Folk Beliefs and Superstitions

James N. Hogue

California State University, Northridge

An integral part of any society's cultural heritage is the collection of stories and traditions passed from generation to generation through the ages. Folklore serves to define a people's identity by mirroring its beliefs, concerns, and fantasies. The passing on of traditional tales thus creates a lasting, tangible bond between the living and their ancestors and provides meaning to a people's existence in the present.

As with other aspects of human culture, the characters, lessons, and motivation of human folklore are greatly influenced by a people's surroundings. It is therefore not surprising that ubiquitous insects are common elements in the variety of traditional stories told by people from both past and present societies. Among the variety of loosely categorized stories, traditions, and beliefs typically passed orally through time in human societies are folk tales and superstitious beliefs.

Although such a medium for passing on information often results in inconsistent transmission across time, it provides an avenue for the creative embellishment of stories that reflects the ideals of the teller and the contemporary state of the particular culture. Other aspects of a people's culture passed on in this way, such as religion or mythology, can be thought of as fundamentally different and thus treated separately.

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