Author Archive
Folk medicine

Ganglion Cyst Remedy

My mother has a remedy that was passed on down to her from her mother when she was a child. When I was about 8 years old, and found that there was a ganglion cyst on my wrist, my mother then informed me about the “solution” for this cyst. She stated that the best way to get rid of the cyst was to smack it with a Bible. Whether it was the force of the Bible that popped the cyst or something else, my mother swore by it. In fact, my mother did this to my wrist and within a week it was gone.

My grandmother, who is of English decent, was a nurse her whole life. Although this remedy for getting rid of the cyst is not an actual form of medication, my grandmother, who had medical merit, told my mother that this was a good remedy for the removal of the cyst. Thus, any time a cyst appeared on some part of my families body, there was a Bible somewhere near.

Analysis: My initial thought of this Folk Remedy when I initially heard it was confusion. I was young and obviously wasn’t that smart but I knew this probably wasn’t an actual remedy. However, within a week of smacking my cyst on my wrist with a Bible, it was gone. Now that I analyze this Folk Medicine, it makes sense that a Bible was involved. My grandmother was a very religious English woman who was heavily Roman Catholic.  The Bible must have stood as a form of superstition in the power of God through the Bible.

general

Not Stepping on the Chalk-Baseball

Information on the Informant: The informant, Awari Muoneke,  is one of my best friends who is currently a college baseball player (he plays outfield) at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has played baseball his entire life and has always been one of the best players on the field when he played. He grew up in Rolling Hills Estates, California and attended Loyola High school. He is of Nigerian descent and is about as big of a baseball fan as you can possibly be. He is currently 19 years old and turns 20 in November of 2016.

Me: “So what exactly is your superstition with baseball?”

Informant: “I never step on the chalk lines that go through the base paths on a baseball field. Every time I run out to go to the outfield I jump over the chalk lines because I feel like it will jinx my performance on the field.”

Me: “Is there any reason exactly why you do this?”

Informant: “Well, when I was about 11 years old  in little league, we were in the playoffs for my All-Star team. It was the later part of the game and we were up by two runs. I had never thought about the whole stepping on the chalk thing before but for some reason when I ran out to the outfield in the last inning I noticed because I stepped on the chalk and it got all over my cleats. I went in to the outfield and within 20 minutes we gave up three runs and lost the game. Being an 11 year old kid, I got unnecessarily upset and cried because I was so devastated about the game. From that point on I really just made it my mission to never step on the chalk. I’ve lost many games without stepping on the chalk but for some reason I just feel like if I jump over it, something better will happen.”

Me: “Do you have any current or former teammates who did this?”

Informant:”Actually, yeah. I’ve seen teammates do this but I’m not really sure if its for the same reason or something different.”

Analysis: Unlike some other superstitions in sports, this one started for the informant because of a personal reason. It was interesting to find out that he has teammates who also did the same thing but not necessarily for the same reason. To this day, in college baseball, he still jumps over the chalk just as a personal habit. Although the act started at a superstition for good luck, it could be possible that he just does it as of habit now because it started 8 years ago.

Game
general

The Game

Informant Bio: The informant of this particular piece of Folklore is one of my best friends from home Jack Dunn. He is currently a freshman at USC as well and is majoring in business. He grew up in pasadena, california and played lacrosse in high school. In addition to lacrosse Jack also played lots of video games as a hobby. Additionally, he was very involved in school retreats during high school which corresponds with the fact that he told me this type of folklore. Many times on retreat type events with a lot of people, lots of quirky games are played.

Me: “So what exactly is ‘The Game’?”

Informant:”‘The Game’ is definitely the most basic, simple, and stupid game you will ever here or play. Essentially, all it is is that if you the phrase ‘The Game,’ you lose the game. Also, if you even think about The Game then you lose the game. It’s really stupid but it’s a game a lot of my friends have played.”

Me: “When was the first time you heard about ‘The Game’?”

Informant: “When I was in middle school, I went to a summer camp in Wrightwood and some kid at the camp introduced the game to me. He kept saying the phrase ‘The Game’ throughout the trip so I lost all the time.”

Me: “Is there any real purpose to the game or is it just how it sounds on the surface?”

Informant: “It really is the most basic game ever. Technically you can never win unless you just aren’t thinking about the phrase that makes you lose.”

Analysis: This game reminds me of many qwirky games that I learned about when I was a child. Also, it does not appear that this particular game has any specific cultural roots but rather it was a game that someone may have created just for humor. The informant was unaware of the original roots of the story so it was difficult to analyze exactly where it was created. Additionally, the informant was a guy who participated in lots of camps/retreats so this particular game must have been supplemented with additional games played at camps or retreats.

