Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

Right Foot First – An Ice Skating Superstition and Ritual

The following informant is a 22-year-old student who competed in ice skating throughout her childhood and well into her teenage years and continues to ice skate recreationally now. She is describing a common superstition she and some of her teammates have. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: One superstition that I have always had when I used to ice skate was that I always used to put my right skate on and tie up the laces before putting on my left skate. I made sure I always did that.

K: What would happen if you put your left skate on first?

S: I just had this belief that if I put my left skate on first, then I would not have as good of a skate, or I would mess up and risk hurting myself. I always thought oh my god you have to put your right skate on first

K: Were you the only one to have this superstition or did your teammates also share it?

S: I’m not sure if other people shared my superstition specifically, but some of my other teammates had similar superstitions. Like my friend J, when she steps on to the ice, she always puts her right foot down first and never the left first for the same reason I put my skates on right first. I, and a lot of the other girls, also followed her superstition as well. Which is probably where I got my superstition about skates.

K: Would you only do this before a competition or anytime you put on skates and stepped on to the ice?

S: Oh, every time I put on skates and went on the ice. I’ve been doing it for years now that I don’t have to worry about accidently putting my left skate on first because I have trained myself to always put my right skate on first and step with my right foot first.

S: One more thing, I am not sure why my superstition has to do with the right-side, maybe it’s because I’m right handed… but that doesn’t really make sense because my friend J is left handed… I honestly don’t know

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. The informant brought up superstitions and I asked if she would like to participate in the folklore collection project. The conversation was recorded and transcribed. Although she only acts out the ritual when she ice-skates.

Thoughts:

I find her superstition about always doing things on the right side first very fascinating, along with her reasoning, that she later disagrees with. But maybe she is not wrong, It seems pretty obvious that if you are right-hand dominant that you would consider your right side to bring good luck and your left side to bring bad luck. But how would this explain her friend. Or maybe in our everyday life we tend to go from right to left, like reading English, her first language, you always read right to left, reading left to right just would not make sense.

general
Initiations
Legends

The Legend of Camino Hall

The following informant is a 22 year old student from the University of San Diego. In this account she is describing a legend about one of the buildings on her campus. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: There is this urban legend that someone, umm… like killed themselves in either the Camino bathroom. Thats like one of the residence halls but you know also where the administration building is. Umm… yeah so apparently, she had gone to class, this was a girl, and she was going through a hard time and she just like went to the bathroom, like in the middle of class. And people were like “what the fuck, why did she not come back” and then they were like “oh she is probably still in the bathroom”. So they went to the bathroom and she was just like hanging from the ceiling. So like it may or may not have happened, most people believe it, but like some don’t.

K: So when did this happen?

S: Like right when the school opened, like around that time, the school was established in 1949

K: How did you hear about it?

S: oh, just people were randomly talking about it when i transferred, like that first semester, and i was just like what the heck why are we talking about this right now. It was the older students telling the new ones, it was very random, and i don’t know if it was to scare us but i was just like “thank you so much for this information, what do you want me to do with it”

K: did they ever say why she killed herself?

S: no one knows why she killed herself

K: What did you take away from this?

S: I was kind of just like taken back, because i had just transferred, and so i was kind of like um so why are you telling me this. but i had not thought about it since they told me, so… yeah, its not something i think about often.

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. I was visiting the informant at USD, and after providing a different collection of folklore, she launched into this story. As we were in a public space, people overheard the conversation and a few even nodded in agreement, like they were validating what she was saying.

Thoughts:

This is a particularly interesting legend for a couple of reasons. One is that out of my own curiosity I tried to do some research to see if there are more details on the internet and the search came up empty. This by no means insinuates that what she is saying is false, especially because the group of not so subtle eavesdroppers seemed familiar with the legend. But in the age of the digital realm, it seems odd there is no account of it only. The other interesting aspect is how the legend is used now. She explained that the older students tell it to the new students while they orient to the new campus. This seems like a mild form of hazing, in that in order to complete your transformation as a student of USD, you have to get mildly scared by the older students first.

general
Legends

The Mean Ghost

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is describing interactions her good friend had with a mean ghost in their home. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: Okay so my girlfriend is telling me about this ghost story that she lived in this house in Fontana and there was this ghost and he was like a mean ghost because he would like… it would be scary, you know, things would break and weird noises and stuff. and i think it was an old man that had died there, so she said that they got used to him, but it was not a nice ghost. and i think it was either in the garage or house, but he was there, and so they just lived with it

K: did they ever try to move or do anything about it?

