USC Digital Folklore Archives / Signs
Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

EVKitty

Informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is well-aware of most USC folklore and he describes a very peculiar one to me (AK).

In this piece, DP describes the folklore surrounding a very special cat that hangs around a dining hall at USC named Everybody’s Kitchen or EVK for short.

EVKitty

DP: So I actually found out about this cat my first time at EVK freshman year. Basically it’s this regular cat but it just hangs right outside EVK by the outdoor seating. I’m not really sure whose cat it is, but I just know it’s been there for a while.

AK: So you have no idea where it came from?

DP: Well there’s rumors that it’s Stan Rosen’s cat. He’s the faculty master for the Birnkrant Dorm. I should probably know this cause I lived there but oh well haha.

AK: Sounds interesting is there anything else I should know about EVKitty?

DP: Yeah there’s actually a facebook page dedicated to her. It’s legendary.

This was another piece of USC folklore, but I especially enjoyed this one because it is so specific and probably unknown to a lot of students. For those that have no idea, they would be thoroughly confused to see a cat roaming around the outside seating of a dining hall. However, for those who are aware of this folklore, they have really done their part to help spread it to the larger USC community. I found out about EVKitty through word of mouth, and I’m sure many other students have also found out from their fellow friends and peers.

Magic
Signs

Brujo

This is a true story about magic:

“Your great uncle was a brujo (Witch). And he had killed someone. It was from my mom’s side of the family, I don’t know. My mom was small and lived with the mother of the uncle. The uncle had a fight with a neighbor, and killed them. The police were looking fro him at this point. He went to go visit my Aunt Rosa. She asked him what he had done. He asked if he could stay there for awhile. The police came looking for him. They asked if a man had entered the house. The police entered the house to search. My aunt responded no. He was in the kitchen and there was a bunch of bananas. He had transformed himself into the bananas. My Aunt asked where he had gone, and she saw him fall to the ground as bananas and transform into a man and leave.”

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

It is interesting to hear a story explaining how our family comes from a line of witches. Another interesting thing is how the story changed from the last time I heard it. I have always wondered why my great uncle would turn into bananas. It is always interesting to learn about your family history.

 

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection
Signs

Blue Eyes = Evil Eyes

“People with blue eyes can give you evil eye.”

My informant heard this from her father. People with colored eyes have the power to do harm to you, even subconsciously. She laughs at this statement because her brothers have colored eyes. My informant is from a Lebanese family.

She is a college student at the California State University Northridge. She is very close with her father, often helping him run the family store. We sat down at a coffee shop to talk about folklore form her family.

What was interesting of this piece was that it sounded familiar to a belief form my culture. In Salvadoran culture we believe that people eyes and eyesight can cause “mal ojo” or evil eye. It reminds me of the notion of how the eyes are the windows of the souls. It would make sense that they would also be the seat of our energy.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection
Signs

Persian Food Beliefs

Informant: My friend is Persian, and her mother told her old tales like these in order to get her to behave as a child.
Original Piece: Food related rules: don’t eat chocolate or anything with sugar before bed or else you’ll have bad dreams…later I realized that’s so I don’t have energy when I sleep. Then, let’s see… oh, don’t eat when you’re crying or it’ll turn into poison in your stomach. Again, I later realized that’s so I don’t find comfort in eating when I’m sad. When you get a new car, you have to run over an egg, because the egg symbolizes any accidents or danger that can happen to you in the car, and by doing it to an egg, right when you get the new car, it takes the place of the impending danger in a light, easier way.
Context of Performance: I invited her over for dinner and we were remembering stories we shared as roommates, and I remembered her talking about all the things she used to believe growing up. I asked her if she would share any particular pieces of folktale from her childhood.
Thoughts about the Piece: I love hearing these stories, which always seemed like quirks of hers, until she told me the reasons behind them. I remember even in college, although she knew these things aren’t necessarily true, she still abided by them… just in case.

Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

Women’s Dreams

Informant: My friend is Persian, and her mother told her old tales like these in order to get her to behave as a child.
Original Piece: Women’s dreams are the opposite – usually the most relevant when something big is happening in your life and it’s constantly on your mind and you dream about it, the opposite is what’s actually going to happen. For example, when my high school Mock Trial team made it to finals, I could barely sleep the night before. It was constantly on my mind and I had a dream we won and it was announced on the school intercom and it was a whole ordeal. Woke up to the news that we lost. But it relates to other things too – for example, if you dream someone is sick or dying that means they’ll live a long healthy life. Essentially it’s the flip side of every story.
Context of Performance: I invited her over for dinner and we were remembering stories we shared as roommates, and I remembered her talking about all the things she used to believe growing up. I asked her if she would share any particular pieces of folktale from her childhood.
Thoughts about the Piece: This piece is particularly funny to me. I remember we used to argue over whether this is true, because even in college she would interpret her dreams (and mine) according to this belief.

Customs
Gestures
Signs

A Catholic Tradition Honoring My Mother

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish

Age: 20

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Mike is a 20 year old man, born and raised in New York, who is a mobile phone salesman in New York City. He is a high school graduate whose family is of Puerto Rican Heritage.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. You mentioned that you follow a tradition your Mom taught you. Could you explain please?

 

Informant: “Ya it is like I am Catholic you know you know and we really go by this Catholic thing like every time I do the cross. Every time I pass a Church, I do the cross. And I feel if I didn’t do the cross that I would feel different.”

 

Interviewer: You mentioned you would feel different, why?

 

Informant: “Like this was a thing, you know the do the cross, that I use to ah see my Mom do every time, you know, we were passing a Church. Like it ah didn’t matter if youse was on a bus or a car or like just walking down a street, um she would always cross herself.  Then… then I was, you know older then a little kid, ah every time she crossed herself you know and if I was wit her, she would stare at me if I didn’t cross myself.  So I guess, like um I would um feel different like I wuz disrespecting my Mother, you know.  So like , I am a Momma’s boy, she is very close. And um I don’t want to, you know give her anything that wouldn’t be very respectful. Does that make sense to you?”

 

Interviewer:  Yes it does. It is a very nice thing to do. Do you do the sign of the cross even when she is not with you?

 

Informant: “Of course, it’s like so deep in my bones and mind that it is like ya I am like a robot! When I see the church, like I have to stop and do my cross, you know.  It is so beautiful cause I see my Mom smiling a lot every time ah um I do that.”

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Devoted Catholics worldwide have been making the “sign of the cross” since the 400s: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-origin-of-the-sign-of-the-cross/

Here is a demonstration of how to do this movement prayer properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpRzqXG1dhc

 

 

 

 

Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Burying St. Anthony in my Backyard

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 35

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 12, 2017 (telephonically)

 

Ethan is a 35 year old man, born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who is employed as food vendor at a local food market. He is a College Graduate iand majored in Business Administration. He is 4th generation American

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. You mentioned that as a child you remember a family ritual. Would you mind sharing it with me?

 

Informant: Of course, I would be happy to.  So anytime anybody would move into a new house it was my grandmother on my Dad’s side, the Catholic side of the family, not the Jewish side, um there is a patron saint I believe St. Anthony which is the Saint of lost things or something like that. And she would give us a little doll; and we would bury it in our backyard and that way if we lost anything we would just pray to Saint Anthony then that object would be found. And I am not sure about the origins but I know that I buried that St. Anthony in my backyard

 

Interviewer:  Did you ever find anything that you lost?

 

Informant: “I once misplaced my favorite batting glove and could not find it.  And ah a few weeks later my grandmother was visiting and she took out of her purse the glove. She asked if it belonged to me. She told me that she took it by mistake when she was bundling her clothes.

 

Interviewer:  Did you attribute this to St. Anthony?

