Author Archive
Game
general
Kinesthetic

Pegging

Context:

I asked one of my classmates about game she played as a child while waiting for class to begin.

 

Interview:

Her: Okay, so, when I was in elementary school, and I must have been in 4th or 5th grade, one if those, I don’t know exactly, but it was when those people were still in school with me. We used to play a game. And I say that loosely, because there was no winning, really, it was just like something we would run around and do, ’cause like we had a big grass field that we could run around in and there was obviously kick balls and soccer balls and that stuff. So we called it “Pegging” and I don’t think, I don’t think we thought it was, ’cause I’ve heard like yucky references to what that is and I don’t think we knew that, and that’s why we called it that.

Me: ‘Cause you were in like 4th grade.

Her: Yeah. But, but like, I didn’t make that name up. Like someone else did. But We would run around and it was usually like the boys vs. girls, and it was me and another one or two girls against like three boys we would usually play with, and we would just try to hit each other as hard as we possibly could with a soccer ball. Like, we would throw it at each other, and that’s like the whole point of the game. And I think somehow we, ’cause I would talk to the girls and I would think some of us liked those boys.

Me: Oh, oh, oh.

Her: So I think there was a whole thing. I mean, We would hit hard. I mean we would have like welts,

Me: Oh, wow, yeah.

Her: And we realized we were doing that, and we wouldn’t do that anymore. And yeah, we used to do that when we were in 4th, 5th grade. It was like a form of courtship or something. Demented courtship. But like, well God, we would hit each other hard. Like, as I said, falling down would be normal after being hit.

 

Analysis:

This game was clearly a kind of courtship game. It was played between pre-pubescent children, who were just beginning the slow process of transitioning from a child into an adult. As it was played as boys vs. girls, it was a way for the girls (and possibly the boys) to “peg,” or “mark,” the boy/girl that they liked or had a crush on. How hard one could throw the ball could be seen as a posturing move, a show of strength, of accuracy, and perhaps even of the level of interest the person had for the target. Though much more painful than various other pre-pubescent “courtship” games, it is a game that lets children explore the new kinds of feelings for members of the opposite sex as they begin the transition into adulthood.

general
Legends

Legend of Lowenherz

Context:

I was talking with my Austrian roommate about national legends when she offered me this one, a piece of her friend’s hometown’s legendary history.

 

Legend:

Another Austrian legend that I know is one that is based in my friend’s hometown, which was once the last town to be occupied by Turkey. This fact is a very big part of her town’s history. They have signs and everything, as they were the only ones left standing during the Turkish invasion and occupation. And I remember this story. There was a king named Lowenerz, who was caught by someone and thrown in prison. Lowenherz began to sing a song that he used to sing with his friend. Lowenherz’s friend walked and walked and walked until he finally heard Lowenherz’s singing the song they always sang together, and rescued Lowenherz.

 

Analysis:

I did a bit of research, and found that the translation of Lowenherz is “Lionheart.” I was quite surprised when I found out that Lowenherz most likely referred to King Richard the Lionheart, the English King who went on the Crusades during the 12th century. Digging into his life, I found out that the Lionheart was imprisoned in Austria where he wrote a song that detailed his feelings on his capture. He was essentially ransomed by the European royalty to his brother King John. I find it interesting how the historical account of what happened to the Lionheart became changed, twisted, through the retellings of the story. Historically, the Austrians were the “bad guys” per se, the ones who had captured Lionheart and held him captive, but in my roommate’s version of the story, it is the Turkish who are the bad guys who captured Lionheart. To me, this shows how legends and stories can be created from factual events, of how the times changed. Lionheart was, while not overtly antagonistic of Leopold V, who was from Austria’s first ruling dynasty, was not exactly buddy-buddy with him either, and this story shows how the same story, simply told from a different tellers’ viewpoints,  can be twisted by the tellers into showing the teller’s people as being in the good, while another’s viewpoint shows them in the bad.

general
Legends

Origin of the Austrian Flag

My roommate this semester is from Austria, from a tiny village about half an hour by car from Vienna, and I asked her if she knew of any national legends. She then began to tell me the legend of how the Austrian flag came to be what it is.

