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Folk Beliefs

Contemporary Legend – Hawaiian

About a twenty minute hike from the edge of my town (Waimea, on the big island of Hawaii) is the back of Waipio Valley, the first in a chain of seven valleys on the northeast coast of my island. By Hawaiin tradition, Waipio is thought to be the entrance to the underworld, where the dead souls of Ali’I (Hawaiin Royalty) go after they die. They sat night the Ali’l come out and walk through the valley (and consequently the hills of my town) accompanied by their court. We call them night marchers. From a distance they look like a chain of flickering lanterns moving across the hillside and through the trees. As they get closer you hear Hawaiin chanting, especially the word “awe” (pronounced ah-vay) meaning “stay away.” And if you happen to be in the proximity of a procession, before you cross paths you need to shed all your clothes (because peasants wore no clothing) and lie face down on the ground (a sign of fealty). If you stay standing, or look at the night marchers, you will be forced to join their slow procession forever.

Steve commented that he is a very spiritual person and was not entirely skeptical of this idea. He understands the history and culture of the area and similarly believes that everyone of every faith has a different idea of the afterlife and concepts surrounding it. Death is a curious thing and it is certainly interesting that they would believe in the entrance to the underworld being on earth. In my opinion what contributes to this is the fact that we have so many volcanoes, the original people of the area saw how much power came out of underneath the earth it is no wonder they assumed the gods lay underneath the earth as opposed to the sky in the traditional Christian perspective.

I find this to be a very interesting piece of folklore. The portion that refers to an opening to the underworld speaks to the idea that humans crave knowledge about what lies ahead of us after our time on earth passes. We can not stand dealing with the unknown so we create beliefs such as this to help ease the trouble of that time in our life. This piece also reflects the concept of respect for authority and the difference amongst the social classes in early Hawaiian society. The fact that the peasants would be on the ground with no clothes is an extreme to say the least. In general this superstition is certainly one that would entice visitors to experience the culture and history of the area.


Proverb – California

“A tree falls the way it leans”

Kelsey told me she learned this proverb from her basketball coach, when she was seventeen and the captain of her high school basketball team in Mountain View, CA. Kelsey heard this proverb one day talking to the coach about how to motivate the team after a bad practice. The coach said that the girls were not practicing at game speed tempo and therefore were performing poorly. Kelsey interpreted that to mean the team must bring the same intensity to practice that they brought to the games.

Kelsey also says that she thinks this proverb’s meaning transcends basketball. I think from a human standpoint, this proverb is really addressing the importance of our individual choices. Each choice we make, no matter how small we perceive it to be, affects the way we grow and develop. We set goals for ourselves, straight paths that we want to follow. We try to make decisions based on the premise of which choice will bring us closer to our goal, but inevitably we sometimes stray from the path by choosing to compromise our goals on fleeting whims. We have to avoid choices that cause us to bend our metaphorical trunks so far that they break, and instead resolve to make choices that transform us positively.

I certainly agree with Kelsey, this proverb reflects the fact that our choices dictate who we become as we grow up. When I see this proverb I’m also reminded of the other proverb “You play the way you practice,” meaning if you are too relaxed during practice you will perform poorly in the game. This proverb matches up well with Kelsey’s original sports oriented context. I also have heard this proverb from coaches during practice. I always interpreted to mean that if you want to be successful in reality you have to put forth a great deal of effort at all times.  I feel this proverb discusses how our actions reflect who we become in life.

Annotation: de Lay, Gerd. International Dictionary of Proverbs. New York: Hippocrene Books Inc.: 1998.

Folk Beliefs

Smokers Superstition – Long Beach, CA

Smokers Superstition- Long Beach, CA

“Whenever you smoke a fresh pack of cigarettes you have to take the first one and flip it upside down in the box and then smoke it last, otherwise you will have bad luck.”

Bill said he learned about this superstition when he was 17 years old and a senior in high school in Long Beach, CA. He had just gotten into the notion of smoking because of a great number of people in class doing so. From one friend, he could not recall a specific person, he was told to flip the first cigarette upside and save it for last. If he did not it would be bad luck. Bill told me at first that he really did not believe the bad luck aspect of the superstition, but he practiced anyway because that’s what everyone else in his high school did. However, he then mentioned that one day he did not flip the first cigarette over and later that day he returned to his car and saw that he had been hit on the side by another car trying to park. Needless to say he saw this as a direct correlation to him not flipping over the cigarette and therefore he paid the price. This makes absolute sense because usually in the case of odd superstition such as this people are skeptical until they actually disobey the superstition and pay the consequences.

