Category Archives: 19 S International Students

Brian Muleri – Kenyan Family Superstition

Kenyan Family Superstition (Brian Muleri)

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore: Family Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Kenya
  • Informant: Brian Muleri
  • Date Collected: May 22, 2019

Informant Data:

  • Brian is a sophomore at Dartmouth College. His family is from Kenya and moved to the U.S. when Brian was in elementary school. Brian grew up learning the customs of Kenya from his parents, yet he was also influenced by American culture throughout his childhood.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Family plays an important role in Kenyan culture. A village is a community in which all members must respect the elders and their neighbors. While it is permissible to have multiple wives, the village must take part in assimilating the children with a father’s new family. This assimilation occurs within an elder’s home, as the elders of the village are the authority for all matters.
  • Social Context: The interview was conducted in-person. Brian does not remember specifically learning the traditional ceremony, but he believes he learned it from his parents speaking of Kenyan culture.


  • When a man has children with two different wives, the first wife’s child must be integrated into the father’s new family through a ceremony. It is considered bad luck if the child of the first wife meets the second wife’s children before the ceremony has taken place.

Audio File:

Brian Muleri 1

Brian Muleri 2



S: Saif

B: Brian Muleri

Part 1:

S: All right. So if you can just start with your name and a little bit about yourself and background.

B: Yeah, my name is Brian Muleri. I’m a ’21, so a sophomore. I was born in Kenya and so is the rest of my family. We’ve been there for generations, moved here to America very recently, like probably elementary school.

S: So do you guys, do you have any folklore or you know specifically superstitions, you know that having to do with like evil spirits by any chance, you know, in Kenya that you might have, you know brought back to Dartmouth or not?

B: Yeah. So, definitely there’s a lot. My family is Christian, but there’s still a lot of folklore and like traditional tribal things involving spirits that we have to deal with. It’s like a major one is if the kids of your current wife meet the kids of your past wife, your ex-wife, before like a whole ceremony, is done at home. This is like Marigola and Luhya tradition. If it isn’t done, then your firstborn child will die, and it’s just generally a bad luck, even though like you can have multiple wives. It’s generally just bad luck to have an involvement of the kids around multiple wives.

Part 2:

S: Back to the first thing about the children. Is there a name for that ritual or that superstition?

B: I don’t know the name. I do it, it’s something in traditionals Luhya, which is like a sub-dialect of Swahili, but I forget the name, but it is ceremony. So yeah, the ceremony involves all of your current kids from one wife and the child which you are trying to introduce to the family, meeting up at the local Village and generally in the household of Elder. The elders have to speak on a lot of these issues. It’s like very traditional, even marriage and name changing, and then they have to slaughter a chicken together. So, it’s just considered good luck and dispels the demons if you’re sacrificing this other life in order to bring someone else in to meeting your Other life. Because after divorce, it’s sort of considered separation.

S: Let’s say like they never did the ceremony. Is there any way to avoid the curse from being carried out any precautions you can take or something like that?

B: Yeah, so generally it has to be done before. I don’t know of any instances where it’s like… obviously like, this is very, if you believe in the tribal Heritage and a lot of things like that, then for you it carries more weight. I know some people who have met them and it’s just been fine, but it’s generally just brought along with this, and like a lot of people are firm believers of it happening.

 Informant’s Comments:
  • Brian said the dissolution of a marriage is an act of separation. Therefore, the children have to be brought back into the new family by a ceremony in which the connection is reestablished and recognized.

Collector’s Comments:

  • The requirement of sacrifice in order to introduce one child to the other is telling of human intervention and evil spirits. The sacrifice of a chicken demonstrates that evil must be appeased through some offering, which then allows a child to transition and integrate into the new family. This can be viewed through Arnold van Gennep’s rituals, where a divorce first separates the child from the father. The child transitions to the new family by meeting the others within the Elder’s house and is incorporated when the ‘unnatural’ separation has been negated through a sacrifice. This grants meaning to the child in light of their family ties.

