Tag Archives: Superstitions

Filipino Funeral Etiquette

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Filipino-American
Age: 24
Occupation: Electrical Engineer
Residence: Long Beach
Date of Performance/Collection: April 28 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: Another story is something that happened to my dad when he was at a funeral. I guess the folklore part is that, uh, when you’re at a funeral, you shouldn’t be, ah, like, overly, I guess, happy-looking? Because it’s disrespectful to the dead, um, and, well, the way it goes is if you do that, then the dead person at the funeral will haunt you.

Um, so when my dad was at this funeral, I think it was a funeral– I don’t know if he knew the person, but he was with, ah, his own family members, and they were goofing around, i think they were like gambling in the back, while the funeral was going on. So, ah, that was happening, and then, all of a sudden, the, ah, corpse stood up– or not stood up, sat up in the coffin, and then it stared at my dad and his group, and I can’t remember if he said it screamed or not, but essentially it, after staring at them, it fell back down.

Collector: Do you know why it happened??

Informant: Well, because, ah, they were gambling at this person’s funeral! Because it was possessed by the ghost of the dead person, presumably. 

The worst part of it was that, uh, yeah, basically like a bit of a curse placed on them,, ah, I can’t remember what my dad said for the other people who were there, but he said for like a month, whenever he would, ah, close his eyes and try to sleep, he would get like flashes of the face of the dead person, just like staring at them. 

Context: My informant is a close friend of mine, and is a Filipino American young man. His father is an immigrant from the Philippines, and has extended family still living there.

Analysis: I wish I had had the chance to interview my informant’s father about this experience, as he apparently had personally witnessed it. It is interesting that when I asked my informant why this happened, he answered as if it was obvious– because his father had disrespected the deceased. This piece of folklore seems to act as a warning to never disrespect the dead at their own funeral.

“Last Run”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student and Customer Service Rep.
Residence: Salt Lake City, UT
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The following informant (S) is a 20 year old bike/ski enthusiast. He explains the avoidance of the words “last run” while skiing and the bad luck it can bring to the end of the day. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of any superstitions he held. The informant told me he doesn’t believe in superstitions, but never to say you’re going to take your “last run,” because it might truly be your last if you do. 
  • Text:

S: “Ok… if I’m skiing, or biking, you can’t say ‘Last Run’. Any time I have said ‘Last Run’ or anyone around me has said ‘Last Run’ an we’ve taken a run that is our last run for the day… I have ended up in the hospital.”

Me: “Same. So do you say anything instead of ‘Last Run’?”

S: “Yeah… we say either ‘2 minus 1’ or… ‘9 more runs’ or ‘8 more runs’ if you’re referring to two more runs. So 8 is if you’re referring to two more 9 is if you’re referring to last.”

Me: “Is there a reason for those numbers?”

S: “Nope. That’s just what works.”

Me: “Have you always done that?”

S: “I’ve done that since I broke both bones in this arm saying it was my last run.”

Me: “Did anyone teach you?”

S: “Yeah… everyone I grew up riding with. It is a known tradition throughout the action sports world… like any… any athlete performing at a high level knows that tradition.”

  • Analysis: Growing up in a ski town, I knew from a young age never to refer to my last run as my “last run.” We would often find code words to signify that we wanted this run to be our last for the day. I had always said “grilled cheese” or “second to last” or “2 more minus 1.” I have heard countless stories of people getting hurt on their last one after announcing it was their last run. I myself made this mistake when I was 12. After proclaiming I was doing my “last run” for the day, I made it almost to the lodge when a snowboarder hit me and broke my wrist. I never will say “last run” again. 

Whistling At Night in Japan

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese-American, British
Age: 19
Occupation: student
Residence: San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 19, 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese

Text: You’re  not allowed to whistle at night because you will awaken spirits that will be drawn to your whistling. I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble with that one.

