Author Archives: Sierra Chinn-Liu

Dog Makapiapias


         If you ever need some insight or intuitive advice from the spirits, add dog makapiapias to your own.

The explanation for this is basically that when the kahunas need to contact the spirit world they collect the makapiapia (in English people call this “eye boogers”?) from the dogs’ eyes and cover their own eyes with it to communicate with the spirits because dogs are known to have that kind of “sixth sense.”


How did you come across this folklore: “I was told by Hawaiiana teacher in school.”

Other information: “I think people in Hawaii call this an old wives tale… but I’m not sure whether this is actually practiced…”

This is a folk belief that is commonly known in Hawaii, and as absurd as it is to put “eye boogers” from a dog onto your own, it makes sense taking into consideration the ideas behind magic (especially contagious magic). Because a dog’s senses are sharper than a person’s, taking something from a dog and adding to oneself opens the possibility of inheriting that property of sharpened senses.



“Mexican Aladdin”

There’s another story I remember he would tell, one of those things he said all the time but I never got the point of it, it’s very circular… The main idea was two boys who were on their “vision quest” ish things, not quite the same, but basically you’re told to leave for a little while and rough it out in order to fulfill some spiritual/life-purposing function…

Well anyway they got lost, of course, and went to the opening of this cave, and somehow it was able to open and close, like by itself, but only one boy could see that it was opening and closing. That boy, seeing the strange cave, was curious and went over to see what was in there… The reason he could see the cave opening and closing, was because he was special. It was something like nature revealed this to him nature because he had a good heart.

He (my dad) said there was a bunch of treasure, gems, gold everywhere, jewelry, and it was in this palace, where the boy entered and servants came and brought him rare fruits, etc.… He was there for maybe like twenty minutes (or so he thought) but it was one of those weird things where he left and when he came back, nobody was there; his friend was no longer there waiting for him, the village was empty… and he realized that he’d been there for years or longer…

The boy’s friend also went inside, but all he could find was a feathered serpent (feathered serpents, like when serpents get so old they grow wings, according to my dad).

The story is from where I was born, I guess. That city was like a mining city—but the mines were closed down because there was a lot of weird shit going on, visions, hallucinations, hauntings, whatever… Although some people were willing to go back anyway… my dad knew he could go in and find a lot of gold; but the idea was that if you were of a good heart and you meant well you could be led into these caves and to the riches inside them… And it’s one of those Mexican stories where it seems indigenous or whatever but you can weirdly see Catholicism in it (good heart brings good things to happen for/to you).


How did you come across this folklore: “I refer to these as “sketchy stories from my (step)father/sketchy things he did when I was a kid…”

Other information: “My dad has a lot of stories like these, but my mom was big on not sharing them, or letting us hear them—so I heard this in my teens, when were allowed (finally) to ask and he would actually answer… my mom said it would invite bad people/things to us or something…”

This story has a few of the basic characteristics of a tale, including that quest element, and the possible truth side of a legend, with a main message. The story reflects the cultural difference in evaluating certain personal qualities, such as a different way of conceptualizing and valuing wealth, and the idea that good of heart will be rewarded and greed will bring no success. In this case, the greed led the boy’s friend to a feathered (very old) serpent, which in Western tradition is often connected to the devil, deception, evil, etc.

Healing With An Egg

This is one of the weird things he (my stepdad) actually did when we were kids…

So he would grab and egg and if we were sick, he would rub us down with alcohol and then rub us down with the egg wherever it was aching/hurting… focused on that one spot. So like for a headache, a stomachache, or if they had a leg injury—like issues where they couldn’t walk, and then he also had sage and a lot of other plants (that’s the only one I can remember by name), that he would burn, so it was kind of like incense and the smoke from that would also be spread over your hair and body. It was an actual like clump or branch, not small—but a bundle of sage, yerbabuena (I don’t know what the name of the plant is in English, but it translates from Spanish into “good herb”) and a few others. He would get a glass, usually like a taller glass, so you could see the different densities of the egg, and the cloud—the whites, and… depending on the shape of that, he could see what made you sick, like he would “read” it. I told him people did that during the Salem witch trails and died for it, but he really (thought) he could read it.


