Author Archive
general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Competition to see who loved the other the most

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.

Bolded portion is a quick summation of the the particular piece of Folklore.

 

“J: So when I was growing up, and, to this day, my Grandma, what she liked to do was, she liked to challenge me to see who loved each other more and we would do that by someone saying “I love you” and someone saying “I love you more”, and someone would say I love you the most.

J:So what would happen when we were kids, when we were at the pool, is we would try to figure out who loved each other the most, so instead of just saying it more we had to wait five minutes before some could say it again in order for the time to reset. So we’d be doing something, we’d be swimming in the pool and than all of a sudden someone would be like “oh I love you the most” and they would love you the most for those five minutes. And, ever since, ever to this day everytime we finished talking we’d always just go “I love you the most”, “nope, I love you the most” and try to say “No, I love you the most I’ve loved you before you were born”, so it’s something that we do with our family.

Me: Um, when you say, wait five minutes, is it sort of like the first person to say it wins? Or is it that, they sort of, for that entire five minute period they are the winner and then they until they are “challenged again”?

J: It was just kind of like you just couldn’t say it right away and whoever did it was the winner for that five minutes. It would restart five minutes later. Whoever could say it than obviously loved the other the most because they were paying such close attention in order to tell the other person.

Me: So let me get this straight, somebody would say “I love you the most” after a sort of like ‘escalation’, and than you’d wait five minutes…

J: It went to the point where you didn’t even have to start it off, it just began when you said “I love you the most”.

Me: Okay , so who started that tradition?

J: My grandma.

Me: And did she do that with her, uh, family as well with her Great Grandparents or… did it happen spontaneously?

J: Uhhhh…  I think it kind of just happened spontaneously, I wasn’t alive for my Great Granparents on her side of the family, it would have been a long time ago. ”

Analysis: The game appears to be a game that reiterates the loving feelings among family members while allowing friendly competition between family members, this sort of ‘endearing competition’ allowing family members to prove their caring for one another. The tradition, started by his grandmother, who is American born (as he told me after the interview), had parents that were Ukrainian, so the tradition could have been generated or duplicated in the United States or Ukraine. His grandma’s use of the game allowed the use of the game to reiterate the feeling she has for her grandchildren, and the competitive aspect could help motivate the children to play along, while allowing them to express admiration for each other and her. As “J” described it, all members tried to answer first, and the competitive aspect was taken seriously.

 

Game
general
Humor
Protection
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Religious ‘Crossing’ and Pre-Performance Chant Parodies

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: “…Now this one is going to sound really weird but recently there was a production of ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ and there was this kinda offensive song sung in it.
This sort of got turned into a backstage chant, and like I’ve also heard other people do this too. We all huddle in and whisper this ‘We’re gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn, we’re gonna rape kill pillage and burn, eat the babies’. We say this multiple times getting louder each time until all of us are full on screaming it backstage. You know how people can like to scream vaguely offensive stuff, but its not that bad to us because we all know where it’s from. Then right before I go on stage I’ll do like a cross, you know the like Catholic one. I’m not really religious but I’ve been doing it for years. I think it started when I did a really hard solo and it had that cross in it. It basically tells me that I’ve done all I can and now I just have to perform. It’s another aspect of getting mentally ready, because so much of performing is about being physically but also mentally on your game.”

Analysis: The crossing seems to be a sort of parody of superstition. It may be an attempt to ‘use’ a previously accepted superstition in a socially accepted way or to comically parody their own use of superstition before the performance.
This backstage chant seems to be a sort of ‘trust building exercise’ that uses both humor and chanting to reinforce a sense of community. In high stress situations like ballet performances, such reinforcement likely serves to cater trust in other dancers, as the difference between an effective performance and a mishap could rely on other dancers.

