Author Archive
Customs

Persian Wedding (Custom)

My informant is Mondana. Mondana is a 21-year-old student at California State University of Sacramento. She was born and raised in Sacramento, California but her parents and ancestors are from Iran and they are all Persian.

 

Do you have any Persian traditions or customs?

Mondana: “Yeah weddings have a lot of traditions, for the bride whenever she gets married we set a table for her and the groom and on the table are spices and herbs and decorated objects and other gifts. Things like honey and sugar that represent good, sweet things. Then during the ceremony there’s a part where we drape the bride and groom over with a sheer linen and all the other married woman in attendance go up to them and rub sugar together and drop sugar on them so they’ll have a happy marriage”

Is this at every wedding?

Mondana: “Every Persian wedding that’s traditional I have seen it at”

When did you first see this custom?

Mondana: “Well probably the first wedding I went to when I was like 3 years old”

Are you going to have this at your wedding? Is it important to you?

Mondana: “Yeah I will. It is important it means a lot to my mom and my grandmother”

Is the meaning more significant or the fact that you want the good luck?

Mondana: “Oh I think, well I’m very superstitious and I want the luck, but it’s just tradition and a lot of cultures have them and it makes you closer to yours when you keep tradition”

 

Persians are a very large group of people that are very culture oriented from my experience so it is not a surprise they would have a custom at every wedding such as this one. I think it’s interesting how large a part of the ceremony the draping and dropping of sugar is compared to a Western marriage superstition like something borrowed, blue, old and new. Mondana takes pride in this custom and is adamant that she would do this at her wedding, to appease her mother and grandmother, but also because she is superstitious and custom. This custom will undoubtedly live on as Mondana has seen this at every wedding and she has no plan to discontinue the custom. I think it is a great gesture and a heart-warming feeling to know you are having the same wedding and practicing the same customs as your ancestors, and they would be proud.

The Dance Studio (Myth)

 

My informant is Laura Gabrielson. Laura is an 18 year-old, female student at USC. Laura is white and grew up in Denver, Colorado her whole life.

 

Laura: “So at my dance recital place, it’s like a community college for people with disabilities but they have this huge stage and it was where we would perform. And I guess a long time ago the stage manager was in a wheel-chair so he had to be lifted on to different parts of the stage by elevator. I don’t know if it was a hand pull one or electric but yeah an elevator. But one time his wheels weren’t locked in the elevator and he rolled off and fell and died into like this huge pit kind of thing, and now they have these boards taped out over it and no one will ever walk on it. Like you have to walk around it”

What happens if you do walk on it? Like bad luck or what?

Laura: “I think it’s just like creepy like he died there. He’s down there”

Do people think his spirit is there?

Laura: “No, literally people think he’s still down there. When the story was told it was like he’s still down there so you are gonna walk all on him”

Did you believe in it?

Laura: “I believed someone died there but I don’t think the guy is still down there. I definitely never walked on it though it was too creepy and no one did”

 

This myth is about an old man dying under a stage but it just sounds like drama superstition to me. Laura doesn’t recall any details about the man or the story and basically he just died there and is said to be down there. It’s interesting how everyone continuously refuses to step on that spot and even more interesting how normal it is. I think like with a lot of other folklore people don’t believe it but go along partially with the crowd and partially out of fear that something will go wrong. They don’t want to test fate.

 

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Birthday Rings (Magic/Superstition)

My informant is Natalie. Natalie is a 21-year-old female who attends Chapman University. Natalie grew up in Sacramento but her mother was born in El Salvador; because of this she speaks fluent Spanish and has a Hispanic influence in her life.

 

Natalie: “Ok so on someone’s birthday, my mom passed down to me that you’re supposed to take the ring you’re wearing and place it over the candle and everyone present is supposed to do it and you want as many rings around the candle as possible and I guess it’s supposed to be good luck and the person making the wish it will more likely come true with more good luck”

When did you start doing this?

Natalie: “My mom probably taught me when I was like…6 or 7”

Where did she learn that?

Natalie: “She learned it from her mom”

Where are they from?

Natalie: “My mom and her mom are from El Salvador so I guess it comes from there”

Is there any meaning to you with this?

Natalie: “It is important to me I do it every birthday and always try and get as many rings as possible, cuz if I don’t do it…I don’t want bad luck”

 

Natalie learned this tradition of placing rings over her birthday candles as good luck. I feel like there could be more to that story and a reason for a ring but if there was it got lost over time. This tradition has been passed down mother to daughter to granddaughter and they all practice it in belief it brings them good luck. Birthdays carry a lot of folklore and making a wish while blowing out your candle is common but the addition of the rings adds an interesting factor and maybe additional luck.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Juegos de Manos son de villanos (Proverb)

My informant is Alice. Alice is 50 years old and was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador. She lived there until she was 18 then moved to the United States and proceeded to live in Mexico for a short time before returning to the states.

