Author Archive
Game
general
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Green Room”- Pre-Performance Ballet Ritual

Informant (“A”) is a 19 year old, female from Rancho Santa Fe, California, and attends The University of Southern California. She is a Human Biology major. She is of European descent and her family includes her mother, father, and older brother who attends college in Texas. Informant has studied ballet for 17 years, including work in a professional company.

A: “Dancers, and, really, it seems most theater people in general, have a lot of rituals and superstitions. The theater can be sort of unpredictable you know? You could have rehearsed every day for a year and something can still go wrong during the show. Especially when you throw nervousness into the mix, things definitely can happen. Sometimes it feels like half of what we can accomplish is just because we were lucky.
The whole time up there you’re praying ‘’Don’t fall, don’t fall down’’, even if you’ve never fallen before, you just don’t know. And you’re not only relying on yourself too. Sometimes as a dancer you just jump and hope your partner catches you! If they’re not in the zone, things can end badly for you. Anyway basically performing is scary and a lot of dancers do things to try and make it less scary.
The first ritual is called Green Room. It’s where the whole cast meets together backstage and we all form, sort of a circle. The oldest member will then say something inspiring, whatever the cast needs at the moment. Then we all hold hands and do that thing where you, like… squeeze the persons hand next to you until it goes all the way around the circle again. This connects us, because like I said you have to rely on other people. Sometimes during this we pass around this green frog you have to kiss, I have no idea why. Then we all do a chant. Depending on the group or show the chant varies..”

Analysis: The superstition seems like a classic example of using a ritual to gain favorable luck of some sort for an event of particular importance. A way to increase control of an event whose failure would be very bad for the performer. It also seems to play quite an important part in binding the dance company together to allow increased trust amongst them. By reinforcing such a sense of community, it increases trust and belonging, things one likely needs if they’re putting themselves in such risky position as a public performance.

general
Humor

Legend of a Man Who Carried Around an Imaginary Lizard

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.

 

Transcript:

“M: There was this kid my friend heard about, he would pretend to carry a lizard around and show people his lizard. Um… but obviously his hand’s empty so no one can actually see this…  lizard. Most people that knew him were like, alright, here’s this lizard, just say hi… than like fuck off man

(M laughs)

He met a new guy once who had no idea about the imaginary hand-lizard. So he held out his hand, and looked at him [the man who was ignorant of the lizard] and the guy gave him a high five.

Me: (start laughing, ends up interrupting his talking)

M: From that day on, the kid just talked and didn’t have a lizard… the lizard died and he became a normal human being.

Me: How did you hear about this?

M: From a kid in high school, he said it was one of his friends.

Me: Do you think it’s real?

M: No way, someone like that can’t really exist haha.”

 

Analysis:

The appeal of the legendary figure above appears to be the absurdity of the original gesture, introducing an imaginary lizard to people who obviously knew it was no real. This contrasts sharply as well with his apparent transformation into normalcy upon having his imaginary lizard killed by an ignorant stranger.  Though the contrast itself isn’t interesting, the further claim that this may have been an actual person makes the situation peculiar and something that peaks interest. It seems to contradict our basic assumptions about how a person normally acts, and acts as a source of speculation (could he have been joking, suffering from mental illness, was the story made up?).

Some further aspects that make the legend fascinating is the apparent non-reaction of the lizard carrying man to having his lizard killed, despite the massive time investment in keeping the gesture going. It’s an abnormal reaction for someone who sees a pet killed, but not for someone who may have been joking. At the same time, why would he invest so much time into something he did not believe to be true? This abnormality, mixed with the humorous parallel serve to make the tale interesting to the listener.

Game

Cops n’ Robbers School Yard Game

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.

 

Transcript:

“Me: So what game did you play again?

M: Oh! Cops n’ Robbers!

Me: When did you play that game?

M: Elementary school!

Me: How do you play that game?

M: Well you’re basically you got some cops, and you got some robbers, so there’s like people on teams and stuff. So you’ve got the cops chasing the robbers, they could get feisty with it and the robbers could beat up the cops. There were bases too, if the robbers got to the bases they were okay, it was a hideout.

Me: Were you usually a cop or a robber?

M: Man, I don’t remember, that was a long time ago. I don’t think there was one that I was more of, we all sorta did both all the time. It was like, hey! Let’s play Cops n’ Robbers, I’ll be on this team you be on that.

Me: Did the cops always win?

M: No. It’s not like real life, it’s more realistic than that.

