Tag Archives: dream

Reincarnation

This piece was performed by my co-worker. She was born in India but moved to the United States when she was three months old. Her mother comes from Delhi, but her father’s family is originally from the area that is now Pakistan. She told me this story of learning about reincarnation from her grandmother and learning that her family believed that she (the informant) had been reincarnated.

“So, when I was in middle school… I don’t know it came up but someone asked me once if I believed in reincarnation and I was like, actually I don’t know that much about it even though I am Indian. So I asked my grandma about it when I went home and she was like, ‘Actually we believe that you were partially reincarnated.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa this is really cool!’ So I asked her how she knew and she told me basically after my great-grandpa died (so her grandfather) after he died she did a little prayer, and there’s this whole ritual that you do in India….Basically she did this prayer for about a week, and at the end of the week you have this dream that tells you, or shows you what the person who you’re asking about is doing. In the dream, if you see them praying at a temple, or a mandir as you would say in Hindi, it means that they’re going to stay in the afterlife. Their soul is not coming back, but if you see them, I don’t know, doing something else that would hint they were coming back, they were coming back. My grandmother did it, I think twice, for my great-grandfather and then he, the first time, was definitely staying there. And then later on, when my mom was pregnant with me it was actually…somehow he ended up coming back, supposedly. The reason why it was weird is because this only works, you can only tell if someone is going to be reincarnated if someone else in the family becomes pregnant within six months of the person dying. So, the person died, grandma tried the thing the first time, didn’t work out. but she tried it again later, I think, and then that time… the first time it said he wasn’t coming back,  the second time he wasn’t but it was so close to me being born that we thought, maybe he is. And so when I was growing up, and the signs of reincarnation supposedly are within the first five years of life, my grandma said I used to walk exactly like him and that’s a little sketch maybe that doesn’t mean that much, you could walk like a bunch of different people and it’s not that really specific, but he had such a specific gait that they thought, wow, he’s in her, I guess. And I had a bunch of other things, like the way I would talk, it would be just like him.”

Q: Is it common to try multiple times to see what will happen?

“I don’t think so, my grandma just was curious. I think that was the first time she had ever done it, too. I know there was little bit of confusion when she interpreted, in fact I think that may be why she did it the second time because of the interpretation, and she wasn’t sure.”

 

Even though reincarnation is a fairly well-known kind of folklore, this piece is interesting because it shows that folklore doesn’t necessarily work the same way every time. The informant’s grandmother didn’t seem very experienced with the rituals, so she had to try a second time to make sure she got it right. However, that didn’t make the ritual any less legitimate, as her family still believes she was reincarnated.

 

The Sitting Ghost

Informant was teaching and boarding at a high school in the mountains, a three-hour bus ride away from the city. The dorm was a foreign environment that frightened her. When she finally fell asleep, she was awoken by a strange presence that she sensed at the foot of her bed. She was unable to move, feeling as though something were pressing down on her, though nothing was above her. When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she noticed a man standing at the foot of her bed, fully clad in an ancient Chinese military costume. Since he was watching her peacefully, she assumed that it was an acquaintance from a past life or simply a passing spirit and fell back to sleep in peace, believing that he was there to protect her.

In Western cultures this phenomenon is known as sleep paralysis, and psychologists have come up with scientific explanations. In Taiwan, however, the cause is attributed to ghosts. The phenomenon is known as “鬼壓床” (gǔi yā chuáng), which literally means “ghost pressing the bed,” and the symptoms are strikingly similar. Author Maxine Hong Kingston describes this phenomenon as the “sitting ghost” in her memoir The Woman Warrior.

Due to the prevalence of Taoism and Buddhism in Taiwan, the vast majority of the population—regardless of religion—believes in ghosts. Ghosts are not necessarily evil, as anyone could potentially become a ghost after they die. 

to “truck” someone

There’s an old trick/game my cousin warned me of whenever you fall alseep around other people, and it goes like this: if someone falls asleep, you should grab a pillow and flashlight and approach the sleeping person. Slowly begin to wave the flashlight (turned on) back and forth in front of their eyes quietly shouting, “Truck!”…and growing louder with each word, “Truck! Truuuuck! Get out of the way!!” and then, bam! You smack them with the pillow in the face. And so the story goes, that if the act of hitting the person with a pillow didn’t wake them, then you should ask them in the morning if they dreamed about a truck running them over.

Teeth Falling Out in a Dream Means Deceit

My informant told me about a time when he was younger, maybe thirteen, and he had a dream about his teeth falling out. In the dream, his teeth began to feel loose and when he touched them they started to all fall out. He remembers being mortified and having a great sense of anxiety; the dream felt very real. When he woke up, he told his grandma, who lived with him. She got angry at him and told him the dream meant he had been telling lies; this was common knowledge in China. He tried to tell her he hadn’t been, but she wouldn’t believe him. His parents didn’t think much of the dream, though, and didn’t think their son had been telling lies.

He said he remembers the incident because the dream felt very real and it had disturbed him. He’d also been very upset to have his grandma angry at him when he felt he hadn’t done anything wrong. I could even see him become uncomfortable as he remembered the event.

I think it’s interesting to see that while his grandma put a lot of stock in this folk belief, his parents, the next generation, did not. This could reflect a changing attitude in the world and show how more recent generations are more apt to side with science and logic rather than trust old folk beliefs and superstitions. I also think it’s interesting to see that losing teeth became symbolic of telling lies, as if the lies had been so caustic that when they exited the mouth, they caused the teeth to fall out. Or maybe losing teeth in the dream was almost like a punishment for lying. I’ve heard the more modern belief that losing teeth in a dream represents a lack of confidence or feeling of insecurity. Because we use teeth to forcefully chew our food, they represent power, and seeing them fall out could reflect a sense that we have lost power in our lives. Another interpretation I’ve heard of the dream is that it indicates a family member will die, though I don’t know how that necessarily relates to teeth falling out, except maybe because people lose their teeth when they grow old and approach death.

Persian Tale- Man of Baghdad

This is a tale my informant heard from her mom, who is Persian. The story goes that a man living in Baghdad was very poor and so asked God to help him. That night, he dreamt of treasure that was at a certain place in Egypt. When he arrived, though, he was arrested because the police thought he was a thief for some reason. They beat him nearly to death. Later, when the police chief asked him why he’d come there, he said he dreamt that he’d find treasure if he did. The man just told him that he was a fool then. He continued that he’d often dreamt of finding treasure in a certain place in Baghdad but never pursued it because it was just a dream. It turned out that the spot the man had described in Baghdad was actually the house of the first guy. So, he returned home and found the treasure there.

My informant likes this story because of the reversal of fortune, which is unexpected but satisfying because as an audience, we want to see the man succeed after he is brought so low by the world. She also likes it because it emphasizes hope and trusting the universe to give you what you need. The man follows his dream and eventually succeeds, even though the police chief calls him foolish for this. Maybe sometimes you need to be foolish to just do what you think is right or what you think will get you what you want, though.

The tale speaks to a lot of different themes. For one, that we will generally get what we need in life, but it won’t simply be given to us. The man asks God for treasure, but he has to travel to Egypt to find out it was under his own house the whole time. He had to undergo a journey, as well as suffering (being beaten) to get the reward. The story also seems to say that dreams are meaningful. While we might not really believe this, it seems very human to want to, so this story serves as wish fulfillment in that way. The police chief gives the realist view that trusting dreams is foolish, but it pays off for the main character because we like the idea that a dream can guide us to something good.