Legends
Narrative

High School ‘Senior Punishment’ Legend

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: “My high school used to be a boarding school, the school is over 100 years old, so we had a lot of traditions.  First of all, the seniors have a rec room that they repaint each summer in their classes color.  It takes a ton of hard work and time and is kind of a sacred space for the seniors, and they take their positions of ‘guardians of the lawn and rec room’ very seriously.  There’s this legend about this guy named W who was this tiny, tiny 7th grader.   Anyway I guess one day he got a bunch of squirt guns and soaked some seniors who were sitting on the lawn.   The seniors of course got really mad and they chased after him and duct taped him to a tree.  I guess he like was there for hours too.  Just about every 7th grader knows this legend, and definitely knows to respect the seniors and their rec room and lawn.”

 

Analysis: The legend appears to reinforce the hierarchy maintained by the older students over the younger ones, showing that going against an established hierarchy leads to embarrassment. Her emphasis on the fact he was left for several hours plays into the fact that the punishment was quite severe for her perspective, and serves to show that forgetting one’s place in this hierarchy is an especially socially unacceptable offense.

general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

High School Rec Room and Tabooistic Student Bet

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: “So in my high school we have a senior rec room.  Honestly the place is absolutely disgusting and teachers avoid it like the plague.  That kinda means anything goes in there.  There’s stories about people having sex on the couches…and other stuff too.  There’s a story about this guy in the rec room, and honestly he wasn’t the smartest guy, but so there’s like this pool table in there, and he really overestimated how good he was at pool.

Anyway he made a bet and lost and the punishment was he had to shave his head bald, except for his eyebrow length bangs.  It was the stupidest looking thing I ever saw.  He kept it for a few days, but like he mostly wore a hat anyway, and then finally shaved it clean.  He was supposed to keep it for a week I guess.  And it took forever for his hair to grow back out too.

He didn’t learn though because the same guy made another pool bet, and of course lost again.  So like in the rec room there’s this big vacuum and it’s really powerful and it’s got a big hose on it.  When he lost he had to stick his dick inside the vacuum with it on.  I guess he didn’t know this, but another guy had coated the inside of the vacuum with icy hot.  I guess he didn’t find out about the icy hot until like 20 minutes later when he was sitting in class too.  I think he had to go home for the rest of the day.  He didn’t make anymore bets either”.

 

Analysis: The rec room described in this piece of Folklore appears to be a ‘no adults allowed’ sort of location, and thus legends of taboo teen activities are associated with the area. Sort of acting as an oasis where students could release any sort of tabooistic discourse they would normally hide from the administration. Legends of students having sex in the recreation room, as well as the student sticking his penis in a vacuum show these sorts of themes surrounding the room.

The student being punished for his hubris in betting could either act as a sort of morality tale, to be careful with overconfidence or it may act as a sort of representation of the themes represented by the recreation room. ‘A’ did confirm that the students cutting his bangs was recorded on video, and that that did in fact occur. She was more unsure of the ‘dick in the vacuum’ aspect.

Game
general

Burlap Jump Rope- Colombia

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.

Collector will be specified as “S”.

 

Transcript:

“M:  We had a game that, I don’t know como se dice en ingles, it’s with the rope. Rope?

S: Yeah, like a jump rope?

M: Yeah. We played at recess every single day when I was in third grade, yeah. I remember very specific.

S: What sort of rules did the game have?

M: The rules is that you jump, and when you jump if you get stuck in the rope, you are out.

S: Did they use two ropes or one rope, was there a song that you sang?

M: You only used one rope, there was one person on one side, and someone on another, and you was moving the rope around.

S: You didn’t sing anything?

M: We count, either the person that was in the middle had to count, even if it made them tired.

M: Yeah the person who can jump for the more long time would win. But sometimes we moved the rope very fast, it was one way we made the person lose, because there was no way the person in the middle could jump that fast. But Colombia we used a specific rope, not the plastics or synthetics. It’s made with wheat, what is the name of that plant, the thing that they make of those bags that they store coffee. Very famous in Colombia. Let me look….

(Uses search engine to find name)

M: Burlap, that used to hurt a lot when it hit your legs. YEAH, it was very painful. Burns and it gave you marks in the legs, because we had a school uniform, skirts, and they hit you in the legs.

S: Just one more question, was the person in the middle usually a girl or guy, or both?