(I laugh)”

 

Analysis:

The game seems to be “M”s version of the popular schoolyard game, Cops n’ Robbers, a fairly well known game in North America. In the April 1973 publication of The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, in an article titled Children’s Folklore in the Archive of Folk Song, the article suggests the splitting of children’s Folklore in their very large Folklore collection (at the time, the collection was near 150,000 entries) into categories. One of these categories, battle games uses Cops and Robbers as a classic example as to what sorts of entries would fit this sort, assuming knowledge in the reader about the popularity of the game (Emrich, 1973).

The game itself, as a school yard game, likely allowed “M” and his friends to try out ‘adult roles’ while also reinforcing basic moral ideas like ‘good guys’, ‘bad guys’ and ‘the good guys have to stop the bad guys’, while also allowing them to simulate more adult situations (apprehending a criminal). The lack of preference could indicate that the players had no moral or occupational preference and preferred the role playing aspect instead, this could be contrasted to a child who wants to play as the cop because his father is a police officer (or any other reason he/she may admire the profession). ”M”s version of the game also included a base that the criminals could get to to defeat the cops and get away. As the cops did not always win (or the robbers didn’t) the aspect of good triumphing over evil or any other sort of overarching narrative did not appear to be part of “M”s approach to the game.

 

Emrich, D. (1973, April). Children’s Folklore in the Archive of Folk Song. In The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (pp. 140-151). Library of Congress.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

The Devil will pull you under the bed by your feet

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

 

Transcript:

“M: Cuando nosotros uh… youngers, uh…. younger? Okay and we lied, my mom said to us when you go to sleep tonight… that was scary… the devil is coming and grab you from your feet and taking you with him. Usually we went to sleep and we covered our feet very well, and wore socks, and the next day sometimes we lost one of ours socks. She would say the devil took the socks but didn’t grab us from our feet.

Me: So what this supposed to happen when you were in bed?

Yeah, because we was wearing socks and took our socks instead.

Me: Did he like stay or live under the bed?

M: Yeah! I believe he did, he was under the bed or under old blankets. Later we’d find the socks lost sometimes and believe “oh god the devil was here”. We’d later find the socks sometimes.

Me: So she said that only happened when you lied?

M: It’s only when we lied, ‘’I know you’re lying tonight and the devil will come get you from you feet’’ [imitation of mother].

Me: Was there any way to stop him, like could you confess that you lied or pray to stop the devil?

(Did not address question as I interrupted)

M: That was like 40 something years ago, I believe that was similar in the United States in the 50s. I don’t think it a very funny way to teach to behave.”

 

Analysis:

The monster pulling you under the bed by your feet piece of Folklore appears to exist in the United States, as was noted by “M”, often tied to the boogeyman. There are multiple references to the ‘under the bed monster’ and in American popular studies journals being cited in one article as “…so universal that we no longer stop to think about their origins. “(Shimabukuro, 2014). As identified by “M” at the end of the transcript, it was used as a method to convince her, by her mother, to tell her if she had been lying. This could be used to scare the truth out of a child, or if the child would not tell no matter what, as a way to negatively reinforce such behavior.

“M”s use of socks to protect her from the devil living under the bed appears to be used as a protection charm from the devil, similar to when children hide their heads under the blanket. It was also used as an indicator of the devil’s presence, as the disappearance of the socks may have indicated to “M” that the devil had tried to grab her and grabbed her sock instead.

Work Cited

Shimabukuro, K. (2014). The Bogeyman of Your Nightmares: Freddy Krueger’s Folkloric Roots. STUDIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.

general
Material

Parents Trick to Get their Son to Eat Brussell Sprouts

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.

 

Transcript

“So I hated eating brussel sprouts when I was a little guy, I would throw them at my parents and stuff. So my parents told them they were just baby cabbages so I would eat em’. I like cabbage, but I didn’t like Brussel sprouts.

Me: Did it work?

M: Oh yeah.

Me: You actually thought you were eating baby cabbage for awhile?

M: Oh yeah, they’re like exactly the same, I didn’t have any idea there was something to differentiate them. I still think they might be baby cabbage (laughs jokingly)

Me: When did you start to catch on?

M: Probably when I was about 7 or 8, but I ended up liking brussel sprouts anyways.

Me: So your parents actually tricked you into liking brussel sprouts? That’s pretty elaborate.

M: Well, maybe. I don’t know…. if they hadn’t told me they were baby cabbages, and I just waited until I was seven or eight and tried them again, If I’d still like them. ”

 

Analysis:

As “M” was pretty well aware, being told that brussel sprouts were baby cabbage forced  him into a sort of cognitive dissonance where he changed him preferences to accommodate his liking of cabbage. As he was not able to identify that his parents were doing it at the time, he ate them. Though he isn’t sure about it, “M” does entertain the possibility that his preference to brussel sprouts may be a result of this trick earlier in his childhood.

