Author Archives: starryskies

Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake

Context & Background: 

RK has lived in southeast Wisconsin for 10 years and has visited the famous Devil’s Lake a couple of times. She tells the legend of the Baraboo monster that lives in Devil’s Lake

Performance: (via phone call)

My mom who is from Northern Wisconsin, has told me stories of Devils’s Lake. Even in the northern part of the state, this lake is famous and obviously all this legends and stuff is bullcrap, but it’s interesting to listen to the stories. So yea, my mom told me that even before the European settlers to Wisconsin, the native american people would beware of the lake and called it something in their original language that meant ‘bad spirit’. I mean now it’s called Devil’s lake, so I think they might have gotten it from them. They say that there is a monster who lives in the lake called Baraboo and it’s like the loch-ness monster, kind of. But yea, that’s basically the story and its not scary or anything, but it’s still cool to have something creepy in our neck of the woods. 

Analysis:

I lived in the same town as RK for 7 years and didn’t know the exact story of the lake. But it seems like a lot of Wisconsin history and culture is influenced by the Native American population that lived here. Unfortunately, there isn’t much Native American activity in that region in the current time period, but it’s very interesting to see how beliefs get transferred between cultures over large periods of time. 

For another source, see: Mallach, Lynn, and Lynn Mallach. “Legend and Folklore of the Devil’s Lake Monster.” Apex Adventure Alliance, 15 Apr. 2019, apexadventurealliance.com/legend-and-folklore-of-the-devils-lake-monster/. 

Garlic Garlands

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 23

Occupation: Student

Residence: New York City

Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/2021

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Korean

Background: MB has family in Filipino, Korea, Mexico, and US, and so he has heard cultural stories from many different parts of the world. Here he is explaining one belief that his Filipino grandfather told him. I contribute with a belief from my Indian culture.  MB – informant. SD – interviewer

Performance:

MB: My grandfather told me that if you keep a garland of garlic near your bed or somewhere where you spend a lot of time, it wards off witches and bad spirits. Does your family have a similar tradition?

SD: I know in Indian culture, it’s lemons and green chilis. Like when you do something big like open a new shop or get a new house, you tie a string that has one lemon and a few chilis strung through it on the front door of the establishment. This prevents evil from entering the home/shop. My family doesn’t do this but I have seen this in many places in India. 

MB: Yea. I know people like sages here so there are many things to ward off evil I guess. 

SD: Do you think the garlic garland has anything to do with vampires? (laughs)

MB:  (laughing) Maybe!  

Analysis:

Here we discuss the many different ways where people ward off evil spirits. The belief of evil spirits is present in almost all cultures and is probably tied to religious beliefs. It is often passed down through the generations, like in MB’s case. I have also noticed that the item that wards off the bad spirits is also a food item, which can be because it comes from nature and is available to everyone. In an institutional and religious context, spirits are warded off by holy water and other items that aren’t available everywhere, but from a folk belief standpoint, everyday items can be used by the masses to ward away evil spirits. 

Indian Child Birth Clothing Belief

Context & Background: 

Indian culture relies heavily on folklore. With so many diverse subcultures within the large country, many examples of folklore can be found getting passed on and creating new oikotypes. The informant, an old lady from Rajasthan (North India) and my late grandfather’s family friend, tells me about childbirth and one of the beliefs. This information got passed down to her from her grandmother. This text is translated from Hindi to English

Performance: (via phone call)

In India, whenever a child is born, for the first few weeks, we make the child wear old, used clothes that have been on the body of other children. We never clothe them in new clothes. The reason for this is because we believe that wearing older clothes gives the child good health, passing on the luck of the previous surviving baby. After the first few weeks, we can go and clothe them however we want, this tradition only goes on for the first few weeks. 

Analysis:

I didn’t really know about this tradition, so I asked my parents if this ever happened to me. They told me that yes, I was given the clothes of my cousin, and my little brother took my clothes. I believe that this tradition and belief exist because child mortality rates were very high in the past. People had a lot of children, there were not any sophisticated medical options for many families, and I know that home births were common with the help of a midwife. The passing on of luck was needed to give hope to the mothers and families, and hence this tradition was probably born.

Indian Proverb on Procrastination

Context & Background:

I grew up around the house hearing this proverb all the time from my mother and father. The informant is my father who gives more insights on the meaning of the words. Translated from Hindi to English

Performance: (in person)

Proverb: “Kal kare jo aaj kare, aaj kare jo ab”

Transliteration:

Kal: tomorrow

Kare: to do

Jo: you 

Aaj: today

Kare: do

Aaj: today

Kare: to do 

Jo: you 

Ab: now 

Translation: What you’re gonna do tomorrow, do today, and what you do today, do now. 

Explanation: Whenever you say you will do something tomorrow or later, it doesn’t happen. So whenever you say tomorrow, think I will do it today. And, whenever you think I’ll do today, do it now. 

Analysis:  

I think my parents were giving me anti procrastination propaganda from an early age. Anyways, from first-hand experience, I know that Indian households put a large emphasis on studies and academics. The households obviously want to instill good values in their children, like not to procrastinate, but I think there is an underlying purpose for getting better at academics. The pressure to be good at school starts from a young age, a lot like Asian culture. In order to foster good habits, the parents say this proverb whenever they see their child not being productive. This is a quick and efficient way to get them back on track.

Don’t touch anything with your feet

Context & Background:

The informant is a friend met in college and is Indian. I grew up in a rural town in Wisconsin, USA, where there weren’t many other Indians. Throughout middle and high school, I didn’t have any friends with who I could relate with culturally, so when I came to college, I got to meet people who have the same heritage as me. Here is a conversation with my Indian friend. KR – informant, SD – collector.

Performance: (via FaceTime)

KR: Yea, so I know that whenever your feet touch anything, especially books or a laptop but basically anything, you have to touch it with your hand and put your hand to your head and heart. It’s kind of like apologizing or asking for blessings or something like that.

SD: I do that too! I’ve done this my whole life, so when I do it in public, people sometimes ask what I’m doing and then I tell them this exact same thing.

KR: Yes, I know a lot of my friends do it too. 

SD: So do you know why we have this belief?

KR: I think it has to do with our feet being bad. Like they are the body part taking all the dirt and scraps and so if we touch something with a dirty body part, we have to apologize. 

SD: Yes, I think that might be it. 

Analysis: 

In this piece, you can again see the underlying emphasis on knowledge and academics in the Indian culture. KR mentions “especially books or laptops”, which are sources that give you knowledge and wisdom. Another version of the importance of this tradition that I have heard is that if you put your foot on something, you think you are better than them. You don’t want to be arrogant and you don’t want to consider yourself better than anyone, even an inanimate object. So you ask for forgiveness.