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Santa Claus, Christmas Bok, and Naked Man

So the German tradition of krampus, ah, was brought to Sweden some times during the Dark Ages…and back then, this was before like, Santa Claus came around. And he was only like Saint Nick, or a similar…like before he was actually Santa Claus he was like this Saint guy, right, that was giving gifts away. And the Christmas bok, Julbocken, would accompany him and if you hadn’t been a good child, he would put you in his sack, that he brought with him, and beat you. Uh, and if you’d been really bad he would put you in his sack and take you away. From your family. And how this was celebrated was basically, young University students, would go around to houses, carol singing. Wearing all these, the outfit of the bok – it’s a Swedish word. It’s basically like a goat head with horns. And they were mischievous. So it’s like a mixture of trick-or-treating and carol-singing, into one. And this would be used to threaten children to behave. And that lived for like, forever. Long time.

Is it still going on?

No. Because it’s sort of…that tradition of going around, sort of died off when Santa Claus came around. Basically Santa Claus was different, in Sweden, until Coca-Cola came to Sweden. And then all of a sudden Santa Claus was red. Before that he wasn’t. And Santa Claus…I’ll get back to that thought. The Christmas bok is now, under the Christmas tree you have one out of…what is the uh, horses eat?

Hay?

Hay. Yeah, out of hay, it’s like a figurine made out of hay, that you put under your Christmas tree, as a like a, oh he’s already been here. Because they would leave that, after the visit.

Oh, he would leave a little figurine?

Yeah.

The University students?

Yeah. And usually they got served alcohol, you know, that’s why they were going around. And if you didn’t, then you know, they would do something mischievous.

And the first Santa Clauses weren’t actually Santa Clauses as the way we think of it, basically they were gnomes that cared for the farmhouse. They cared for the whole plot of land where they lived. So they lived under the houses, and they would take care of that. And that was sort of like their gift to, to the people inside. And every year you would have to put out a bowl of oatmeal, outside. Almost like cookies and milk, but a poor version, and outside. So they would continue taking care of the farm. Most of the Swedish stuff has to do with nature. So the gnomes, they were friendly, taking care, making sure that plants grew, all that stuff. And they would come together, for a time period before Santa Claus became Coca-Cola-ized, the Christmas bok and Santa Claus would come together, and Santa Claus would give the good children gifts, and the bok would give them beatings. So they both have sacks – one is empty and one is full of gifts! Cause if you’ve been bad…you end up in the sack and get beaten.

So there was one Santa Claus? Or every house had their own?

No every house had their own, yeah. Houses weren’t close to each other, cause we didn’t have cities obviously, so it was more like a big farm. And each farm had their own, so each little village had several. Yeah. So each plot of land that you owned had their own little gnome taking care of it.

There’s a lot of mythology used to keep children at bay. For instance, in the wintertime, if you go outside the wolf’s gonna eat you.

Did your mom ever tell you that?

Uh, not me. But her generation. Because when I grew up, we were modernized in cities. So I’m too young to have that sort of thing. But if you go back, like at the turn of the century, that was definitely going around. Like that was the way to keep children in. So you had: don’t go into the forest at wintertime, cause the wolf will catch you and eat you; don’t go out in the summertime cause the trolls will take you…and they would trade you for a troll kid. So basically if your kid was misbehaving, it was thought that your actual kid had been taken by trolls, and they had left a troll kid. If you went down to the lake or the spring, the Naked Man would take you.

Naked Man? What’s that?

Naked Man…he plays his violin. Beautifully. So beautifully that you cant withstand it, so you have to walk closer and closer and closer, and once you’re close enough he’ll grab you and pull you into the stream and you’ll drown and die. He’s a naked man, yeah. And his name is, like…Naked Man. Näcken. That’s his name. So that’s sort of like the Elements protection.

 

ANALYSIS:

The above traditions and folk beliefs function not only as lower mythology, for example every household having it’s own spirit or small deity looking after the house and harvest, but also as a way to make children behave and stay out of harm’s way. The rituals and practices of the University students going around to the houses, as well as the figurine, reinforces the threat of the Christmas bok. In addition, the participation of the University students allows them to be involved after their belief in such stories and characters has passed, and they in turn get to have their fun and mischief and alcohol, a part of the transition between being a child who believes these stories but before they have children of their own. As the informant pointed out, these traditions are fading out, mainly because of the urbanization of Sweden – families no longer have their own large plot of land, and instead people live in cities.

