Author Archive
Foodways
Material

Swedish Coffee Cake

Main Piece
Swedish Coffee Cake – its very good. Its key ingredient is cardamom, which is a spice. You make the whole thing from scratch, so after you make the dough, you braid, you roll it out, and then depending on what you want in it, its usually sugar, cinnamon, and raisins, some people like raisins, some don’t, and then nuts, and then you roll it up, and then when you’re making Swedish Coffee Cake, you make it in a circle. And then you take scissors and then cut it all the way around so you can flip the sides. We made this all the time really – it was so good, the kids loved it, so it wasn’t really for a specific occasion, its just what you did. I stopped making it because kneading dough is really hard and tough on the hands and arms, unless you were going to buy the dough, but I always made it. It is hard though, you have to bake the dough, punch it down, and then it rises again, and you have to punch it back down, it’s a lot of work.

Background
The informant of this piece was born in America, yet her family comes from Sweden. She was taught this traditional recipe from her mother, and would make it very often for her children. Her children affirmed loving it and having it all the time, and mentioned they wish they still made it.

Context
The informant of this piece is a 79-year-old women, born in America to the family of Swedish immigrants. The information was collected outside a home in Palm Springs, California on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I wish that this traditional recipe had been passed down and used in my family! I would love to be able to celebrate my historical culture, even if through specific, traditional recipes! I find it really interesting that I have never tried it – even with the informant helping make important meals shared by the whole family, it has not been made, to my knowledge. I think it really interesting that specifically Swedish coffee cake is said to be made in a circle – I feel like most cakes are circular, although the use of scissors to flip the dough is interesting. It makes sense that it became harder and harder to make as the informant got older, but a big part of me wishes that wasn’t the case.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Santa Lucia Candle Crowns on Christmas

Main Piece
Put that down, that on Christmas eve, Santa Lucia, L-U-C-I-A: Girls would wear real candles in their hair on Church service on Christmas eve, in a crown. It was really annoying because the wax would melt into the hair, and you always thought your hair was going light on fire.
I’m not sure what exactly it stemmed from – I know it is an old Swedish tradition. I don’t just remember why – people didn’t ask, people didn’t care, but we did it. There is definitely a reason behind it, but we definitely forgot it.

Background
The informant had grown up in a religious home, and made note of the different traditions she saw over the course of her life. She took part in this tradition, and therefore can talk about her experience. This occurrence was during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and she is unsure if they are still continuing the tradition, although she believes that they are.

Context
The informant who provided this information is a 52-year-old Caucasian women, born and raised in Southern California. The information was collected while sitting outside her home in Palm Desert, California, on the 20th of April, 2019.

Analysis
This tradition is really interesting to me, due to the fact that I never personally experienced this tradition. Being raised in the same religious way as the informant, I would have expected to have seen this tradition, yet I have not. I do think that it seems like a dangerous tradition, and I am glad to not have taken part in it or seen it thus far. I believe that the tradition relates back to Saint Lucy and her martyrdom, using candles to light her way bringing food to hidden Christians in the 3rd century. I find it interesting however, that the informant does not know what the tradition actually represents, but they still continued practicing it. I think this may be due to the idea that the tradition is representing the religion in a way, and although even if not known the exact reason, the commemoration of the religion is enough for the informant.

For another version of this tradition, please see Florence Ekstrand’s 1998 Lucia, Child of Light (Welcome Press).

Folk speech

“Full of the Dickens” – Southern Saying

“Full of the Dickens”
Full of the Dickens. My grandma used to say that – he is full of the dickens. It means you’re silly, naughty. It was from the south, I think. Honestly, I think you’re full of the dickens, really.

Background
The informant who provided this information was born and raised in Southern California, yet her mother and that following side of the family was from the Southern part of the United States – referred to by her as, “the south”. Her mother and other relatives would use a lot of southern sayings and slang, and she likes to use it when she can, because it makes her think of her family. She also jeers at the collector with the saying, continuing the tradition.

