Tag Archives: homeopathic magic

German Wart Treatment

Context:

HH is a retired former housewife who lives in Westergellersen, a small village in northern Germany.

Main Piece:

“Knüpfe soviele Knoten in ein Band wie du Warzen hast. Dann vergrabe das Band bei Mondschein unter einem Stein. Wenn der Faden zersetzt (verfault) ist werden die Warzen verschwunden sein.”

Translation:

Tie as many knots into some string as you have warts. Then bury the string under a rock by moonlight. When the string has decomposed, the warts will have disappeared.

Analysis:

This practice is a folk magic ritual that utilizes the Homeopathic principle. The knots on the string represent the warts, and the decomposition of the string metaphorically decomposes the warts along with it. An interesting note here is the need to perform the burying part of the ritual under moonlight. The moon is a highly magical and superstitious symbol in many societies, and is widely associated with magic, and especially women’s magic (though the moon is a masculine noun in the German language).

The rock under which the string must be buried does not seem to bring anything specifically auspicious or magical, but could serve multiple other purposes. First, placing the string beneath a rock would help speed up the decomposition process, as it creates an environment where organisms can more easily break down the string than if it was in an open space. Next, the rock weighs down the string and keeps it in place. If the string is anchored beneath a heavy object, it’s less likely to move around due to environmental factors like weather, or be taken and moved by an animal. Finally, placing the string beneath a certain rock makes the burial site easy to identify, which is helpful for tracking the decomposition of the string.

Witchcraft and Curses in Mexico

CONTEXT/BACKGROUND:
The interlocutor (JG) has many relatives living in Mexico and is a first-generation Mexican American themself. The area their family is from is very superstitious about witches, curses, and magic. The following describes one of the stories about the community’s cemeteries acting as a hotspot for placing curses

DESCRIPTION: (told over the phone)
(JG): “There’s also a really….because witchcraft is just like—fairly common in Mexico, especially in the cemeteries. So like, when we went to the cemetery, ‘cuz we went to go visit my uncles and we also went for like, a spooky little tour that they do.

There’s this grave that’s like, split open, like it’s broken open, and they regularly have to send people to like, check, because they put like, little witchcraft charms in there to curse people…because of, like, the energy of the cemetery. So they do that.

And then also, when we went to go visit my uncle, my brother saw something sticking out of the ground. And he was like, “What is that?” (He was like, younger.)

So he went to like, dig it out and it was a picture of a guy and it had like a coin and some pottery stuff… and it was meant to cure him. And that man had been, like, cursed. So we had to take it to a priest and he had to like, bless it and undo the curse. So that was that.”

FINAL THOUGHTS/OBSERVATIONS:
Different stories about magic and curses are prevalent across cultures, and I definitely find it interesting to hear about the different ways people acknowledge and try to free themselves of these malevolent forms of magic. Oftentimes, we hear about curses being lifted by some kind of shaman or healer, one that the community designates as someone who can control or get rid of a curse. JG and their family taking the cursed objects to a priest is an example of this.

I also find that the graveyards being a hotspot for these curses to get placed makes a lot of sense. Since death is a major element of these curses and is considered one of the worst effects a curse can allegedly have on a person, it’s no wonder that curses and cursed objects can be found throughout a cemetery.

Mexican Curses and Eggs

CONTEXT/BACKGROUND:
The interlocutor (JG) has many relatives living in Mexico and is a first-generation Mexican American themself. The following describes one example of Mexican superstitions regarding witchcraft and curses, along with the use of eggs in magic.

DESCRIPTION: (told over the phone)
(JG):”One more–I’m so sorry! Okay, so I think like, 10 years ago? My uncles, they work in like, construction stuff, they were remodeling my grandma’s house and cleaning up her basement, uh… and as they were looking around, they found another little charm! But this one was directed at my grandfather, and it had a little coin which is a sign for a money curse. Someone cursed my grandfather, basically. And that curse, we believe, went down to my dad as well. I’m not sure if to my aunt. But-But my dad…something about male inheritance? I don’t know. So someone cursed my grandfather. Somehow that charm got into my grandma’s backyard, which is weird.

But basically, it was while we were living here [their current home], it was a few months ago. It was after we discovered…because all of this stuff, we were talking about a few months ago, like specifically my dad being cursed…I forgot… Oh! It was because my grandfather passed away. So we started talking about things relating to him and somehow the curse came up.

We realized there was a possibility that my dad could also be cursed. My dad, no, my mom did this thing with an egg. So eggs are like, symbolic of purity, I don’t know. Eggs can see the bad stuff. Eggs can tell the energy. So like, when I was younger I used to have a lot of nightmares, so my grandma blessed me with an egg and it cured my nightmares, that type of stuff. So my mom did this thing with an egg to my dad, just to see if he was cursed, to see if there was bad energy surrounding him because of what happened. So she did that.

