Author Archive
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Prayer Before Performance

“The Rangerette Prayer was a very special prayer to our team, and we said it before every performance on the football field or dance competition or wherever we were or whatever we were about to do. We would get in a circle, and um cross our arms, right over left, and hold each other’s hands with one foot pointing toward the middle, facing the middle. Um and basically the um seniors and juniors would sing like uh the first part of the song and have the freshmen and sophomores imitate the second part, and essentially we had to learn it that way, we learned the song from the seniors and juniors. And the prayer was the Lord’s prayer and we sang it in a more dragged out kind of tone, and we were never really taught the tune, we just sort of had to pick it up from the juniors and seniors. We also had like a special ending that was, “In the name of the Father who created us, the spirit who sanctified us, and the son who redeemed us,” or something like that and then we all said Amen. It was kind of funny because the ending we all did not know very well because the seniors and juniors said it so quickly that we didn’t even really know what we were saying until much later.”

 

Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.

 

Analysis:

The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.

I think that this practice exemplifies the bonds that the members of the Rangerettes are supposed to have. Because members of the team attend an all-girls Catholic school, there is an emphasis upon prayer. By holding hands in a circle and singing a prayer, the bonds of the team are exhibited through this practice. The holding hands in a circle solidifies the bonds that hold a team together, and also represent the sisterhood that is supposed to be in place. A team cannot succeed if they are not unified, and by demonstrating their unity before a performance, they are striving to succeed in their performance. Also, if this ritual is not practiced before a performance, there is a possibility of failure or bad luck when the team performs. This once again reinforces the need for the team to be unified as they are dancing as one team and must be on count.

In addition, the manner in which the team members learn the prayer is representative of the way in which the team works. The older, veteran members, always juniors and seniors begin the prayer. This demonstrates their “seniority” and their authority on the team. They have been there before, and understand the importance of this ritual, and are in turn passing it on to the next generation of team members. As the younger, new members, always freshmen and sophomores, echo the seniors and juniors, they are reflecting their need to learn from the older members in order to become fully part of the team so that they might continue to pass down this tradition over the years. It is also interesting how the juniors and seniors never formally taught the prayer, but rather expected the new members to simply pick it up.

This may not be unique to simply the prayer ritual on this team, but could also extend to the rest of the ways in which the new members are expected to become acclimated to the team. The veteran members expect the new members to simply “pick up” what they already know, without overtly telling them. This could be concordant with rituals that decide who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to members of the team, as well as the attitudes that older members generally had toward the new members. The idea that the older members were wiser due to their experience might have been carried out not just through this prayer ritual, but through other practices on the team as well.

Customs
Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dabke

So anytime there is a gathering of Syrian-Lebanese people, and um it’s a celebration of any type, there will be music playing, and the music has a very unique rhythm, usually a very strong percussion base, and so that lends itself to a lot of folk dancing, and the folk dancing is when the families, members of all ages, get together and hold hands and do a um a dance, and it’s a repetitive dance of about eight or twelve counts, and you just do it as long as the music is playing. So if you have someone playing, oh and the percussion I mentioned earlier is called a derveke, and uh used to be made of a wooden or metal drum with animal skin stretched on top, and it could make a really loud sound, so as long as the dervake is playing, you can dubke, so whether you have a full band or just a derveke, you can do the dubke. It is significant to me because well that if I don’t carry on the family traditions and teach my children how to do the dubke and the family recipes, it will die out and there will be no heritage.

Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.

Analysis:

I believe that this tradition and practice of dance and folk music greatly exemplifies the communal aspect of the Syrian-Lebanese culture. The gathering of Syrian-Lebanese families is usually quite large, as extended families come together to celebrate. The music lends itself as a great example of the history of the culture, as the specific instruments that are used to play music in America are derived from or are the same as those that were originally played in that region. As the rhythm lends itself to folk dancing, the communal aspect of the culture is apparent in the holding of hands during the dance, and the need for each participant to be synchronized with the rhythm. Because it is a line dance, if one person missteps, it can interrupt the synchronization of those around them. It is also interesting how the repetitive nature of the dance movements demonstrate how the dance is learned, as anyone can stand up, hold the hand of the last person in line, and follow their steps that match the rhythm. This once again demonstrates the communal aspect and the importance of celebrating the Lebanese-Syrian community through dance.