M: Doesn’t matter boy or girl, it was a mix, a mixed game.“

 

Analysis:

The game seems like a very standard version of jump rope, similar to ‘Double-Dutch’ played in the United States. The use of Burlap was emphasized by  ‘M’ because of how painful it had made the game, resulting in pain when the jumper lost, possibility attaching an extra ‘cost’ to losing the game. The moving the rope ‘extra fast’ combined with the pain generated by the sort of rope may have acted as a form of teasing among students.

The use of burlap is very common in Colombia, notably used on coffee bags (as the speaker noted), which is a hallmark of Colombian identity.

general
Legends
Narrative

La Llorona- Colombia

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.

Collector will be specified as “S”. Collector did not speak during this portion.

Transcript:

“M: A cousin always visit us, and he always scared us with a sort of story. He would use the crying woman or the Llorona… I remember he turned the lights off and everyone in the living room, we’d sit down in the living room, and he would repeat the same stories.

“Could you tell again the story of the Llorona?” [said by "M" and her siblings]

” …everyone needs to be quite, never look outside in the windows, she could be outside there.” [Said by the Cousin]

The story was of a woman tha…. Uh… let me see thinking about how is this story…. Yeah they say that the husband took the kids from her. Yeah, and she killed herself, and she appeared every night in the cemetery, and she crying “where are my kids, where are my kids?” and the more funny thing is, my cousin was so funny, he said: “I was drunk one day, I was crossing the cemetery”.

He wanted to take a shortcut, so he took the cemetery. And he said the short way was in the cemetery, and when he was passing he heard the voice say “where is my kids, where are my kids?” . He said he was so scared he peed in his pants, and he wasn’t anymore drunk, and he said he ran like a crazy. But the funniest thing is he peed in the pants, when he went in the house, and his in the blankets.

But he doesn’t know if that was real or not, because he was drunk.

That story start in the 18th century, they said that was the time that that happened, in the 18th century.

He told us a lot of stories, that is the one I remember more.

 

Analysis:

La Llorona is a myth that has heavily permeated Latin culture, being a very common piece of Folklore in these countries (Kirtley, 1960). La Llorona, or the cying woman, is referenced here with the assumption that the person collecting the folklore knows about her origins, and her ability to be interested as a generic sort of scare in a funny situation only serves to reinforce her ubiquity in Colombian culture. The covering of the windows showed that at the very least, she believe the story could have been true at the time it was being told to her. I should also note, “M”s explanation of her origin story was simply at my request, and did not reflect her original approach to the story (the portion directly after the ellipse).

 

 

 

Kirtley, B. F. (1960). ” La Llorona” and Related Themes. Western Folklore, 155-168.

general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Shot of Akvavit and Swedish 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: So my… during Hanukkah dinners we’d always go over to my cousin’s house and during this time at the end of the dinner during desert, my… uh… my aunt’s dad, was… uh… Swedish, he was from Sweden and he had this drink over there called Akvavit. It was this type of hard liquor, um, it was a yellowish kinda, it was a yellowish hard liquor, it was a little sweet. But basically at um… after every single meal that he had during Hanukkah at desert time we’d all have a shot, even the little kids, even my cousin who are like 10 and 8 would have a shot of this.

Me: Uh huh.

J: Beacuse it was kind of this tradition that they had afterwards, you would sing a song, we’d try to sing a long as well but it was… it.. uh… we didn’t really understand what he was saying and after that we’d all take a shot and basically what he said was just kind of this old song that meant .. like.. good tiding, like long live the next night and the holidays and meet with your family.

Me: Is this a Swedish or a Jewish song?

J: Uh, that was actually a Swedish song so it was um, it was, he sung it in Swedish because although we were all Jewish he kinda just brought his own little culture into it and it was kind of a way to celebrate it but also do it during a sort of special Jewish holiday. ”

 

Analysis: The partaking of drinking of the whole family during a holiday is very common as a sort of relaxing of cultural customs during holidays, as is seen with things like the New Year’s Kiss or kissing under the mistletoe during Christmas. The fusion of Swedish tradition with a Jewish context, as well as a partaking of the whole family, shows an overall acceptance of J’s aunt’s father’s Swedish traditions, and an acceptance of this fusion as a sign of mutual respect.

