Author Archive
general
Myths
Narrative

Myth – Hindu

On a certain day in the Hindu calendar, which usually falls in October, you are not supposed to look at the moon for the entire night. If you do look at the moon you will receive bad blessings. The only way to get rid of these bad blessings is to if another person tells you the mythological story of why not to look at the moon.

In Hindu mythology there is a story of a god who one day ate too much. He ate so much that he fell off of his vehicle. When he fell the moon started to laugh and make fun of the god. Then the god cursed the moon saying that no one will look at the moon’s face. So on that day, the day the moon laughed at a god, no one is supposed to look at the moon. But if they do, they will receive bad blessings.

Upon hearing this story I decided to look further into the specifics and found another, very similar version of this mythology in Hindu Feasts and Festivals by Sri Swami Sivanadanda. In this version, Lord Ganesha is the god mentioned. He is an embodiment of  wisdom and bliss and has a small mouse as his vehicle. Ganesa is the first god, he has the head of an elephant- the biggest of all animals- and rides on a mouse- the smallest of all animals. This denotes that Ganesha is the creator of all creatures (Sivanadanda 43).

On his birthday Ganesha was going to different houses accepting offerings of sweet puddings, which he loved. After eating a lot of pudding he set out on his mouse at night. Suddenly the mouse stumbled because it saw a snake and Ganesha fell off. Ganesha’s stomach burst open and all of the sweets spilled out. Ganesha stuffed the sweets back into his stomach and used tied the snake around his belly. The moon and sky laughed after witnessing this. Annoyed, Ganesh pulled out one of his tusks and hurled it against the moon and cursed that no one should look at the moon on the Ganesh Chaturthi day or else they will earn a bad name. If someone does look at the moon by mistake then the only way he can be freed rom the curse is by repeating or listening to a different story of   how Lord Krishna cleared his character regarding the Symantaka jewel. (Sivanadanda 44)

This story also has central ties to the Hindu doctrine of Karma, essentially “what goes around comes around.” In this case, if you laugh at a high god, you will be cursed. This story also serves to teach respect for the spiritual superiors despite mistakes or faults they may have, scoffing at any high god will not go unnoticed.

Ganesh Chaturthi day is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar and as mentioned earlier, usually falls in the fall, in October.

Annotation:

Sivanadanda, Swami Sri. Hindu Feasts and Festivals. Himalayas, India: The Divine Life Society: World Wide Web Edition: 2000. http://chidananda.org/ download/ hindufest.pdf.

general
Humor
Narrative

Joke – Scotland

At a restaurant an old Scottish man looked at the waitress and said: “I have a story to tell you about my Scottish friend.  He went to a restaurant and ordered soup. When the soup came the man immediately called over the waiter and said: “Waiter, there is a fly in my soup!”  Immediately the waiter responded;  “Oh Sir, let me take that one away and bring you another.”  But the old Scotsman said “Oh no lad, just make him (the fly) spit it out!”

My mom told me this joke and she said she heard it from her great-grandfather, William Henry Moore. William is from a small town near Glasgow, Scotland and came to the United States in the 1930s. He lived in Long Island until retirement when he moved to Dunedian, Florida. Dunedian is a predominantly Scottish town and is known for its ancestral ties to Scotland.

“Scotty,” the nickname for my great-grandfather, would invite his Scottish friends over in Dunedian and tell stories, play bagpipes, and smoke cigars fairly regularly. When ever my mother came to visit she often heard this joke, but remembers never hearing any jokes/stories etc. about other nationalities, only Scottish.

This joke pokes fun at Scotsmen as penny-pinchers. Wanting every little bit of their money’s worth, even the miniscule droplet that a fly might have consumed. The joke is told traditionally with a narrative and a punch line. This joke can be categorized as a Blason Populaire joke because it pokes fun at the popular conception of a Scotsman.

A joke disclaims responsibility of the teller, however when joke is about an nationality and the teller and audience are of the same ethnicity I do not believe any responsibility can be disclaimed. Because Scotty and the other men never told stories about other nationalities they took more responsibility for their words then perhaps a French man telling the joke.

The joke telling was also part of a tradition/habitual folk practice that my great-grandfather took part in. The congregation of Scotsmen in Dunedian was a regular occurrence because all the men there were retired. When Scotty lived in New York he and his fellow Scotsmen usually were working long hours in industrial jobs and therefore the coming together and sharing of stories, songs, cigars etc. was less frequent.

