Category Archives: Old age

Retirement, seniority, death, funerals, remembrances

The Ghost Lady in the Dome

Informant: The informant is a very good friend of mine. She and I met in my sophomore year of high school. She is currently an undergraduate at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The following transcript is a retelling of a ghost story that she heard from her mom and that has been passed down by the family due to very weird circumstances. 

Context: Informant’s mom heard this in the late 1980’s, on a day that her mom was coming back from school in Jalisco, Mexico. However, this ghost story dates as far back as the early 1900’s. Informant states, that she doesn’t believe this story because it wasn’t something that her mom experiences herself, but a story that has been passed down by those in the small town.

Story:In my mom’s small town there was this big house made of stone. In one of the corners of the house, on the outside, there was this small tower-like structure also made of stone. The top was covered by a dome-like thing, which was also made of stone. Everything was made of stone. It was said throughout my mom’s town that there was a woman who would appear in that tower. Just a woman who would walk out from that tower. There was no way into that tower or out of that tower except through the inside of the house. At that time, there was no woman living in this house, but just a man at that time. This story was told by my mom to me, but it was originally an experience and tale that happened to my grandma’s acquaintance. For when he saw this woman, it held his arm and walked him home.

Present Day of the Famous Dome where the lady appears from at night. Place Jalisco, Puebla. Picture taken in 2021 by informant’s aunt.

Analysis: This ghost story wasn’t terrifying at all, but rather a bit questionable because no one else had seen this ghost lady other than the man who claims to have seen it and spread the story around town. I think when it comes to the context of the story, the person who first experiences such paranormal events should be reliable in order for something to be believed. This mans who claims to have seen the ghost lady and have walked him home, might have been possibly drunk or extremely tired. The fact, that there is very little details to this story, demonstrates how details of such experiences over time lose detail little by little. Because again, this story told by my friend has now passed around through the mouths of about 5+ people. Mayble if the man who experiences this where still alive, or met him in person, he would be able to explain the events of what specifically occurred on that day.

Pelo en la oreja…ni duda deja.

TEXT: “Pelo en la oreja…ni duda deja.”


CONTEXT: His mother said this Old Age Proverb occasionally, when referring to someone being very old. His mother learned it from her grandparents who used it with each other to poke fun at their old age. It is a well known Mexican saying that is comically but also points out the Life’s Cycle. It can be said in reference to an elderly person that is not listening, pokes fun and is at their expense. It speaks about the fact that elderly people grow hair in their ears. 

ORIGINAL SCRIPT: “Pelo en la oreja…ni duda deja.”

TRANSLATION: “hair in the ear, does not leave a doubt”

THOUGHTS: Although this saying is a bit rude, it is also light hearted and not meant to actually insult anyone. I think it is funny and something rare to point out or notice.

Salt After Funeral

Description: After a funeral, people would put salt on themselves in order to keep spirits out of their home.

Background: The informant observed the ritual from his mother.


ML: My mom puts salt on herself before entering the house after a funeral.

Me: Is there a reason that your mom does that?

ML: I think it’s a japanese thing, it wards off spirits so they don’t enter your home. she sprinkles it on top of her head right before entering our house when she comes back. She tells us to leave the salt by the doorway when she goes to a funeral so she can just grab it and pour.

My thoughts:

In many traditions, salt is seen as a way to ward off spirits. While I do not know precisely why that is the case, I have a few theories. It might be tied to salt’s ability to preserve food, linking it to an ability to ward off death and decay. Of course, the entire concept of preventing evil spirits from entering your home is a staple in not just Japanese culture but Asian culture in general. Home is a sacred place because that is where we spend most of our time. Evil spirits can curse your house and give you family bad luck. So there are often rituals such as this to ward off and prevent bad spirits from entering the home. On the opposite side, there are also rituals, such as presenting offerings, to draw in good spirits to the home and create good fortune.

Passing Ashes After Cremation

Description: After a family member is cremated, the family would pass the remains across the family chopstick to chopstick.

Background: The informant observed this in his family during funerals.


ML: Another thing I’ve noticed more is that we can’t pass food from chopstick to chopstick. Ao whenever we’re eating, and we share, she puts it on my plate. Because passing stuff from chopstick to chopstick is reserved for family remains after a cremation. I think my dad is the same way too. I think in Japan when someone dies, they’re cremated and their ashes and stuff are put into a urn and the family members pass the pieces to each other into the urn. Yeah, so then whenever I’m about to grab something out of her chopstick, my mom gives me a dirty look.