However, it is interesting to note that while I was interviewing my friend another associate of ours, also a smoker, claimed to have never have heard of this superstition before and thought it was absolutely absurd. It is important to note that this other gentleman is from the Midwestern part of the country. This is a prime example of the Historic Geographic method developed by the Kronhes because this piece of folklore is quite avid in one part of the country and noticeably absent in another.

I feel this is a very interesting piece of folklore that reflects an example of occupational folklore, you are not considered part of the smoking crowd unless you know this tradition. Superstition is a natural part of human existence because people have very little control over their life so they often practice superstition to ensure no harm will come their way. I myself do not smoke so would not engage in this superstition, but Bill made an interesting point about doing it simply because his friends were also doing it, a reflection of peer pressure in our society. We all can relate to this feeling of wanting to belong, even if that thing you belong to, such as smoking, is bad for you. We long for acceptance and the opportunity to fit in.



He who sleeps, is a jackass

Shanzeh told me she heard this proverb from her parents. It would be used in the morning when they would try and get her out of bed if she was moving quite slowly. In all honesty the saying never convinced me to get up, but I’ll always remember it because my parents always said it. It basically tells one to wake up and live their life. Life is short and we can sleep after that, right now it is important to live your life to the fullest. Shanzeh also commented on the bluntness of this proverb. I told there that it actually follows exactly what a proverb should be, it is fixed phrase and expresses a particular world view. In her opinion the word “jackass” is not meant to be taken literally, it is better to say that you are being lazy if you lie in bed for too long and that you would be wise to get up and start your day. Shanzeh added that although she does enjoy her sleep in college but feels much better getting up early and taking advantage of the full day, always remembering the proverb of her parents.

I really like this proverb for that very reason, the outlook expressed in this proverb, although phrased very bluntly is actually very optimistic. This is trying to convey the message that life is too precious to waste lying in bed and you would be a fool to do so. When I heard this I was also reminded of the classic American proverb by Ben Franklin: “the early bird catches the worm.” Both proverbs encourage the same values of time management and taking advantage of the early morning hours to attack the day and make the most of life. This proverb is meant to encourage people from being lazy and to really use their time here on earth very wisely. If one really examines this proverb on a very deep level, it would speak to some concept of the afterlife. Our time is very limited and we best make the most of it while we can because there is no guarantee about what is going to happen after we pass from earth. So get up early and enjoy life.


Baseball Tradition – California

The Rally Cap- Baseball Superstition

Although I myself am I participant in this tradition as well I felt by interviewing Mark, a NCAA Division 1 athlete, the collection would benefit more thoroughly. Mark has been playing baseball for nearly 14 years. I myself have been on many teams with him throughout that period, including little league when he learned of the practice of the rally cap when he was 9 years old while playing baseball in our hometown of San Jose, CA. Mark recalls the coach explaining to him the rally cap is used late in the game when your team is down and you need some support. While batting and trying to score the winning runs, those not playing in the game will turn their hats inside out and flip the bill (as displayed above). Marks states that this is the most popular form of the rally cap.

Mark sees the rally cap as a way to inspire your team and provide a little motivation to overcome the deficit and win the game. Why the rally cap is used for this is simple according to Mark. In order to succeed at the game you have to relax and let things happen. If you try too hard, you will fail. The best thing to do when you get up to the plate is be loose and let your body do what comes natural. Baseball is such a head case game that if you get down on yourself too much you will pay the price. When Mark is on the bench and his team is down he is always very vocal and supportive of the team making sure everyone has their rally caps on.

In my own personal experience with the rally cap I have come across several different styles in which to wear it. One other form of the rally cap is to fold it to one side and where it only on one top half of your head. By demonstrating different versions of the rally cap this tradition follows in proper form of folklore by having multiplicity and variation. The rally cap is seen in use from little league all the way to the big leagues where both fans and players will don the rally cap to provide their team with a little extra motivation.

I feel the rally cap is a very humorous and light hearted thing, the notion and appearance of the rally cap is a fairly comical one and therefore gets the players feeling a little bit looser and relaxed, ready to play the game. Although the rally cap does not have any true power, it adds a little energy to the players and it does nothing but create positive feelings amongst the players. Baseball is meant to be a fun game and the rally cap reminds us of that fact.


