Tag Archives: reincarnation

Moroccan: Tino Moths and Rebirth

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/9/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant (AH) Is a 22 Year old USC Narrative Studies student interested in user research for games, we traded stories over a podcast we record together.
Interviewer(MW): You said you had folklore from your grandmother?
AH: Yeah, so my grandma is from morocco, there’s a lot of folklore culturey stuff and I didn’t realize it was like that until I moved away from her and was like “oh you guys don’t do that here?”
AH: But like one thing in particular is you know Tino Moths
MW: Like the plant? (Interviewer thinks AH has said Tino Moss)
AH: No the bug
MW: OHhhh Moths
AH: yeah, some people when they get into their house you think “Oh I gotta kill it or take it out of the house” but at my grandma’s house you don’t touch the moth you just admire it…because in her culture moths are kind of like ghosts when one of your family members dies they come back to you as a moth, so that was yeah.
MW: We don’t have that in my religion, but that rules
AH: Yeah, it’s sort of comforting you know, to think that the people you love are still around and stuff
Insect rebirth symbolism allows the departed agency and a fleeting return to the lives of their loved ones, this is reflected in the chance, almost random nature by which the moth ends up in your home. This belief offers a comfort in the wake of loss and serves to temporarily sate the low-level pain that comes with the loss of a loved one, that stays for the rest of your life. Likewise the respect for the moth constitutes a respect for the dead, because those two beings are intertwined. Likewise this piece of folklore serves to connect AH to his grandmother, so that every time he sees a moth he sees her, allowing her to transcend death and remain with him, a part of his life, as her loved ones did when the story lived with her.Thus here, the moth becomes a symbol for death, it’s ephemeral nature makes contact with it fleeting and therefore more valuable, as it carries the soul of the departed onward to wherever it goes next.

Haitian Reincarnation

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Haitian-American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: New York, New York
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French

Context/Background: The informant’s parents are from Haiti which holds positive beliefs towards reincarnation. One particular encounter sticks with them within this belief.


[Face-to-Face conversation]

“So, my family- or I think Haitian people in general just believe that if someone is born the day someone dies, the person who dies- their spirit goes inside the new baby. So like, I think my Dad had a friend who died the day my sister was born, so he’s like, I think his spirit is like, in my sister. So, that’s a nice thing we believe. Yeah.”

Introduction: Personal exposure and informed through Haitian father.

Analysis/Interpretation: This belief is seen across cultures and religions, so I find that intriguing and would love to explore further similarities around the globe with similar ideas. I remember watching different documentaries and being introduced to the idea of reincarnation from different cultures and societies which was interesting to observe and compare that to the belief systems of others. I think the ability to find peace of mind in the informant’s specific circumstance by having faith in the transfer of a soul to another body as comforting, in a way.


For reference to reincarnation in other cultures, reference

(2019). Basics of Hinduism: Karma and Reincarnation. Retrieved from https://www.himalayanacademy.com/readlearn/basics/karma-reincarnation

Tsuji, T. (1996-2019). BuddhaNet Basic Buddhism Guide on Reincarnation. Retrieved from https://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/reincarnation.htm

Commonplace Reincarnation

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 61
Occupation: Salesman
Residence: Southern California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 24, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

During high-school, my dad studied abroad in Brazil for a year. He stayed with a family of Lebanese, Druze immigrants who showed him both Brazilian and Lebanese traditions, and always included him in everything. Growing up, I heard tons of stories from his time there. The Brazilian stories were relatively tame – beaches, clubs, schools, etc. But the Lebanese culture was of particular interest.

Driving home from lunch one sunny afternoon, I ask him and my mom if they have any stories that I could use for my folklore project.

