Tag Archives: elders

Don’t Sweep the Feet

Informant: My informant is my Mexican mother, who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. While she stayed with her mom for about 16 years before coming to the U.S, she grew up with many superstitions that either derived from her mom or from her grandmother. 

Main Piece: “No dejes que te baran los pies porque luego vas a terminar no casandote.” Translations: “Don’t let anyone sweep your feet because later on, you will end up not marrying 

Context: My mom heard this as a kid whenever her mom was sweeping. However, now that my mom thinks back to when she was small. She doesn’t believe that it literally meant that she would never get married, but I think this was used to intimidate my mom and “encourage” her to look for a partner.

Analysis: I see where this myth is coming from. I think that when this proverb is used illustrates some of the values in the Mexican culture. One of those, is marriage. think it also just demonstrates how much in the Mexican culture; marriage is an important factor to a happy life. When one should know that should not be the case. Unfortunately, because of beliefs such as these back then and still today in the Mexican culture, it’s normal for women/girls to get married at a very young age and have children at a very young age.

Annotation: For more broom lore superstitions/myths similar to this one take a look at the following list of similar brooms myths/superstitions derives from Kentucky folklore

Roberts, Hilda. “Louisiana Superstitions.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 40, no. 156, 1927, pp. 172-173, https://doi.org/10.2307/534893. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.

Ethiopian Story – The Two Neighbors

Main Piece

Once, there were two poor neighbors. Neither could afford a donkey, which they both desperately needed, to take their produce to the market. They compromised and decided to each pay half of the cost of a donkey. One neighbor took the donkey one week, and the other the next. Suddenly, one of the neighbor’s father passed away and left him money, animals, and land. This neighbor became rich. The rich neighbor needed to feed his animals. 

He said to the poor man, “let us kill the donkey and divide him equally between us.

The poor man refused, saying, “Either give me money for my half and take the whole donkey, or let us keep sharing it as we did before. I still need the donkey to carry my produce to the market.”

The rich man and the poor man argued some more, and went to an ignorant judge to settle their dispute. 

The ignorant judge says, “Slaughter the donkey and give the rich man his half.”

So the donkey was slaughtered, and the poor man no longer could take his produce into the marketplace. 

One day, the rich man decided to burn his hut. 

The poor man pleaded, “Don’t burn it. My hut is next door. You will burn mine too!” 

But the rich man didn’t listen. He insisted that it was his house, and he could do whatever he wanted with it. So he burned his hut, and a gust of wind took the flames to the poor man’s hut and burned it as well. 

The two went back to the ignorant judge and the poor man asked, “If he burned down my hut, why can’t he pay me?” 

The ignorant judge answered, “The rich man did not mean to burn down your house. The gust of wind burned down your house, so it is not his fault.”

Now the poor man was left without a donkey and without a hut. Every day, after farming his chickpeas in his field, he slept underneath a tree. Years passed, and the rich man had children. One day, the rich man’s children sneaked into the poor man’s field and ate his chickpeas. The poor man was now left without a harvest. They both went to the ignorant judge once more.

“His children ate my chickpeas,” said the poor man, “and I want them back.”

The rich man said, “Alright, I will pay you for the chickpeas.”

The poor man replied, “No. I want my chickpeas. I shall tear their stomachs and get my chickpeas.”

The rich man was terrified. “Please! Let me pay you for them!”

The ignorant judge said, “If they are his chickpeas, then he shall tear their stomachs and claim them.”

The rich man pleaded some more, but the poor man and the judge would not change their minds. The rich man convinced the poor man to go see the elders to settle their dispute. 

The elders said, “If you want him to not kill your children, you must give him half of your land, money, and animals.” The rich man agreed.

So, the poor man got half of the rich man’s property, and the two never quarreled again. 

Background

My informant was born and raised in Ethiopia. He emphasized how important it is to stay humble and charitable in Ethiopia no matter your socioeconomic status.

Context

This tale is told in a casual setting. This tale can also be told in a relevant scenario to remind the listener that money doesn’t always make one a good person.

My Thoughts

This tale reminds me of many Ethiopian proverbs, which mostly pertain to wealth and poverty. In Ethiopian proverbs, the rich are associated with evil and ignorance, while poor people are considered dignified and “good” people. This tale reinforces the idea that it is better to be poor and dignified than rich and contemptible. In the end, the poor man and the wealthy man become equals and live happily. This story communicates the idea that it is better for everyone to have moderate wealth than for select members of society to hold most of the wealth. An article by Tok Thompson titled “Getting Ahead in Ethiopia: Amharic Proverbs About Wealth” explains the general disdain towards wealthy people in Ethiopian proverbs (cited below). 