I also thought it was interesting about the association of “heritage” with this dance. Because the dance is learned from other people and can vary from place to place and person to person, it is more of a tradition than heritage, especially because it is a mode of activity that represents the past. Heritage, on the other hand, is not an activity, but rather an inherited set of relationships about who you were in the past. So, this practice is a tradition that celebrates the past of Lebanese-Syrian cultures and in doing so, it is a way for the people who partake in it to acknowledge their heritage. I was also able to learn parts of this dance, as I was invited to partake in the tradition. This was a lot of fun for me, because the rhythm is very up-beat and perfect for dancing.

Annotation:

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

Proverb-Lebanese/Syrian

“So my grandmother used to have a saying, “if you spit in the wind, you’ll get it back in the face,” um because she never wanted us to speak poorly of other people or say anything disrespectful or rude, so that was her saying.”

Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.

Analysis:

This saying highlights the Catholic traditions of the informant and her family. In a stringently Catholic family, the way in which one treats another is especially important, as they are taught to love everyone as themselves. This saying exemplifies this Christian teaching, but also seems to have the influence of the Hindu tradition of karma. Although to the informant, the meaning is simplistic in that they shouldn’t speak poorly of others, the aspect of karma comes from “you’ll get it back in the face.” To me, this means that not only should I not speak poorly of others, but if I were to do so, I would feel the repercussions from my actions.

The proverb is also interesting in its literal interpretation. As this saying may also have originated from a region in which the weather conditions allowed for strong winds. If this were the case, then the saying in that context would have a sensible literal interpretation. If one were to actually spit into the wind, the spit would most likely return and strike them in the face. Therefore, the context and the literal sense of this proverb convey the message of not being rude so that one might avoid embarrassing or harsh repercussions because of the things that one says. This saying, as the informant learned it from her mother, could have been passed down through generations even if the weather conditions are not the same, and may continue, due to the fact that the underlying message is apparent.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ka’ik

“Ok so some of our um, uh traditions at Easter time in the Karam family where I grew up, and the Karam family is of uh, actually Syrian descent, and our family was Marinite Catholic and so we um followed Christian holidays and traditions. Ok so, a holiday tradition is to make a sweet bread called “ka’ik”(pronounced ka-yak) at Easter time, and my mother in law, used to always make it, and its like a dense biscuit, almost like a scone, and it has anise in it, which is sort of like the same flavor that licorice comes from, and she had a mold she would press it in before she baked it and they were kind of circular shape with an imprinted design on top, and then when they came out of the oven, she would pour just like a sugar water over it, I don’t think it had rosewater in it like the baklava, and uh so anyway we always had those at Easter time.”

Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.

Analysis:

The context of this traditional food exemplifies the Catholic practices of this family that is of Syrian/Lebanese descent. Because they follow the Catholic Church, they celebrate the traditional Christian holidays. Cooking for these holidays is an important aspect of the performance of folklore, because most of the recipes are passed down from through the women of the households. The informant learned of this recipe through cooking with her mother-in law, demonstrating the close and important familial ties of this culture.

The significance of this dish is that it comes from Syrian/Lebanese styles of cooking, which is exemplified through the use of anise in the recipe. Anise can be found in the Mediterranean region, and is a spice commonly used in dishes that are derived from this region. This exhibits how baking, cooking, and sharing recipes with family members is an integral part of sharing culture. As the informant also stated that she felt it was her duty to teach her children how to cook the family recipes in order to continue the customs of her traditional culture, it is apparent that recipes like this carry a special significance.

I agree that this significance is the importance of passing down traditional practices through the kitchen as a way of extenuating one’s culture. I also think it is interesting how the women are the ones baking and cooking together. I believe that this comes from the Catholic/Christian influence in the family. Because the Abrahamic tradition is patrilineal, it is apparent that the women have traditionally been the ones in the home doing the cooking for many generations. This continues to be the case as recipes are handed down from matriarch to matriarch.