Customs
Earth cycle
Foodways
Game
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Duck Shooting in New Zealand

There’s a national tradition that the first of May is the opening of duck shooting season. And, all over the country people go duck shooting. If you live in town, everyone knows someone in the country (if they’re into duck shooting, not everyone’s into duck shooting, but there’s a lotta people that are), what they’ll do is they’ll call up a local farmer and arrange to go duck shooting on their pond. A lotta farms have got more than one pond, and leading up to duck shooting season the farmers will start putting grain out at the ponds, to fatten the ducks, these are wild ducks, and as far as I know there’s not many domesticated ducks in New Zealand, a lotta them are wild. And so what happens is the farmers are trying to attract the ducks to their pond, so they don’t go to the neighbor’s pond, it’s actually a bit of a competition to be honest! So we lived on this 4,000 acre farm growing up, and we had a lot of duck ponds, and really these ponds are made to water the stock, so some of them are natural and others are made by my dad with the bulldozer. But then you always end up with ducks, in theses ponds. So the first of May is the beginning of duck shooting season, and it usually goes for two or three weeks, and it’s a national event. So every morning, on the first of May there’s this tradition where they guys (mainly guys, some girls) they go out with their shotguns. And some farmers build what’s called Mai-mai’s on the damns, I guess it’s a Maury word, Mai-mai, and what it is it’s like this hut that is camoflauged that they can go inside on the edge of the duck pond. So the guys get out literally at 5 in the morning so that they can be out and situated as the sun rises. And then the tradition too, my dad’s really not a big drinker, but there’s a major tradition where the farmers will take a bottle of whiskey, or they’ll have already stocked the mai-mai with whiskey and beer, and some farmers have traditional drinks. Like it could be scotch, it could be scotch and water, like in the south island it’s scotch and water, like a lotta them will have stashes of scotch and water in their mai-mais. So dad would often go out on his own, and come back from his first morning of duck shooting with maybe, I dunno 20 ducks? And as we got older we’d get to go out with him. And he brings all the ducks back but then my brother and I would have to pluck them (cause no one wants to do that, so give it to the kids). So there’s this huge festivities around plucking the ducks, and sometimes you get geese as well. So my brother and I would be in charge of plucking the ducks, and my dad would gut them and clean them out, and then they’d go up to my mom, who was in charge of cooking them. And that’s where farmers’ wives would exchange different recipes for cooking wild duck. They’d cook in their own houses but they would share recipes. And each year it’d be like, okay this is what I’m gonna cook my duck in, and what about you, and they’d share ideas, and there’s always usually like, a little bit of Cointreau or gromaneyei or something like that goes into the gravy, just to add flavor. And the really nice thing about new Zealand wild duck is that its got no fat on it, its very gamey. They’ve got a very dark colored meat, and they’re so tastey and so tender. So the roasting pan would have up to three ducks in it, all lined up. You roast them in the oven, and some of the recipes I showed you’ve got varying things, like you’ve got duck with orange, duck with plum, and pineapple duck, and so you’d put like pineapple in the stuffing, so you’d have the whole theme going there. And usually the duck would be served with roast potatoes so once the duck’s cooked to a certain point you gotta put the potatoes around the duck as well. And the roast potatoes are sort of cut up, and then rolled in flour, and salt and pepper, and then dropped into the roasting pan, so they’re cooking and the juices of the duck get soaked up, it’s like a slow roast in the oven. And then it comes out and you make the gravy by hand, and so you’ve got like the roasting pan, you tip the fat out (there’s not a lot of fat though) and then you just sprinkle flour in there, and then some like, water from the vegetables that might be cooking, and then you use a fork and just stir it all up and add a little thickening. And it’s this really gorgeous gravy that you can have with the roast duck and then you usually have like peas or broccoli or something like that with it on the plate, it’s just so good.

 

So that all happens in one day, the first day of shooting?

 

Yeah, exactly, so we have roast duck that night. Oh, and the thing you’ve got to watch too, because they’re wild ducks, is because they’ve been shot with a shotgun they have little pellets in them. So my mom, especially when we were little kids, the moms are in charge of making sure that the kids don’t get the duck with the pellets, you’re told to chew carefully cause you occasionally crunch down on a pellet. You can usually tell where the pellets have gone in, and the ducks that my mom likes to cook first are the ones where they’ve been shot in the head, sounds a bit gory I know. The less pellets the better for kids, cause you don’t wanna be swallowing lead pellets.

