Author Archive
Contagious
Folk Beliefs

When your ear itches, someone is talking about you.

Whenever your ear itches, it mean’s someone is either saying good things about your or bad things about you, depending on which side of your ear itches. Specifically when your left ear itches, bad things are being said; when your right ear itches, good things are being said.

 

My informant’s mother told her this proverb when she was 10 years old. She stated that one day while my informant and her mother were walking home from school, her mother said “My ear itches, someone must be talking about me.” My informant then asked what that meant and she explained this superstition to her. She then always answered with that statement when someone she knew said that their ear itched.

She said that this proverb was passed down from her grandmother to her mother. She believes it was a simple superstition due to the fact that Korean women are known to gossip frequently. Thus every time someone’s ear itches either good things or bad things are being said about them. She believed as a child if her ear itched a lot a certain day either people liked her a lot or despised her. My informants analysis makes a lot of sense as it provides quite the answer for a simple body reaction.

Folk Beliefs
Protection
Proverbs

Whistling at night attracts snakes to your bed.

When you whistle at night you attract snakes to your bed.

My informant first heard about this proverb from her mother.  Due to this superstition my informant never whistled at night as a child as she did not want to bring harm to her family. She lived in a small country town in Korea, thus this environment helped this superstition gain steam. In her specific city, snakes were prevalent all over the neighborhood. She believes now that this proverb was told to discourage children to make noise at night, as this bothered the neighborhood. She also once witnessed her sister whistling while she was about to go to sleep, my informant then quickly told her the proverb so she would not brings snake into her bed.

This is actually quite an interesting usage of folklore as it was used to discourage children from doing a certain thing that bothered other townspeople. It also makes sense as snakes were prevalent all over the town and children usually hate snakes, thus the adults used a familiar animal to discourage children from whistling for generations as adults constantly passed this folklore down.

Legends

The Exorcism at St.Louis University

My informant stated that the library of St.Louis University was taped off and there were rumors that some sort of supernatural experience took place. This experience eventually was found out be an exorcism within the library itself. It was said that there was foreign writing on the walls mostly in the form of symbols and depictions. Some people state that a student was actually possessed by a demon and acted in an obscene and violent fashion. The student actually had to be imprisoned within the library and a Jesuit Priest reportedly came in an exorcised this student.

My informant’s uncle passed down this story to him and told him it was a passage when pledging his fraternity, while attending the University, to enter the allegedly haunted library and spend a night there to remember this event. To this day, this library is infamous to those who know of or heard of this assumed supernatural anomaly.

This is actually an example of annotation of authored folklore. As the alleged exorcism that took place at this university inspired both the film and novel titled The Exorcist.  This folklore is more as a legend within the university as this incident cannot be proven to have actually have happened, however students at this particularly university all know about this incident. This is a strong example of a legend quest and also part of a ritual, as fraternity pledges need to prove their bravery by spending a night in this haunted library. What is also interesting about this is that is a form of adapted literature, as the original legend was about a boy but however this was soon transformed into a tale about a little girl who got possessed.

Annotation: This case actually inspired the film and novel, The Exoricst. The boy that inspired The Exorcist, was given the name, “Roland Doe,” by the Catholic Church to protect his identity.

general
Myths
Narrative

Creation Myth: Raven, the Trickster

This myth is known to mirror Christian theology and was spread by the natives of Alaska, specifically the Inuit culture.

Inuits first of all believe in a “divine spirit” that created the Raven. The Raven was originally a seagull, who was brilliantly white and pure. The “divine spirit” also created man and the man lived in a hut. The divine spirit forbade the raven from going in to the man’s hut. However the raven would continually intrude on the man’s hut. Yet one day the raven was caught by the divine spirit in the hut. The raven in fear of the divine spirit escaped through the smokehole, and thus turned black due to all the soot. This is the story of how the seagull became a Raven and from then on the Raven became a trickster. The raven is known as the source of sin and trickery to humans, as this Raven taught humankind to lie, steal, and other evils.

My informant stated that in Alaska, that many regions have variations of this story. This version of the story comes from the Chignik Tradition. My informant has heard this from elders of Chignik as he was listening to their stories while at a fishing stop. He shares this myth as he belives that it is very interesting as it is a variation of the fall of Lucifer. My informant states that the elders love to share this myth and keep the Inuit stories alive and he also think it is a creative take.

This is a very entertaining creation myth as seagull must be prevalent on Alaska, yet so are raven. It is an interesting connection that the Inuit people have made that the a raven use to be a seagull. What is also interesting is how similar this story is to the fall of Lucifer: the raven betrayed the divine spirit’s trust and thus spread evil to get back at the divine spirit, Lucifer betrayed God and thus has a vendetta against him. This legend also has a nice narrative structure where a seagull which is white is pure, and a raven which is black contains all of mankind’s evil. Not only is this a creation myth about the raven, but also the birth of all the sins in the world.

