USC Digital Folklore Archives / Adulthood
Adulthood
Game

Bloody Mary

Main Piece: “There is a scary story that I used to play when I was a young girl during sleepover parties with my friends called Bloody Mary. It’s basically when you go into a bathroom and you turn off all the lights. Then you say “Bloody Mary” three times and flush the toilet. Then you are suppose to see Queen Mary appear in the mirror and then she kills you and scratches out your eyes and your spirit is forever in the mirror and you can’t escape. I was actually never brave enough to play the game because I thought I was gonna die. Still to this day it freaks me out a little bit but it was a big part of sleepovers with girls.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story from her other friends who were girls when she was around age 7. The informant would play this game during every sleepover and the informant describes it almost like a social experience with her friends. The informant said the game had a deep impact when she was younger and still bothers her today even though she knows it is not true.

Context: In the informat’s dorm room

Thoughts: This story seems symbolic of womanhood. As Alan Dundes said/analyzed, this story can be seen almost like a transition of young girls to womanhood since there is blood involved (mesntration cycle). For young girls, this transition into womanhood is terrifying so this story may be symbolic of those emotions. The number three is also important as well, because three is a very common used number in American culture.

 

 

Adulthood
Game

Girl and the red skirt

Main Piece: “ If you go into the girl’s bathroom on the third floor of the building, and walk to the third stall,  knock 3 times and call her name a little girl in a red skirt will be there named Hanako-san. She will have a bloody hand and grab you, or be a animal that eats you. I was so scared going to the bathroom when I was in middle school in Japan, it was a game that a lot of girls would play but it really made me scared as a kid. I don’t know why it was so popular to be honest.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story in Japan through her friends in middle school when she was about eleven. The informant says that this is a very popular story and game in Japan among girls. She hasn’t played it since or heard it since being the United States.

Context: In a coffee shop in San Diego

Thoughts: This story seems very similar to Bloody Mary and has a lot of parallels. First, the number three is in both of the stories. Second, blood is in both stories and the “scary” being is a female. I wonder if this story has the same meaning as Bloody Mary, that it symbolizes the transition of girls becoming women and going through their period. It is interesting how this story, even though it is in Japan, is similar to an American story.

 

Adulthood
Game

La Llorana

Main Piece: “There use to be a game I played with my friends called  La Llorona where if you say that name three times and splash water on the mirror a lady called La Llorona would appear and kill you. La Llorona was a Mexican lady who had two kids but they were abducted. After that she was traumatized and would always cry in the middle of the street trying to find her kids. My earliest memory of the game was being in elementary school and being in the girl’s bathroom. My friends and I would splash water on the mirror and say her name three times which was “La Llorona. La Llorona. La Llorona. But to be honest was just seeing who could stand being in the darkroom and seeing how long we could stand there waiting for her to come out of the sink and my friends and I would just start screaming and run out”.

Background Information: The informant learned this game with his friends in middle school, and most of his friends were female who were also Mexican. He said this was a very popular game for young girls and he was one of the only boys who would play but he was always too scared to actually do it.

Context: Next to a park in Los Angeles

Thoughts: This story seems to also have parallels with Bloody Mary in terms of it being popular with young girls, and that a mirror is involved, and the number 3 is significant. I am curious why the number 3 is also significant in this context in other cultures and not just America, and if the origin of these bathroom stories came from one person or one culture specifically.

