“We’re not allowed to walk around barefoot in the house because you’ll supposedly get sick, there’s another thing we do where when you’re on your period your not supposed to drink cold water, after you have something that scares you, you’re not supposed to drink water, your supposed to eat a piece of bread or something, or when a kid gets hurt they’ll like sing “sana, sana, sana, colita de rana” which I think translates to “heal, heal, heal, frogs tail” but I’m not too sure.”
Background: The informant is from a latina household and says that she heard all these things from her mother when she was younger. She says that many of the practices were to prevent her from getting sick and her parents never explained the background of the superstitions, so she doesn’t know why her parents believed in such superstitions.
Analysis: While the informant comes from a Latina household, some of the superstitions also align with superstitions from other cultures. Walking barefoot in the house is a very common superstition in households, most of the time believing it will result in the person catching a cold or getting sick. Drinking cold water is also believed to not be good for a person’s health by many people. So pinpointing the origins of these superstitions is highly unlikely.
However, the “sana, sana, sana, colita de rana” saying does come from Spanish speaking cultures. Its English translation doesn’t make much sense, but it is used by many Hispanic and Latino families. The purpose of this saying does not have any magical elements to it and is solely used to console children who have been hurt.
”The ingredients are: apple cider vinegar, lemon, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, honey, and hot water. About a class worth for whoever is taking it. You can use it for pretty much anything. Whenever I’m feeling sick I’ll use it; all the ingredients have really good properties, so one of them is bound to help with something. I always use it when I have the flu.”
“My mom would always tell me to drink apple cider vinegar with honey and hot water, for pretty much anything that was wrong with you. I never really liked it like that. One of my friends gave me this recipe. You’d think the extra ingredients would make it taste worse, but they actually make it a lot easier to drink.”
Home remedies are often a popular way of dealing with everyday maladies, especially those which science currently has no “cure” or treatment for. The informant stated that she uses the remedy for a wide variety of ills, with the expectation that one of the ingredients is bound to help somehow. She had originally gotten a variety of the “potion” from her mother; which is common with home remedies. As parents are often a primary source of information while growing up, people have a tendency to retain lessons or advice from them, even as they grow older.
The informant stated that she never enjoyed the taste of her Mom’s remedy, though she would still use it if she got sick. Eventually she heard of the alternate form from a friend; she stated that she liked the flavor of the new formula more, and now uses that as an alternate. This shows an interesting fluctuation in the phenomenon stated above. Though she respected and followed her Mom’s advice for the remedy, she was also willing to change the recipe slightly into one which suited her tastes better. This illustrates how folk remedies can change over time: ingredients can be added (or removed in some cases) in order to better fit the sensibilities or tastes of the new user.
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“Something else my dad told me was that when you heat up food in the microwave, you can’t stand in front of it or you’ll get cancer. But I used to really like processed food, so I would always use the microwave and I would be really hungry so I’d stand in front of it and wait and he would get mad.”
The health belief that microwave radiation will induce cancer is something that I’ve heard before. I have also heard this belief applied to the tera-hertz radiation used in TSA body scanners. Many of my relatives from Taiwan have also mentioned this health belief about radiation in general.
As mankind has entered the nuclear era, harnessing the intramolecular forces for energy and weaponry, radiation has become a very real threat. Radiation often dominates our news and our history. Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Hiroshima have left very strong impressions on the global consciousness. This fear is perhaps intensified by the fact that radiation is an invisible force that none of us are capable of perceiving. We do not know when we are subjected to it and most of us do not understand the complexities of its various forms. So we’ve simply learned to fear the word “radiation”, associating it with all of the nuclear tragedies that has befallen mankind.
However, this fear of microwave radiation and tera-hertz radiation is unfounded. Microwave radiation and tera-hertz radiation are very different from the radiation that nuclear meltdowns produce. I once held the belief that microwaves could induce cancer. A physicist I worked with in high school told me that while high concentrations of microwave radiation might cook a human being from inside out, microwave radiation simple does not carry enough energy to do the genetic damage to induce cancer. The same applies to tera-hertz radiation.
Vecchia, Paolo. “Perception of Risks from Electromagnetic Fields: Lessons for the Future.” Journal of Biological Physics 29.2-3 (2003): 269-274.