Author Archive
Adulthood
Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Uterus In Your Brain

The informant recalled a common folk belief that she had heard originated in Great Britain, though likely the belief occured all over Europe through polygenesis.

“So some people believed that the uterus could dislodge inside your body . . . and float around your body . . . it would leave its regular spot and work its way up your body to your brain. Supposedly, that’s how women develop hysteria.”

There seems to be a deeply-rooted, global fear of the vagina, as many accuse this poor organ of all of women’s faults. Given just how anatomically incorrect this belief is, it was likely developed before the female reproduction system was widely understood. Such a belief also indicated a reductively sexist view of psychosis, whereby all emotional instabilities that a woman could experience were rooted in this oddly nebulous floating vagina that somehow inhibited her from reasoning.

Customs
Life cycle
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Czech Funeral

“I went to a funeral recently for my Czech nanny who passed away recently. Hana practically raised me, so her death was very, very difficult for me. I thought that I wouldn’t even be able to handle going to the funeral, my emotions were so high. But it was unlike any funeral I have ever been to. Most funerals are miserable, everybody crying, everybody in black. They’re awful experiences, and I hope you never have to go to one. But this one was different. This one was exactly what I needed to help grieve. So it was actually a celebration of her life. Whenever anyone spoke, they were just to recall fun times they had had together. Her favorite music was playing. Everyone was wearing bright colors. The old and the young were all mingling and engaging with one another. It was beautiful. I think that’s how a lot of the world celebrates death, or at least they should. I think I heard someone say that it’s the Czech . . . or I guess Slavic people in general have a healthier outlook on death than most.”

The informant has never lived outside of her hometown in Orange County. The experience was so novel to her that it began to represent much of her understanding of modern European culture, as she now believes that such funeral practices are more common in Europe. The informant really stressed the communion of the old and young at this funeral, as no one was segregated into groups based on age or gender. Given the deep Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions of the Baltic regions of Europe, such an funeral seems very uncharacteristic, given traditional Christian death rituals. Perhaps this informant’s experience is indicative of changing times in which, as she said, a healthier outlook on death has become the norm.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Dance
Foodways
Gestures
Holidays
Kinesthetic
Magic
Material
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pust

Pust is a pagan holiday that is celebrated in Slovenia in the beginning of every February. Designed to scare away the winter cold, this festival is mounted to celebrate the coming of Spring. Young men are the main arbiters of some of the festival’s central traditions, as they don terrifying masks and large suits made of animal furs. Most of the masks represent different characters that recur in Slovenian folklore which are generally localized to particular regions, the principle character being called the “kurent.” [the informant could not offer any more examples of such characters and what they represent.] These costumes are paired with belts from which hang many cowbells, and the young men enter the center of the village in a procession of aggressive dancing and grunting. The idea behind this is to scare away the dark, evil spirits of Winter, in the hopes that Spring will bring good tidings and a prosperous year of harvest. Pust usually takes place in the rural villages of northern Slovenia, the Gorenjska region especially.

More modern exhibitions of this festival in different parts of Slovenia allow all children to participate and go door to door begging for candy and money, much like at Halloween in other parts of the world.

Born and raised in former Yugoslavia, what is now known as Slovenia, the informant was continuously exposed to folk traditions that originated and permeated this region. The festival is a kind of protective ritual to ensure a short winter. It is riddle with celebratory symbols of dominance and fertility. For example, the suits are made from the pelts of animals these young men had killed, demonstrating their capability of providing for the well-being of the village.

Adulthood
Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Real Tarantella

“So many people do the Tarantella WRONG at their weddings. The way Italians do it, and everyone knows the Italians do it best because Italians know how to throw a good party, is by putting the bride and groom in the center of the dance floor while everyone holds hands and makes circles around them that get larger and larger. Usually it’s the couple’s parents that make up the first circle. The wedding party makes up the second. Then the rest of the guests make up the rest. The first circle spins clockwise, the second counterclockwise, the third clockwise, and so on. Eventually, the dj or mc will tell everyone to switch directions, and the circles will start spinning in the opposite directions they were originally. They’re so much fun. And if you somehow don’t get in on it when the Tarantella starts, you’re hosed, there’s not getting in because it all just becomes this amazing mess of people that you just can’t get through.”