 

 

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Material

Claddagh Ring

“Part of our Irish heritage is the story of the Claddagh ring, and that was originated in a little place near Galway, Ireland and uh the Claddagh ring is generally made of gold or silver, it has a heart in the middle, with a hand on either side holding the heart, and there is a crown on top of the hear, and it symbolizes love, loyalty, and friendship. And uh, many people in Ireland use the Claddagh ring as a wedding ring, both for men and women, and uh its also a lovely gift to give people you love, and so for me, I have given Claddagh rings to my granddaughters, all three o them, and I think they like them very much, and I think its just a wonderful tradition.”

 

Informant: the informant was born in Chicago, and attended high school and college there, graduating with a degree in English. After marrying and having one child, she moved to Dallas, Texas where she raised three children with her husband. She is of Irish descent, her father being from Ireland, and her mother was born in Wisconsin after her parents moved from Ireland, and her heritage and tradition are very important to her. She is a grandmother of five children.

 

Analysis:

Something that is very dear to the informant is her Irish heritage. She feels great pride for her Irish descent, and does her best to demonstrate this by practicing several Irish traditions. I believe that the tradition of passing along the Claddagh ring to her grandchildren exemplifies this wish to preserve Irish traditions while showing how much she cares for her grandchildren. Despite the traditional sense of using Claddagh rings as wedding rings, in using it as a gift to her granddaughters, she is exhibiting her promise of love, loyalty, and friendship to them, as well as passing on a tradition, most likely in the hopes that her granddaughters will pass it on to their daughters or granddaughters.

The time in which the informant gave her granddaughters Claddagh rings is also significant. She gave the rings when each of the granddaughters had been confirmed in the Catholic Church. This is significant because the Irish are historically Catholic, thereby making Confirmation in the Catholic Church an important initiation ceremony. Because the granddaughters were “officially” and “fully” Catholic upon receiving their rings, they were also more Irish, in a sense, due to the emphasis of the Irish on Catholicism. This is because of the tensions between Irish Catholics and British Protestants, tying religion to nationality in this aspect.

Also, this highlights a certain aspect of folk objects. In Ireland, many tourists are attracted to the Claddagh rings. They are sold in many stores, especially those aimed specifically at tourists, which demonstrates how folklore can make quite a bit of money. The popularity of this item comes from the enchanting legend that surrounds its making. The story of the love of a blacksmith for his lover was supposedly prompted him to make this ring while he was working on a pirate ship, for he had been kidnapped and taken from his love. It is a powerful story of love that encourages people everywhere to buy this gift for those they love. This widespread story led the production of the Claddagh ring to expand outside of Ireland itself.

This practice also brings up the question of authenticity. Some may consider buying the Claddagh ring in America inauthentic. The informant also made sure that the rings she gave her granddaughters came from Ireland, which from her perspective was what constituted an authentic Claddagh ring. Despite where the ring was made, however, its meaning is transcendent, because through the action of giving this ring to a loved one in order to demonstrate love, loyalty, and friendship, the legend of the Claddagh ring is commemorated and passed on despite the heritage of the giver or the land in which the ring is made. Overall, this tradition has become very popularized, and it means a great deal to the informant as it passes on Irish tradition in the promises of love, loyalty, and friendship.

Legends
Narrative

Haunted Neighborhood

“Ok, so where we lived, I used to live in Chandler, Arizona. And where we lived, it was like a newly renovated area. So the land was usually farmland, often used by the Native Americans, because they used to have a reserve there, and then it was bought by the government and turned into farmland. So we had this house built like in a new community of new houses and model homes. So it was weird because my mom’s best friend Andy moved into her house and then um my mom and y dad moved into our house, and then three of my sister’s friend groups moved into the same street we were still on. But you know when you get the eerie, negative, cold vibe, so I could never sleep in that house at all and I am a deep sleeper so it was weird that I couldn’t sleep in the house.

And one night, my neighbors were like hey Abbey, do you want to watch our house because they were going to a party and they had a cat that I loved. So I was like yeah I’ll watch your house, and so I was watching their house, and there was a blackout at their house, and only their house. So I brought the cat over to my mom’s house and it was all fine. But then random houses started getting blackouts so we thought it was an electricity problem. Well it wasn’t an electricity problem, and then everyone in my family started getting sick, people across the street started getting sick, and it was like a bronchitis, like coughing sickness. I missed two weeks of school because of it. And they found black mold, like the kind that needs to be aged over ten years to be like that, and the house was brand new so that was weird, they thought it was like some chemical so they had to fumigate our house and we had to get vaccines.