The drink of choice, Akvavit, was explain by J as being fairly popular in Sweden. It appears that Sweden is the largest producer of the drink and the name is latin for ‘water of life’. It is made from distilled potato or grains (“aquavit”, Encyclopædia Britannica ).

The song sung afterwards is a classic example of a drinking song, which usually following directly after or before a drink. The song itself is unknown.

Work Cited

“aquavit”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2015
<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/31128/aquavit>.

 

Game
general
Magic
Protection

A’s Baseball Game “Lucky Shirt”

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.

Bolded portion is a quick summation of the the particular piece of Folklore.

 

“J: We’re at game four, 2012 playoffs, and it was the As- Tigers. I’ve been an A’s fan my whole life, I grew up an As fan, even when my brother switched teams… I idolized him when I was a kid… I stayed an A’s fan, beacuse I love the As! This was the first time since the playoffs that I really cared a lot alot, I mean I cared when I was a kid but I started getting more and more interest and this is the first time they went to the playoffs in 7 years.

So we were really excited, they weren’t supposed to make the playoffs, they weren’t even supposed to win 70 games… they were the worst team in baseball. So we were at this game and it was a, if they win they got a, they got to play the next game but if they lost it was over. Everything was done for.

Me: Mmmm hmmm

J: So in this game they were losing 3-1 at the bottom of the ninth, and we were just depressed, thinking it was over with, we’re done. Except for they started to rally and they rallied, and this, Seth Smith went up and hit the game tying two win double. Everyone just started going crazy, we all started jumping up and down… we couldn’t breathe we were so excited and actually the guy behind me didn’t really think it was going to happen as well, because the whole stadium was kind of praying that this would happen. It was against the best closer in the game, and he got up and got really excited and actually spilled his beer on my shirt. I didn’t really think anything of it  because I was so happy that we were winning. I noticed it after it happen and was like “oh my god you spilled beer on my shirt”, he tried to clean it up but it didn’t really work it was already past, we were celebrating for like five minutes.

And so, after that happened, with two outs, the same guy on second. Coco Crisp  went up and hit a game winning RBI single and the whole place went crazy. That was one of the coolest if not the best game I ever went too. Period.

….

J: I felt like that shirt, every since it happened, had to be lucky. They did this amazing thing, this improbable thing. It’s something that no one could have ever seen them doing. Since that day, any time I got to an As game, I wear jerseies over it since it still has a stain and everything but I wear my shirt over that jersey, and every since that year they’ve got back to the playoffs every single time.

So I believe anytime I wear that shirt under my jersey, they got back to the playoffs.

Me: The next game in the playoffs, did they win that, were you wearing your jersey?

J: No. We went straight to it the next day, we were trying to do everything to make them do better but  I didn’t have my jersey on. I didn’t think about it at the time, I just thought “beer-spilt shirt”. I think maybe if I wore it it would of been better, I really think it would of been better seeing how good the shirts been every since then…

Granted the As lost the next game, and unfortunately they lost the playoff series, but I felt like that shirt, ever since that happened had to be lucky. Because they just did this amazing thing, this improbable thing, that no one ever could have seen them doing. They just did it. So since that day, whenever I go to an As game, I wear jerseys over it, because it still, it still has a stain on it and everything, but I wear that shirt under my jersey, ever since that year they’ve gone back to the playoffs every single time. So I believe that as long as I wear that shirt under my jersey, they’ll go back to the playoffs.

Me: That next game that they lost that, did you not wear your jersey?

J: No. I wasn’t at it.

Me: Do you feel personally responsible for the loss of the As?

J: A little bit. I’d rather not. I mean it was just a hard game and we just got back, we were actually at football practice and we came back and we were all sweaty and the game was on and we just went straight to it at one of my friends house. We were trying to everything to make them do better, but I didn’t have my jersey on. I didn’t think about it at the time after, because I just thought it was just this weird old shirt. But, after maybe if I wore it it would have been better. I really think it would have been better seeing how good the shirt has been ever since then, but i’d rather not take blame for it because it was really depressing.”