So and usually what happens is when we serve the duck, my dad would carve the duck on the kitchen counter. Before dinner. That was our tradition.

And then my dad would then periodically go out during duck shooting and get more, and would usually freeze the extra ones so that you could have them for a couple months.

 

So is this tradition really specific to New Zealand?

 

Very, I think. Yeah, every country’s got their own rules, and what a lot of it’s about too is they’re wild ducks so they’re not protected, and if it was year round the population of ducks would go down, so the idea of only doing it for the month of May is that (I don’t actually know how long duck shooting season goes, I oughta google it, but it’s something like 3 or 4 weeks), and it’s just cause you don’t wanna overshoot the duck population. It gives them a chance to repopulate. And actually, the seasons are the opposite in new Zealand, so May is like, right into fall. So maybe there’s an assumption too, that springs been 6 months old, so any spring ducks would now be 6 months and be good eating, because they’re tender and young.

 

So it’s definitely a tradition, and when you go duck shooting you’ve gotta wear like greens and browns so that youre blending in with the countryside as much as possible. And my dad was always super careful with guns, like, and it’s interesting in New Zealand you only have guns for shooting animals, people don’t carry them recreationally as much, and they certainly don’t carry them for protection. And farmers have to license their guns and lock them away.

 

And the other tradition we had, we had geese at the back of the farm, and my brother and I used to go and, we never carried guns, what we would do is if you let the geese see you coming they’ll start walking up the hill to the trees, and geese need to run to fly. So if you walk them up under the trees, you can charge them, and we’d have a competition to see how many we could catch, and we had these flexible belts that were elastic that my mom hand made, and we’d take them off and we’d get like three geese, and we’d tie their heads together with these belts, so that we could go and get three more. And then we would take them home and chop their heads off and eat them. So we did our own geese catching! And we used it as proof that we could do it without a gun.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a ritualized custom that is performed annually both because it follows the earth cycle calendar, and because of the practical reason of letting the duck population repopulate. It is clearly both a family custom, and a societal practice, as each segment of the society has a different role – the men go out and do the shooting, the children have to do the messy but easy labor, and the women do the cooking. There is also an ongoing generational aspect, as recipes are exchanged from family to family and passed down through generations. The fact that the children came up with their own hunting method, and created their own tradition, speaks of the involvement and desire for involvement in the grown up roles in this custom, and a sort of proving their capabilities, as they came up with their own way of duck hunting.

Duck Recipes IMG_0062 IMG_0063

Adulthood
Childhood
Customs
Game
general
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Boarding School in New Zealand

So I went to a boarding school in New Zealand, and the boarding schools are modeled on the English boarding schools, because new Zealand is a commonwealth country, which means it’s part of England, or ruled by England basically, and New Zealand still recognizes the Queen of England as the Queen of New Zealand. And so, because New Zealand was colonized by the British, a lot of our traditions and customs are very distinctly british, and the concept of the boarding school transferred from Britain to New Zealand. And it fit in very well with the New Zealand way, because a lot of the people lived in the country, and therefore the kids would go off to boarding school when it came time to go to high school because, like myself, we lived too far away from town, and it would just be too big of a deal to go out every day. And so a lot of the customs and practices I had at my boarding school had their historic roots in England. Like for example, one which was not very nice and goes back to kind of the really tough days of English boarding schools was, I dunno if you’ve heard of the gauntlet? So my school was called Fielding Agricultural High School, and there were two boys boarding houses, the one that didn’t have windows was called Rangatani house, and then the one that did have windows was called Schoolhouse. And then the girls hostel was called Metataihee house.

 

Why did one of the houses not have windows?

 

To make the boys tough, I don’t know. And so there were elements of New Zealand that were woven in, so the names are all Maori names, but the traditions were very British. And most of the kids that went to boarding school, like in England, were the sons and daughters of farmers. And in my case my dad didn’t own the farm, so the farm payed for all of us kids to go to boarding school, as part of my dad’s package.

 

But the gauntlet, which was practiced in the boys’ boarding houses, it’s now banned by the way, but it was a form of punishment where, if a boy had done something wrong, they would create two lines of boys and the kid used to have to run down the middle and the kids could kick and punch him. And often they’d come out the other end, like, semi-unconscious. It was horrible. That was one of the practices, and when I was at school they still did it.

 

That seems like a pretty severe punishment, what would they have to do to deserve that? What kind of things would get you in that much trouble?