And ok, so we have this basement in that house which was weird because Arizona doesn’t get tornadoes. But we had a basement and um we had above the basement was a hallway where me and my sister’s room was. And when I was in junior high and she was in fourth grade, and my parents left, and the dog was downstairs with us. And we heard stomping, and I called my mom and dad and they weren’t there, so I went upstairs and checked it out, and didn’t find anything so I got my sisters and we got some knives and we went into the closet in the basement. And we sat there for hours, and so the closet we went to was the storage room and it was right underneath the stairs that led to underneath the basement. And we heard footsteps coming down the stairs. And we were silent for an hour, and then we heard footsteps coming down the stairs again, but there were no footsteps going back up the stairs. So when my parents got home, they found the front door open, but it was weird because we never heard footsteps going back up the stairs and my dad didn’t find anyone in the house. So after that day, I refused to sleep by myself.

And then a bunch of bad things started happening in our house. My mom and dad started fighting all the time, my mom and dad were fighting one night and the pots started shaking at the bar, like started shaking. And then my mom’s best friend’s son got in a really bad car accident coming out of the neighborhood. Then there was a fire in a neighboring area and it brought in a bunch of scorpions over, and then my parents got divorced. And then in the exact order that everyone moved into the neighborhood, all of the parents got divorced. So like everyone in the neighborhood got divorced. So I was doing research later in life, and nobody from that neighborhood ever talked again and it was weird. And I was doing research about that area and we found out that it used to be a Native American reservation, which we didn’t know before.

And then we found out it used to be a tribal ritual ground, and my mom got so freaked out she called people from the actual community and they apologized for not disclosing the information because it had happened fifteen years before that and they only have to disclose information if it’s only been less than five years. So my best friend had a house there, and her family moved to Arkansas, so my friend came back one break, and we went over to her old house in that community to see if someone was living there, and it was completely deserted and everyone thought it was haunted. So we went in and the front door was wide open, which was weird, and we went into where her closet was and we found a headless baby doll in the closet. So I was like I’m done, I refuse to go back there, like I will drive around that whole property when I am in Arizona to avoid it. I won’t even go near it. And everybody is a different religion like Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhists, and even an atheist and they all agree that it was weirdly haunted.”

 

Informant: The Informant is twenty-one years old, and of Spanish, Italian, and Mexican heritage. She grew up in Arizona, and now works for an event planning company. She is a public relations major with an Italian minor at the University of Southern California.

 

Analysis:

Usually ghost stories that circulate focus on one odd event or a series of odd circumstances, and this story is one such story. It is not unusual to find stories about the supernatural because so many Americans share this belief in it. Like most of these stories, it brings to light the question of belief, as it is told from the personal experience as a memorate, it is more likely to be believed if one knows the informant. In addition, the last portion of the story mentions how people of all different religions, including an atheist, acknowledge that the events that unfolded within this story could only have unfolded from supernatural occurrences.

This narrative contains many elements traditionally found in stories about the supernatural. For instance, black mold, swarms of scorpions, everyone suddenly becoming ill and getting divorced one by one, are events that can only be explained by external forces. The attribution of the supernatural to these events helps to explain how such things could occur, and why they did. In addition, the portion of the story about the footsteps down the stairs is particularly interesting, because no one could explain why there were never any footsteps going back up the stairs. Therefore, it would make sense to consider this a supernatural event. Furthermore, an explanation as to why pots started shaking while the informant’s parents were fighting is difficult to come by scientifically.

Serving as an explanation for why such a string of unfortunate events could occur, the supernatural is an important element in this narrative. It is also supported by the fact that none of the new residents in the neighborhood knew that they were living on what was once a sacred ritual ground to Native Americans. This is an integral element in the story as it distinguishes why an entire neighborhood could be victim to such events. It is also important because Native American reservations strive to protect their sacred ground, and building on top of this sacred land is a violation of this sacredness. This could serve as a possible explanation as to why such events occurred. Overall, this story includes many elements traditionally found in narratives about the supernatural, as the informant is seeking to determine why such events could occur.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Eve Festivities

“Our family gathers at our home on Christmas Eve. Um we exchange gifts before Santa comes and usually have a really nice dinner like tenderloin, followed by a birthday cake for Jesus and all the kids gather around and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and blow out the candles. And they we use, use isn’t a good word, but we use Christmas crackers, and everybody stands around the table and pulls the crackers. Usually in the cracker is a hat and toy and a joke in each cracker. So everybody shares their joke and puts on their hat, and this is usually right after dessert. And we do this just kind of to have fun I guess. And then Kate usually performs a concert and plays Christmas carols. And that began about ten years ago, and all three kids would play in the concert because they played piano, but as the other two dropped out of piano, Kate was the only one who kept it going. And a cousin played once, but Kate is the only one who plays now. It pretty much just adds festivity to the celebration.”

