Author Archive
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Legends
Narrative

Urban legend relating to the origin of the song In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins

This piece of folklore was told to me by a friend while we were talking about music he mentioned the story offhand and I got my recorder and asked him to tell me the whole story

“This is sort of like a music urban legend and it has to do with the song In the air by Phil Collins. Anyway the story goes that In The Air Tonight is actually based on a true story. So like the story goes that a while before Phil Collins wrote the song he was standing and he was on a bridge and he looked down and he saw that there was this guy drowning but Phil Collins was too far away to rescue him but he saw this other guy who was near enough to save the guy who was drowning and that man just let the guy drown. So the story goes that after that experience Phil Collins wrote In The Air Tonight about that incident and thats what all the lyrics like “If you were drowning I would not lend a hand” come from. And supposedly after Phil Collins wrote the song he saw the man again at one of his concerts and Phil Collins looked the guy dead in the eyes and played In The Air Tonight right at him. And thats sort of the legend that goes along with that song.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “I heard this when I was in a record store and I was talking to someone there about music and Phil Collins came up and he was like “do you know what In The Air Tonight is actually about?” and I told him I didn’t and told me this whole crazy story and since then I’ve heard it a couple other times and its just one of those rock and roll legends that probably aren’t true but are fun to talk about.”

Conclusion: This piece is interesting because it is a very modern piece of folklore. In the Air Tonight was released in 1981 which means that the legend is only a couple decades old. It is also interesting because it appears to be a complete fabrication with no basis in reality. Phil Collins has stated multiple times that none of the events described above occurred. I think that this stories serves as a musical creation myth. A fun explanation for why a song came to be that people can share with each other.

Annotation: If you would like to learn more about the history of this urban legend read “FACT CHECK: In the Air Tonight.” Snopes.com. N.p., 21 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

general

The Spirit Box

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“In Indian culture we have a very heavy emphasis on demons . I was always taught you know that you do not mess with demons. Demons are bad. So some backstory, typically the somebody buys a house in India they tie a ribbon around a tree. So you have to have a tree at your house so yo can tie a red ribbon to protect the entire house and the family members . So if like your dog starts barking a lot or if you start feeling weird like someones watching you, you can try spirit boxes which are very effective. So they say that spirits are one a different frequency then us so like demons for example are on a different frequency then us and they use things like radio signals to communicate with us and so a spirit box is basically like a wee gee board that connects to the frequency of the spirits. So a spirit box flips through lots of different radio signals to give you clear cut answers. So you can use them to have seance where you can communicate with the spirit and find out what it walks then fix that and the spirit will go away.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “This is a crazy, crazy experience that I had last summer, no it was before last summer. I was still in college the this happened. My dog was barking a lot so I did a seance and we started asking questions and actually getting replies and one of the replies was red ribbon and I found out from my mom that she had carried a red ribbon under the ground and so we dug the ribbon up and put it on the tree and since then my do has stopped barking completely.”

Final thoughts: This is another example of a ghost story and like other types of folklore that center around people experiencing encounters with ghosts it shows how much more likely people are to believe in ghosts then in other supernatural creatures. It also interesting that because in indian folklore they believe ghosts and demons live on a different frequency then us they are more ready to believe in a spirit box because the way it functions chimes well with the way the folklore they already believe in.

Folk Beliefs
Magic

Pagan spell

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“A big thing in paganism is that anytime you move anywhere your supposed to put brick dust on the front of your door and in your back door and salt on your front door and your back door and what happens is you know that its there, and the people who visit your house know that it’s there but anything thats evil cant detect the smell of the brick or the smell of the salt so if someone goes to walk into your home and trips or stumbles or feels like they cant go in that is your indication that the person carries with them ill will to you or to your home and yo are not to let that person in your house.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “In my family my mom was very, well my dads native and I’m religiously jewish but my mom was a practicing peahen for about 20 years and I was introduced to her coven and thats where I learned about this. I have seen this happen man times and it always feels coincidental or spot on.”

