Tag Archives: Folk Belief


In a discussion about family health practices, a classmate shared a folk remedy rooted in his heritage. When a family member falls ill, his father employs a traditional healing method. This involves igniting a tissue, placing it on a glass, and then setting the glass on the stomach of the sick person. The belief is that the burning tissue creates a vacuum within the glass, which then draws out the infection from the individual’s body.


My classmate explained that this practice of using fire and a glass to cure ailments is an ancestral folk medicine technique passed down through generations in his family. They believe that the heat and resulting suction specifically target the sickness, effectively extracting it from within. He recalled this method being applied various times throughout his childhood, particularly for stomach-related issues. The ritual, though medically unverified, is deeply embedded in the familial tradition, and it’s a vivid representation of the intimate trust they place in their heritage and the natural methods of healing.


This folk remedy mirrors the principles of sympathetic magic, specifically of the contagious variety, as outlined by James George Frazer. Just as Frazer described how objects associated with a person, such as a lock of hair, could be used to influence their well-being, so does the use of a glass on the body in this practice suggests a transfer or extraction of ailment. While to the outsider it may seem a quaint or even irrational act, to those practicing, it’s a manifestation of a deep-seated belief in the tangible interaction between physical objects and one’s health. Furthermore, Hafstein’s notion of collective tradition plays a role here, emphasizing the importance of community and shared practices in the development of folk remedies. Rather than deriving from a single innovator, this practice is likely the result of communal beliefs and the collective wisdom of the family, passed down and adapted over time. It represents a lineage of knowledge and a tangible connection to their ancestors, imbuing the act with personal, cultural, and historical significance beyond mere “entertainment value” or rudimentary medical intervention. This traditional method, while not scientifically substantiated, offers a unique lens through which we can examine the interplay of belief, culture, and the human need to find solace in the face of illness.

Jolly Ranchers for Test Taking

Text: In high school, the informant would have a Jolly Rancher candy while studying for tests, and she would also have a Jolly Rancher while taking the test to help her remember the information she had studied.

Context: She learned this trick from her Biology teacher early in high school, who gave the class green Jolly Ranchers to study with and provided more green Jolly Ranchers during the tests to help them jog their memories on the content they studied. The informant adopted this ritual and used it throughout the rest of high school. She would even use a different flavor of Jolly Rancher for each subject she would study for. She believed that this ritual would help her better recall the information she studied during the test, and she said that she felt it did help her a little bit and that it was fun to get to have candy while studying.

Analysis: Although this study trick may or may not have scientific backing, the power of belief is at play here. If she believes that having Jolly Ranchers will help her perform better on a test, it is more likely that it actually will. Additionally, this ritual may have partially been for enjoyment because it involved eating candy.



Informant: In the philippines, we believe in these creatures called dwendes, and they’re basically creatures- they could be in the form of- i don’t know, goblins, dwarves, little people, and you can’t see them, but there’s been talk of people being able to see them. They hide, in places like molehills or dark places in your house, trees, under rocks, and so the saying goes that they exist in our country, and they primarily like kids and enjoy playing with them. There are stories that say when we see kids laughing or moving their hands, that’s the Dwendes playing with them. But, there’s also fear of them because they can also be associated with misfortunes, so to speak. For example, there’s an association that you might step on them, and so when you’re walking around in places that are super dark, or perhaps tall grass or rocks, then you actually say “tabe tabe po”, which in our language means, “excuse me, sorry, can you move to the side? I’m walking in this space and I don’t want to get in your way.” So basically, giving them notice because you could step on them, and if you step on them, you could actually have misfortune. So sometimes, people will say stories where they got sick because they were walking at night, and you’re walking at an unfamiliar place, and you can get sick because you step on them.

Informant: Not all of them are good- they say some of them are good dwendes and some of them are bad.  You can get sick off them, and they have to call one of those- I call them witchcraft but that’s not what they call them- they call them healers, and these people think these people are healers, and they have to do a ceremony on you to get rid of them- because people think that there are evil spirits on you.