Collector’s Name: Saif Malley


  • Customary Lore
  • Family Superstition
  • Sacrifice

Bertan Gulsen – Turkish Evil Eye and Envy

Turkish Evil Eye and Envy (Bertan Gulsen)

Title: Turkish Evil Eye and Bad Luck

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Evil Eye
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Turkey
  • Informant: Bertan Gulsen
  • Date Collected: May 21, 2019

Informant Data:

  • Bertan Gulsen is a male Dartmouth student in the class of 2021.  He was born in Istanbul, Turkey and came to the United States for college. He attends Dartmouth College and plans to major in Engineering modified with Economics. Bertan has been strongly influenced by his Turkish upbringing, and he continues to uphold the superstitions he has learned by bringing them to his friends at Dartmouth.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Turkey has a culture focused on respect and family. Because of its location, Turkey has been influenced by the cultures and superstitions of the surrounding Mediterranean countries. One important impact of this is the influence of Arab culture on evil eye superstitions, where the ‘nazar’ is known. Additionally, the importance of respect also relates evil to the envy of others as seen in Omani culture. Turkish culture is also heavily family-oriented, where families are expected to live together when location permits. Given this, instances of folklore often pertain to maintaining good relations with one another.
  • Social Context: The item was collected through an in-person interview at Dartmouth College.  Bertan learned the superstitions from his family, which he remains strongly connected with. While Bertan does not necessarily believe in all aspects of the folklore presented, he continues to honor the superstitions out of respect for his heritage.


  • Evil Eye

Bad luck can be given by someone envying another person. A ‘nazar’ is worn to protect against envy. Additionally, if someone gives you a compliment, a person will say “Mashallah” to protect against envy.

Image result for turkish nazar


  • Knife Superstition

When exchanging sharp objects, the sharp object (such as a knife or scissors) must not be handed directly to the person. Instead, the object is placed on a nearby surface and then picked up by the other person. If there is not a nearby surface, then the person receiving the object will spit on the blade and continue to use it.

Audio Recordings:

Bertan Gulsen 1 – Evil Eye and Knife Superstitions


Bertan Gulsen 2 – Knife Superstition Continued



Interview 1:

Evil Eye 

B: Bertan

S: Saif

S: And so do you guys have any do you have any superstitions from Turkey?

B: So like, there are like common superstitions for sure. One that I can think of right away is ‘nazar’ which is like, like kind of someone giving you a bad luck because of envying you and it’s like what you would like…it’s it’s part of like Turkish culture. And I’m pretty sure it’s like prominent in many other Islamic cultures, too, but it’s basically like you… your basically protected by this bad luck of someone, that someone, some others… like some other envious person by this evil eye bead, which many people know. I said that’s like probably the biggest, the biggest superstition and like usually my mom would like tell me like whenever like when like someone like gives you a compliment or something or like she was always like come up to me and she was like telling me like, “Mashallah Mashallah” to like kind of get that bad luck away, you know calling upon Allah as if like, it may be like thinking that it would help so I was like that’s like the one of the biggest superstitions in Turkey.

Knife Superstition

B: Oh, one other thing is one that in my family that I can think of is just the something that I see from my maternal family just like whenever I like when they asked me to pass them an knife for like or scissors. They never take it right away from hand because they think that what if they do it’s gonna like it’s going to like hurt our relationship. So they’d be like, yeah, just leave it on the table and I’d take it from there. So yeah, there’s that kind of thing like any sharp object with kind would basically just hurt the relationship between the two person are passing the like the sharp thing to from one another so it’s just like you don’t want to like pass it from hand to hand basically. So yeah, I would say those are like the top two that I could like think of right away.

S: Yeah. All right. Awesome. Thank you for telling me, Bertan.

Interview 2:

Knife Superstition, Continued.

S: All right. This is with Bertan again. He’s going to elaborate a little bit more on the last knife superstition.

B: Yeah, so like what would happen is just like usually I mean you’re obviously that you would obviously prefer to give the knife, passed a knife to the other person by like, you know, putting it on a flat surface, but if there isn’t one it nearby and you just like don’t want to leave the knife on the floor just like and you just pass it to the person. My grandma for example, whatever like we have to do that kind of a thing where she takes the knife. She just like spits on it and she like makes like such like with it, like starts chopping onions and like shopping like carrots and stuff. So it’s kind of funny like even though like there’s a kind of superstition. She’s like not that into it, but she’s also like very into it. So yeah, there’s that as well.