Context
The informant who provided this information is a 52-year-old Caucasian women, born and raised in Southern California. The information was collected while sitting outside her home in Palm Desert, California, on the 20th of April, 2019.

Analysis
I really enjoyed collecting this piece from my mother – it is a saying passed down through the family to her, and now to me! This transmission of folklore is both exciting and characterizing of folklore itself. I think it is really interesting to see the specific things the informant remembers and repeats from childhood – it must mean it stuck out back then as interesting, and has lasted thus far. I do not believe I am “full of the dickens”, but if she characterizes me as such, I very well may be! I think the use of this saying helps her connect back and remember her mother and grandmother, and keeping the saying alive keeps her family alive and memorializes them, in a way.

Legends
Narrative

Lonnie Lake

Main Piece
Lonnie Lake
Well there is the Lonnie Lake tale. Well, So, there was a horror story they would tell us at YSSC, Yosemite Sierra Summer Camp. There was a story that, this is told to 13-year-old boys, so, there is a lake in Yosemite that is not even on the map. so, like, It was a lake in kind of like the finger lakes area, on the Yosemite side of the national forest whatever boundary, and it was a place apparently so dangerous that they removed it from the map. So not even on the map. So the story goes that there was the spirit this Native American women who was hurt brutally hurt by young braves, and her way of revenge was drowning young boys in the lake. It’s called Lonnie Lake, and that’s where she died, and that’s where her spirit lives, a native American spirit, who drowned boys in the lake. And you’re not supposed to go to Lonney Lake, because if you go in the lake, she drowns you. I was told this by the staff of the camp, so don’t ever go to Lonney Lake and don’t go in, because there will a native American spirit and she will drown you.

Background
Yosemite Sierra Summer Camp is a Christian Adventure camp located near Bass Lake, California, right near Yosemite National Park. The camp includes all sorts of different activities, including lake activities like water skiing and wakeboarding. The campers range in age from 8-16, with the informant recalling a time when he was 13-years-old. The camp is located on Bass Lake, with the story about a different lake named “Lonnie Lake”.

Context
The informant is a 25-year-old man, born and raised in a Christian family in Southern California. The information was collected while inside his family home in Palm Desert, California, on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I thought it was really interesting to hear about this tale, for I had also attended this same camp, but had never heard this tale. I enjoyed how the informant identified this story correctly as a tale, instead of legend or myth, which would have been incorrect. Upon further research, I cannot find any evidence of this “Lonnie Lake”, yet tales involving Native American spirits are common. I wonder about the purpose of creating a cautionary tale about a lake that truly doesn’t exist. I also think it interesting for such a tale to be shared at a Christian camp, for the religion does not endorse ghosts or vengeful ghost-spirits. I think it must be really fun for the participants of the tradition to tell the story and try to scare the campers, but I do not think that the telling of the story has any meaningful link to Native American tradition. Instead, it utilizes the native american tradition in another way.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Touching the Fire

Main Piece
I don’t know how it started, but every year during homecoming, the freshman are in charge of building a big bonfire in the center of the green at Dartmouth, and you run around it for as many years of your graduation year, plus 100 now because it started in the 1900’s, so for example for my 2018, we were supposed to run around 118 times, but usually we just ran around 18 times. The upperclassmen would stand on the outside and like, jeer and stuff. So every year, something they want the freshman to do is to touch the fire, it is like a sign of being cool, like if you touch the fire, because its dangerous or whatever, and even now the police surround it, because they really don’t want people to do it, so it is really hard to do. So like, every year, all the upperclassmen scream “touch the fire! Touch the fire!”, and at least one person will do it every year. So this year, they even put a chainlink fence around the fire, but people still hopped it and touched it. And you are known for the rest of your Dartmouth experience for it.

Background
The informant attended Dartmouth University in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she learned this story. She learned of this through experience and action, although she never personally touched the fire. She heard of the change this year through her college friends.

