Author Archive
Folk speech
Proverbs

Beware the Golden Handcuffs

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Other language(s): French
Age: 52
Occupation: n/a
Residence: California
Performance Date: 4-18-18

 

 

What it is: “Beware the Golden Handcuffs”

Why they know it:  This was a saying that was thrown around her law office

When is it said:. Reference when warning someone. The proverb is said when someone gets greedy, is asking for to much, or gets that ‘sparkle in their eye’ around things of high monetary value or spiritual/emotional value.

Where did it come from: She is unaware of where it comes from but has used and heard it for decades.

Why it’s said:. “Golden handcuffs refers to something that starts off super super great but slowly starts to control your movements because the great part is too financially or emotional hard to give up. For instances, Brianna joined an organization that really benefits her life style as a working mother giving her a ton of flexibility with her hours. Over the years she might have wanted to change jobs in order to be more intellectually challenged but she couldn’t give up the flexible hours. For me, the salary at White & Case [her law office] was so huge that even though I really thought about working for the courts or becoming a professor, I couldn’t give up the money.”

Thoughts: The proverb above has really impacted me but not only in the way its explained. I can also see this being applicable to the things that cause the “sparkle” in your eye. As warning against greed and that nothing comes for free or without consequences.

Customs
general
Legends
Life cycle
Musical
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

May you find Peace, The Eagle in the sky

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Other language(s):  Italian, a bit of Hebrew
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Performance Date: 3-15-18

 

What it is: May you find Peace, Traditional Native American Burial Ceremony

The performance I witnessed was a traditional Native American Funeral Ceremony.

A few weeks after the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara, California and the subsequent mud slide and after every missing person (except Jack Canton) was found, Jack’s best friend Cozmali and his family conducted a beautiful traditional Native American ceremony. The ceremony consisted of music and prayers. This ceremony is highly sacred and private and was not able to be video taped. Altogether (with testimonials included) the ceremony was approximately an hour and a half.

We were explained that the ceremony is about helping Jack find peace on his new journey as well as letting him know he is all on our thoughts. The ceremony however was a bit unusual as we did not have Jack’s body present; thus, certain aspects were left out or adapted to our situation. These objects were also involved: drums, feathers, ash, talking stick, and blankets. The Drums were used during the vocal portion of the ceremony (i.e. chants and songs). The feathers, of an Eagle, were used as a visual representation of Jack’s new journey. The ash was passed around, individuals would pinch some ash and then travelled to the water to “set Jack free”. This aspect was normal done with a mixture of a fires ash and a small bit of Jack’s possessions (or ashes), but since we have not found his body we used ashes from a fire. The talking stick was used so that we could all share stories and memories. Lastly, the blankets were wrapped around Jack’s mother and grandparents to represent the community they had supporting them. At the conclusion an Eagle flew over head, circling us, and we all broke out crying because we knew Jack was going to be ok.

Why they know it:  I personally witnessed the ceremony

When is it said: This specific ceremony is conducted after a death

Where did it come from: The Chumash

Why it’s said: To give the ones we lost peace and to help aid them on their journey

How they know it and what it means: Cozmali has been raised in this culture that dates back centuries and has been taught this process by witnessing it first hand and by his elders. He is not ready to lead the ceremony on his own; however, is very close to being able to do so. This is a cultural tradition that changes with the passing of time; all-the-while remaining very much the same.

Thoughts: Personally, witnessing this ceremony greatly lessoned the pain I was feeling about Jack’s loss. He was a friend of my brother and a positive member of my community. He created philanthropy groups and was an Eagle Scout. Because he was missing, I kept thinking he’d show up alive but after the ceremony, I believe it provided me with the closer I needed to move on and help spread his greatness. The ceremony was beautiful, all-the-while, deeply educationally. This tribe is a part of my home, native to Santa Barbara area; thus, provided me with cultural knowledge of my hometown. This was also a sign that Jack is still with us, as he was a huge advocate for knowledge.

Customs
Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A New Year’s Salad

Nationality: Russian/Ukrainian
Primary Language: Russian
Other language(s):  English
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Performance Date: 4-1-18

 

 

What it is: Traditional Salad

“On new year’s eve, Russians traditionally put this salad on the table including potato, bologna or meat, egg, pickles, cucumber, boiled carrot, onion, mayonnaise (Russian) (sour cream can be replaced), canned peas, and salt. Always has to be there for New Year’s Eve, especially when hosting a New Year’s Eve party. I have been told this and it is a common belief among Russins: It is said that if you get drunk enough on New Year’s Eve one person (usually a man) will get drunk enough and pass out in the salad and its good luck for that person and everyone for a year.”

