USC Digital Folklore Archives / Rituals, festivals, holidays
Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The White Foul Line

Baseball is rife with superstitions, my informant is a long-time player and as a pitcher he describes to me the longest-stranding baseball taboo.

“You don’t step on the white foul line when taking the field, ever, not just pitchers, but all players, but especially pitchers. When I go out to the mound I jump over it with my right foot, and always my right foot. It’s bad juju if you step on the line, nobody steps on the line, it just isn’t done. It’s bad luck. It’s always been that way. I don’t know who I learned it from, it’s just always been done as long as I can remember.”

Analysis:

Baseball superstitions, rituals, charms, and taboos usually are surrounding those circumstances which are not totally in the player’s control, that is pitching and hitting usually. This particular superstition is not stepping on the foul line when taking the field. It is quite an old superstition that has no particular origin with a certain player, but one players of all caliber pay attention to. It is supposed to prevent bad luck in a game when one play can change the entire game. Because it is so old and established as a taboo, players simply adhere because all those players before them have done so, so it must work, and the players will do anything that works. One bad pitch or one great hit and the game could turn for the worse. A pitcher can do all he can to play perfectly, but he cannot control the batter’s actions, therefore this leaves a lot of room for superstitions. It is human nature to want to control one’s surroundings and this is just a little taboo that allows a player in his mind to control the outcome however small.

 

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dragon Boat Festival

There was once a poet called Qu Yuan. He witnessed his country falling apart. With full patriotism, he committed suicide by jumping into the Yangzi River. People commemorate him nowadays by celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival. Celebration includes dragon boat racing and dumping rice dumplings into the water.

This is an interesting festival, and I can’t think of any American festivals or holidays that celebrate someone committing suicide.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Bear Statue

At Interlochen in Michigan. There was always a statue of a bear on campus, and it was a tradition for everyone just to pee on the bear. Usually just done at the end of the year cause it’s usually snowy during the rest of the year. Started by academy kids, no idea how it really started. I actually did it once. It was funny because sometimes people who didn’t know would sit on the bear, and it was really gross.

There is a really weird tradition, but it makes sense that it would come from a bunch of kids at an away-from-home school.

 

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fighting Blueberries

At my high school before I got there, there was a soccer team named the Fighting Blueberries because it was an art school and nobody did sports. And then a group of latino men wanted to reform it and named it the Rainbow Twinks. They were very proud of it. It was a tradition to give the soccer team a silly name every time.

This is funny, as most of my experiences with high school sports teams have been pretty serious names.

Customs
general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Throwing Pennies

At summer camp—there’s a horn solo in Liszt Les Prelude. People in the orchestra supposed to throw pennies at the horn player. Camp has been around since the 1800s. Heard about it from other people in the orchestra, but I never saw it happen.

This took place at the informant’s high school, Interlochen.

This seems like a really bizarre tradition, and it’s kind of strange that it was talked about and passed along by students, but never followed through during my informant’s time there.

Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Whoppers

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Brie, while I walked with her to the grocery store. She told me about a tradition in her family of telling stories called “Whoppers”, which were kind of like campfire stories. Her grandfather, or “papa”, was the one to mainly uphold this tradition within the family.

Brie: “In my family we always told ‘Whoppers’, so we’d always tell, like, stories around the campfire.”

Me: “‘Whoppers’, it was called?”

Brie: “Whoppers. And basically they’re just not true stories. And… he was really good at that, my papa…”

Me: “Can you give me an example of a Whopper?”

Brie: “The Green Monster…”

Me: “The what?”

Brie: “He would always say, like, The Green— or, what was it…? The Shadow… my papa would do this voice, like (raspy), ‘The Shadow,’ and it was like… I’m trying to remember. It was just terrifying. But… hold on, let me think real quick…”

Me: “How do you spell ‘Whopper’?”

Brie: “‘Whopper’? Um– I think, like a– you know, like a ‘Double Whopper’.”

Me: “Oh ok, like Burger King?”

Brie: (Laughs very hard) “Yep. No, it was just a thing in my family, telling Whoppers. I never was good at it, but my cousins would come up with really good Whoppers.”

Me: “Do you know where–uh– where your grandfather got, like, the term ‘Whopper’ from? Did he just make that up or what was it?”

Brie: “So he grew up in, like, South Boston… one of eight kids, and… you know, Scotch family, Catholic, um… he… I don’t– I think it was his dad that began the Whoppers.”

Me: “What made a good Whopper?”

Brie: “A good Whopper was, like, got you on the edge of your seat, like… you know, it was kinda scary, kinda suspenseful, but also, like, funny and far-fetched. So a little of, like, all of that, kinda.”

It was really cool to see that, basically, just by assigning a name to the more general idea of campfire stories, Brie’s family created a kind of tradition that was all their own.

Customs
Life cycle

Filipino Birthday Tradition

Informant:

June is from Chicago, Illinois and is a current junior in college.

Piece:

So a family tradition that we have is for all of our birthday’s um instead of baking a cake, my mom would cook a traditional filipino dish called pancit. It’s basically like noodles with like vegetables, chicken meats. All the things you would want. It’s a very healthy dish and it’s supposed to be that instead of a cake which is very fattening and sugary um something that’s healthy so you can live a longer life. There are various i guess different noodles you can use, but my parents always use i guess these same very thing ones.

Collector’s thoughts:

The idea of eating healthy food at one’s birthday in order to guarantee another year of good health is an interesting idea that makes a lot of sense. Not only does the yearly meal work as a good luck charm for good health, but also connects the informant back to his filipino heritage.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority Initiations

Informant: My sister spent a semester as a transfer student at Howard University and the campus was heavily into greek life. Most of the student population was apart of the Divine 9.

Original script: Greek organizations have well known stories of their hazing. For the divine 9 sororities, the women are known for intense hazing at Howard. The sorority of delta sigma theta is known for having their pledges swim across the lake across the street from the university. At 7am, the pledges are blindfolded and taken to the lake wearing only under garments and told to race across the lake and the last 3 will not be admitted into the sorority.

Background: My sister asked what delta sigma theta initiations were like when deciding to join a sorority.

Thoughts: I don’t agree with the hazing if it crosses an inappropriate boundary, but having traditions and rituals in a organization bring members closer together because they are bonded by the memories and hardships they went through to be accepted.

 

Childhood
Game

Blonde in the Bathroom

Informant: My friend who is from Brazil

Original Script: ” A girl with platinum blonde hair was murdered in the bathroom. She looks super pale with bloody cotton ball in her nose, she looks like a corpse. You go in the bathroom and switch on the lights and flush the toilet three times and she appears.”

Background: The Brazilian version of the children’s game Bloody Mary

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

US Navy Shellbacks

Informant: My dad was in the US Navy for 4  years

Original Script: To become a shellback in the US Navy you have to cross the equator. Legend has it that King Neptune lives on the equator and if you cross it you become a shellback. When you become a shellback there is a ceremony were a someone dresses up as King Neptune and gives you a shellback card.

Background: A shellback is a sort of fraternity in the Navy, Navy men give respect to shellback backs because you have to sail for a long time to be able to cross the equator, some Navy men that spent 20 years in the Navy has never crossed the equator.

Thoughts: I thought the ceremony was comical, the idea that someone dresses up as King Neptune show dedication to their tradition. The shellbacks get really into it and show respect to those who made an accomplishment that goes unnoticed to a civilian.

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