Author Archives: smit217@usc.edu

Dark Bright: Proverb

If close to ink, dark. If close to light, bright.

The Informant provided this Vietnamese proverb to me at around 2:30am on 4/22 while she did homework. She is an Economics and Mathematics student at UCLA. The Informant, my girlfriend, said this proverb was burned into her brain by her Vietnamese parents while she was growing up in Garden Grove, a city in Orange County.

Her interpretation of the meaning is that if you surround yourself with bad influences, bad people, or a bad environment, you’ll turn out bad as well. And if you surround yourself with the opposite, successful people, you will be the same. Essentially, you are a product of your environment.

This is similar to a proverb from the Bible. In Proverbs 13:20, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Although this proverb does not have a poetic aspect like the Vietnamese oicotype, I would assume most cultures have a similar proverb. A main function of proverbs is to impart wisdom and parents generally want the best for their children. I would be surprised if a society that uses proverbs did not have one to warn children about the type of company they keep.

I love the linguistics of this proverb. It has clear poetic aspects even though the entire proverb doesn’t rhyme. The actual words used confuse me a bit, because I see ink as a problem in an analogy puzzle. If I were given this analogy puzzle, “ink” would not be one of my guesses:

____ : Dark :: Light : Bright

Ink sticks out like a sore thumb, but that aside I enjoy the poetry of the proverb and the underlying meaning.

Origin of the Elephant Head: Mythology

So there’s this God named Shiva and his wife and they were married – obviously, since wife (laughs) – so apparently his wife would always take showers in the middle of the day and then her husband Shiva, the God, would walk in and she hated that because she felt as though it was very disrespectful and so she decided one day to create a protector -um- that was gonna be her Son.

 So she basically built him up out of I can’t remember what, but I… and this boy was really strong and, like, the husband got very upset because the kid wouldn’t let him into his own home when he wanted and the kid just wouldn’t let him in so one day he decided, fine! I’m gonna have to be the one to kill this kid and get rid of him and so he ended up slicing off his head and then his wife, the mom of the child, got super upset. So the only fix was basically… the way she fixed it was getting an elephant head stuck on the kids head and that’s how Ganesha was formed.

The Informant, my housemate, is of Indian descent, but was born and raised in the United States. She learned this Hindu myth along with many other Hindu mythologies through her parents and when she was visiting her grandparents in India. To her, it’s just a story. She doesn’t follow the Hindu religion or believe in the sacred myths.

The sounds like a brief summary of the Ganesha origin story, but with one discrepancy. In the Hindu canon, Shiva is angry because Ganesha won’t allow him into the bathroom while his wife is showering. He uses his divine powers to kill him right there and then.

I’ve always been interested in Hindu mythology because of the dramatic and vibrant origin stories for the Gods. Even for someone who isn’t Hindu, the mythology is a fun read and has interesting ways to impart wisdom.

Peas and Cabbage: Folk Belief

Okay this one might sound a bit strange. So every 1st of the year after New Year’s Eve, my family uhh, during lunch time, we always cook cabbage and black-eyed peas, oh and sausage -um- y’know just for the taste, and cabbage was for money and black-eyed peas were for good luck.

 So, like, that would predict that whole year so, like, the luck and the money and hopefully, like, you eating more of one of each would, like, give you good fortune for either one of those throughout the year.

 The Informant was born and raised in Texas. He’s an Economics student at USC. The Informant, my housemate, told me about his odd New Year’s ritual/folk belief at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. He said he has done this ritual with his family since he was little and it has morphed into what he calls a superstition (folk belief). If he lets the 1st of the year go by without cabbage and black-eyed peas, his outlook on the year is bleak.

This is apparently a common ritual meal in the South. Peas have been a humbling food for years. It’s said that the food was too lowly for Union soldiers to eat during the Civil War and thus peas were the only food left for Confederate Soldiers. They considered themselves lucky to have just have a meal of peas, possibly giving rise to the food’s lucky connotation. Cabbage is eaten to bring prosperity in the upcoming year. The leafy green leaves represent money.

Based off of the Informant’s own statement that this folk belief is strange, I was surprised to discover this was far from an uncommon yearly ritual meal. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a single black-eyed pea, but maybe I’ll eat some peas and cabbage next January 1st. Can’t hurt right?

Salt Moat: Folk Belief

My dad would frequently get big containers of salt and then her would just open them up and then sprinkle it all around the house, so in essence there’d be an outline of salt around the house and it was more of I guess a superstition of us believing that it could help fend off, like, negative energy or just occurrences that would happen that would be… would just be any sort of negative thing. 

The Informant, my housemate, is an Econ major at USC. He was born and raised in Texas. The Informant told me about his dad’s way of warding off negative energies at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. He spoke like he was skeptical of the actual powers of this salt border and he admitted he doesn’t truly believe. He says he doesn’t believe in the positive effects, but would be slightly worried about the possibilities if his dad skipped the salt.

Salt seems to be the center of many folk beliefs – from the conversion magic of throwing salt over your left shoulder after a spillage to ward off bad luck, to this border of salt to keep bad energy out of the house.

This folk belief seems odd to me. In my opinion, this sounds more like a story parents tell their children to hide the fact they’re planning on killing all the snails ransacking the garden.

The Anunnaki: A Myth

Hrmm, I mea- I’m not sure you wanna use this.  Alotta people have ridiculed Sitchin’s work and if you submit this, people will probably think that your Mom’s a nutcase (laughs).

 Okay so here goes: The Anunnaki are the (quote) “ones who came from heaven.”  They’re told of in the Sumerian texts and the story goes, at lease according to Sitchin in his Earth Chronicle books – which’s been wildly panned by all the scholars – is that the Anunnaki were extra-terrestrials who came to the Earth about five-hundred-thousand years ago to mine for gold. They uhh that they needed the gold to replenish their atmosphere on their planet called Niburu.

 So because Nibiru takes thirty-two-hundred years to circle the sun, they lived incredibly long lives. The miners – the Anunnaki – got restless and wanted help with their work, so the Anunnaki used their scientific expertise and created the Adamu – that’s Adam in the Bible – by mixing their DNA with the native creatures already existing on the planet. I always found it interesting that this story is probably the basis for the Adam and Eve story in the Bible. 

The Informant has always been interested in unconventional explanations for nearly everything. The disclaimer above is genuine, her interest does not entail belief. She believes stories can be valuable inherently, with truth underlying them playing a lesser importance (a natural folklorist!). I’m almost certain she first learned of the Anunnaki for the first time on the show Ancient Aliens. It piqued her interest and she began reading Zecharia Sitchin.

According to Sumerian mythology, the Anunnaki are descendants of the sky-god, An. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, there are contradicting accounts of the Anunnaki, including the number of gods or even their function. Perhaps there were rivaling religious factions even in 2144 BC.

The mythology is written in stone, literally, but the academic world has widely rejected Stitchin’s creationist myth of the Anunnaki as an alien species responsible for creating homo erectus as a slave race to mine for gold. He has been accused of misrepresenting the Sumerian texts and mistranslating Sumerian to fit his claims.

Although this myth turned creationist myth is strange, oddity is a characteristic of mythology. The truthfulness of sacred myth, by definition, is questionable. Stitchin’s work is a good story and surely an interesting premise, but nonetheless a blatant exaggeration of the surely sacred to the Sumerian people in Mesopotamia.