KA: no they never tried nothing

K: do they think it was the previous owner?

KA: I think so, I think it was someone that probably lived there and died and he did not want to pass on to the other life so he stayed there . And she told me that and I was like what, no, but she said no we have a ghost. and I’m like okay

K: so did you believe her story?

KA: oh yeah, I believed her, I believe in ghosts, yeah most definitely they are out there. there are good ghosts and there are the ones that don’t want you in their… they feel like it’s their house, their ownership and you’re in their house so yeah

Context: The informant told me this story while we were sitting on her couch having a conversation at night, and as she was telling me the lights in her house actually started to flicker and make that buzzing noise.

Thoughts:

I’ll be honest, I did not have much to say about this piece, frankly because I was little scared. She was telling this story at night and like her, I don’t necessarily believe wholeheartedly in ghosts, but as she tells me, the lights flickered and made noise, and I genuinely thought she brought that ghost into her house. It was a very strange experience, but it reminded me of the idea that you don’t have to fully believe in something to know something is not right. Like not believing a house is haunted but still not wanting to walk through it.

general
Tales /märchen

The Boy and the Devil

The following informant is a stay at home mom from Upland. Here she is telling a tale her grandmother used to tell her when she was a young girl. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as KA and I am identified as K:

KA: This is a story that I heard from my grandmother, it happened in Mexico and it was about a little boy, that he was out, like in the ranch area and he had… sorry, was walking and he came across this man on a horse! And the boy asked him hey can you give me a ride? and the man said yeah I’ll give you a ride! So he got on the horse, and he started riding on the horse, and then he is talking to the man, and the man starts telling him “oh” … I don’t exactly remember, it’s been a while, but he he just… actually he did not really talk to him too much, but he started noticing that his head was changing like a horse, and his feet were dragging and his legs, well… it was the devil, it was the devil. so, the boy just jumped off and ran. So, it was kind of like, you know, he came close to the devil.

K: how old where you when you heard this story?

KA : um, i must have been maybe like 10,

K: Do you know why she was telling you the story, was there a take away?

 

KA: Well its saying that because the devil comes in different forms, he could come as anything, he could come as a friend, he could come as like you know a human being, which in the story he was like a human being, and it turned out to be the devil, because the head started to enlarge like a horse and then that is when he noticed that he got all scared and took off. and also like you don’t go with strangers you know

Context: this informant told me this tale while I was at her house, she sat down on the couch and started to tell us a story

Thoughts:

I think this is meant to be a cautionary tale, as evidenced by what KA said about don’t go with strangers. I think it could possibly be an appropriate way to address these issues with young children, without introducing them to all of the harsh realities of the world.

Digital
general

Clowning – The Internet Trend

The following informant is a 16-year-old high school student from Upland. Here he is explaining an internet trend and challenge called Clowning. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as GR and I am identified as K:

GR: So, there is this thing on the internet, last year, that clown trend where everyone dresses up as clowns, it went viral. So, at our game that was broadcasted on TV, there where clowns that had weapons at our school during the football game, and I hopped the fence with my friends to go see and there were seven clowns chasing me so I ran out and got caught by the cops

K: I’m sorry, I am little confused, what is this clown trend

GR: Alright, so I don’t know who started it, but the clown thing or clowning, people were just dressing up as clowns and just like scarring people and all that, and people would take it to the extreme with like holding knives and stuff and um.. like it was just weird. And then you like take pictures or videos and post them on social media.

K: Was there a purpose, or do you have to accomplish something doing this trend.

GR: Not really, it was around the time they released the trailers from the rehash of the IT movie and around Halloween too.

K: Oh was it to promote the movie?

GR: No it was just around that time

K: So are there any rules, do you have to dress as a specific clown, or go to specific places?

GR: No there aren’t rules, well…other than dressing as any clown you want and walking around and scaring people, and if you want to post it, post it. Oh and it’s like mostly teenagers and like college people.

K: Okay, so just for my understanding, this Clowning trend was where people dressed up as any clown and went to a public place to scare people… with weapons, or without… and then post it to social media

GR: Yeah, pretty much, it was pretty viral around that time to, a lot of people were doing it.

K: Did you or your friends participate?

GR: No… I did not … but I knew some people … they were my friends, between 15 and 18

K: What did they do specifically?

GR: They dressed up as clowns and went to down town in Upland and the Colonies in Upland, and just walked up to people and scare them and walk around

K: And what was your opinion about this trend?

GR: Honestly I thought it was kind of stupid, there is no point, like you don’t do anything, but my friends liked it.