 

Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Udon Noodle Christmas Tradition

“D” is a 19 year old female student at The University of Southern California. She is a Chemistry major and interested in pursuing Pharmacy after college.  She is Vietnamese on both sides of her family and describes herself as very close with her sister, whom she shares many Folkloric traditions with. She played soccer up through high school and is currently active in the rugby community.

 

Transcript:

“D: So you know like the Udon noodles? Well udon noodles they take like forever to make. Ever since we were little my uncle who lives in Massachusetts, whenever he’d come down to California he’d come over and literally all the kids would help him make these noodles.

Me: Mmmhm.

D: We’d only have them during Christmas time because they was the only time that he’d come by and were all together, so like different kids would do different jobs at the time and like make the noodles.

Me: Do you guys still do it every year?

D: Expect now that we’re all older we don’t really need him to be there, so like my sister would start it and me and my sister would run it and all my little cousins would come help.

Me: When he came and stuff you could all finish it up?

D: Yeah, yeah! We did it one year without him though.

Me: So this is obviously before the meal, so you all get ready and get together and do it. Are there any other songs or sorts of rituals you do during the proccess? Or is it the very first thing that you do during Christmas dinner?

D: No. But it’s the thing that we all look forward too.”

 

Analysis:

As “D” indicated, the tradition began with her uncle within her lifetime, being motivated by the fact that it brought the whole family together. The choice of udon noodles allowed a common goal for the whole family to work on as a team, while allowing each member to play a role in the eventual creation of the meal, reinforcing the group dynamic already contained by them being in a family. As “D” and her sister can now perform the role without their uncle, it may act the symbolize competency in an ‘adult’ task that was originally denied to them as children. Much in the vein of the carving of the Thanksgiving turkey, which is passed down from father to son, this task may be passed down to former helpers as they grow up.

 

general

Siblings tapping though walls to talk to each other

“D” is a 19 year old female student at The University of Southern California. She is a Chemistry major and interested in pursuing Pharmacy after college.  She is Vietnamese on both sides of her family and describes herself as very close with her sister, whom she shares many Folkloric traditions with. She played soccer up through high school and is currently active in the rugby community.

 

Transcript:

“D: So uh… me and my sister our rooms used to be right next to each other so we would knock on the wall, and each time you knocked it corresponded with a different meaning. So like three knocks was asking if you were awake, two was yes, one was no, and than from there four was like ‘come to my room’, there was just a whole bunch of different signals we sent to each other. So from there, when we didn’t live next to each other we would just say “ONE” or “TWO” during conversations and we would know what the other person meant. It’s one of our things now.

Me: Do you guys still do that?

D: Yeah!

Me: Do you remember about how old you were when you started doing that?

D: Uh… we were about my sister was probably 10 and I was 8.

Me: So why the knocking, where you trying to hide that you guys were talking from your parents?

D: Yeah haha, they caught us sneaking out to talk to each other a few times, and the knocking made it so they couldn’t find out about it. ”

 

Analysis:

As “D” pointed out, she had a desire to speak to her sister and had previously been caught sneaking out of her room, and used the system as a way to avoid detection by her parents, while still allowing her to communicate with her sister. The fact the code is still used today even though they do not live near each other anymore, shows they still remember the system they had previously used while using it in a manner that allows them to accommodate for their current state of affairs.

 

Game
Magic
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pre-Soccer Game Ritual

“D” is a 19 year old female student at The University of Southern California. She is a Chemistry major and interested in pursuing Pharmacy after college.  She is Vietnamese on both sides of her family and describes herself as very close with her sister, whom she shares many Folkloric traditions with. She played soccer up through high school and is currently active in the rugby community.

 

Transcript:

“D: Okay so before each game I would have, it sounds really weird, I would have a chocolate mocha and than I would have to put on my socks left first, than right second. I would also have to put my right cleat on before my left, and my left before my right, in reverse order basically.

Me: Was this because it happened sometime in the past and it worked?

D: It was because it was like a habit, and we won and I kinda just stuck to it.

Me: Do you think there is any validity to that helping you during the game?

D: No, it’s just a superstition. Like I would jump like three times before the whistle blew.

Me:  Was it just you do did the team sorta, did the team sort of condone it?

D: The team had their own little things to do, we’d all like get in a circle before and we’d like talk, we all usually said the same things, like to pump each other up and we’d do like a team sprint to like win.

Me: Do you remember when that started, you had to have noticed that and decided to do it again at some time.