 

Maybe they got caught sealing something? Of one of their buddies? That wasn’t very common, but I’m trying to think of something that would… Something more sort of serious. And this kind of activity wasn’t something the teachers – the teachers knew about it, but – what they called the schoolmaster, they knew it went on, but they didn’t stop it. So it was kids punishing other kids, so the sorts of other things might be…I dunno maybe they just were smart, you know, mouthy? And it would be one of the preficts would decide, so if you were the equivalent of maybe a junior or a senior in American high school, like in your last two years, that’s what the preficts were. So there’d be a head boy, and a head girl, and I used to be the head girl of the boarding house, and then there’d be other preficts, and the preficts would dish out the punishments to the kids. It could be for a range of things, but if a prefict decided they’d done something, the most serious form of punishment they would call would be the gauntlet, but it only happened to the boys, not the girls.

 

With the girls, I’m trying to think, some of these things are coming back to me. With the girls, some of the things we would do is, the preficts… I mean one day one of the girls called me into her room and just said to me “kiss my shoes,” and I said no. And she’s like “kiss my shoes” and I said no, I’m not gonna do that. And I was a third former, and she gave me two days. And a day is a form of punishment, and one day would mean that you would have to…and the word day came from England, English boarding school, and that means a day that you cant do the stuff that you would normally do after school, you’ve gotta do like, do chores and labor so to speak. And so I’d have to weed the garden instead of being able to go downtown after school.

 

It would almost be like food rationing in the morning, like there would be enough pieces of toast for like one and a half slices each, and we ate all our meals with the boys in what’s called Refectory, and you’d have duties so sometimes you’d have to stay to help do the dishes.

 

Oh so after lights out, in the first year you slept in a dormitory with other kids, and as you got more senior you’d start sharing a room, and then eventually if you became a prefict you’d have your own room. And again that’s part of, it’s like a hierarchy system that is again very British. So after lights out, we’d have torches, flashlights, under our pillows, and we’d talk, but you couldn’t talk to loud because up the hallway was the house mistress, which was usually an unmarried woman, either younger or older, that would be in charge and if she could hear you laughing and talking… I remember we had one lady once that, she would walk in and say “who was talking” and no one would say anything, it was like you didn’t wanna snitch on who it was. And so she’d line us all up out against the hallway and make us stand for 15 minutes until someone said it was me. She would just come in and get us all up and make us stand.

 

And we used to do “prep,” which was two hours of study every night, from 7 til 9, which is short for preparatory, like preparatory schools, even if you didn’t have any work you’d write to family, read a book, do anything, but you had to be silent for two hours. You were not allowed to talk.

 

Oh! We used to sandwich beds.

 

What’s that?

 

That’s like, it’s also known as apple pie-ing a bed, where you know, you’ve got the bottom sheet which is usually a fitted sheet, and then you have a top sheet. So we’d take the top sheet and we would tuck it around so it looked like the bottom sheet and then you’d turn it in half, so you would go to get in the bed, and your feet would only go halfway down the bed, cause the top sheet’s turned in half. So you turned the sheet up like an apple pie. Oh, and we’d put salt in their bed as well.

 

Why?

 

Because that was a ritual – third formers on their first night, all the preficts would salt their bed, just because. Because they’re third formers, that means like first year.

 

ANALYSIS:

Children or young adults attend boarding school at a transitory, liminal time in their lives. It is a time of going away from the safety and comfort of one’s family, being in a completely new environment with new people, rules, customs, social order, expectations, etc. These punishments and initiations establish a hierarchy, and a way of separating the ‘new’ kids from the ‘old’ kids, the people that are in the group versus the people that are out of it. You have to work your way to the top, you have to go through the same tortures and pranks that the people above you went through, in order to attain that status and respect that the older kids have achieved. It’s a way of keeping social order, as well as introducing new students to how things are done in this new culture.

Humor
Legends
Narrative

The Surfer Who Lived in a Cave

I bet being a surfer you know some local surfing legends or stories that get passed around?

 

Yeah. So there’s this old surfer, he was one of the best surfers in Southern California back in the 60’s, and he lived in the Newport Harbor jetty, like in a cave, in the rocks. And he had one suit, and he would paddle over from his cave in the jetty to go dancing in the clubs in Newport. And since he always wore this one suit, everyone always knew it was this one guy that lived in the cave in the jetty. And I don’t even think he worked, but uh, the story goes that he was just this great surfer that lived in the Newport jetty and would go dancing and be really classy with that one suit, and he would paddle it over, so like the funny thing is, when he was done with his night you’d see him like paddling across the harbor channel back to his cave, and I just think that’s hilarious.