Context
The informant is a 23-year-old women, born and raised in Southern California. She attended Dartmouth up until last year, having graduated in 2018. She provided this information while sitting outside her family home in Palm Springs, California on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I love this tradition, but really am saddened to see institutions destroying traditions in the name of social progress or “safety”. I mean, it makes sense that the university wouldn’t want students touching a bonfire, for their own safety, but also that the university doesn’t wanted to leave itself open to a lawsuit. I just think they should not endorse the tradition, but not forcefully try to stop it! I love how enduring traditions are when they are held by a large group of people – even though the school is trying to stop the students, they have not been able to. With a university as old as Dartmouth, it makes complete sense that they have a lot of long-term, enduring traditions. I also love how legendary you become after taking part of the tradition – if I attended Dartmouth University, I would be sure to try my best to touch it! The continuation of this tradition in verbal form allows the informant to interact back with her own experience in the tradition, keeping it alive in her mind, but also in the world by passing it on.

general

The Ledyard Challenge

Main Piece
The Ledyard Challenge
L-e-d-y-a-r-d. So, like, stripping your clothes is illegal in Vermont, but public nudity is illegal in New Hampshire, so there is this bridge that goes over the Connecticut river, which is the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, and Dartmouth is just on the New Hampshire side, so you can walk across the bridge and go into Vermont. So what a lot of students do is you strip your clothes on the New Hampshire side, and then swim across to Vermont, where it is legal to be naked but can’t take your clothes off, and then get out of the water and run the bridge to New Hampshire. We would do it at night.

Background
The informant attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where this tradition takes place. Although completely unofficial and unsponsored by the university, this tradition is passed down by students, to students. The informant took part in this tradition during her time in college.

Context
The informant is a 23-year-old woman, born and raised in Southern California. She attended Dartmouth College from 2014-2018. This information was provided to me outside her family home in Palm Springs, California on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I think this tradition is hilarious, and would have loved to take part in it if I attended Dartmouth College. While my familial relation to the informant is slightly unnerving, I still find the story, and the tradition, to be really fun. I wonder if the laws behind the “challenge” are true, and also how much the school knows about the tradition. If the school is trying to stop other traditions, would they try to stop this one as well? I bet this is a really fun way for students to do something “crazy” and bond with each other. Taking part in this tradition must help the students feel really part of the school – its past, the present, and its future. Through the tradition, the students are really validating their place as students in the school, taking part of the specifically Dartmouth culture.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Trip to the Sea

Main Piece
John Ledyard was a Dartmouth student, and he paddled a canoe from Dartmouth, all the way to the ocean. So every year now since then, we do something called the “Trip to the Sea”, where they model his journey, and you canoe from Dartmouth down the Connecticut river out to the Atlantic Ocean, over by Connecticut.

Background
The informant was a student at Dartmouth College, where she observed this tradition taking place. She did not participate in the tradition, but knew closely someone who did. Dartmouth College is situated high on the Connecticut River, which drains out south through Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and then to Connecticut, connecting it with the Atlantic Ocean.

Context
The informant is a 23-year-old women, born and raised in Southern California. She graduated Dartmouth College in 2018, having attended since 2014. This information was provided to me while seated outside her family home in Palm Springs, California, on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I would love to claim to want to participate in this tradition, but after consulting a map, I don’t think I would want to. The trip is really long, spanning four different states! However, I love that this tradition has continued and that they do it every year! I think that the students who complete the Trip to the Sea must feel very proud and accomplished, and I bet receive great respect from other students. This seems typical of Dartmouth – they seem to have many outdoor activities and traditions, probably from being so isolated up in the woods! I also find it interesting that this John Ledyard has two seperate traditions rooted with his name at Dartmouth – must have been very influential. According to the additional research I did in the Dartmouth Folklore Collection, this ritual has a further tradition: the participants row nude through Hartford, Connecticut, until they reach the city boundaries. It is also only the seniors who take part in the trip – making the ritual into something looked forward to over their Dartmouth career, truly cementing the ritual as a kind of initiation-like ritual, including the students into a longstanding history of others who have completed the trip.

