Tag Archives: fertility

The Hawaiian Goddess Kapo

Kapo is the goddess of fertility, birth, and sorcery in Hawaiian mythology. She notably has a detachable vagina.

“Kapo is the goddess with a flying pussy. She and her winged vagina are the hero in many Hawaiian myths. The main one is where she sees one of her sister goddess being raped by another god. She throws her pussy at him and it keeps flying; he’s so entranced with it that he leaves the goddess alone to chase the pussy. It keeps flying and crashes into the side of a mountain. There’s an actual crater in Hawaii named after Kapo.”

In a discussion about folklore, the informant C mentioned the goddess Kapo but then he had to leave for another event. I later received this text from him with another message explaining how he has a personal fascination with folklore and wanted to share this story. The mythology of Kapo speaks to the importance of nature in Hawaiian culture, both in the environment and the nature of pregnancy/birth. I found this piece of folklore to be interesting because of its emphasis on feminine experiences and solidarity. Although my informant didn’t include this, the goddess that Kapo saved was Pele the goddess of volcanoes and fires. Pele is a major deity in Hawaiian mythology because she is the one who created the islands of Hawaii. There are countless myths about women being raped, but very few end in the woman being saved and the hero being another woman. It’s a bonus that they’re both strong female archetypes.

Locsolkodás

Text:

Locsolkodás (“Pouring” day) happens on the Monday after Easter. That morning, the young men will pour water or perfume on the girls. Modern versions of this ritual involve going to the women in the household and reciting a short poem to them, after which you offer them “the sprinkling” in the form of a spritz of water or perfume. 

Here is an example of one of the poems that are commonly told:

Hungarian:

Zöld erdőben jártam

Kék ibolyát láttam,

El akart hervadni,

Szabad-e locsolni? 

Transliteration:

Zöld → Green / erdőben → in the forest / jártam → I went,

Kék → Blue /  ibolyát → violets / láttam → I saw,

El → Away / akart → wanted / hervadni → to wither,

Szabad-e → Is it free / locsolni → to water?

Translation:

I was walking in the green forest,

And I saw blue violets,

They wanted to wither,

Am I allowed to water you?

Context: 

The informant participated in this tradition when they were living as a child in Hungary. He explained how the “sprinkling” represented a flowering of youth, vitality, and good fortune for women. He also explained how versions of this tradition have become more tame over time, factoring in an element of consent, whereas earlier versions were more aggressive and less pleasant. 

Analysis: 

At its core, I believe the Hungarian “Pouring day” (Locsolkodás) is a fertility ritual. For one, it emphasizes young girls who are experiencing menstruation for the first time. Franciso vaz de Silva associates menstruation with a rose, “the fruitful aspect of womb blood as well as for youth” (245). The poem above also refers to women as “blue violets,” a type of flower. By associating flowers with fertility, it is easy to see why the ritual of “sprinkling” came into practice. It is a way of symbolically blessing a woman’s fertility and the continuation of her menstrual cycles. The fact that men are the ones doing the sprinkling further reinforces the reproductive and gendered nature of this ritual. It is a way of encouraging a woman’s “blooming” when she becomes able to have children. However, what I also find fascinating is how my informant made a point of distinguishing both old and new forms of this tradition. Antiquated versions of the “sprinkling” included dumping a pale of cold water over a woman while she was still asleep, or taking her to a well and dunking her in. However, more modern versions of this tradition involve a poem, which asks for consent (“Am I allowed to water you?”), something that was altogether absent in earlier versions. The introduction of consent in more modern versions of this ritual shows how cultural values and gendered attitudes have shifted over time, where reproductive rights have become a much more prevalent issue in contemporary society. In modern versions of the ritual, Hungarian women are not being forced into a reproductive role, but rather they are first asked if they would like to partake, and only then if they grant their permission does the ritual proceed.

Superstition: If Someone Vacuums or Sweeps Under Your Feet, Then You Won’t Have Any Children

Main Piece: 

“If someone vacuums or sweeps under your feet, then you won’t have any children. So for example, if I was sitting on the sofa, and, you know, my mother or someone else was doing the housework and cleaning, and they came by and I lifted my feet like this, I wouldn’t have children.”

Background:

My informant heard this as a kid from his parents in Virginia. This was something that he said was meant to inure him to the right ideas about housework:

Collector: “How would you avoid? Like would you go into a another room so that they could sweep there?”

Informant: “I think the idea is ‘someone’s doing housework- you should at least be polite enough to get off the sofa and yield to them to do the work.’ That what they’re doing is more important. I think it’s more of a disciplinary like house regulation type of thing. Don’t be lazy and just lift your feet up.”

Thoughts:

I agree with my informant’s assessment of this piece. My informant described the culture and family he grew up in as one that valued work and practical matters and wanted cleaning done right. There was disapproval, he said, for doing practical things the wrong way. This superstition, which I expect is said non-seriously but still has its underlying message obeyed, is emblematic of the values of its miniature culture. This is a superstition born out of a dislike for laziness. There is an inherent morality system here. You will be punished with infertility or bad luck for not acquiescing to the cleaner.

Eggs – Persian New Year

Description of Informant

PK (79) is a small, frail woman with dyed blonde hair and piercing eyes. PK was born and raised in Abadan, Iran in an “Oil Company Family.” OCFs were families whose primary income came from the large British oil company in Iran. They were well compensated and taken care of, living in western-style homes in protected communities. Many OCFs were secular or subscribed to a western religion in favor of Islam. PK immigrated to England in 1976 before coming to America (California) in 1978.

