Tag Archives: healing

Folk Medicine- Mud for Ant Bites

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Houston, TX
Date of Performance/Collection: April 26, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: My informant spent most of her childhood playing outside at her grandmother’s house in the early 2000s. She tells me she remembers there being a lot of ant piles at the house, and it wasn’t unusual for her or another kid to stand in one without realizing. Whenever someone got an ant bite, her grandmother would collect dirt and water from the yard and rub the mud on the bites. She says it would always stop the pain, and they wouldn’t itch after you took the mud off.

Remedy: For ant bites, spread wet mud over the affected area. Let the mud dry for about 30 minutes, then wash off. This soothes pain, itching, and swelling

Thoughts: Soil tends to have a lot of nutrients in it like magnesium, potassium, and other minerals that are good for your skin. Even now, clay face masks are becoming very popular for treating skin ailments. I’m sure it has a lot of healing properties for bug bites. It could very well have been a placebo remedy; putting mud on the bites would distract a child who just stood in an ant pile. Either way, the impact of the remedy seems to be strong, as she says her grandmother still uses this treatment for the children she takes care of.

Egg Healing

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Context:

MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this item from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She knows about this practice from her nana (grandmother) but she has never had it conducted on herself.

Text:

MV: When someone gives you the ojo… the lady, this could be your nana, or like anyone really, they could get an egg and rub it all over your body, and then all the bad energy goes in the egg.

JS: What’s the ojo?

MV: The ojo is when someone puts the ojo on you, like… if I gave you the ojo you’d be getting some bad energy. It’s like I bewitched you.

You pray a little bit and then rub it over your body… you do the cross up here (draws a cross on her forehead with her finger) and then just rub the egg over the rest of your body.

And then some people even say if you crack the egg in a glass of water, and like you see a trail, like in the water from the yolk, that’s the bad energy. But some people don’t do that.

JS: So it has to be, like, a special someone?

MV: Yeah usually it’s the brujería person… a bruja, a witch I guess… all nanas are like that.

Thoughts:

The association of eggs with luck and goodness has long and deep roots. Venetia Newall provides a sketch of the various uses of eggs in ritual, magic, and belief: cosmological models, magical properties, the notion of resurrection, games and festivals emphasizing fertility and fecundity. (Newall) Her study focusses mainly on egg-lore in an Indo-European context but these significances resonate with our example here. The notion here is that eggs have healing properties, capable of dispelling and absorbing “bad energy.” The association of the egg with rebirth, shedding of old ways, fertility, youth, suggests that here, the egg is valued for its life-giving properties. Brujería likely has a long history that cannot be fully examined here but of note in this example is that the bruja, or intermediary, is always an old female – “all nanas are like that.” There is a kind of magic associated with older females which resonates with the egg as a symbol of fertility, the womb, and a source of life. In this variation, the catholic gesture of signing the cross on one’s body is present with some notable exceptions to the mainstream church’s gesture. The cross is made on the forehead, combined with the secular folk magic of the egg. This is not the gesture sanctioned by the catholic church as an international institution, but a gesture that incorporates elements of both secular, paganistic belief as well as religious reference: it is both Catholicism and Brujería, a mix of Christianity with a folk magic which the Catholic church has historically demonized. This healing practice is thus a way of combining multiple sacred traditions and forming a unique model of spirituality that sets secular magic against and alongside the hegemonic colonial forces of Catholicism.

Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs.” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 80, No. 315. (Jan. – Mar., 1967), pp. 3-32

La cuarentena

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 43
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 3-28-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Background: Informant, B.B. is a mother of 3, and was around 20 years old when she had her first child. She personally has abided by “la cuarentena” rules but was told about it by her mother.

Main Piece:

Informant: After I had my first kid, my mom tried to be really strict about my healing process, telling me I need to follow “la cuarentena”.

Interviewer: What is “la cuarentena”?

B.B: Basically giving birth takes a huge toll on the body, so according to my Mexican mother, there are certain rules to follow postpartum. Cuarentena translates to quarantine, which describes how we were suppose to stay home in order to take care of ourselves properly.

Interviewer: What rules were suppose to be followed? Was it hard to follow them?

B.B: I was suppose to stay “in quarantine” for about a month. I was also not suppose to lift anything heavy, cook, or even clean because it could be too much for my body. I was also told not to shower, which was one of the hardest rules to follow and I didn’t. The logic behind not showering was that I could get sick from having wet hair. I wasn’t really able to stick to the rules, I only managed it for about a week or two before I tried my best to get back to normal.

