Tag Archives: magic

Marie Laveau

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 87

Occupation: Unemployed

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

(Notes-The informant will be referred to as JW and the interviewer as K)

Background info: JW is a father and grandfather who was born and raised in New Orleans, moving to Los Angeles to follow his son, whom he now resides with. I was told this story in the evening in a room that JM made “purposefully spooky”

K: So whats the name of the folklore, where did you hear it, and when is it like told?

JW: *laughter* Well miss, it’s a true story about a voodoo queen named Marie Laveau. Everyone just knows it, some say that’s part of her magic still at work, that no one can forget her. *laughter*

K: *laughter* Ok so, whenever you’re ready! Go into as much or as little detail as you want

JW: You sure miss? It gets gruesome

K: Part of the charm of folklore

JW: *laughter* you right you right. Miss Marie Laveau was a voodoo queen *stretches out the word queen for emphasis*. She could do anythin under our God-given sun, even make herself live twice as long *smiles*. She was-she was said to curse those who had wronged her in the most brutal ways. I remember when I was a boy an uh…one of my friends told me that his great somethin grandma was cursed by Miss Laveau. She had stolen something from her shop, so Miss Laveau stole somethin from her…*long pause* her right hand! The one that did the snatchin! *laughter*. That’s the kinda stuff she did, so everyone with half a mind was smart enough not to cross her. It’s said that to this day if you visit her grave, you can get a wish granted if you leave her somethin nice.

It was really interesting to hear a more well-known bit of folklore be told from an original point of view. What I mean by that is JM is from New Orleans, and although Marie Laveau is known from more popular culture like American Horror Story, this telling was drastically different than the one in the aforementioned television show. I also thought it was important to note the joy in which this story was told to me. JM was laughing regularly as he told me the story, even the more grisly parts of it. He set up the room I was speaking to him in a traditionally scary way, but when it came to the story it was as if he couldn’t contain his joy. The story obviously had lost its scare factor as people get older. He notes being scared by the version his friend told him when he was younger but laughed telling me it.

Good Luck Coin

AW is a 19 year old college student. She is an undergraduate computer science major and is from Los Angeles County. She is Chinese American and has lived in LA all of her life.

Context: AW is a good friend of mine, so we sat down after dinner to discuss folklore she picked up across her life. She picked this practice up from her parents.


Collector: You have a thing with coins right?

AW: Ah yes!

Collector: Tell me about it.

AW: Coins, not just pennies, can bring good luck. But only if it is turned on heads. So if I am walking down the street and spot, let’s say, a dime or something. I will only pick it up if it’s on heads. Then it is good luck.

Also if I drop a coin in you guys’ apartment then I leave it there for good luck haha.

Collector: I picked up on that. Whenever we see a coin on the ground we just leave it.

AW: Yes for good fortune!

Thoughts/Analysis: This is a great twist on the typical finding a penny for good luck belief. I had never heard of leaving coins for good luck, only picking them up. I think this shows that both taking and giving money is necessary for good fortune. It might even mean that you cannot take and take without giving. Coins in general being used in this belief rather than just pennies might make someone believe they have more good luck because other coins are more valuable and you are likely to see them more.

For a variation of the lucky coin, see:

Brianna, and Brianna. “Find a Penny, Pick It Up and All Day You’Ll Have Good Luck.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 15, 2021. http://folklore.usc.edu/find-a-penny-pick-it-up-and-all-day-youll-have-good-luck/.

Erlina and Irene: Epic

Background: Informant is a Mexican-American college student. He believes strongly in his superstitions and magical energies. This story takes place in Las Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico. It’s a village right outside of an area with hot springs. This happened when the informants grandmother was 7, so in the 1960s. 

Informant: My grandma, she had her best friend – so say you’re like my best friend, okay? And we make a promise because, you know, best friends, they wanna stay together forever, so, like she said “if I die, you come with me, like I’ll take you with me. And like, if you die, you take me with you so that we could be in heaven together, okay?” So then, her best friend Erlinda said, “if I die, I’m going to take you by your feet! I’m gonna take you by your feet to heaven with me, like your going to die with me.” And my grandma Irene was like, “No, no don’t pull me by feet!” 

So this was happening in this village. It’s called Las Grutas Tolantongo. It’s a little village, it’s like hot tubs, like little hot springs, but outside of it is this village. And they would always play under a tree with their neighbors. So, since Irene and Erlinda were neighbors, they could always see into each other’s houses, and like when the time came that Erlinda wasn’t coming out anymore to come play with her, Irene would always see Erlinda laying out on the bed.
So, witches exist. Like, in Mexico… you might not believe in witches but like, they’re definitely a thing in Mexico. So, I guess the village– they had a lot of envy towards Erlinda’s mom. Cause’ Erlinda had her little business, she had to send her workers out early in the morning. So, it was revealed to Erlina’s mom, her name was Doña tele– it was revealed after they found out that Erlina got sick that someone had tried to put a curse on her! But, it was intended for whoever woke up first and left the house, and since Doña tele always woke up at 3 in the morning to send her workers out, it was intended for her. So, Erlinda had to use the bathroom late at night, and because they had communal bathrooms outside of the house, Erlinda got sick instead of Doña tele, who the curse was intended for. Like, when she crossed the doorway, they put dirt in front of her doorway like in the Conjuring. So, whoever crossed over it, like whatever bad energy would go to them.

