Tag Archives: Folk Belief

Mexican Sneezing Belief


The informant is my roommate who was is originally from Mexico, having spent the first eight years of his life there. His mother used to tell him and his siblings that whenever you sneezed unexpectedly – not from sickness or contaminants – it meant someone was thinking about you. This is a widespread belief in Mexico, but the informant’s family has added their own additional beliefs regarding the number of sneezes.


My roommate told me this after I sneezed unexpectedly one night at his house. His family had me over for his grandfather’s birthday, and after a lamb dinner we sat around outside talking. I sneezed and my roommate’s mother told said something in Spanish that garnered laughs from the other family members. My friend then explained what she had said.

Main Piece:

ML: My mother would always tell us someone was thinking about us if we sneezed randomly.

Me: Aren’t all sneezes random?

ML: It’s like, if you sneeze when you’re not sick. It’s the cause of the sneeze. If you sneeze when you’re sick, you’re sneezing because you’re sick and your illness is causing you to sneeze. If you sneeze just randomly, someone is thinking about you and those thoughts are intruding into your body almost, causing you to react and sneeze.

Me: And this is a common belief in Mexico?

ML: Yea, everyone… everyone’s mother would tell them this. But my mother told us that if you sneezed more than two times unexpectedly, it was because someone was thinking affectionately about you. Like they have a crush on you.

Me: So if you sneeze once, they’re just thinking about you in general?

ML: Could be. Could be talking bad about you to someone or thinking negatively about you. Or they could just be remembering something you said or that you two did together.


This was the first folk belief or superstition I’d ever heard regarding sneezing. Sneezing is a bit of a perplexing, spontaneous action, the cause of which is not always immediately discernible. Obviously, if one sick, the body malfunctions in a way, causing a sneeze. However, when illness or allergies can’t be pointed to as the cause, it leaves a bit of mystique and uncertainty as to the cause. This folk belief could be an attempt to playfully resolve the trigger of an unexpected sneeze. Sneezing from illness or allergies carries with it the negative association of being sick or deficient in health. This belief spins a sneeze as a potentially positive event, as someone could be thinking of one in an affectionate way.

Turkish Good Luck Charms 

Background Information: 

The informant is a residential real estate developer who learned a lot of traditions and superstitions from their mother. They currently live in Detroit, Michigan but emigrated from Turkey. 

Main Piece: 

ME: Hey GD, would you mind telling me a bit about what you would do for good luck when selling your homes?

GD: Well… what I would do when initially trying to sell a house… elephants are supposed to be good luck. It’s a set of seven elephants from Turkey, and they are like a graduated size, starting from a big one all the way down to a baby one. I would always put them together in a room in one of my spec houses to bring good luck in selling the home. 

ME: Do you have any idea where this comes from or how you found out about it?

GD: Well I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but uh I imagine it is cross-cultural. Only because we have friends from India and they do the same thing. Uh but I got it from my mother who is Turkish. And obviously seven… seven is a lucky number too right, so. 

ME: Would you do anything else to try and sell your homes?

GD: So whenever I present any of my new homeowners with their keys, I always put their keys on an evil-eye keychain that I buy from Turkey. 

ME: So what’s the significance of the evil eye?

GD: So the evil eye… it’s basically like a mirror. If there are, you know, legend has it, that if there are people that give off bad vibes their vibes can affect things, and the evil eye will reflect their bad vibes and give it back to them… It basically reflects evil back to the evil person.  


This interview happened a month ago at my home. 


It is interesting to me that the informant does not seem to know a ton about the origin of their superstitious beliefs, yet they still use them in their business, and partially credit their successes to these artifacts. It is also interesting how the informant brought up aspects of multiculturalism through folk artifacts. According to the informant, the seven elephants signify good luck in their culture as well as the culture of their Indian friends. The origin of the elephant as a good luck symbol actually does not originate from Turkey at all, but instead comes from Hinduism and the god Ganesha, and elephants are commonly used in Feng Shui practices as good luck. For more information see here: Cho, Anjie. “Uses of the Elephant Symbol in Feng Shui.” The Spruce, The Spruce, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.thespruce.com/use-of-the-elephant-symbol-in-feng-shui-1274686. Looking at the evil eye, it’s origins surpasses even those of the Ottoman Empire. Researchers think that the first evil eye amulet was created in 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, or what is now Syria. The origin of the modern-day blue evil eye beads first appeared in multiple locations around the Mediterranean at around 1500 B.C. For more information see here: Hargitai, Quinn. “The Strange Power of the ‘Evil Eye’.” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 Feb. 2018, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180216-the-strange-power-of-the-evil-eye. It is very interesting that these two charms, which are very widespread in Turkey, are neither original to the region, nor originated in the region. 