Final thoughts: These sorts of spells are unique examples of magical thinking. Unlike most modern rituals which do not have an express practical purpose this is a spell which is specifically designed to perform a task to help make your life safer. Replying on a spell to decide who you let in and out of your house means yo are using folklore to dictate practice everyday matters which is interesting compared to most modern folk rituals which tend to only pay lip service to the rituals intent.

general

Ghost Story

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“I don’t know what to call it but there was this incident in the first house I had ever rented right after I had moved away to college and everything. Me and my older cousin rented this house and when we arrived it just seemed fishy. The door was unlocked when it shouldn’t have been and we got really scared and started to think, “Oh god is somebody in the house.” The logical thing was that there was some kind of squatter living in the house thinking it was empty or some other logical reason but we felt horrible about it and while we were there my aunt was like, “It smells really bad.” I was like “its smells like what” and she said, “it smaller like something dead. It just smells horrible in here.” Both doors were opened, the front and the back and my mother just kept going on about what it smelled like and before we finished checking the house my cousins was like “I don’t feel really good” and my aunt asked him if he felt nauseated and he was like “yeah a little.” so after it saw all said and done she was like “see there is something in this house.It opened the door and it wants you to get out. theres some kind of spirit an it wants you to leave.” So my mother just had this huge belief that there was a spirit telling us to get out. Me and my cousin still rented thee house and we sill lived there for like a year and there were a couple of times where the doors did open suddenly and scared the crap out of us and my mother came with like sage and laurels and like holy water and she did a ceremony where she blessed the house and everything. She went to each side of the house and did a different ritual in each place. Since she did that we never had an incident.”

Final thoughts: One interesting thing is that the only folklore I collected where people seemed to believe that what happened might be real is ghost related folk lore. For some reason people seem extremely ready to believe in the existing of ghost over other supernatural concepts.

Proverbs

Bulgarian folktale

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“We have a saying in Bulgaria that the god was giving space for each nation Bulgarians were late, as usual, so when they arrived everything was given away so god felt very sad about that and gave them a peace of heaven. So in heaven they have many beautiful mountains and rivers and sea and all apparently heavenly nature.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “This story was told to me and school as a kind of nationalist fable about our country. Bulgaria is very sort of dreary and not a lot of fun so this story was designed to help make us feel better about the country we lived in by telling us we have an especially nice spot in heaven.”

Final Thoughts: This is one of the more nationalistic pieces of folklore that I collected. It appears that the story is told with the express purpose of making Bulgarians feel more proud of their national identity. This story seems to imply that the concept of the nation state is so integral to the way the world works that God expressly thought about it while creating the earth. They also imply that being Bulgarian is something which has been ordained by god and that nations are holy creations as opposed to political creations.

general

Yellowstone ghost story

This story was told to me by a friend in college when I told him about my project and he mentioned that he didn’t know much folk lore but he had heard of one ghost story.

“In Yellowstone at Old Faithful theres the Old Faithful Inn which is this very historically significant place. It’s kind of synonymous with Yellowstone and there are a lot of ghost stories that take place within the Inn because its such an old artifact and theres one in particular about this lady that was murdered by her husband in one of the rooms in the second floor. The story goes that she was taking a bath and her husband came in one night very drunk and decapitated her with his big knife. So the legend is that every night at midnight she descends from the crows nest, which is like a very high place in the main cavern of the lodge, and she descends and floats down to the room, I think its room 129, and she stands outside the room holding her decanted head looking for revenge on her now dearly departed husband.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “I heard about this story because I actually went to Yellowstone and I stayed at The Yellowstone Inn  and I actually stayed in the room that it happened.”

Final thoughts: The piece is interesting for how it deals with the relation of ghosts to some kind of physical place. Most ghost stories seem to connect the idea of ghost to the idea of spacial memory. I think that these types of ghost stories relate to the idea of older physical locations that have a long past. The idea that the remnants of events which happened at a place could still have some tangible impact on the place in the present is powerful one and influences a lot of these ghost stories.