 

Informant: The informant is a fifty-two years old, a mother of three. She is of Irish, French, and German descent, and was born in Chicago. She moved to Dallas when she was three, and she is the oldest of three children, with a younger brother and sister. She is an active member of the Catholic Church.

 

Analysis:

 

This particular holiday ritual is interesting because it is similar to a birthday party. I think that this is due to the fact that the family is Catholic, and therefore recognizes the true meaning of Christmas as the birth of Jesus. Therefore, they celebrate Christmas Eve as they would celebrate the birthday of a family member. Every family member gathers together as they would at a birthday party, and they even have a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus.

This reaffirms that this time period, Christmas Eve, is a liminal time, as Jesus is brought into the world. The magic that surrounds the beliefs about Santa and Christmas Eve are incorporated in the family gathering and sharing of presents, while the Catholic teachings are kept in mind and celebrated as well. The blowing out of candles by the children can represent making a wish as children would for their birthdays, but doing it for Jesus.

In addition, the use of the Christmas crackers is interesting. Everyone is able to partake in the silliness of this practice by putting on a hat and sharing a joke. This brings the family closer together in celebration. It is also a very childlike performance, reaffirming the likeness of this celebration to a child’s birthday party, which is true to the Catholic meaning of the holiday.

Also, the concert that is put on by the children supports this as well. The children are able to demonstrate their skills and entertain the adults by playing the piano. Although only one child continues, who happens to be the youngest in the family, it is still representative of the festivities of Christmas Eve as childlike. This honors the birth of Jesus as a newborn child, by making the ritual of Christmas Eve as celebrated by this family as like that of a child’s birthday party.

Customs
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Handshake

“You’d say is-they-alethes (spelling uncertain), I’m not sure what that means, but it’s Greek, and I think it means in the bonds. And you’d take the person’s hand and give it three pulses. And I was the marshal in the house, which is kind of like the parliamentarian, so I would stand at the front of the house and give everyone the handshake when they came in. And everybody would have to say is they- alethes (spelling uncertain) and shake my hand and that was kind of funny and then the president would say sister marshal are the chapter rooms secure? And I would say yes they are secure and then we would close chapter doors and we would have our meeting. And you learned the handshake after you pledged, and you learned the saying and the traditions. And it was a way of letting us know you were in the sorority.”

Informant: The informant is a mother of three currently living in Dallas, Texas, to where she moved from Chicago at the age of three. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and has lived in Dallas ever since. She has a younger brother and a younger sister.

Analysis:

This ritual is an example of folklore that distinguishes those within the sorority from those not in the sorority. As a sisterhood, sororities have many traditions and rituals that only members are allowed to know. The sisterhood can only be entered if a girl decides to go through recruitment and mutually selects the house. Upon this selection, the girl can enter the sisterhood. Many rituals are taught to the girls, but this specific one is interesting because it is similar to the secret handshakes that children would come up with for their best friends. When children are younger, they often come up with handshakes so as to distinguish the special bond of friendship that they have. In accordance with this, the delta delta delta sorority, or Tri Delta sorority has instituted their own handshake as a way to determine whether or not someone is in the sorority. As they like to keep their meetings secret and only giving information to those within the sorority, the handshake is their way of determining membership upon their entrance to the meetings. The marshal is the job held by the person who determines this, and therefore keeps any outsiders from entering the meetings. This is a way to ensure that this sisterhood remains intact and keeps those who are within separated from those who are not. The saying that goes with the handshake re-affirms this as well.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Grandpa’s Proverb

“In life, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or if you are poor, as long as you had money.” And he just said that whenever he felt like it, as long as it made sense in the conversation.

