Tag Archives: church

Catholic Baptism

Background provided by BR: BR was raised in Miami, Florida. They are Dominican and have experience with the Hispanic culture in Miami. They were raised in a Catholic household.

Context: BR was approached about folklore, which they shared in the middle of the day. They explain how they were baptized later on in their life. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information): 

BR: “ I didn’t get baptized when I was a baby, I got baptized when I wa about 13 years old.  And … umm … that was very interesting because I didn’t think that, that many kids hasn’t gotten baptized yet, there were lots  of  kids, my age that had gotten baptized, yet … there were a lot of people. And I was in a Catholic Church. And we wore … the ritual was, we go to mass. We kinda pray a bit and we are wearing all black robes. You go to get baptized in the water with the priest, and he … like dunks us in the water three times. Takes us out and and we’re officially baptized and we go to change into white robes … and that’s the end of the ceremony, really. The meaning of the dark robes is that  you’re full of sin. You come into the world full of sin cause The Original sin … of Adam and Eve and then once you’re baptized you’re cleansed  of all sin. 

Me: “Did you have to … uhh … do anything … before the actual, baptism, ceremony …  or ritual to … uhh prepare for it?”

BR: “ Umm … not really, no.  It was kinda just a spiel on what we’re gonna … do. And just classes to learn about Catholic religion.” 

Me: “And … just … umm … a … like … a couple questions that you think that your Dominican background …  or …. maybe other influences … that influenced when… or … how you got your baptism … performed” 

BR: “Ummm … I’m not exactly sure about that, I feel like my culture did really have anything to do with it, I feel like it was my parent’s decision not to baptize me early.” 

Analysis: The use of water as a form or baptism can be considered very symbolic because water is considered a fundamental element. The baptism is a literal and figurative representation cleansing ones sins by washing them away with water. This spiritual ceremony has multiple perfomative aspects such as the classes and changing robes. The classes may aid in educating, but may not change spiritual stances. The classes also seem to have less importance than other apsects of this ceremony. The changing robes is another representation of purity. After the baptism BR was cleansed of all sin and allowed to wear the white robe, which is representative of purity.

The Curse of the Church in Tlzazalca

PP is an 18 year old college student. She is a freshman communications major whose parents are from Mexico. PP has visited her hometown Tlzazalca in Mexico many times and heard about this curse from her family and the locals.

Context: The informant and I are roommates and I know she has strong ties to her Mexican culture and I asked if she had any folk legends to share as we drank tea on the couch. She has stayed in Mexico over summers and experienced them with her family.


PP: Basically, I don’t know when exactly this happened but I think it’s from the 1800s. The church in the plaza, it’s been there for so many years, it was built when the town was first created. It was supposedly the first building created there and church became really important to the town. But then people were not respecting the church. You kind of have to go to church there [in Tlzazalca] or else it’s taboo if that makes sense. What happened was girls would show up wearing really short dresses and stuff started to happen that were not considered Godly in the church. The priest was really pissed at the town and could not believe their disrespect because the town is supposed to be sacred. At this point he was falling out of the church like a lot of the other locals and he started doing satanic rituals to make them listen to him. He then cursed the town and that is why the town does not grow… By that I mean the town is so small and the population stays the same. As people continue to die, it would become a ghost town, and that is what the priest intended.

Thoughts/Analysis: This is an interesting version of stories were the Godly/heroic figure turns on the town. It reminds me a bit of Beauty and the Beast where the witch cursed the Beast for being selfish. This story is based on a social belief of people in the town. This story sits on the fine line between a myth and a legend because legends are based on social beliefs and might be true, myths are creation stories and would tell how the town of Tlzazalca stays so small.

For a variation of a very similar story, see:

Tayebi, N. “Kuldhara.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 8, 2018. http://folklore.usc.edu/kuldhara/.


“So basically, aguinalduhan is a gathering we do in our church every year on the last Sunday before Christmas where all of the adults go into, like, a parking lot and bring bulk snacks and toys and stuff like from Costco… Like those 28-pack chips or candy boxes.  They all sit in a big circle with their big packages of food and snacks.  Then the kids all line up outside the circle in order from youngest to oldest until you’re like 20 years old and it’s like a long line of trick or treaters that get older as you go… the funniest part is that we’ll usually bully our oldest cousins out of the line once they get to be around 22 or 23 because at that point, like, they’re just being greedy.  But then what ends up happening is that they have a kid a couple years later and get to go to the front of the line when their kid is the youngest out of all of us.”