S: Is there a name for this belief or the superstition?

B: It’s just like no, but it’s just like common, like known. Like you don’t want to like pass like the knife or like… like it’s just like it’s like it would hurt our relationship. Like if you say that everybody would like get This just like commonly known

S: Like symbolic?

B: Yes, like really symbolic, but I don’t think there’s like any like saying for that Superstition. It’s just like how it’s like… look like any other like I don’t know like the what was it like the four leaf thing, the plant that the four leaves like

S: A four-leaf clover. front of clover.

B: Yeah, four-leaf clover, like it’s just it’s just like any sharp object basically kind of.

S: All right. Thank you.

Informant’s Comments:

  • Evil Eye

“…nazar’ which is like, like kind of someone giving you a bad luck because of envying you and it’s like what you would like…it’s it’s part of like Turkish culture.”

  • Knife Superstition

“…you don’t want to like pass, like, the knife or like… like it’s just, like, it’s like it would hurt our relationship.”

Collector’s Comments:

  • Evil Eye

The use of ‘nazar’ demonstrates the Islamic influence of superstitions on Turkish culture. While Turkish, not Arabic, is the official language, Turks still identify the evil eye and use ‘nazar’ to ward it off.

  • Knife Superstition

The importance of family explains why the knife superstition is widely held. The knife could ‘sever’ the relationship between family members, an instance of the law of similarity as the knife cuts through something which is originally whole. Additionally, it shows the law of contact in that the object cannot be physically passed, since handing the knife over requires on person to be on the sharp side of the object. If an object must be passed, a person can spit on the knife, thereby getting rid of any evil embodied in the knife by reasserting power over it.

Collector’s Name: Saif Malley


  • Customary Lore
  • Material Lore
  • Evil Eye
  • Knife Superstition

Assel Uvaliyeva – Kazakh Evil Eye and Evil Spirit

Kazakh Evil Eye and Evil Spirit (Assel Uvaliyeva)

Title: Kazakh Evil Eye and Evil Spirit

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Folklore: Kazakh Supersition – Evil Eye and Evil Spirits
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Kazakhstan
  • Informant: Assel Uvaliyeva
  • Date Collected: May 24, 2019

Informant Data:

  • Assel is a graduate student from Almaty, Kazakhstan. She works as a teacher’s assistant and studies comparitive literature. Assel speaks Kazahk, Russian, French, and English. 

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Evil eye superstitions have been informed by the various Russian and Arab/Muslim influences on the Steppe. Some aspects of the superstition pre-date foreign influences, such as ‘tumar.’ Despite disparate influences, the evil eye superstition has formed an identity of its own. Kazakhs employ a variety of methods, such as the use of a horseshoe on a door or the recitation of a saying, in order to ward off the evil. 
  • Social Context: The informant was interviewed twice in-person. The first interview gave an account of the historical context of the evil eye in Kazakhstan, while the second provided Russian examples that are used for evil spirits. 

Text and Texture:

  • Tumar





Bracelet to protect against evil eye

  • Shaitan





  • Köz





  • Glas



Glahss (like ‘Glass’ but the ‘G’ is prounced “Guh” and the ‘a’ is prounced ‘ah’)


  • Podkova





(Used contextually by the informant as an item of material folklore to protect against evil)

  • Russian Saying

туш туш туш так не глазить

tush tush tush tak ne glazit

Tisk tisk tisk so not to look

Tisk tisk tisk don’t stare

(туш does not have any specific meaning but is just a sound. The useage of ’tisk’ is meant to convey a phonetically similar sound, since there does not seem to exist an English equivalent.)


The existence of evil spirits and the evil eye has been developed throughout Kazakh history. ‘Tumar,’ an item worn to prevent evil, pre-dates external influences but has since taken on new dimensions with Islamic influence. Evil spirits are thought to exist, and the people generally identify the incursion of evil with the symbol of an eye. 


