Tag Archives: Protection

Using a Safety Pin to protect unborn babies during a lunar eclipse

Main Piece

Informant: When I was pregnant my mom- you know the news tells you when there is gonna be an eclipse– well she saw that and she told me that I needed to place a safety pin near my stomach inside of my shirt, near my stomach.  

Interviewer: What was this for exactly? 

Informant: It was supposed to be to avoid harming my baby–defects, birth defects. I don’t know of what kind. Maybe a lazy eye? I don’t know. Haha. 

Interviewer: Were eclipses usually known to cause babies harm?

Informant: That’s what they say. I don’t think there is scientific proof on that. My guess is someone had a baby with a deformity and then they blamed it on the eclipse and it spread. I don’t know. I’m just guessing. 

Interviewer: Did you do it? 

Informant: The consequences of not doing it, even as silly as it sounded, was tugging against me. What if something did go wrong? There didn’t seem to be any logic to the request, but it was simple so I did it. My mom was happy that I followed, and there was a sense of protecting my baby and doing it in case something were to happen to her during the eclipse. I had it secured so it wasn’t gonna poke me, haha.

Background

The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA  a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.

Context

During our interview, we were discussing all of the different experiences with folklore that she experienced when she was pregnant with her kids. She mentioned a safety pin and eclipse in passing, and I asked her to discuss it further as it was my first time hearing about it. 

Analysis

This form of folk protection is very rooted in the belief of superstition and fear of the unknown that expecting mothers can feel when they are carrying. Wanting to do everything to protect the child, the informant listened to the superstitions and how to protect the baby that were passed down to her from her own mother. This shows the flow of pregnancy superstitions via maternal channels, and the spread of cultural premonitions and protecting practices.

Aloe Vera Plants to Ward Off Evil

AB: Aloe Vera plants in the front of your house to protect you from evil. I didn’t know that was why we had Aloe plants in the front of our house. I have never heard of that before. 

Context

AB is a 20 year old biology student at UCSB from southern California that is half Guatemalan and half Irish. She is describing a conversation she had with her mother asking her about the aloe plants they had in front of their house. Her mother is a nurse that is originally from Guatemala and lived there until her teenage years. This information was taken from a casual interview over Facetime. Earlier in the interview she talked about how her mother believed people practiced witchcraft and AB thought it was somewhat weird. 

Analysis

It is interested that there had been aloe plants in front of her house and AB had not realized until recently why they were there. However, it seemed that she felt it was more of a superstitious practice than something that really worked. The belief in magic seems to be related to the practice of using magic to protect yourself from people who may use it in a way to harm you. The aloe plant is considered to have many healing qualities both in the field of medicine and folk medicine. This seems to be somewhat of a spiritual extension of this belief. Not only can the plant heal you physically, but heal your spirit from evil energy that is trying to enter your space. Thus, making it the perfect plant to have in front of your house.

The Red Paper

There is an old Caribbean myth that says if you write a person’s name on a red paper and stick it in your shoe, they’ll stop giving you trouble.

H: “When someone is causing you trouble you can write their name on a red paper and put it in your shoes. In red ink pen because red represents victory and the blood of Jesus.

H: “Because his blood was shed it symbolizes victory. You walk on the paper and it breaks down negativity. You do this until you see results.”

It’s a way to manipulate the problem in your favor so you can get back on your feet. According to the informant, this myth was passed down from Great grandmothers and Elders and it gives them a sense of protection. This practice is also clearly rooted in religion (Catholicism) which, in itself, provides a sense of security for those who practice it. The red ink and red pen symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice and the victory that followed. But perhaps, this myth compels people to give their problems time to digress which teaches us to pick our battles wisely.

“Last Run”

  • Context: The following informant (S) is a 20 year old bike/ski enthusiast. He explains the avoidance of the words “last run” while skiing and the bad luck it can bring to the end of the day. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of any superstitions he held. The informant told me he doesn’t believe in superstitions, but never to say you’re going to take your “last run,” because it might truly be your last if you do. 
  • Text:

S: “Ok… if I’m skiing, or biking, you can’t say ‘Last Run’. Any time I have said ‘Last Run’ or anyone around me has said ‘Last Run’ an we’ve taken a run that is our last run for the day… I have ended up in the hospital.”

Me: “Same. So do you say anything instead of ‘Last Run’?”

S: “Yeah… we say either ‘2 minus 1’ or… ‘9 more runs’ or ‘8 more runs’ if you’re referring to two more runs. So 8 is if you’re referring to two more 9 is if you’re referring to last.”

Me: “Is there a reason for those numbers?”

S: “Nope. That’s just what works.”

Me: “Have you always done that?”

S: “I’ve done that since I broke both bones in this arm saying it was my last run.”

Me: “Did anyone teach you?”

S: “Yeah… everyone I grew up riding with. It is a known tradition throughout the action sports world… like any… any athlete performing at a high level knows that tradition.”

  • Analysis: Growing up in a ski town, I knew from a young age never to refer to my last run as my “last run.” We would often find code words to signify that we wanted this run to be our last for the day. I had always said “grilled cheese” or “second to last” or “2 more minus 1.” I have heard countless stories of people getting hurt on their last one after announcing it was their last run. I myself made this mistake when I was 12. After proclaiming I was doing my “last run” for the day, I made it almost to the lodge when a snowboarder hit me and broke my wrist. I never will say “last run” again. 

The Red String

Context: I noticed a friend had tied a red string tied around their wrist. As a Jew, I knew that many people who visit Israel usually come back with red strings from Jerusalem. However, my informant does not identify with any religion, so I was curious to ask how he came across one. In the piece, my informant is identified as K.G. and I am identified as D.S.

 

Background: The red string is a part of Jewish and Kabbalah folk traditions surrounding the idea of Ayin Hara, or the evil eye. It’s historically believed that tying the red string on your wrist will ward off bad luck or negative fate. The string is worn to protect many different things. In some instances, it’s used to protect the fertility of a woman, protection in times of war, and others use it to make a wish. Despite the circumstance, it is to be worn until it falls off naturally.

 

Main Piece:

DS: “How did you get the red string? I always get those when I’m in Israel”

KG: “Honestly I ordered a bunch of these online, there’s a Rabbi from Jerusalem that sells them in L.A.”

DS: “But you’re not Jewish, what inspired you to get one of these?”

KG: “Yeah, I know, but you know it’s never about religion for me. I got it for all the evil eye stuff and all that but it has a different meaning for me. There’s a lot of bad habits I have. I feel like I talk badly about people a lot and gossip, among other things. When I look at it or feel it on my wrist it’s a little reminder for me to do better. To stop engaging in these tendencies I have that I absolutely hate and want to change. I definitely wanted it as protection especially now that I’m doing really well at work, but it’s also for myself and to remind me to be better and do better, so that I can be the best version of myself and put my bad habits behind me”

 

Analysis: While the red string has an ancient and historic ritualistic tradition behind Jewish folklore, I found it very interesting that someone who has no tie to any religion was using it for his own purpose. I found it refreshing for someone to take a piece of another culture’s folklore and adapting it to make it their own, especially as an aspect for self reflection and improvement.