Background: The informant is a 19-year old college student who was raised a Christian in a church that was led and run by his extended family members.

Context: This tradition was shared with me over FaceTime.

I experienced aguinalduhan annually with the informant when we were children, and it was a cyclical tradition that marked the end of another year.  Participants in the tradition slowly made their way to the back of the line as new lives began entering through the front.  As an adult, many of our older cousins are now the ones bringing the goodies (like Oreo snack packs, fruit snacks, Caprisuns) to hand out to all of the younger cousins.

According to limited information available about the idea of “Aguinaldohan” online, our church’s tradition stemmed from a custom named after the first President of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo, where people gave back to the needy during Christmastime.  This version is definitely more sanitized and family-friendly, and serves as a way for everyone to get together and see how we’ve grown throughout the years.

The Ghost on the Phone

Main Performance:

The M family lives in Lemont, Illinois. An old industrial town south of Chicago, Lemont is proud – almost deliberate – about their town’s culture and influence in Chicago. The town is fundamental to Chicago, one of the world’s largest economic metropolises. Lemont is the convergence of several key waterways – including the canal that reversed the flow of the Illinois River, sending waste south, instead of north, towards the city’s water supply. Lemont is also home to the oldest parish in Chicago – St. James at Sag Bridge. The same hilltop used by French explorers, is home to the 1825 chapel and one of the most haunted areas of Chicagoland.

Mrs. M is the organist at St. James. Around 10 years ago, after finishing playing music for Christmas Eve Mass, Mrs. M locked up the church, went down the hill, locked the campus gate and went home – but forgetting her phone. When she got home and realized her mistake she had her oldest two daughters call the phone to check it wasn’t lost in the car. Instead, a male voice answered the call and said, “Hello, this is Alex.” Now the odd thing is that the phone was found the next morning, where it was left – in the organ loft of the church. Mrs. M was the last person in the church and the one who locked the gate. No ushers, volunteers, clergymen, or anyone with any considerable amount of access to the church and campus is named Alex. What are the odds an outsider broke into the church, was up in the organ loft and answered the phone – while committing a crime – much less leave the phone where it usually lies. The afterlife isn’t as far away as people believe.


The informant, MK, is one of my close friends from highschool who had heard this story from his wife’s family and their encounter with local ghosts in their neighborhood, Mrs. M being his mother-in-law and the M family being his in-laws. While he has undoubtedly heard this story from them before, he took the liberty of interviewing his in-laws again in-depth to provide this story. Being Catholic, the realm of spirits, souls, and ghosts would not stray too far from his world views.


Looking to expand my collection’s scope, I contacted my friends from highschool through Facebook and asked if he had any he could share with me. By coincidence I contacted him in the middle of his trip to visit some of his in-laws and he promised to deliver some of the ghost stories he had previously heard from his in-laws.

My Thoughts:

It’s a memorate like this that usually freaks me out the most. Doing some more research on the area explains the myriad of ghost stories originating from a fictional published story involving a ghost haunting the church, as well as the amount of cemeteries around the area, providing that liminal space between life and death for these stories to flourish. Apparently the published stories on the ghosts of Lemont have become a community-wide belief so the ghosts, fictional or real as Mrs. M’s story suggests, only adds to the collective identity of the town and their local ghosts. While the name of the ghost in the published story is not known to me, the fact that this one actually has a name and supposedly spoke on the phone only adds to the level of personal investment that can go a long way into a believable tale. The prospect that it was instead a random person staking out in the middle of the night at church on that particular occasion feels even creepier than a ghost.

Three Wishes In a New Church


MW: “When I was a little girl, I went to catholic grammar in Brooklyn. Every year around Easter time we would have to go to 7 different churches. It was our own local pilgrimage. One year, a nun told me that when you walk into a new church, you get three wishes.”


MW explained that these wishes are not prayers. The people are not asking God to intercede on their behalf. Instead, it is binding between you and God as you enter a new place. The wish is just a favor God is granting a person for entering His house – like a good host giving a gift to his visitors. MW explained that she has continued this far beyond her grammar school years and has even gotten her three wishes at the Vatican in Rome.

My Interpretation:

I find it very interesting that the tradition of visiting different churches eventually yielded the religious folklore that God will grant the wishes of those who go to a new church. I think this Folk belief shows hopeful optimism as it takes from dogma and establishes a non-canonical connection with the divine. God will grant the wishes of anyone, all they have to do is visit a new church.