Informant:

The informant is a mother of three, born in Chicago but a current resident of Dallas, Texas. She was the oldest of three children, and has a younger brother and sister. She attended the University of Texas at Austin in the nineteen-eighties and is now married and is an active member of the Catholic church.

 

Analysis:

This proverb is very interesting because it highlights the contentions of morality and money in America. The informant is referring to her father as the person who told her this, stating that he would just often say it whenever he wanted to, and that it stuck with her. This is because there is a contradictory element to this proverb. Many people will say that money doesn’t matter, and that it is not the source of happiness, but this proverb insists that it is necessary in life.

I believe that this brings to light the contentions of being an American. In the capitalist world, there are people who are very rich and people who are very poor. This proverb states that neither condition should matter, but that money does. This is very true, as money in a capitalist society does make life easier. However, when people usually talk about money, they like to insist that it is not a source of happiness. In a moral sense, this is very true. However, in the sense of a capitalist, money is necessary.

Therefore, this proverb is attempting to bring about a balance between two extremes. In both cases, a poor man needs money, and a rich man desires money. So, for both extremes, money is valued. That is why this proverb is highlighting the contentions of living in America. From a moral standpoint, money is not supposed to be necessary or desired, and that is what many parents try to teach their children. However, in this instance, the informant’s father is stating that money is necessary in life, and thus bringing about the balance between morality and what it is to live in a capitalist society.

In using this proverb often, the informant’s father could also be revealing what he had learned throughout his life. He could have learned to value money as an important resource due to his family life. He lived in Chicago for many years and is descended from Irish immigrants. This could have shown him the necessity of money despite its moral implications.

Folk Beliefs
Material
Narrative
Signs

Pansy Symbolism

“Well, as I remember it, the flowers that were at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified, when his blood dripped from him and fell on these flowers they took on his blood and became a pansy. So it was a Christian based symbolism. And when you go through initiation, you find out the ideals that the sorority was founded on and those were Christian, like let us steadfastly love one another, and I don’t know the other ones but they were Christian based ideas.”

 

The Informant: The informant is a mother of three currently living in Dallas, Texas, to where she moved from Chicago at the age of three. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and has lived in Dallas ever since. She has a younger brother and a younger sister.

 

Analysis:

The association of the Pansy with Christian ideals as representative of a sorority is especially interesting. The pansy is known for its distinguishable characteristics, specifically the white and purple version. This five-petal flower has two colors, and the red/purple color looks as though it has been splashed upon the whiteness of the flower.

As the sorority tries to uphold Christian values and ideals, it is not surprising that they would associate the pansy with such depictions. The association of the red in the middle of the pansy as representative of Jesus’s blood is very significant. However, the story of the pansy can also be associated with pagan beliefs of the druidic tradition. This is evident in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Act 2, Scene 1, the fairy king Oberon describes the origin of the flower as:

“Yet mark’d I where the bolt of Cupid fell:

It fell upon a little western flower,

Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,

And maidens call it love-in-idleness.

Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew’d thee once:

The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid

Will make or man or woman madly dote

Upon the next live creature that it sees.”

This demonstrates the traditional belief among the people that the pansy received the color from cupid’s arrow. The arrow pierced the heart of the white pansy, causing it to bleed “purple with love’s wound.”

In this depiction, the pansy is associated with pagan beliefs, namely that of ancient Greek mythology, in order to describe its countenance. In Shakespeare’s time, many people still associated with these beliefs, as they were related to the Celtic and Druidic traditions and beliefs about nature. The fairies themselves represent pagan beliefs associated with nature within this play. Therefore, it is very interesting how the pansy came to adopt a story of Christianity and its relation to Christ’s blood. Perhaps as pagan beliefs and notions were diminished, people adopted the general framework of the myth of the pansy, but instead of Cupid, they chose Christ to be the source of love. This would be in accordance with the Catholic faith as they believe that Christ is the source of all love, so it would make sense to replace Cupid with Christ in that sense. However, in doing so, the pansy seems to have lost its association with romantic love, as it once had with its association with Cupid in that a single drop of its juice would cause love sickness. That is why the pansy was once called “love-in-idelness.” Overall, there is a very interesting connection with the transformation of the story about the Pansy from pagan beliefs to Christianity.

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