She said, “So you know how the Austrian flag is red-white-red? Well there was a king, and he supposedly wore a white mantle/cloak and he fought in a war and he got bloody all over, but he won in the end,  but his mantle at the end of the battle/war, was bloody over here [as she gestures to one area of her body] and bloody over here [she gestures to the opposite side of her body] and was white in the middle. And that’s how the Austrian flag developed.” She then told me that she had been told that legend while in elementary school by her teacher.

I did a bit of research, and the king mentioned in the tale was not a king, but a duke, Leopold V, and he fought in the crusades. During the battles, he was soaked in the blood of his enemies and his white cloak turned red. However, the small strip of his coat that was underneath the belt remained white, and so when he took of his belt, there was a horizontal strip of white separating the two swathes of blood-soaked cloth. Leopold V was from the first ruling dynasty of Austria, and this red-white-red became a part of their coat of arms and eventually came to represent Austria as a whole.

I believe that this legend is a classic example of a national legend, or origin story. It is based in fact, after all, many European nobles traveled to the Middle East to fight in the on-again-off-again wars called the Crusades in the late Medieval Period (11th-13th centuries, mainly). Whether or not Leopold V actually wore a white coat on the battlefield, which is not too much of a stretch of imagination, as the Knights Templar wore white cloaks emblazoned with a red cross, or whether or not he actually got so soaked in his enemies blood that it turned that white coat red, is up for debate. However, it is a Romanticized tale that is at the very least based in facts; whether or not it is true does not really matter. This story also reveals something about the Austrian people, Leopold V was a great warrior who accomplished great feats on the battlefield. To have adopted the colors he wore at the end of one of the bloodier wars of the Middle Ages shows that the Austrians are proud of their military might, of their warriors.

 

Digital
Game
Legends

The Legend of Slenderman

Context:

I was hanging out with my friend, watching Invader Zim and playing horror games, when my friend asked me if I knew what Slenderman was. I had heard of Slenderman, of course, but I did not know what exactly he was. So I asked her about it/him.

 

Interview:

Informant: What do you want to know about Slenderman?

Me: Just like; I don’t really know much about it, so first off I guess would be what is it? That kind of thing.

Informant: Well, um, Slenderman is a creature that looks very humanoid in that he has, like, the human body structure, like a head, a torso, two arms, two legs, but is distinctly different in that he has no face, and in every representation he is depicted as faceless. In some representations he is depicted as having like additional tentacles or additional arms, though that isn’t a consistent feature that everybody agrees on.

Me: Okay.

Informant: He’s also said to be very tall.

Me: Okay, like eight-nine feet? Something like that?

Informant: Um. I’m not exactly sure, just like significantly taller than a normal person would be, though some people say that he can change his shape, his size, at will. Um, Slenderman is very fast. He can chase you with unlimited stamina no matter how fast you try to run from him or, um, how persistently you try to get away from him. Like, you can, like, no matter how hard you try to get away from him, if you turn around he’ll probably still be there. Kind of like taunting you in a way. Yeah, like Slenderman is a stalker, and his favorite prey is children, though there have been cases in which people say he has gone after adults. No one is exactly sure what he does with his victims or why he chases them. And Slenderman, as far as his dress, um, is usually thought to wear a black suit with a black tie.

Me: Okay. And how did this phenomenon start?

Informant: It started because there are pictures in which, like pictures that were taken unaware of the fact that Slenderman was in them, but when they were examined later, like a tall, stalkerish, like, faceless figure is seen in the background and these pictures are often of children. One of the better known pictures is of children on a playground and then there is this ominous figure all the way in the background that is just kind of watching them. Like it’s not something that you would notice just looking at the picture, looking at the children, but when looking at the background it’s just like, “when, when did that get there!?”

Me: And then it became a game, online?

Informant: Like the mythos started first, and then people began developing games around it, so the games are inspired by the legends about Slenderman. And there are multiple games, not just the 8 Pages and Arrival which are made by the same person, there are other incarnations of Slenderman.

Me: And Slenderman isn’t noticed in real life, only in the pictures? Like, at first, he wasn’t seen in actuality but just in the pictures?

