Tag Archives: Folk Belief

Red Ribbon of Fate in Chinese Folklore

Main Piece:

KY: “The red thread of fate, or the red ribbon of fate, is this idea originating from Asian culture— I think specifically Chinese culture. It’s this thread that connects two people, these two lovers, two partners, or star-crossed lovers… It connects them even if they are far apart or right next to each other… It’s this idea that they will somehow meet. It’s been told in a couple of media, one specifically… (Your Name) Kimi no Na wa, anime movie. There are some people who like have a red ribbon attached to them or an accessory that they have… I’ve seen it more often used as a way to tie someone’s hair… Like a charm of sorts… My friend spoke of it… Once you hear about it, you see it everywhere now, especially in Eastern Asian media….

Context:

This was taken from a conversation with me and one of my suitemates, who is of Japanese descent, in the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village. He heard of this from one of his middle school friends who was Filipina.

Analysis:

The Red Thread of Fate or Red Thread of Marriage is an East Asian belief of Chinese origin. The psychological associations we have with the color red such as passion, love, or lust remain ever present in this belief. From my own Vietnamese cultural background, I know it can also be associated with luck. This is just one of many examples of how people use physical objects as representations of themselves or something that keeps them connected to others, along the same line as friendship bracelets or wedding rings. One should also note how the folk belief was popularized beyond China, and to Asian audiences in general, through its use in film and cartoon, particularly in anime. This can be evidenced by my suitemate and his childhood friend, who are Japanese and Filipina.

Kappa in Japanese Folklore

Main Text:

KY: I’ll tell you about the kappa. It’s this, uhm— it’s basically this monster that lives in the river. The Japanese created this story of the kappa which is this monster… Its head is like a lily pad, and it just like submerges itself under water. So, if you see a lily pad in your river or something, it could be the kappa. They’re also like very hard to see. So they can be like just in like the rocks and stuff… So they’re like very scary monsters. They’re very, very scary… And they can come out at night, and take kids away… They’re really short as well, if I remember correctly… I think that like, in Japan, the reason why— it’s because rivers are dangerous, and they don’t want kids playing at rivers at night without supervision…

Context:

This was taken from a conversation with me and one of my suitemates, who is of Japanese descent, in the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village. He has heard of these creatures for as long as he can remember, from “before he could even speak.” He was warned of them by his parents and grandfather, who lived near a river, that he used to visit when he also lived in Japan.

Analysis:

We often see these folk beliefs and cautionary tales told to children, by their parents, to keep them away from danger. It makes a commentary on adult supervision since, apparently, parents are the only ones strong enough to fight back against these creatures. Stories like these are designed to scare children, make them weary of the unknown, and to keep them close to their parents. This particular belief can also reflect the societal fear that Japan has with bodies of water since it is notorious for bad weather such as storms, floods, and tsunamis.

Con Mèo in Vietnamese Superstitions

Main Text:

Me: Tell me about the superstition your family has around cats.

AL: Specifically, uhm my mom or other women— Vietnamese women that I’ve encountered… have this superstition of that there is this cat, Con Mèo, which translates to “Cat” in English… Essentially, this cat would kidnap children, so… it means for the children to stay close to their mothers…

Me: …Every single time Con Mèo was kind of brought up, would it be… kinda referred to as like a monster or some type of entity that would kidnap you, specifically?… Did you have a particular image associated with it? Or did you just see a cat?

AL: I just associated the entity as a cat… But somehow evil… And it’s usually referenced by my parents— by mom at like night. Mainly because it’s dark, and to like stay close… I would see this saying more in Vietnam due to how poorly lit the city is, and the suburbs or the countryside, compared to here which is much more safer and has a lot of lights…

Me: …What age do you think this kinda like started, and what age do you think this kinda stopped? Where your mother was like “You’re getting too old for this!” Or is it kinda like a little joke that you bring up every now and then? You know, how does that relate to your personal experience with cats now?