“And they also believed in reincarnation. Very strongly. Cause my – the Brazilian father of the family I was with never talked about it, but his wife said as a boy growing up in Lebanon, uh, when he was a young boy he started remembering his death as another person. His life. And he kept remembering more and more about it. And he was a young guy and, uh, a middle aged man or something, and there was a feud going on with another family.  And every year he started to remember more about this past life.  And uh, one day he remembered going to the water and he was bending over, washing his face, and looking up in the water and seeing one of his enemies behind him swinging something down. And he remembered his own murder. And after that he never talked about it. But it was common knowledge in the family, when he was growing up, as a kid he remembered this other life. So they all, they all believed in reincarnation. But it was interesting because, I would never have imagined this serious businessman recounting past life experiences. But he was a boy. But there was some story of him going to the house of the person who had been killed when he was twelve years old. And he knew the family and he told the family. And he knew where things were hidden in a drawer and things like that. Yeah, cause he remembered from his.. from his past life. So, but – the family – I was going, ‘weren’t they amazed’? But when they were telling me this story – it was the old uncle Rashid who was telling me this – and he said, ‘oh no, it happens all the time in the Middle East, it’s no big deal’. Like it’s common. ”

Holy cow this story is incredible. I’ve only ever read about these sorts of reincarnation stories online, but to hear it from my dad was a whole other experience. In America, stories such as these are usually scoffed at and forgotten in a matter of hours The same is true in the Middle East, however their reasoning is the exact opposite of ours. Whereas we think of reincarnation as being wholly impossible, there, it is so commonplace that stories such as this are considered drab and boring. It’s insane to think that there is a whole group of countries that believe in reincarnation so readily that they never really talk about it at all.


--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese, Mexican, American
Age: 23
Occupation: USC Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

My informant is a twenty-three year old man who is half-Japanese, half-Mexican. He grew up more with Japanese culture, and was very eager to share the folklore he knew from this culture. The following is from when I interviewed him in the USC Village.


Peter: “My grandparents aren’t devout buddhists, but my grandparents would use reincarnation to get me to behave as a child. They would tell me that if I’m a good person– a kind person– I’ll get a good second life… But if I’m mean or treat people poorly, I’ll come back as a cockroach! [He chuckles at his own ephaptic shout of ‘cockroach’] Now that I think of it, my grandparents would also bring up karma in this way.”


Me: “Karma?”


Peter: “Yeah, like, you are rewarded when you do things for people. People often do things for you in return. Or if you do something good, something good will happen to so. Same for the bad.”


Me: “Has Karma or Reincarnation influenced your life in other ways, or has it affected your own philosophy?”


Peter: “Well, some of my professors gave me letters of recommendations for USC. So… I rewarded them with gifts to thank them for what they did. As far as karma goes, I think it sticks with me — whenever someone goes out of their way for me, I make sure to make up for it in the future. It really makes me appreciate and value the people who do good things for me.”



I think this is an example of a folk belief/superstition being passed down to a generation that has repurposed the belief to fit his modern surroundings. My informant is not buddhist, but he has found the beliefs of karma and reincarnation useful to shaping his own view of the world. He chooses to reward those to help him because he wants to make everything equal the same way karma is said to make things equal.



--Informant Info--
Nationality: Turkey
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/24/2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Turkish

The following story is collected from my friend. He is from U.S.A. This interview is done face-to-face. “A” refers to me, the collector. And “B” refers to the participant.

A: “Did you experience anything you would explain as supernatural?


B: “I can’t remember now but I know something happened to my best friend.”


A: “Can you tell me about it?”

B: “When he was a kid, at one point he didn’t talk with his aunt for 5 years, because she and my friend’s father had a disagreement and they were not allowed to talk. But when he was younger, he loved spending time with her. At the end of 5th year, it was her birthday and my friend finally found the courage to ask his day, if they can tell call and wish happy birthday to her. Then my friends father told him the sad news. Apparently, his aunt died 2 years ago and my friends father did not tell this to him. So my friend ran out of the house when he learned this and started to cry.”

A: “How old was he?”

B: “I am not too sure. Maybe 12”

A: “Continue the story please”

B: “So, he was crying in the street and he saw a parrot standing next to him. He told me that a lady come up to him and  said “oh look this birds like you”. Then my friend remembered that his aunt liked parrots and thought maybe this bird was someway connected to her. Because he never saw that parrot next to his home and the day he tried to connect with his aunt, he saw it.  ”

A: “Does he still believe in it or did he stopped believing once he grew?”

B:” I can’t really talk about my friends beliefs, but I know that, whenever he tells this story to someone, he gets emotional. So maybe he still believes.”