Folk speech
Humor

Fraternity Folk Speech-Biz

Info on the Informant: The informant, Jack McGeagh, is one of my best friends and is a fellow classmate who is in the same fraternity as I am. Both he and I pledged in the Fall of 2015 and were exposed to many new traditions and rituals. Jack is from the Pacific Palisades on the coast of Los Angeles. He is 19 years old and studies psychology as his major. He is currently a Freshman at USC.

Me: “Can you give an overview of the origin of biz and the significance it has on our fraternity?”

Jack: “As a pledge in the fall of 2015, our pledge class was told by our peers in the house that were not allowed to say the number ‘5.’ We were instead told that we had to say the word ‘biz’ as a replacement of ‘5’.” The exact origin of this is that when playing the game beer die, a popular college drinking game, a player throws a die on a table and if it rolls on ‘5,’ the person who threw the die has to drink his whole cup. Although we were not 21 and didn’t participate in the games, we were still held to a standard of always saying ‘biz’ instead of’ ‘5.” Some people in the house saw it as a thing you do just as a pledge while others in the house maintained the tradition of saying ‘biz’ all the way up until they were seniors. The actual phrase ‘biz’ comes from an old active in the house who graduated and made up the term as an alternative to say 5. I can’t actually remember the reason why he chose biz but there was more meaning behind it. That’s essentially how it all came to be and how it became so engrained in everyone in our fraternities’ heads.

Analysis: The action of saying biz is one of the arbitrary, pointless fraternity traditions that is mostly created for humor and to give the pledges another hiccup on their way to becoming an active of the house. Although it does not have objective meaning, it is a funny thing to bring up in a conversation to those in the fraternity.

Legends

The Vanderlip Mansion-Narcissa

The other part to the Vanderlip Mansion, the story of a wife names Narcissi, follows a similar, gory narrative as the other legend about Mr. Vanderlip and his daughter. Located in Palos Verdes, California, a coastal city in Los Angeles county, the Vanderlip Mansion is the first home built in the early years of Palos Verdes. To the day it is said to be haunted by Narcissa, a wife who supposedly killed and chopped up her family along with her dogs and then buried them in the walls of the mansion. Shortly after the murders, Narcissa hung herself in the residence and died. The Mansion is said to be haunted by glowing ghost dogs along with the wife.

 

Info of Informant: My father, the informant, told me of the Vanderlip Mansion when I was a young kid and then refreshed my memory about it when I collected this folklore legend. He grew up in palos verdes and has lived their his entire life so he is well-knowledged about the legend. He lived fairly close to the mansion and told about how his friends used to talk about it when he was younger.

Legends

The Vanderlip Mansion-The Daughter

In the heart of Palos Verdes, my hometown, lies the oldest house in the city, the Vanderlip mansion. Since I was a child I heard about the Vanderlip Mansion legend of how it was haunted and had ghosts throughout the large estate. The story is that it is haunted by the daughter of Mr. Vanderlip, the former owner of the mansion. Legend has it that Mr. Vanderlip would not let her daughter marry an African-American man and she eventually killed herself because of her father’s maltreatment of her. Apparently Mr. Vanderlip built an insane asylum for his daughter and locker in it. He then proceeded to kill his daughters lover along with the baby that the two had with each other. The daughter is said to roam the halls of the mansion.

 

Info of Informant: My father, the informant, told me of the Vanderlip Mansion when I was a young kid and then refreshed my memory about it when I collected this folklore legend. He grew up in palos verdes and has lived their his entire life so he is well-knowledged about the legend. He lived fairly close to the mansion and told about how his friends used to talk about it when he was younger.

 

 

general

Rally Caps

Me: “So what is the general idea of the rally caps?”

Informant: “Ever since I have played baseball I have known about ‘rally caps.’ Essentially, when playing a baseball game, if a team is down in the later part of the game, it is tradition to wear the baseball caps inside out and/or backwards. I’m not sure exactly why this is but it’s a superstition that is believed from kids all the way up to professional players.”

Me: “Does it matter whether the hat is inside out or backwards or both?”

Informant:”Typically the hats are worn inside out and then if the players want to, they can wear them backwards.”

Me: “Do you have any personal experiences with the rally caps actually working?”

