USC Digital Folklore Archives / Kinesthetic
Customs
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Ancestral Visits

Informant Info: The informant is a 21-year-old male who was born and raised in Chanhassen, Minnesota. His parents both moved to America from India when they were in their twenties. He is currently a student at USC studying Electrical Engineering.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do your parents, being first generation immigrants, have any traditions or rituals that they’ve passed down to you?

 

Interviewee: Every time we go to India, we take the train down to my mother’s ancestral village, like where her parents and grandparents grew up. It’s really old and small… only like 20 or 30 people live there I think…so it’s really tiny. And everyone is old, I think the average age is like 80ish, not to be rude.  But it is really, really important to my mom, so we go every time.

 

Analysis:

This story represents the significance of ancestral history. Despite leaving India and coming to America, his mother’s ancestral home is still very important her. It is where she grew up with her parents, spent her childhood, and was taught all of the values and traditions that she still carries with her today. For her, she goes to pay her respects to her ancestors and her hometown, and by doing so, the informant is also learning about its importance.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Magic
Signs

Happily Ever After – Server’s Edition

Informant Info:   The informant is a 26-year-old female who was born in raised in Hickory, North Carolina. For the past 3 years, she has lived in Orlando, Florida and has worked for Walt Disney World as a Status Coordinator.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: You’ve worked for Disney for the past 3 years, almost 4 now. Have you ever encountered any traditions within locations that are outside of the realm of general work operations?

 

Interviewee: Well, I think I have one for you. When I was at Be Our Guest, there was a giant mosaic at the entrance of the restaurant. Every morning when opening, we would follow general opening procedures and then have the normal pre-shift meeting that all locations have… not that you would know since you were always closing at Satu’li (laugther)! Anyways, the mosaic, in case you don’t know, is one of the scenes of the Happily Ever After between Belle and the Beast. After pre-shift, we all had to walk outside to greet guests and drop the rope. But before doing so or starting any shift, every server would walk up to the mosaic and touch it. To them, it was like a good luck charm. In order to have a good shift, they needed to touch it and by doing so they would get lucky and have their own happily ever after by getting good tables and tips. Otherwise, without touching, they would likely have a bad shift. It sounds stupid, but it’s something I always witnessed them doing!

Analysis:

It seems almost natural that workers (or cast members, as they are called) are deriving their own superstitions off popular folklore. The mosaic that she is referring to in the story reflects the ending scene in Disney’s version of The Beauty and the Beast. It is a depiction of the ballroom scene of Belle and the Beast dancing, and the red rose blossoming in the background. This scene in the movie symbolizes the happy ending for the two, as the Belle and the (now) Prince can spend the rest of their lives together after the curse has been lifted. The superstition among the Disney servers just reflects variation on this by, as Kim points out, serving as a lucky charm for their own happily ever after… by the method of good tips!

BeautyBeast

 

Citations: Trousdale, Gary and Kirk Wise, directors. Beauty and the Beast. Walt Disney, 1991.

Photo from Google Images

Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Venezuela: Los Diablos de Yare

Informant: Los Diablos de Yare are a religious festival celebrated in Venezuela during Corpus Christi. I remember being introduced to this in school as a child. Every time the festival approached, we would make masks designed to look like devils. Then we would wear the masks and dance around. Even though the masks were designed to look like devils or monsters, they were all extremely colorful. This festivity is a yearly tradition filled with joy, family, and friends. Basically, the whole festivities are made to celebrate good over evil. This is why the masks are made to look like devils and the tradition is considered religious; the whole point is to demonstrate how good will always beat out evil. I don’t remember the origins of it exactly, but I know that it has been a Venezuelan tradition for centuries and that it has obviously evolved over the years. 

Analysis: 

This festival seems to be a very important part of Venezuelan culture. I think the reason why it is so prominent in Venezuela is because its religious. This would explain why schools make a whole celebration out of it and why the tradition has been able to survive for hundreds of years.

I wish the informant would have been able to provide more information as to where and how the tradition originated exactly, but I understand that she has been around it for so long that she just takes it to be a yearly ritual. It’s very intriguing to me that the festival depicts devils in order to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. This demonstrates a very strong imagery that plays with perceptions. It is almost as if the use of devil masks make the devils less intimidating and demonstrate to people that they are stronger than evil. In other words, the creating of this masks can work as a metaphor for taking control over ones own demons. Overall, I really liked this piece of folklore. The vivid colors used for the masks and the dances that happen all around town make it pretty clear that this festival is a time for celebration and family.

general
Kinesthetic
Material

Glow in the Dark Nunchucks

Background: I interviewed Professor Nye to talk about his raving experiences. He described his most active era to be from 1997-2001 in the underground trance music scene of the Bay Area. He attended many outdoor, open-air, camping events that are described as “underground” or not necessarily sanctioned in the same way that official music festivals, such as Coachella, or Outside Lands are.

