Tag Archives: Soul

“The eye of the soul fattens your horse”

Context: My informant is a 29 year-old man who is of Cuban descent. He grew up in San Diego and still lives there. He described a common saying for Cubans that his family taught him growing up. He likes this saying because it has led him to be more attentive and focused at many parts of his life.

Transcription

Informant:

“‘El ojo del alma el gordo el caballo’ is a popular Cuban saying. In english it translates to the eye of the soul fattens your horse. It basically means if you care about something and you want it to grow, you have to um… keep your eyes on it and pay attention. I remember my parents telling me this when I was growing up and it has always been something that has stuck with me. I um… definitely wanna teach it to my children some day,”

Thoughts:

This saying resonated with me as I am also a Cuban person. This was definitely a message implemented by my family throughout the years as it shaped a lot of how I thought about work and things that I care about in general. It is the culmination of hearing phrases like this that helped me to understand the world around me. This type of oral tradition is extremely impactful, especially to children, as they are so malleable. 

This is the type of phrase that the informant will pass on to his kids and so on forever as these types of sayings are very important to the culture and beliefs. Many other cultures have sayings along this message which helps explain why it is such an important message to hold. Using the horse as a reference is very interesting and also mentioning the idea of a soul as these things illuminate that these ideas might be more common for Cuban people to understand than others.

Wake your body, but don’t forget to wake your soul – Mexican Superstition

Piece: 

If you take your kids with you to the ranch, let’s say when you go work the field, and they fall asleep on the floor, because they are tired or because you are working. And you know how in the field the dirt is loose, and you know, when kids are young they are innocent, they are innocent until they become adults. So when they are kids, their soul is still really innocent too, because they don’t know anything yet. If you tell them that a certain bad spirit is nearby they won’t know what to make of it. So if your kid happens to fall asleep on the ground, the beliefs of the old times are that you have to grab a twig, or a branch and start hitting them. You have to yell their name and hit them at the same time. You do this so that their spirit can return back to their body when they wake up. You’ll know you accomplished this because they wake up crying. The same goes for when you fall somewhere, you know when you fall and you get spooked? It’s like your soul stays in the place where you fell. So when this happens, after someone has fallen, they will go grab a branch and start hitting themselves in order to wake their soul again.

Background Information: The informant was my aunt. She grew up in a small village in Mexico where superstitions and legends are very prominent.

Context: This is a very commonly known superstition amongst farmers in Mexico. Most villagers would take their kids with them to work because they had no babysitters to watch them while they were farming the fields.

Personal Analysis: As I was listening to this superstition, I was reminded of my younger sister. When she was younger, she would always wake up crying. My family and I never understood why, but after hearing this superstition I was introduced to a possible explanation.

The Whole Image (Soul Stealing and Microphones)

This friend of mine has always been one of the most superstitious people I know. Her childhood was split between two households, each with their own unique beliefs and superstitions. Having been quite close for the past few years, I’ve heard innumerable stories regarding strange folk-beliefs her parents taught her as a little girl. When I asked her about her superstitions and pulled out a microphone, she sealed her lips and wouldn’t explain until I’d turned it off. And first, I was a bit peeved, but by the end of her explanation, it made a lot more sense.

The following was recorded by hand during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“Okay so the reason I don’t speak into microphones, no actually don’t – no please don’t. I’ll hold it. I’ll explain it to you, it’s completely legitimate! Okay. So… I don’t believe in speaking into a microphone if there’s no image along with it because my personal spiritual beliefs have to do with the reflection and the way that a person is viewed by other people. Kind of like everyone has a projection, so if your projection doesn’t capture the whole picture it’s wrong. I’ll only be in a video if there’s sound and I’ll only speak directly if you can see me doing it. Think about the way people look at Instagram. If I show you Ben’s insta you only get 3% of his personality. As a means of calculating the projections I give off, I don’t get to know people that well, I’m really picky with people I get to know, and I’m picky with how I represent myself, so I’ve deleted my insta, and I don’t like posing for photos. I don’t like artificial projection, because it goes against my spiritual beliefs. Voice overs for movies are different. That’s acting out a character When representing yourself, I only like the whole image. I don’t take pictures.

 “Partly just growing up, a big part of misunderstanding and getting along with people is getting the whole picture. I grew up never getting the whole picture, I feel like it’s important to be as genuine as possible. If you’re allowing someone to see you and know you as a person, and you only give them a partial image, then, intrinsically, you’re setting yourself up to be stereotyped, and like, put into a box.