Game Custom – California

Ping Pong Counting Start

“Ping Pong Rallies On”


This is something I noticed in my fraternity after we purchases a ping pong table. When playing someone it is customary to begin with some general rallying to warm up. After doing this for roughly two to five minutes, the game officially starts. In order to determine who serves the ball first a rally is began with either one of those two chants mentioned above. I find it quite interesting however because I had never heard of the second chant involving only P-I-N-G. I have only used the chant that goes “Ping Pong Rallies On.” I was quite surprised to hear this other version and for some reason it threw me off. Although they are not very different, both have four beats to their rhythm, I still could not get used to this alternative beginning. Upon further research I discovered that according to the International Table Tennis Federation, the proper way to start a game is with the P-I-N-G version. This was very frustrating to me as I was quite comfortable with the alternative way.

It is curious to note that I am from northern California and the majority of the people in my fraternity house who employ the alternative ping pong chant are from southern California. Just as I was unfamiliar with their version, they were not familiar with mine either. I had learned my version from friends and I can recall using this as far back ten years ago when I was nine and we had our first ping pong table.

This piece of folklore is a perfect example of the Krohne historic geographic method where one can trace where a particular piece of folklore is in common practice. In this case “Ping Pong Rallies On” is prevalent in northern California, while “P-I-N-G” is more apparent in southern California. Ping Pong in my opinion is a very social and great game because you do not have to be a tremendous athlete to play, therefore you have a wide variety of people involved in the sport.


Proverb – Pakistani

Sabbar ke phal meethe hotein hai

The fruits of patience are very sweet

Shanzeh told me she heard this proverb many times especially from her parents and her elder relatives, her family s from the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. She says this proverb would be used when either she or someone around her was being impatient. There was one time in particular that she recalls hearing this saying from her mother. Shanzeh was about seven years old and her birthday was approaching, she remembers being in her parents room and seeing a very large box wrapped up. It just had to be her birthday present her parents were hiding from her. Just as she was about ready to rip off the wrapping, her mother grabbed her by the hand and scolded her. This of course set her into a fit of tears, as seven year olds typically do when not getting their way. Later as her mother talked to her she mentioned this proverb. There were several instances in Shanzeh’s life where she heard this saying, but felt this situation was a perfect application.

Shanzeh agrees that this proverb could certainly be directed at children because of their often impatient behavior. But she also mentioned that it is not limited to just use toward children. It is very natural for people to always be wanting things, we live in a very materialistic world. Shanzeh feels as though we focus too much on our material wants and that if wait and let things happen naturally, everything will work out in the end.

I would agree with Shanzeh’s thoughts on this proverb. It reminds me very much of the other proverb, “patience is a virtue.” Indeed, that ideal was reflected in Shanzeh’s thoughts and in my own as well. The situation in which Shanzeh recalls the proverb being used also reflects the very materialistic attitude many people have in life today. I feel this is quite apparent in the United States today, unfortunately I feel the majority of my generation has no appreciation for hard work. It seems that Shanzeh took her mother’s words to heart because the Shanzeh I know today is one of the most hardworking people I know here. Just recently she has been pledging a business “forority” which is a long process. She has displayed great patience and worked very hard. She was recently initiated and she was rewarded greatly, proving the proverb quite true. If more people could display patience and understand things are not easily handed to you, the world would be a better place.


Family Proverb

Bozzo Family Proverb: “Many hands make light work”

My father Gus has always used this proverb for as long as remember. When I asked him about where he had heard it he answered that this saying had been with him since his childhood growing up in nearby Gilroy, CA. He heard it from his father whenever there was work to be done. My father is one of seven children, which is perfectly understandable within the context of the expression. Whenever there was work to be done, if everyone pitched in, it would go by faster. My dad said his father ran the family in this manner because there was always so many of them, whether it was doing work on the yard or doing dishes, there was no shortage of work nor a shortage of helping hands. My dad believes this phrase emphasizes the fact that within a family everyone must work together in order for things to run smoothly. No one is more important the other and the work must be done so everyone might as well pitch in.

When I asked my dad further about some of the times he would hear his dad use the phrase I noticed that many of the jobs were constructed based on gender roles. For example whenever there was hard manual labor to be done his father called on my dad and his two brothers to see to it. Meanwhile there was other work more fit for the girls such as preparing the meal, cleaning, or taking care of other household tasks. My dad described his father and very old fashioned and he remains that way today. Which certainly makes sense as to why he has these very narrow view points about what jobs are suitable for a girl and which for a boy.