Context: Prior to describing “glow in the dark nunchucks”, Professor Nye had been sharing his memory of one raver who was infamous for bringing neon and glow in the dark lassos to events.

“Really popular, at least in the Bay Area, because there was such a strong presence in the Asian American community- right by the glow-in-the-dark lassos you could see glow-in-the-dark nunchucks. The nunchucks were pretty great. Standard colors would be green or orange or blue were the most popular, yeah. Nunchucks, yeah.”

We were then joking how much festival security and concert security would quickly confiscate anything that could be construed as a weapon nowadays. These glow in the dark nunchucks have thus become a relic of past raves. 

 

Folk Dance
general
Kinesthetic
Material

The Cowboy Raver of the Bay Area

Background: I interviewed Professor Nye to talk about his raving experiences. He described his most active era to be from 1997-2001 in the underground trance music scene of the Bay Area. He attended many outdoor, open-air, camping events that are described as “underground” or not necessarily sanctioned in the same way that official music festivals, such as Coachella, or Outside Lands are.

Context: Professor Nye was at this point in the conversation reflecting on the colorful culture of raves, and the neon colors he associates with his memories of it.

“I’ll also introduce one figure from the mid to late 90s that I would be fascinated to know what happened to him. You’d see him at all these events. He was this amazing guy, I think he was – whether it was his regular job I don’t know- I think he was kind of a traveler who was a former cowboy or was a cowboy. And he would get dressed up and actually had, in the middle of these parties, a glow-stick lasso. And he’d be like lasso-ing with this glow in the dark lasso, or even multiple lassos, and that was pretty incredible. He was affiliated with this Bay Area trance scene that I was primarily involved in. Around ‘98, ‘99, 2000.”

Aside from the illustrious raver cowboy figure, there is an element of rave dance from the late 90s being shared here. The use of neon, glow in the dark lassos as part of the ritual of dancing in a crowd is an important aspect of the information being imparted here.

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Gestures
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Carrying the Virgins

The informant is my friend (referred to as EP) who is from Brooklyn, New York, but lives in Spain for the summer. Her father is from Spain and her mother is from Puerto Rico. Every year when she goes to Spain she lives on her family ranch that is outside of a town called Porto. She described a special religious holiday that entails all the small towns in the area coming together to celebrate.

 

EP: “Every year in May everyone wakes up at like 6 A.M all of the small villages in the area hike up a huge mountain carrying the virgins of the town up to the top of the mountain. So basically it takes the whole village to get to the top of the mountain because they are carrying the virgins.”

 

CI: “The virgins meaning..?”

 

EP: “Oh the villages each carry large statues of Virgin Mary. And then we walk all the way up this huge mountain and then when they get to the top the virgins meet… I mean all the men holding up the statues do kind of like a dance with the Virgin Mary statues, like kind of introducing all of them. It’s like 3 seconds for each village. “

 

And then basically it’s like 8 AM and we just celebrate. So we put Spanish donuts in red wine and drink at like 8:30 and we eat a lot of octopus.

 

No one has ever really told me what it’s for or why we do that in May and what the significance is but it’s just something we’ve been doing forever.”

 

I find this particularly interesting because not only does it seem like a very sacred and difficult day, but it tells a lot about the culture. People start drinking early on in order to celebrate a very sacred religious holiday. I believe the feasting is a way of praising religion and it is also interesting that after all of these years, the informant does not really know what the event is for. Despite this festival returning every year, the significance has never been explained, meaning they probably don’t discuss the holiday’s meeting at the festival. Therefore, this seems more like a passed down tradition rather than a sacred holiday.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Gestures
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

China Temple Fair

The informant is my high school friend (referred to as LM) who is American and lived in China for 4 years (2 during high school and 2 after high school). She lived with a Chinese host family and then lived on her own in Beijing for 2 years. I asked her what one of the favorite experiences she had in China was and she explained this festival.

 

LM: “There was this temple fair that is a festival kind of and definitely a really fun social activity. The temple fair I went to took place when I was living in Beijing and it’s always around Chinese New Year. So basically I went to one called the Ditan Temple Fair.  The temple fairs are all usually on the open ground in or near the temple. Some are held only during the Spring Festival. Although there are a bunch of different fairs, they are all kind of the same thing.

 

Farmers and merchants sell their produce and antiques and stuff. It is almost like a flea market and you can always barter. There is a lot of jade out and there are always fresh flowers. Snacks are made and people sing and dance and there’s even storytelling going on. It’s a lot going on and it’s really fun. Most people are out and buying things or just watching the performances.”

 

Hearing about this festival seems very communal and interactive. In comparison to many other festival events and new years that seem to be less religious or less structured. It is obviously sacred because it is done outside of festivals, but it seems like a very free and relaxed experience.