 

Alice: “Ok so the proverb is “Juegos de manos son de villanos” and I heard that from my mother, I heard that from my grandmother, and basically anyone that was older then me. I even said it to my children when they were younger.

What is the direct translation?

Alice: “If you play with your hands you are a villain”

What does that mean?

Alice: “Basically what that means is when you start doing stuff to other people with your hands you’re gonna get into trouble, there’s gonna be a fight. So as siblings or kids when you’re pushing each other or playing rough games, you know, they escalate and they get rougher and that’s when my grandmother or mother would say to us when she would see it escalating, you know when I was playing with my cousins or siblings they’d say “Juegos de manos son de villanos!”

Is there a specific time you first remember hearing this?

Alice: “No I just heard it a ton, especially with my sister. As far back as I remember I couldn’t tell you when the first time was. I’ve always had it in my life”

Does this have meaning to you?

Alice: “Well I think it’s true! Something starts out as a game, even with teasing, this is more physical but it starts as a game and it escalates and leads to someone getting hurt. There’s a lot of truth to it”

 

This proverb is one that Alice had heard extremely often as a child. It seems that it was very popular and especially with her sister she would hear this warning. I think a lot of proverbs are about advice and how they are phrased make them more memorable to children and in turn are practiced more. Alice remembers a number of people telling her this one and even passed it on to her children. It is harder though to make a proverb stick in Spanish in the United States because people won’t understand it which is a barrier.

Legends
Narrative

Althea Manor (Legend)

My informant is Lewis or “Luke”. Luke is 22 and was born and raised in Darien, Connecticut but now attends Chapman University in Orange, California. He is of Irish and Russian descent.

 

Luke: “This is the legend of Althea Manor which was my old house in Connecticut. My old house was built in 1895, it was a farmhouse for half of Darien. And the rumor is that the farmer killed himself in the house in the 1920’s. So every night at 2:33 in the morning, it would sound like this one-legged ghost was walking down are hallway. This isn’t coming from just me either but my parents believe it to. One time my Uncle Bobby who came in late from the bars at around 2:30 said he heard the sounds out in the hallway and swears he saw a one-legged ghost. That’s why I never go out in the hallway”

Why 2:33? Is that when he died?

Luke: “Oh I don’t know, that’s just when he comes out”

When did you first hear this story?

Luke: “I first heard the story like when we moved in and then experienced it first-hand”

Did your whole family believe in this?

Luke: “My dad may be hard to convince but definitely me, my mom, and my brother. I was excited to leave for boarding school because of that”

Is there any meaning from this to you?

Luke: “I mean no he never did anything but I will always believe that and know I lived in a haunted house”

 

This legend is interesting because it is directly from a first hand witness of the legend. Luke lived in the house he believed to be haunted by a one-legged man. He even added to the folklore by telling me of the time2:33 because he observed this and recounted it to me in his performance. Not only Luke believed this but other members of his family do too and his uncle even claimed to witness the ghost. I feel like Luke must have been pretty scared to hae lived in a house he felt to be haunted and was excited to leave.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

The Evil Eye (Folk Belief/Protection)

My informant is Marc. Marc is a 19-year-old student at USC but was born and raised in Mumbai, India. This year was the first time he lived in the United States but he still speaks very good English but with a noticeable accent.

 

Marc: “So in India a big belief all around is the Evil Eye. So I guess if you are bragging to someone especially if it is something you can do or you have that they can’t do or don’t have. Basically you need to be humble because if you are bragging or being arrogant about this stuff then the Evil Eye will transfer like a negative energy to combat whatever you were bragging about”

When was the first time you heard about the Evil Eye?

Marc: “Well it’s really common and well known in India there are trinkets and stuff but like the first time I think was a friend saying to another friend like bragging and someone warned him about the Evil Eye”

So is the Evil Eye a person?

Marc: “No it’s more like a negative energy or like the reasoning to why things go wrong but the eye is the face that we put to it. And you can ward it off too with like necklaces and jewelry that a lot of people wear.”

Do you believe in the Evil Eye?

Marc: “I don’t know. I believe in the idea of like if you are doing a bad thing it will catch up to you but I don’t know about the evil eye or if that’s real”

 

To me the Evil Eye in India is our form of Karma in the United States. It is the idea of if you do bad things then bad things will happen to you but Karma also has the reward aspect: do good and good will come. Marc claims how widespread the idea of the Evil Eye in India is and I think it has to do with parents teaching humbleness. Those who brag will be punished and children are far more concerned about an “Evil Eye” then their parents. It has progressed to a culture in India which brings along the merchandise such as the necklaces and trinkets for protection.