Informant: Yeah, uh huh.

Me: In pictures taken?

Informant: Yeah.

Me: Interesting. So an invisible stalker guy, who kidnaps children to do who knows what, and no one sees him? Wow. That is freaky.

[Laughter]

Informant: Yeah it’s freaky. That’s why it’s such a successful horror thing now.

Me: Exactly. Exactly. Wow.

 

Analysis:

Slenderman is truly an intriguing urban legend, as it is mainly a digital folklore phenomenon. People do not see Slenderman in real life, it is only in pictures taken that he appears. Furthermore, with the internet boom in the 2000’s, something like Slenderman, which before could not have spread nearly as quickly or as virulently around the, at the very least, American population, as from what I gather Slenderman is a largely American urban legend, as it did with the internet. Also, since Slenderman is largely an internet-based urban legend, it can spread far beyond the borders of America (or wherever it originated from) to nations, to countries worldwide. The legend of Slenderman even, at least to the fanbase, influenced the writers and producers of the British show Doctor Who with the introduction of the race called the Silence in Series 6. The viral spread of this legend via the internet is truly telling of the new media – the worldwide web – that has burst onto the scene and shows how deeply it has changed how we communicate, who we communicate with/to, and what we communicate.

Game
general
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

King Elephant

Context:

I had met with one of my friends for lunch, and we got to talking about games we had played as children and teenagers.

 

Interview:

Informant: Here’s something that came from the theater world. It’s a game called, I’m gonna go with “King Moose,” no it was “King Elephant.” I’ve played this game in other places where it was called King Moose or King Whatever, but the game we played was called King Elephant.

Me: Okay.

Informant: Yeah. And it was a passing game and you had a rhythm. And it was like hit your thighs clap your hands, hit your thighs, clap your hands.

Me: Oh yeah.

Informant: And we would have – there was only two signs that had to be in there, you had King Elephant who would have a trunk with like one arm over the other with the bent one holding their nose.

Me: Okay yeah.

Informant: And then you had dunce. Which was just a really crappy hat. Some people would do chopped liver which was just kind of spazzed out, ’cause you were chopped liver. You know? [Laughter] But most of the time we just played dunce. When we wanted to be mean we would do chopped liver. [Laughter] and so everyone, as many people as you have, sit around in a circle, and the first time around each person picks a sign. And its just like a word or a name and then a gesture. It doesn’t have to be animals, but I have played this game where it was only animals, and played it where it could be anything you could think of. We had a couple of ones that everyone knew, like 7-eleven was like two guns, New Yorker was a “screw-you” sign, we had fish, sometimes it would become Nazi fish, [laughter] because people would get too excited (me mainly) and instead of waving their hand like a fish swimming it would go up so it became Nazi fish. [Laughter] And like sometimes there would be inside jokes. One of my favorite ones was pink, and it was ’cause, I think it was my freshman year, and there was an improv show, and this guy in our theater troupe was supposed to like, paint something pink. And so he got up, moved his body about and was like, “Piiiink.” [She stood up and waved her body from side to side as she waved her arm in exaggerated painting motions] Like he was splashing paint everywhere, so that was one of the signs that we would always use, was pink. I mean people would do like Batman [she demonstrated the gesture], they could do whatever they want, as long as it was an easy sign to remember and do. And that sign became attached to the chair. And the whole point of the game was to get to the king elephant’s spot. And the to that, you had to knock people out. And so the king would set the rhythm and then he would call out his name and do his sign and then would call out someone else’s name and do their sign. And then it would pass to that person who would have to do their sign and then someone else’s sign.

Me: Oh yeah.

Informant: And it gets randomly passed around the circle.

Me: I’ve played something similar before.

Informant: Yeah. And if you messed up the beat, said a sign that didn’t exist, or you messed up on a sign, then you were kicked out and you had to go to the dunce’s seat, and everyone moved up a seat. And of course, you had to learn a new sign because you were in a new seat. Which of course causes more people to get kicked off, since they forget whose sign is whose. And so yeah it’s a fun game, trying to get to the king’s spot.

