USC Digital Folklore Archives / Adulthood
Adulthood
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Circassian Wedding Tradition

From the old days to now, the Circassian community has had no strict segregation rules between the sexes, therefore both sides have the freedom to choose their spouses. Usually, the young man, with a group of trusted friends, abducts his wife-to-be from her parents house on a set date and time. The bride needs to be taken to a trusted family where the groom can’t see her until the elders contact her family and get their approval to the marriage. This custom is acceptable between the Circassians because it’s based on the agreement between the young couple. The wife-to-be consents to this arrangement.

Background information: This is a tradition in the informant’s culture (Circassian culture).

Context: The informant told me about this tradition in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This personally struck me as quite strange at first. I was confused about the “abduction” part of this tradition, since I thought that the woman in the scenario has no idea what’s going to happen. But upon being told that she has a role in this arrangement, and that she has consented to the process, I felt better about it. This seems to be a way of asking permission from her parents; it is merely a ritual to be performed before the wedding, and it is apparently a very common process among Circassian people.

Adulthood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Life cycle
Magic
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Putting a Child of Prague statue in the garden for good weather at weddings

Background:

Informant is 56-year old IT technician living in Dublin, Ireland. This piece of folklore has to do with the Child of Prague statues that are so popular in Ireland. The statue is usually less than a foot high and features Jesus Christ dressed as a king, similar to the one indicated above, but with occasional variations in the color of the cloak according to the time of the year. The statue is a replica of the original wax-wooden statue housed in the Disacled Carmelite Church of Our Lady in Malá Strana, Prague. It was said to have belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila, and is now located to the right of the altar, halfway up the Church. This is a tradition the informant is familiar with from his childhood, and is a fond memory. He is signified in this conversation by the initials D.O.

 

Main Piece:

D.O.: Mam would always do this whenever one of my sisters was getting married. You place the Child of Prague statue in the front garden of the bride’s house in a bush or under a hedge – basically somewhere it’s not going to get knocked over. You could even bury it in the ground – that’d happen a lot in the winter. It’s supposed to bring good weather the day of a wedding. Burying it in the winter was a kind of evasive manoeuvre, as if hiding it better would make the weather even better, or rather combat the winter.

 

A: And do you think it worked?

 

D.O.: Maybe half of the time, but sure half of the time it probably wasn’t going to rain anyways. People are more likely to have weddings in the summer, so the weather was going to be fine enough in the first place. There was another superstition actually, about if the statue was missing a head. Some people would say that the statue was luckier, because if it was missing a head that meant that it had been around for a long time and it worked better – tried and tested, like – but some people said it was an omen that the statue was cursed or had been knocked over or broken. Ours had a head but the neighbors swore by the headless statue.

 

A: And would you still do that today?

 

D.O.: I probably would for tradition’s sake if it was someone important to me getting married. I don’t think it’s as prevalent today as it was when I was younger. I suppose Ireland is a less Catholic country now than the one I grew up in.

 

Performance context: I interviewed this informant over the phone considering that I am in California and he in Dublin. He mentioned that there was a family wedding coming up and that, seeing as it’s winter, he joked about putting out a Child of Prague. My resulting questioning forms the rest of this analysis.

 

My thoughts: This is probably one of the more bizarre folk beliefs I have heard from Ireland. I don’t quite understand the connection between this statue and the weather, nor where the belief came from. The idea of hiding or burying the statue seems to be implicit to the success of its weather-controlling powers, which again seems to have no obvious links. The combination of two-fold superstition with not only the weather-controlling aspect of the statue, but the idea that it is ‘luckier’ with its’ head broken off, combines Christian beliefs with superstitions that would perhaps have more to do with Ancient Greco-Roman cult statues than Christianity in a confusing mix. Perhaps this is why Ireland is such an odd and interesting country to examine folklore from – although it seems a canonical and thoroughly Catholicized state, in isolation very unique folk beliefs to do with traditional religion, preexisting culture and superstition have been created in an eccentric and confusing mix.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Throwing of Bouquet by the Bride

Background Information:

My informant is a 22-year-old student, originally from the Southern New Jersey area. We recently got talking about weddings and we were discussing the American custom of the bride throwing her bouquet behind her after she has been married. This is not a common custom where I am from, and so I was intrigued to hear what she made of it, considering it is so prevalent in American film and television. She has seen this tradition in real life many times, and thinks it is a fun part of the wedding ceremony. She is signified in this conversation by the initials B.I.