Why they know it:  She is Russian/Ukrainian and has eaten this dish many times.

When is it eaten: New Year’s Eve

Where did it come from: Russia/Ukraine

Why its eaten: This is a traditional dish and is often thought to give good luck to the person (and people at the party) if someone gets drunk enough and passes out in the salad.

How they know it and what it means: Valery has eaten the dish every New Year’s Eve and has seen her grandmother make it many times. Not only is it a traditional Russian/Ukrainian dish but this dish has also become part of her family’s traditions.

Thoughts: Through my investigations I have found that there is always a traditional dish, perhaps not a salad, but un every culture and every family. While I cannot relate to this specific dish, nor do I know what it tasks like, I can relate to the experience, the feelings you get when you make the dish and eat it with the ones you care about. This tradition definitely seems like fun, what’s better than good luck for everyone?

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Mushroom Circles

Nationality: Russian/Ukrainian
Primary Language: Russian
Other language(s):  English
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Performance Date: 4-1-18

 

What it is: Fairy Circles

“I heard a story about fairy circles that since from a scientific perspective, the mushrooms grow in a circle because there used to be tree roots there. Since the tree is no longer there, that makes it a tree grave. Since humans are not part of nature, but fairies and spirits are, they are allowed into the gravesite and we are not. If humans go into the circle, the fairies get mad at the humans for interrupting their funeral ceremony and steal the people.”

Why they know it:  This was something that was once told to Valery that she has held on to ever since.

When is it said: This is not something that is told at a specific time or for a specific reason other than to help explain where ‘fairies’ have come from. This concept is something a lot of people believe in, in many different areas, she herself believes in fairies. The myth above is told in several different settings: normal conversation, after a class, during a movie (about fairies), etc.

Where did it come from: She is not entirely sure where this came from. This example has been told to many people. She heard it from a friend, who had heard it from a friend, who had heard it from their grandmother, and so on. So this has been passed around for years and across so many people.

Why it’s said: It’s said for context. There isn’t a specific reasoning behind it. It can also be used as a warning to be cautious around fairy circles.

How they know it and what it means: Valery knows the meaning from her friend but also from others who have told her similar to or the same thing. This, however, is not something she can say she knows with one-hundred percent certainty as she has not seen the fairies that live, party, exist in fairy circles.

Thoughts: Growing up I used to see these ‘fairy circles’ all over our backyard. I was always told to be careful around mushrooms so I never went to close; however, I never knew the background, to what I always thought was just mother nature. Now knowing this I can say that I too believe in these fairies and the graveyards of tree that were once there. I have always been interested in stories, myths, legends of things that are somewhat magical because I always believe the magic is what made it so beautiful. While I am not a fan of mushrooms, I can appreciate this story and have looked at grassy lands differently… seeking for the fairies.

Customs
Festival
general
Holidays

Intricate Eggs

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s):  n/a

Age: 81

Occupation: n/a

Residence: California

Performance Date: 3-15-18

 

 

What it is: Painted Eggs

“My best friend, your mother’s Aunt Helene Balaban, perserved the Ukrainian tradition of painted eggshells. She explained it as: you would take the egg and use a tiny straight pin to put a hole on each side of the egg. Once the eggs have been pinned you gently blow the egg yolk out (through the hole) so that all was left was the shell, this makes sure that the egg would not rot. This step has to be done very very carefully so that the egg shell does not break. The outside is then painted in traditional Ukrainian colors and patterns. These are then presented as gifts (house warming gift, holiday gifts, birthday gifts, even the smallest events could be used to give out these beautiful objects). This is a very intricate process, because it was so easy to crake the shell but a very fun one all the same. After the eggs are painted, they are then varnished.”

Why they know it:  Valerie was give an egg by her best friend and asked about the background to them.

When is it done: These are done for any event. Traditionally, they are a holiday gift and given to friends, family, and neighbors.

Where did it come from: Ukraine

Why it’s done: Since the process is so intricate and time consuming, these eggs are done to represent the love the painter has for the recipient. While these are given at events like a house warming party (or even just as a gift), the recipient would know how much they are cared for because they can see how much time and effort went in to making these objects.

