Tag Archives: Customary Lore

Touching the Feet of Elders

Title: Touching the feet of your elders

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Sarina Kothari
  • Date Collected: 11/12/18

Informant Data:

  • Sarina Kothari is a ‘21 attending Dartmouth College. She is a pre-med student studying Biology and Math. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but currently lives in Orlando, Florida. Her family is Hindu, and she speaks some Hindi at home, but can not read or write. Her parents are from Bombay (Mumbai).

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Elders are highly respected in Indian culture, so by touching their feet and putting your hands over your head, it is showing respect to them. If you don’t do this, then you are disrespecting them, and the will not give you their blessing so you will have bad luck.
  • Social Context: Sarina learned this superstition from her parents and grandparents. It is something people practice quite often today. She explained that if you meet and elder person, like a grandparent, you must touch their feet with your hands and put it over your head. She grew up practicing this and still does it today whenever she is with her elders.

Item:

  • This superstition is tied to social manners and respect for elders in the Indian culture.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript: “So whenever you see an older grandparent or like someone older than you, not like a parent but like a grandparent age, then you have to like in my culture like in Hindu culture, it probably different in North and South India, but for me, whenever I see someone at a grandparent’s age, I have to touch their feet with my hands and also put it over my head. It signifies that you respect them and if you like don’t do that then it means you don’t respect your elders. It’s a common theme of like whatever you respect in Indian culture, you have to put your hands to that then out it over your head like that. It just signifies that they’re like blessing you, so if you want blessing from older people, you have to do that to get blessings. And if you don’t do that then its considered disrespectful and then you’ll get bad luck.”

Collector’s Comments:

  • This superstition is an example of a conversion superstition: If you meet and elder, then you will have not get their blessing and have bad luck, unless you must put your hands to their feet then over your head.

Collector’s Name: Marlee Montella

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Elders

Stepping on a Textbook

Title: Stepping on a Textbook

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Sarina Kothari
  • Date Collected: 11/12/18

Informant Data:

  • Sarina Kothari is a ‘21 attending Dartmouth College. She is a pre-med student studying Biology and Math. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but currently lives in Orlando, Florida. Her family is Hindu, and she speaks some Hindi at home, but can not read or write. Her parents are from Bombay (Mumbai).

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Sarina explained that in her culture, people believe if you step on a textbook, you are disrespecting the gods associated with education. Education is very important in Indian culture, so if you do step on a textbook, you must “apologize” to the gods or else you will have bad luck.
  • Social Context: Sarina has always believed in this superstition. It was taught to her by her parents and elders, and is a very commonly known and practiced superstition in Indian culture. She explained that if you ever step on a paper or book that has important information in it, you must put your hands to it, then put your hands over your head and say a quick prayer.

Item:

  • This superstition is has strong ties to religion- you must perform an action if you disrespect a god to prevent bad luck.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript: “So basically, there’s a superstition in Indian culture, when you like step on a textbook or piece of paper or anything with information on it, you have to put your hands to it and then put both of your hands over the head to say sorry to like education i guess. It’s important because in Indian culture, one of the gods signifies education, so if you like step on education, like especially textbooks, then it means you’re disrespecting a certain god so you have to put your hands on the textbook, then put it over your head. That signifies like oh it was an accident and I wasn’t actually disrespecting like education. I guess it stems from one of the gods, and now, a lot of people, even if they’re not super involved with Indian culture, its just a thing that they do. If I accidentally step on a textbook or a piece of paper with my notes on it, I will put my hands on it and just say a quick I’m sorry because its like signifying you respect education.”

Collector’s Comments:

  • This superstition is an example of a conversion superstition: If you step on a textbook, you will have bad luck unless you put your hand to the textbook, then to your head and say a prayer.

Collector’s Name: Marlee Montella

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Textbook

Accepting Gifts with Left Hand

Title: Accepting gifts with left hand

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Priya Shukla
  • Date Collected: 11/12/18

Informant Data:

  • Priya Shukla is a ‘21 attending Dartmouth College. She is pre-med, majoring in English. She was born in London but currently lives in Boston, MA. Her parents are both Hindu. Her mother is from Jaipur and her father is from Agra. Both of her parents speak Hindi, and Priya and her younger brother, Chetan can both read and write Hindi.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: In Indian culture, the left hand is considered unclean, so if you accept a gift or money with your left hand, you will have bad luck. Another similar superstition is that people believe if your left palm starts itching, you will soon lose the money from your hands.
  • Social Context: This superstition is the most commonly seen out of the three that this informant told us about. She said that people must use their right hand for doing many specific actions, such as accepting a gift or money and during puja.

