The informant and I are sitting in the USC Gould Law Cafe around 3:00 pm. She is a Chinese American student at the University of Southern California who was born and raised in Shanghai until she came to America for high school in Maryland. She recounts some of her grandmother’s traditions to cure paralysis.
J: “So I got it from my grandma. So it talks about when people are suddenly paralyzed, they have to lie on their back and sometimes they blame it on a ghost. So, they actually say the ghost is dirty and you accidentally bumped into them when you were walking on the street because you can’t see them since they are a ghost but they want to get out – but they can’t. So you have to find someone who is specialized in the ghost theory and they will do some…they’re not like a magician…but they will do some sort of ritual/ceremony in order to get the demon outside of your body.”
A: “Kind of like a witch doctor?”
J: “Yeah like they will do different things like burn paper in order to cure and get out the demon from your body and then you can start to walk. I don’t know if it’s real, but what my grandma said is that it actually happened to one of her sisters and the witch doctor actually worked! I don’t know if she exaggerated some part of it.”
A: “Do you think that’s played into some of your grandma’s beliefs and what they have passed down to you?”
J: “I definitely think that it influenced her generation, but I don’t think it technically was passed down to my mom or me, but it’s still out there but we don’t actually believe it.”
A: “Do you think if you were to be paralyzed that your grandma would want you to have this treatment?”
J: “I don’t think so. What they say about ghosts is that there are less ghosts in the Western country like Europe and America they have less. Whereas in the eastern country, like China and things like that, we have more. Especially the rural parts like where the places aren’t civilized. Where it’s civilized with high rises, ghosts are scared of this because it’s crowded so they tend to move to the countryside and that’s where they are more active.”
A: “Is your grandma from a rural town?
J: “She was born in a rural town then moved to the big city when she was 16”
It is very intriguing regarding the informant’s grandmother and her beliefs that ghosts are stuck to people that then cause them to be paralyzed. This could relate to ancient Chinese medicinal cures as well for ailments and how she believes one has to perform rituals to rid one of the “ghost” of paralysis. This can also be seen as moe plausible due to the “FOAF” (Friend Of A Friend) phenomenon in which the informant’s grandma’s sister was cured from this ritual. An interesting note is one of her last sentences where she describes how ghosts are most active in the countryside since they are scared of cities. This could be due to the fact that usually rural towns are smaller and closer knit communities where stories are passed down more often and this plays into people’s beliefs. They also may not have knowledge on new medicinal technology. Whereas in the city, it can be a whole melting pot of many people from many places and this can cause some stories to be lost, and medicinal discoveries can be more easily known among an urban population.