Me: Yeah, I’ve played something similar where there is no dunce seat, it’s just going round. It’s essentially just an elimination game, there is no king elephant or dunce. Yeah, I’ve played something similar.

Informant: Yeah we had one where it was king moose and it was just animals, but I like king elephant better because you could get really crazy. And then we would do murder round, for the people who were really into it, where the beat would go really fast. We had to come up with a new rule where you couldn’t go back and forth more than three times, ’cause what people would do, especially people who were really competitive, would simply go back and forth on and on, which became really boring for the rest of us. So we had to make a rule that you couldn’t go back and forth more than three times. It’s a fun game.

Me: Yeah it is. I haven’t played it in years.

Informant: Me neither. But it was really fun.

 

Analysis:

This is a children’s game that to me would encourage creativity, quick thinking, an understanding of rhythm, and memory. My informant went to school in Northern California, where she played the game, and I went to school in Washington, DC – o the opposite side of the country – where I also played this game, albeit slightly differently. This game is something that I played with my sports teammates before practice, and sometimes before games, as a warm-up to get the blood going, or even as an icebreaker-type game to get everyone to know each other a little bit better. The fact that it is children and young teenagers – middle and high school students – that play this game could possibly mean that it is a game that is used more often than not to bring a group of people together, such as a sports team made up of people that you might not know very well. I have fond memories of playing such games with my volleyball team back in high school, and it helped us get out some of the competitiveness and animosity that some of us may have had with and towards each other. After all, better to work that out off the court than to have it interfere with the game on the court.

 

Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Circle

Context:

I had asked one of my friends, who was an actor and writer, if she had any sort of acting or theater folklore.

 

Interview:

Informant: In my theater group that I participated in when I was in high school. Before every show, we had something called the “Circle” where we would all circle up and we would all hold hands. It was very, very ritualized. In the center of the circle we would have like a little table and it would have a candle on it. We changed candle-holders a couple of times, and the last one was this really cool dragon-style candle-holder. And we would have a copy of the script and a coin. It would be any coin that the director literally pulled out of his pocket. And he would tell us that every time – it was just an average coin that he would pull from his pocket every time. And while we were in this circle what we would first do is hold hands and he would have us breathe together. And he would go, “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. As we breathe together as one, we are as one.” And that’s how we would start it every time. And he would go – It would change slightly every time, but the speech that he would give would be pretty much “we walked in each other’s footsteps, we’re a great team, we’re going to make this a great show.” And then at the end of this little spiel, he would pull out the coin. And he would talk about how the coin is a circle and the circle is a symbol of all of us together, so put yourself into this coin. And the coin would be passed around the circle and usually what people would do is people would hold it over their hearts. Some people would just hold it in their hands, but most people would hold it over their hearts and then would pass it on to the next one. Then he would talk about how excited he was for this. And then at the very end we would all, instead of holding each others’ hands we would put our hands over each others’ shoulders and we would get in really close, as close as we could. And the candle was lit the whole time, and at this point he would blow it out. We would get down really close and we would all kneel down and we would start really, really quietly and we would be like, “It’s showtime. It’s showtime.” And we would build, build, build, until we screamed it. And then that was the end of our circle, and that is how we would start every show.

Me: So a little pep rally type thing?

Informant: Yeah, so even, even when it wasn’t a big show, even if it was a little charity show and it was only like five of us, we would still do the circle.

Me: Nice. Nice.

Informant: Yeah. And that was our opening circle. And we would have the closing circle at the end wihich wasn’t as elaborate. IT was just we get in a circle and we all kind of cried about missing it and then we would do the showtime thing again.

Me: Uh huh.

Informant: I do remember one time we were doing this, we had a live band who had never been in a theater show before, like they had no idea what we were doing. And it was perfect because none of this was planned. But one of these guys, the guitarist was joking around as was like, “what is this, is this some kind of cult thing?” ‘Cause we were like literally all standing in a circle around a candle in the dark.

[Laughter]

Informant: And is this some sort of cult thing, and my director goes no it’s not, guys tell them. And so every single person – about twenty people – answer in like a low monotone chant, “this is not a cult.”

Me: [Laughter] That is absolutely hilarious. And entirely spontaneous?