Item:

  • This superstition is the belief that the left hand is unclean.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript: “So its inauspicious to use your left hand for anything, so if you’re holding food or like you’re doing a prayer, you always have to use your right hand. Um, or if you’re taking money or gifts anything like that on a holiday, you always have to use your right hand to hold it.”

Collector’s Comments:

  • This superstition is an example of a magic superstition: If you accept a gift or money with your left hand, then you will have bad luck.

Collector’s Name: Marlee Montella

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Left hand

Traveling in groups of Threes

Title: Traveling in groups of Threes

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Priya Shukla
  • Date Collected: 11/12/18

Informant Data:

  • Priya Shukla is a ‘21 attending Dartmouth College. She is pre-med, majoring in English. She was born in London but currently lives in Boston, MA. Her parents are both Hindu. Her mother is from Jaipur and her father is from Agra. Both of her parents speak Hindi, and Priya and her younger brother, Chetan can both read and write Hindi.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: The number 3 in Hindu culture is an inauspicious number. It is associated with a Hindu saying that means “bad luck comes when there are three”. Similar to the number 13 in American culture, or 4 in Chinese culture, the number 3 is associated with bad luck, so if you leave in a group of 3, you will have bad luck. According to priya, this can be remedied by using an object to act as a 4th person, or having 2 people leave first, and the third can leave a few minutes later.
  • Social Context: Priya also learned this superstition from her parents. Since she has 4 members in her family, they usually did not pay much attention to this specific superstition, it was just something she knew about growing up. She said that this superstition is not as commonly practiced as some others, it mainly has to do with the inauspicious nature number three.

Item:

  • This superstition is based on the belief that 3 is an inauspicious number.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript: “It’s also bad luck to travel in groups of 3 because 3 is an inauspicious number. So you would either have to use an object to act as a fourth person, or two people would have to leave the house first, then the third person could join them a few minutes later.”

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is an example of a magic superstition. If you leave in a group of 3, then you will have bad luck.

Collector’s Name: Marlee Montella

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Three

House Entrance Facing East

Title: House entrance facing east

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Priya Shukla
  • Date Collected: 11/12/18

Informant Data:

  • Priya Shukla is a ‘21 attending Dartmouth College. She is pre-med, majoring in English. She was born in London but currently lives in Boston, MA. Her parents are both Hindu. Her mother is from Jaipur and her father is from Agra. Both of her parents speak Hindi, and Priya and her younger brother, Chetan can both read and write Hindi.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: According to the Indian Vastu Shastra (the science of architecture per ancient Hindu knowledge systems), the main entrance is one of the most important areas, and the direction the entrance faces dictates a lot about the luck of the owners of the household. A house with its entrance facing east is considered very auspicious, and a house with its entrance facing South West brings in struggles and misfortunes because it is the entry of the devil energy.
  • Social Context: Priya learned this superstition from her parents when she was growing up. This is a fairly common indian superstition, and it ties in with other superstitions relating to the household. Priya and another one of our informants told a superstition that says you can not sleep with your feet pointing south, so you have to make sure your bed is facing the right direction.

Item:

  • This superstition relies on the belief of the Indian Vastu Shastra.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript: “So, when you’re building a house, you always have to make sure the front entrance points to the east for good luck. I think its because the sun rises in the east.”

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is an example of a sign superstition: If you have your door facing a certain direction, then you will have good/bad luck.

Collector’s Name: Marlee Montella

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • House

Kajal

Title: Kajal

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Athi
  • Date Collected: 10-10-18

Informant Data:

  • Athi is a male psychiatrist of The Woodlands, TX. He was born in Nager Coil, India in 1970, but moved to the United States in 1998 following his marriage. Besides work, he enjoys playing golf and watching television. Today, he lives with his family in a small, suburban home just outside of Houston.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: The evil eye is a central Indian belief. A look/glance rooted in jealousy, the evil eye is believed to be associated with malevolent spirits and to bring about bad luck. Indians, but south Indians in particular, practice a number of rituals to inhibit, or prevent the effects of this evil eye.