Main Piece:

A: Have you personally seen someone throw a bouquet at a wedding?

B.I.: Yes, I’ve seen it many times. It’s always the bride that throws the bouquet of flowers that she carried up the aisle with her, so usually white roses or the like.

A: And when exactly does this take place in the ceremony?

B.I.: It normally takes place after the actual marriage itself, but sometimes I’ve seen brides throw their bouquets the second they get outside the church, and other times they wait until later on in the evening when everyone is gathered, perhaps at the reception or after the dinner, and then she throws it. It’s always thrown back over her head, so she can’t see who she’s throwing it to. Oh, and also it’s really important who tries to catch it. It’s always unmarried women who try and catch it, sometimes the bridesmaids in particular. Sometimes one of the men will try and catch it for a joke. If you catch it, it means you’re the next person to get married out of the group. I don’t know how seriously people take it as a prediction of who will actually get married next, but I’ve certainly seen some exceptionally uncomfortable men around after their girlfriend catches the bouquet!

A: And why does she throw it in the first place?

B.I.: I don’t really know to be honest, is it something to do with throwing away your virginity or something? Because flowers usually represent that, right? Yeah, and that would work well with the fact that the flowers are white, because white is the traditional color you wear at a wedding to represent your virginity.

Performance Context:

This piece was related to me in person in a conversation about American superstitions and customs including those from the natural world, such as Bigfoot, and from film and television.

My Thoughts:

This piece highlights a lot of preconceptions of the newly married woman. Firstly, that she throws a bouquet of white flowers is certainly symbolic of virginity, and the casting aside of virginal white and maidenhood to become a married and sexually active woman. This would concur with Vaz da Silva’s constructions of the ‘tricolor’ of womanhood, that white, red, and black represent the stages in a woman’s life, passing from white virginity, to red sexual activity, to black barrenness. Secondly, the act of throwing the bouquet itself is a kind of symbolic ‘deflowering,’ that the era of her girlhood has passed and she is now almost a full member of adult female society. By passing it onto another woman, she passes on the torch of her virginity, only for that woman in turn to throw her own bouquet at her wedding. This is underscored in the idea that the only women who try and catch the flowers are unmarried, as otherwise that would suggest a refusal of the classic contract of marriage in outdated terms: the person you are sanctioned to have sex with. If a married woman caught the bouquet, it would therefore suggest a critical insufficiency in their marriage. It is interesting that this tradition carries on today despite the fact that many women must have no idea behind the symbolism of what they are doing – certainly it was news to me. It reminds me of the American tradition of throwing one’s graduation cap into the air at the end of the graduation ceremony – an eschewing of one’s previous identity and entering into a new stage of one’s life.

Adulthood
Customs

Indian Wedding Tradition

Informant:

Shehan is a sophomore aerospace engineering major from Atlanta, Georgia,  

Piece:

So ummm it is an indian tradition that when you have the bride and groom like the week prior to the actual wedding day they have this thing called a pithi. That’s a word in Hindi. But what they do is they get the groom and he sits on a chair all of his like bachelors like hang out and chill with him for a little bit and then they just like start throwing eggs at him and like ketchup mustard, mayo. really the plan is to like get him as dirty and gross as possible .the tradition is is like cleansing your body at the same time. They do the same thing to the bride, but with her they just put some sort of oil on her face, but for the groom it’s always like eggs yolks and always turns into a big food fight. And its like really fun, really gross and it happens before every wedding

Collector’s thoughts:

The most interesting part of this wedding tradition to me is that the informant says it is a indian bachelor party tradition, yet mustard, mayo, and ketchup are all very american condiments that are not traditionally indian. This reveals that while the tradition may come from the informant’s hini background, it has taken on a distinctly american twist in what foods are used to throw at the groom.

Adulthood
Earth cycle
Festival
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Karva Chauth

My informant M is my 49-year-old mother. She follows many Hindu traditions and religious holidays even though she lives in America. She has found a community of friends who also celebrate many of the same traditions as well.

In this piece, my informant goes into great detail about the history of a one-day festival called Karva Chauth. She also explains her extensive experience celebrating the tradition with it to me (AK).

