The informant and I are sitting in the USC Gould Law Cafe around 3:00 pm where she is describing some of the Chinese traditions her grandparents used to practice. She is a Chinese American student at the University of Southern California who was born and raised in Shanghai until she came to America for high school in Maryland. This recount describes a way to keep nightmares away.
J: When you have a bad dream, some old people would put scissors under their pillow. They’ll put it under their pillow to prevent their bad dreams.”
A: “Just a preventive measure?”
J: “Yeah, from nightmares. To make them feel secure during the night which can actually be really dangerous! What if you sleep walked during the night!? But anyway, they put scissors under their pillow and sometimes wrap it with newspaper to prevent them from actually hurting themselves.”
A: ‘Do you ever do that?”
J: “**Laughs** This is actually a really old one. Like my grandma’s generation. So sometimes they practice this but I usually don’t.”
This practice of placing scissors under one’s pillow can seem a bit counter intuitive to keeping danger away. This practice literally puts danger just under one’s head while trying to prevent danger from occurring. It’s funny how the informant laughs at her grandparents’ practice since it would seem silly to the culture she was raised in. But to her grandmother, this would seem completely normal. However, there can be some validity seen in this practice as having a weapon of protection can help to ease one’s mind and help them to not think negative thoughts while they sleep since they feel protected.
This tradition also is practied in Egypt where they have supstitions about scissors and also sleep with scissors under their pillow to ward off nightmares. See more here.