--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian-American
Age: 23
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles/Palo Alto
Date of Performance/Collection: April 1, 2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

This piece was performed by my co-worker. She was born in India but moved to the United States when she was three months old. Her mother comes from Delhi, but her father’s family is originally from the area that is now Pakistan. She told me this story of learning about reincarnation from her grandmother and learning that her family believed that she (the informant) had been reincarnated.

“So, when I was in middle school… I don’t know it came up but someone asked me once if I believed in reincarnation and I was like, actually I don’t know that much about it even though I am Indian. So I asked my grandma about it when I went home and she was like, ‘Actually we believe that you were partially reincarnated.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa this is really cool!’ So I asked her how she knew and she told me basically after my great-grandpa died (so her grandfather) after he died she did a little prayer, and there’s this whole ritual that you do in India….Basically she did this prayer for about a week, and at the end of the week you have this dream that tells you, or shows you what the person who you’re asking about is doing. In the dream, if you see them praying at a temple, or a mandir as you would say in Hindi, it means that they’re going to stay in the afterlife. Their soul is not coming back, but if you see them, I don’t know, doing something else that would hint they were coming back, they were coming back. My grandmother did it, I think twice, for my great-grandfather and then he, the first time, was definitely staying there. And then later on, when my mom was pregnant with me it was actually…somehow he ended up coming back, supposedly. The reason why it was weird is because this only works, you can only tell if someone is going to be reincarnated if someone else in the family becomes pregnant within six months of the person dying. So, the person died, grandma tried the thing the first time, didn’t work out. but she tried it again later, I think, and then that time… the first time it said he wasn’t coming back,  the second time he wasn’t but it was so close to me being born that we thought, maybe he is. And so when I was growing up, and the signs of reincarnation supposedly are within the first five years of life, my grandma said I used to walk exactly like him and that’s a little sketch maybe that doesn’t mean that much, you could walk like a bunch of different people and it’s not that really specific, but he had such a specific gait that they thought, wow, he’s in her, I guess. And I had a bunch of other things, like the way I would talk, it would be just like him.”

Q: Is it common to try multiple times to see what will happen?

“I don’t think so, my grandma just was curious. I think that was the first time she had ever done it, too. I know there was little bit of confusion when she interpreted, in fact I think that may be why she did it the second time because of the interpretation, and she wasn’t sure.”


Even though reincarnation is a fairly well-known kind of folklore, this piece is interesting because it shows that folklore doesn’t necessarily work the same way every time. The informant’s grandmother didn’t seem very experienced with the rituals, so she had to try a second time to make sure she got it right. However, that didn’t make the ritual any less legitimate, as her family still believes she was reincarnated.



--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian-American
Age: 21
Occupation: Advertising
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 16, 2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

My roommate’s parents were both born in Indian (she was born in the United States) so she sat down with me in my apartment and explained some folklore that she learned from her parents. Her relationship to the folklore isn’t necessarily that she truly believes in it, but that’s an important part of her culture.

“We believe, or like, in general, not like I’m a crazy person…bad things happen to you because you’re paying for deeds that happened from your previous life/your previous birth. And so, shit happens now because you did something bad in a previous life. It’s also like karma.”

Q: Is karma related to reincarnation?

“Karma means you pay for every deed. So, this is a form of karma.”

Q: What would be an example of karma?

“Well, the way we interpreted it was when my dad got sick, it was because in a prior life or a prior form he had done something bad and this was… he was paying for it now.”

Q: How widespread is this belief?

“Pretty universal in Hinduism”

Q: Where did you first learn about karma?

“From my parents. It was one of those principles I grew up with. So, it was like, don’t be mean to people, because it’s going to come back and bite you. What goes around comes around. That’s how it started, because when you’re little you’re like ‘What is reincarnation, I don’t know’ And then when you learn about reincarnation…it’s applied on a larger scale



Possessed by an Old Friend

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwan
Age: 50
Occupation: Homemaker
Residence: Bay Area, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 15, 2014
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English, Hokkien

This is the story [translated from Mandarin] of what happened to a childhood friend of mine (who will henceforth be referred to as ‘L’) in the Bay Area, relayed through his mother and then my mother.

