“When somebody’s house has a lot of crows, we say that the woman of the house is a bruja. I know your Mom is not a bruja. *laughs* She has been very kind to me. When I was younger in Mexico, nobody would want crows near their house because they did not want to be a bruja.”
Context: This piece of Mexican superstition was collected in the home of the collector by a woman who has been working for the collectors family for over 12 years. The superstition or warning was brought up due to a crow infestation surrounding the collectors house for a number of weeks. The housekeeper (who will be named RM) speaks English poorly as her second language, and she uses the word “bruja” which is Spanish for witch.
Informant Analysis: She said that she first learned of this superstition growing up in Mexico City, Mexico from her friends and family. She cannot remember when she first learned it or who exactly told it to her, but she says this was a common superstition told around the time she was a teenager. Although she viewed the superstition as not true, she still had some fear of my mother being called a witch.
Collector Analysis: Although I also agree that crows surrounding a person’s home does not signify that the woman of the house is a witch, I do believe that the crux of this folklore is remembered because alienation from neighbors or one’s community is a real fear. This superstition seems to point out the alienation of a woman in particular, which perhaps has something to do with the women tending to take care of the home and family while the men left for work. The crow in itself seems like a common theme for witches in other folklore, and seeing as though the crow can be seen as a predator that eats dead animals, the fact that crows are nearby would signify death of some sort. Put together, my interpretation is that crows announce death, and the location of crows around a home perhaps would signify the woman of the house being evil and closely tied with death.
“So, there’s a crow, and he’s really thirsty, and he’s flying around looking for water, and it’s a hot summer day. So he comes across this pot, and because pots usually have water in them, he flies down to the pot. So the crow finds water in the pot, but he can’t safely reach it, so he thinks about how he can get the water safely. So he finds some pebbles around the pot and decides to start throwing them into the pot, slowly raising the water level of the pot until he can safely drink from it.”
What I found really fascinating about this folk story wasn’t just the story itself, but the fact that the informant didn’t have anything to say regarding the moral or meaning behind the folk story. This is a great example of folk stories being passed down but the meaning being lost from generation to generation. The meaning that I took away from it as a listener is that intelligence should be valued just as highly as strength, because, in the end, the crow didn’t get to drink the water because of his strength but because of his intelligence.
For another version of this folk story, see Aesop’s Fables “The Crow and The Pitcher”.
LP’s (the informant) family is originally from Mexico. Apparently her entire family believes in the following idea about black crows being a bad omen, but her mother is especially superstitious about it. She’s the only one who actually goes outside to scare them away whenever she sees them. This is a superstition regarding bad luck that can come from crows around your house specifically.
“Whenever you see a black crow coming towards your house it will bring you bad luck. So my mom goes outside and will yell at the crows in Spanish and get them to go away. She scares them off because they will bring bad luck if they stay. If they actually get in your house…well…you’re done for. But if they’re in the street, you have to be respectful because it’s not your property, so you don’t scare them off. According to my mom, she was seeing a lot of crows around my house before the fire (a portion of her house caught fire about two months ago) but she was too lazy to scare all them off. So she was convinced that since she didn’t make them go away, my house was cursed and that’s why it caught fire that one day.”
I have heard about similar superstitions with crows, but more so black cats. I know birds can always represent different types of omens, and ravens are especially symbolic of death and other negative connotations. I think it’s interesting how her mom truly believed that the fire in their house, which was actually due to a power surge, was a result of not scaring away these crows.
My roommate’s parents were both born in Indian (she was born in the United States) so she sat down with me in my apartment and explained some folklore that she learned from her parents. Her relationship to the folklore isn’t necessarily that she truly believes in it, but that it’s an important part of her culture and something she thinks about from time to time.
She told me about a belief she learned specifically from her grandparents in India:
“A crow cawing outside your window means expect a guest. This was something that my parents never said to me. It was my grandparents.When I was in India looking out the window and you hear the ‘caw, caw’ my grandparents would be like, ‘Oh, there should be a guest coming'”
Q: Did you hear other people say the same thing as your grandparents?
“I would say I knew other people who believed it, but no one ever was like, ‘ah, I hear a crow, a guest is coming’ But it’s one of those, like, ancient things that I guess, turned into a saying.”
This folklore is not necessarily a proverb, because it’s not a fixed phrase statement. It could be considered proverbial speech. It could also be categorized as a folk belief, since a crow is considered to be a sign that someone is coming.
“There was a crow and a bottle of water, but the crow’s beak was too big for the head of the bottle. So the crow was wondering how to get to the water, and it started to drop pebbles into the bottle so the water would keep rising. Eventually the water got to the brim and the crow was able to drink. It goes to show that if you’re really smart then you’re able to get what you’re looking for. Persistance is important.”
This is a Chinese story, and my informant learned it from him mom. He likes it because it shows that persistence goes a long way in achieving your dreams.
This was just told to him as a child, he doesn’t remember any specific instances that it was told.
I think persistence has always been a big part of Chinese culture, as well as intelligence and hard work, and these values are very present in this tale. It’s also interesting that a crow is the main character in the story. In Chinese culture, the crow usually has bad connotations, and will oftentimes signal bad luck. However, maybe this tale tries to comment on the fact that even if you are someone of “lower status,” as long as you work hard and are smart, you will still be able to achieve great things.