Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Scar Remedy

“If you have scars you have to put Vitamin E oil on them.  I don’t know why but my mom tells me to do it, and I’ve had like a billon people telling me to do it.”

The informant, Julia, was recently hit by a car.  Although she did not have any major injuries, she has scaring on her face and several areas on her body.  She performs this folk remedy everyday in order to heal her scars.  She learned this piece of folk medicine from her mother and also from friends.  This folk medicine is so widespread that she reports that at least one person tell her to use Vitamin E oil when they hear about her accident.

I believe this folk remedy to be affective.  Although I have not used it myself, I have seen several people’s scars begin to go away after using Vitamin E oil.  If so many people are using Vitamin E oil to help their scaring disappear it must be working.

general

School Cheer

“G-R-I-ZZL-IES…. We are the California (Stomp, Stomp) Grizzlies”

Julia was a cheerleader in High School.  She remember have a great amount of school pride and enjoyed cheering for sports teams.  Julia performed this cheer with the other cheerleaders at high school football games.  She has fond memories of this cheer because she loved high school.  Julia learned this cheer from her cheer coach, but she remembered that it had been passed down from the girls who cheered in the previous years as well. She also recalls that everyone make Grizzly claws with their hands when they cheered “Grizzlies” at the end.

I think this song is a simple way to promote school spirit. By spelling out the word “Grizzlies”, the team mascot is emphasized and celebrated.  This song should only really be performed by cheerleaders and spectators/fans at the high school football game.  The custom of creating hand motions to represent the mascot, in this instance a Grizzly claw, is prevalent throughout sports.  For instance, at USC football games fan’s make a “V” with their fingers to symbolize “Victory” and the mascot Tommy Trojan.

general
Tales /märchen

The Three Trees

Three Trees

“Ok. Once upon a mountaintop there were three little trees.   The first tree looked up  at the starts in the sky and said to the other two trees ‘When I grow up, I want to be covered in gold and jewels and hold the greatest treasures in the world.’  The second tree looked at the nearby stream and said, ‘Well,  I, um, I want to grow up to be big and strong.  And I want to travel the mighty waters carrying the greatest kings.’  And the third tree, well the third tree looked down to the valley and saw all the people and said, ‘I want to stay here on this mountain and grow tall.  And when people look at me their eyes are pointed to heaven and they think of God.’

And then many years passed. And one day three tree, I mean, woodcutters climbed up the mountain and say the three trees. The first woodcutter saw the first tree and said, ‘This tree is so beautiful. It is perfect for what I have in mind.’ The first tree was so excited because he knew he was going to be made into a beautiful treasure chest.

The second woodcutter saw the second tree and said, ‘this tree is so strong. It is perfect for what I have in mind.’ And with his sharp axe he cut down the tree.  The tree was so excited to finally become a boat that could carry kings.

The third woodcutter saw the third tree and said, ‘well, this’ll do. I don’t need anything special.’  The third tree’s heart sank as the woodcutter chopped her down, she wanted to stay on the mountain pointing to heaven.

The first tree was taken to a carpenter shop.  He was so excited to finally be made into this beautiful treasure chest, but instead the carpenter made him into a feedbox for animals.  He was filled up with hay and put in a barn.

The next tree was taken to a shipyard.  He celebrated as he thought he was about to be made into a great ship.  But instead, he was made into a humble fishing boat and put into a lake, not the mighty waters he had dreamed of.

And the third tree was tossed in a lumberyard.

Years passed and the trees almost forgot their dreams.

One night, a young woman laid her newborn baby in the feed box.  Her husband said that he wish he could have made a cradle for the baby, but the mother replied, ‘This is perfect.  This manger is beautiful.’  And as the starlight shone down on the first tree, he was overjoyed, uh, because he was holding the most precious treasure in the world.

Years later, a very tired traveler and his friends came onto the fishing boat.  The traveler fell asleep while the fishing boat sailed out into the lake.  And then this, um, huge storm came.  You know, lightening and thunder. And the second tree was so scared because he knew that he was not strong enough to support all of these passengers.  But then the passenger woke up and raised his hand and said, ‘Peace’, and the lake calmed and the lightening and thunder stopped.  And the third tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

Weeks later, the third tree was picked up from the, uh, lumber one Friday morning.  She was scared as she was thrown on a man’s back as the crowd around him yelled and shouted at him.  She was placed on a hilltop, and the man was nailed to her.  She felt ugly and cruel as this man was crucified on her.  But everything changed that Sunday, God made the tree beautiful through the man’s resurrection.  And she knew that whenever people looked at her they would think of God.  This was better than any of her dreams.”