 

Do you know what the guy’s name was?

 

I don’t remember his name, I could look it up.

 

Where’d you hear that story?

 

I read in a history of surfing book. Well actually the first time I heard it was through, hmm…my neighbor is like this old surfer guy, and it came up one time when we were talking about a surfboard company, and he told me the story. Apparently his dad knew the guy, they were in the same friend group and they’d all surf together. But this guy was the only one who could surf all those tough spots cause he lived right there in the cave. Yeah I hadn’t thought of it for a while until I read the story in this history of surfing book, and I was like oh my gosh that’s totally the same guy. From my understanding he only lived in the cave for like 4 or 5 years, and then went back to living in a normal house.

 

Why did he decide to live in a cave?

 

I mean it was the 60’s, and back then surf culture was really about not conforming to society, and kind of saying ‘fuck you’ to society. So the cool thing was that he was this total homeless hippie, but then he would pretend to be all classy and go dancing with all the other people, just because he could.

 

Do a lot of people know that story?

 

People who know a lot about the history of surfing, and I guess like, the roots of surfing in California would know it, and I guess people from older generations would probably know it.

 

ANALYSIS:

This legend seems to be passed around largely among surfers – the surfer in the story seems to be a sort of historical hero in the surfing community. He embodies what surfers idealize: a great surfer, at one with nature and the waves, isolated from society, but still a little notorious and able to mingle with the rest of society while still being recognized as an outsider, a ‘hippie’, a person who does their own thing and isn’t tied down by material possessions.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Jaguar: bad luck in Venezuela

Okay, so in the Oronoco Delta, which is in the Eastern part of Venezuela that borders Guyana, there’s um, it’s hard to pronounce but it’s the Juaguaro Indians, and they’re this indigenous people that live in basically like stilted houses above the river, and navigate around the channels in canoes, they’re very untouched by what’s going on in the rest of Venezuela and western culture. There’s huge amounts of jungle there. And one of their superstitions is that it’s bad luck to see or to have a jaguar living near them. And they call them tigers, well, “tigres,” but they’re actually jaguars. So as it goes, whenever they see a jaguar they have to kill it, otherwise they’ll have bad luck and bad karma, or there will be sickness and death. So whenever they see a jaguar it’s like part of their culture to kill it. And the way that I heard about this was, there was this Sirian guy that was raised in America after the age of 9, so I guess I’ll just call him American…he moved down there and he had a camp type thing where tourists would come and stay and camp in the jungle. And there weren’t really any other foreigners living there at the time, so people would bring him animals from the jungle, to raise them, if they got separated from their mother or were sick or something. He had all kinds of bizarre animals over the years, like monkeys, and otters, and caiman or crocodile, and when I saw him he had a mountain lion, but before that he had a jaguar. And he got it as a tiny baby kitten, and raised it himself, and his children grew up with it, and it was really tame because it was used to being around people. And he said one day, some indigenous guys came over, and took his jaguar cause they said it was bringing them bad luck. So they killed it, and one guy wore the skin, the bloody skin around for 3 days to clear the area of bad luck. And he went to the officials but it’s this thing that’s so rooted in their culture that even the Venezuelan officials can’t really do anything about it.

 

How long ago was this? When the incident happened?

 

Probably about, I’d say 10 years ago. So it’s still going on.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a folk belief / superstition / custom that has clearly very established and embedded in this society’s culture, that even the government is aware that it is still practiced but can’t or wont do anything about it. This shows that it is a very strong and seriously considered belief. It seems as though this society is largely isolated from other societies, but clearly clashes with other Venezuelan’s beliefs, especially the subject of the informant’s story. The act of donning the skin of the “enemy” or the threat to their society is a kind of empowerment, or domination, and shows the rest of that community that they can rest assured they are safe from bad luck and that they have triumphed over the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s skin is like taking their identity away, disembodying them from their power.