In my family today we do not carry on a Scottish tradition of bagpipes, kilts, etc. Scotty has passed and so has his wife but they both made it a point to tell my mom and her Kelly Williamssiblings the stories about their lives and a few jokes etc. The kilt is still in my immediate family and other Scottish items are divided between my mother and her siblings. On several occasions my mom has made it a point to tell me about my great-grandparents, whom I never met, so that I can continue passing on their story and spirit.

Foodways
general

Recipe – Swedish

SWEDISH RYE BREAD

2 pkgs. Dry yeast

¼ c. very warm water

1 t. cugar

1 c. milk, scalded    2 t. anise seed, pounded

1 c. water     3 c. light rye flour

½ stick margarine    2 t. salt

½ c. molasses     yeast

¼ c. light brown sugar    4 c. white flour

Dissolve yeast in water and sugar. Scald milk, add water, margarine, molasses, brown sugar and anise seed. Add salt, stir in rye flour and mix well. Add dissolved yeast and beat. Add white flour gradually beating well after each addition. Turn out on floured board and knead using only as much flour as necessary. Put dough into a well greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover with waxed paper and a towel. Set in a warm place and allow to rise until double in bulk. Punch down. Turn out on floured board and with a sharp oiled knife cut into two parts for large loaves or into three parts for smaller loaves. Form into rounds and let rest covered for 10 minutes. Grease bread pans. Form dough into loaves, cover and let rise until almost double in bulk. Bake in a 375 oven. After first 20 minutes, brush tops with warm water. Continue baking another 10 or 15 min. Test for doneness by removing a loaf from pan and press sides, and tap bottom. Place loaves on a rack, brush with hot water and cover with a cloth.

This recipe comes from a recipe book that Rene’s aunt (his dad’s sister), Inez Wendell, wrote called My Yesterday, Your Today. The cookbook includes all the traditional Swedish recipes that she grew up making as well as stories about the Swedish influence in her upbringing and other stories from her past in relation to her heritage.

Rene says that she learned probably learned the recipe from his greatgrandmother who came to the United States from Sweden. His great-grandmother passed the recipe down to his grandmother and finally to his mother who Rene says “made the Rye bread all her life.” Rene’s great-grandparents on both is father’s and mother’s side came to the United States from Sweden and brought these recipes with them. Specifically they came from Orebro, Sweden which is where this recipe likely originated. Rene’s grandmother and mother also used to make the rye flour base for the bread from scratch, however because this is so time consuming this practice has been replaced with store-bought rye flour.

Rene carries on the tradition of making the rye bread because his female siblings and his mother are no longer able to. The bread is always made on holidays and special occasions such as birthdays. The bread is not only reserved for these occasions though, it can be made at any time and usually accompanies dinner and can be served with any spread, typically butter or occasionally a jam. If there are leftovers from dinner the bread is often ate in replacement of toast for breakfast the next morning.

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Folk Ceremony – Hindu

The Hindu ceremony known as Upanayanam, is performed as a coming of age ceremony only for boys that traditionally relates to the time in India when children were sent to school to learn with a Spiritual Master. With the Spiritual Master they learn the arts, sciences, math, mental strength etc. A priest and family members attend the ceremony where they all watch and celebrate. From the ceremony on out the boy wears a thread across his chest, and will receive a second when he marries.

During the ceremony the boy sits down while the priest sets up types of rice, oils, and makes a fire. The priest begins chanting prayers and makes offerings symbolic of sacrifices-offering foods water/liquids with the intent of humbling yourself before God. The prayer and offerings last about two hours. After that the father of the child and the priest tie the string around the child. Which is believed to bring the child strength and luck in the future. Throughout the entire ceremony the boy keeps his eyes closed.

Kunaal recently had this ceremony performed for him. He said that in modern society Hindu boys have the ceremony when they go off to college or before they leave the home for an extended period of time. After the ceremony you are no longer regarded as a boy but as a man. The ceremony is only for men because traditionally, Hindu women did not leave the home to be educated.

It is obvious that this tradition has very close religious ties with the presence of a priest, prayers, and offerings. Typically a strong-believing Hindu family would have this ceremony vs. a Hindu family that does not practice their claimed religion very closely. This ceremony can also be categorized as a form of initiation. The ceremony initiates a boy into the outside world and recognizes him as a learner of the world. The liminal period is signified by the time the boy must keep his eyes closed, from the beginning to the end of the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony the boy’s eyes open to represent being opened to the outside world and to manhood.

This ceremony appeals only to a specific group and serves to establish an identity for the Hindu man. The man constantly wears the white string across his heart. Kunaal wears his under his shirt every day and rarely takes it off. When he is marred he will receive a second string that he will also wear at all times. The practice of humbling oneself before God with offerings is also a rite of passage. The boy must be recognized not only by his family and community as a man but also by his God and the priest serves as the middleman in this transaction.

