Author Archive
general
Proverbs

Hila Moverman 42: Mohammad proverb

“If the mountain won’t come to muhammad, muhammad will come to the mountain.”

Context: Hila Moverman was born and raised in Israel, and moved to the United States when she was 19. She grew up hearing this phrase a lot, which makes sense in a middle eastern country. However, this story is not just popular in the middle east, as philosopher Francis Bacon, in Essays, 1625 also had a version of the story: Mahomet cald the Hill to come to him. “And when the Hill stood still, he was neuer a whit abashed, but said; If the Hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.”

Analysis: This phrase, though it depicts the deity Mouhammad, is a universal phrase found throughout the world. It means “If one’s will does not prevail, one must submit to an alternative.” This is an extremely important lesson that is universal for all people, as compromise is a crucial aspect for the attainment of peace. In the middle east, this proverb would be increasingly important, as it has historically been a very turbulent region. What this proverb teaches is that compromise is crucial for the completion of one’s goals

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/if-the-mountain-will-not-come-to-muhammad.html

general
Legends

Bardia Soltani 21: Rostam

“Basically Rostam is a persian warrior who is really known. He’s like the strongest man in Iran and is always protecting Iran. I’m not sure if he was a real person, it’s not really known. One of the stories about him is that he goes head to head in battle with this enemy army and he slays his own son who is the commander of the other army. I think he blinds his son too. When his son dies, he takes off his helmet or whatever and finds out he was his son and is really sad. His son’s name is Estambiar.”
Q: “Is there a lesson to the story?”
A: “I don’t remember, But it was this whole tragic thing. I really remember it on that complex level.”

Context: Bardia is a student at the University of Southern California. He was born in Iran and emigrated when he was seven years old. To him, this is a story that his dad told that is very close to his heart. It is a way of connecting with his father and his lineage.

Analysis: This story unites the Iranian people and makes them feel connected as a group. Stories like these create a commonality in people that they can share and feel like a part of the community. It unites people with common values (heroism, bravery) and also unites them with certain relatable themes such as tragedy.

general
Legends

Natalie Skinner 19: Blues House Ghost Story/ Legend

“My aunt on my moms side lives in a small town in mississippi called bay st louis. She and her husband after katrina, and they were the only house on their street that survived and they left. They moved to a blues hall up the road, which has a lot of history. During the prohibition, all of the town gathered in the blues hall and had a bunch of alcohol and music. Because of their illegal escapades, there were deaths in the house. They renovated half of the building to be a home, and left the stage and the hall to throw events and rent it out. After about a year of living in the blues home, my aunt called my mom saying she heard incoherent voices coming from somewhere in her house. She walks into the party room that they had set up and she watches her 12 foot table get dragged across the room. Now the entire family believes the building is haunted and has encountered multiple supernatural events.”

Background: “Heard the story about five years ago for the first time, and have been hearing about it from my family ever since.”

Context: this story was told to me during a folklore class by Natalie. Her family is from the Louisiana where ghost stories are pretty common thanks to the old structures that are present everywhere.

Analysis: in my opinion, it makes sense that people are telling stories of the travesties of the prohibition, as that time literally still haunts America. Also this is an event that connects her entire family together: this belief of spirits and probably makes them all feel connected to each other as a family.

general
Myths

Reed Kaplan 19: The Rougarou

“The Rougarou is this story of you say his name he can hear you and comes and murders you. He’s kinda like a Werewolf but swampy. Everyone in Louisiana knows about it.”

Context: I collected this story from Reed at the University of Southern California. Reed is an American Jew with roots in Louisiana. He heard the story from his late grandfather. Everyone in the state apparently knows this story. If one is out alone at night, they are said to hear his cries.

Analysis: The swamp is a large, uninhabited place where a lot of strange noises are heard. It makes sense for there to be stories of monsters that lurk what is unknown. This is probably peoples’ way of coping with the unknown dangers that reside vert near to them.

Game
general

Whitney Levine 22: Wiffleball

Growing up my dad would always play sports, so growing up he would always play wiffle ball with us and we would play in the tennis court and have all these made up rules. We would turn off the lights and we had a lot of rules. If we hit it over the left side of the fence, its three outs, but if it’s the right side you can keep going. Its kinda like baseball but a little different. Say for example you are pitching, if that person hits the ball and cant make it to first base, if it hits the person running, that person is out. We would always play it every holiday.”

Context: This story was told by Whitney Levine in our Folklore class. She is American/ Russian heritage. She played the game throughout her childhood on holidays. The rules of this game were passed down through her family and everyone in the family is aware of this variation of the game Wiffleball. This game holds a lot of sentimental value for her and it makes her feel connected to her family. Sharing a game with family encourages bonding and inspires a sense of belonging in people.