— 

Context of Interview

The informant, PK, is cooking a traditional Persian stew (khoresh) while describing the custom to the collector, BK, her grandson. Text spoken in Farsi is translated and italicized.

Interview

PK: The one thing is, for the haft seen, we always boil the eggs for the number of people in the house. And after the… new year starts, the new year starts, we all… there are sweets, we eat sweets. One by one we eat eggs…

BK: Do you eat the egg for the haft seen or do you make a new egg?

PK: No, we make it— we eat the egg we made for the haft seen, because you cannot keep the egg, you know, the fresh boiling egg for 13 years [days] on the table! You just eat it, you know, it’s a custom. Because there’s no sin in it, but there’s some other meaning. Like rice. There’s some other meaning.

BK: What’s the meaning of the egg?

PK: Egg is like… lots of kids, for example.

BK: Like fertility?

PK: Yeah fertility for… kids.

BK: Why does it mean that?

PK: It means, for your home to always be full. You know? Iranians like for the family to be big and the home to be full. It’s these days that people don’t have kids or only have 1-2 kids, or none. But those days it was like that.

PK: We didn’t color it either. Just like that, white. But now everything is different.

BK: Why do people color their eggs now?

PK: These days it’s just showing off… vanity play. Back then, nobody colored their eggs. We boiled it and put it on the table. Now here [America] when you look at a haft seen table, it’s like a wedding table! It’s a lot different. For pictures, for sending [pictures], for parties, and this should be prettier than that and vice versa. In the old days [when your father was young] when I’d set up a haft seen I did a lot of work, but slowly over time I got sick of it.

BK: But when you were in Iran—

PK: It’s a simple sofre [table]. Whatever is needed.

BK: Why do you eat the egg? Because I never ate them growing up.

PK: Well here you keep the eggs [sitting on the table] for 13 days. In Iran, we wouldn’t keep the eggs out. We’d leave the sabzeeh [greens] and sheereeny [sweets] out. They didn’t have any cream. Like chickpeas, this type of thing. Those would sit out for 13 days, then you pack it up and toss the sabzeeh.

BK: So when do you make the eggs?

PK: That day. Right before new years, right before the haft seen [ritual]. Like one or two hours before the new year we’ll boil the egg, and right when the year changes we eat it. I don’t know why we eat it, but it doesn’t make sense to keep an egg. So we’d just eat it. I don’t think there’s any significant meaning. We didn’t want to waste it, it would stink and go bad.

Collector’s Reflection

PK’s experience with Persian New Year Eggs is simple: an hour or so before the new year, the family will boil eggs (one for each member of the household). When the new year begins, the eggs are eaten. There is no decoration or display involved in the process. The eggs stand for fertility and prosperity in the new year (fertility being the common theme of eggs across cultures). This aligns with historic, pre-Western influence Persian New Year traditions.

PK is one of my grandmothers. My other, NV, is only 4 years younger than PK, and was born and raised in the same city/community in Iran as PK. Their families were even friends! Yet, NV’s family practiced eggs the way I always have growing up: the eggs were prepared in advance of the new year, decorated by the children, and displayed as part of the haft seen, a table decorated with symbolic objects for the new year. NV’s family is much more westernized than PK’s; they often summered/vacationed in Europe, while PK remained in Iran. The practice of decorating and displaying eggs, then, seems to have originated from the modernized Western practice of Easter Egg decoration. Since the “westernized” eggs sat out, they would be thrown away, not eaten. This goes against the core of Iranian philosophy: never waste food! It was absolutely criminal to throw things out. Leftovers, no matter how small, are always kept. The idea of “wasting” an egg would be insulting to more traditional members of society.

CycleBeads as Fertility Tracker and Family Planner

Main story: 

A conversation was had between the informant and myself. The informant can be known as MC and I will be known as MH. 

MC: There are these beads, they are called cycle beads. Think of it like a rosary. It is a necklace looking contraption. Based on the colors of the beads and the amount of them you can tell what days you will be fertile, infertile or menstruating. 

MH: And does this work? 

MC: I mean, it has been proven time and time again in modern medicine that things like these trackers are merely myths. If they actually worked it is most likely sheer luck. The only way to accurately prevent pregnancy is by either not having sex, or using contraceptives like condoms and IUDs. And predicting fertility is still something modern medicine cannot fully conceive. So I am not sure how much to believe about the beads, but they are interesting. 

Background: 

The informant studies public health and took a class on eastern medicine traditions. She found this one to be vastly interesting as women swear by it. But she knows through studying female reproductive health and sexual education that homeopathic methods like this notoriously do not work for most women. 

Context: 

The informant is a friend of mine and the conversation was held over facetime in a very casual setting as we talked about different approaches to health care. 

My thoughts: 

I am in a similar vein of belief with her. I do not know where I stand in believing in homeopathic methods. But they have often been used for centuries so there has to be levels of truth to them. Because anything that people dedicate that much time to has to have a certain level of importance for one reason or another. And there is some level of truth to the menstrual cycle counting with beads, some women do have very steady cycles that are predictable and they can use them to semi accurately predict fertility and pregnancy prevention. But most times I would more so believe that it is sheer luck as reproductive safety is pretty well documented that it cannot be tracked just through simple methods and birth control can only be achieved through methods like pills, IUDs or condoms.