Context: While having dinner with my cousin, he overheard me talking about the Folklore collection project and chimed in with this story while we ate. It was actually quiet amusing, as he tried to explain this internet trend to a room full of adults and an interviewer who does not understand social media

Thoughts:

I really struggled with this piece of folklore. At first, I was not sure if it could be defined as folklore. But when you think about it, it has multiplicity and variation, because there are no specific rules and it’s a viral trend, as well as its arguably artistic communication and it is done in small groups.

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Day of the Ditch

The following informant is a 20 year old college student from Upland. Here she is explaining the tradition of Senior Ditch Day at her highschool. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as GA and I am identified as K:

GA: So, every year the seniors of Upland High School would have a Senior Ditch Day, and all of the seniors, well … maybe not all of them cause maybe some would not go … but a lot of them would go to the beach.

K: Were you guys aloud to miss school?

GA: No, like the teachers were pretty adamant, they did not want anyone to go!

K: So how did it work? Did you first meet at the school?

GA: Yeah, we first meet at the school and then carpool to the beach, we would spend the day at the beach and then comeback. After the day no one really talks about it because we did not want to get in trouble. Like no one posted anything about it cause the teachers might find it

K: How did you hear about the tradition?

GA: Umm.. like everyone was just talking about it and being like secretive about it because they did not want the teachers to hear about it. I found out probably when I was a junior, that other people were doing it so I kind of got excited about it, but then forgot about it, and then when I was a senior it came up and I was like oh man! This is a tradition.

K: How did it feel to participate in this tradition of Senior Ditch Day?

GA: It was a lot of fun… to get away… you felt pretty reckless. But like a lot of the teachers they did not want you to leave! And I remember that day there was like a couple of quizzes that a lot of people missed

Context: She told me this while we were sitting at her dining room table one evening.

Thoughts:

I think the Senior Ditch Day tradition for Upland High is great. These kids are seniors, about to embark on a new journey and leave high school, something needs to mark this occasion. This makes me think of the Rites of Passage, and how when we change identities we often ritualize it. That is kind of what this is, also like GA said it makes you feel a little reckless, it aloud her and her class to blow off some steam.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Magnolia Elementary School – Haunted House

The following informant is a 20 year old college student from Upland. Here she is describing a haunted house that is behind her elementary school, Magnolia Elementary School. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as GA and I am identified as K:

GA: There is this haunted house at my school, um… by the playground, and some kids would be like talking about how there was someone who like died, who lived there, and like when it was like night at the school, it would be like haunted and stuff like that. You could hear weird noises and things would fall or move, things like that.

K: Did you ever go and explore the house?

GA: No I was too scared, but some of my friends went, we were in like 5th grade, and they heard and saw things. It was mostly kids in my grade wanting to explore and they told me about it because it was located right behind us/

K: Did anything happen to them?

GA: No, nothing bad, they just got really freaked out, maybe they did encounter the spirit of the guy that lived there

K: Did you believe what they told you about the house?

GA: Yes and no, I am always a little skeptical when it comes to ghost stories, but it did frighten me enough not to go to the house.

Context: She told me this while we were sitting at her dining room table one evening.

Thoughts:

I too am similar to GA, in the sense that I can be a little skeptical of ghost stories and haunted houses, however I think it is important to point out that regardless of the fact that she did not fully believe the house was haunted she still avoided it, almost like better safe than sorry. She did not have to accept the supernatural to understand that something weird was going on.

Tales /märchen

Shirin and Farhad

The following informant is a 22-year-old Persian-American women from Southern California. In this account she is describing a tale her parents and family used to tell her when she was little. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: So, my name, um because it means sweet, there used to be this fairy tale in Iran, that basically every old person, in their entire life, and basically everyone has been told this story.

So basically, there was this princess and her name was Shirin, and there was a King and his name was Farhad. So basically, Shirin lived in this Castle… and… um… and she was just like this princess of like Persia. And he like… well… it’s kind of like a Rapunzel type of situation and basically Farhad came and like saved her and took her outside the castle and like gave her a new life. He was basically… he was just like her prince, but like she was the main focal point of the story as opposed to that guy. But like yeah, the story is not like too-in depth, it’s pretty short. It’s basically… just like… there is a prince and a princess and it’s like bada bing bada boom

S: But umm… yeah, my parents told me that, and basically most people who name their kids Shirin, or Shireen, will tell their children that story. It’s kind of like Rapunzel, because she is just like stuck in the castle and he like comes and saves her, but like the Persian version, haha.

