Inherited rituals of the past
by Ruth Baker
Jan 08, 2012 | 1396 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
Mem-ories are stored nuggets of the past, both good and bad. They are hidden deep in one’s mind and surface in response to some stimuli. It could be a familiar sight, a faint odor, a haunting tune, or reaction to something you hear, which brings a like story to mind. We are all products of our early life and those things buried in our minds. A person may have a string of college degrees, but still react to these stimuli and feel silly afterwards.

Many grownups will be walking together when someone goes between them or they separate to walk around an object, when they mutter under their breath, “Bread and butter, come to supper.” That is a childhood learning. It is supposed to ward off bad luck. Do we live our lives controlled by luck? Of course not, but the response is primordial or existing from the beginning. It is stored memory from “old” days.

As a child, if we said the same thing at the same time, we would lock our little fingers together and repeat the following with one starting and the other supplying the second words, back and forth. “Needles, pins, when man marries, trouble begins, when man dies, trouble ends, what goes up the chimney? Smoke. I wish this wish will never be broken” (each makes a wish, unlocks fingers and kisses the finger.)

Another ritual learned from family is that if there is a child whose father dies before he/she is born, that one has special powers. From the time the child is very young, people would come to the home for him/her to blow inside their mouth to heal “trench mouth.” Get the picture: this child never questioned why he had to do this; he just puckered up and blew when he was told to do so. My father’s brother was one such son because Grandfather died before his youngest son was born. People beat a path to the door for this man to blow into the mouth of a sick child.

Another family had the youngest child of the family, a girl, born after the father’s death. Later in life, her sister was in the hospital fighting the ravages of cancer and had a severely sore mouth and throat. The sister, now a grown woman, came to the hospital to “blow” in her sister’s mouth. I watched this with great interest. They each prepared for the ritual. The sister bent over the bed, the patient opened her mouth, and then both sisters collapsed laughing. They composed themselves and tried again. The same thing happened. Two older women, willing to try anything for the cure that modern medicine had not furnished, feeling foolish in their endeavor, finally gave and received the “healing” breath. I was in the room and laughed as hard as they did at the primordial feeling of “it can’t hurt to try.”

A local woman in the area had another cure for the sore mouth that was prevalent in the early 1900s well into the 1940s.If a baby’s mouth became sore so that the baby could not nurse, it became a serious problem. She cut a hickory limb, took the child into a room alone, and placed the fresh limb in the back of the chimney on the ledge where the smoke escaped. When the limb dried, the mouth would be well. She supposedly said something unheard by ears, but again the ritual was given credit for the healing process.

As I have said, “memories are stored nuggets of the past.” They have more influence on all of us than we care to admit. Many of our likes and dislikes in food, dress, recreation, and job search have to do with those early days. Our parents who came through the “school of hard knocks,” were resourceful, and taught us good work ethics. They taught strongly what they called the “good Book” law that a man is to work and eat by the sweat of his brow. We are all products of our upbringing and superstitious rituals are a part of our lives.