as Lillith is a woman who was demonized. Today, however, Jewish feminists have adopted the story as a story of a woman who they can look up to. It’s really compelling to see how folklore can change over time in it’s meaning while the content of the story is actually very much the same. 

Erlina and Irene: Epic

Background: Informant is a Mexican-American college student. He believes strongly in his superstitions and magical energies. This story takes place in Las Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico. It’s a village right outside of an area with hot springs. This happened when the informants grandmother was 7, so in the 1960s. 

Informant: My grandma, she had her best friend – so say you’re like my best friend, okay? And we make a promise because, you know, best friends, they wanna stay together forever, so, like she said “if I die, you come with me, like I’ll take you with me. And like, if you die, you take me with you so that we could be in heaven together, okay?” So then, her best friend Erlinda said, “if I die, I’m going to take you by your feet! I’m gonna take you by your feet to heaven with me, like your going to die with me.” And my grandma Irene was like, “No, no don’t pull me by feet!” 

So this was happening in this village. It’s called Las Grutas Tolantongo. It’s a little village, it’s like hot tubs, like little hot springs, but outside of it is this village. And they would always play under a tree with their neighbors. So, since Irene and Erlinda were neighbors, they could always see into each other’s houses, and like when the time came that Erlinda wasn’t coming out anymore to come play with her, Irene would always see Erlinda laying out on the bed.
So, witches exist. Like, in Mexico… you might not believe in witches but like, they’re definitely a thing in Mexico. So, I guess the village– they had a lot of envy towards Erlinda’s mom. Cause’ Erlinda had her little business, she had to send her workers out early in the morning. So, it was revealed to Erlina’s mom, her name was Doña tele– it was revealed after they found out that Erlina got sick that someone had tried to put a curse on her! But, it was intended for whoever woke up first and left the house, and since Doña tele always woke up at 3 in the morning to send her workers out, it was intended for her. So, Erlinda had to use the bathroom late at night, and because they had communal bathrooms outside of the house, Erlinda got sick instead of Doña tele, who the curse was intended for. Like, when she crossed the doorway, they put dirt in front of her doorway like in the Conjuring. So, whoever crossed over it, like whatever bad energy would go to them.

So, fast forward a few months later in July which is the end of the school year in Mexico, Erlinda died! Like, she died! But Irene realized when she went to her funeral that she made a promise that if she died she was going to take me! And I promised that she was going to take me! And she was like “Noooo! I’m so scared, like no no no no!” And the scary part is, they didn’t have morticians so the viewing– like her mouth was open, her eyes were cloudy, like have you seen a dead person? 

So, Irene, like after she saw Erlinda dead she kept having nightmares of Erlinda. Like, one time my grandma told me that she saw Erlinda in a dream. Like, you know how sometimes dreams feel real so you wake up in the dream? So, she woke up and saw Erlinda playing in her room through the window and she was like “*gasps* Erlinda, you’re not dead?” And Erlinda is facing away from her ignoring her. And then, Erlinda turns around and the face that she had in the casket was the same face she had when she turned around. And Irene freaked out because Erlinda said “If I catch you, you’re coming with me.” So, Erlinda would chase Irene throughout the whole village and Irene would float like a skywalker. And Irene would always wake up sweating like crazy, afraid she’d go into cardiac arrest every night. The dreams happened from May 12 to August 18th, like she just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I forgot to mention this part, but her brother Chava would always come from Mexico City because that’s where he worked. So when Erlinda died, he came to pay his respects. But when the time came for him to go back to Mexico City, Irene was like “take me with you! Because maybe if I go, I won’t be able to dream of her anymore.” So, she went and she never dreamed of her again. But, like, the scary part was when my grandma was telling me this story we were in the lounge of my dorm and the lights went off. And I know they’re motion sensors but I was moving around! So, I was like, “Erlinda? Is she here?” Like, that’s scary!

