Tag Archives: Religion

Catholic Baptism

Background provided by BR: BR was raised in Miami, Florida. They are Dominican and have experience with the Hispanic culture in Miami. They were raised in a Catholic household.

Context: BR was approached about folklore, which they shared in the middle of the day. They explain how they were baptized later on in their life. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information): 

BR: “ I didn’t get baptized when I was a baby, I got baptized when I wa about 13 years old.  And … umm … that was very interesting because I didn’t think that, that many kids hasn’t gotten baptized yet, there were lots  of  kids, my age that had gotten baptized, yet … there were a lot of people. And I was in a Catholic Church. And we wore … the ritual was, we go to mass. We kinda pray a bit and we are wearing all black robes. You go to get baptized in the water with the priest, and he … like dunks us in the water three times. Takes us out and and we’re officially baptized and we go to change into white robes … and that’s the end of the ceremony, really. The meaning of the dark robes is that  you’re full of sin. You come into the world full of sin cause The Original sin … of Adam and Eve and then once you’re baptized you’re cleansed  of all sin. 

Me: “Did you have to … uhh … do anything … before the actual, baptism, ceremony …  or ritual to … uhh prepare for it?”

BR: “ Umm … not really, no.  It was kinda just a spiel on what we’re gonna … do. And just classes to learn about Catholic religion.” 

Me: “And … just … umm … a … like … a couple questions that you think that your Dominican background …  or …. maybe other influences … that influenced when… or … how you got your baptism … performed” 

BR: “Ummm … I’m not exactly sure about that, I feel like my culture did really have anything to do with it, I feel like it was my parent’s decision not to baptize me early.” 

Analysis: The use of water as a form or baptism can be considered very symbolic because water is considered a fundamental element. The baptism is a literal and figurative representation cleansing ones sins by washing them away with water. This spiritual ceremony has multiple perfomative aspects such as the classes and changing robes. The classes may aid in educating, but may not change spiritual stances. The classes also seem to have less importance than other apsects of this ceremony. The changing robes is another representation of purity. After the baptism BR was cleansed of all sin and allowed to wear the white robe, which is representative of purity.

“God don’t like ugly, and he’s not too fond of pretty, either,”

“God don’t like ugly, and he’s not too fond of pretty, either,”

Willie: Here- here- here’s another one. God don’t like ugly, and he’s not too fond of pretty, either.

Me: What’s that mean?

Willie: Okay, God doesn’t like people that do bad things, um…and he’s not too fond of people that wanna be perfect, or picture perfect.

My dad heard this from a couple of different places growing up, most namely his grandmother, in preachers’ sermons, and from the little old ladies after church service. It means God isn’t fond of people who are bad and sin often, but he also isn’t fond of people who try to be perfect. Honestly, I’m a big fan of this saying in particular, even though I’ve never personally heard it in context. In my opinion, sometimes, people can misunderstand what their religion asks of them in terms of morals, and try too hard to be the perfect person. Oftentimes, that can be more detrimental.

King Śibi and the Dove

This is the story of King Śibi in India, who was a uhh devout Buddhist, so uh in theory he was a devout Buddhist. … Umm one of the Kings of the gods, Indra, wanted to sort of test his faith and see how faithful he truly was. So he and a, and a companion got together and transformed themselves, one into a dove, one into a hawk. And the dove came into King Śibi’s house, palace, and uh and said “I need you to protect me” and he said “Of course I’ll protect you, that’s my role as a King”. Right afterwards the hawk comes in and says “Well I’m ready for my breakfast, where is my dove?” and he says “I can’t let you have the dove because I’m … because he’s under my protection now as the King”. And he says “Well if I don’t have the dove to eat then I’m going to die, I’ll starve to death. So why don’t you have to protect me too, do you have to do something to protect me as well?” And he says, “Well what if I give you … uh flesh off of my arm in the same amount, same weight as the dove?” This is where the pound of flesh came in Shakespeare comes from, an old Indian folklore actually. And umm said, “Ok that’s fine”. So he puts the dove on a scale, one of these scales like they have and he cuts off some of his flesh and puts it on the scale, but the dove is still too heavy. So he cuts the flesh off his other arm and puts it on the scale, the scale still doesn’t bounce. So he starts cutting off his leg flesh, and puts it up there and still the dove is heavier. And finally he somehow manages to raise himself up onto the scale, climbs into the scale himself and just at that moment, both the dove and the … and the hawk transform back into their, their um original form as gods and said, “This was simply a test”. And they restored him to his original health and his devotion was proven.