Legends
Narrative

The Sunporch Ghost

So my dad was in the military and we moved around a lot, and we moved to Key West Florida when I was in…first grade. And we couldn’t find a place to live so we lived in a little island in a trailor called Stock Island. And then my parents finally found a house on Key West Island, and so we moved into this old house, and it had been converted into three apartments – one was the downstairs, and the two apartments on the upstairs. And back then, really old houses were called Conch Houses, like a conch shell. And so we moved into this really old conch house on Newton Avenue in Key West Florida. And it was only two bedrooms, we had the whole downstairs, and there was this, kind of an inclosed-in sun porch that had a built-in cupboard and some built-in high shelves, and it was barely enough room for a twin bed up against the wall. And it had, it was all screened in and it had windows all along the other two sides, and a door to the outside. And my older brother was too scared to sleep down there, he refused to sleep down there, we called it the dungeon. Cause the house was so old, to get down to it, you know the master bedroom was here sort of in the center of the house, and my brother’s bedroom was here and the kitchen was here, and you had to walk down this creaky hall to get to the dungeon, and it was really slanted down, cause it was such an old house, it wasn’t level. There were two steps down to it, it was way down at the end of the house. So I had to sleep there because my older brother was too scared. So I would sleep down there, and often, um, I would wake up and there would be a man standing at the door. To the outside, the screen door to the outside. And he was just wearing like an overcoat, with a, like one of those big felt hats, and would just stand there at the door. (What was he doing?) Just standing there, at the door. (Was he on the inside or the outside?) I don’t really remember, I guess just sort of in the doorway. So I guess inside. And I would tell my parents, and yeah yeah yeah, well and maybe that’s why my brother refused to sleep down there. And, um, I’m not sure anybody, you know took me seriously, and one day my mom was telling the old lady – she was, gosh, in her 90’s, she had lived there forever, in the conch house across the street – and for some reason this topic of conversation came up and that I would say I’d seen this man standing in the doorway. And the lady, who had lived there forever, says “oh, well that’s the guy that used to live there, he died, and that was his sun porch, and he would sit out on his sun porch all the time.” And I had described him exactly how he was. So maybe they believed me after that, I’m not sure. But it was a pretty cool house. Old, old house.

 

ANALYSIS:

The informant had a firsthand experience, which she then related to her mother. Then an outside party who knew the history of the house and its past residents confirmed the appearance of the man that used to live there and who specifically loved and spent time in the part of the house where the informant reported seeing him. This confirmation reinforced and categorized the informant’s belief of what she had experienced, and also, as she reports, made her mother and her family believe her account (or, we could say, legend) because of the ‘evidence’ provided by the old lady that matched up with the informant’s story. It is worth noting that the informant experienced this in a new state, in a new house, in a liminal and impressionable stage in her growing up.

Adulthood
Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Dance
Game
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Midsummer (Sweden)

And then we have our Midsummer…which is the biggest drinking holiday in the world I would say. It’s the Friday of, that’s the closest to the summer solstice. And the origin is, that way back when we were pagan, we would pray to the gods for a good harvest. So…we would raise a maypole…which is a big penis…directed into the ground, to fertilize the ground to have a good harvest. And we would dance around this penis, you know, it’s a big thing you have to do. And that night, if you’re a woman, you have to pick seven different types of flower, out in the wild, not in the store. You have to go out in the wild and pick them from a field, seven different ones, put em under your pillow, when you sleep that night you’re gonna dream about the person you’re gonna marry. It’s all about fertility! It really is.

 

So you danced around the maypole?

 

Oh yeah! We do it every year.

 

What was that like?

 

It’s, I mean now it’s more of a fun, family, keeping the tradition…it’s not so much a pagan ritual anymore. But the actual like, you carry the maypole in, all the men in the village or society help raise it. And the women have spent the whole day decorating it with small flowers. And then traditional music is still playing…

 

And everyone’s drinking during this?

 