Legends
Narrative

Whitney Levine 22: Russian Strong Man

“My whole family left Russia at the turn of the eighteenth century. My whole family was Jewish during the super anti semitic Minsk Russia. He’s really strong and has this long beard. A Russian cossack comes up to him, calls him an anti semitic slur and pulls his beard. My relative replies, thank you for putting me in my place. When the man puts his hand out to shake his hand, he broke his hand from shaking so hard.”

Context: This is the performance of a family legend by Whitney Levine. Though she is American, her family comes from Russia and is very proud of this legend. She learned it from various family members, the tell the story at holidays and family get togethers, especially from her father who always retells the story to various family members. This legend is a testament to her family’s strength and tradition. In an era of avid anti-Semitism, it is extremely empowering to hear that a family member fought back against injustice. She told it to me during our folklore class discussion, in which we were collecting folklore.
“It’s a story my dad always would tell me and would always tell the whole family the story. He’s not sure if it’s true but it’s a family legend that everyone knows now.”

Analysis: I think the story is inspirational, and depicts a man willing to fight against a bigoted establishment. In a time when so many Jews were oppressed, it is heartwarming to see someone fight back against injustice. That is probably why the story has been passed down through so many generations.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Britt Jacobson 19: Shabbat

“When my grandma lights shabbat candles she puts a white lace shawl over her head and she lights a candle for each of her children. She has seven children so seven candles for them and she also lights two different candles for each of her two dead parents. She does this every friday before sunset, and any female members in the house will do the blessing with her.”

Context: Britt is an American Jew from Los Angeles California. Her family celebrates Shabbat every Friday night (a tradition in which candles are lighted to commemorate Gods day of rest). This variation of the tradition is not typical, but still integrates the typical practice into the mix. Also, lighting candles is pretty typical for deceased family members, so that part is not surprising. I heard this from her during our Folklore class. I personally think the notion of all the girls lighting candles can be thought of as a sort of bonding experience, in which all the females connect with each other to say a blessing. Also, I think this combines the tradition of Jewish candle lighting on Shabbat and the universal practice of lighting candles for the deceased into one tradition.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Stanley Kalu 21: Nigerian Proverb

“There’s a proverb from southern niggeria every day is for the thief one day is for the owner of the house, nigeria has a problem with corruption top down from the government, yes you could keep doing it but eventually you will get caught.”

Context: Stanley partially grew up in Nigeria, and moved to the United States when he was a little older. He heard it from his time living in Nigeria. I collected this piece from him in our folklore class. As he mentions, this proverb deals with Nigeria’s corruption and the thievery problem.

Analysis: A proverb like this maintains the notion that every thief’s wrongdoing will catch up to him eventually and there will be justice for everyone. As many people have been affected by a thief of corrupt person at one point or another in Nigeria, it is probably a comfort to hear that their suffering was not for nothing and the thief will eventually be brought to justice.

Homeopathic
Magic
Protection

Natalie Skinner 19: Clove of Garlic

“My grandma born in 1935 was always told by her aunt that in order to not catch the flu, you have to put a clove of raw garlic around her neck. She did that and never got sick.”
“I heard this when I was five from my grandmother.”

Context: Natalie shared this with me during our folklore class. She heard it for the first time when she was five from her grandmother.

Analysis: back in that time, it makes sense for people to develop folk ideas of how to fix things they had no control over, such as illness. Because of the lack of medical advancements, many people choose to trust homeopathic remedies shared to them orally. This is probably the case with Natalie’s grandmother to an extent.

Customs
Foodways
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Valery Zhukova 19: Pass Out Salad

Valery Zhukova 19: Pass Out Salad
“On New Years Eve, Russians put this salad on the table and it includes potato, balogne or meat, egg, pickles, cucumber, boiled carrot, onion and mayonnaise (can be replaced by sour cream) salt and canned peas. It is said that if you get drunk, one of the people will pass out into the salad and its good luck for everyone for a year. “

Context: Vallery is Russian/ Ukrainian- American. I heard this recipe from her in our folklore class. The culture of drinking is really big in Eastern Europe, so it is no surprise that passing out into the food is one of the requirements for this tradition. Valery learned this tradition from holidays.

Analysis: This food reminds me of an Israeli dish or potato salad that has similar ingredients. It makes sense that these dishes will be similar, as there are many immigrants from Eastern Europe in Israel. Drinking is a large part of the celebratory culture there, so passing out in the food means that people had a good time. This probably sets a good example for the rest of the year.

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