I feel this proverb focuses on the theme of cooperation which is certainly an important aspect to any family’s daily life. My dad continues to use this phrase around the house today and likewise I feel I will when I become the head of a household. The family is one of the most important things in life and how in order for it to operate smoothly everyone has to pitch in and do their fair share as reflected in this proverb.

Annotation: The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3th ed., edited by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., et al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.


Festival – Indian

Holi Festival- India

Sudharam very enthusiastically recalled the tradition of Holi festival celebrated each year in his native India. The festival occurs in late February or early March and is based on the lunar calendar, this festival always happens after a full moon. The premise of the holiday is spraying and covering one another in many brightly covered paints. The expression “Happy Holi” is exchanged between everyone through the course of the day. Also, a drink known as “bhang” that contains milk and some form of drug that Sudharam could not identify, the drink is served to all people including children. The result is everyone feeling inebriated and an extreme high.

Directly connected to this celebration are the festivities that precede it the night before which are known as Lorri. According to Sudharam during this night the whole family gathers around a fireplace and they all through wheat grains into the fire which produces a loud popping noise. Sudharam spoke very fondly of this day, saying it was always a good time. He especially enjoyed it as a little kid and recalls waking up early and make balloons of paint and filling squirt guns with paint.

According to Sudharam this festival exists to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Specifically it celebrates the tale of King Hiranyakashyap, he meditated for years and years and embraced the Gods and the Gods asked him what he wanted and he replied that he didn’t want to die by animal or human being or during day or night, he essentially wanted to live forever. Because of this he became very powerful and misused his powers and when he went back to his kingdom he abused the people, raping women and causing trouble. So to combat this the God Vishnu came down and took the form of half man, half animal, and killed the King at dawn, neither at night or day, on his doorstep. The celebration known as Lorri the night before with the burning of wheat in the fire represents a woman who was raped by the King and who kills herself by throwing her body on a pile of burning logs.

I feel this celebration represents feelings of ecstasy and delight. Why people need to pain themselves is a little beyond me. However, the festival exists to celebrate good therefore covering everyone with paint and having a good time certainly invokes feelings of euphoria and happiness. Also, the fact that everyone is served a drink to get them feeling drunk adds to the feeling of joy. This celebration also reflects the worldview of the Indian people that involves their religion. I feel that this celebration is very important because it shows that we should not focus so much on the wrongdoing in world but rather celebrate and enjoy life.


Contemporary Legend – California

Haunted School House

Apparently back in the 50’s and 60’s the hillside behind Mt hamilton was used as a missile test site and other government tests and was highly top secret. Those who worked back there made new lives for themselves because they were rarely able to leave. They had food and other products delivered to the small communities and the children even went to a school back there. The teacher of the school was going insane from the isolation and one day she hung all of the children (some say she even slit all of their wrists). She then took her own life and since then it has been haunted. People told me the story and said that if I went there and actually walked into the school, the kids try to help you and push your car away from the school to keep you from the ghost of the teacher, leaving fingerprints on the car. The first time I went there I was too scared to get out of the car and nothing happened. I went there again with my friend Trent and Dusty and oddly enough three other people were there. The weird thing was, the three kids went to my school Cuesta college and majored in architecture – same college as me, same major, all of which I thought was extremely weird because we were 200 miles from our school in San Luis Obispo. Then we went inside and saw a few ropes hanging from the ceiling and the atmosphere of the school was freaking me out. We then walked back to the car and parted ways with the people we met. They left first so we know they didn’t follow us but we happened to see them a few blocks from my house. We then got home and noticed a few finger prints on the car and the whole experience was pretty hard to comprehend.

Chris went on to tell me that has never been so scared in his entire life especially when we went into the school and saw ropes hanging from the ceiling. In retrospect he thought someone else might have gone in there and hung them to make it even scarier. Also the fact that the three other kids whom he had never seen before even though they were students with the same major at his college were there hundreds of miles away. He claims since seeing them that night he has never seen them again. The combination of all these things scared him to no end.

I feel this ghost story does so well because of the childhood aspect. The children’s handprints on the car are a very nice touch to the story that add a twisted aspect to the story. The children were innocent in this case, although sometimes in the media we see the children portrayed as evil. This story in general invites discussions about the belief of ghosts, after all, Chris did say he noticed some hand prints on his window. A ghost story is so popular in my opinion because of that unknown element, who knows why those handprints showed up or why there happened to be kids from his school there that same night.