Everyone is drinking all day. So this is the progression. Usually you have lunch, where you eat herring, herring and potatoes, that’s when you start drinking, you have some schnapps. And beer obviously with your lunch. Then you go to the area where the maypole is. And usually it’s organized, your society or village, if you’re a bigger community there are several spots so you can walk there close from your house. And there’s musicians, that play music so that you can dance to… There’s usually games of different sorts… and you know, if you’re too drunk at this point you just enjoy coffee, and you know. So it’s basically sort of desserts, but like thicker desserts, so you have coffee, you have cinnamon rolls, that kinda stuff. And you sit on the ground, on blankets, everyone brings there own blankets around this pole. So everyone dances, and then they’ll take a break, there’s some raffle stuff… And then after that you go home, and if you’re a bigger society you go home and then you have games, like seven or ten different games that you compete in against each other. And usually it’s by teams, and if you’re fewer people it’s individual. So you do that closer to where your home is, and then there’s a barbecue, and you keep drinking. And I mean you keep drinking throughout the whole day, like you start drinking at 11am in the morning, and then you keep drinking. And because it’s in the middle of summer the sun never sets, so you’re up all night. So you have your barbeque, you keep drinking, and then 2am, the sun is still up, you go skinny dipping…and then…you know……and then you pass out. And then you have sex in a bush. Everyone has sex, nine months after Midsummer there’s a lot of babies being born. Because everyone has sex, outside, you just pick a bush and have at it. You would love it. And that’s how you end your night. You easily drink…..probably a liter of schnapps per person. And probably uh….depending on how much of a beer drinker you are but let’s say you’re going with beer…probably drink about 3 gallons of beer? You know. So it’s a fun holiday.

 

So when specifically does it happen?

 

End of June. Cause harvest is in the fall for us.

 

What is the age group of people that are dancing around the pole?

 

Anything from one year olds that can hardly walk, to 85-year-olds. It’s a whole family thing. Usually what happens is, eventually after the barbeque, if you’re still a young teenager, you celebrate with your family, and then you head out to a party somewhere. But once you get old enough, like if you’re past 18, like you can still do it with your family during the day, you’ll have lunch and the celebration around the maypole with your family, and then you’ll hit the barbeque party, you’ll have dinner with your friends. And then party all night long. And if you’re doing it extra special, if you’re out in archipelago, you might leave…because everyone is off Friday, except like, firemen, policemen, hospital people. Everyone else is getting fucked up. So Friday’s always off, you’ll start Thursday, you’ll fill your car up with alcohol and food, take your boat out to your summer place which is out in the archipelago on an island, and you stay there the whole weekend. And midsummer’s on the Friday, on Saturday you wake up and…start drinking again! And then Sunday, you have a couple of beers just to…mellow out. And then you go home. It’s a lotta fun. And I mean, it’s a pagan ritual. That’s what it’s from. So that’s one of the ones that’s not gonna go away…ever. That one will definitely stay around.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a common spring festival throughout Europe, traditionally occurring in Germany, England, and Sweden, according to The Festival Book by Jennette Lincoln. This is a spring fertility festival, both about fertilizing the ground for a good harvest, and also about the young generation reproducing and starting a new generation. There are many rituals with symbolic (phallic) imagery, and games and celebrations in which families come together and also young people from different families. Flowers are a big symbol, as the pole is decorated with flowers, the girls have to collect flowers and put them under their pillows, etc. Girls both ‘come into bloom’ in this liminal pre-adulthood stage in which they become able to bear children, and are also ‘deflowered’, two symbolic meanings in relation to flowers. Alcohol is clearly a big part of the festival, both in celebration of plenty and abundance, and probably also as a way for the young people to loosen up, party, and “interact” – which seems to be expected and even condoned by the adults and families. People copulating outside in nature also has a connotation of fertilizing the earth for a good harvest.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Blåkulla, Easter Witches (Sweden)

And then we have our holidays…like over Easter for instance, obviously not being a Christian nation to begin with, now Easter celebration is very much a Christian celebration because once we got Christianized in….15…35? Maybe? We obviously started celebrating Easter for the death of Christ and all that.

 

So for us it’s basically the night…(and this still goes on today)…it’s the night where all the witches go to their um, Blåkulla, which is called in Swedish, like the Blue Hills, would be the translation. Where they dance around the fire with Satan. Every year. They would get on their broomsticks and fly there. And do that.

 

Is that an actual geographical place?

 

It’s not an actual place, but it’s…like they all go there, to do this. So around Easter, much like trick-or-treaters here, during Halloween, kids will dress up as these witches, which is basically old ladies, with a shawl around their head, all that stuff, a broomstick, and a little basket. With Happy Easter cards in it. And they get candy. It’s very much like trick-or-treating. So they say Happy Easter and you give them candy. And if you’re a guy you can go as a…as it’s called…..the actual translation I guess is…Easter Old Lady or Easter Bitch. It’s kind of a combination of the two. Or you can go as a man, as well. Like an Easter Old Man. It’s very rare, but like if you refuse to get in drag as a kid, as a boy, you would go as a Man. Like with a plum hat? Is that what it’s called? And a coat. But a lot of kids go as witches.

 

Do all the kids do it?