 

 

Festival
Folk Dance
Holidays
Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Gang-gang-sul-lae

Story 

Gang-gang-sul-lae is a Korean folk dance that is exclusively performed by women of the community. It is also known as Ganggangsuwollae (강강수월래 in Hangeul/ 强羌水越來 in Hanja, which are Traditional Chinese Characters. It is a traditional dance where group of women hold hands in a circle, spinning around and singing. 

My mother, who I collected this data from said: “When I learned the history of Gang-gang-sul-lae in elementary school, I was told that admiral Yi Sun-sin (이순신) , during the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 16th Century, devised a plan to dress all the women into men’s clothing and dance around in circles. Then the Japanese soliders thought that admiral Yi had a big army and retreated in intimidation.”

Context

I remember first seeing Gang-gang-sul-lae in the field of my public school when celebrating Chuseok (추석/ Mid-Autumn Festival). It was during 2005, which was the same year when I started attending elementary school. I remember my mother and I dressing up in Hanbok (한복/ Traditional Korean Attire) and having a valuable cultural experience provided by the local community. This traditional dance has significance to my mother and many other Korean women as they have partaken in Gang-gang-sul-lae themselves. Because my mother now resides in Los Angeles and has not performed the Gang-gang-sul-lae for over a decade, singing and spinning around the living room while holding her son’s hand apparently brought back a “joyous memory”. 

Analysis

Despite being well known through its role it allegedly served in the 1592-1598 Japanese invasions of Korea, Gang-gang-sul-lae’s role in modern day society serves as a symbol of Korean culture and ‘heritage’. It is rare to see youth to play though performing the dance, it can always be seen at cultural events, which are especially prevalent during traditional holidays such as the first full moon of the lunar calendar and the mid-autumn festival.

Game
Kinesthetic

Last Shot Tradition on the Basketball Court

 

Story

 

“So this is at least from what I know a very popular basketball ritual. Right as people have to leave the court and have to stop playing, somebody will shout “Last shot!”. Now it is really bad luck to end the last shot of the day as missed. So people have to take a shot and if they miss, they have to keep trying until they make it.”

 

Context

 

I collected this from my friend that I made in university. He is Asian American and grew up in the city of Walnut his whole life. He is an avid basketball player and always stayed in school to either go play basketball or go longboarding with friends. The Last Shot Tradition on the basketball court is significant to my friend as he would always miss and would have to keep trying until he made it in, which encouraged him to work on the accuracy and precision of his shots.

 

Analysis

 

This court ritual performed helps integrate the sport of basketball into a part of everyday life. By associating missed shots with “bad luck”, which may affect every part of people’s lives, people will try to improve their skills in order to make basketball not hinder the other part of their lives. Moreover, this ritual can help improve the players’ game as there can be similar scenarios in a real basketball game such as a ‘buzzer beater’, which is when one player scores as the buzzer is sounding to indicate the end of the game is.

 

 

 

 

 

Customs
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Magic
Protection
Signs

1960s Elementary School Hand Gesture

AH is the informant, my mom, and PH is myself.

PH: Do you have any folklore for my project?

AH: I don’t think I know any folklore…
(She then mentioned some stories that are told by other family members, but wasn’t comfortable telling herself.)

PH: You know so much folklore and you don’t even know it! It’s not just ghost stories, it’s sayings or games or hand movements you do, anything that you were taught in an unofficial capacity… Like, when you were younger, didn’t you put your hand up in a C or something?

AH: Oh yes, how do you know about that?

PH: You’ve told me before!

AH: How do you remember this?

PH: I just remember! Now, can you explain this to me as if I’ve never heard it before?

AH: When I was a kid in the ‘60s, and someone called you a name on the playground, teasingly or not…and now [current day] maybe you’d say “same to you, or something”…

PH: Like, “I know you are, but what am I?”

AH: Oh, yes, we had that too… So, then we would hold our hands up, and form our hands in the shape of a C with the thumb on the bottom, and curve it in the shape of a C, and so that whatever they said would zoom around the curve and go back to them like a boomerang

PH: Okay, anything else to add?

AH: Well then they would put their hands up and do the same thing and it would go back (laughs)

PH: You said “their hands”? Plural?

AH: They, as in people in general, but just one hand…. So that would’ve been the late ‘60s when people started to say “cool” and “man” and stuff like that

PH: Do you remember how you learned that?

AH: No, it was…I don’t know if it was made up in our school or if it was something everyone did at that time

PH: What age would you do this?

AH: I’d say.. Probably second through fifth grade

PH: Do you think it was an age thing, that everyone at that age was doing it, or a time period thing, as in people from different age groups were all doing it at that time…?

AH: I doubt if high schoolers would do it… It might’ve gone to middle school..

PH: Does this have a name?

AH: Ohh… shoot. I don’t know.. “Back to you?” I don’t know.

PH: So there was a name?

AH: No probably not.. I wonder if it had anything to do with Star Trek, which was around that time too! (laughs)

PH: Really? Just because it’s a hand movement?

AH: No, I don’t know! (Laughs)

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