For another collection of this ritual, please see the Dartmouth Folklore Collection. It can be found online, or currently through this hyperlink: https://journeys.dartmouth.edu/folklorearchive/2016/05/27/trips-to-the-sea/

Legends
Narrative

Robert Johnson: Deal with the Devil

Main Piece
You know the story of Robert Johnson, right? He traded his soul to the devil to play guitar. So the idea is that the devil never holds his side of the bargain, so this is why you never make a deal with the devil. So this is like the most famous rock and roll lore, so basically this was back in the 1920’s, and he was a struggling African American guitarist, and he wanted to be famous, so the story goes he met the devil at the crossroads, and told the devil “I wanna be famous, I wanna be a famous musician, I wanna be successful”, or whatever. So the devil told him, “If you give me your soul, I will make you famous for 10 years and you will live as a celebrity and be successful, so he accepted the deal, and then recorded one album, there was just one album, and then what is spooky is the album has guitar progressions that people don’t know how to replicate even today, but the devil doesn’t hold up his side of the deal, so he died like 8 months after the recording of the album. So he released this song, its called “Hellhound on my Trail”, and its this very spooky, scary song about someone who thinks they are being hunted down by this supernatural malevolent force. Super interesting song, highly recommend you check it out, but the idea is there that the devil will not hold up its side of the deal, and will kill you, destroy you, and make you suffer forever if you make a deal with him. So basically, its telling you, don’t ever make a deal with the devil because he will destroy you.

Background
The informant played in a worship band as a kid, and is therefore informed on both guitar-player lore as well as Christian lore. The tale seems to be a combination of both, but the informant was not sure where exactly he learned the tale.

Context
The informant is a 25-year-old man, born and raised in Southern California. The information was provided to me outside his family home in Palm Springs, California, on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I found this tale to remind of me other proscriptive tales, especially in terms of the “deal with the devil” aspect. I totally remember being told other stories as a child relating to the reasoning behind why you never make a deal with the devil, but had never heard this exact story. I do like how part of the story is based in fact, with the song being able to be looked up, but research shows me that the informant is slightly incorrect with his telling of the tale, although that is common in folklore, due to the nature of multiplicity and variation. I learned that the song actually hails from 1937, and does actually exist. It is interesting to me that the informant claims this to be one of the biggest pieces of rock and roll lore, yet I had never heard it before!

Legends
Narrative

Colorado Springs Haunted Mine

Main Piece
So there is this mine in Colorado springs, and what happened was a school bus full of children was murdered in the mine in the 1950’s, and so the myth is that if you cover your car with baby powder, and then drive in like the middle of the mine, because you can drive through part of it, and then you park and you turn off everything, and you come out, after you turn your lights on and stuff, and there will be handprints where the baby powder was. You hear children laughing too. We’ve done it, and like yeah you see handprints, and so nobody really knows what it is. I mean, it might be like water dripping or something, but its legit so creepy.

Background
The informant grew up in Colorado, and therefore learned many of the area specific stories and traditions. She specifically lived near Colorado Springs, where she claims this mine to be. She did not state the name of the mine, but insisted she had been there from personal experience.

Context
The informant is a 25-year-old women studying law at Loyola in Los Angeles. The information was collected outside my family home in Palm Springs, California on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
This ‘textbook’ scary story is classic of horror narratives – there is an old murder, and ghosts who still haunt those grounds. I think this story is interesting in particular because the ghosts here are children, which makes it all the more creepy. This doesn’t seem to be a cautionary tale, but one of more intrigue and suggesting of trying it out. I really like that the informant had tried out the tale, and had confirmed it as being true, although she offers her own possible explanation for what causes the marks in the powder on your car. I think it must be really fun and possibly scary for those taking part in the tradition, but they are really keeping the memory of the dead children, if they really existed, alive. Even if the background of the tale is not fully true, the ritual and tradition associated with it continue to keep the mine and its questionable history relevant.

[geolocation]