“My grandma has a thing where first she’d look at you when you’d be looking away and she would do this [Informant puts one hand under chin and wiggles fingers in my general direction] and if you didn’t do it back then she’d go like this [Informant puts both hands under his chin and wiggles his fingers faster] and you’d have bad luck or something.”
Context of Practice:
“She would do this to all the kids in the family. My siblings and I are the oldest of all my cousins. It was me and my two cousins who are one year younger than me and then like five years younger than me? Six years younger than me? She would do it literally like all the time. It would be like two or three times an evening. It would be when she was walking past you or when you weren’t expecting it. Usually when people were in pissy moods and thats how she’d get you out of it. She was like a scary old lady from Brooklyn… I don’t know. She was very intimidating.”
“My family has a lot of superstitions I think cause they’re catholic. On my dad’s side. I think [my grandma] was already in New York because my great grandpa was a county lord in Ireland. I think my grandma was born in New York. She’s probably in her 80’s or 90’s now. I think she just turned 90? I don’t know.”
The informant himself is 21 and grew up in Los Angeles.
This practice could be a way to impress the importance of spatial-awareness and attentiveness in children. The informant specified many times that his grandmother would do this when the children were not paying attention or least expecting it. The idea that children would have “bad luck” if they were not cognizant and responsive to their surroundings is another way of impressing upon them that they could be harmed if they are not careful. “Bad Luck” is just a substitute for actual sinister things in our world. This is a common lesson in children’s folklore. For example, Little Red Riding Hood not being as quick-witted to realize that the big bad wolf is her grandmother before it is too late ended up getting her eaten in some iterations.
The reason she did this at times when people were upset could be that it is when we are caught up in our emotions that we pay the least attention to our surroundings. Those are the times we are most vulnerable to harm.