Image result for kazakh tumar


Audio File:

Assel Uvaliyeva – Kazakh Evil Eye – Interview 1

Assel Uvaliyeva – Kazakh Evil Eye – Interview 2


Interview 1:

A: Assel

L: Alex Leibowitz

S: Saif Malley

S: So yes, if you can just start with, like, your name and where you’re from.

A: My name is Assel Uvaliyeva. I’m from Kazakhstan.

S: So do you in Kazakhstan, do you have any traditions of, like, evil spirits or bad luck
superstitions where, you know, something happens, you’re supposed to take precautions,
anything like that?

A: Yes. But first I probably need to give you a context. I think in Kazakhstan we have strong Arabic Muslim influences and also Russian and actually many inter-cultural influences, but definitely Islam and Russian traditions. And some for the evil spirits, I’m not sure. I think it’s hard to trace the origin, but, for example, we do have the evil eye and, and it’s interesting like for… to protect like yourself from the evil spirits you wear ‘tumar.’ It can be made of silver or leather and it’s actually a shamanic tradition that existed before like Arabic or Russian invasion. And… and so inside you now people put a prayer or like Surah from Quran or something like that to protect themselves from evil spirits and then, and so I think it’s an example of the syncretic tradition and then will tell us the evil spirit, the main evil spirit, is called ‘Shaitan,’ but it’s also exist in the Arab world. Also like after the Arabs came to the steppe. We also have the influence like of different, not Arabs, but different Muslims. And for example, we have the influence of birth traditions and like jeans. I mean, I can talk about it a lot more. I just don’t know how much information do you need.

L: That’s really good. Yeah. Thanks. Appreciate it.

S: Thank you. 

Interview 2:

A: For example, I think you talked about ‘international forms’ (unclear audio) of good luck. I think Kazakhs exported from Russian, but like in order to not to jinx someone you knock on wood but  it’s probably universal, right? And like Russians say to ‘toosh toosh toosh’ that new glasses and safety to Christian jessen, and in Kazakh version, it’s like, köz, the eye, like doesn’t touch like this person cause… eye, in Russian too its “glaz.’ It’s actually has like the eye, so I think the image the symbol of the eyes is universal. In Russian you also have a horse. I’m not sure what it’s called in English. (To a nearby person) A: ‘Steven, what is “podkova?” StevenLike a horseshoe? (Return to interview)  A: Yeah, like a horseshoe. So they put on… oh, we saw it in Viy (Russian horror film based on Gogol’s Viy), I think, on the door and we don’t and so  to prevent the evil spirits from entering the house, for example.

L: Thanks so much.

Informant’s Comments:

“I think the image the symbol of the eyes is universal.”

(Stated within the context of evil spirits and evil eye superstitions). 

Collector’s Comments:

Kazakhstan has served as an intermediary in historical trading routes. The influence of a variety of cultures has led to an aggregated evil eye belief. This belief ultimately reflects the presence of evil spirits, and the actions an individual must take when they are encountered. 

Collector’s Name: Saif Malley & Alex Leibowitz


  • Customary Folklore
  • Kazakh Superstition
  • Russian Superstition
  • Evil Eye
  • Tumar

Asaad Al Raeesi – Omani Evil Eye and Envy

Omani Evil Eye and Envy (Asaad Al Raeesi)

Title: Omani Evil Eye and Envy

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Folklore: Omani Supersition – Bad Luck
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Oman
  • Informant: Asaad Al Raeesi
  • Date Collected: May 23, 2019

Informant Data:

  • Asaad Al Raeesi is a male Dartmouth student in the class of 2019.  He was born in Muscat, Oman and spent 17 years there. He attended an international school with a British curriculum. He was involved in sports during his highschool. He came to the U.S. to attend Dartmouth in New Hampshire, where he studies Economics and Public Policy.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: The ‘evil eye’ in Omani culture is a a prominent hazard, one which must be carefully avoided each day. The evil eye derives from the Islamic belief that one has the ability to cause harm to another through their gaze. One of the major ways evil can be trasmitted is through envy, where an envious person may transfer evil to someone or a person can bring evil on themselves by envying another or through a lack of humility.
  • Social Context: The informant was interviewed on the phone regarding evil superstitions from Oman. He did not relate any specific time where he learned the superstition. Rather, it seemed to him to be such a common cultural phenomenon that a child is innundated with the superstition from a very early age. Instances of envy may bring evil to a person, such as when someone compliments another the complimented person must invoke the name of Allah to defer any evil.