How they know it and what it means: Helene Balaban knows of this tradition from her mother, who knows of it from her mother, and so on. This has been passed down through generations. Valerie knows of this tradition because she received the beautifully painted egg and is very close with Helene who told her of the tradition.

Thoughts: I really wish that I have seen one of these eggs. While I have not met Helene Balaban, she is part of my family and thus I share her culture like she shares mine. Knowing that this is something that meant a great deal to her and subsequently my Grandmother makes me value this tradition, even though I haven’t witnessed it. I know hope to continue this tradition and not only show my love for my friends and family, but for my Great Aunt as well by continuing her traditions.

Narrative
Proverbs

May you be in heaven

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s): French, a bit of Hebrew

Age: 18

Occupation: Student

Residence: California

Performance Date: 4-5-18

What it is: May you be in Heaven a half an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead

Why they know it: “This is a proverb that is said fairly regularly in our family.”

When is it said: “We say this as a blessing, like at Thanksgiving Dinner or even our Friday night dinners. When you are wishing someone good luck, especially if they are trying to get away with something. For example, if my brother is trying to pull a risky prank on my father, I would say ‘May you be in Heaven a half an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead’.”

Where did it come from: It is part of a longer Irish blessing

Why its said: Issuing good luck, as a blessing, in passing, etc.

How they know it and what it means: This is something that has been said since Amanda can remember and has thus been absorbed into her vocabulary. The meaning comes from an experience of use as well as from her parents, sister, grandparents, etc.

Thoughts: This is something I say a lot. When I wish my friends luck, or if even I try to get away with something that is remotely risky. There are tons of meanings to this and they all come from the person saying it or receiving the proverb.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Signs

The Veil

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s):  French

Age: 52

Occupation: n/a

Residence: California

Performance Date: 3-25-18

 

What it is: Tea Leafs and the Veil

“Papa’s Grandmother had been taught how to read tea leaves from a very young age. She was what is not considered to be a gypsy but in Ireland they call them travelers. So she was an Irsish ‘gypsy’ and would read tea leafs. Even in her old age she would, after drinking tea (afternoon), would read the leaves. My grandfather would have to beg to read the leave, she wouldn’t always do it. She also was said to have second sight (see what would happen in the future). One of her sons had been born with a piece of the placenta attached to his face, and this was considered to be a great omen, so she preserved it. The say is ‘If you were lucky enough to be born with the veil’. When he was in World War II, papa remembers her becoming very concerned about him and sent him the placenta in the mail. He was in a great fierce battle after he had received his mother package and was the only one in his platoon to survive.”

Why they know it:  Meghan was told the story from her father about ‘the veil’ and her grandmother reading the tea leaves but never witnessed it herself.

When is it said: This is a family legend and is told at family events or when sharing family stories to others.

Where did it come from: Ireland

Why it’s said: Enjoyment and nostalgia

How they know it and what it means: This is something that has been passed on.

Thoughts: I have always believed in ‘witches’ and people being able to sense things others can’t. I’ve always believed I have been able to do so as well. So hearing about my Great Great Grandmother, who was able to do something similar makes me feel connected to my ancestors in a completely different way. As well as being connected to a ‘homeland’ I have never been too. Through these investigations I have learned a great deal about myself, my family, my culture, but I have also learned a great deal about the commonalities I have with people I have never met, peoples of lands I have never visited, etc. It makes me feel as if I have a whole new circle of connections and knowledge that I never knew existed.

Legends
Myths
Narrative

The Montage

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s):  French

Age: 52

Occupation: n/a

Residence: California

Performance Date: 3-23-18

 

What it is: Thy shall never prosper

In Kapalua Bay, on the west side of the Island of Maui, there is a legend about a plot of land. This specific plot has been the location of several hotels that have never seemed to be able to prosper. The land that is built upon was the ruins of a very famous battle, and is thus, sacred Hawaiian land. In the last decade alone, the hotel has changed hands three times. The Ritz Carlton had been there and has since changed hands and is currently the Kapalua Bay Montage Hotel.

Why they know it:  This is an island legend. Our family friends who live on the island have told us this before and it is now something that we always bet about. “I bet this one won’t last a year”, etc.

When is it said: This is something that is more talked about in passing or when it comes up. For example, “have you heard that the Ritz changed hands again? It’s because of the curse of the land.”

Where did it come from: Old Hawaiian Legend

Why its said: This doesn’t have much meaning other than it is meant to add context to current situations. It is also often used to estimate how long the next development will last.