 

  • Social Context: Weddings are grand ceremonies involving hundreds and hundreds of people. These people can, from time to time, become jealous of the bride, either for her beauty, happiness, or big-budget wedding. This gives way for ample opportunities of becoming infected by the evil eye. The bride, as such, requires protection. Here, this protection takes the form of a black dot of kajal on the cheek.

Item:

  • This particular superstition works to inhibit the effects of the evil eye. By penciling a dot of kajal upon her cheek, the bride is believed to be protected from the jealous eyes of friends and family.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript:

  • “In South Indian marriages, the bride always will have a black dot on her cheek. This is mainly to prevent the evil eye on her from relatives and friends who come for the marriage.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • This black dot of kajal is not exclusive to brides. It can often be seen on babies, children, or really anyone who wishes to protect herself/himself from the evil eye.

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is an example of a Magic superstition, as it follows the form, “If you do A, Then B”. If the bride pencils a black dot of kajal on her cheek, then she can prevent infection by the evil eye.

Collector’s Name: Sanjena Venkatesh

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Evil Eye

Funeral Procession

Title: Funeral Procession

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Athi
  • Date Collected: 10-10-18

Informant Data:

  • Athi is a male psychiatrist of The Woodlands, TX. He was born in Nager Coil, India in 1970, but moved to the United States in 1998 following his marriage. Besides work, he enjoys playing golf and watching television. Today, he lives with his family in a small, suburban home just outside of Houston.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Indians consider death to be a painless escape from the cycle of life. Lord Yama, the God of Death, is believed to claim souls from the mortal world at a specific, pre-determined time. Following death, the body is taken through the village while onlookers chant mantras. The soul remains attached to the body over the course of this procession, only separating from the body once the ritual is complete. Then, on its journey to Yama, the soul is believed to take along all the sorrow/pain/wishes/desires it encountered from the mantra-chanters.

 

  • Social Context: The informant first learnt of this superstition on his way to school as a young child. As a funeral procession passed by, everyone stopped in their tracks. The began chanting mantras and silently praying.

Item:

  • The viewing of a funeral procession on the way to work, school, college, etc. is auspicious. It indicates the destruction of evil and sorrows from life and suggests that all pending desires and work will soon be achieved/accomplished.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript:

  • “In South India, it is believed that seeing a dead body while walking out of the house is considered very lucky because whatever you want to finish or accomplish on that day will happen without any problems.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • This superstition is interesting, since one would expect that viewing a dead body would bring about bad luck, but under Indian beliefs, the opposite occurs.

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is an example of a sign superstition, as it follows the form, “If A, Then B”. If one sees a funeral procession on his way, then all his sorrows will disappear and he will be able to accomplish anything he desires.

Collector’s Name: Sanjena Venkatesh

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Funeral Procession / Dead Body

Salt, Dried Chilis, and Camphor

Title: Salt, Dried Chilis, Camphor

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Vandana V.
  • Date Collected: 10-10-18

Informant Data:

  • Vandana V. is a female student in her senior year of high school at John Cooper. She was born in Temple, Texas in 2001, but has lived in Houston for much of her life. In her free time, she enjoys playing the flute in the Wind Ensemble and competing with her Varsity Tennis team.  She plans to attend Dartmouth College in the fall, where she will study pre-med and economics.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: A central aspect of Indian culture is based upon the idea of the evil eye – a look/glance rooted in jealousy that is associated with malevolent spirits and believed to bring about bad luck. Numerous superstitions, as such, act to inhibit, or prevent the effects of the evil eye.

 

  • Social Context: Despite being brought up in American society, the informant’s cultural origins are primarily Hindu. Her grandparents and extended family all lived in India, and as such, she visits every summer. There, she has learned of the various Hindu superstitions, rituals, beliefs, etc. The informant in fact first saw this superstition in practice at a young age, during a summer visit to India. She had fallen sick following the wedding ceremony of her aunt. So, her grandmother circled the plate of camphor, salt, and chilis around her head three times. Within a few days, she had begun to feel better.

