USC Digital Folklore Archives / Life cycle
Adulthood
Legends

The Black Angel

Informant: Hey, while we’re talking about college towns, did I ever tell you about the black angel of Iowa City?

Interviewer: No.

Informant:  Um, so it was a big deal when I was in college, there’s not much to the one I’ve actually heard, it’s just that if you ever kiss a virgin in front of this black statue of an angel in the cemetery near the university in Iowa City, it’s face will turn white.

Interviewer: Did you ever?

Informant: No one ever has!

 

This local legend/joke might be construed as emphasizing anxiety about sexuality and, for women at least, the fine line between being considered prudish and being considered promiscuous; for young men, perhaps anxiety about being considered manly enough.  The informant heard this first from a college girlfriend of his, and apparently it was not uncommon for couples to go kiss in front of the statue on a dare–playful proof of adulthood in the liminal space of college, when many students find themselves no longer protected by parents but also not quite independent.

Customs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Baby Surrounded by Symbolic Items

“There’s a tradition in China for a baby’s first birthday. The baby is surrounded by items such as a stethoscope, a spatula, a book, money, a tape measure, etc…” The baby is then encouraged to choose one of the items. Whatever item the child picks up would symbolize his/her future. So if the child chooses a spatula, then it means that he/she will be a chef.”

The informant was born in Taipei, and grew up in Shanghai.

After thoughts: Many other cultures have similar traditions. Armenian parents celebrate this ceremony called Agra Hadig. Similarly, Dol is a Korean tradition that celebrate the first birthday of a baby and blesses the child with a prosperous future. In the past, death rates for children were high, so this was an important milestone for the whole family and wishes a long life and fortune for the baby.

Foodways
general
Holidays
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Longevity Noodles


“Every birthday celebration, no matter where, and no matter the age, we always ate noodles to signify a long life.”

The informant was born in Taipei, and grew up in Shanghai.

After thoughts: Longevity is one of the most respected ideals in Chinese culture, and reflects Taoism philosophy. Longevity is most commonly associated with birthdays, and noodles became the food metaphor because it;s long and continuous in shape. It’s important to not break off the noodle you are eating, since the longer it is, the longer it suggests your life will be. Also, cutting the noodles is considered unlucky and equivalent to cutting your own life. Longevity noodles symbolizes a long and healthy life.

Folk Beliefs
general
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle

Belly Button Story

“My mom kept me and my sister’s umbilical cord stump and put it together in a box. Apparently this means that we will have a good relationship in the future.”

The informant was born in Taipei, and grew up in Shanghai. The informant’s mother heard this from her mother.

After thoughts:

Childhood
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Lizard Burial

My informant as a little boy would perform a ritual. The children of the village used to capture and kill a lizard. Then they would  perform a death ceremony. There was about 20 kids involved. They would bury the lizard and start praying.

“Ya hardon eska werka, mertak amya mabti’shd”, which translates to :

All you lizard, please portray good, because your wife is blind and cannot see at times.

They would have sticks and be beating it against the ground while saying the chant. Afterwards they would go home.There was nothing else to do so they created their own rituals.

My informant is an immigrant from Lebanon. He lived in a small town called Yaroun. Hid family was very poor and lived in a rural area. We shared the folklore over some food in his house.

The interesting part of this piece is the creativity children have. They created there own ritual in to keep from boredom. my informant at first did not want to tell this piece of folklore out of embarrassment but eventually gave in.

Customs
Festival
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Las Mañanitas – Birthday Song

Informant: Valentina Williamson. 11 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City. My little sister.

Informant: “When the cake comes out at birthday parties everyone sings ‘Las Mañanitas.’ When the song is over, the person blows out the candle. After, we all chant ‘MORDIDA, MORDIDA! (BITE, BITE!) and push the person’s head into the cake!”

Collector: “Why do you push the persons head into the cake??”

Informant: “Because it’s funny! The face is covered in cake and we can’t stop laughing!

Informant:

“Estas son las mañanitas

Que cantaba el rey David

Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños

Te las cantamos a ti!

Despierta, “Nombre”, despierta

Mira que ya amaneció!

Y los pajaritos cantan

Y la luna ya se metio! WOOOOOOO”

(Informant motions as if she pushes a head into the cake)

 

Translation:

These are the dawns

That king David sang about

Today for being your birthday

We are singing to you!

Wake up, “NAME”, wake up

See that it already dawned

and the little birds are singing

and the moon has already set! WOOOOO”

 

Thoughts: It is really interesting that the birthday song in Mexico is much more romantic than the “Happy Birthday” song in the United States. In my opinion, this romanization is a direct reflection of the Mexican cultural values. I know that there are some slight variations from the version my sister gave me. Instead of “Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños (Today for being your birthday) some sing “Hoy por ser día de tu santo (Because today is your saint’s day).” The gesture of pushing someone’s head into the cake is something I did as a child too but no longer do it. Certainly, this only tends to happen at children’s parties.