Context: KT was born in Okinawa, Japan and lived there with his Japanese mother and British father for the first nine years of his life. Though memories of his time in Japan are fading as KT ages, he still remembers specific things about life in Japan that were ingrained on his young mind during his early years. The folklore above was shared over lunch one afternoon during which I asked KT if he thought he had any folklore he could share with me from Japan. Most of the material he remembers is because he either got in trouble for going against the superstition or his involvement in the practice scared him.

Interpretation: Superstitions generally entail material that has not been accepted by society/science, but this does not necessarily mean that these practices don’t work.  In the case of the example above, the superstition against whistling at night seems to come from the belief that drawing unnecessary attention to yourself  generally yields unfavorable/unwanted results. At its core, the principle is not unreasonable. KT cited the unwanted thing that would draw near as spirits, but in other parts of Japan, snake attacks, robberies, and abductions are also cited as things that will appear as a result of whistling at night. Essentially, you are disturbing the quiet, and therefore drawing dangerous attention to yourself.

It is important to note that this superstition was largely a result of the silent of the countryside that encompassed most of Japan. However, due to effects of the modernization of Japan and the proliferation of machinery, lights, and noise that now occupies the nighttime air, it is likely to conclude that this superstition will evolve or change completely because of the fact that whistling at night no longer does much in the way of disturbing the normal atmosphere of the night. The principle of avoiding unnecessary attention, which still remains sound in logic, may change to be expressed in different way, possibly a different superstition.

Friday the 13th

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/13/2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant Info: The informant is an 18-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently a freshman studying Public Policy at USC.

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: With it being Friday the 13th, do you have any fears or superstitions regarding it?

 

Interviewee: I don’t like superstitions like Friday the 13th, because 13 is just another number. But, I will say I do believe in other superstitions, and I couldn’t tell you why.  For instance, I refuse to walk under ladders, I think I would curl up in a ball and cry if I broke a mirror, and I always throw salt over my shoulder if I spill it. Again… I don’t know why, but I guess just because we grow up with these superstitions all around us and it’s better to be safe than sorry in my book!

Analysis:

 The informant names many of the common superstitions in America, even though she started answering the question be saying she doesn’t like superstitions. Her response seems to be properly in line with many individuals who question the truth/logic behind superstitions by stating that “it is better to be safe than sorry.” A similar response is often found in Ireland when people are asked about the fairy folk.

Russian Superstitions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Russian, American
Age: 26
Occupation: Hedge Fund Analyst
Residence: New York, NY
Date of Performance/Collection: April 8, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian

The 26-year-old informant was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age. During his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he was a teaching assistant for a Russian folklore class and found these pieces of folklore to be particularly interesting or representative of Russian culture.

On shaking hands:

“One superstition is you’re never supposed to shake hands with someone across a threshold or doorway. It’s said to lead to separation and falling out, because you’re like, wishing to never see that person again. So that’s pretty common. Pretty much all Russians follow this rule.”

On whistling:

“Another sort of weird superstition is that you shouldn’t whistle–especially indoors, like ever, because it’ll lead to you losing all your money and having bad luck. It used to be this belief that the wind is bad. Like a bad demon-type creature, and in ancient pagan belief. The wind whistles, so by whistling, you’re inviting the wind demon into your house.”

 

These superstitions are interesting because they involve things that are quite common in the U.S. In fact, most Americans wouldn’t think twice about where they shake hands with someone or if they’re whistling indoors. It definitely highlights the slightly irrational ideas behind superstitions when you hear superstitions from other cultures that aren’t your own. However, all superstitions play a part in culture and thus contribute infinitely to it.

Baseball Superstitious Habits

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 17
Occupation: Student
Residence: Phoenix, Arizona
Date of Performance/Collection: April 15, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Baseball is an uncertain game, and can change in an instant, so I asked my informant, a long time player, if he had any particular routines that he has never broken, and what this does.