Interviewer: Did you try la cuarentena for each of your kids?

B.B: No, I did not really believe in needing a whole month to myself.

Context: The informant is a relative, and we were discussing another family member who had just given birth and was already back at work. She was not too shocked about her not following la cuarentena because of how strict it is.

Thoughts: Thinking about having to quarantine after giving birth seems a bit extreme. Knowing how life being quarantined is because of the corona virus, I do not see myself going though with the full month either. I think it is easy to listen to our bodies and if we feel like it is okay to get back to doing certain things, then we should do so as long as we do not push our limits.

Folk Healing by Reenactment of a Story

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pakistani
Age: 73
Occupation: Homemaker
Residence: Bahadur Khan, Attock, Pakistan
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/23/2020
Primary Language: Panjabi
Other Language(s): Urdu

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my grandmother. She told me this over the phone.

Background: She related a story that people believe in and emulate in order to try and heal the sick. For example, when her younger sister had severe asthma, her mother had once emulated the actions related in the story and circled her daughter’s bed while praying for her to be healed, ready to give her own life for her daughter.

Main piece: 

There was once a Mughal king named Babur and his son Humayun. His son was very sick and on his deathbed, despite the attempts of many doctors to cure him. Babur became very desperate to save his son and gathered his advisors for direction. They advised him to give in charity to help remedy the situation. 

One person told him to sacrifice animals and another recommended that he should give away wealth. When Babur was confused as to what course of action to take, one wise man told him to not think too much, and just give away whatever was most dear to him. Hearing this, Babur realized the thing most precious to him was his own life.  

With this in mind, Babur kept circling around the bed of his son while praying for him to be healed. He was ready to sacrifice even his own life so that his son would recover.After a while of doing this, Babur himself developed a fever while his son started getting better. Eventually, Babur collapsed and died, while Humayun made a full recovery. 

Analysis: As a story, there can be many morals derived from this account. This can include the strong relationship and love between son and father as well as the necessity to sacrifice in order to achieve a goal or result. However, this was mentioned as a means of healing that people actually believed in, with the example of my grandmother’s mother re-enacting the story in an attempt to cure her daughter. Although this is the case, it is not clear whether such an event ever did happen in history, with a strong possibility that the story has just inserted real life characters into it, as many stories did.

The Healing Touch

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Granada Hills
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context:

The informant and I were talking about an injury he had since high school and shares with me a particular healing practice he received during his time recovering.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).

 

S: As a Christian family, my mom believes in spiritual gifts. Specifically, the gift of healing. She goes to this church in downtown LA and goes to the elder whenever she’s in pain. The elder lies my mother down on the table and proceeds to gently touch and poke different places. The elder touches the area that hurts as well as any area that may connect to the afflicted area. My mom says the elder’s hands are warm, with spiritual fire. After praying for my mom, the elder runs her hands over my mom while my mother cries out in pain. The elder does this a few more times and my mom is still in pain. However, once the elder finishes, my mom says she is beginning to feel better.

My mom strongly believes that this woman has the art of spiritual healing as she’s gone to doctors with internal organ pain before and their medicine has done nothing. This elder has helped her with that internal pain and much more.

My mom now takes my brother and me to the elder when we are in pain. My brother is a firm believer now in what she does even though he is always in pain. I still struggle to see that it’s real, though I have gone many times as a result of my mom forcing me after my many knee surgeries.

 

Analysis:

Traditional medicine lives among the people as a part of their culture. Many believe in and adopt older medical practices and choose to prefer them over popular medicine backed by science. Although the validity of these practices is up to debate, many people turn to these practices when they are in need of medical care. The idea of the healing touch is an intriguing idea that places a special importance on the powers and skills of elders. In general, both forms of medicine often interact with each other. In many cases, people employ the help of popular medicine with other medical remedies that have been passed down in a culture or family. We can’t simply say that it is a placebo effect and dismiss the notion that the practices may actually yield results. Maybe it is the combined effects of both that help one recover from their ailments.

Running Faucets for Cramp Relief

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 24
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: I came home one day at the beginning of this year to all of the faucets running and I asked my roommate what was going on and she told me this story. So I asked her to re-tell me why she does it.

Piece: So basically, I don’t know where my mom… well let me tell the long version of the story. So you know when you are you they tell you not to keep the water running when you brush your teeth? They’re like “turn off the faucet to save water!” Well I would always say that, and my mom always left the faucet running when she brushed her teeth and I would be like, “Mommy, you’re wasting water!” And she has always said, “I have to leave the faucet running or I’ll gag or like throw up.” And I never understood that until I started like, when I’m on my period or nauseous for any reason and so I turn the faucet on and leave the water running. It’s supposed to help you like feel like less nauseous. Something about the sound of running water can like ease nausea. I feel like it might have been something my mom got from my grandma. It sounds like something my grandma would do.

