Residence: Cerritos, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2007
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English
“When you have a dream about teeth falling out, that is a very bad omen that brings death.”
My informant first heard this superstition from her mother when she was ten years old, living in the city of Pusan in South Korea. Her mother had a dream that one of her bottom teeth fell out, so she told all her children to be careful. Her mother was afraid that since her bottom teeth fell out in her dream that would mean someone younger than she would meet his or her death. In Korea the people are anxious about having dreams of teeth being knocked out because they take that as a sign of death. The upper row of teeth would mean death for someone older and the lower row of teeth would mean death for someone younger. She believes that teeth falling out signifies death because once you reach a certain age, your teeth would start to deteriorate. Teeth were vital in consuming food, so the absence of them were a great discomfort. Therefore, when someone lost his or her teeth, it was common to believe death was near, especially without the technology of dentures then.
I can see how death and teeth falling out can be linked together. The sign of youth can be when a baby first grows his or her teeth. Hence, when someone becomes old enough to lose his or her teeth, that symbolizes a life coming to an end rather than a beginning.