RC: “I don’t know, each time I hit, I go out and readjust each batting glove once, then I hit the plate twice; I do this in-between each pitch. It’s a repeated habit and you don’t want to get out of that habit. If, not, it would get you out of your rythum and get out of your head.”

Me: Do you or anyone ever change these habits?

RC: “Often people change if they want to get out of a funk. So if you are in a slump, and you go pants up all the time or pants down all the time, and if you go into a slump sometimes you change to see if can get you out of a slump, same goes for batting gloves or no batting gloves or pulling out the pocket of your pants. Stuff like that, small changes that can change your entire mind and pull you out of a funk.”

Analysis:

Sports, especially baseball are full of small superstitions such as these. This is most likely because the game is so uncertain, and often out of a single player’s hand, that they will do anything that will boost their luck. Luck is often the center of such superstitions, they will do anything to get luck and avoid poor luck. The game can change in an instant and to players the difference is in the details such as pants or gloves. Because the game is so based on repetitions and routine, any small change is highly noticeable to the player, which is why change to “get out of a funk” is so impactful on their mindset. Knowing that there is a change, and something may come of it, affects a player’s whole mindset. Additionally these routines are assurance that I can play good  in this game despite anything else because before when I have done this, I have done well. There is also comfort in routine and in such a high stress games, these little routines and habits are a comfort to the player.

 

Soles must face down

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American/French
Age: 19
Occupation: Business Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French, Spanish, Mandarin, Anjounese

Background

The informant has a lot of different parts of her background which influence her. Her family is Haitian and Comorian (an island off the coast of Africa) and she is still close with family who live in those places and visits often. She grew up for the first 10 years of her life in the U.S., but then spent the rest of her life living in Paris, France until she decided to come to school in the U.S. She likes to say that she’s a hodge-podge of different identities. She learned this superstition from her mother who she says has tons of different superstitions about the world.

Context

The informant first explained this superstition to me and the seven other people we live with after one week of knowing each other. We have a communal area near the front door where we keep our shoes. She told us about this superstition and asked that we make sure the soles of our shoes are never facing upwards on the mat.

Text

So, my mom taught me, uh… so, my mom, who is from Comoros, taught me that in Comoros, um.. she was taught that you can’t have your shoes facing… Uh, the sole of your shoes facing the sky or the ceiling, because when they’re– when you’re walking, generally, you’re walking on the ground and you’re doing it normally. And, uh, but when your shoes are facing up, they’re walking on god. So, they shouldn’t be facing up.

Thoughts

When the informant discussed this superstition, she prefaced it as if it were a silly little thing that her mom always thought. However, the informant still does avoid the behavior that the superstition describes as bad luck and even went so far as to tell the people she lives with to heed the superstition, as well. In this way, it appears that there is another reason she is performing this folk belief other than actually believing it. As she consistently mentions her mother when describing the superstition, I would guess that performing this folk belief, for her, has something to do with the connection to her mother.

 

You’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese-American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/8/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Cantonese, Mandarin

Background

The informant is Chinese-American where both of her parents are from China, but she has never been there herself. She said that her mom had several superstitions that she would tell her as a child. The informant seemed to feel fondly about this habit of her mother’s.

Context

We were on a group trip to Catalina Island and we were having a picnic on the beach. One of the things we were eating, as a group, was almost an entire watermelon. In the middle of our picnic, the informant shared this superstition. After she said it everyone laughed, and some said that they had heard something similar.

Text

My mom used to tell me that you’re not supposed to eat watermelon seeds, because if you do that you– you’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach.

Thoughts

I would guess that the informant’s mother told this superstition to her daughter, in part, as a way to warn her against eating watermelon seeds. While it probably won’t make a watermelon grow in your stomach, it isn’t the best for you either. The informant seemed to perform the piece of folklore somewhat ironically as a way of sharing her fondness for her mother with her friends.

