Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): None
Residence: New York City, USA
Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (telephonically)
Alan is a 62- year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.
Interviewer: Good Morning. You mentioned that you experienced your mother’s family superstition first hand when you were a youngster. Can you explain it?
Informant: Sure. My mother would always pull my ears and those of my sister, when we were very young, when she heard that either a relative or person she knew had just died.
Interviewer: Was there a reason why she did this?
Informant: She never spoke directly about this, but my mother was a superstitious individual when it came to the evil eye. I have to assume that this had something to do with that. For instance, she would always dress my sister and me in red if we were visiting someone who she felt possessed an evil eye. I remember one time when she just stood in front of this particular person and walking backward pushed my sister and me out of the room. I was young and didn’t really think anything about it.
As I got older I began to realize that the pulling of our ears when she spoke about the dead was a part of her superstitious beliefs. I never observed this behavior with her sisters and brothers (my aunts and uncles). Her mother and father (my grandparents) were both dead before I was born so I never saw if it was somehow connected this action to them. However, knowing my mother, she might have come up with this crazy superstition all on her own.
Interviewer: Does She Still Do This?
Informant: No. The last time I remember her tugging at my ears was when my Great Uncle Joe had passed away when I was 13. We were driving to a supermarket and my father asked my Mother when was Joe’s funeral. As he did she reached around from the front car seat and managed to grab my left ear, but I twisted and prevented her from getting my right one. From that day forward, she never tugged my ears again!”
Thoughts about the piece:
Superstitious gestures like this one become ingrained even if connection to meaning is lost. http://www.imamother.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=172695
For other Jewish superstitious customs see: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/popular-superstitions/