For Kunaal the ceremony was very important. It is difficult to leave home and an environment that constantly reminds him of his background/beliefs. With the Upanayanam ceremony Kunaal said that he feels as though he has his family and priest’s blessing to leave the household and become an honorable man.

Folk Beliefs
general

Superstition – Oahu, Hawaii

On the island of Oahu in Hawaii there is a curse that comes upon anyone who brings pork with them on the Pali road at midnight. If they do it is said something bad will happen, such as your car stalling out or angry spirits coming to taunt you. The Old Pali road connects Waikiki to Waimanalo but has since been turned into a highway. The curse of taking pork over the Pali at midnight relates to a feud between Pele, the goddess of the dry side of the island and Kamapua’a the half-man, half-pig god of the wet side of the island. When you take pork over the Pali, from the wet side over to the dry side of the island, Pele is angered because you are bringing Kamapua’a into her domain. Therefore, as the saying goes; Don’t bring pork over the Pali at midnight!

Sam’s father is a native Hawaiian, and although Sam was born in California he spent much of his childhood frequently visiting Hawaii with his family. Sam cannot remember exactly when he was told about this curse but he guessed it was when he was very young, around 5 or 6 years old. He said it was a family tradition to sit around in the evening and sing songs and tell stories about the islands, especially the close ties with nature.

When Sam was a teenager he said he and his friends went on the Pali road at midnight with a piece of bacon. They hiked off of the highway onto the old road that was not paved over. After about thirty minutes of snooping around with their bacon in hand, nothing had happened. The boys left in their car.

Sam does not really take the curse seriously because he rarely is driving around the Pali highway with pork in his car at midnight. Also, because he has tested it out and nothing happened, he believes its just an old superstition used to scare little kids and keep teenagers off the deserted road late at night.

Hawaiian superstitions are very closely tied with the identity of the Hawaiian people. Because the tourism industry is so prevalent and the “authentic” Hawaiian experience is exploited, superstitions such as the pork over Pali tradition serve more as ways to remember the roots of the Hawaiians and the Polynesian beliefs versus a scare tactic to keep kids from being on the highway late at night.

Furthermore the story behind the superstition serves as a constant reminder of the Polynesian belief system. Because the objects are very specific in relation to the superstition the reason behind it is more easily remembered. I think parents tell this folklore to their kids because at a young age they are more impressionable and the story will likely make a bigger impact on them then it would on a adolescent who is less likely to take their parents seriously.

general
Legends
Narrative

Legend – Japanese

A small town in Japan, known as Aomori claims to be home to the tomb of Jesus. The townspeople believe that Jesus left the Middle East when he was 32 and traveled with his brother, James, to India. In India the two studied religion with Indian monks and kept traveling through China into Aomori. There it is held that Jesus settled down and married a local woman. Together they had three daughters and spent the rest of their life there. It is believed that Jesus died in Aomori and on his tomb lays a lock of James’s hair.

Kevin, my brother’s roommate, has led a very international lifestyle and heard about this tomb when he was living in Japan. The tomb in Aomori is the only international tourist attraction in northern Japan and therefore it is well known throughout the country. To Christians and westerners this town legend seems blasphemous but in the town itself it is just an interesting old legend. A reporter from BBC investigated the story, interviewing the local people.

According to the legend Jesus escaped from Jerusalem and traveled across Russia and Serbia to Aomori where he became a rice farmer, married, had a family and died peacefully at the age of 114. It is also said that in the town there still is a descendent of Jesus himself.  The legend’s origins are also fairly recent. According to the article the legend began in the 1930s with the discovery of claimed ancient Hebrew documents that detailed Jesus’ life and death in Japan. However, these documents are now no where to be found and the town has never excavated the grave.

With these extra bits of information it can be speculated that this legend may infact be “fakelore.” It could be speculated that the entire story, tomb, and ancient house of Jesus that the town sells to tourists may only be a gimmick made up by the townspeople to draw in income. From Kevin’s interview and the article I gathered that the tomb is the entire region of Northern Japan’s claim to fame which is ironic because only 1% of Japan is officially Christian, however in an intervtiew with a Christian-Japanese priest had no qualms with the Aomori legend because it helps the people feel respect for Jesus in the Bible and shows that  “they are trying to make a connection with Jesus in some way.”  Perhaps any form of Christianity, despite its popular acceptance, is considered beneficial to the Japanese Christians and the Northern Japanese economy.