M: (Reading this from a website) Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in many countries in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. … The festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon.

M: Well this is correct, I just fast until I can see the moon.

AK: Do you remember how long ago you started doing this?

M: I have done it ever since I was married because this tradition is for married women and done for their husbands.

AK: Can you tell me anything about how this tradition started or was created?

M: Sorry I don’t know the story that well. I can try though. It’s about a woman named Karva who was devoted to her husband. The husband was killed by a crocodile and after the wife threatened Yama, the God of Death … I think he sent the crocodile to hell and brought the husband back to life. That’s all if I remember it correctly.

AK: Wow, that’s a really great story.

I distinctly remember this tradition because I remember as a child I would love to help my mom look for the moon. Some years, if the sky was especially cloudy, it would be very difficult to locate the moon, and I remember feeling like it was my duty to seek out and find the moon.

Adulthood
Legends
Narrative

A Ghost in Grass Valley

Informant JM is 58 years old and recounted the story of a paranormal encounter she experienced ~10 years ago:

Have you ever experienced anything that you would consider to be of supernatural origins?

“Only once. Never before and never since but I will always remember that night”

So what happened?

“Well I was in my room getting ready for bed. All of a sudden I felt the room grow eerily cold. I thought it was a bit odd but continued to undress and sat on the bed to take off my socks. Upon doing so I felt the cold presence to my immediate right and upon turning saw, *shivers* wow this gives me chills just thinking about it. I saw a depression in the bed next to me as if someone were sitting next to me. Not knowing the intentions of this spirit I yelled at the top of my lungs ‘Go! Get out! Be gone with you!!’ and closed my eyes. After a moment or two I felt the cold dissipate and upon opening my eyes saw the depression was no longer there.”

Did your opinion regarding the existence of the paranormal changed after this experience?

“Well prior to this encounter I’d say I believed that ghosts existed sure, but having never experienced an encounter first hand and not knowing any immediate family or friends that had, I was certainly a bit skeptical. After that experience, I know now without a shred of doubt that ghosts or some form of spirit form definite exist. I cannot think of a single other rational explanation for what I experienced that night.”

What context would you share your experience in?

“At first, I shared it with literally anyone that would listen. I was equal parts excited and terrified by what I had experienced. In the years since though I only tend to bring it up when someone asks about my ghost encounter or the conversation shifts towards the talk of ghosts. ”

How did people react to your experience?  

“People tend to get pretty freaked out by it. They sometimes ask whether I thought it was going to harm he. Now I am not sure what the intentions of this spirit were, but be they benign or malignant the coldness of its presence definitely gave me an uneasy feeling leading to my prompt response of telling it to leave”

 

Analysis: This story possesses a couple motifs common to ghost stories. One such example is that it occurs at night. Another aspect of this story common to several stories I’ve read or been told is the association of the presence of a ghost with coldness. A unique aspect of this story is that the ghost in no way made itself directly heard or seen; it was only because of the drop in temperature and the depression it left in the bed that JM was even aware of its presence. The ghost itself was not visible or audible. While neither JM or anyone else would be able to determine the intentions of the ghost, be they simple curiosity or something more malicious, the fact that it reacted to her yells for it to leave is another interesting component of this particular encounter.

Adulthood
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Forget it, it’s Chinatown

JH is a senior at a all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.

JH sat down to talk with me about a ritual he and his friends began practicing as early as middle school – taking the train to Chinatown in downtown LA after school.

“Some of my friends started going in eighth grade…our middle school was really close to a Metro station, and we could just say we were walking to my friend N’s house and just go there instead. Tickets were only like $1.50 each way and it only takes like, 15 minutes to get there. I only went once though I think…and we just walked around and looked at stuff, they had those little turtles and firecrackers and shit, I don’t even know if anyone bought anything.