Text and Texture:

  • Nazar




Consideration or Attention

Evil Eye – refers to the amulet worn to ward off evil spirits

  • ‘Ayn al-Hasad


‘Ayn al-Hasad

Aein al-Hah-sad-ee

Eye of Envy

Evil Eye

  • Hasad





  • Mashallah

ما شاء الله



God Willing

Praise be to God

  • Sihr





Dark magic/arts, witchcraft


A person incurs evil through an expression of envy. Common occurances of envy are compliments, boastful behavior, or jealousy. Someone may protect against the evil eye by wearing an amulet (nazar), which has an eye symbol on it. Additionally, evil may be rid of by praising Allah through the phrase “Mashallah.”

Image result for oman ayn al-hasad


Audio File:


A: Asaad

S: Saif

S: So if you can just start with your name and where you’re from and a bit about your background.

A: Background in general?

S: Yeah.

A: Okay. My name is Asaad Al Raeesi. I am from Muscat, the capital of the Sultan’s of Oman. My background is I spent 17 years in Oman. I went to international schools with British curriculum, I guess. I was involved in some sports. I don’t know what that has to do.

S: No, no, that’s fine. That’s fine. So, do you have any, like, evil spirit folklore or superstitions in Oman, you know evil eye that you could talk about?

A: Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. Omanis are big believers in the power of envy. So, that’s why we… everything we say any complement anything that happens we say, “mashallah,” which is praise praise the Lord type of thing. We also put around a lot of the Ain or Hasad, which is the evil eye, but the evil eye to… I guess the belief that it will protect envy.

There is also a … (audio issue) … big belief of magic and all those dark stuff too mystical things but I can’t relate to it.

S: Yeah, of course. Is there a name for the dark like magic stuff or …?

A: No, just ‘sihr’ which is Magic in Arabic, but and I think ‘harus’ which is…’al-Hasad…’ I don’t know the English word, I guess spells?

S: Yeah, and is there any like precautions you can take for these like superstitions besides saying, you know ‘mashallah; or something like that?

A: Sacrifices. Like you sacrifice a camel or a goat or lamb as a precaution, I guess. It’s a way of like it not affecting you I guess.

S: And so could you give like one example or like a hypothetical where, you know, one of these superstitions would come into play like the envy or…?

A: Okay. So if something good happens, like for example, I graduate from Dartmouth as a valedictorian – pure hypothetical. It’s already too late for that. We’re I to do that, I think my grandmother would be of the belief like, okay, we’re sacrificing 30 goats and then giving out giving out these sacrifices to people in need and say pray for us and also in general like they say be low-key about it. Don’t make a big fuss. So like don’t, don’t post a photo of you as valedictorian on Instagram, because then something bad will happen to you, because all the people won’t say ‘Mashallah’ and it will get you. But it’s like interesting like if we’re I to post a photo of me is Valedictorian Instagram. The caption will probably say, mashallah. That’s a common thing.

S: Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much Assad, really appreciate it.

A: Any time.

Informant’s Comments:

“Omanis are big believers in the power of envy. So, that’s why we… everything we say any complement anything that happens we say, “mashallah,” which is praise praise the Lord type of thing. We also put around a lot of the Ain or Hasad, which is the evil eye, but the evil eye to… I guess the belief that it will protect envy.”

Collector’s Comments:

The evil eye occurs in Omani society when envy is present. Many people take precautions against incurring envy, whether by wearing the ‘nazar’ bracelet or by making a sacrifice before a major achievement or event.

Collector’s Name: Saif Malley


  • Customary Folklore
  • Omani Superstition
  • Evil Eye