The informant has never attended a non-Italian wedding, as her entire extended family is Italian. Because her family is so large, she is constantly attending weddings, so she has become quite familiar with many typical Italian wedding traditions. For her, the Tarantella is celebratory and “builds community,” as everyone is holding hands, joining to rejoice in the couple’s newfound happiness. The informant has many happy memories dancing the Tarantella from the time she was an infant. She claims they are just as fun now as they have ever been.

Folk speech
Humor

Baghdad…and Mom too

“Baghdad. And get the mother and the children too.”

The informant heard this joke from her older brother, who was a teenager during the height of the Iraq War. This particular joke is interesting because it is very dated. Much of its humor has been lost given that the conflict in Iraq has dissipated in the last 5 years. The joke is less relevant now that Baghdad is referenced less frequently and is less entrenched in the public discourse. However, the informant can remember finding it quite funny, as did her brother, when she first heard it.

Childhood
Musical

Marco in the Meadows

“Marco skače, Marco skače

po zeleni trati,

Aj aj ajajaj

Po zeleni trati.

Translation:

“Marco is jumping

over the green meadows

aj aj ajajaj

over the green meadows”

This is a traditional Slovenian nursery rhyme, one that I was raised listening to as my mother sang it to me as a child. She said that it was a song generally sung with many children who held hands and danced in circles. The informant has no information as to its origin or its meaning, though the reference to meadows suggests a more rural origin.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

SigEp Gold Shorts and Vest

Every pledge class president of Sigma Phi Epsilon must wear gold shorts and an American flag vest during their live-in week of their pledge semester. Live-in week is the last week of pledging where you essentially live in the house and become everyone’s bitch for a week. You stay in the house on the floor with your whole pledge class, and you only leave to go to class.”

The informant was unclear as to whether or not this hazing ritual was a national tradition. However, he was certain that it was the case at USC, given that he was forced to do it, as pledge class president.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jiggle on the Washing Machine

“Apparently at Kappa, to haze you, they take all of the pledges [new sorority members] and sit them on top of running washing machines. Then they bring in some guys from different frats on the row and give them markers. It’s so fucked! They get these frat stars drunk and make them circle all of the parts of the pledges’ bodies that jiggle with the markers they give them.”

This account depends entirely on hearsay, making it all the more interesting. As the informant is a member of a rivaling sorority, it is possible that the story was invented slanderously. However, this particular hazing practice corroborates that image of Kappa Kappa Gamma, as an aggressively looks-oriented sorority, that seems to pervade USC. As with most hazing practices, this ritual promotes unhealthy body image, but reaffirms the dominance of older member of the sorority over the new members. Such practices are allegedly “team-building” and “character building,” at which I roll my eyes.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Kappa Cow

“So I’ve heard from other people in my sorority that in USC’s Kappa Kappa Gamma, every week at Monday night dinners, every girl in the chapter is weighed. And at the end of the weighing, the heaviest girl is named ‘the Kappa Cow’ for the week. Apparently they give her a little plastic cow figurine. It’s messed up.”

This account depends entirely on hearsay, making it all the more interesting. As the informant is a member of a rivaling sorority, it is possible that the story was invented slanderously. However, this particular hazing practice corroborates that image of Kappa Kappa Gamma, as an aggressively looks-oriented sorority, that seems to pervade USC. As with most hazing practices, this ritual promotes unhealthy body image, but reaffirms the dominance of older member of the sorority over the new members. Such practices are allegedly “team-building” and “character building,” at which I roll my eyes.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Don’t Throw Rocks At Glass Houses

“Don’t throw rocks at glass houses.”

The informant learn this proverb from her mother when she was very young, and it was deeply entrenched in her consciousness. It influenced her so much that once when she was faced with a bully who was verbally abusing her, she looked at the bully dead in the face and spoke the proverb. Then she explained to the bully, “That saying meant that everyone is fragile, and you can’t just carelessly throw insults someone’s way and expect them to be alright when it’s all over.”

So for the informant, not only does she have a deeply intimate connection to it because her mother would continuously say it to her, bringing her comfort, but it also steeled herself against a bully who supposedly stood down to her and apologized.

[geolocation]