Occupation: Civil Engineer
Residence: Oswego, Illinois
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/2020
Primary Language: English
(The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.)
Informant: So my – so my grandmother, on my moms side… was a…. Old German lady. She had German – half German, but anyway. She was staunch Catholic but, my mom would tell me this story that, you know, she would never – she yelled at her once because she was cleaning out her brush and she was gonna throw it out like the window of the car. She told – cleaning out – gonna throw her hair out the window, that is, not the brush. And she said you know, you never – never throw your hair away, you gotta burn it, like if you clean out your brush or anything like that, because if you throw it away and a bird gets it, puts it in their nest, build their nest with it you’ll have headaches for the rest of you life.
Interviewer: Do you know why?
Informant: Nope. Just something to do with the birds and bad luck, I guess.
Interviewer: And did your mom enforce this on you, or like, tell it as a joke?
Informant: No, no! My mom told me the same story, so…
Interviewer: Wait so you did have to follow it.
Informant: No, she just-
Interviewer: Oh. So for your grandma it was a belief but for your mom it was just a saying.
Informant: Yeah, yep.
Background: My informant was raised by a very religious but not too strict Catholic family. They were not very wealthy growing up, and he has heard a great deal of sayings like these growing up in a rural area on a farm.
Context: This piece of folklore was collected when I asked the informant to tell me about the stories and sayings they remembered from their mother. The informant is my father, and he is a very outspoken person so the setting was relaxed.
Thoughts: I enjoy collecting pieces of folklore that reveal contradictory aspects of a person. That a staunchly religious person would believe and enforce a superstition – a bit of magic – in this way is funny to me. The concept of this is directly tied to contagious magic, and it even evokes classic cliches of voodoo. It is a good example of the nature of belief being flexible and form fitting.