Tag Archives: religious

Ma Ho Saddha Jataka

Nationality: Burmese

Primary Language: Burmese

Other Language(s): English

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Baltimore, WA

Performance Date: 03/19/2024

Y.Y. has been my friend since Kindergarten, and is also a Burmese person who is originally from Yangon, Myanmar. He recounts the time P, his grandma told him a story that is a well known legend back home. Their relationship is very close knit, as his grandma would regularly tell him Burmese legends and superstitions that she has learned about. 

“When I was younger, maybe 13 or 14, my grandma told me about a legend about the Ma Ho Saddha, a scholar prodigy that is well known in the Buddhist community. He is also someone that became Buddha after his next few lives. In this story, a mother is traveling with her baby. She wanted to take a bath so she stopped by a river and left the baby on the shore momentarily. In Buddhism, there’s a type of ogre or ‘ogress’ as you know, called Belu Ma. They can shapeshift and such and they also like to feed on humans. This one Belu Ma that disguised herself as an extremely beautiful woman, and tried to take the baby. She picked up the baby and was about to leave, but the mother saw her and started arguing. She exclaimed that the baby was her child and why she was taking him. In response to this, the Belu Ma claimed that the baby was her child, and they started arguing in front of many other people who started to look at the loud scene. The people told them to go to the Ma Ho Saddha so that he can decide whose baby it is and resolve the problem. They went to him and he said that they should play a game. He told them to pull the child on either end of his limbs, and whoever is able to take the baby will be known as the mother. The two women did as they were told, but of course the baby started crying since it hurts. The true mom started to feel bad and let the baby go. The Belu Ma started celebrating and said that she was the mother but surprisingly, the Ma Ho Saddha stopped her. He said that no, she isn’t because the true mother would have stopped pulling since she would care for her child. And so he gave the baby to the real mother. I think my grandma told me this story mostly because she loves to share these types of legends; she even has a  subscription to a magazine on Burmese superstitions and legends! I think this was one of the stories that showed how knowledgeable and smart the Ma Ho Saddha was so I took it as a lesson showing how Buddha’s past life as a scholar was very wise.”

I personally found this story kind of creepy but also really interesting because of its twist. I think it’s possible that this story was used to spread Buddhism and preach about how Buddha was a very good and wise figure even in his previous lives. Since it is perceived as a true story that he was a prodigy scholar in his past life, it would only encourage people to live by Buddha’s morals. The series of stories about Ma Ho Saddha’s intelligence continues to prove that. I think this story also solidified people’s beliefs in Belu and Belu Ma (demons) which in turn can enforce people to pray often out of fear for the Belu.

Folkspeech – Methuselah

“As old as Methuselah’s cat”

The informant often heard the saying “as old as Methuselah’s cat” from their family who said the saying was often used around Irish crowds, as well as commonly in Ireland. It can be used to state a rule is “as old as Methuselah’s cat,” when talking about someone’s age, and so on. The origin is not concretely said to be Irish but used by Irish people as they are often very religious and Methuselah is an old figure in Christian and Catholic religion. Multiple variations are also used by changing the name of Methuselah to something else.

The Formation of The Khalsa

NM is a USC student born to a second-generation Punjabi Sikh father and a White American mother. He shared a myth that his family would tell him at family gatherings about the Sikh religion:

NM.) Um, yeah so this is gonna be more of a summary than anything, but uh, so first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, uh. Basically, uh, they were being invaded, and the people didn’t really wanna fight back because it was, like, civilians and all that. So, uh, he asked like a few brave people to come up. And he got a first person pretty readily, and he took him to the back of the tent and came out with a bloody sword. And, after that, he was like, “If we sacrifice, we can win.” And after getting three more people, coming out with a bloodier sword each time, uh, he came out and revealed that he was actually slaughtering an animal, I think it was a goat. And uh, the men were like, one of like the first Sikh warriors, and, I forget the moral of it but that’s basically it. And he went on to like, talk about the four strengths that Sikhism um, like, endorses, which is like, intelligence, wealth, and material, like the strength of your sword, and physical strength

Me.) And, like, how did that affect you and your family. Like, when were you told that? In what circumstance?

NM.) Um, just at, like, family gatherings. And, I think I was first told at like ten, and most recent time I heard it was, like, probably last year. Um, I’m forgetting the moral now but it, like, told, it was supposed to be about bravery, and I think I did internalize that, at the time. Um, yeah, uh, that’s cool. 

