My informant is a 19-year-old female. I asked my informant if she knew of any superstitions people live by. To this, she responded, “black cats are bad luck.” My informant does not remember when she first heard this superstition, but she thinks it was around the time of Halloween. She claims she also saw it in a tv show she watched as a child called, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In the show, the black cat was friends with the witch. The informant states that a black cat is a sign that something bad is going to happen. For example, if you are going somewhere and you see a black cat it means something bad will happen in the near future. The informant recalls,
“One time I was driving in the car with a friend and her dad, can’t remember who it was, but we saw a black cat crossing the road and my friend’s dad turned around and drove the other way. My friend says that every time her dad is driving, and he sees a black cat he has to turn around and take an alternate route.”
The informant says she does not believe this is true and feels bad for black cats because everyone thinks they are evil.
I too have heard this superstition that black cats are bad luck. It is interesting to note the association with color. The color black is often used when referencing fear, mystery, evil and death. All of these themes are common around the time of Halloween, so it makes sense the informant believes to have heard this superstition around that time. One also wears black to a funeral to represent the mourning of a loved one. Therefore, seeing a black cat by the color alone can imply death. Death is a mysterious subject terrifying for many people. The black cats’ color can be enough to make people fear the superstition. Cats are also animals that hold a lot of mystery. Often it is said cats have nine lives. This makes the superstition that black cats are bad luck even more fascinating because if the color black is associated with death, and cats have nine lives, could this have some sort of implication that cats can take lives? An intriguing relationship to note. When looking into this superstition I also found a reference to it in the book Fearful, Spirits, reasoned follies the boundaries of superstition in the late medieval Europe by Michael David Bailey. He also speaks of the association cats have with demonic beings and magical connections.
Bailey, Michael David. Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies the Boundaries of Superstition in Late Medieval Europe. Cornell University Press, 2013.
Born in Korea before the split, she managed to escape to South Korea during the Korean War with her husband and family. She immigrated to the U.S. and resides in New Jersey with her eldest son and her grandchildren.
도깨비가 자기의 홍두깨를 치고 다니면 돈이 가득하게 찬 우물하고 분수들이 땅에서 나타난데. 도개비는 머리위에 유니콘처럼 뿔이있고 마술사 같아. 사람들에게 “넌 뭘 갖고싶니?” 하면서 돌아다녀. 좋은 사람들한테만 주지 근데. 나쁜 사람이 돈 달라고하면 아니면 소원을 빌면 그 도깨비는 얼굴이 화나게 변신을하고 그 나쁜 사람에게 불행을 빌지. 도깨비는 밤에만 나타나. 어떤 귀신이라고 생각할수도있고, 하지만 무섭지는않아. 착한 귀신이지, 좋은 사람한테는.
When the dokgyebi hits its club around wells of money springs out. It has a small horn on its head, like a unicorn. It is like a magician and can make things appear or make wishes come true. It walks around and asks people what they want. When a bad person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, the dokgyebi face become mad and wishes the bad person illness. When a good person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, it is granted. A dokgyebi only appears at night. It is a type of ghost, but it is not scary to nice people.
A dokgyebi appears randomly and only at night. It is a mystical figure, almost a cross between a ghost and a fairy. Instead of a wand it carries around a club, which signifies that it is not only nice but also can be bad. However, it is mean to only people with bad hearts or ill intentions. The meaning of the story is that one should be careful of how one lives, no matter the time and space. You never know who is watching you and so you should always try to lead a give life, inside and out.
Informant Background: The informant is a student in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Indonesia. His parents moved to the United States and they now live in New Orleans. He speaks only English but he said his family still practice many Indonesian traditions especially folk-beliefs. He travels back once in a while to Indonesia to visit his relatives.
A serial killer who has killed hundreds of people realized at the end of his life how much evil he committed. He thought to himself something like: what am I going to do? Then he had a revelation toward the end of his life. He then heard of this city which consists of good people…you know where those people can teach him how to become a good person if he can reach the city…The people of that city can also teach him how to repay his since so he can reach salvation.
So this guy, the serial killer, starts walking to the good city. But he was really old, you see, so the serial killer dies on the way to the good city. The angels then wonder if he should go to heaven since he did have the intention to become good, or hell since he never made it to his destination. They decided to take the distance between his starting point and the city of good. If the man passes the half way point then he would go to heaven. But he didn’t pass the test, so an angel carried him pass the half-way point and brings him to heaven. So basically this story is pretty much saying that the intention to become a good person outweighs the evil in the past.
A story of repentance form Indonesia. The informant was told this story by his grandparents from Indonesian. The goal was to teach children to be good, want to be good, and continue to do good things despite past mistakes. The intention of the story was to teach that wanting to become good outweighs the bad things in the past.
I think this story reflects similar principles as karma. The serial’s killer intention to become good is so that he can go to heaven. He knows that his evil past will result in evil ends for him. He is doing good to expect good things in return. It is also evident that the intention to become good is so that he can eliminate or counter balance the evil he committed in the past. I think this story indirectly teaches children about karma and the consequences of good and bad actions.
This also reflects the idea of the ideal binary opposition in morality: the good and the bad. The character and the city are set as complete opposite of each other. The two are separated into pure ideal of how to judge morality. The killer is characterized as the definition of extreme “bad” while the city is defined as extreme “good” and filled with good people. The criteria of judging the good intention of the killer is a binary where the boundary is the halfway point of his journey.
This binary opposition of good and bad is blurred when the angel carried him pass the half way point so he can go to heaven due to his good intentions. The fact that only the intention to become good saves the killer from going to hell, in my opinion, makes the story effective. Since the goal of this story is to encourage people to have intention to do good things regardless of their past, the fact that the killer went to heaven shows how easy it could be to correct the evil past through simple change in attitude.