Tag Archives: future telling

Fortune Keeping


A is a Pre-med biology major at USC, currently a freshman. A is a Vietnamese American who grew up in Vancouver, Washington a short drive from Portland, Oregon. 


A: Okay, so I’ve learned this at a very young age, but my family has told me that fortunes come true. Like, the fortune in the fortune cookies. I keep the slip of paper in my pocket like, as a way to make it come true. Keeping it with me helps make sure the fortune will come true, but if I don’t want this fortune to come true, I won’t keep it. 

Me: Do you ever lose them?

A: I keep them for as long as I think I need the fortune. Like, if I think it came true, then I’ll throw it away. 


The fortune tellers A is talking about are finely printed words, usually in a vague phrase or arrangement, that come from restaurant complementary cookies. As fortune telling is a way of predicting or controlling the future, I think what A experiences reading a fortune teller is something along the lines of superstition and homeopathic magic. Fortune tellers are usually signs, a specific message from the universe or time or fate telling you something important will happen. A believes this sign and wants this future to be his, so fortune tellers encourage some change in behavior to bring about that important thing. To bring fortune into reality, it is important for A to keep evidence of the future (the fortune paper) with him, as if to constantly be summoning it into his reality. Through this “like produces like,” A believes the paper in his possession (representing good fortune) will eventually produce what is predicted on the paper (actual good fortune). For A, he associates the paper with telling the future and keeps the fortune with him to invite the future to happen. He chooses to indulge in a sense of control or a kind of understanding over the world, where there is usually something wholly unpredictable. 

Future Spouse String Initial

Context: I had a string hanging off my jacket when Informant pointed it out and told me this piece of folklore. I asked informant to repeat the lore to me so I could record it.

Informant: “I heard from my grandma that when you have a little string hanging off from your clothes, that you have to pull it off and then throw it behind your shoulder. The you find where the string landed, and it should make the shape that is the initials of your future spouse.”

Background Information: Informant did not necessarily remember when their grandma had told them this, but they knew that she had. Informant did not necessarily believe in the validity of the folklore, but enjoyed doing it and sharing it with others anyway. The informant’s grandmother, however, is apparently a very avid believer in the lore.

Thoughts: The folklore is interesting, and something I have heard before. The folklore serves as a fortune telling device, and displays the notion that things which we attach to our physical selves (clothes), can embody ourselves and our lives. The folklore is a fun game to play as well as a serious predictor of the unknowns of the future. Either way, it is a comfort to its practitioners.

The utensils that know the future

The informant, C, is an 18 raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. His parents are both Mexican and he considers himself Mexican as well. He is studying Astronautical Engineering.


C-“So in my family we have this superstition that if you drop your utensils by accident you will receive different guests. If a spoon is dropped then a child is going to come, if a fork is dropped then a friend is going to come, and if a knife is dropped a stranger is going to come”

When did you first hear this?

C-“When I was little my aunts and grandma and my mom would say ‘oh a friend, or whatever person, is going to visit’ every time that I dropped a utensil.

Have you heard or seen this in other places?

C-“I have heard variations in other families and even with the other side of my family. Sometimes it’s that a woman is going to visit if you drop a fork and a man if you drop a knife”

Do you believe in it/think it’s true?

C- “I’m not sure. Sometimes it does like come true and then the person comes and visit but other times they don’t or is the wrong person. So I guess it depends if the right person shows up”

Analysis- The superstition could be a way to cover-up what may be an embarrassing and socially looked-down thing. Adding the consequence of the different visits creates a nicer response to this rather than public humiliation. The different visits could be different according to what the utensils resemble and remind the people of.