Annotation:

Bartlett, Duncan. “Japanese Jesus Trail.” BBC News (2006). 28 Apr. 2008 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/5326614.stm>.

Customs
general
Humor
Initiations

Prank/Tradition – Phoenix, Arizona

“So every year at Brophy seniors sell tickets to freshman for the pool party on top of the gym. The party usually is at the end of the year or something. If a freshman says “Let me see a picture or something” the seniors show them a picture that from the air looks like there is a pool but its really the ventilation on the roof or something. So for years now there’s been a “pool on the gym roof.” Tickets would be like $5-10 depending on who you bought them from. If you were a freshman and got tickets to the pool party, you were the shit until you found out it was a hoax and then you were gay. I got tickets when I was a freshman, but I never sold them to freshman when I was a senior.”

Brophy College Preparatory High School in Phoenix, Arizona is an all boys Jesuit high school. Directly adjacent to Brophy is Xavier College Preparatory High School, an all girls Catholic school (the white buildings closest to the baseball field). Therefore a pool party was guaranteed to be teeming with lots of the Xavier girls, which according to Parker was a big deal for the freshman guys who were isolated from the girls in their all boys school. As a freshman at Xavier at the same time as Parker, I heard about the pool party too but was told that girls didn’t need to buy tickets because we got in for free.

The pool party hoax has been around every year for a very long time. No one is really sure of who started it, my older brothers who went to Brophy in the 90s also fell victim to this prank when they were freshman. Parker guessed that the prank started soon after the gym was remodeled, in the 80s. The picture for proof didn’t exist when my brothers went to school at Brophy but Parker thinks that the picture existed for about 4 years before he came to Brophy.

The prank is definitely considered a rite of initiation at Brophy. The freshman guys are usually the only ones who fall victim to the pranks that are carried out by seniors only. Selling the tickets is also a form of initiation for the seniors. Ever since a freshman finds out about that he has been conned he waits until he is a senior to get his retaliation, and usually, his money back. The tickets are only sold for the first week or two of school usually because the secret gets out quickly that there really is no pool on the roof.

The pool on the roof prank disclaims responsibility of the seniors because it is tradition that the faculty and older students already know about and do not try to stop. It is an accepted rite of passage at the high school. The lore of Brophy is quickly learned by the freshman folk the hard way however, with the prank also acts as a method to unify the class, usually against the seniors, but unity none the less is a crucial aspect to building friendships.

general
Humor
Narrative

Joke – Swedish

“Before we begin, it is important for you to know that Swedish men like to argue and that they always like to get that “zing” into a conversation.” With that said the story goes like this.

Ole and his wife were going to go over to Sven’s house to visit with he and his wife and have dinner. As they were getting ready, Ole’s wife said to him, “Now Ole, ven ve go over to Sven’s house you have to promise not to say anything about Sven’s son, you know dat da boy has no ears and Sven is very sensitive about dat.” Well the conversation went on this way until they were just about ready to leave and finally Ole threw up his hands and said “O.K.O.K., I promise I von’t say da vord ear all night, O.K?

Well being a man of his word Ole’s wife said O.K. and they were on their way. As was always the case they had a delicious dinner and great couples conversation and after dinner the ladies got up and started taking things to the kitchen while the men began making their way to the den.

After about an hour or more of arguing about one thing or another, Ole looked up on a shelf and saw a picture of Sven’s son and he said, “Hey Sven, dats a good looking boy you got dere” and Sven being very suspicious of where this conversation might lead said, “Yeah, he’s a good looking boy, takes after his mudder you know.

Then Ole said “Dat boy, he’s got nice eyes, yeah? To which Sven said “Oh yeah, he’s got nice eyes” Sven got this look of pride and said “Tventy tventy vision you know.

Then Ole said, “Vell it’s a damn good ting Sven cause he sure as hell can’t vere glasses can he?”

Rene, my stepfather, comes from Swedish descent. He cannot recall when exactly he first heard this joke. This joke is only one of about 15 jokes that Rene knows starring Sven and Ole. Rene also told me that these jokes are so popular that a book has been written to compile them, however this joke is not found in the book.

Personally I have heard Sven and Ole jokes told many times growing up with Rene around the house. We would tell them at dinner, around friends and family or even to people we just met as a way to break the ice. Rene does not have a specific time when he tells the jokes but “tells them to all sorts of people, any time its appropriate.” My mother has also become a teller of the Sven and Ole jokes, however personally I don’t think she tells them as well as Rene.