So, fast forward a few months later in July which is the end of the school year in Mexico, Erlinda died! Like, she died! But Irene realized when she went to her funeral that she made a promise that if she died she was going to take me! And I promised that she was going to take me! And she was like “Noooo! I’m so scared, like no no no no!” And the scary part is, they didn’t have morticians so the viewing– like her mouth was open, her eyes were cloudy, like have you seen a dead person? 

So, Irene, like after she saw Erlinda dead she kept having nightmares of Erlinda. Like, one time my grandma told me that she saw Erlinda in a dream. Like, you know how sometimes dreams feel real so you wake up in the dream? So, she woke up and saw Erlinda playing in her room through the window and she was like “*gasps* Erlinda, you’re not dead?” And Erlinda is facing away from her ignoring her. And then, Erlinda turns around and the face that she had in the casket was the same face she had when she turned around. And Irene freaked out because Erlinda said “If I catch you, you’re coming with me.” So, Erlinda would chase Irene throughout the whole village and Irene would float like a skywalker. And Irene would always wake up sweating like crazy, afraid she’d go into cardiac arrest every night. The dreams happened from May 12 to August 18th, like she just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I forgot to mention this part, but her brother Chava would always come from Mexico City because that’s where he worked. So when Erlinda died, he came to pay his respects. But when the time came for him to go back to Mexico City, Irene was like “take me with you! Because maybe if I go, I won’t be able to dream of her anymore.” So, she went and she never dreamed of her again. But, like, the scary part was when my grandma was telling me this story we were in the lounge of my dorm and the lights went off. And I know they’re motion sensors but I was moving around! So, I was like, “Erlinda? Is she here?” Like, that’s scary!

Reflection: I absolutely loved hearing this story from my roommate. They were so animated as they told me the story and it was entertaining to hear it from them. I especially liked the way they told the story, as they were really unfiltered and imperfect in how they told it, which was fun to watch. This story was so entertaining, and it was so cool to learn about their culture through an anecdote like this one. The part where they say that magic exists in Mexico was so cool, as they acknowledge that in American culture we don’t believe in magic, but how in Mexican culture it is accepted.

Rabbi Meyer

Background: Informant is a 19 year old, Jewish American/Argentinian college student. They are from the Chicago area but now live in Los Angeles. The informant has a long history of Jewish education and traditions.

Informant: My story is about Rabbi Meyer Bolanese. Basically, this is one of the famous rabbis that kind of are Jewish scholars and evryone refers to them in their interpretations of the torah and Jewish texts and they also are known for having special powers. So Rabbi Meyer’s power is to help you find an item you’ve lost. So when you’ve lost something your supposed to not panic and do some certain rituals. I think that they differ based on different communities that do this but the one that I know is that you’re supposed to put an empty glass in the corner of a room and you say a specific prayer and then rabbi meyer is supposed to send his powers to help you find whatever object you’ve lost. 

Reflection: I found this piece of folklore really interesting as it takes Jewish belief and adds a magical, folkloric aspect to it. There is an idealization of the rabbi going on that makes him into a magical figure, taking the power beyond religion and into a form of supersticious, folklore belief. The part about the empty glass is especially folkloric, as it is a ritual that is performed to find a lost object. 

Chin Pum Pan Tortillas Papas

Text: “chin pum pan tortillas papas”


Informant: A magic thing that, if you want something to work, but it doesn’t work, let’s take the TV. You like do a few things and then you’re like chin pum pan tortillas papas and you turn on the TV and it’s like ay it works. It’s like abra kadabra but it’s like *indistinguishable noises* and then it works. You know?

Me: Is this a family tradition?

Informant: Um I think it’s a regional thing. Not everyone in Mexico does it it’s just certain regions.

Me: Do you know the origin?

Informant: No

Me: What do you personally think of it?

Informant: Um it would help make things work magically, but it’s again a placebo effect thing.

Personal Thoughts:

As noted below under additional notes, this phrase may have originated from the 80’s TV Show ‘Chuiquilladas’. Of course, the show could’ve been inspired by another source. In the case that this originated in the TV show, this saying then appears to be a case of a pop culture catchphrase becoming a folk saying. While that may seem like inauthentic folklore (a TV show comes from a institution, presumably with power and money and authority), the use of the phrase seems to have moved away from the TV show to become something independent.

Additional Notes:

The following link claims that this phrase came “from the magician ‘Rody’ in this 80’s TV Show ‘Chiquilladas'”