Reflection: I absolutely loved hearing this story from my roommate. They were so animated as they told me the story and it was entertaining to hear it from them. I especially liked the way they told the story, as they were really unfiltered and imperfect in how they told it, which was fun to watch. This story was so entertaining, and it was so cool to learn about their culture through an anecdote like this one. The part where they say that magic exists in Mexico was so cool, as they acknowledge that in American culture we don’t believe in magic, but how in Mexican culture it is accepted.

Taviano’s curse

Background: Informant is a Mexican-American college student. He believes strongly in his superstitions and magical energies. This story takes place in Las Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico. It’s a village right outside of an area with hot springs. This happened when the informants grandmother was 7, so in the 1960s. 

Informant: There was this guy, his name was Taviano. They would come to give this woman bats to counteract a curse. So, Taviano would always come at night because that’s when they caught the bats, and my great-grandmother Josefina would always let Taviano sleep in their house, but Taviano would always sleep in the kitchen. And after a while they got suspicious like, “why would he always want to sleep in the kitchen?” And, turns out that when my grandmother went to a medium to kind of find out because– instead of going to the doctor’s– they don’t like the doctors, cause the doctors always try to– the scientific part. Like, over there it’s more spiritual, like they believe in more the spiritual world. So, they always go to mediums and those kind of things, yeah like mediums. So when the medium revealed to my grandmother why her daughter was sick, he mentioned that a guy who was your neighbor got her sick. So, Josefina guessed it was her neighbor because he was the only guy, but since he wasn’t there she didn’t know. So Taviano, even though they like don’t have pronouns, Taviano was still a guy, so suspicions went to Taviano. So then like, sleeping in the kitchen, what is he doing in the kitchen? So, um there was like uh, flame. There was one night where she had a flame in the kitchen, right. And, like, you know when dust kind of hits metal. Like dust particles are kind of hitting metal, the sound it makes, so she heard that in the middle of the night and she was like, “wait what’s going on”. And then she got up and she saw Taviano sitting in front of the oven with all this like, Carbon stuff and burning things and he had dead bones with him, and she was like “I got you!” And grabbed him by the ear asking “who told you to do this? Why are you doing this?” And they never found out why he was doing this but they found out that it was him who was doing the curse. 

Reflection: This story was so interesting because the informant talked me through the entire process of the creation of the curse. I loved seeing how they lighted up as they told the story, and how emotional they were. The part where the informant talks about mistrust of doctors told me a lot about their culture and community. Their community relies on folk medicine and ritualistic practices done by mediums rather than Western medicine, and it was evident in their account. I learned so much more about cultural differences and how they affect people’s problem-solving throughout the world.

Michigan state flower

Background: Informant is a 19 year old college student. They grew up in Minnesota and have lived there until college, where they relocated to Los Angeles. The informant says that this is an indigenous story that they learned in school about why the Minnesota state flower is called the lady slipper flower.”

Informant: There was a girl, and she had these special slippers. And they were beautiful and made for her. But she was told to go and deliver these slippers and she had to like, go very far away and all the seasons went by, and in the winter no one would help her, so she got stuck with the slippers in this field and she like, died with the slippers there. But they were like, magical or something? And so like, the slippers were in the snow where she died, and then in the spring they thawed into the ground and a flower grew from them. And that flower was the lady slipper flower. And then it was like, a memorial of her journey. 

Me: Where did you hear this for the first time?

Informant: This is definitely incorrect, but in my Elementary school when we were talking about Minnesota state history. 

Reflection: My informant mentioned that this story was told to them in school. They made sure to mention that they are not indigenous themselves, but it is an example of how cultures intermix when colonization occurs. This indigenous story has made its way into American culture, with the state flower of Minnesota being inspired by an indigenous story. It’s interesting how when nation-states are created, they sometimes borrow from the indigenous groups they steal from. It’s an unfair, odd phenomenon where the nation-state will pull from native folklore to honor their culture, but walk all over their land and disrespect their humanity.