Background: The informant was previously a monk turned professor of buddhism. They learned this story in their studies of Indian buddhism and through researching and writing papers on the topic. They mainly know about Korean Zen buddhism having spent time as a monk in Korea, however they know about Indian buddhism as well. They picked up this text in their studies of Indian buddhism.

Interpretation: This text lays out and reinforces the fundamental belief in Buddhism that one should give up attachments to their worldly possessions. In this case the Buddhist in question ends up being willing to sacrifice his life in order to save the life of an animal. This act also shows equality in all things, with the human being willing to sacrifice his life for the life of the dove. It also shows this by having the dove weigh the same as the human on the set of scales. Similar motifs can be found in tales such as the tale of the Buddhist monk that throws himself off a cliff in order to feed a starving family of tigers. Another version of the text where a monk feeds himself to tigers is found here. (Wu, Ming-Kuo  (2018, May 7). Jataka tale: Prince Mahasattva. Dunhuang Foundation. http://dunhuangfoundation.us/blog/2018/3/7/jataka-tale-prince-mahasattva).

Blessed Basil

During the night of Saint John, which is in January the sixth, uh priests orthodox priests would bless the waters. After blessing the waters they would come in every house, and with the blessed waters they would bless the house. But this is a habit going on and on and on that only got interrupted for the pandemia, for the pandemic. Otherwise they would come every year, and they would come to the door and they would knock on the door, and you would open it and the priest would come with blessed song and they would sprinkle that blessed water on your walls. By now its religion, until now the story is not a story, it is a method of uh blessing your house. But from now on superstition begins, and uh when the priest sprinkles the water he does it with a bouquet of basil. A very nice smell comes out from that bouquet, and after blessing the walls, the house, the home uh the young girls would request the priest a little leaf or a little part of that basil bouquet because they say if you put that thing beneath your pillow, you dream the man you marry with, you will marry. It’s valid also for men, but men don’t do it. They are (laughs) more dignified (laughs). And this is the first layer of the story, the second layer is the further the village, the more primitive society, the harsher the habit. Actually in some villages they say that you don’t dream your husband, you see him in the mirrors and it gets freakier and freakier. But even in these days, even now, young girls, shyly or not, request the priest, “Oh could you please give me some basil, I want to dream about my future husband”. 

Background: This informant has lived in Romania their whole life and is very interested in the folk traditions of various countries. They found this piece of folklore from other people in Romania.

Interpretation: This tradition is another example of folklore and religion intertwining. The informant and I interpret it as the young women wanting some sort of blessing from an authority figure in order to think about a man. In this case the figure is a religious authority. The image that the women see is probably the man that they fancy the most. The basil also shows the power both in religion, having been blessed by holy water, and the power of nature with the strong fragrance.

Raksha Bandhan in Hinduism

Folklore/ Text: Raksha Bandhan:

SM: “Although my parents are not very religious, my grandparents still practice Hinduism– sometimes my parents will practice certain traditions to appease my grandparents. One of them is called ‘Raksha Bandhan’ which is a ritual that surrounds siblings and the importance of a brother-sister relationship. But it’s mostly about the brother, which is a little sexist if you ask me! On the day of August 18th, the sisters have to tie a bracelet, known as a Rakhi, to the brother’s right wrist. But before doing so, you dip your finger in water, place the water on your forehead, and attach a piece of rice to the damp part of your forehead. Later, the sisters have to hand feed the brother something sweet. And as return, the brother rewards the sister(s) with some sort of gift which is usually money. Traditionally, we are investing a shared responsibility of care because the brothers take care of us as women. But now my aunts and uncles will send my sister and I money as well, as to make sure we are not only celebrating men during Raksha Bandhan.”

Explanation/ Context: Raksha Bandhan, while deeply connected to Hinduism, certainly has some dated ideals and beliefs. On this annual holiday, only the male siblings of the family are celebrated. However, my informant’s family finds a way to similarly celebrate the female siblings by gifting them money. This is an example of how certain lore can change over time with the ever-changing climate of society and culture. This is their family’s attempt at fighting against certain sexism. Not to say Hinduism is a sexist religion, however, this family acknowledges that not only men should be praised. The females are just as capable of being “responsible” for the other siblings.