Moreover, the judge is a recurring character in Ethiopian stories. He is often described as simple-minded, ignorant, and unfair. Since this tale is a criticism of social classes, one can infer that the judge represents society’s powerful and wealthy individuals. This is another way this tale falls in line with traditional Ehtiopian proverbs. The wealthy, or in this case, the judge, are depicted as bad people with no dignity. The character of the judge in these tales perfectly represents the wealthy social class.

Source:

Thompson, Tok. “Proverbium. Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship.” Arbitrium, vol. 26, no. 3, 2009, pp. 367-386, Accessed 1 Apr. 2021.

Mano Po and Beso

Pauline is an international student from the Philippines. She is studying Chemical Engineering in the United States, and she plans to return to the Philippines once she graduates and receives her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating delicious food, and taking naps.

Original Script

One of the customs in the Philippines is this thing called mano po, which is basically like when you see like one of your older relatives like an aunt or grandparent or anyone who is basically older than you, you have to grab their hand and then you like place it on their forehead and then you say, “Mano po.” And that’s like the way of greeting people, like greeting of the elders, but people don’t really do it anymore in the city. I only do it when I visit my relatives in the province. So instead, like in the city, we just do this thing called beso, where you basically just put your cheek on someone else’s like, “Mwah, beso, hi.”

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant’s parents taught her this greeting when she was young. During visits to her elders, she would have to perform mano po. However, this greeting became less prevalent in her life as she grew older. Now, she only has to perform mano po for her older relatives in rural areas; in cities, she does beso.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

In the Philippines, mano po is a gesture performed as either a sign of respect to an elder or an acceptance of one’s blessings from the elder. In Filipino culture, the youth are expected to respect and value their elders for their wisdom and experience accumulated over the years. By offering one’s hand to an elder, one is demonstrating subservience to the elder and welcoming his or her blessings and knowledge. While mano po is still widely used in the Philippines, many Filipinos have replaced this gesture with beso. Not restricted to just older people, it has become a more common greeting between close friends and relatives in the Philippines.

My Thoughts about the Performance

Learning about the Filipino gestures, mano po and beso, reminded me of the various greetings I have practiced or observed from other cultures. Coming from a Cantonese background, I have been raised to respect my elders and obey whatever they say. Compared to the United States, which possesses a future-oriented culture, many East Asian countries seem to have a past-oriented culture, holding elders in high esteem. The beso reminded me of the cheek kissing gesture practiced by the French. Both nations perform this action in social functions to indicate friendship or respect.

Sri Lankan respect for elders

My informant grew up in Irvine, California; his parents immigrated to the United States from Sri Lanka. My informant learned this myth from his parents:

“Okay, my parents aren’t very religious, and I didn’t really grow up in a religious environment, but this is a story that like, all Sri Lankans tell their kids. And uh, they kinda tell a similar story to everybody. So a key part of Sri Lankan culture—and I’m sure many other cultures—is there’s a lot of importance placed on respecting your elders. So they tell this story about these two parents, Shiva and Pavarti, who have two children, one of which is Ganesha. He is the famous elephant god that like, represents Hinduism and everybody knows this elephant god. So he’s the son. Um, the two parents Shiva and Pavarti tell their children, ‘We will give our inheritance to the one who will walk around the world and come back to us first.’ So the daughter actually starts walking around the entire world, and it takes her like, five months to come back. But Ganesha walks around his parents and says, ‘You are my world, so I just walked around the world.’ And it’s just a story that my parents used to tell me to teach me to respect my elders and to respect them. And I think it was a story that kinda resonated because I loved the irony in it. And I was a little bit of a smartass growing up, so this little trickster… I don’t know, I related to him a little bit, and I thought it was funny.”

This story has religious origins, but my informant views it as more of a folk myth; he did not learn it in a religious context. It is a well-known story for Hindus, but like many stories from major religions, it has spread beyond the religion itself. This particular story has a cultural relevance that would appeal to people of all faiths; the “respect your elders” message is one that resonates with very diverse populations. My informant postulates that Sri Lankans place more emphasis on the importance of showing respect to one’s elders than Western cultures do. Despite the underlying lecture his parents are delivering when they tell him this story, my informant is aware of what makes it enjoyable for him. He likes the humor and the relatability of the main character. Even so, he is able to appreciate the deeper meaning and the lesson his parents were trying to teach him.

**For an audio recording of this story, listen to Ganesha Walks Around the World by Jai Uttal. It is a published version of this same story recorded in an audio version.