Growing up, my parents always had these weird “sayings” or folktale stories. It seems in most Hmong families there were the similarity to the sayings and stories but most of the time the meaning behind it was almost scary like a ghost story. Why did parents say these to their children?
As a mom now, it’s been ingrained in me and I’ve been thinking about it lately. Was it just the parent’s way to scare the child to not do something that is out of the ordinary? Some of them were out-right ridiculous and others…well, I won’t dare do it, superstitions or not!
There is the legend of an evil creature by the name of Phim Nyub Vais (Peah Ngu Vai). The creature was almost like a sloth or monkey in nature. It’s covered in fur, animal but has human-like features with glowing red eyes. It lives in the jungles, has a howl-like cry that when you hear it you better run! There have been so many stories of how the creature looks, but no one really knows for sure.
It’s kind of like the analogy of “Big Foot”. (However, I don’t think Big Foot you may have heard of is evil) Hmong has a word for Big Foot too and it’s Mos Hlub (Moh Loo). The Hmong’s Mos Hlub is a flesh-eating creature during the full moons.
Then there’s Poj Ntxhoom (poh zoong), demon or ghostly creature of an old lady or more recently known as a little girl.
6 Things You Hear Growing up Hmong
- Don’t sit on the bag of rice. (It’s normal for us to have 25 – 50 lbs. bag of rice in the home.) If you sit on rice, your future children will be born without a butt.
Probably just parents making sure you don’t sit on the family’s daily source of food. No one wants to eat anything that’s been sat on, it’s a bit unsanitary.
- Don’t step on mushrooms. Poj Ntxhoom will appear and watch you from atop the trees.
I don’t know the background reasoning to this but I believe it may be just a way parents are saying to respect mother nature.
- Don’t whistle at night. If you hear something whistle back at you, you may have just awakened a wandering spirit and it will follow you bringing bad omen. This also pertains to attending funerals, don’t whistle at a funeral.
- Don’t comb/brush out your hair at night.
Night time seems to be a focus on a lot of these. At night, when the animals sleep and you no longer hear birds tweet is when spirits roam the most. By brushing or combing your hair, you make yourself vulnerable. As you brush your hair, some naturally fall out making you “not-whole”. This also goes with don’t cut your hair at night and pregnant ladies shouldn’t cut their hair. (Women who cut their hair during pregnancy makes herself and child vulnerable for future misfortune, illness, loss of the soul.)
- Never point to the moon. The moon will come down and slice your ear. Parents have said that if you accidentally point to the moon, what you should do place saliva onto your finger and wipe the saliva onto the entire backside of the ear. That’s where the slice usually occurs.
Okay, so I have no way of explaining this but this has happened to me. Sounds silly, yes I know but my parents have always told me this. My stupid self as a little girl tested it and what happened, the next day my ear split at the attachment and was scabbed for a week. I did this when no one was around, no one knew I did it and it happened. When mom saw the cut, she scolded me and knew what I did. How did she know? I will never mess around with that again.
“I’m so sorry, Mom!“
- Always tuck your feet in when you sleep. Poj Ntxhoom lurks at the ends of the bed and if you wake up to your feet being tickled, well you know who did it. Poj Ntxhooms are active at the moment right before you fall into deep sleep.
No one wants to see an old lady or little girl hanging out in their room when they’re about to sleep, that’s all I’m saying!
Seem silly? Perhaps, but I assure you many Hmong children, at least in my generation have heard and still believe one of these. Even my own teenage daughter knows not to point to the moon because she’s heard the saying too.
So superstitions? Maybe but to the Hmong community…it’s what we were brought up on. I’ve seen, heard, and felt way too many things in my life that is unexplainable and prefer to not have it occur too often. No lie, it’s scary and that’s why many Hmong people will question if something is safe to do if it pertains to a saying they heard when they were children.