It started during L’s freshman year of high school, when he started hearing a voice in his head. L refused to leave the house and also refused to sleep. His mother thought it was a phase, but when the symptoms persisted and worsened, she brought him to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist ran some tests but was unable to diagnose any psychotic disorder or prescribe treatment. After more psychiatrists, more doctors, more hospitals, they were still unable to figure out what was wrong. One of the doctors, however, told L’s mother, “You know, I’ve heard of cases like this before. You should go consult a spirit medium.” The mother, being non-religious and rather distant from her Taiwanese roots, was skeptical, but desperate to cure her son.

When the spirit medium heard their situation, she asked, “Does L’s room have a wide window that is always closed because it wouldn’t let light in anyway?” Upon confirmation from the astonished mother, the spirit medium said that a ghost had entered L’s room through the window, which was considered very yin (i.e. dark; negative) in fengshui. According to the spirit medium, this ghost had been looking for L for a very long time (i.e. many reincarnations on L’s part). They had been best friends many lives ago—possibly even brothers through a blood oath, because the ghost never stopped looking after they were separated. Now that the ghost found him, he did not want to leave and wanted to keep L all to himself in his room.

Conversations with other spirit mediums wielded the same results. Though skeptic at first, L’s mother began to believe in these spiritual beliefs in order to cure her son. With the ghost in his mind, however, it was difficult for L to accept the practices of spiritual cleansing (exorcism).

The first step that the spiritual mediums suggested was to leave the yin house. After many struggles, L was finally able to live at a relative’s house and began to feel better. Talismans and Buddhist chants were used to cleanse his house, but because L’s family only halfheartedly believed in the spiritual powers, L relapsed when he returned. The second time he was able to leave the house, he went travelling around California with friends, and felt better again. Spiritual mediums then suggested to L to travel to Taiwan, where more experienced spiritual mediums (i.e. Buddhist monks) could help him. He has been better since.

It was interesting to me how this all happened in the United States, with Caucasian spirit mediums believing in ghosts more than the Taiwanese family did. The vast majority of the people in Taiwan believe in ghosts due to the prevalence of Taoism and Buddhism there.

JangHwa HongRyeon

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 24, 2013
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

This story was told on a Sunday afternoon. She had just heard the story being told to one of her younger cousins, because it is very much the Korean version of Cinderella. It reminded her of the belief that children who showed much filial piety were granted good afterlives, and that evil is always repaid with evil. It is also meant to teach young men to keep watch for evil women and make sure that they were never sought for as wives. It also had the effect of teaching women what qualified as a wicked wife, and what was really meant by a caring mother. It follows very Confucian ideals, which is also an inherent part of Korean culture as well. The topic matter prior to this had been about dating, and this story was just something that came up as a result of that.

In the time of Great King Sejong, there was a man named Bae Mu Ryong who lived in Chul-San-Gun in the province of Pyong-An. He was born pretty well off because he did well enough with business, and his family was good so there was nothing for him to be jealous of. It was just that he had no children to pass on his name, so he was very, very, sad. One day, his wife, while dreaming, thought that a celestial being had come down and given her a flower. In giving her a flower, the wind blew and the flower slowly changed into a beautiful girl. The wife was so shocked by this that she woke up. She decided to tell this to her husband, who responded, “The heavens must have noticed that we have no children and are watching over us to provide that precious child for us.” Because he said that, the two became very happy. After this moment, the wife found out that she was pregnant with a child. They found that when she was born, she was so precious and particularly beautiful that they had to call her “JangHwa” (Rose-Flower) because she resembled precious jewels. When JangHwa was two, the mother gave birth to another child. Although the couple desperately wanted a son, they came to have another daughter. In their mind, because there was no other choice, gave her the name HongRyeon (Red-Lotus). The two sisters, as they grew older, became extremely beautiful and were extremely filially pious children. After raising such daughters, the couple found that they loved their daughters to an amount that nobody could compare with. However, there were no sons, so the couple was always worried about continuing the family line. But there was a time of sadness and the wife became very ill and was unable to move. The husband went and got medicine for her, but there was not even a single change in her condition. JangHwa looked up to the heavens to ask for the help of the gods in keeping her mother safe, but to no avail because the gods could not intervene in the event of illness. As a result, the mother died, leaving two daughters behind with the father all alone in the world.

