I never thought much of the artifacts above my door until my regional director came to visit. She was gathering her things, preparing to leave my apartment, when her gaze fell upon them.
“Oh, you have the hedgehog,” she said.
I was puzzled. I looked up and examined again what I had always thought to be a cleaning brush.
“That’s a hedgehog skin,” she noted.
Mongolians have always been particular about entryways. My regional director mentioned that carrying a few quills with you gave you good luck, and made you more successful in arguments or competitions. The hedgehog skin above the door adds protection to the home, bringing it good luck.
“There is also a saw,” she added.
“Why a saw?” I asked.
“I don’t know. You should ask your counterpart.”
I could not ask my counterpart, so I asked my supervisor. She said the same things about the hedgehog: It protects the home from bad things. She mentioned that the Tibetan cards above the door also added protection, and that they were Buddhist in nature. I asked her about the saw. She stopped to think for a moment.
“I don’t know. Maybe it is to help hold up the hedgehog?”
We talked about where one would procure a piece of hedgehog in Mongolia. She was unaware of anyplace where you could buy it, and said that in her home, her quill patch was given to her by her father.
“I don’t know why the previous family left it here. We usually take these things when we move. Maybe they thought you would need?”
Having exhausted the novelty of the door charms, we moved onto another topic. It’s funny how you can fail to notice small details like that in your own home, even though you see them every day.
Drink the Water, Follow the Customs (Poetry)