Tag Archives: child

Don’t be Born on Eclipses

Background: The informant is a 50 year old man. He was born in Tecate, Mexico, moving to California when he was young. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context was when watching an astronomy show together on a streaming platform. They made a mention of an eclipse.

Text:

UI: Now, one superstition that I grew up with, that I was very well aware of and it’s going to sound completely strange, is that pregnant women should not go outside when there’s an eclipse. If a pregnant woman is outside during the time of an eclipse like that somehow or other, because of the eclipse, that the baby will be born deformed. Now, the thing with the eclipse is that, in actual fact, I don’t really know how it works. I don’t know if it’s because, you know, maybe the rays of the sun get distorted or, you know, I mean look in aztec culture they would look at it [eclipses] when they occurred. During the times of the Aztecs it was sort of like,  the moon is fighting with the sun and and the sun is overcoming the moon, It’s just something I’ve always remembered as a kid.

Me: Who did you hear it from?

UI: I had heard it from my mom. I had heard it from friends.

Me: What about when your wife was pregnant?

UI: There was an eclipse, and after explaining it to her, she understood and stayed inside.

Analysis:

Informant: The informant understands that the superstition may be considered strange by many people, self-aware that the superstition may not be well spread throughout his family. However, it is clear that the informant still believes in superstition to a strong degree.

Mine: The superstition was something new to me. It reveals a few things about Mexican culture. The first is the protective nature over pregnant women and the baby they are carrying. Since women are treated very delicately by this superstition, it would be interesting to see how it compares with other Mexican folkloric ideas. Second, not wanting the women to be exposed during an eclipse so that the baby will not be deformed shows a societal, not just Mexican, belief against children who are not born healthy. It has some negative connotations that a baby with defects is not wanted. However, that is a more modern interpretation of the superstition, and placing it into a past time period, many women used to die during childhood or their children would die when extremely young. Anything would want to be done to protect the child and the mother. If a baby does have deformities, it could ned up hurting the mother or the child might not live for long, which was extremely concerning.

Haunted House in Indiana- The Funny Man and the Woman with the Red Eyes: Sleep Paralysis and Two Traveling Ghosts, Cured by a Witchdoctor

I first heard this story when I asked the speaker if she had ever seen a ghost, but when she began telling her story I remembered that I had heard parts of this tale before. The speaker told her story in a very matter-of-fact tone and spoke first about her experiences with friendly and unfriendly ghosts. For another example of a ghost legend by this same speaker, search “Haunted Theaters and Ghost Lights” in the USC folklore archive.

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When the speaker and her twin brother were three years old, they shared a room in Gary, Indiana in a house completely made of brick. “My mom came in [to the children’s bedroom], she had just put us to bed. And then she heard me and my brother laughing. And so she like came back into the room and she’s like, What’s going on here? She’s like, what’s happening? And we’re like, ‘The man, the man. He’s making a funny face.’ And there was nobody there.”

“Was I scared? No, because he was one of the friendly ones of the house,” the speaker said. “He was kind of just there for jokes and like to make children laugh, because apparently, um, his grandchildren died in the house. And he like, died out of grief. And he loved kids. So he would just play with my brother and I [sic] occasionally.”

The speaker said that there were also unfriendly ghosts, and that she had recently gotten rid of one of these malicious specters. ” “They moved with us to Florida. And at first, I didn’t notice because they didn’t approach me. At first, they would just stay in the corner. And I didn’t realize it would always be a really scary woman with two red eyes. And I didn’t know what she was. I thought she was just like, a spirit… But no, she turned out to be worse than I thought.”

The speaker said that she began to experience sleep paralysis and that “I would be screaming, and she’d be attacking me. And I couldn’t move. And I’d wake up with bruises on my arms and my legs because she was sitting on top of me.” She slept with her mother at age 17 because of these nightly attacks. When she returned to her bedroom, she said, ” “I was screaming to save my mom and my brother. But they couldn’t hear me. And then just the woman was just taking my family away from me. And I didn’t like I couldn’t do anything. I was just sitting there. And then again, my mom woke me up screaming, crying in real life. “

The speaker’s Puerto Rican grandfather, Julio, was a witch doctor. “We had to pin a square piece of black cloth underneath my pillow. I don’t know what it was to catch her something like that.” Soon after that she moved to Southern California to attend school, and she hasn’t seen either ghost since.

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This story was told at night in the kitchen, and three college-age females were present. The speaker said that she was relieved to be rid of the ghosts, and that after her parents’ divorce, she rarely visited the Gary House. She also said that the house was torn apart after the divorce, and that her father would start projects that he wouldn’t complete (for example, fixing the bathroom tub). I think these ghosts may have something to do with the divorce, but I believe that this experience was very frightening for the speaker.