“In the last life, she must have accumulated much bad sin in order to have left the world this early. Although it is not sad to die, it is sad that JangHwa and HongRyeon cannot close their eyes to the fact that they will have nobody to guide them throughout their lives. All I can do is wish for my wife to pass peacefully on, so that her weary soul can finally change and have rest and be reincarnated into another woman. Perhaps I will be able to meet her again and we will fall in love again and be reunited.” After lamenting so, the old man had no choice but to move on.

Despite having loved his former wife, the old man wished to preserve his family’s bloodline, so he remarried another woman. She was fertile, and was able to bear him three boys, much to his pleasure. She on the other hand, despised JangHwa and HongRyeon immensely. The two girls’ father had fallen in love with a shrew, with both a twisted heart and twisted body. She was clever, however, and was able to deceive the father into believing that she cared for the two girls as her own children. However, that only continued until she had borne three sons to her husband, which gave her much power in the family, as boys were valued more than girls because they could continue the bloodline. As soon as her position in the household became stable, she became extremely abusive to both JangHwa and HongRyeon, who did nothing but behave as filially pious daughters. Despite the constant stream of abuse that both of the girls faced, they did not say a single word to their father because they did not want to worry him or have him feel guilty about marrying the woman. Unfortunately, their younger brothers were no better. Having been raised and spoiled by their mother, they felt no love for their sisters and mistreated them with a terrible brutality. Sadly, even that went unnoticed by the father. As the boys grew up, they only became wicked along with their mother, who cared even less about the girls. But even in such an environment where they received no love and were treated so terribly by their stepmother and their younger brothers, the two girls continued to grow beautifully throughout their adolescence into adulthood. Eventually, the time came when the two girls could no longer truly be called girls, because they had truly matured into beautiful women who were ready to leave the home and start families of their own. Janghwa had actually gotten engaged with a man she loved very much, and was contemplating marriage. After a long period of time with much deliberation, she agreed to marry the man she was engaged to. The father, despite the sadness he felt at giving his daughter away to another family, was overjoyed at the fact that his beloved daughter was finally getting married.

The father told his wife, “Go and help prepare a wedding for JangHwa. She is old enough to move out of the home now, and she is exceedingly beautiful! Surely she will make a wonderful bride. Do this, and do it well.” However, the stepmother refused to do so. Having become very power hungry, she no longer thought of JangHwa and HongRyeon as even remotely part of her family. In her mind, they had become the extra mouths to feed and essentially slaves to the “main family” of the stepmother and her three sons. She didn’t want to spend any of her money, or any money that could be inherited by her sons on the ones in the family who weren’t even hers. And in her endless greed, she calculated, plotted, and finally came up with a plan. Having wanted to get rid of JangHwa for a long time, the stepmother was prepared to do anything. And so, one night, she carried out her plan.

One night, as JangHwa was sleeping peacefully in her bed, she quietly whispered to her son, “We must do this tonight. Go find a rat, and without anybody seeing you, go skin it. Slip it into her bed, and then leave. Let no one see you. Be silent, and be sneaky. With this, we shall finally be rid of that wench who thought she could use up our family’s money for her own selfish desires!”

Her son eagerly agreed, because he was the firstborn and would inherit the money after the death of his father. Per his mother’s commands, he went outside and caught a rat. Using his knife, he quickly skinned the rat. He sneaked into his sister’s room, and hid it under the sheets. The plan having been fulfilled, they all went to bed.

In the early hours of the morning, however, the nightmare was about to begin. Stepmother had “woken up” in a fright, waking up her husband as well. She frantically told her husband that she had been having nightmares regarding her older stepdaughter, and that surely meant something was amiss. Such omens, she had said, could have only meant that her stepdaughter had something evil about her. They went to her room, while JangHwa was still asleep, and pulled off the covers. There lied the skinned rat, which looked ultimately like a very bloody miscarriage. She screamed that she knew something was wrong about JangHwa the whole time, accusing her of being an unchaste girl who had had a child out of wedlock. JangHwa, who was shocked into silence because she was being accused of something she did not do to such an extreme degree, was utterly unable to defend herself. As a result, her father agreed with her stepmother and believed that she had slept with an unknown man and had become pregnant with his child, defiling herself and the name of the household. The shame of not being believed was too much for JangHwa. After all, this whole time, she had done absolutely nothing wrong, and had to deal with the abuse that her stepmother heaped upon her every chance she got and had said nothing to her father. She fled the house in tears to a pond in the nearby forest where she could cry without anybody seeing her.