Informant: Yes, entirely spontaneous and we really freaked out the band members, it was great. We got them to get in the circle, but it was funny.

Me: That is really funny.

Informant: So that’s the circle that we had for our theater.

 

Analysis:

Most performance groups, like a theater troupe or a sports team, have their own little ritualistic warm-up routines. This ritual that my friend’s theater group performed was used to psych themselves up for their performances. It got their blood running, and the adrenaline pumping. It was, essentially, a highly ritualized pep rally that was catered towards a close-knit group of people who did what they loved and loved what they did. Also, this shows just how weird such pre-game, pre-performance rituals can be, but also how effective they can be for preparing a member of the group, for getting the group into the right state of mind to go out there and do whatever it is that they are doing. Furthermore, it can be seen as a way to initiate new members into the group, as evidenced with the live band members who were invited to join, and join they did. Such rituals help also to create a strong bond of friendship and camaraderie among the members of the group, which is incredibly important for such groups as a theater troupe or a sports team, as such groups rely heavily on teamwork.

Customs
general
Material

Henna and Jagua

Context:

My mother and I were wandering the streets of Lahaina, HI, and we noticed an abundance of Henna Tattoo parlors. My mother, who had lived in Pakistan for a year in the late 1980’s, had told me a little about henna, and I was curious as to what it was used for and why there are tattoo parlors in Hawaii that use it, when it was originally something that came from the Middle East.

 

Interview:

Me: Can I ask you a few questions about henna?

Informant: I’ll have to ask my boss, as sometimes people come to ask questions and she worries that people will steal her methods, how she does things, that kind of thing. [After a couple of minutes] Okay, she agreed.

Me: Ah. Yeah, I’m not an artist, and I’m not from around here.

Informant: Yeah, I can tell. So her worries are unfounded. So we do not only use henna, but also something called jagua. And jaguar is a fruit fro the Amazon, so it is different from henna. IT is more aboriginal while like henna is kind of traditional. I can’t remember exactly what country in the Amazon it is from, but it comes from the rainforest, which is kind of cool. So all those pictures you see of kids with what looks to be tattoos all over their faces, it’s not actually real. Which is actually surprising to most people, so it’s like, no, no one’s letting their kids get face tattoos even when they look like they are. But I do traditional henna, so if you want a little bit of information on that, as we don’t always have it. Cause jaguar will last for about nine to ten days, whereas traditional henna will last like two to three months.

Me: Oh. Wow. That long?

Informant: Yeah. So most people aren’t ready to make that kind of commitment. Traditional henna, I am trying to think of where it started, I believe in India and I know that it was used for weddings, parties, and ceremonies, and rituals, and stuff like that. There must be some exact reason for why they used it, and I’m thinking that it’s because of, uh…I think that at one point in time the designs used to mean something. You know what I mean?

Me: Uh huh. And perhaps still do.

Informant: Like whoever had this sort of design, that meant that they were getting married, or that they were married.

Me: That it had some sort of cultural significance.

Informant: Yeah. I don’t exactly know it, I just make things look pretty. [Laughter] But I know that…which fingers the design goes up mean something, but I don’t know the exact meanings. I have never actually worked with someone from India who could tell me more about it. We just know more about the jagua fruit.

Me: Then talk about the jagua fruit. If that’s what you know more about.

Informant: Yeah. It’s…I just know that like, they used to do it for ceremonies, like for, I’m trying to think…Like when the boys were reaching adulthood.

Me: Like manhood ceremonies.

Informant: Yeah. And they would do it full bodied ones. And sometimes they would be completely covered and it’s kind of nuts.

Me: Wow, that must have taken a long time to prepare and such.

Informant: Not really, as all it is is just mashing up a fruit. It’s pretty organic and most people don’t really get irritated by it, while henna, a lot of people will because people don’t really know what a lot of people mix their henna with. You know? Because different people mix it with different things. While we just mix. Like our jagua is just a fruit. She buys the fruit and ships it here. IT’s super organic and just mashes it up and puts it in a bottle. I wish I knew more about this, as we are more aesthetic than we are anything else.