Background: The informant is a 19 year old USC student of Pakistani and Indian descent. She is very close to her family and shares many traditions and beliefs with them. She learned this from her mother and does it whenever she gets her period cramps.

Analysis: This tradition is something I have never heard of before. It is a sort of remedy/ homeopathic healing technique. It is often said that water sounds are soothing, but this is the first time I have heard them help with pain. I have heard of soaking in hot water to ease pain, but it is interesting that this piece refers to sounds, which tackles the mental state rather than the physical.

Healing Charm

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Santa Ana, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/21/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

sana sana colita de rana si no sanas hoy sanaras mañana por la mañana”

Translation: “heal heal, little frog’s butt, if you don’t heal today you will heal tomorrow”

Context: Informant and I were talking about childhood memories and she shared this healing charm her mom would do on her.

Background: Informant is a student at the UCI. She lives in a Mexican American household. She recalls this charm that her mom would do whenever she would hurt herself by falling while playing. She would run to her mom crying and her mom would say it and rub her “boo boo” in a circular motion. She doesn’t think it took the pain away but it made me feel better. When asked if she would do this with her kids, she nodded enthusiastically.

Analysis: This charm was performed on little kids as a way to acknowledge their pain but also help make them feel better. When a child goes crying to his/her mom, she can give him/her the attention that is needed and they can go back to playing. When translated it does not have the same rhyme and effect attached. It does not really make any sense, but in Spanish it does not sound so bad.

Sana Sana Colita de Rana – Spanish saying

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 45
Occupation: Customer Service
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/18/2019
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

“Sana sana, colita de rana. Si no te alivias hoy, te alivias mañana”

Translation: Heal, heal, little tail of a frog. If you do not heal today, you will heal tomorrow.


 

This saying has been promulgated throughout almost all Spanish speaking households, and the interlocutor asserts that it is an essential aspect of growing up and learning the capacity of one’s body and mind. The last part of the saying usually goes “si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana,” which is more directly translated to heal, while the verb aliviar, as used in my interlocutor’s version, translates more directly to alleviate. She mentioned that her personal version is one she learned from her own mother despite the other version being much more popular. She taught this version to her own children, saying it when they came to her with scrapes and bruises, seeking comfort amidst their tears.

This saying is most commonly used to comfort an ill or hurt child. Arguably a universal notion, children have quite an immense amount of energy that requires some sort of exertion. Through this, many children play throughout their youth, and in doing so, they are exposed to myriad dangers and possibilities of getting injured. Therefore, this saying allows and even encourages the exploration that children experience through play, asserting that an injury by way of play is one that is trivial and easily cured. This saying also illustrates the compassion and care that Latino parents give to their children, reassuring them that tomorrow promises healing and opportunity for further exploration.

Heal, Heal, little tail of the frog – Spanish Saying

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Argentinian
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/13/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece: “Something I heard a lot as a kid was Sana sana colita de rana, si no se sana hoy se sanara manana. Heard it from my grandma as a kid, she said it to me all the time, she’s a baller”

Background information: The informant is a very comedic student with an Argentinian background. Although he resides in the US, he strongly identifies with his Argentinian roots.

Context: This is a hispanic saying used whenever you got hurt as a kid. You’d run to your mom/dad crying about a new injury and they would say this while rubbing the area of pain. The informant heard this a lot from his grandma and it stuck with him because it’s a saying that’s used a lot in Latin countries. The saying translates to “Heal, heal, little tail of the frog. If you don’t heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow.”

Personal analysis: I can personally vouch for the informant. I also heard this a lot as a kid. Every time I got injured I would run to my mom and she would say this saying to make the pain go away. Although there’s no healing happening, it was used as placebo to force you to think that if it didn’t heal today, it would heal tomorrow. Almost like a reassurance that everything would be okay. The saying served no real purpose except that it would make you stop crying as soon you heard it. The saying includes the line “tail of the frog” but I never got around to asking why it was mentioned.  I just accepted it and moved on.

 

Healing Magic

--Informant Info--
Nationality: English
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: NY
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Nicolette’s grandma believed she was imbued with magical gifts. For generations, her matriline thought themselves to be types of witches. Nicolette often visits her grandma to be relieved of bad spirits when she was feeling upset or physically hurt.