Author Archive
Initiations

Howard University Graduation

Informant: My sister spent a semester as a transfer student at Howard University.

Original Script: At Howard University it is declared as the Mecca for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. At the Mecca graduating senior must sign their name on the clock tower on the 12th floor of the library. Venturing out to find the clock tower in the library is half the battle but getting up there is worth the journey and the view is amazing. Every midnight the day before graduation seniors find their way to the tower write their names and chant “ HU you know!”

Background: My sister and seniors that went to Howard were taking about what their traditions were when graduating.

Thoughts: I like the tradition of the university because it bonds together the students that made it  through the 4 years of college and you are apart of a ritual that is shared from those in the past. Traditions create memories that can be passed down to generations of students to keep the positive attitude to make it through the 4 years of college, so you can join the tradition.

Folk medicine

A conjestion remedy

Informant: My mother was told by her grandmother

Original Script: Take a sock and put clothes of garlic in it, then put it around you neck to clear the sinuses

Background: This was used before Vick’s vapor rub to cure congestion in the chest

Thoughts: My mom said it never worked it just made you smell bad.

Childhood
Game

Blonde in the Bathroom

Informant: My friend who is from Brazil

Original Script: ” A girl with platinum blonde hair was murdered in the bathroom. She looks super pale with bloody cotton ball in her nose, she looks like a corpse. You go in the bathroom and switch on the lights and flush the toilet three times and she appears.”

Background: The Brazilian version of the children’s game Bloody Mary

 

Folk Beliefs

Latin evil witch

Informant: My sister’s boyfriend was told by his father who is of latin descent

Original Script: “In latin traditions the believe in spirits, in your home when you have negative spirits,  their is a evil witch that comes while your sleeping and she suffocates you while you scream you cant move and she is their because you have allot of evil in your life. The way to get rid of her is through the jesus candles to purify the room”

Background: The story is to explain sleep paralysis

Thoughts: This is an example of the explanation of natural causes and sicknesses in the body that can’t be explaining by non-advanced medical knowledge. Folk  beliefs were used to explain these diseases.

Proverbs

American Proveb

Informant: My friend, her mom would tell her this who is from the midwest

Original Script:  ‘A watched pot never boils’

Background: The meaning behind this is if you stay on top of your life, you won’t loose control.

Thoughts: I have never heard this proverb but it encourages self-reliance and accountability and in American we highly regard these traits, so it makes sense that it is well known in America.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

US Navy Shellbacks

Informant: My dad was in the US Navy for 4  years

Original Script: To become a shellback in the US Navy you have to cross the equator. Legend has it that King Neptune lives on the equator and if you cross it you become a shellback. When you become a shellback there is a ceremony were a someone dresses up as King Neptune and gives you a shellback card.

Background: A shellback is a sort of fraternity in the Navy, Navy men give respect to shellback backs because you have to sail for a long time to be able to cross the equator, some Navy men that spent 20 years in the Navy has never crossed the equator.

Thoughts: I thought the ceremony was comical, the idea that someone dresses up as King Neptune show dedication to their tradition. The shellbacks get really into it and show respect to those who made an accomplishment that goes unnoticed to a civilian.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority Initiations

Informant: My sister spent a semester as a transfer student at Howard University and the campus was heavily into greek life. Most of the student population was apart of the Divine 9.

Original script: Greek organizations have well known stories of their hazing. For the divine 9 sororities, the women are known for intense hazing at Howard. The sorority of delta sigma theta is known for having their pledges swim across the lake across the street from the university. At 7am, the pledges are blindfolded and taken to the lake wearing only under garments and told to race across the lake and the last 3 will not be admitted into the sorority.

Background: My sister asked what delta sigma theta initiations were like when deciding to join a sorority.

Thoughts: I don’t agree with the hazing if it crosses an inappropriate boundary, but having traditions and rituals in a organization bring members closer together because they are bonded by the memories and hardships they went through to be accepted.

 

Customs

Don’t split the pole

Informant: My mother was told by her friend when they were teens

Original Script: ” When me and my friend Judy were walking and I walked on the opposite side of a lamppost, and continued to walk. Judy stopped and said you have to go back and walk on the same side of the I did. I just laughed and kept walking. Judy went all the back and went around the same side of the pole i walked and said it was bad luck to split the pole.”

Background: Used  for superstition 

Thoughts: It shows how seriously people take superstition even doing the oddest task. People just expect that splitting the pole means bad luck without an actually reasoning behind it.

Folk medicine

Orange peel remedy

Informant: My uncle who was told by his mother from Arkansas

Original Script: “When you are sick, eat a orange peel because the acid eliminate the germs in the body”

Background: When you eat an orange peel the acidic properties of the peel kill of the germs in your body

Myths

The pink dolphin

Informant: My friend who is from Brazil

Original Script: ” In the amazon rainforest there is a myth of the pink dolphin that lives there that transforms into a handsome man that sleeps with woman at night and during the day is a dolphin again”

Background: A myth in the Amazon rainforest

Thoughts: There are many different variations of this story in the countries near the Amazon rainforest, the were-dolphin is a known character that circulates in this area.

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