Me: I understand.

Informant: I can tell you that there is a difference between the traditional designs and the kinds of stuff that we do, the more picture stuff. You know, the more Western kind of stuff that Americans would get as tattoos.

Me: Yeah, the traditional stuff is much more abstract, floral designs.

Informant: Sorry for not being able to give you more information.

Me: No, that’s alright. This is good. Thanks a lot.

Informant: You’re very welcome.

 

Analysis:

I have noticed over the past several years that henna tattoo parlors are cropping up more and more. To me, this is quite odd, as henna was used, originally, for mostly ceremonial and ritualistic purposes. Also, the fact that the use of henna has spread so far from where the practice began is interesting. This, to me, is an example of something from a non-European culture that has been taken out of context by the Europeans, by the Americans, and turned into a form of body art that has little to no connections to its original purpose, and to the extent that most non-Indian, non-Pakistani, etc. people do not know or understand the cultural significance, the history, the traditions that henna ties into. Also, it is interesting to note that other cultures halfway across the world have a similar means of temporary body art – jagua – that has also been taken out of context to be used for simple decoration, with little care or regard as to the origins, the traditions behind its use. I think that the reason that henna, and to a lesser extent jagua, has become so widespread in American culture is because of its temporary nature. It is not permanent, and so it is a perfect tool for those people who are not sure as to whether or not to get a tattoo, or those people who are not sure they want something of a permanent nature. I think that this is the main reason as to why henna parlors have begun to spring up in the past few years.

Tales /märchen

The Frog and the Scorpion

Context: I asked my friend if he had any tales he remembered his family telling him when he was a child.

Tale:

Here’s a tale that my mother used to tell me. It involves a frog and a scorpion. And one day, the frog was on his way home, and he happens upon a scorpion at the shore of a pond, well, the bank of a pond. And the scorpion says to the frog, “Mr. Frog, I’m very very tired today. I’m very tired. Perhaps, if it’s not too much trouble, you could ferry me across the lake.”

And the frog looks at him, and goes, “Mr. Scorpion, I would love to help you out, but you’re a scorpion, and I’m a frog, and surely, by the time I get to the middle of the lake, you will sting me, and I will die.”

And the scorpion looks at him and goes, “No! Mr. Frog, why would I do that? If I were to sting you in the middle of the lake, we would both surely drown! I cannot swim ,you are my boat, why would I do that?”

And the frog thinks about it, and the frog is a bit nervous, but is of a good nature, and decides to help the scorpion. So he scoots along the shore, the scorpion crawls on his back and the frog starts swimming. and then they get to the middle of the pond, and the frog begins to think, “I guess that the scorpion won’t sting me. It makes perfect sense.” And all of a sudden, when he gets to the middle, he feels a sharp pain in his back. Wham! The scorpion has stung the frog. And the frog, as he struggles, his limbs, his legs are getting heavy, and he starts to go under, and he goes, “Why Mr. Scorpion, Why did you sting me? Now we will both surely drown.”

And the scorpion goes, “I don’t know, I guess it’s just my nature.”

Analysis:

This tale has a couple of morals. The first of which is to always trust your instincts. If it sounds like a bad idea, then it probably is a bad idea. The second is to beware of the consequences of your promises, and of the always-present potential that the other person can back-stab you. This tale was told to the informant growing up in an African-American community, and was told to him, many times, when he was a child. This is a tale that would be used to teach young children of the dangers in promises, and in providing aid to strangers.

 

For another version of the tale, see The Lady Frog and the Scorpion. Phantom House. The Phantom Publisher, 2010. Print.

Legends
Magic
Myths
Protection

The Origin of Red Coral

Context:

I was perusing a shop in Lahaina, HI that sold coral jewelry, when I asked the manager about the origins of the practice of wearing coral as jewelry.

 

Interview:

Me: So why did people begin to wear coral for jewelry?

Informant: Well, in the Mediterranean, the practice of wearing coral, specifically red or pink coral, began in Ancient Greece.

Me: Oh?

Informant: Yes. Do you know of the legend of Medusa?

Me: Yes, it is one of the most well known myths, and she is one of the most well known monstrous figures of Greek mythology.