Magic

The Ekeko

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“This is actually a piece of Peruvian folklore. It’s more of a good luck folklore story item. It’s called the Ekeko and it’s actually from the Sierra Mountains which is the mountainous area of Peru. They are little men, figurines of men dressed up in your typical Peruvian clothing with you know the little hats and moe of the mountainous clothing The Ekeko are dressed differently depending on what areas of Peru they are from. Most of them are fro the And is which his why they are wearing their little hats made of alpaca wool. They are all carrying a variety of different items. They are all carrying fake items but the goal is they are carrying riches and it is for abundance. You keep them at home and what happens is every Friday you put a cigarette… Thats why its mouth is semi open. you put a cigarette in there every Friday and then if the cigarette goes all the way, if it smokes on its own all the way then it means that the Ekeko is going to bring you all the stuff thats in there and it’s going to be abundant but if the cigarette doesn’t, if the cigarette only burns halfway and then stops then there might be some problems. The thing is there is a bad connotation not the Ekeko. If you have a teenage daughter the Ekeko could fall in love with the teenage daughter and scare away anyone who may fall in love with her. If that were to happen then the Ekeko is no longer bringing happiness into your home so you have to get rid of the Ekeko. So if you’re a young woman and your boyfriends are running away its because the Ekeko might be scaring him.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “So the reason why it was told or why I was told it is that it’s just…a way to bring…that men can bring this into the home and bring goodness into the home and its just something thats really interesting is what women learn from it. When I got married for instance my aunt gave me an Ekeko and so now my family has our own Eekeko at home but we down do the cigarette part anymore because we forget and we down have cigarettes at home. So we got it as a gift so out home will be filled with abundance and riches and just kind of happiness. And that is a piece of folklore which I really like having because it is part of my families culture.”

Final thoughts: This sort of cultural good luck charm is something very common in many cultures. The idea is strongly connected with magical thinking  and the belief in concepts like luck. An Ekeko can also just serve as a cultural item which can help family bond over a shared ritual.

Tales /märchen

variation on La Llorona myth

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“This is a legend back in Mexico that this mom, she had children. I don’t recall how many but she drowned them, she drowned her children in a river and now the conscience of that or her penalty for that is she must you know every day and every night… She just walks around everywhere crying and crying “my children, my children,” and in Mexico they threaten kids or they worn kids that if you don’t behave La Llorona is gonna come get you. So if you don’t go to sleep or you don’t finish your food or whatever La Lorna will come get you.”

Background information about the performance from the informant:” I remember when I was a child. I think I was around, I would say maybe 5 or 6 that my parent told me this legend that I learned about it. You kind of learn how to behave. Like ok so if you don’t behave or if you don’t do this La Llorona is gonna come and get you or scare you.”

This piece is particularly interesting because it reveals how pervasive the La Llorona myth is. I had three different vacations on that story given to me in my brief time collecting folklore. They were all surprisingly consistent. I think this shows that the La Llorona myth is very prevalent both in Mexico and in California.

Humor

Origin for the name Usnavy

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“There is this story about all these women who were born in the 1950s in Puerto Rico, a lot of them are named Usnavy and people couldn’t figure out why and then they realized that in the 50s or the late 40s the United States military had a port in Puerto Rico and all the locals saw these huge boats and the boats said  U.S. NAVY but the letters were all evenly spaced and they thought the name of the boat was Usnavy and so they named all these little girls Usnavy.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “I think I was visiting a friend in Puerto Rico and he was just telling me little known fact about Puerto Rico and this was one of those. Like did you know that the national frog is not even native to Puerto Rico? It’s from Hawaii ETC.”

Final thoughts: This piece of folklore is an example of folklore connected to the tourist industry the story operates a s apiece of trivia specifically designed for tourists from the United States who will get the joke. It is a piece of folklore designed by the population of the Philippines but the audience is meant to be a tourist.

Tales /märchen

The tale of the Manananggal

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“My first story is actually from the Philippines and it’s a tale thats told to children so that at night they don’t go into the forest, they don’t go past where they’re supposed to go in the village and it’s the story of The Manananggal. The Manananggal is a women, she’s a witch but also depending on who’s telling the story she’s also a vampire who is soul sucking and if you go outside she’ll find you and chase you back to your house. The, they take the roofs off of your house, split in half and they eat you. Then they kind of come back together and look like a normal woman and then they go back into the forest and no one knows what happens.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “It’s a story I learned from my partner and he told me it was something you tell to children in the Philippines to get them not to wander off at night. My partner and I were in remote part of Hawaii in the middle of the night and we could here the bamboo slapping back and forth on the yurt and there was no one around for miles. My partner couldn’t sleep because he was convinced The Manananggal  was gonna come eat us. Which I thought was hilarious? The whole thing is that if you don’t go to sleep the manananggal is gonna come get you and its something my partner is still afraid of in his late 20s.”

This story is similar in its function to La Llorona as both serve as cautionary tales designed to make sure children do what they are told. Both also feature women who can serve as mother figures but transform into monsters. These tales are present in many different cultures all around the world. It seems that using monsters to get kids to behave is a near universal l form of parenting all over the world.

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