Informant: “Yeah actually when I was a Freshman in high school, we were down by three runs in the bottom of the 7th inning, which is the last inning in high school baseball. We were the last ones at bat because we were playing at home. Realistically, we didn’t think we were going to win but some of us just put our hats on inside out to see if somehow the rally cap could trigger a win. Ironically enough, the first pitch of the inning we hit a home run. From that point on we knew it had to be the rally caps, haha. The next batter grounded out but then the next two batters got hits. Eventually we scored in the runs and won the game. Because we put the rally caps on from the start, our superstition was confirmed.. Well at least for the time being.”

Me:”Do you know where you first heard about the rally caps from?”

Informant:”Honestly I have no idea. It was just one of those things that you know growing up as a baseball player.”

Analysis: Like many other superstitions, this form of Folklore was a superstition that involved an item used within the particular sport. The roots of this lore are unknown but continue to be widely used in all levels of baseball. One can see players with stacks of inside-out caps on their heads during the latter parts of baseball games.

Information of the Informant: The informant is my brother who played baseball up until he was seventeen years old. He is an avid baseball watcher and could essentially state every stat from every player in the MLB.

general

The Unspoken Words of Pitcher Perfection

It is well known knowledge throughout the MLB (Major League of Baseball) or any division of baseball that if a pitcher is throwing a perfect game or no-hitter, that no fan, player, announcer, or anyone involved in the game utter the phrases “perfect game” or “no-hitter.” This widely known superstition throughout baseball is an unwritten law that it is said to jinx the pitcher of successfully completing a no-hitter or perfect game. (For those who don’t know what these two things are, a no-hitter is when the pitcher allows not one hit throughout the game. A perfect game is where no player from the opposing team reaches base on any form such as a walk, hit, hit-by-pitch, etc.) Instead, many times when a pitcher is in the middle of one of these two actions, many fans simply state that the pitcher “hasn’t allowed anyone on base.”

Information of the Informant: The informant is my brother who played baseball up until he was seventeen years old. He is an avid baseball watcher and could essentially state every stat from every player in the MLB. Anytime there someone is throwing a perfect game or no-hitter, he is the first to address that the two phrases should not be said. Such was the case last year when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw threw a no-hitter.

Analysis: This baseball superstition shares similarities to lots of other superstitions that deal with the “jinx.” By simply muttering the phrases “no hitter” or “perfect game,” the actual perfection by the pitcher won’t happen. Unlike other superstitions like spilling salt, there is no known way to counter the baseball jinx.

Musical

Michael Finnegan

“There once was a man named Michael Finnegan,

He had whiskers on his chin-egan,

they grew off and then grew in-egan

ooh poor Michael Finnegan begin-egan”

Description of Informant: My father, the informant, comes from a very catholic, Irish background. My grandfather, his dad, grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts as the son of two Irish immigrants. Many of the traditions that my grandfather learned as a kid were based on to my father through tradition and thus, were practiced in my family.

Analysis: This song is a form of Folk Music that has been sung in my family since I was born. The song sings a tale about a man named Michael Finnegan who lost his whiskers, or his man-hood, but then regained it and was pitied by the singer. My last name is Finnegan and thus, was often sung in my house. In fact, there was even a big black platter that hung in my house for a very long time with the song on it. Additionally, I have a cousin named Michael Finnegan so the song pertained to my immediate family very much.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

St. Patricks Day-Potato in Shoe

It’s been a holiday tradition in family ever since I can remember that on St. Patrick’s day, all the kids in my family would place their shoes at the bottom of the staircase in our house with a potato in it. We did this in the hopes that the Leprechaun would come to our home and place money in our shoes because he was grateful for the potatoes we gave him. This tradition was carried up until the age of 9 when we understood that it was simply our parents who placed the money in the shoe.

 

Description of Informant: My father, the informant, comes from a very catholic, Irish background. My grandfather, his dad, grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts as the son of two Irish immigrants. Many of the traditions that my grandfather learned as a kid were based on to my father through holiday tradition and thus, were practiced in my family.

Analysis: My analysis of this tradition has to do mainly with the fact that this tradition derives from Irish history. From 1845-1852 Ireland experienced the worst famine in the history of their country where nearly 1 million people died because of failing crops and spreading disease. Due to the fact that the Leprechaun is of Irish descent, it makes sense that a potato serves as a gift to such an Irish figure as the Leprechaun. Therefore, the Leprechaun sees the potato in the shoe on St. Patty’s Day (an Irish holiday) as a symbol of well-being and puts money in the shoes as a response to the potato.

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