Her stepmother, being both crafty and wicked sent her oldest son after JangHwa with the strict command: “If you see her near the pond, then drown her and make sure that she does not come back.” He eagerly complied, and followed JangHwa’s path into the forest. He pushed her into the pond, and watched as she drowned. However, he would not escape punishment for having taken someone’s life. A tiger suddenly appeared and viciously tore off one of his arms and legs. Needless to say, he was crippled by this, and was unable to do much. In addition, who would want to marry such a crippled and disfigured person? Although he was the oldest, the inheritance he would get would not help his condition in any way.

This enraged the stepmother beyond belief. She had gotten what she desired, which was getting rid of JangHwa. The cost of having done that, however, was much too high. She now had a crippled son who was essentially good for nothing. She was severely embittered by this fact and took it all out on Hongryeon. Having become sharper and more shrew-like with her bitterness and rage, she very quickly made life for Hongryeon beyond unbearable. All the poison and abuse became too much for her to handle by herself, especially since JangHwa was no longer there to console her and help her move on. Hongryeon left to the pond where JangHwa had died and committed suicide, drowning herself in the pond.

At this time, the mayor in the town changed. It was not such a big deal, as mayors changed from time to time as they were repositioned depending on what status they had acquired during the time they had served at a specific place. The new mayor died though, the night immediately after having moved into the village. This continued, as each mayor following the first mayor died the first night in office. Nobody knew why this was happening. A lot of rumors were spreading around town. Mayors were even afraid to come to the town because they thought they would die. Nobody ever found a culprit, and nobody was ever able to explain just what had happened to the mayors.

One day, a new mayor decided to come. He was young and he was strong; he was not afraid for his life. He knew what happened to the guys that had come before him in his position, but he was willing to go anyway. During the night, he was sitting in his room preparing to go to bed. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew out his candle and he heard various screams and moans fill the air. The air became very damp, and the smell of wet moss became very strong. His door opened by itself, but then he saw them. Two ghostly girls had opened the door, crying and weeping heavily. He had no patience for hysterics, but he felt that he needed to know. He asked them, “Why did you kill all the previous mayors? What sin have they committed that you felt the need to kill them?” The two wept and wept on as they explained their situation. They had not wanted to kill the mayors before him. What had happened was that they had appeared before each of the previous mayors. However, each mayor had been frightened to death because of what they saw, which was not the fault of the two girls. They told the newest mayor, “We only wanted to explain the injustice that has been done to us so that it can be fixed, clearing our names of the shame that they have been stained so deeply with.” JangHwa’s ghost had been unable to move on because she had died in anguish, knowing that everybody believed she was an unchaste girl. She wanted to undo that before she would be able to move on into the afterlife. She told the mayor that she had been framed by her stepmother, who had wanted to get rid of her. Her stepbrother had been an accomplice to this by murdering her in the end, drowning her in the pond she had run to. They asked the mayor if there was anything that he could do to clear JangHwa’s name.

His answer was simple. “Give me proof that they did this, and I will restore your honor as soon as I am able to do so.”

Her reply was just as simple. “Go check the supposed fetus that everybody said was mine. If you examine it, you will see that it is not mine, for I was a chaste girl while I was alive, and I committed no such act.”