The Ielele

The second story is about some uhh formidable female creatures that are called the Shees. It is kind of a plural but in Romanian, instead of saying she and the plural is they, you make a strange plural in Romanian too. In Romanian it’s Ielele. And these are fantastic female creatures that on the night of June 24th, which is Summer Solstice, come out of nowhere, out of thin air and dance. And dance is extremely beautiful, and uh all people are forbidden, they are not allowed to see this dance. Of course, following to this interdiction, everybody wants to see this dance. So people go out into the woods, and crazy people try to see the dance of the Iele, but if they see, they go crazy. And these ieles are very nice creatures except for this sequence, the dance sequence. But if you bother them and don’t respect them and don’t show them admiration for their fantastic beauty, although you are not supposed to see them dance. They will come and bring water from the fount. And the first person that drinks water from the fountain after the Iele will drop dead. So people take very great care on the night of June 24th umm, somehow ambivalently to see the ieles, but not see them dance and not make them upset, but thinking of them in very nice terms. And again they have another name, also very nice in Romanian. They are called either the Iele or sânziene which means, it’s the name of a flower, a yellow flower called in English Sweet Woodruff. 

Background: This informant has lived in Romania their whole life and is very interested in the folk traditions of various countries. They found this piece of folklore from other people in Romania.

Interpretation: The connection between these spirits and the Summer Solstice shows a way of marking the passing of time. The Summer Solstice could have been chosen as the time for this event to mark the change of seasons. The tale also ascribes power to these women who can use magic to deal with any men that bother them. This phenomena could be due to the incredibly hot and muggy nature of the Romanian summers. People could have retreated to the forest for shade, and potentially hallucinated or tried to make sense of something that happened. Sunstroke may also be a reason for the association with death and madness if you witness the Ielele. The informant and I both believe that this story is a way of making sense of nature in the blistering heat of mid-summer. More info on the Ielele can be found at (Mafa, A. (2021, November 4). Ielele, the magic beings of the Romanian folklore. ImperialTransilvania. https://www.imperialtransilvania.com/2021/11/05/read-more/argomenti/events-1/articolo/ielele-the-magic-beings-of-the-romanian-folklore.html)

Blessed Basil

During the night of Saint John, which is in January the sixth, uh priests orthodox priests would bless the waters. After blessing the waters they would come in every house, and with the blessed waters they would bless the house. But this is a habit going on and on and on that only got interrupted for the pandemia, for the pandemic. Otherwise they would come every year, and they would come to the door and they would knock on the door, and you would open it and the priest would come with blessed song and they would sprinkle that blessed water on your walls. By now its religion, until now the story is not a story, it is a method of uh blessing your house. But from now on superstition begins, and uh when the priest sprinkles the water he does it with a bouquet of basil. A very nice smell comes out from that bouquet, and after blessing the walls, the house, the home uh the young girls would request the priest a little leaf or a little part of that basil bouquet because they say if you put that thing beneath your pillow, you dream the man you marry with, you will marry. It’s valid also for men, but men don’t do it. They are (laughs) more dignified (laughs). And this is the first layer of the story, the second layer is the further the village, the more primitive society, the harsher the habit. Actually in some villages they say that you don’t dream your husband, you see him in the mirrors and it gets freakier and freakier. But even in these days, even now, young girls, shyly or not, request the priest, “Oh could you please give me some basil, I want to dream about my future husband”. 

Background: This informant has lived in Romania their whole life and is very interested in the folk traditions of various countries. They found this piece of folklore from other people in Romania.

Interpretation: This tradition is another example of folklore and religion intertwining. The informant and I interpret it as the young women wanting some sort of blessing from an authority figure in order to think about a man. In this case the figure is a religious authority. The image that the women see is probably the man that they fancy the most. The basil also shows the power both in religion, having been blessed by holy water, and the power of nature with the strong fragrance.


Main Piece: Lemurians 

“There is a city inside of Mount Shasta that is the greatest shakra in the world. There are people who live within the mountain in the city and they are much larger than regular people because they stand at nine feet tall on average. My friend’s wife was hiking Mount Shasta and saw and talked to one of the tall people who lives inside of the mountain. She invited him into the city of Shasta and also to meet her husband, but the giant declined and retreated back into the mountain.” 

Background Information:

This is a legend that has been around for many years and began in the 1800s. This stems from the belief in Lemuria, which is the city believed to be inside of the mountain. The people who inhabit the city are called Lemurians. Mount Shasta and the area surrounding it are not developed and have dense forests, so it is ripe for many stories and legends to be told about it because we did not know much about the area back when the legend originated.

Context of the Performance:

This was told while staying in an Airbnb near the Mount Shasta area by the Airbnb host. We were talking about the history of Mount Shasta and he brought up this story and about his wife supposedly meeting a Lemurian. 

My Thoughts:

I think that this is a very interesting legend because it is very complex and has many parts to the legend such as the city within the mountain and its Lemurian inhabitants who are much larger than normal humans. This is especially more intricate of a legend than the legend of Bigfoot which is a very simple legend yet still intriguing.