Contagious
Customs
Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rave Culture: PLUR and Kandi

This is my informant’s account on the rave term PLUR and the exchange of Kandi,

“I first heard about PLUR in Electric Daisy Carnival LA: 2010. I heard of it because my friend and I saw everyone exchanging kandi, which are beaded bracelets that ravers make. These beaded bracelets are color and nice to look at, which include messages of love and such. We wanted our own so I asked a girl who was fully decked out in kandi if I could have a bracelet. She said yes enthusiastically and held two fingers up expectantly. Little did I know it was the beginning of a kind of ritual that is involved in the trading of kandi. You press two fingers together against your partners, create half a heart and complete it with your partner’s hands, and then clasp your hands together and each person pulls a bracelet from the others’ arm onto theirs. These actions represent Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect, respectively. These values constitute rave culture that started in the 90s. I later heard that PLUR originally included an extra “R” which stood for responsibility, but it’s not usually thought of because it was left out of the handshake.”

My informant stated that he now practices saying PLUR to people whenever he sees a kind act at raves. Such acts would be sharing water, menthol cigarettes, and also exchanging kandi.He states this is very prevalent at raves and such with the inclusion of kandi.

My analysis on this is that raves are generally a place where people have fun and want to feel a sense of happiness. The inclusion of drugs most likely help with this ritual of sharing pleasantries and connecting with people through the act of sharing “kandi” and also stating PLUR. The acronym of PLUR even explains the message of this act. Interestingly this also proves that the rave culture contains beneficial messages of peace and happiness. These rituals also help unite and connect people through the sharing of items that are visually pleasing. My informant’s experience of attaining Kandi, even demonstrates how simple the process is. Also supposedly the drug ecstasy makes lights and bright colors look better, thus kandi is attractive to users to see one women and men dancing.

Contagious
Customs
Holidays
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Yamaya/Yemoja: An African Deity

My informant states that Africans from what is now called Yorubaland brought Yemaya/Yemoja and a host of other deities/energy forces in nature with them, when they were brought to the shores of the Brazil as captives. She is the ocean, the essence of motherhood, and a protector of children. Once in Brazil, the myth was passed through oral tradition because the Portugese slave owners didn’t let them worship their deities openly. Her name slowly evolved into Yemanja over time. What is also interesting is after the Independence of Brazil, people were allowed to worship whatever deities and Gods they wanted. Yet Brazilians ended up enjoying the ritual of asking Yemoja for a blessing on New Years, as the ocean is a big part of Brazilian culture. Even during Brazilian carnivals, there was floats and imageries of Yemoja, as she is now a strong symbol of Brazilian culture.

My informant stated that his  mother first told him about this because it’s tradition to wear white on New Year’s day and go to the beach and put flowers in the ocean to honor her and for her to bless your new year with good luck. Everyone in Brazil now do this as it is part of their New Year’s tradition. Not only do Brazilians do this during New Years, but also when family members pass away.

This is an interesting analyzation of how another culture adopted a different culture’s customs and ritual to fit their needs. The fact that sending flowers to the ocean to celebrate Yemoja brings good luck is another example of asking for protection. What is also interesting is whether one believes in the deity or not, everyone does it during Brazil as it has transformed into a tradition.

Contagious
Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Soccer: End Game Thanking

My informant stated that after his previous American coach had left, his soccer team received a new British coach that added a new ritual at the end of a game win or lose.

My informant states:

“My senior year of high school, we got a new head coach who was British. He did a lot of stuff differently than any coach I ever had. One thing that he specifically made us do was line up as a team and run the field width wise to thank every one who came to support us after the game was over. It was simply to show our gratitude to the people who came out to watch us play. I had never done anything like this with any of my previous American coaches, so it was very interesting that this was so important to my English coach. He said it was important that we thanked our fans as they came out to watch us even if we lost or won and to remember who we were playing for. This really struck me as an important ritual after, because I remember some games were not even worth watching. As a captain, my senior year, I reiterated this ritual to the younger players on my team, who had also never done such a thing. What is also interesting is that in the English Premier Leagues and even the German Bundesliga Leagues, some of the teams do a similar thing.”

My informant stated that he believed this ritual showed the difference between American and European cultures. He stated that in England, he believes that soccer is considered a gentleman’s sport, thus the players should act classy and such. He also stated that support is very important in England and that the fans break or make the team.

My analysis of this is that it was a important ritual to the coach, that he spread and wanted to continually spread throughout his regime as a coach. The fact that my informant bought in showed how important this was to both the coach and the players. It was also interestingly a ritual that became important to the players that it even hindered the game experience as my informant states that he hated to do it when he lost, thus this pushed the players to try and win.

Contagious
Customs
Folk medicine
Legends
Protection

Beer before, liquor never sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.