The next morning, the new mayor did what the sisters’ ghosts had asked him to do. He summoned the family members who were involved, who were the father, stepmother, and the eldest son and examined the fetus. The stepmother had insisted that the “fetus” had come from Janghwa’s body as definitive proof that she was a wicked child who was unchaste. However, when the mayor asked to see the body, the stepmother tried to say that she no longer had it. She could not see why the mayor would know about the fetus at all, or why he would be concerned with it. Nobody knew what had happened except for her and her eldest son. She had no idea that JangHwa and HongRyeon were unable to move on to the afterlife. Under threat of punishment, however, the stepmother managed to produce the dead “fetus.” When he split it with a knife, the innards revealed that the supposed fetus was nothing more than a a common filthy rat. Stepmother and her eldest son were sentenced to death, and were excommunicated from the village. The father was free to go, however, because the mayor felt that he had known nothing about what was going on and was innocent of any wrongdoing. Plus, fulfilling his promise to the two ghostly sisters, he proved that JangHwa was an innocent girl who was the victim of a malicious plot to get rid of her. JangHwa’s honor was restored, and she was no longer thought of as a loose girl with no morals.

Years later, the girls’ father married once again, having fallen in love with another woman. On the night of his third wedding, he had a dream. He saw his two daughters in his dream, and they were more beautiful than ever. He wept because he believed that he had been unable to take care of them properly in life. They told him that nothing was his fault, and that since things were as they should be, they wanted to come back to him in life. Having died so young while having lived pure lives, they would have been reincarnated very quickly into human forms again. This promise was fulfilled, because his wife soon became pregnant. Nine months later, she delivered and found that she had given birth to twin girls. The father believed that his daughters had truly returned to him in the end. He named them “JangHwa” and “HongRyeon” and he loved them very much. His wife, too, loved them as she was also very kind woman. The twins grew healthy and in a loving environment, and the family lived a happy life in the end.

This legend is important in that it is a strong reminder of what not to be like. It teaches to be honest and virtuous rather than greedy and cunning. Goodness is rewarded with goodness, while nothing good comes from cruelty. It also teaches the virtue of being brave and not succumbing to fright because it will reveal truth. This is also important in that it is a story from my personal culture, and I understand the ideals that are behind it. Confucian ideals, filial piety, and even Buddhism with the idea of reincarnation are all part of the origins of Korean culture. This story affirms that.


The Midnight Dare

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Thai
Age: 25
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: March 21st, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Thai

Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.


If you want to know who you were in your past life…You light a candle, turn off all the lights…And then at midnight you stared into the mirror…then your reflection will be what you looked like before this life. I tried this once with my sisters. We stayed up when we were in elementary school and went to our bathroom and looked at the mirror. We all ran away from the mirror before it’s midnight because we were all too scared.

The informant said that this is a dare many kids were told in school by their classmates in Bangkok. While growing up she was told about this game by her classmates at school and her older relatives. It is a dare usually done in groups and usually takes place in the bathroom. It was a test of courage among young children, and sometimes even adults. It is one of the sleepover dare or camp dare. Sometimes it is a dare told at school and then some individual try it at his/her own home. Most of the time the majority would run away before the clock strikes midnight from fear of the unknown. She said according to the dare some people who tried it and stayed passed the midnight mark said they saw shadows, silhouette of a person, or even blood dripping on the mirror.

This also becomes a belief among some people. The informant stated that she avoid looking into the mirror at midnight herself until this day just because of the dare. She said even though she did not stayed until midnight to see the alternate reflection the fear still lingers constantly.



This shows how fear plays a part in belief and how it interferes and shapes a person’s daily life routine. I think that this dare, similar to the concept of legend, is kept alive by certain “friend of a friend” memorate. An alternate reflection does not have to happen every time but if it happened to someone once in a while the story can continues. It is similar to the “Bloody Mary” dare that children do because both challenge the idea of fear. It is also a bonding experience for groups of people under scary unknown circumstance.

Turning off the lights while having the only one light as a single candle emphasizes this idea where many ghost stories are relating more to primitive objects rather than contemporary objects. Candles are barely used in everyday life and mostly used in religious and spiritual settings.

This dare also shows the fear and the unknown concept at the liminal period in a certain time line or cycle. In this case the liminality, or the in between state, is at mid night which is the in-between state of two days, night and morning.

Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, the majority of the people believe in reincarnation. So to be able to see your past life is to see who you were before, which is unknown. It challenges the concept of beliefs and fear of knowing what you’ve done before this life.

The fear around mirror and mirror reflection echoes in Western Traditions as well: a vampire has no reflection, ghost does not appear in the mirror, ghost only appears in mirror, etc. The idea of mirror as another realm or reflection as a parallel world is a common theme that resonates in many cultures.