 

 

Adulthood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Life cycle
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Circumcisions are Cheaper in the Philippines

This friend of mine is one of the sweetest guys I know. He’s quiet, but has a great sense of humor. One day, late at night, he blurted out, “is it normal that I was circumcised in the fifth grade?”. I knew I needed it for my folklore project. Most of the background information is contained in the transcript below.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“What is there to talk about? I guess you guys are my friends… so… eh? I don’t know if it’s like a cultural thing here, but in the Philippines it’s really looked down upon if you’re not circumcised, like you’re just kind of like a dipshit, you know? You get made fun of. So then like it’s kind of like a rite of passage thing – which is really strange – that like somewhere around like, um, I don’t know like end of elementary school to middle school. You, like you should do it, you know? Yeah, so then, um, we had like a Philippines vacation and my dad was like, ‘oh yeah, you should do it’ cause it’s cheaper in the Philippines, so then I was like, ‘okay, I’ll do it dad’. And I was like really scared. It was just, I don’t know. It was really weird. And then, okay. My dad would explain what would happen and I’d get so scared. Because like, ‘oh, there are scissors involved’. Hahahahaha. People in the Philippines can get superstitious that you’d get infected if you did it too young or something, so you wait. Also, because the healthcare system there is really bad, so they’re afraid that like babies will get sick and die if you do it then. Anyways, then. Um, uh, I’ll just jump to when it happened, because it was really scary. I was just really scared and I kind of just let it happen. But, basically when I went there, it was like- it was really strange.

“Like I said, the Philippines healthcare is really bad, so they didn’t knock me out or anything. I was awake when it happened. Um, yeah, hahaha. They put me in the room, and my dad’s just outside. And the doctor – like I’m lying there, and it feels like a really bare room, like probably no bigger than this room, and it was really strange, and it was just a lot of lights and stuff, and it didn’t even really feel like a proper.. like… surgical place. There were just some beds and stuff, and needles and everything. So, like um, the doctor… the doctor dude he gets a towel and is like, ‘oh, I’m gonna put this over your head. Because you’re gonna be traumatized if you see what happens. You know? So they blindfold me pretty much, as it happens, and then he pretty much walks me through in like Tagalog – which is Filipino – what’s gonna happen. I don’t even remember much of it, I know I didn’t pass out. But like, they definitely numbed me in that area, you know? No needles going anywhere. They just, I don’t know, stuck a needle around your … groin? Area? Basically, the entire time, I couldn’t really feel – or like I couldn’t feel any pain, but I could definitely feel … things moving around. And like, being cut off. Just saying, and it was really strange. And it was just a lot of pressure, until like, afterward. Um, and I just remember going, ‘whoa, it’s not that bloody’, when they took the towel off because there wasn’t that much blood. And it was just really strange. And it took like two weeks to heal. And that’s all I remember. There were stitches that like, melted off. Because that’s like medicine. It’s not really a Filipino tradition – I don’t know if they do it so much anymore cause like, the Philippines has been getting a lot better, since back then. This was fourth or fifth grade. It was just kind of interesting. I don’t know how old I was, I don’t want to remember hahahaha.

“You know that Twilight Zone episode? Eye of the Beholder? I was kind of like that. Except there was no pig on the end, yeah. It wasn’t that bad. Just a lot of gauze and pills.”

This piece really sheds some light on the overlap between modern medicine and folk medicine. Circumcision is an ancient tradition, however the advent of modern medicine has propelled it further into the mainstream. This friend of mine describes how even to this day, modern Filipino circumcision are influenced by folk belief in that it is considered bad luck to get it down as a baby. Later, he mentioned to me how the timing of the circumcision (around the age of 9 or 10) was also meant to be a sort of ritual celebration of adulthood, although his family did not really celebrate it. Rather, they viewed it more as something that just happens without imparting a significance related to maturity.

 

Adulthood

Superstition

When talking to my mother, I asked if she had any superstitions that she can think of. What she came to was something that I actually have noticed in her actions.

 

She said that, “Whenever I hear an ambulance, either outside or while I am driving, I catch myself scratching my head. I think this is me targeting my nerves and anxiety in hopes that whoever is in the ambulance, or who the ambulance is rushed too, is not someone that I know or am related to.”

 

Background Info: My mother mentioned that her mom was always cautious about ambulances and firetrucks, she did not scratch her head, but always would check the news to ensure that whatever emergency there was got resolved, or did not involve someone that she knew or was related to. This was clearly a superstition triggered by an emergency vehicle or situation.