Informant: Yes. Well, as you must know, Medusa was a gorgon – a woman cursed by Athena who had snakes for hair and who could turn anyone to stone when they made eye contact. Perseus, the hero, was sent on a quest to kill Medusa, which he managed through the use of the gifts given to him by the gods as well as his own ingenuity.

Me: Yes, using Medusa’s reflection on his shield to know where she was without running the risk of being turned to stone.

Informant: Exactly. Well, when Perseus killed Medusa, her body was thrown into the sea, and her blood, which was pouring out of her severed neck, as she was beheaded, crystallized, hardened, ah, fossilized and became the red coral. The Greeks would harvest the red coral from the sea and make it into amulets and protective jewelry to ward off both her evil as well as evil enchantments in general.

Me: So red coral, at least for the Greeks, was originally used for protection from evil?

Informant: Yes, it was. And that’s how red coral, at least, became used for jewelry.

 

Analysis:

This story, legend, shows how myths and legends can influence a culture to the point that even today when the original purpose for using a particular substance for anything, in this case red coral for jewelry, may be more or less forgotten, or at least not widely known, a practice is still in place. People still harvest red coral and make jewelry from it, and it is now simply viewed as the same as making jewelry from silver, gold, precious, and semi-precious gems and metals. The original purpose is forgotten, but the material is still in use.

 

For the original myth, see Beekman, E. M.. The Posion Tree: Selected Writings of Rumphius on the Natoural History of the Indies. University of Massachusetts Press , 1981. Print. og 254. There is a translation of the passage from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and further information.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Confirmation of Faith

Context:

I aksed one of my catholic friends if she had any traditions that her Church did.

 

Interview:

Me: Really, just whatever you have.

Informant: All right. I was just considering talking about Confirmation. Cause, I’m Catholic, well sort of-ish. I haven’t gone to church in a while, or done anything real religious in a while. But, maybe then I can talk about…Do you want an overview of what it is?

Me: I know more or less what it is, as I did go to a Catholic school for several years.

Informant: Then do you want a specific part, maybe what the actual ceremony is like?

Me: Yeah, maybe.

Informant: Okay. ‘Cause it is a two-year thing, well at least in my church. It might vary from church to church. And some places, the times at which you do confirmation vary some. Like some Catholics would do it younger. But I didn’t go to Catholic school, I just went to the church nearby.

Me: Yeah. At my school, we had the preparation for Confirmation, the class that would prepare us for Confirmation in eighth grade.

Informant: Today is the 26th, right?

Me: 25th, I believe. Okay. So just start talking then. So I went through something similar. I’m not Catholic but I am Protestant, but we went through a “Confirmation of Faith.” I remember that what we did was we wrote up a statement, like a one-page paper essentially confirming our faith.

Informant: Yeah. We did something like that, but it was more to choose your “saint name” – you had to research he saints, find one you liked and then do a little report on them and why you picked them.

Me: Interesting, ’cause I remember that my statement of faith was not what everyone else’s was like, what people were expecting. ‘Cause I did my confirmation of faith in my ninth grade, and we were studying the scriptures in our religion class in school. And so my statement was completely different from most people. ‘Cause most people were like writing about how the church has changed them, how they have so many fond memories of the church. I wrote about, I can’t even remember what exactly I wrote about, but it was completely more academic. It was like entirely academic or something.

Informant: Well the point of confirmation that they told us was that they wanted you to, it was when you become an adult in the eyes of the church. So you could go up and do readings for the church, you can serve the church in ways that you couldn’t before, when you weren’t confirmed. I mean, I can’t remember precisely what you were allowed to do after you were confirmed besides read in front of the church during the masses, it was probably organizing fundraisers or something like that. Anyway, that’s what they told us, and that’s why, instead of baptizing us in front of the church, which doesn’t count, because it is not performed with you’re consent, as you’re like only a baby, you have no idea what’s going on.

Me: Yeah, I know that that is one of the reasons why some religions wait until their children are old enough to be able to give their consent to baptize them.