 

Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Scorpion and the Toad (Tale)

My informant is Courtney. Courtney is white female 19-year-old student at USC. She grew up in Alamo, California. She is of Irish and English descent.

 

Courtney: “So there was this tale about the scorpion and the toad, um so there was a scorpion and a toad and they were on one side of the river and a storm was coming. A really bad storm. And the only way they could survive was to get to the other side of the river. But the scorpion couldn’t get to the other side of the river because he’s a scorpion and cannot swim. However, the toad can swim and could get him across easily so the scorpion asks the toad if he could help him get across and save his life. The toad says “Why would I ever help you get across you’ve been killing my family members and my friends my whole life and why would I help you now?” And the scorpion was like, “I’ll give you my word if you help me across I wont ever kill any of your family members or friends or you again I will live a good life of honesty and kindness. We will become friends.” The toad is still not trusting him and says that he can’t trust him after all he’s done. The scorpion then begs, “Please take me to the other side! I will owe you my life. I’ll do anything if you help me survive I promise I will be good and wont harm anyone again”. The toad finally accepts this and asks the scorpion for his word and the scorpion gives him his word. So the toad helps him get to the other side and they survive this storm and as soon as the toad turned his back the scorpion stabbed him and killed him with his scorpion tail.

Did he say why the scorpion killed the toad?

Courtney: “Nope he’s just a scorpion and that’s how the story goes”

Is there a lesson?

Courtney: “I guess the lesson is whatever you want it to be like don’t trust scorpions”

When was the first time you heard this?

Courtney: “I heard a long time ago from my Dad and had forgotten about it but then he told the story again a couple of weeks ago”

Does this story have any meaning to you or anything?

Courtney: “I don’t know I haven’t thought about it; I guess only trust the people you are close to”

 

This is a weird tale. I think Courtney is missing the part at the end where she explained the morale of the story but maybe this is how she heard it and it is definitely how she remembers it. It it typical of a tale with talking animals and a plight they have to overcome. Courtney reveals she first heard this when she was a young girl and it is an ominous tale. One distrusts the other then finally trusts him but should have continued to distrust him. Is it a teaching of a tiger never changes his stripes? Or maybe do not give second chances? What this story means to me is to trust your instinct and to look out for yourself because if the toad had he would still be alive.

Legends
Narrative

The Hotel Del Coronado (Legend)

My informant is Natalie. Natalie is a 19-year-old female student at USC. She is half-Mexican, half-white, speaks fluent Spanish and English and grew up in San Diego.

 

Natalie: “So in San Diego there’s this really famous hotel called the hotel Del Coronado and it’s really pretty and stuff. I guess there was a murder in one of the rooms awhile ago and supposedly it’s haunted.”

The whole hotel?

Natalie: “Not the whole hotel just that room but I’ve never been to the room or stayed there because I’m from San Diego but I’ve been there and some of the hotel like the lobby feels really old so you get the vibe but then there are newer parts where it’s normal”

Do you think the murdered peoples ghost is there?

Natalie: “I think it’s a woman, and um…I don’t know if it’s the spirit or ghost but I would definitely be afraid to go in that room even though I don’t know which one it is. I have it in my head”

Do you know when you first heard the story?

Natalie: “No I was very little”

Is it a well known legend in San Diego?

Natalie: “Yeah most everyone I know knows about the hotel and being haunted but I don’t know who believes it”

Is this significant to you?

Natalie: “Well it’s pretty cool how my city has a ghost story and yeah I’m a little afraid of it but I won’t ever go in that room so it doesn’t bother me”

 

This is a legend in San Diego but it lacks a lot of detail. All Natalie really knows is that someone died in the hotel room and now it’s haunted. I think the lack of detail like how they were killed or stories about the haunted room or other information to help paint a full picture takes away from the legend as a whole. To Natalie it is significant and even scares her but that’s because she heard this story at a young age and applies to a familiar place unlike those not from San Diego.

 

See different version here:

“Ghostly Goings-On at the Hotel Del Coronado – Hotel Del Coronado.” Hotel Del Coronado. Hotel Del Coronado, 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Humor

Blonde, Brunette, and Redhead (Joke)

My informant is Jackson, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Jackson is white and of Danish and Irish descent and grew up in a suburb outside of Los Angeles called Palos Verdes.

 

Jackson: “There’s a blonde, brunette, and a redhead and they are about to get executed by a firing squad. I’m not sure what they did but they messed up big time. They line them up against the wall and talk to each one. They ask the brunette first,

“Do you have any last words before we execute you?”

The Brunette responds, “Tornado!”, and as the firing squad turns around looking for the tornado she runs away and escapes. Next they call up the redhead and ask her if she had any last words. The red head screams “Hurricane!” and again they turn around and the red head escapes. Finally, they bring out the blonde and ask her for her last words. She looks at them all and yells at the top of her lungs “FIRE!”