 

Context: My mother told me about this superstition while at lunch over Passover weekend.

 

Analysis: This is something I have actually noticed my mom do, I remember asking her about it a while ago and she discussed with me how it is usually unintentional, but that it happens every time. This reminds me of my superstition of knocking on wood in a situation where I want to prevent an event.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Initiations
Life cycle

Jewelry as part of initiation

When talking to one of my roommates Braxton, I asked if he had any sort of initiation type things associated with his family.

 

Braxton said that, “Every man in my family on my dad’s side, including me and my brother, when they turn 16 get a necklace that has our family crest and a Swan on it.” (Pictured Below)

 

 

Background Info: Braxton is originally from Pittsburgh and now lives in Los Angeles. I always see him wearing this and never knew what it was, but Braxton made it clear to me that when a man in the family received this necklace he was “initiated” into the manhood club in the Swann family tree. It is something that goes back in many generations.

 

Context: I asked Braxton about this while talking to our class in a conversation about family initiations.

 

Analysis: I think this is a very cool way to integrate a sense of initiation and belonging to a group in a family, Braxton knew that he was going to get this necklace when he turned 16 so he had something to look forward to. I think I want to integrate something similar in my family and be the one to start it because I love this idea.Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 3.05.24 PM

Adulthood
Childhood
Foodways
general
Holidays
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Life Cycle/Celebration

I asked one of my good friends from school if he had any celebrations in his family that he was proud of and wanted to share. What he told me was very interesting and related to my family as well.

 

Jo said that, “My great grandpa was a German exile, and traveled to the east coast near New York and New Jersey area. That is where he primarily grew up. When he got older, he wanted to open a restaurant so he opened a steak house near where he grew up. His signature dish was the T-bone steak, and whenever he would eat it, he would grab the T-bone by the top of the bone and eat it with his hands, it was his way of celebrating the meal and celebrating life. He passed away a while back, but my whole extended family and I always go to eat at the steakhouse which is still there once a year. What we will do is order one T-bone, and pass it down the table for everyone to take a bite from it while holding the bone in their hands, it is our tradition of celebrating my great grandpa as well as celebrating being together in that moment at a family owned restaurant.”

 

Background Info: Jo’s family is from the New Jersey area, but his great grandpa is from Germany so he has ties to parts of the country. His family still owns the steak house and he still partakes in this tradition/celebration every year.

 

Context: Jo told me about this fascinating family celebration during lunch between classes.

 

Analysis: This was one of my favorite collections from my 20 that I gathered. I think that the celebration is cool to pass on, but I was very fascinated by the bigger meaning of the behavioral action of eating the T-bone with your hand, the meaning of celebrating life and freedom as done by the care free action of eating with your hands.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Iranian Weddings

  1. The main piece: Iranian Weddings

“So there’s multiple ceremonies. So once the man asks for permission from the to-be bride’s dad, there’s a mini celebration just between the intimate family members. And then, following that, there’s kinda an engagement party. So kinda similar to Nowruz, there’s different items that are symbolic. Like honey: both the groom and bride dip their fingers into honey. That’s symbolic of life being sweet, fruitful.

“Following that is the actual wedding. That’s usually a big production. There’s this special veil thing, kinda like this really long lacy scarf thing. Both the bride and groom walk under it and it symbolizes them starting a new life together. Walking under that is like your rite of passage into adulthood and married life. They’re not as religious. I think there’s a religious one and a normal one. Like my parents got married in a park, by a lake or something.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?