This speaker later scoffed at my mentioning that a friend received therapy when recovering from his parent’s divorce. Her response suggested that children do not need therapy for this life change.

For another example of ghosts stories indicating changes in property ownership or status quo, see the scholarly article “Ghostly Possession of Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore” by Ulo Valk (2006).

The concept of traveling ghosts is certainly frightening, and this story was welcome after a long day’s work.

Abiyoyo

IN: Okay, so far away in a village in Africa, uhm there was a giant by the name of Abiyoyo. For some reason, he got angry and started rampaging, like towards the village of people. Until this little boy decided to take this guitar and start singing, “abiyoyo, abiyoyo, abiyoyo..” and all of the villagers joined in and it started to make him get happy. The giant started dancing, and he and the boy walked into the sunset singing the song.

JJ: Does abiyoyo mean anything? Or did it start to mean anything after?

IN: No, as far as I know it was just kind of arbitrary, like a cool sounding word. It could mean something I guess.

Context: During a slow work shift I asked the informant if he remembered any folktales from his childhood.

Background: The informant is s South-African American. This was a story his father used to always tell him before bed. It is one of the few ways that his family actively passed down their African heritage to him in the States, so this was a significant story to him growing up.

Analysis: In this tale, we see music as a healing tool and important instrument in society. Music is a huge piece in African culture, and this story undoubtedly expresses that. Music has the ability to calm and tranquilize even a beastly giant, and gives reason for little kids to learn instruments and develop and explain interest in music.

 

Don’t Get the Cheese Touch

Piece:

Interviewer: “What about games? Any you remember from childhood?

L.F.: “Lemme think…. Oh yeah haha the cheese touch.”

Interviewer: “What is the cheese touch?”

L.F.: “It was kinda like the elementary school bully version of tag. Basically when someone had the “cheese touch” no one would speak to them out of the fear of getting it.”

Interviewer: “What was it though?”

L.F.: “hahahaha… I don’t know… It was just like cooties. No one knew what they were but you definitely didn’t want it.”

Informant:

Informant L.F. is a teenage boy who recently became an adult. He is half Japanese and half Jewish and has spent his entire life in Northern California. During the summers, L.F. likes to attend away summer camp, and had attended the same camp for the past five summers. The camp is ranges from three weeks to 2 months and L.F. will be returning this summer as a counselor.

Context:

I asked informant L.F. to sit down for a formal interview on young adult folklore and if he remembered any weird games from his childhood or now. This is what he thought of.

Interpretation:

To L.F. the cheese touch was a childhood game used to ridicule and scare kids into bullying one another. And, while her has fun memories of playing the game, he admits it was a representation of childhood bullying. L.F. does not remember who he learned the game from, but it was the sort of game that never really ended and all his school friends were apart of it. It reminds him of simpler times and of his youth.

 

Hand Gestures for Learning Left and Right

Informant: “To figure out right and left as a kid I was taught by my mom that if I hold up both my hands in the shape of an “L” with your palms faced downward, the hand that makes the actual “L” is the left one and the one that makes the backwards “L” is the right hand.”

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Context: The informant is the partner of the collector and was discussed when they were speaking about how they both know or learned right from left as children.

Informant Analysis: As a child, the informant said that they had difficulty in learning the right from left, so as a measure to help teach them, their mother taught them the trick. The informant noted that the hand gesture did help them learn it and even today, while he doesn’t make the hand signs, they determine right from left through identification with the sides of their body in their head.

Collector Analysis: For people who have mild dyslexia, certain tricks are preformed that sometimes are utilized to help. In particular, this trick is common for people who have difficulties in determining right from left. This piece is intrinsically English oriented since it only works due to the fast that left starts with an “L”. It also shows the necessity of being able to distinguish right from left in everyday life, for example, giving directions being a great example. There is of course arbitrariness to right and left since the actual location is dependent on the perspective of the individual. In this regard, the hand signs mimic the individual perspective of determining right from left.

We can also note that these sorts of gestures are intended to teach children. It has been studied that different people respond to certain learning techniques like visual, auditory, or tactile. Children in particular are sometimes able to memorize things when they are done kinesthetically. Therefore, the motion of making “L’s” with ones hands for children may be the best way to teach children. Another interesting idea that should be explored is the realization that, since many people have difficulty in determining right from left even as adults, the whole concept may be something humans are not innately born with. Or, it could be said that the addition of abstract words to describe a location in respect to the individual is perhaps where the confusion occurs.