“I went more with friends in high school though, like freshman and sophomore year a bit. We could still take the Metro after school and just told our parents we were staying after school to do homework in the library or had a club meeting or something. My friends would also buy cigarettes at these little smoke shops there, and there was like, always one that kept getting shut down or they kept changing the name…it would pretty much be a different woman every time, like ‘Kim’s’ or ‘Annie’s’ or something. And they wouldn’t ask for your ID or anything, my friends would just like buy whatever their friends bought, like red Marlboros or American Spirits and stuff. They had pieces too [for smoking weed] and bongs, so sometimes my friends would get the cheap glass pipes, they were like $10 each or something. I know some people would go through the markets where they had clothes and knock-off jade stuff, and there was this one little stall hidden behind clothes that sold a whole bunch of weapons. We mostly just went and looked but some people bought things, like ninja stars or big knives…people said these guys supplied the Chinese mafia, or something. One time someone said they saw a warhead…like the kind of thing you put on top of a missile. For awhile one of my friends had like a plywood board in his garage, and we’d take turns throwing the ninja stars at it.”

I asked JH why he thought Chinatown was so popular for younger high school kids, and what it said about their youth culture:

“I don’t know…I don’t know when they built the Metro, but I guess it was probably pretty new. And in like 8th grade, beginning of high school, no one can drive, but you kind of want to start going out and exploring…beyond Pasadena, outside of just your neighborhood and school and stuff. And then the Metro only really has a few stops that aren’t in totally random places, like yeah you could get on different lines and go to Hollywood and stuff but we only had a couple hours after school and going too far was probably too…intimidating or scary when we were only like, 14. And then obviously older kids were doing it and that’s where they were getting dumb things like cigarettes that they had at parties, and I guess we just wanted to see what they were getting into, and it just seemed really cool going to a kind of sketchy place and knowing we were breaking all these rules. Probably just like, typical teenage rebellion, sneaking behind your parents’ backs before we could drive and really start getting into trouble. Plus, in Pasadena I think we all know we’re super sheltered in this really well-off community, and everyone’s had pretty comfortable and safe lives…which I guess adds to the danger part.”

My analysis:

I think this type of ritual is typical among teenagers, especially younger ones, who are just starting to become independent and want to push the boundaries their parents have set so far. The ages of 13-16, 17 really define the liminal period in American culture, when kids start to feel more self-sufficient but aren’t ready to take on all the responsibilities of adulthood; parents struggle with the transition too, knowing they should start preparing older children to take care of themselves, without wanting to kick them out of the nest so fast. Kids toeing the line, and learning to take advantage of their parents is nothing new, and here we see them trying to navigate the larger (and more adult) world using public transportation, coming into contact with drugs and drug paraphernalia, and doing so with an air of secrecy and defiance.

Additionally, it starts to separate “cool” or “mature” kids from those who are happy to obey authority, and some feel pressured to challenge their parents instead of their peers. Sneaking out and experimenting with illicit activities (drinking, drugs, sex, etc.) is a large part of the American high school experience, and this ritual demonstrates one foray into that world.

Adulthood
Initiations

Kairos

JH is a senior at an all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives in Pasadena, CA.

JH talked to me about a school retreat he just went on, which they host every year:

“We have a different retreat every year, but the senior retreat is called ‘Kairos’…we spend like the last week of classes at a center near Santa Barbara, but they don’t really tell us where we’re going…we just left after school one day. It’s pretty religious-based and we talked a lot about God and the Catholic Church and stuff, but more of it was spiritual, like we talked about our personal relationship with God and spirituality and stuff. On the second day they surprised us with letters from our parents, and both of our parents had to write us a letter with stuff they may not have told us or with like, things they wanted us to know…some people got letters from siblings too, and they mostly talked about how we’re at an important transition in our lives, talking about becoming an adult and stuff. And then we all had to share a lot too, and people talked about really awful things that had happened in their past that we had no idea about, and our teachers and the priests did too…I think we all got a lot closer, opening up like that…I wasn’t expecting to really buy into the whole retreat thing, but I think I learned a lot in the end. When we got back, they led us into the auditorium where all our parents were sitting, and they were cheering for us, and we went and sat up on stage where they talked a little about the week, and then we all had to go up to the microphone and talk about our experiences that week, and then we would go and sit with our parents.”

I asked JH if he felt it was more of a religious retreat or a school/class retreat:

“Definitely more about our class than religion. The religion was a big part of it, but even just going to a Catholic school they were never necessarily trying to convert us or anything, and they were really inclusive both at the retreat and at the school like in general.”

My analysis:

A lot of high schools that have the resources put on these “retreats” for their students, especially at the end of senior year, or the end of their high school career. It helps usher these students through the liminal period, or help them slow down and understand the importance of the transition they’re in the midst of, and by emphasizing parental involvement JH’s school highlights the community aspect, where families would play a big role in celebrating the child’s transition to adulthood. This is actually the first kind of retreat I’d heard of that gave parents such a role – usually it revolves more around the school’s influence and presence in the students’ lives.