AL: This started when I was young, probably in Kindergarten… Six? Five?

Me: Yeah.

AL: …It’s not that she stopped saying that superstition at a specific age. It’s just— it occurs less. Like she sometimes says it… Like once in like a while, she’ll say it. Just kinda like, just as a fun joke. But I would never say it back because *shrugs* Eh. But my relationship with cats now… I like cats, so it didn’t really affect how I viewed them as monsters.

Context:

This was taken from a conversation with my roommate, in our bedroom at the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village.

Analysis:

This belief could reign from one of the oldest superstitions that black cats are considered bad luck. This is especially prevalent amongst Asian cultures, and I even saw this fear manifested as a general disliking towards cats by my Vietnamese mother. Cats in this context were used by the informant’s mother with him and his younger brother, to instill fear in them and keep them out of danger, especially at night. It is beliefs like these that lead to almost all children, having a universal fear of the dark—a fear that my roommate already had. However, his positive relationships with cats won out over his fear of the dark. Therefore, Con Mèo didn’t affect him that much.

Black Tourmaline Crystals

Main Piece:

SP: My black tourmaline piece… It actually is my first, like, large and most expensive crystal I bought in my collection— Black tourmaline is known to be, like, a protective stone. And I have like lots of little pieces that I kinda just carry around with me all the time. A lot of people use it with clear quartz cause clear quartz acts as like an amplifier, so it’s like amplified protection. I think of it as like cleaning my energy and my space. I have little pieces sometimes in my pocket, when I’m just going out, and I have one that I like tie to my bag, my everyday bag.

Context:

Performed over a FaceTime call. One of my roommates friends, a high school senior. She is in her bedroom in Alameda, California. She obtains crystals from the shop she works at and various crystal stores in the Bay Area and from online shopping.

Analysis:

Crystals have long since been used for cosmetic as well as medicinal practices. I know that one of the first few societies to use crystals as spiritual charms was Ancient Egypt. This practice has carried itself over to the West, and is also used in witchcraft and Paganism. I have often wondered if the younger generation has incorporated them into their beauty routines and self-healing just because they are aesthetically pleasing to look at. The informant houses a massive crystal collection in her home, and she says that this protection charm is one of the most common and is what got her into crystals. The fact that she carries around multiple of them in her everyday life really reflects how people and religions can attribute so much meaning to material objects. It’s quite beautiful.

Burning Matches Ritual

Main Piece:

Me: “Tell me about this ritual with matches.”

KY: …How is stumbled upon it is, haha, through TikTok. But I know that there is history of that idea of reflecting your past relationships through matches or through fire, specifically. And, using the wood part as like the remains of what is left of the relationship. And so, I decided to do this… To reflect on my past relationship with another person…

…Essentially, you would take two matches. You would set them on anything… But, uhm you would set them like a few inches apart, and you would light them both at the same time… And you would just let the story unfold, the burning unfold. And the results would be a reflection of [that] relationship.

[He now reflects upon one time he performed the ritual.]

…And what I reflect from it is a relationship where, there was both passion in both… In my side, it burnt out. The passion was gone, but it was still lingering. And their passion lasted longer… There’s a little bit of an attachment to me whereas I had it less… Their passion ended a little after mine… How I perceive it… I was the one to go first… and then they stopped talking… I still had feelings.

Context:

Taken from a conversation told in Cale & Irani Apartments in the USC Village. Between me and my suitemate.

Analysis:

This seems to come from a spiritual practice, and people have historically used fire as a way of reflection on the past or for a severance of it. My informant not only uses the practice introspectively, but he uses them as a symbol for him and other people in his life. He had witnessed the practice first through TikTok and had began using it in his spare time, a way of dealing with emotions. It’s interesting to me just how different the practice is for each individual; he/she can interpret the same exact outcome in completely different ways due to their own preconceived notions and the reality they wish to believe in. With the burning matches, we how people use folklore practices as a way of connecting with other people in their lives, this time on a spiritual level.