For a full version of the song: “http://www.musica.com/letras.asp?letra=1180983″

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs

El Ratón Pérez

Informant: Valentina Williamson. 11 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City. My little sister,

Informant: “Whenever a tooth fell out, I would put it under my pillow and the “Raton Pérez” (Mouse Perez) would take it away and leave me money.”

Collector: “When did you first hear about the Ratón Perez”

Informant: “I guess I heard it from my parents. When my first tooth fell out they told me to place it under the pillow as and the ratón would exchange it for money.”

Collector: “Do you know why the ratón took teeth?”

Informant: “My parents told me he wanted my teeth because he collects teeth from all the children around the world. Also, all my friends had the same experience. We all believed in the ratón and would show off the money he gave us.”

Me: “Why did you believe in the Raton Pérez and not the tooth fairy.”

Informant: “If my tooth fell out in Mexico it was the Raton Perez’s job. If I was in the U.S. it was the Tooth Fairy’s job. Like once my tooth fell out when I was in New York and I believed the tooth fairy took it. It was all about where I was. HA HA!  I even thought they would meet up and compare their tooth collections.”

Thoughts: The Raton Perez and Tooth Fairy are classic folklore parents tell their children. What interested me the most from my sister’s performance is that she believed it was locational rather than sticking to one belief. I also know that in Spain they call it “Ratoncito Pérez” or “Little Mouse Pérez.”

 

Interesting read on the origins of the Ratón Pérez: “http://2yearsinmadrid.blogspot.com/2011/07/el-raton-perez-spanish-tooth-fairy.html”

Childhood
Game

Hide and Seek Game

Informant: Valentina Williamson. 11 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City. My little sister.

Informant:

Original: “Una bolita de algodón patin paton melocotón sabes tu donde cayó con verdad y sin mentir con pura casualidad” (Pauses at each syllable)

Translation: A little cotton ball patin paton melocotón do you know where it fell with truth and without lying with pure chance.

Informant:  “When I play hide and seek with my friends we sing that song to decide who is going to count. We all put one foot in and form a circle. We sing the song while one person touches each foot during each syllable. Once the song is over that last person has to say a place they’ve been but think no one has gone to. Like if it landed on me I could say Paris! If no one from the group has been to Paris, I get out and don’t count. BUT! If someone else from the group has been to Paris they get out, don’t count, but I have to stay in! I then use my hand to move around the feet and we sing the song again. The last person to be in looses and has to count.

Me: “Do you know how you came to learn this song?”

Informant: “No idea, I think at school. We always sing it but I have no idea where it came from!”

Thoughts: I have never heard this song to play hide and seek before. When I was younger I recall there was a song about Pinocchio to see who would count. Incorporating the place a person has traveled to adds an educational aspect to the game. Certainly, children question each other about the places they’ve been to and therefore learn from such.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends

Whistling at Night

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: Whistling at Night by Rayna Koishikawa

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: My Kumu (hula teacher) told us whistling at night summons night maschess (ghosts of Hawaiian warriors)

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: Maui, HI

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: I don’t belong to this group but it is a Hawaiian superstition.

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: My Kumu

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: Hawaiian legend

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: Childhood superstition

 

Context of the performance- Talking with a classmate before class

 

Thoughts about the piece- Whistling is thought to bring bad luck in Russian, Japanese and many other cultures. I’ve heard warnings not to whistle in kitchens (French Revolution origins) or while sailing (New England- whistle up a storm). Here is another version of the Night Marchers of Hawaii: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/10/hawaiian-legends_n_3898664.html

More Hawaiian superstitions at: http://www.hawaiimagazine.com/content/your-must-know-list-hawaii%E2%80%99s-diverse-local-superstitions

 

Childhood

Heal, Heal, Butt of a Frog

“Sana Sana Culo de rana. Si no sana hoy sanara manana.”

(Heal, heal, butt of a frog, if it doesn’t heal today, it’ll heal tomorrow.)

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: Ritual Song by Steph Elmir (Genre: Childhood)

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: It’s a nursery rhyme in Spanish, I love it because it is used after someone is hurt. My mom taught me this in Miami. It’s silly and makes children laugh.

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: USA- Miami

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: Catholic/ Hinduran/Lebanese Descent

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: My mom. My home.

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: Frogs have magical qualities in Latino Culture and are considered good luck.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: It makes me feel safe. It reminds me of home and a good relationship with my mom.

 

Context of the performance- Conversation with classmate before class

 

Thoughts about the piece-  Relating childhood folkways is an emotional experience for most students living far from home. Mothers in many cultures use song to comfort their children. Here is a video of the song in Spanish, featuring Kermit the frog. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw14B0sclFw

Is it culito (ass) or colita (butt)? That seems to depend on which country you are from: http://remezcla.com/lists/culture/colita-vs-culito/

 

 

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