Where did you first hear this joke?

Jackson: “Ohhh god I don’t even know probably like third grade. Everyone was telling blonde joke that’s just the only one I remember”

Did you pass it along?

Jackson: “Yeah I told people but back then everyone knew them so it was hard finding on no one had heard”

 

I find jokes are the easiest folklore to get out of people because although it takes time to remember a whole story or even a proverb, almost everyone has a joke they know. It is fitting that it was a blonde joke because these kind of jokes seem to have a format. There is a blonde, brunette, and red head and the blonde always ends up doing something stupid and being the butt of the joke. The variation comes from what the actual dumb thing is and what situation they are in but I grew up hearing many blonde jokes.

Game

Shark Hats (Magic – Contagious)

My informant is Jackson, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Jackson is white and of Danish and Irish descent and grew up in a suburb outside of Los Angeles called Palos Verdes.

 

Jackson didn’t you say something about a superstitious act you did in baseball?

Jackson: “Ah yes, it’s known as the shark-hats. Basically if you’re down by any runs in the late innings of a baseball game you all get out your shark hats, throw them on just like a shark. On the side with the brim facing straight up”

What was the goal of the shark-hats?

Jackson: “Basically the goal was that the shark-hats would start a rally and we would get hot and get hits and come back from behind”

Would you guys yell anything?

Jackson: “Ohh all we would yell was get out your shark hats right before the inning started and everyone would sit in the dugout with their shark-hats on”

What inning would it mainly start in?

Jackson: “The sixth or seventh but we only played seven innings”

When did it start? When was the first time you experienced the shark-hat?

Jackson: “Probably when I was eleven, just when I was playing baseball”

Do you now who started it?

Jackson: “No it was just something I had seen around my little league so guys before us must have done it too”

Would you find that it worked?

Jackson: “Well when it worked we would say it was because the shark-hats but it probably didn’t work more than it worked”

Does this have any meaning to you?

Jackson: “It just reminds me of my childhood and baseball”

 

This is an interesting superstition, however not surprising as superstitions are often found in sports, and in my studies especially baseball. The Shark-hat is a form of contagious magic, those in the dugout wearing the shark-hats to send good luck and success to the batter at the moment. When people are losing or down they reach for something supernatural as an aid or guidance to come back and in this case it is the Shark-hat. Although I had never heard of the Shark-hat, I am familiar with a similar form of this call for good luck but we called them rally-caps. Similarly, it would be in the bottom innings of a game when we were down and someone got a hit we would all wear are hats inside out to help spark a rally. Jackson admits to not believing his teams success ever stemmed from the shark-hats and he did not believe they would actually work but he still did them every time and credited the wins to the shark-hats whenever they came along. I think there was also a fear of if he doesn’t wear the shark-hat then he will be the reason they didn’t work. To Jackson it was a silly thing but he still did it every time maybe in hopes it work, maybe in fear of what would happen if he didn’t, or maybe just in the tradition in spirit of baseball.

 

Folk Dance
Kinesthetic

Dabbing (Dance)

My informant is Grant, a 19-year-old male student at USC. Grant was born and raised in Los Angeles, however his father is from Iran and his mother is from Japan. Both of these cultures influence his life in different ways. This piece of folklore is a tradition performed on a holiday.

Do you know any folkdance or a form of dance you’ve learned from others?

Grant: “Does dabbing count? (laughing)”

Yeah you can talk about dabbing! So explain it what is “dabbing”?

Grant: “Yeah dabbing, its like popular now in hip-hop and rap that made it famous. You just kind of bend your arm like a chicken wing and drop your head to your elbow”

That’s a dance move?

Grant: “Yeah a lot of rappers do it but celebrities really made it famous and you see it all over twitter and other social media”

Was there anyone specific that started this dance move or do you know the origins?

Grant: “I don’t know exactly but I know it became popular because of Cam Newton. He would dab during all his football games when he scored or even when he had a good play he would just celebrate. I also know the move comes from taking a “dab” which is like smoking but harsher so you have to cough afterwards. The dab is like a cough but as a dance move”

Do you think people know it originated from smoking?

Grant: “I don’t think so, I think it started out that way but once celebrities made it common and little kids and parents started doing it and I definitely don’t think they know it came from smoking”

So would you say all age groups do it?

Grant: “Yeah you see little kids doing it all the time on tv and twitter and even grandparents but I don’t think they know what they’re doing”

 

I like this piece of folklore because it began as a dance started by popular culture about smoking drugs but through the mass use of the dance move by celebrities and then by their followers it turned into an innocent dance move almost known by everyone.

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