 

Pretty much everyone does it. It’s getting less and less, like in the big cities now. In smaller groups, like in the villages, it still goes on. Like I did it growing up. So it’s not a Tradition that’s dying off. So we do that at Easter.

 

So Sunday night?

 

No no no, this is usually on the Thursday. Before Easter. During the afternoon. Before Easter, for all the kids in school, the Thursday’s only a half day, ever. Because Good Friday is off.

 

And then what happens on Easter Sunday?

 

Easter Sunday, then we’re Christians again.

 

Do you know why this happens on Thursday? Is there something significant about having it three days before Easter?

 

Well it’s…the Thursday’s obviously the night before Jesus was killed, right? So it’s the night of when he got betrayed, and I don’t know if it’s just happen to coincide? Or if they’re like, oh this is perfect, we’re just gonna put it right there cause it makes sense.

 

Do you know what the symbolism is of having the kids go around dressed up as witches?

 

If I’m not mistaken, I think it is to sort of, scare off the other witches to come there. So they dress up as witches so the real witches will stay away.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a prime example of a pagan holiday / festival that has taken on a Christian holiday on top of it – it is clear that Easter in Sweden is now an amalgamation of pagan and Christian celebrations. The children are in a sense reenacting the folk belief, and perhaps they are the ones who believe most firmly in the witches. If the witches are dancing with Satan, and the children dress up to keep the real witches away, this seems like a superstition and ritual to keep bad luck away from the household and harvest. According to published authorship, this festival or custom also involves people building their own fires and throwing old wood into it, for example old wooden furniture, or anything old from the past year. This is sort of like a spring cleaning, or burning and cleansing the household of the old year and making way for the new season.

Adulthood
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Dean of Men’s Daughter

“She was only the Dean of Men’s Daughter,

With an IQ of twenty-three,

But the things that we college boys taught her

Could’ve earned her some sort of degree.”

 

Where’d you get that song?

 

University of Maryland!

 

So you learned that in college.

 

Yeah. 1965.

 

Who’d you learn it from?

 

I don’t know, some college boys. Some graduate student. In engineering.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a folksong that most kids at the University of Maryland presumably learn, from other, older students. It suggests school pride in being raunchy and sexually active, and there’s also a clear dynamic of gender roles embedded in the joke. The girl is either naive or provocative, but it’s the boys that show her the ropes and supposedly “corrupt” her. She is also obviously dumb, if she has such a low IQ. The fact that she’s the Dean’s daughter makes her a catch, because she’s highly unattainable and in a sense, off-limits, as well as perhaps easily corruptible because of her ‘stupidity’. Or maybe she’s dumb but attractive, so the boys don’t care. The fact that she’s the dean’s daughter makes her low intelligence funny. So this suggests the boys at U of Maryland can get away with things, and can persuade or manipulate even the most unattainable girls. They can have their fun and still stay out of trouble with the administration.

Adulthood
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Narrative
Riddle
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

Testudo the Turtle and the Virgin Graduate

Then there’s the folklore of Testudo. It’s the statue at the University of Maryland, of a land turtle, a terrapin, it’s this big turtle it sits on a big granite, uh…pedestal, in front of the library. And his nose is really shiny, because people rub his nose for good luck. Whenever you pass by him. And the legend is that when a virgin graduates from the University of Maryland, the turtle will do a backflip. And no one’s ever seen the turtle move. Put that in there!

 

Do you remember when you first heard it?

 

Orientation! Freshmen orientation.

 

Who told it to you?

 

The Orientation leader.

 

ANALYSIS:

This turtle statue is clearly a point of pride and identification for the University and its students. Located in the middle of campus, and symbolic of their school pride (it being their mascot), it is in the public eye and everyone seems to participate in the traditions surrounding it. First, there’s the belief that if you rub its nose you will have good luck – which is a unifying ritual that all students can share, and enforces their school culture. Second, the joke that implies that no virgin has every graduated from the University of Maryland is also clearly a point of pride and culture. And third, the fact that orientation leaders distribute this tale to new students as a kind of intitiatory introduction to what the school culture is all about, shows that the students pride themselves (and make fun of themselves) for “getting around” and having fun in college. This is saying to the new students, welcome, you will have fun here and I promise you will get laid in college – with a subtle warning that if you don’t, everyone will know you’re a virgin because the statue will do a backflip! You don’t want that humiliation or want to kill the tradition.

[geolocation]