Workshop on campus explores Hmong superstitions and beliefs

The workshop seeks to educate people about the importance of Hmong beliefs.

Amber Schadewald

Counting the stars on a clear night might seem like a fun idea, but according to an ancient Hmong superstition – it will cause your stomach to burst.

Yeng Moua, education chairman of the Hmong Minnesota Student Association, was told by his mother and grandmother that because it is impossible to count all the stars, evil spirits will come to you and make your stomach expand as big as the sky.

“It’s hard for me to believe,” Moua said.

The Hmong culture has many superstitions, passed down from generation to generation, that still influence the way many people live their lives on a daily basis.

Tonight the association is hosting a “superstition workshop” educating people about the importance of these cultural beliefs and their relevance to the Hmong community today.

Moua said the superstitions help explain how and why things happen the way they do.

Although there is no connection between the Hmong superstitions and Halloween, the workshop is also a holiday party, including candy, a costume contest and a Hmong horror film.

WHERE TO GO

Hmong Minnesota Student association Halloween events
WHAT: Superstition workshop, costume contest and Hmong horror film “Zeb thiab Sua II”
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. today
WHERE: 115 Nicholson Hall

“We’re trying to reach out to a greater community in a new way; some people like being scared and some want to learn about other cultures,” Moua said.

Sociology senior Kathy Xiong will help facilitate the evening’s discussion and said she hopes it will bring all types of students together.

“It’s important for students to understand some of our beliefs,” she said. “And some Hmong students don’t even know about their own culture.”

Xiong said she doesn’t believe in the superstitions because they seem “surreal and unrealistic.”

She said one superstition she remembers says that if a person points at the moon, their ear will be cut while they sleep.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “I’ve pointed at the moon and my ear didn’t get cut off.”

Jenny Xiong, HMSA vice president, strongly disagrees and said she pointed at the moon once and later found a small paper cut on her ear.

“People will ask me, ‘How can the moon do that?’ and I just say, ‘Well it did,'” she said. “Those who want to believe me, believe me.”

Juavah Lee, teaching specialist for Asian Languages and Literature, is the adviser for the HMSA and said the workshop is an excellent way to answer the questions many young people have about the culture’s traditional way of thinking.

He said many young Hmong people lose touch with their cultural roots because they’ve been exposed to the Western world and said they don’t talk about their culture very often and don’t understand it.

Superstitions “are things that Hmong people need to be aware of,” Lee said. “As a Hmong person, it’s in their blood.”

Lee said he grew up being very informed about the superstitions and has continued to think about them on a daily basis.

When he was married, Lee made sure there were no hot peppers at his wedding, because the Hmong believe that they are bad luck for the bride and groom.

“I’m always very careful about the things I do,” Lee said. “Nothing has happened yet.”

Although the event is being called a “superstition workshop,” Moua said the word superstition isn’t a completely accurate translation of the Hmong word for their beliefs.

He said Hmong “superstitions” are more of a combination of morals and life guidelines, not to be confused with American superstitions about black cats and broken mirrors.

Stephanie Stoltz, a graphic design first-year student, rolled her eyes when asked about superstitions. She said she doesn’t avoid the cracks on the sidewalk.

“If it were true, there would be a lot of people with broken backs,” she said.