How did you come across this folklore: “I refer to these as “sketchy stories from my (step)father/sketchy things he did when I was a kid…”

Other information: “My dad has a lot of stories like these, but my mom was big on not sharing them, or letting us hear them—so I heard this in my teens, when were allowed (finally) to ask and he would actually answer… my mom said it would invite bad people/things to us or something…”

The healing comes from the idea that the egg will absorb the pain/sickness, which will then be transferred into the contents of the egg, and then be revealed in the glass to tell a reader the source of the pain/sickness. There are a number of groups that link eggs and healing, especially by way of transference. Folk medicine, although not based on any empirical scientific evidence, can still be effective, which is why many traditional practices are still practiced.

“Some Stuff About Fairies”

I. To keep fairies away, you keep iron around—because fairies are “allergic” to iron, which is where putting a horseshoe above a door came from (because fairies can’t come through a door if it’s got iron on it).

II. Rings of mushrooms—those are fairy rings, and at night fairies come out to dance in them and you’re not supposed to walk through them, because if you do the fairies will take you away and leave a changeling in your place…

III. Changelings are like fairy babies put in the human world because fairies want human children so they leave fairy babies, or fey, in their place.

I vaguely remember a story where a girl is a changeling and nobody knows it for a really long time, but eventually they figure it out and the reason there’s a changeling, and the way they figure out she’s a changeling is because she’s allergic to iron.


How did you come across this folklore: “I probably got this through family or read these things somewhere, but I’m not sure… possibly my grandmother told me.”

Other information: “these are just some general things I’ve heard about fairies, individually, not necessarily forming a coherent story.”

These are just bits and pieces of existing folk beliefs, supposedly deriving from the Irish tradition/”fairy faith,” but handing them down, even in this fragmented form, keeps them alive and shows the resilience of folk beliefs against mainstream or popular culture, which has trivialized these beliefs into commercial and often comical representations (such as Disney’s Tinkerbell character).

“Hotchkiss Seniors”

There are separate things for juniors about to be seniors, and then for seniors about to graduate.

Juniors becoming seniors, we did senior dinner. It’s not super memorable or anything… First, all the girls get really dressed up and we take pictures on senior grass. We all just get assigned tables set up on the senior grass, each table with one faculty member and we all eat dinner… and there’s a couple of student performances, like dances/singing, that kind of thing… It’s happy; it’s basically the formal event where everyone gets stoked to be seniors…

When it’s the night before graduation, the graduating seniors do confessions and senior streaking.

We sit in a bigger room together and have “confessions,” where everyone can just say what they wanna say. We’re in this big room in a circle, and everyone takes a turn presenting whatever it is they wanted to say. It can be a confession, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be anything someone needs to get off their chest before graduating. And everyone sits around and listens, surprisingly respectfully. Then right after the confession is when we do senior streaking…

Senior streaking—so everyone runs around butt naked. It’s very bizarre. Everyone (participants aka seniors, and spectators aka everyone else) just kind of knows it’s gonna happen, but they just pretend like it’s not… And then we get on senior grass—we have a patch of grass that’s just for seniors—and then we take off all our clothes together, at the same time, then we all run in a loop around campus together, like by every dorm… and everybody else in the dorms is watching. And then once we’re done with that loop, we all go back to our respective dorms. And it’s awkward because everyone has seen us naked now… but it’s the night before graduation, so the question of “who cares?” is already implied.


How did you come across this folklore: “This is a boarding school tradition, but I don’t know if it’s just Hotchkiss that does it.”

Other information: “I don’t know how people find out about these, but they’re some of those things where your participation is mandatory and somehow you manage to a) find out about it in time, and b) go through with it, maybe because you just have to.”

This is another senior ritual, of which there are probably a virtually infinite amount, that emphasizes the liminal period between seniors and non-seniors, between high school and the “real world.” During this time period, it becomes more acceptable to do things that are otherwise tabooized in society (for example, streaking…), leniency toward seniors increases, and they are able to bond through crossing these societal boundaries.