K: Who is told this story?

S: Well like any Persian over the age of 45 knows it cause it’s like a children’s tale, but they always tell it to kids named Shirin

K: Do you like the story?

S: Well, yeah, because there was not a story, like growing up in America, the princesses were not named Shirin, so when I heard about a princess with my name and she was rescued by a knight in shining armor, I was like very there for it… because like yes… it was not Cinderella, aurora, or whatever the fuck and now there was finally a Shirin

K: What does it mean to you?

S: Um, I think when I was like a child, I thought that your name … actually no when I was a child I did not give a shit about that, I just thought it was so cool that I had a princess and other people didn’t. But as an adult it makes me feel better, that my name has meaning and history behind it.

Context:

The informant told this retelling while we were at a café by her school. The conversation was recorded and transcribed.

Thoughts:

First of all I love her retelling of the story, I thought it was great. But I also think that her not knowing the specifics of the story and only knowing the main ideas is okay because her take away from being told this story was that her name means something. It makes me think of the Oral-Formulaic Theory, how if she were to tell her child the story, she will probably keep the plot the same because that is what she knows, but the formulaic speech (little details) she could change up. In addition, which is what I find most interesting, is that she explained that this is a popular fairy tale, that is about a Persian princess, tell young Persian children. After doing some research, this story is actually based on a poem, which was based on a real event, of an Armenian princess named Shirin falling in love with the Kind of Persia. So, in the original story, the princess was not Persian, but to the informant its more about the name of the princess than her origins.

Here are two links to look at the original poetic version and historical version that inspired this tale. (These are not links to the absolute original version, as I don’t understand Farsi, I had difficulty procuring it):

https://www.peopleofar.com/2015/11/08/before-romeo-and-juliet-there-was-khosrow-and-shirin/

http://nazykaviani.blogspot.com/2007/08/story-of-khosrow-and-shirin-i.html

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Nowruz – Jumping over Fire

The following informant is a 22-year-old Persian-American women from Southern California. In this account she is describing a tradition that is done before Persian New Year (Nowruz). This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: For Persian New Year, what you do like the Wednesday before, is you jump over fire. The point is to basically like ward off the bad vibes of the past, and like my parents told me that if I ever don’t jump over the fire then, like you don’t actually go into the New Year with bad vibes, but like the bad vibes are going to be more prominent. So, I will always try to go to whoever’s house to jump over fire, because you know, bad vibes.

K: So do you normally go to your family’s house?

S: Yeah or like, this year I jumped over a candle with my friend, still works

K: Do all Persians partake in this tradition, or is it a specific to Persian-Americans

S: Yeah, all Persians do it, or like 70… 80… like 90%

K: Do you have to do it in a group or can you do it by yourself?

S: No, you can do it by yourself, but it’s just more fun to do it with your family. So that you can jump with someone else, so you are both leaving bad vibes in the past, that is like what typically happens.

K: What does it mean to you, to partake in the tradition?

 

S: Um, I don’t really believe that you actually leave bad vibes back in that sense, like you don’t have to jump over fire to get rid of the bad vibes of the past year. But I think it is a fun way of keeping a tradition, a cultural tradition alive. So, to me it’s just a fun cultural activity, and even though a lot of Persians don’t live in Iran, they still do it.

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. I was visiting the informant at USD, and after providing a different collection of folklore, she continued on to talk about this tradition. The conversation was recorded and transcribed

Thoughts:

I think it is a wonderful tradition. As the informant describes you don’t actually have to believe in its ability to ward off, as she says, “bad vibes” in order to participate. Any Persian can participate anywhere in the world, but still feel connected to one another.

Folk speech
general
Homeopathic
Legends
Magic
Protection

Bless You

The following informant is an 8th grader. In this account she is explaining the phrase “bless you”. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as SA and I am identified as K:

SA: So bless you, um… , so basically when you sneeze someone should tell you bless you because back when the plague was around, they thought sneezing was a certain death, so they said “god bless you” and that was like a prayer over it, so when you say bless you to someone you are praying for them

K: how did you hear about this

SA: From my mom, she used to tell us that when we were younger and now I always say bless you to people

Context: She told me this while at my house one weekend.

Thoughts:

This was something I also heard growing up, and like the informant it became drilled into my head to always say bless you. Our moms are sisters, so maybe they heard it from each other, but even growing up I heard it from my other friends. What I find most interesting is that this version, along with others I have heard over the years, its sound very religious, yet people who are not religious say it. It’s become such a common manner that you might not even realize you are blessing someone.

[geolocation]