Item:

  • This particular superstition attempts to cure someone infected by the evil eye. Here, an elder takes a plate of salt, dried red chilis, and camphor in their right palm and circles it around the infected individual’s head 3, 5, or 7 times depending on the severity of the misfortune. Such an action is believed to remove the drishti.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Salt, Dried Chilis, Camphor-2mqqvx7

Transcript:

  • “If you go to a special function and you come back with vomiting or a headache, then it’s said that you have the evil eye. So an elder must take salt, chilis, and camphor in their right palm and circle it around your head and then throw it out.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • According to the informant, this superstition has been strongly conserved/practiced in her family, and passed down from generation to generation.

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is a concrete example of a Magic Superstition, as it follows the form of “If you do A, Then B”. After all, if a plate of salt, chilis, and camphor is circled around one’s head by an elder, then the sickness brought upon by the evil eye will be cured.
  • Further, this superstition seems to have originated to make sense of the world – to explain and cure sickness

Collector’s Name: Sanjena Venkatesh

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Evil Eye

Direction of Sleep

Title: Direction of Sleep

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Rama
  • Date Collected: 10-10-18

Informant Data:

  • Rama is a female software engineer of Houston, TX. She was born in Tirunelveli, India in 1975. She moved to the United States, however, at the age of 21, with her first job. Besides work, she enjoys gardening and reading. Today, Rama lives with her family in a suburb just outside of Houston.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: In India, bodies are often cremated. However, if a body is buried, it is always, without fail, placed with the head pointing towards the North and the feet towards the South. This is due to the belief that Yama, the God of Death, resides in the south.

 

  • Social Context: This superstition is particularly prevalent in South India. Houses are often constructed with properly oriented bedrooms to allow for beds to fit in the “auspicious direction” (East-West).

Item:

  • This superstition declares that if one sleeps with his/her head pointing towards the North, he/she will experience bad luck. This is because if one’s head is pointing North, his feet are pointing to the South, where Yama resides. On rare occasions, sleeping in this direction is believed to bring death.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript:

  • “If you sleep with your feet pointing towards the South, you will be plagued by bad luck. At its extreme, you may die.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • According to the informant, this belief stands strong within her family. Each and every bed in her house, prior to its placement, was ensured to be facing the correct direction.

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is a concrete example of a Magic Superstition, as it follows the form of “If you do A, Then B”. If one sleeps with his feet pointing towards the south, then he will face bad luck in the near future.

Collector’s Name: Sanjena Venkatesh

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Sleep

Black Cat

Title: Black Cat

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Rama
  • Date Collected: 10-10-18

Informant Data:

  • Rama is a female software engineer of Houston, TX. She was born in Tirunelveli, India in 1975. She moved to the United States, however, at the age of 21, with her first job. Besides work, she enjoys gardening and reading. Today, Rama lives with her family in a suburb just outside of Houston.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Just as in many parts of the world, in India, the black cat is believed to be a bad omen, or a carrier of witchcraft. Each culture, however, has its own mechanism for ridding oneself of the curse, and its associated bad luck. In India, this mechanism is taking a sip of water at one’s original location.

 

  • Social Context: This superstition is today primarily practiced by elders in rural villages. With modern transportation and technology, people of urban areas are able to travel far distances to work, school, etc. This in turn makes the practice of this superstition far less practical.

Item:

  • This superstition relies on the belief that black cats are carriers of witchcraft and sorcery. So, if they cross one’s path, he/she is believed to be infected by a curse. The only way to rid oneself of this curse is to return to the original location and drink some water.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):

Transcript:

  • “If a black cat crosses your path, you’re thought to be cursed. And in order to rid yourself of the curse, you need to go back home, or wherever you came from, and take a sip of water. Otherwise you’ll keep having bad luck.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • This superstition, while it may be believed by some, is largely not practiced.

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is an example of a Conversion Superstition, as it follows the form: “If A, Then B, Unless C”. If a black cat crosses one’s path, then bad luck will befall him/her, unless he/she returns to the original location to drink water.

Collector’s Name: Sanjena Venkatesh

Tags/Keywords:

  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • Black Cat