 “That’s why I hate telling people I’m vegan. It’s like, yeah, I’m fucking vegan, but I like chicken wings sometimes, you know? I hate being put into boxes because no one will ever kno- you don’t even know yourself. No one will ever know anyone. So why make it easier for people to assume that they can? I’m interested in things, but part of my spirituality is just lack of definition. I just think definition is so limiting… And I’ve also tripped on acid a lot, so I’ve felt more things than human existence. I also – I – Identity is complicated. I think people have crossover, but I don’t think – there’s absolutely no way that there’s a carbon copy of me somewhere else. There’s no way that anyone has a carbon copy. I don’t know. Now you get why I don’t like being recorded! I’ve had a lot of problems with this. In high school, I was – me and a couple of people were going to start a band, and then… we didn’t because I wouldn’t record. It was weird.

 “To go back to the question, I am like – I have depersonalization realization. It’s like a mental disorder. Everyone experiences it differently, but I have a separation between myself and what I make. My ankle for example – I just broke it, but I didn’t really process the pain immediately. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself, but I see a body that my soul is in. It’s kind of like Freaky Friday. I mean, nobody will ever know you. Your appearance has nothing to do with who you are. I don’t give a shit about my body. I don’t eat. I don’t feel hungry, or like feel anything. I only feel things in my brain. That’s why I live inside my brain. I mean I can feel you, but I’m not – it’s not like I don’t have nerves. I just live inside my brain.”

This superstition is fascinating to me, as it ties together a few more common superstitions and builds upon them while following a strange sort of dream-logic. Perhaps the most famous anecdote regarding soul theft and photography is famed Lakota tribal leader Crazy Horse never having his photograph taken. It’s quite common for many Native American and Australian Aborigines tribes to view photography as a fracturing and subsequent thievery of the soul, as the whole concept of photography is freezing a moment of time. However, my friend puts a whole new spin on this as she adds audio and video recordings to the mix. It’s fascinating to follow her complicated web of spirituality, and it really does make you think about how we define ourselves and those around us.

For more information on soul stealing and photography, check out: http://www.bigbanglife.org/?p=404

For a skeptical view of the same, check out: https://www.csicop.org/sb/show/soul_theft_through_photography

Grandma Walking Stick

Item:

The informant’s great grandmother, a well-loved Argentinian woman, passed away when he was very young — at an age where he could only speak a little bit. He and his mother’s side of the family called her “Abuela Bastón”, or Grandma Walking Stick, for the distinct sound of her moving around with her trusty walking stick. After her death, there was a day where the family was sitting around, and the informant was nearly sleeping lying on his back. Suddenly, he sat up, pointed ahead, and exclaimed “Abuela Bastón! Abuela Bastón!”, claiming he heard the sound of the walking stick. It caused a bit of a reaction especially with his grandmother, who was very spiritual.

 

Context:

The grandmother (daughter of the deceased) was apparently very spiritual. She completely believed the informant was pointing at the spirit of Abuela Bastón only he could see. The rationale was that Abuela Bastón was there to check in on her great-grandson. While the informant doesn’t remember this incident, he does have vague memories of the sound of the walking stick during his youth. He doesn’t believe in ghosts or spirits but does respect the fact that it’s an important part of his family and culture, so he stays pretty objective about it so as not to offend.

 

Analysis:

It stands out the the informant, despite not really believing the spirituality of the situation, is motivated by cultural and familial respect to not refute that it was indeed a spirit. It’s also not quite a “ghost story” — more so a visitation from the spirit or soul of a recently dead family member. There wasn’t anything terribly haunting about it, and there wasn’t a visual component. Plus, it came from the mouth of a young child, although the clarity with which he suddenly woke up and spoke her name was uncharacteristic.

Sleeping on Stomach

Sleeping on stomach vs. on back

Superstition

 

My informant notified me that, according to his parents, sleeping face-down is bad.  His parents told him that sleeping face-up would prevent his soul from escaping his body while sleeping.

 

Both of my informant’s parents are Muslim, and he believes that is where the superstition comes from, but cannot recall where his parents learned it. He says they have told him that as a child, so he only sleeps on his back out of habit—not out of fear. He does not believe in the superstition at all, and only thinks of it when thinking of superstitions. When asked why the back is considered safer, he replied “I’m not sure. I think they believe souls escape out of the mouth, so I’m surprised sleeping face up would protect you.”

 

The orientation of the body may be related the position of Heaven in Islam: if the soul does manage to escape out of the mouth, it would go in the direction of heaven. Perhaps the fear is that the soul could be accessed from below, in which case devils would have a better chance of stealing the soul.

 

This superstition could also be founded in medical reasoning: sleeping face up protects the natural curvature of the spine. Also, this could assuage parent’s fears of accidental self-smothering, an attempt to prevent children from dying in their sleep.