This narrative is a legend that describes the formation of the first Sikh Khalsa. The Khalsa was a group of warrior-saints of the Sikh religion. It is unclear whether this actually happened in the creation of the first Khalsa, but it is a common legend that is shared by believers in the Sikh religion. It’s notable that NM believed that it was the first of the ten Sikh gurus, Guru Nanak, that formed the Khalsa instead of Guru Gobind Singh, who is more commonly believed to have performed that act.

While NM is somewhat disconnected from his family’s religions, being unable to understand or speak Punjabi and not being raised religiously, he still claims to be affected by the stories he heard growing up. While many people have stopped following the religions of the parent’s and grandparent’s generations, this is an example of how that heritage still affects those people.

Religious myth- How Ganesha got his elephant head


Ganesha’s mother Parvati asked him to guard the entrance to their house, while she was getting ready. She told Ganesha to not allow anyone to come inside the house, until she came out to see him. Ganesha stood guard outside while Parvati went in. Shiva, Ganesha’s father, came home. Ganesha refused to let Shiva go in because he was obeying his mother. Shiva got angry and there was a fight between the two of them. In the fight, Shiva beheaded Ganesha with his trident. When Parvati came out and saw this, she was enraged and cursed that the entire universe will be destroyed. Shiva regretted killing Ganesha. To bring Ganesha back to life, Shiva asked another god, Brahma, to bring him the head of the first animal that he sees. The first animal that Brahma saw was an elephant. So Brahma got the head of the elephant and gave it to Shiva. Shiva placed the elephant’s head on Ganesha and brought him back to life. This is how Ganesha has the head of an elephant and the body of a human.


JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She still practices Hinduism to this day, and follows all of the religion’s traditions, observes the festivals, and believes in its myths to this day. She tried to pass this on to me as a child, but her religious beliefs never really connected with me. She agreed to retell this myth to me for this assignment.


After telling me the story, JG explained to me that Parvati symbolizes the soul and Shiva symbolizes the mind. When Ganesha stopped Shiva from going into the house, he unknowingly stopped the mind from meeting the soul. The elephant head symbolizes memory and realization. Once Ganesha had the elephant head, he realized what he had done. Ganesha also symbolizes the removal of obstacles.

I remember from my upbringing that Ganesha is the first god you’re supposed to pray to before starting anything major. This makes sense because essentially, what this folktale is telling you is that praying to Ganesha connects your mind and soul, and allows you to remember things correctly. This myth probably comes from the Indus River civilization, where the origins of Hinduism can be traced to. This story remains as something that’s told to children, to entertain them and to familiarize them with the basics of Hinduism from a young age.


Informant Info

Nationality: Indian

Age: 53

Occupation: Computer Programmer

Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada

Date of Performance/Collection: 2023

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Tamil

Relationship: Mother

Referred as AS.  AS was born in India and moved to the United States when she was 24. 


Thai Poosam is a Hindu festival celebrated by the Tamil community, particularly in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. The festival is held in the Tamil month of Thai (January-February) and is dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and victory.  The festival is characterized by elaborate rituals, religious ceremonies, and the participation of many devotees from all over the region to participate in the festivities.


While growing up, AS attended this yearly festival on several occasions.

One of the festival’s main events is the Kavadi Attam, a devotional dance performed by devotees as a form of penance and offering to Lord Murugan.  During this dance, devotees carry kavadis, decorated structures weighing up to 40 pounds, on their shoulders as they perform various dance movements.

Another important aspect of Thai Poosam is the Pal Kavadi, a procession of devotees who carry milk pots as offerings to Lord Murugan. This procession is led by the Pal Kavadi carriers, who are dressed in bright and colorful attire and are accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments such as the nadaswaram and the thavil.


According to Hindu mythology, Thai Poosam marks the day when the goddess Parvati gave Lord Murugan, her son, a vel (spear) to defeat the demon Soorapadman and his army of demons. Lord Murugan, with the help of his vel, defeated the demons and restored peace to the world.

Also, Lord Murugan is believed to be a deity who can bestow wealth, health, and wisdom upon his devotees. Devotees fast, pray, and offer special prayers and rituals to Lord Murugan, seeking his blessings and protection.  It is believed that by observing fasts and performing rituals, one can purify one’s body and mind and eliminate negative energies and impurities. Some devotees perform acts of self-mortification, such as piercing their tongues or cheeks with sharp objects, to seek purification and atonement for their sins.  Finally, Thai Poosam is believed to be a day of community and togetherness. Devotees come together to perform the rituals and offer prayers, and the festival provides an opportunity for families and friends to bond and strengthen their relationships.