Thoughts: I don’t always believe in legends that affect the natural world to the extent this one does. However, I have personally witnessed this happen over the years. Thus, I believe that the ancient Hawaiian burial ground does in fact have the power to affect the natural world. Now, I am not sure if the power is magical or if it is a matter of psychological influence by the natives, on to the natives, and onto the tourists. None-the-less, this legend is something that has appear in mundane life. The legend above is also relatable to legends of similar sorts, such as haunted houses, the ‘evil witch’ of the neighborhood, specific plot of land, etc.

 

general
Humor

Smart Pills

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s):  

Age: 55

Occupation: Banker

Residence: California

Performance Date: 3-12-18

 

 

What it is: Smart Pills

“One day, when I was around seven years old, my grandfather had come over for dinner. He beckoned me to him and whispered in my ear, ‘have you ever heard of smart pills?’. I replied ‘no’ at which point he went on to explain, all-the-while, telling me that this was between us. So he explained that if I ever wanted to prank my friends I needed to do this. He said that I should go around our backyard a pick rabbit pellets (because they best resembled a pill). Once I had the pellets, I needed to put them in a medicine tube (the orange prescription bottles you get from your medicine).  Then he said ‘at school, or after school (probably after school when you are all playing), ask your friends if they wanted to be smarter. When they reply yes, hand out the pills, but stop them just before they put it in their mouths. Explain to them that it is actually a rabbit pellet and not safe to eat. When they ask why’d you do that? What was that for? etc. tell them ‘Hey. I did make you smarter…now you’ll think twice when asked if you want a smart pill.’”

Why they know it:  His grandfather told this to him and he has since passed it on to his kids.

When is it said: This is said when someone wants to prank their friends (of course they stop their friends from actually eating the ‘smart pills’). This is meant to be funny.

Where did it come from: Not known

Why its said: It is usually told to those who need a good prank

How they know it and what it means: Robert was told this by his grandfather

Thoughts: While I personally have never tried to trick my friends into taking rabbit pellets, I can imagine that this would be quite amusing. This prank seems quite mischievous which is part of the reason why I never partook in the prank; however, I believe that this is an excellent example of what folklore is. The sharing of knowledge across time. While this is not the best knowledge to spread it gives an insight into who the people who were taught and teach this legend.

 

Customs
Game

Whiffle Ball

Nationality: Russian

Primary Language: English

Other language(s):  Russian

Age: 22

Occupation: Student

Residence: California

Performance Date: 4-3-18

 

What it is: Whiffle ball

“Growing up my dad,.. I don’t know he always played sports so he played and passed it down, taught us this game. In teams of two, in my backyard and on a tennis court, we played this game that had made up rules. So they kind of changed as you played. Every Friday in the dark we’d play with certain rules. If you hit over the left side, automatically 3 outs and next inning, if you hit to the right you get to hit again. All the same baseball rules apply with differences. If you hit and run to base, you are on offense and get the ball but can’t get to the base, you can throw the ball at the runner and if it hits them they are out. This was a game we played often, every Friday night and holidays, with the whole family (we’d have huge teams).”

Why they know it:  This game was passed on from her father who played it a lot growing up and showed it to Whitney and her siblings.

When is it played: In her family fairly regularly; however, this could be played everyday (during recess, at picnics, family dinners, etc).

Where did it come from: She wasn’t quite sure. All she could tell me was her father played it as a kid.

Why its done: The game offers pure enjoyment. There isn’t a specific meaning other than this game brings people together and allows them to joke and play.

How they know it: Whitney knows this game because of her father.

Also seen as/played by: In elementary school, I would play a similar game… at least it was also called whiffle ball. While Whitney’s version was similar to baseball, our version was more closely aligned to the “hot lava monster” or “hot potato. We would stand/sit on desks and throw a soft ball across the room. Before you threw the ball you had to make eye contact, say something that pertained to the topic of choose (for example, birds) and throw the ball. If the person you’re throwing it too didn’t catch it, they were out. And the game would continue till one was left, then they choose the next topic and it continued.

Thoughts: While our versions are completely different, I can understand the game Whitney’s father passed on to her because of my experiences. Thus, I feel as if I am connected to Whitney in a closer way because of our shared experiences. In my opinion, I think games, like the one above, are one of the best examples of folklore, how the folklore changes, and how its incorporated into everyday life.

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