The informant heard has heard this tale many times.  He recalls hearing it often at church and at his summer camp.  He says that this piece of folklore is shared at church gathering and with Christians to remind them that God has amazing plans for their lives – plans that far exceed their greatest expectations.  The informant also believes this is a great story to share with people who are not Christians.  He really likes the story because of its message.  He likes the idea that three humble trees can carry the King, Jesus.

This tale is a widespread piece of American folklore.  It is shared throughout people across America.  One interesting aspect of the tale is that it involves three trees.  Three is a very important in American and Christian culture.  For instance, three beings – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – make up the trinity and Jesus rose from the dead three days after he was crucified on Easter Sunday.

Another reoccurring motif this story employs is the use of trees.  Often trees are seen as spirits within folklore.  And in this story the trees are personified. As we all know, tree cannot think but in this story the trees represent mankind, while telling the story of the life of Jesus.

The cross is a very important symbol to Christians.  This story reminds Christians of the meaning of the cross and the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I also grew up hearing this story.  I, personally, like the story.  I think provokes thought while still being simple enough to get its point across. The tale of the Three Tree has been retold and published in a book.  The citation for the book is as follows:

Hunt, Angela. The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale. 1st ed. Colorado             Springs, CO: Cook Communications, 2004. Print.

Game
general

King’s Cup

King’s Cup-Drinking Game

“You put a cup in the middle of the table filled with Baijiu (white rice liquor). And ring the cards around the cup face down.  Each person has a beer.  Each person goes around in a circle

Ace- “Waterfall”- it means that one person starts drinking and then the next person starts drink and so on.  But you can only stop when the person in front of you stops.

2- “You”- point to someone and they have to drink

3- “Me” – the person who draws the card has to drink

4- “Whore”- the girls have to drink

5- “Never have I ever”- each persons says something they have never done, and if you have done it you have you put a figure down, and the first person to put all five fingers down has to drink

6- “Dicks”- Guys have to drink

7- “Heaven”- the last person to point to the sky has to drink

8- “Mate”- you chose someone who also has to drink with you

9- “Busta Rhymthe” – you have to go around in the circle rhyming and the person who stops the rhyme has to drink

10- “Categories”- the person chooses a theme and each person has to say an item within that category, and who ever cannot think of one has to drink

Jack- “Make a Rule” – the person has to make a rule and everyone has to follow it and if they don’t you have to drink

Queen- “Questions”- you can only speak to each other in questions, and if you answer you have to drink

King- you have to add to the drink in the middle, but if you pull the last King you have to drink the King’s Cup in the middle

And if you break the circle you have to take a shot.”

The informant played this game while studying abroad in China.  She says the reason why they played this game was to drink and have fun.  She learned it from other Americans studying abroad.  She says that is a fun way to pre-game before going out or if just a bunch of friends are hanging out.

This game is reminiscent of American college party culture although there is a Chinese twist, as the King’s Cup is filled with rice liquor.  The purpose of the game is to get the participants drunk because every time someone picks up a card at least one person has to drink.  The idea of having the cards in a circle is a reoccurring theme in folklore; as the circle is a representation of time.  And once the circle is broken the participant must drink – and not a sip of beer but a shot of hard alcohol – as if breaking this circle is breaking something important so the punishment is greater.  The loser of this game has to drink the King’s Cup in the middle when they pull the last King from the deck.  This is contrary to popular belief that getting something called the “King’s Cup” would be a good thing.  The game allows for folk games within a folk game.  For instance, when you draw a 5 you all play the game “Never Have I Ever” which is a folk game in itself.  Also the symbol of a “King’s Cup” may have come from the Holy Grail, which was the cup that Jesus used during the Last Supper.  And thus the “King’s Cup” is a very important relic, and the game “King’s Cup”

This game is an example of how college students employ folklore in their lives on a daily (well hopefully not every day) basis.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Hiccup Remedy

“If you scream “the Xena Warrior Princess cry” (AYAYAYAYA) at the top of your lungs, your hiccups will go away.”