Rene did make it a point however to note that he does not tell jokes about any other nationalities because he risks offending them but says that all people, including Swedes love the Sven and Ole jokes because they are witty and goofy and do not particularly offend the Swedes or imply negative stereotypes.

general
Legends
Narrative

Legend – Oahu, Hawaii

In the time of the Ancient Hawaiians, on the island of Oahu, Kaneana Point was often a place of rituals and sacrifices, often human sacrifices. At this time there was a shark who lived in a sea cave directly below Kaneana Point. The cave is called Makua Cave. This shark, known today as Makua Charley, is rumored to have a taste for human blood and flesh because he fed on the human sacrifices. The cave is also close to a popular surf spot on the island. Although the cave is now above water and the reaches of the tides it is still believed that a giant under water lava tube passage may be the residence of Makua Charley, waiting for an unfortunate person to be sucked in by the undertow.

Sam’s father told him this story after he first learned how to surf in Hawaii. His dad was taking him around the island showing him some of the good, locals-only surf spots when he was told about Makua Charley and his appetite for blood. Sam claims that the story scared him a little bit at first and fed to his innate fear of sharks while surfing. But because the cave is no longer submerged and the story is hundreds of years old, he is not really scared of the ancient shark.

This legend serves many purposes, principally demonstrating a relationship with nature. First it establishes a fear and respect for nature; fear of the shark and his hunger for humans but also respect for the shark as he was more or less fed the sacrifices. Also, the friendly name Makua Charley establishes a more friendly relationship between the

humans and shark. The name Charley doesn’t have the connotation of a blood-hungry shark but rather an old friend.

As Sam mentioned, surfers today who surf near the Makua cave do not feel threatened or scared by Makua Charley. He also mentioned that Makua Charley has become more of a joke or term used when someone does something really wrong in relationship to surfing. For example, if a surfer is absolutely crazy and unsafe someone might say, “He’s on his way to visit Makua Charley.”

I think this legend evolved from a scare tactic used to keep certain people from disrespecting a beautiful point of the island (which is now protected) to an ominous story used to teach young surfers to be respectful of the ocean and its inhabitants. The legend is commonly passed down through families and friends all with the same intention. The ties the Hawaiian people feel with their islands are constantly exhibited in their mythologies and legends. The Kaneana Point/Makua Cave legend is no exception.

general
Legends
Narrative

Ghost Story – Hispanic/Native-American

The San Buena Ventura Mission in Ventura County, CA was built on an Indian Burial ground.  Next to the mission a school was built called Holy Cross for grades kindergarten through eight. One of the buildings was really old, it was first building of the school. The school used to be a small one-building school. The building had a bell tower and the bell tower was said haunted by the spirits from the burial site. Friends of Charly claim to have heard funny noises and seen shadows when no one was there. The bell tower was torn down 4 years ago. On the night the tower was torn down people nearby claimed that there were strange noises and lights around the construction site. A new, really large school building was built in its place. Now it is said that if you are at the new building at night time lights will flash on and off and that you will hear sounds. These are supposed to be signs from the angry spirits in the burial ground. They were angry that they were built on top of in the first place and remain angry that buildings still stand over the burial ground.

Charly went to Holy Cross School in the 6th grade. She said that she heard the story when she became a student at the school. She said that the new students were always told this story when they first got to the school to scare them. This ghost story could be seen as a type of initiation for the new students. Charly said the kids would tell the new kids this story and then also embellish different parts of the story. She said that the kids would pick normal, modern objects and claim that they were haunted too just to scare the new kids and make them feel uncomfortable. This would go on only for a few weeks in the beginning of the year according to Charly, after that liminal period the students would get tired of scaring and just accept the new kids.

The setting of angry Indian spirits is a common beginning to many ghost stories. The Indian polytheistic belief system is directly juxtaposed with the Christian monotheism in this story because a Christian mission is built on top of the burial ground. This may symbolize the stomping out of Naive American beliefs by monotheism and the oppression the Indians went through during the colonization and Christianization of southern California. The angry spirits are a means of retaliation by the Indian people and also bring recognition of their presence.

The active bearers of the story are middle school aged children, ages 12-13. At this age kids are beginning to want to impress others, boys impressing girls and vice versa, and therefore scaring a new kid may be a way to impress these groups. Also, if a new kid says he or she’s not scared he will probably impress the new kids more than if he bought into the story and revealed his fear.

Kids telling ghost stories or daring each other is a commonplace in middle schools, especially when it involves welcoming a new person into social groups. At this age social groups and standards are becoming more important and cliques are established. The ghost story of the Indian burial ground at Holy Cross appears to serve more as a hazing ritual for the new students at the school versus a story actually investigated by the students.

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