My thoughts:

This entry would be considered both a ritual tradition as well as a taboo. It is more accurate to say that it is a taboo that resulted from common practice. Rituals for the dead is not uncommon in any culture, but it is often in Asian traditions that I tend to find taboos that come from such traditions. One easy example would be the taboo of stabbing one’s chopsticks on a bowl of rice, as that is usually reserved for an offering for the dead. The association itself is plenty direct most of the time, as it’s easy to see why one would want to separate actions for the dead from ones of the living as the dead do not belong there and not many want to think about death when living their daily life. Another function of those specific rituals are also to provide some sort of closure for relatives, allowing people to finally move on after the passing of a loved one.


The expression of the old East Asian funeral art: Author: Dae-Youl Kim –

Korean Ancestral Commemoration Rites

Main Performance:

The jesa (제사) is traditional Korean ceremony that honors the family’s ancestors as well as deceased family members, particularly parents. It is a fairly large event that involves the extended family of the deceased parent to gather at the house of the eldest child, prepare food, and engage in a ceremony with specific steps. It is celebrated on different days for every family because it held on the day before the death of the deceased persons being honored. Back in Korea we’d have your uncles and aunts show up to commemorate your grandparents but we’re the only ones here in America so your mother doesn’t get as much help as she usually does. Even when if this isn’t even technically her own family that she’s making offerings for, she’s still the the only person who puts in this much effort. You also remember the steps better than I do these days.

The steps are as follows:

  1. The spirits of those who are to be honored are welcomed by an open door.
  2. The spirits are seated at the table before everyone else with food already prepared for them. The spirits are represented by a wooden plaque adorned with a photograph of themselves.
  3. An incense placed upon a bowl of uncooked rice is prepared between two lit candles and the eldest son of the spirits and their siblings or children pour glasses of rice or plum wine.
  4. Wine is poured three times until the cup is full and the cups are then rotated around the smoking incense three times, clockwise.
  5. The cups are placed by the bowls of the spirits and the ones who immediately poured and placed the drinks bow to the spirits. Men do two large bows and one half-bow while women do four half-bows.
  6. The above is repeated by the number of children of the deceased are present.
  7. Once the above step is completed, the spirits’ utensils are placed onto their favorites among the prepared food and the rest of the attendees excuse themselves to another room so the spirits may enjoy their meal alone.
  8. For a couple minutes, the gathered family engage in small talk, reminisce, and exchange pleasantries for a couple minutes before returning to the dining area.
  9. Steps 4 and 5 are repeated one last time and the spirits are led out to an open door and now the family is allowed to eat properly.
  10. The bowls that contained the rice and soup that the spirits would have eaten are considered to be blessed and are offered to those who need the ancestor’s blessings the most.


The informant is my father who has engaged in this ceremony longer than I have been alive. As he is the oldest among his three siblings, our house was where my father’s side of the family used to convene and celebrate together with as per tradition dictates that the eldest son continues the tradition. My father mentions how my mother has been diligent in her work to continue this tradition as she used to get help from my aunts in preparing the food but now she does all of the work alone for a ceremony honoring my father’s parents instead of any on her own side. Recently my mother receives help from my grandmother but since she is not directly related to my father’s parents, she does not partake in the ritual itself.


Every October 10th and November 30th, by Lunar Calendar dates, my family engages in these rituals and I’ve asked my father and mother many times about the procedure. Before long I was the one who remembered most of the steps.

My Thoughts:

Despite only having met my paternal grandparents only once or twice before their passing, this ceremony is something that has been ingrained in my life for as long as I could remember. The eldest son’s home becomes the liminal ground where the living descendants commune with the spirits of the deceased. Looking up articles of the ritual now, it appears that me and my family are skipping a number of steps but the way we’ve done it is how it has been for at least 30+ years. I always used to watch my father and my uncles do the steps back in Korea but after coming to the States, I began to take their place in placing offerings to my grandparents. The dates however do make it a pain for my mother who has to prepare not only for American Thanksgiving but also for preparing for my grandfather’s jesa. My parents often joke about how no other Korean family engages in this practice anymore and it made me recently realize that my parents being vaguely irreligious is probably the reason why. Many other Korean families are heavily Christian and have since abandoned the traditional ways which almost makes me a bit sad with how Westernization has started to blot out Korean culture.