The informant heard this piece of folk medicine from a friend who had heard it from other friends.  She says you perform this when you have the hiccups, and the hiccups will go away.  She did not know why in particular you have to yell or even why you yell “AYAYAYAYA” instead of some other phrase.  The informant believes that this folk medicine is extremely helpful in ceasing hiccups, and she performs it every time she has the hiccups.

I am not sure if I fully understand the reasoning behind screaming “AYAYAYAYA”.  There are several other wacky remedies people believe to get rid of hiccups like drinking water upside down or scaring the afflicted person.  Each remedy, including the one given by the informant, seems to cause an unorthodox way of breathing.  People use their own folk remedies to cure the hiccups.  I believe there are so many remedies for the hiccups because usually the hiccups are not cured through traditional medicine.

Folk Beliefs
general

Tennis Superstition

“In tennis, if I kept winning a point.  I would only use that ball until I lost. Even if I had two balls I would insist they give me the ball I won with.”

The informant uses this superstition when she is playing tennis.  She played competitively in high school but she also utilizes this superstition when she plays for fun.    She said uses the same ball because it must be special if she keeps winning.

I personally do not believe this superstition to be true.  I do not see how the same ball could keep you winning. However, the use of one ball may keep the informant focused on winning and thus she will continue to win the point.

general
Legends

Dog Licking Hand at Night

“One night this woman was sleeping in her bed, and she felt her dog lickin her hand but didn’t do anything about it.  And the next morning after her shower, she sees written on the mirror, “Humans can lick too.”

The informant heard this during middle school at a slumber party.  It was shared when other scary stories were being told.  She says that she never leaves her limbs off the bed.

This is a very scary story because you are in the comfort of your own home and you assume it to be your dog but in actuality is a weird person in your home.  I think this legend is possible. Although this is a very creepy thing to happen, it is still plausible.  The idea of things being written in a bathroom mirror appears throughout folklore, literature, and movies.

general
Legends
Narrative

Look Under Your Car

“At gas station late one night, a woman was pumping her gas.  She ran inside to grab a pack of gum and when she returned to get in her car … a man underneath her can slit her Achilles tendon so she could not run away.  And then he killed her.  So that’s why you should always make sure no one’s under you car or anything like that.”

The informant heard this story from her physics teacher. Her physics teacher would pinch people ankles in the bathroom stall next to her and then tell them the story.  The informant thinks about it all the time, and she says that if she knew the person in the bathroom stall next to her she would too pinch their ankles and tell them the story.  And she always check under her bed and car to make sure someone is not hiding under there.

This legend is so scary because everyone goes to the gas station.  This is a place one cannot get out of going to.  When the informant told me this, I found myself, for the next few days, looking under my car before I got in.  This story could easily happen and may have already happened.  Another frightening part of this story is that the victim cannot run away.

Folk Beliefs
general
Gestation, birth, and infancy

Folk Belief- Pregnancy

“When you’re pregnant, you know you’re having a girl when the baby sits higher and a boy sits lower.”

The informant first heard this when she was pregnant with her first child.  She said that people were always trying to guess if she was having a boy or girl.  One women told her this old wives-tale.  The informant believed this piece of folklore because while pregnant her baby sat higher and she had a girl.  However, she know that this is just a theory and probably not always true.

There is a lot of folklore about pregnancy.  The pregnancy stage is a liminal time, when the baby is coming but not yet born.  Because this is such an unknown time, people choose to use folk medicine and customs in order to figure out the sex of the baby.  Also science cannot determine the sex of the baby until later in the pregnancy, while folk medicine can solve the mystery right away.

general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Mexican Joke

“Why don’t Mexicans have a good Olympics Team? Because everyone who can run, jump, or swim has already crossed the border.”

Matthew is a high school student from Southern California.  The informant heard the joke, first, from his friends and then, later, from his grandfather. Laughing, the informant says that he would share the joke with his teachers, but in actuality he says he would only share the joke with friends at school.  He thinks the joke is funny because it is stereotypical and – laughing again – partially true.

This joke represents a well-known stereotype within American culture.  The joke assumes that the Mexicans living in Mexico are not athletic enough to make it into America (illegally) and thus do not have a good team for the Olympics.

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