 

Analysis: The informant J has this folk belief that his shirt is “lucky” and can influence how his team plays. Although he doesn’t seem exactly sure that his jersey has this strong influence, and he cannot prove it does, he still has the belief that if he does not wear it, his team won’t do as well. He even mentioned that he feels some responsibility for having his team lose when he didn’t wear the jersey, and he really thought it would have gone better if he had. Folk beliefs around lucky items of clothing, especially for sports teams, seems very popular. Many times the people who wear the lucky items of clothing do not want to question its validity in case this somehow takes the luck away. This can lead to wide spread beliefs such as the one J explained above.

Childhood
general

“If you watch too much TV, your eyes will turn to squares”

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:

“Me: You were saying something about ‘eyes turning into squares’…

M: Yes. When [son] would watch the television to much I would tell him to be careful or his eye would turn into squares.

(Makes impression of squares around eyes, with eyes turning from round into square)

Me: So it would happen slowly to him if he watched to much TV, not like ‘all of a sudden’?

M: Yes.

Me: Was it to stop him from watching to much TV?

M: No really (laughs), it was for fun, como el Mano Peludo. ”

 

Analysis: El ‘mano peludo’ is a myth involving a hairy hand that would attack children in their sleep, sometimes associated with children that misbehaved. In reference to M explaining that it was similar to el mano peludo, she is explaining that it is used by adults to often tease children, it is not necessarily tied to any sort of moral lesson.

In regards to the ‘eyes turning into squares’ piece of Folklore, there appears to be many references to it on the internet:

http://athome.readinghorizons.com/blog/why-sitting-too-close-to-the-television-makes-your-eyes-go-square

The Mystery of the Mad Science Teacher by Marty Chan, 2008, pg, 171.

https://sarahgalvin.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/dont-watch-too-much-tv-or-your-eyes-will-turn-square/

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/british/square-eyed

 

The myth itself appears to be addressed directly by many of the above authors as something heard during their childhood. This particular piece of Folklore thus appears to be used quite a lot in recent times, as the television as a fairly recent invention, this isn’t surprising. Though M did not use this particular piece of Folklore moralistically,  it appears to be quite available for such usage. Her use of it rather, may be closer to the use of the Boogeyman, a way to tease children via their trust in adults.

Game
general

Scary Hide and Go Seek

“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 when we were little we used to play hide and go seek tag, kind of, but we were supposed to in bed. All four of us, our bedrooms are in the same wing of the house and so, we had to play when we were supposed to be sleeping and it was all dark and we had to be completely silent. So what we would try to do instead of actually just hiding, we would find the darkest clothing or blanket and just crouch in a corner and pretend we were like a rock or the wall. So the majority of the time it started off as hide and go seek, and  we’d try to find the other person, towards like, as we got older, it was like ‘who can scare the other person to get them to scream the loudest so they can get caught’.

Me: So the point was like, to not wake up your parents but still be able to play?

D: Yeah, yeah!

Me: Do you remember when you first started playing?

D: My brother and sister were older so they started playing first, I would say I was about six, so my sister was eight, my brother was ten.

Me: So from that other piece of Folklore you told me about before (titled “Siblings tapping though walls to talk to each other “, also in this database), you would tap on the wall with you sister to communicate without your parents knowing, she would come over there or you would go over there and you would try to scare the shit out of each other by pretending to be  rocks and stuff?

D: It started out as hide and go seek, than it was like ‘scare the shit out of each other!’ ”

 

Analysis:

Coupled with “D”s tapping through the walls to communicate with her sister, as featured in the other piece of Folklore mentioned above in bold, this game appears to be an attempt to extend play past when was dictated by her parents. By attempting to scare each other, they both acknowledged that they were in a situation they were not supposed to be in, and also implemented it into their game play, building a game around the environment provided to them. The use of scaring both allowed implementation of the taboo aspect of the game, while taking advantage of the lack of awareness provided by the dark, as the dark is conventionally very scary for children. “D”s being pulled into game play despite being one of the younger siblings allowed to bonding to take place by showing the younger sibling she was allowed to participate in her form of play.

 

[geolocation]