Liquor before beer you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor never sicker.

My informant stated that he learned this lesson the wrong way. He stated that one night in high school he was doing multiple beer bongs and then took shots of liquor after. He stated that by the end of the night he was in the worse pain of his life from vomiting. His friend soon came over to him and stated that he did not follow the golden rule: “Liqour before beer, your in the clear. Beer before liquor never sicker.” Ever since then, my informant states on nights he knows he is drinking, he will take a shot first and then drink whatever he wants after.

My informant also states that he now tells this to all of his friends. When I asked him if there is any scientific proof of this claim, he stated that there was none that he knew of. He also states that he has heard some people say the opposite way, that “beer before liquor, you in the clear, liquor before beer, never sicker.” He however states that all of his friends follow his variation.

This is an interesting “urban legend,” as it deals with a popular practice in drinking alcohol socially. What is interesting is that this folklore is spread through experience and there is in fact no scientific proof that this is true. Some ideas of where this came from is that liquor is much more potent than beer, thus have liquor layer your stomach before beer may been a good way to protect one’s stomach. Either way, the people that follow this legend, believe whole heartedly as it in their mind prevents a horrible night. Whether or not it is a placebo effect, or if it actually works is up to the believer.

Contagious
Customs
Legends

Legend of Blackstar Canyon

The Warning Sign

This sign warns individuals that the county is not held responsible.

My informant tells me that there is a very eerie hiking path within a canyon in the city of Orange. This canyon warns it entrants that the area is not maintained by the city and also the government is not responsible for any injuries or loss that occurs in this place. He states that this was a local spot to hang out in during high school, to either go do drugs or go and get scared. My informant states that kids in high school would take flashlights and cameras, to go and take pictures of the haunted landmarks while night-hiking.

The landmarks that are known are the haunted tree, overturned bus, the forsaken campsite, and also man known as Blackstar Bill. The haunted tree is supposedly haunted by the ghost of many unfortunate people that were punished with nooses there by white supremacists. These ghosts are miserable and angry and if you do something disrespectful to the tree, ghosts will appears. My informant stated that his friend decided to urinate on the tree and they heard noises, thus they ran away as fast as they could. The overturned buss is another landmark that is known for being haunted, as children died there unfortunately as the bus driver loss control. The forsaken campsite is known to be a very eerie-looking campsite that looks like it has been left alone for a long time. Supposedly there are very insane people that live at this campsite that are the remnants of an abandoned mental institution. There also is reasoning that this campsite is home to Satanists and White Supremacists who meet here. Lastly Blackstar Bill is a deranged mountain man that lives within a cabin in the woods. He will shoot at you with no regard for human life and will state that you are trespassing on his property, thus he has the right to kill you. These are the landmarks that kids usually try to get to a night and take pictures of. My informant states that he once went there and saw odd red eyes within the overturned bus and never has gone back. He also states that there are signs along the hiking trail that state that police will not help you beyond these points.

My informant states that the Legend of Blackstar Canyon is still prevalent within many Orange County high schools. He states that he told his younger brother about this myth and that he already knew about and also ventured there before.

This definitely is a legend quest that offers high school kids on a boring night a thrill. What is interesting is that the landmarks are shared by many different high schools, yet with different stories at some parts. An example of this would be the haunted tree; instead of summoning a ghost when you anger the tree, another version is that you summon a very demonic creature that resembles a chupacabra. This could possibly be a latino spin on the legend, but this demonstrates how legends change for different people. What makes this a legend is the fact that there have been sightings of Blackstar Bill by many people. However the meeting site for occultists cannot be proven. Either way high school kids perform this ritual to state that they have been there and survived. It is basically a rite of passage for these high school kids, once they can drive and get there.

Contagious
Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cigarette Ritual

My informant states that he and his close friends share the practice of choosing a cigarette in a freshly purchased pack of cigarettes and flipping it over, so that out of all the cigarettes that have the butt sticking out, there is one odd white one. This supposed cigarette that is odd one out is a lucky cigarette. My informant states that he always save this cigarette for a bad day and once he smokes it he will either have a good day or a great night. But the one catch is that the buyer of the pack cannot choose the lucky cigarette, a friend must always be at the time you purchase a new pack and also choose it at the point to get the luck charm.

My informant believes in this whole-heartedly and thus tells this to all of his friends and makes sure that they follow the rules and also reap the benefits of this superstition. He states that he was told about this through his older friend, when he bought a pack of cigarettes for the first time.

This is an interesting piece of folklore, as it is a fun practice for such a bad habit. I believe whoever started this piece of folklore was trying shed a positive light on smoking cigarettes. It is also an interesting ritual started by visuals as the image of a cigarette just being the odd one out in a pack of cigarettes is like finding a four-leaf clover in grass. The visual of picking a certain “blessed object” appeals to people to brighten up their day.

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