 

Two socks or no socks

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American/French
Age: 19
Occupation: Business Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French, Spanish, Mandarin, Anjouanese

Background

The informant has a lot of different parts of her background which influence her. Her family is Haitian and Comorian (an island off the coast of Africa) and she is still close with family who live in those places and visits often. She grew up for the first 10 years of her life in the U.S., but then spent the rest of her life living in Paris, France until she decided to come to school in the U.S. She likes to say that she’s a hodge-podge of different identities. She learned this superstition from her mother who she says has tons of different superstitions about the world.

Context

The informant brought up this superstition when she saw one of our friends walking around with only one sock on. She freaked out a little bit and said that she should take off her sock or put on another one immediately. Everyone was laughing as she described it, including her.

Text

So, my mom always taught me that, um.. You’re never supposed to walk around with one sock or one shoe on and not the other because it means that, your — that one of your parents is going to leave, or die, or.. something. Basically, you’ll be– you’ll have one parent away, because you have two shoes like you have two parents and if you get rid of one of the shoes that you’re supposed to have, just like you’re supposed to have your two parents, then something bad is gonna happen.

Thoughts

When the informant discussed this superstition, she was laughing about it. However, the informant still does avoid the behavior that the superstition describes as bad luck and even tells other people to heed the superstition, as well. In this way, it appears that there is another reason she is performing this folk belief other than actually believing it. As she consistently mentions her mother when describing the superstition, I would guess that performing this folk belief, for her, has something to do with the connection to her mother.

 

The Jaguar: bad luck in Venezuela

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 23
Occupation: Student, Surfer
Residence: San Clemente
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Okay, so in the Oronoco Delta, which is in the Eastern part of Venezuela that borders Guyana, there’s um, it’s hard to pronounce but it’s the Juaguaro Indians, and they’re this indigenous people that live in basically like stilted houses above the river, and navigate around the channels in canoes, they’re very untouched by what’s going on in the rest of Venezuela and western culture. There’s huge amounts of jungle there. And one of their superstitions is that it’s bad luck to see or to have a jaguar living near them. And they call them tigers, well, “tigres,” but they’re actually jaguars. So as it goes, whenever they see a jaguar they have to kill it, otherwise they’ll have bad luck and bad karma, or there will be sickness and death. So whenever they see a jaguar it’s like part of their culture to kill it. And the way that I heard about this was, there was this Sirian guy that was raised in America after the age of 9, so I guess I’ll just call him American…he moved down there and he had a camp type thing where tourists would come and stay and camp in the jungle. And there weren’t really any other foreigners living there at the time, so people would bring him animals from the jungle, to raise them, if they got separated from their mother or were sick or something. He had all kinds of bizarre animals over the years, like monkeys, and otters, and caiman or crocodile, and when I saw him he had a mountain lion, but before that he had a jaguar. And he got it as a tiny baby kitten, and raised it himself, and his children grew up with it, and it was really tame because it was used to being around people. And he said one day, some indigenous guys came over, and took his jaguar cause they said it was bringing them bad luck. So they killed it, and one guy wore the skin, the bloody skin around for 3 days to clear the area of bad luck. And he went to the officials but it’s this thing that’s so rooted in their culture that even the Venezuelan officials can’t really do anything about it.

 

How long ago was this? When the incident happened?

 

Probably about, I’d say 10 years ago. So it’s still going on.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a folk belief / superstition / custom that has clearly very established and embedded in this society’s culture, that even the government is aware that it is still practiced but can’t or wont do anything about it. This shows that it is a very strong and seriously considered belief. It seems as though this society is largely isolated from other societies, but clearly clashes with other Venezuelan’s beliefs, especially the subject of the informant’s story. The act of donning the skin of the “enemy” or the threat to their society is a kind of empowerment, or domination, and shows the rest of that community that they can rest assured they are safe from bad luck and that they have triumphed over the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s skin is like taking their identity away, disembodying them from their power.