D: It was probably when I was like 10 or 11, when soccer really started to get competitive rather than like recreational.

Me: Okay, so when you played recreational you didn’t have any superstitions?

D: No. It didn’t really matter because I beat everyone”

 

Analysis:

The pre-game ritual is a well known superstition used to enhance one’s luck in a game prior to the game, they are widely used by profession sports teams (Barabbi, 2014),( Yeager, 2014) and non-professionals alike. “D”s attempt to replicate prior conditions that allowed her to win in the past points at an attempt to replicate a past event that had a favorable outcome, possibly by keeping as many variables the same as possible. Though she does acknowledge it plays no effect on her performance, her continued use of the ritual points to it being reinforcing in some respect. Its use after she considered soccer to be more competitive likely means she did believe it to garner some sort of advantage at the time she conceived of the ritual (Tobacyk & Shrader, 1991).

 

 

Work Cited

Barrabi, T. (2014). World Cup 2014: 8 Weirdest Pregame Rituals And Superstitions. International Business Times. Retrieved 30 April 2015, from http://www.ibtimes.com/world-cup-2014-8-weirdest-pregame-rituals-superstitions-1603838

Tobacyk, J., & Shrader, D. (1991). Superstition and self-efficacy.Psychological Reports, 68(3c), 1387-1388.

Yeager, S. (2015). Pregame rituals of the pros. Retrieved 30 April 2015, from                                                                                                                   http://espn.go.com/espnw/training/article/6857252/pregame-rituals-pros

Folk speech

“He Worked for The Queen”- Setting the table

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.

 

Transcript:

“M: My dad did this thing to make me set the table when I was little, I always hated putting the table together but he would always tell me that ‘he worked for the Queen’ so anytime I would challenge him, he’d just tell me that. He told he he’d ‘put out her candles’ and ‘set her tables’, so I would put out candles and set out tables correctly, because he knew how to do it correctly when he told me too.

Me: How long did he use that one for?

M: Until I moved out, it started out as a way to get me to do it, than he’d just use it when I got older to basically tell me to ‘just set the table how he wanted’ ”

 

Analysis:

The phrase seemed to be used as a short way for “M”s father to tell him he knew how to set the table, and as pointed out, originally as a way to motivate him to set it. As the Queen is an authority on proper etiquette, the phrase is simply an appeal to authority to get “M” to set the table.

 

general

Fishman Family Seder Song

Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.

 

“J: One thing my family and I like to do during our Passover Seders is that we have this, at the end of the Seder, we have this dinner and we all like to sing our own song which is called “The Fishman Seder” song, I don’t know exactly how it goes, because we have always had the sheet but it started…

“Wouldn’t it be greater than to be at Fishman Seder, or a Fishman Seder on Meeesssaaa ” (audio attached)

J: And it’s really fun and we’d pound the table and everything and it’s just something that we’d do after every single Seder dinner, which we like to have a lot of our, a lot of our kind of traditions, based on a kind of Jewish Holidays. Granted we tend to go off of my Mom’s religion, we tend to go off Protestant, but a lot of the things we do as families we do during Hanukkah or Passover.

Me: Alright… um, the Fishman song, do your Grandparents, or do any other previous generations sing that, or did you guys originate that?

J: So I think it was actually my Grandparents who came up with it, beacuse the first time we sung it, it was with our Grandparents and they pulled out a piece of paper and they said “we came up with this new song”. They came up with it with my uncle and aunt as well. They all liked it so they were the first Fishman to sing the song.

Me: How long ago was that?

J: I don’t know, before I was born I know.

Me: Do you guys sing it when your Grandparents aren’t around?

J: No it’s sort of only when we’re all together, not unless they’re at Seder with us.”

 

Analysis:

Although “J” informs me that the tune is a familiar one and not a Fishman original, I am not sure of the origin of the song. I welcome anyone with any idea where the tune might be from (from the audio clip above) to comment on this posting. The Fishman Seder song seems to act as a celebration of the family as a whole, and acts as a way to celebrate being part of the Fishman family (“…be greater than to be at Fishman Seder”) as well as their coming together. The family working to build the tune together, as “J” mentions happened before he was born, as well as the families continued insistence to sing the song during Jewish Seder supports this conclusion. As Seder is a Jewish Passover tradition, and as the family is unified during this event, it can help to both reinforce their Jewish identity and its connection to their shared experience as a Family.

As the event is sung at the end of Seder, it may also act to transition from one Passover event to another, or to transition into the end of the evening. Either way the event seems to act to transition during a liminal period of the event while also reinforcing the sense of community the Seder dinner builds, as if to sort of epitomize the event they are concluding.

[geolocation]