Adulthood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Game
general
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Magic
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Fountain Run at USC

Informant: USC alumni

“The USC fountain run is a tradition for graduating seniors. They are not allowed to go into the water of any of the fountains at USC or else it is said they won’t graduate. But on the last week of class, they all get together, drink, strip down to their underwear or swimwear, and run through every single fountain at USC. It is this big celebration of achievement and a right that only graduating seniors have. Usually some people get too drunk, but it’s all about celebrating freedom and no more rules. It’s something you do with your friends, and something people reminisce about years later when they meet other USC alumni.”

 

Analysis: This is a ritualized tradition for separating a ‘privileged’ group of students from the rest. Only seniors are allowed to do this, because it is a right of passage- you cannot participate if you have not completed all the obstacles and challenges that the last four years brought. It entails formally breaking taboos, such as going inside the fountain before you graduate. This superstition also underscores that its a privilege that only people who have completed USC can partake in. After the formalized, restrictive education process at University where rules must be obeyed or else expulsion, students celebrate on the brink of freedom while they are still technically bound to the student body.

Adulthood
Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Norwegian Graduation Celebration

The tradition started in 1905 when Norway got its independence, and it’s sort of a combination of celebrating the end of high school and independence day (17th of May). Basically in their sophomore year or something, very early on in high school, kids get together in groups of like 20-30 girls and 20-30 guys and start saving money to buy a bus (party bus) in their senior year. Basically each group picks a project to work on over the two years that will help them raise enough money to do it (typically about 200,000 dollars per group.)
Not everyone does it, but a lot of kids do. And basically with these busses, you create your own theme so one bus could be called just weird names like sin city or vice city, or one bus could be called champions league and  umm and you renovate the bus create it and decorate it in your own theme by re decorating the whole inside, changing the seating, sometimes adding sofas in the bus, adding speakers, lights, bars, and some people put karaoke machines inside their bus, thats a new thing.
And basically then there are different competitions between busses: who has the best sound systems, exterior, interior, etc and the competitions are regional or countrywide.
I’m from east of Norway and its more of a cultural thing where I’m from, and most parts of the country if they can’t afford it do it with busses so they just do it with like minivans.
So then there’s different festivals around the country- these are called literally translated its called country meet ups and then the name of the place” and at these FESTIVALS (which last for like 2-4 days) have performances and concerts by artists, and the busses are all set up in the same huge space and the best busses usually have a large set up around their bus with light shows and a stage and you can imagine, and they are judged not only on the bus but also the set up. I would say they put a lot of money into the busses. Basically throughout high school each person ends up spending like about 7-12 thousand dollars on the whole thing.
And the festivals happen right before you graduate and they happen from like April 20th through sometime in May but not all at the same time, sort of spread out through that time period and all over the country. And then when the busses aren’t at their specific festivals they just get driven through the cities all month and the kids party on the bus.
Every bus also has a name that goes along with it’s theme and all the people on it have headbands with the name of the bus on it and wear them to the festivals to represent their busses. And each person also orders different colored pants, these are special pants, and you can have pants that could be a one pieces or suspenders like overalls that are called “russebukse” or anything like that and they’re usually either red, blue, green, or black, most popular are red and blue. It used to be based on your major or whatever you were planning to study after high school,  so IT and Media would have blue pants and general subjects would have red, and green would be if you were like doing agricultural stuff and black would be for those who were doing labor subjects (plumber).
I would say that graduating high school is a really special part of a teenagers life even more so than in other places because we have this crazy tradition that is also mixed with our independence day. People that celebrate this holiday
ANONTATION:
For more information on this celebration see video below or article Norwegian Russ- Silly Season is Here, Life in Norway by David Nikel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lSeznt_3Ng
ANALYSIS:
The informant, a fellow peer, told me this story on a long bus ride we were on together recently. While the folklore itself is engaging and definitely meaningful to anyone who has had a high school graduation celebration, the most entertaining part of the story was just how excited the informant was as he was telling me about it. He really did seem prideful about this piece of folklore that is so specific to his country and its culture and traditions.
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