Informant: I guess the thought was that you were baptized, but weren’t really thought of as a member until you were confirmed. So that was the point. Basically the way Confirmation worked was that you went to class on every other Sunday after church. You would all go to ten o’clock mass, you would all have to go to mass together, and when you were at mass, the people who were in confirmation were the ones who did the ushering, passed the collection plates around, brought the bread and wine up to the altar. So we would all have to go and show up for ten o’clock mass. And at my church ten o’clock was like the mass where you dress nice. Normally my family would go to eight o’clock because all you had to do was go there for an hour, hour and a half, get communion, and leave. But for ten o’clock mass you had to dress nice and you had to stay the whole time, cause you were in confirmation class, you couldn’t just leave early. And after that you had a class. The class was…it was about…they had this little Christian magazine thingy that they gave to you that you had to read through it. It had different aspects of the faith, different moral values, that kind of stuff. But mostly you had to do a lot of service – a lot of community service.

Me: Not surprising, yeah.

Informant: Yeah. It’s, actually during a lot of the time that we were talking about the magazine thingy we would do some kind of service thing. You had to do a certain amount of hours and there were all kinds of events that you could go to. Like, there was the winter sweet shop thing where you would help to bake cookies and would then help to sell them at the bake sale later that week. And the Easter thing where you would help plan the Easter egg hunt for the little kids who went to the church, and have a little Easter baskets and set up the place and stuff Easter eggs. Those are the two that I remember the most but there were other ones. There was one on Thanksgiving where we made lunches for the homeless, and another one where we made cards for Christmas or something. I can’t remember exactly.

Me: Yeah. I remember that we did community service in our youth group at church.

Informant: Yeah. That was more or less it. It’s  been a while after all. I do remember that one of the other important things was that you had to go up and read in front of the church, ’cause our church, and I’m not sure if it is structured differently with other Catholic churches, but there are three readings, the first two are from the first part of the Bible and the third one is the Gospel.

Me: Oh yeah. That’s pretty standard.

Informant: Yeah. So you had to go up and read one of those two readings and you had to do it at least once or once per year. And the first one that I had to do was the Palm Sunday reading, which was this really long reading right before the Gospel, and it was also the narrator which was the longest part. That was terrible. Thankfully, the people at church are forgiving, and said that I did fine. And one of the things that we had to do was we had to pick a saint name. We were told to go on the internet, to look up the different Catholic saints, choose which one you liked and have a one-page paper about who that saint is, what the represent, and why you picked them.

Me: Uh huh.

Informant: Yeah. So the one that I picked was Lucia, the patron saint of eyes, writing, light, and in her story, she was betrothed to this pagan person and she refused to get married to him so he had her eyes cut out, but she could still see without them, thus why she is the patron saint of eyes. Although, personally, I question, I guess, what’s so brave, still, there are braver things than being mutilated and dying. But maybe that’s just me. Also, it’s kind of funny that I have terrible eyesight and I chose the patron saint of eyes as my patron saint.

Me: Yeah.

Informant: So for the actual ceremony, which was at the end of the second year. It would be at a different church entirely and you would go with other churches who were in the same dioces. What I remember is that you had to dress nicely, but not fancy ballroom nicely, just church clothes nicely. You got a robe and you went in there for service with the bishop of the dices, and you stayed there and you would all go in a line. At least our class in particular had to do readings. After that, you come down, you are blessed as your saint name, you are a member of the church, shake hands with the bishop and then you leave to celebrate with your own families. And that was Confirmation.

 

Analysis:

The practice of confirmation became a tradition most likely around the time that people began baptizing children when they were infants, rather than when they were adults. There are three important milestones in a Catholic’s life, at least in terms of the church – baptism, which is performed soon after birth, first communion – which happens at about 7-8 years old, the “Age of Reason,” and confirmation – which happens around 14-16 years old. Confirmation became a tradition because it was the ceremony, the sacrament that made a person an official member of the church. Confirmation is a ceremony in which a person simply states their faith for the entire congregation to hear. It is a right of initiation, and those who go through it are then seen as adults in the eyes of the church, and anyone who is not confirmed will forever be seen as an outsider to the church, never a full member. It is a right of passage into adulthood, at least in the eyes of the church.

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