Author Archives: Tayler Somerville

The Curse of the Church in Tlzazalca

PP is an 18 year old college student. She is a freshman communications major whose parents are from Mexico. PP has visited her hometown Tlzazalca in Mexico many times and heard about this curse from her family and the locals.

Context: The informant and I are roommates and I know she has strong ties to her Mexican culture and I asked if she had any folk legends to share as we drank tea on the couch. She has stayed in Mexico over summers and experienced them with her family.


PP: Basically, I don’t know when exactly this happened but I think it’s from the 1800s. The church in the plaza, it’s been there for so many years, it was built when the town was first created. It was supposedly the first building created there and church became really important to the town. But then people were not respecting the church. You kind of have to go to church there [in Tlzazalca] or else it’s taboo if that makes sense. What happened was girls would show up wearing really short dresses and stuff started to happen that were not considered Godly in the church. The priest was really pissed at the town and could not believe their disrespect because the town is supposed to be sacred. At this point he was falling out of the church like a lot of the other locals and he started doing satanic rituals to make them listen to him. He then cursed the town and that is why the town does not grow… By that I mean the town is so small and the population stays the same. As people continue to die, it would become a ghost town, and that is what the priest intended.

Thoughts/Analysis: This is an interesting version of stories were the Godly/heroic figure turns on the town. It reminds me a bit of Beauty and the Beast where the witch cursed the Beast for being selfish. This story is based on a social belief of people in the town. This story sits on the fine line between a myth and a legend because legends are based on social beliefs and might be true, myths are creation stories and would tell how the town of Tlzazalca stays so small.

For a variation of a very similar story, see:

Tayebi, N. “Kuldhara.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 8, 2018.

Mezuzah Little Magic/Ritual

SB is an 18 year old college student from the East Coast. He says he has practiced this ritual/superstition for at least 10 years. Informant identifies as culturally Jewish and does not consider himself very religious.

Context: This ritual is performed inside his family’s home. He is strongly connected to it and has one attached to his door frame.


Collector: Can you tell me about the Mezuzah ritual?

SB: So basically a Mezuzah is a piece of scripture on paper in a protective case that is hung up by your door frame. You kiss it, my family kisses our fingers and touch it, and it gives you good luck for the day. You do it before you leave the house; my family does this whenever we pass it.

Collector: What does the Mezuzah mean to you?

SB: It makes me feel connected to my culture. It’s special to my family and it’s a part of what represents us as a people.

Analysis: The Mezuzah ritual, specifically being used as a good luck charm instead of to honor God, is strongly tied to Jewish culture. The scripture being written on paper compliments other Jewish magic rituals in which written magic is used. This is more of a little magic ritual rather than one done for religious purposes.

For other variations of the Mezuzah ritual, see:

Cohn, Yehudah B. “Mezuzah .” Shibboleth authentication request, October 26, 2012.

Cleland, Patrick. “Kissing The Mezuzah.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 14, 2013.


KS is a 56 year old father of five who grew up in and resides in Southern Maryland. He has worked in the credit industry for almost 15 years and is in high standing at his current credit union.

Context: This term is used the office when two or more employees are talking about a client and was collected over dinner. KS does not believe in the use of this word but hears it often.


Collector: So you have worked in the credit industry for a very long time. Is there any slang or jargon that you guys use at work?

KS: Some people might call someone who is behind on their loans a “deadbeat”. It is not a nice term to use but it gets the point across when discussing a client.

Collector: Can you explain more of your thoughts about the term?

KS. Of course. I, uh, have found that folks in higher economic standing use the term more often. I feel, think that those who have been there before take the term more offensively because they understand how it is. Folks tend to put people down without knowing their situation. You never know why someone is past due on their loans… Although our job is to hand out the loans and not do personal background checks, I still don’t find it right to talk about folks like that.