Informant: One time, one of the visits I made, I went with my cousins somewhere dark, and I thought what they were doing (saying “tabe tabe bo”) was ridiculous, and literally the next day I got super sick. And, my family was like, “Oh my god, you stepped on one!” And so they called the healer and had to do something on my stomach- I felt like I had a stomach flu because, you know, I had unfiltered water, which in a third world country you would obviously get sick from, but they were like “You stepped on a Dwende, and we need to call someone”. And I think a lot of it- people believe in it because they live in a very rural countryside, a lot of these myths are real, and a lot of them don’t have a higher education- so they’re not really educated to understand how things work- how they get ill, and what they associate with that.


The informant is Filipino, but she comes from Vancouver, Canada. She has been in the US for over 20 years.


Dwendes (seemingly more commonly spelled as “duendes”) are something I assumed would be an originally Filipino tradition that changed and transfigured during the Spanish conquest. However, I was surprised to learn that the name originated in Spanish folklore, making them something which was transferred during the process of transculturation.

The way the informant describes the healer that they had to work with makes me think about the divide between US culture and Filipino culture in regards to folk practices, such as medicine. As we are a forward thinking society, we tend to place far more reliance on the medical system and institutional medical practices, we tend to forego older folk methods and ideas about the causes for these infections. So, there’s likely some culture shock in places where they are unable to rely on the same medical practices the United States can. Thus, there is also culture shock when these practices and superstitions actually come into play.

While it’s unlikely that the informant actually stepped on a Dwende, the legend could be a way of telling people to be careful in dangerous or hard to navigate places, which would inevitably help some people if there happens to be some unclean water or resource that brings about sickness if you try to navigate such terrain. In regards to the nature of the expression “tabe tabe bo”, it could also be a way of encouraging courtesy, as it associates the phrase with safety and good health.

“Quiet” Jinx in Nursing

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Los Angeles, CA


“So basically if it’s a calm night, never say it’s a calm night or shift, there’s a specific name for it but I don’t know what it is, oh right it’s “a quiet night”. “It sure is a quiet night” that’s how you immediately destroy everything, especially on the ambulance, never say that it’s a quiet night.”


This piece of nursing superstition is something which NA has heard from her mother, where they believe that saying it’s a “quiet night” will lead to the shift/night immediately turning very chaotic. She believes in the superstition “in a funny way” and she thinks it’s ironic but true. Both of NA’s parents have experience in the medical field, and she said that she’s heard multiple stories of them personally experiencing this phenomenon and that they both believe the word holds power. 


This superstition is one that I know exists in many emergency services such as hospitals, firefighters, emts, etc. Many truly believe that saying the word “quiet” would cause everything to become chaotic, contrary to the word’s meaning. Because this belief in the power of the phrase is strengthened by experience, this superstition is something which unites people within the who have all shared this experience. 

Korean Fan Death

“So, growing up in a Korean household, I’d heard a lot about the dangers of leaving a fan on overnight. My grandparents, and to a lesser extent, my parents told me to turn off electric fans or to open a door/window before falling asleep. I think they believed that keeping the fan on in a closed room would somehow suck all of the air out of the room and suffocate you, as if the fan were a living creature.

I wasn’t sure where this started, but I’d heard about it stemming from wartime efforts where the government tried to limit electricity usage by convincing people to turn the fans off, something similar to how in England during WW1 they tried to get people to eat more carrots for vision or something.
You know sometimes it happens on the news, like every year they’ll report on it, but it usually turns out that each case actually has a different underlying reason, like natural causes or something. But asked my dad if this happened back in his day and he does remember this one case when he was a child, where they said that there was a bunch of people who died with electric fans on during a heatwave in the 1990’s, and they had a doctor say that “this type of death occurs when one is exposed to electric fan breezes for long hours in a sealed area, and . excessive exposure to such a condition lowers one’s temperature and hampers blood circulation, [leading] to the paralysis of heart and lungs.” I’m not a doctor, but I think it might’ve just been due to the heatwave at the time.”

This was an in-person interview with a friend of mine who told me about his experiences with this myth/legend from his culture. The text was taken from and recorded during our conversation.

Interpretation: This shows how, even though it’s scientifically disproven, a belief can persist in a culture by being passed down through each generation by word of mouth. The significance lies in its power of superstition as well as how it reflects culturally specific fears.