 

Informant: Well I remember being so excited, I think I must have been 10 at the time or 9 cause I was in the 4th grade, when I received the glove from her and I said to her that I guess St. Anthony found it and um all I can remember having the greatest smile I ever saw from her

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: Um not much other than it was a nice little touch that it is a nice little tradition that my grandmother passed down that I was happy to continue forward. While I doubt it worked, this tradition makes me think about my grandma.

 

 

 

Thoughts about the Piece:

Anyone who has lost something has “prayed” to find it but Catholics pray to a specific individual for help. For the text of the prayer see: http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=150  Other stories of St Anthony novena anecdotes can be read here: http://www.holysouls.com/stanthony.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Signs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Tom and Jerry

“When me and my brother were younger, and even still to this day, my grandfather compares us to Tom & Jerry.  Like the cartoon, Tom & Jerry.  But it’s not just for me and my brother, he believes every pair of siblings follows that dynamic.  Like the younger one being like Jerry and always fooling around and bothering the older one, Tom, who’s just trying to ignore the younger sibling.  It’s probably because that’s the way he was with his younger brother and he likes to think everyone’s the same as him.”

ANALYSIS:

It’s interesting that this folk belief is based around someone’s experiences with watching a cartoon.  Because of the informant’s grandfather noticing a parallel between his own life and the lives of his grandchildren and two characters in a cartoon show, the grandfather made an assumption about the entire human population, which I find really funny, and honestly not entirely inaccurate; I definitely understand where the grandfather is coming from, as I do believe that me and my own older brother follow this dynamic as well.  I wonder in the creators of Tom & Jerry based the cartoon off of a prominent sibling dynamic they noticed, or just thought Tom & Jerry were funny characters and that’s all.

Signs

Dreaming of Pigs

Background: Simon is a 58-year-old man living in Cerritos, CA. He was born in Seoul and has lived in South Korea for the majority of her life until he moved here and went to the American military. He owns a car wash. Before that, he was a self-employed accountant. He is married and has two grown children.

Original script: “It is good luck to dream of pigs because it means you will gain great wealth in the future very soon. I don’t really know why pigs are symbols of wealth, but it may be because only rich people could eat meat back in the day so if you had the luxury of eating ham, you were very wealthy”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Apparently he had heard this from his school friends in middle school when he had a dream about pigs.

Thoughts about the piece: My parents are very superstitious when it comes to dreams, so I kind of associate them with fortune cookies; you don’t know what you’ll get but reading into them is fun and could maybe come true so why not take the chance?

 

Customs
Holidays
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Dia de los Muertos-Day of the Dead

 

Informant: “Growing up in the United States for most of my life, October to me was Halloween. When I moved to Mexico, I learned about ‘El Día de los Muertos’ (The Day of the Dead).  Living in Miami I remember hearing about the celebration in school but had never truly experienced it. My family and I actually decided to participate in the tradition to fully immerse ourselves into the culture. In our apartment’s foyer, we made an ofrenda (altar) to honor those we had lost. We decorated the table with papel chino (a colorful paper engraved with holes depicting skulls), calacas (sugar coated skulls),  and  Cempasuchitl (a bright orange flower). We also adorned the table with pictures of our dead relatives, a cross, candles, and Pan de Muerto (a breaded sugary dessert). Although we are not Mexican, we thought it was a great idea to honor our lost loved ones. It is a beautiful tradition. There is this specific street in the area Polanco where the middle sidewalk is filled with the Cempasuchitl’s flowers. It is really a beautiful sight!”

Collector: “I know that you live in Miami now again. Do you still celebrate it?

Informant: “No! Now that we moved back to Miami we no longer make an ofrenda. Not to be misunderstood, I love the tradition, I just don’t think it is appropriate for me to celebrate it in the U.S.”

Thoughts: At home in Mexico my family makes an ofrenda every year. What intrigues me about Carlota’s experience with the holiday is that she thinks it is inappropriate to continue celebrating it. Although Carlota was never Mexican she made the choice to participate in the tradition. I wonder if Carlota had lived longer in Mexico she maybe would have kept the tradition.

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