She meant to put the egg under the bed and he was supposed to sleep over it and in the morning she’d crack the egg and the color of the yolk would say something. So in the morning, she cracked the egg and the yolk came out black. Like, blackish-reddish. Like the egg was completely dark. So that was added evidence for why my family thinks my dad is cursed.”

FINAL THOUGHTS/OBSERVATIONS:
I definitely think that this specific curse falls under the category of homeopathic magic since the coin is representative of a money curse. I find it interesting how people turn to magic to gain some sense of power over others, putting their faith in something bad happening to their target even if the effect they want never comes. It’s difficult to wrap my head around feeling so powerless and desperate that one would need to turn to wish pain and misfortune onto others to feel better about their own circumstances.

I also liked JG’s explanation of the egg! It reminded me a lot of one of the discussions we had during the lecture, in which we talked about the meaning of eggs in many different cultural practices. In this case, JG’s explanation of the egg’s ability to detect dark energy fit perfectly under what we had discussed in class since eggs mean purity and life (among other things) across many different traditions.

SOUPY VS. STICKY FOODS BEFORE AN EXAM

MAIN PIECE: 

Informant: So in Korean culture… Before like a test or an exam you’re recommended not to drink or eat something that’s like soupy or runny. So, like, don’t have soup on the day of. And you should rather have something sticky like sticky rice or taffy or something like that, that has that like “oomph” to it… ‘Cause the correlation there is like, you drink something runny or you eat something that moves, then that information will leave with it. But if you have something sticky, that’ll help your brain stick that information into your head. 

INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE: 

Interviewer: Do you practice this?

Informant: No, I don’t. It’s just something my mom told me about… I haven’t really thought about it before like now. 

Interviewer: But have you ever tried or tested it?

Informant: No, I haven’t.

REFLECTION:

According to James George Frazer, homeopathic magic is magic in which like produces like. We see that manifested here, as soupy foods are believed to wash away information, whereas sticky foods encourage information to stick. The idea that what you consume can directly impact your performance in daily life is not unique to Korean culture; it is widely accepted that food is tied to health. Science shows that eating certain foods leads to different physical outcomes (ex. eating carbohydrates versus eating protein before working out). What is unique about this Korean belief is that it is not based on the nutritional value of a food, but on how soupy or how sticky it is––on texture or consistency. This is why it is more likely to be considered a form of magic, than a science-based belief.

March Madness Kentuckian Folk Belief

Main Text:

JE: “During college basketball season, specifically March Madness, we will all go over to Jordan’s Aunt’s house ad watch the University of Kentucky play basketball. Grapes are like a staple for when watch basketball games so we eat grapes during the game because it is almost like a good luck thing. And then at the start of the season wherever you sit in the house, that has to remain your seat during march madness. Also, if you go to one game you have to go to all of them. You can’t just go to one game. And if we win a championship, like a March Madness championship we have to burn a couch as a celebration and good luck for the next year’s season. Another thing is that if you go outside for any reason and the score starts going up for any reason in Kentucky’s favor then the person who went outside has to stay outside until the game is over. If we start to lose and we did not do anything to make it happen, you have to start eating like snacking. For example, if for every single game you go in and eat except for one and that game the Kentucky’s team starts losing then you have to go eat in order to undo the loss of points.”

Collector: “Is there any reason that you eat grapes specifically?”

“No I don’t think so, my aunt just always has them out on the counter.”

Context:

When I collected this folk belief from JE I asked him why his family passes down this belief that they all have to sit in the same seats for March Madness in order to provide luck to their team and he said that this process has been passed down ever since his grandma was little… so for like three generations so it just makes sense for them to continue doing. He also said it acts as a way to remember and celebrate the life of his grandma who had passed away. I also tried to get his opinion on why he thinks that they eat grapes and he said that it was because my his aunt just always has them sitting out on the counter.

Analysis: 

This folk belief can be explained by analyzing the region in which it is centered around and performed in. This belief focuses mainly on March Madness and even more specifically on the University of Kentucky’s performance in the tournament. According to JE, in Kentucky basketball is probably the most watched and biggest celebrated sport for college. Adding on to this, since the University of Kentucky is the most watched basketball team by many Kentuckians except for those found in Louisville, it is understandable that his family generations ago created a tradition upon the belief that where they sit will provide luck to the University of Kentucky during their games. Based off of the content that I collected from JE, when one is in Kentucky, it is like a state identity to always root for the University of Kentucky unless you happen to live in Lousiville where you would then root for the University of Louisville.

Putting this together, this folk belief was created as a way to provide support for one’s state basketball teams and also to be used as unifying one who practices it as a person of Kentucky (in other words as an identity marker).