“Um… well, I’ve never actually been to an Iranian wedding. But I’ve been to prewedding ceremonies. I always saw them growing up and heard about my parents’ park wedding, and I had this grand image of me when I was a grown up, walking under the long white scarf with my future husband. I think it’s an adulthood kinda thing just because they used to get married so young there.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

I think that it is interesting that there are so many ceremonies involved, with different levels of guests invited. The number of events and variety of guests at each show what a big transition marriage is, from the merging of two families to a large community event. The emphasis of general Persian traditions over religious customs in these weddings is unusual, as most weddings tend to have a religious component. This shows that the role of the community is the highest, higher than any God, in this coming-of-age, rite-of-passage style ceremony. It also shows that the Iranian culture has adapted to view religion less and shared heritage and community more as religious heterogeneity increases. Moreover, symbolism is shown to play a large role again in such community, transitional life events, in order to cast protective and good omens before entering the next stage of life.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is an 18-year old Iranian-Canadian female. She was born in Iran but moved to Canada as a young child, then moved again to southern California as a teenager. Learning about her parents’ Iranian culture helped her feel a sense of continuity throughout the different moving experiences she had. They also helped her feel more rooted and attached to her place of birth.

Adulthood
Childhood
Life cycle

Sari Ceremonies

  1. The main piece: Sari Ceremony

“It is the first time they tie a sari for a little girl. It’s just the first time that a little girl gets a sari, and the family makes a big event out of it. Maybe it was, in the olden days, you know, very very olden days, people got married when they were 9 or 10. This was when the girl was 6 years of age, so maybe people were letting them know.

“And by the way, there’s an equivalent boy’s ceremony. A dhoti, or pancha ceremony. Boys’ cloths are called dhoti, or panchalu, and this is from the Andhra people south of India. So it’s the same thing for boys also.

“Usually, we do it in odd years. 5, 7, 11. But you know, all Indian things are like that. We always give odd numbers of money as gift. And then, you just invite near and dear. That’s it.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“You know, I went to some of my friends’ sari ceremonies growing up, but I never had one. So I thought, okay, when I have my own daughter, I’ll have a nice sari ceremony for her. So we visited India and we had one for her, and we had her grandparents and aunts and uncles there, and it felt, what is it in English? Complete.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

The sari ceremonies in Andhra Pradesh, a state in South India, are examples of coming-of-age ceremonies. In the very old days, they would have indicated that a girl’s childhood was complete, and that she was now available to be married. While the marriage connotation has definitely faded, the sari ceremony is still a marker of transition from helpless child to young person capable of decision making and responsibility. Wearing a sari requires a number of complex steps, and the sari ceremony also announces the girl has reached a certain level of maturity. The informant mentioned that her daughter’s sari ceremony brought many members of her family together, showing that sari and dhoti ceremonies have also transitioned into large community events.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American female. She was born in India and grew up with her two sisters in a small town near a holy river in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari River. After moving to the United States and raising her children there, she enjoyed reminiscing on her childhood in India and sharing stories of it with her children, so that they could see the differences in their upbringings and learn about their Indian heritage.

Adulthood
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends
Life cycle
Narrative
Old age

A Spirited Dream

Collection: Legend (ghost) and Folk Belief

I asked the informant to describe an unusual happenings regardings spirits or the soul. She answered with the following story.

“A few weeks after my dad died, he came to me in a dream. This was the most realistic dream I have ever had even to this day. Of course I was so overjoyed to see him and talk to him because he had just passed away. He told me that he was so proud of me and his grandchildren and that I’ve done a wonderful job raising them. After we talked for awhile, he said, ‘I’m sorry honey but I have to go now.’ I cried and screamed, ‘Please Daddy don’t go! Don’t go!!!’ He said, ‘I love you, I’m okay, don’t be sad and don’t be scared. I’m okay.’ He started to rise up, up ,up in the air, and then he was gone. The next thing I know my husband is saying, ‘What’s wrong?’ I was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking up at the corner where the wall meets the ceiling, and  yelling for my dad to stay.

Context/Interpretation: This collection depicts folk belief in a soul and implies the existence of an afterlife or spirit. Further, this narrative reflects the life cycle as the informant’s father spoke to her after death, and he mentioned new life, her children.

 

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