Thoughts/Analysis: This is significant because all occupations have their own jargon and the credit industry is a smaller industry that one might not find a lot of research on. Although “deadbeat” has one connotation, it also has different meanings across different folk groups, thus variation being especially prevalent. This word can be interpreted as a reflection of classism because those who have been in the position where they are late on paying their loans understand how it is to be at that point.

For variations of occupational folklore, see: Elliot Oring, 1986, Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, Page 75

Maria Fue Con El Diablo

PP is an 18 year old college student. She is a freshman communications major who’s parents are from Mexico. PP has visited her hometown Tlzazalca in Mexico many times and heard about this legend from her parents.

Context: The informant and I are roommates and I know she has strong ties to her Mexican culture and I asked if she had any folk legends to share as we drank tea on the couch.


PP: In my town, where we live, it’s mostly surrounded by water and rivers. There’s a natural spring where we go for water. But on the other side of town, there’s a huge lake. Supposedly, there was this woman, named Maria I think. She had a few children, maybe 2 or 3, with her husband. He was abusive and treated her horribly. But she stayed with him until this new man came into town. He was attractive, super sweet, a Godly man, and everything you could dream of in a man. She saw him and thought, “Oh my gosh, I like him” and he liked her too. But the thing is he found out that she was in the process of getting a divorce and had already had children. He didn’t like the idea of her having children already because he did not want to raise children that were not his. And so, he told her, “If you want to be with me, you can’t have your children”. She was obsessed with him and would do anything for him because he was perfect, like he was carved from a movie. She still didn’t know where he came from and no one knew who he was. She was surprised by his reaction so she went to church and prayed about it but she somehow fell out with the church and she felt like there was nothing else she could do. One night she was by the river across town and she set up to do satanic rituals to find a way to get rid of her children. As she was doing these rituals, she was speaking to the devil. A few days later she takes her children to the river and drowns them. Then the man finds her there and he says, “You did that all for me?” and he takes her to hell because he was the devil the entire time.

Collector: Wow. Have you been to that lake?

PP: Yeah it’s really scary. It’s horrible and the last time I went to Mexico, we were at a party and it was around 11pm. Right where we live is near a spring of water and we heard something like moaning and decided to ignore it. But who knows what it could have been.

Thoughts/Analysis: There are many variations of stories and legends where a mother sacrifices her children. This one is quite scary though because the devil slowly influenced her. This story and those alike in which they are related to the devil tell folklorists that these folk groups are strongly connected in their faith because the main fear-factor in this legend is not necessarily that Maria drowned her children; it is that the perfect man was actually the devil.

For a variation of this legend, see:

Ryanprod, and Ryanprod. “My Father’s Version of La Llorona.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, November 4, 2021.

Sorority Hazing Ritual

TG is a 25 year old graduate student and cultural forensic anthropologist. She grew up in Maryland and currently resides in Tennessee. She was an active member at her university. She was in a sorority herself.

Context: This performance was done during the Spring semester at the university between X sorority and the girl trying to rush.

Transcript (discussed over the phone):

TG: Okay, I have to make this kind of vague because I can get into trouble if I give away the name of the university. There was a student trying to rush X sorority and there was an intense hazing process. Every girl got a difference hazing task when rushing but one girl specifically was not allowed to speak for a week. She had people secretly monitoring her to make sure she does not speak. That is not the worst part though; when she was spoken to, she was only allowed to respond by meowing like a cat. So for example, if someone asked “How are you?” she had to meow back to them. It was crazy.

Collector: Why meowing like a cat?

TG: Honestly, I’m not sure. I think it was more because it was an embarrassing thing to do and if you could do it successfully for the full week then it shows your loyalty to the sorority- maybe even your submissiveness too.

Thoughts/Analysis: There are hazing rituals in almost every fraternity and sorority. I find that the common denominator between them all is that they are supposed to have the potential member display some form of loyalty to the organization. These initiation processes are not kind; they push potential members hard to make sure they are worthy of membership.

For variations of embarrassing hazing rituals, see:

Appel, Stefan. “Sorority Hazing (Kappa Cow).” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 18, 2021.