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

West Bengal Wedding Traditions

Context:

The informant – RB – is a middle-aged Hindu woman, originally from West Bengal, India. She now works as a nutritionist in South Florida, and is one of my mother’s closest friends. The following happened during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about some of her favorite Indian folklore, particularly about wedding traditions.

 

Piece:

Indian weddings vary from state to state. In my state, the wedding traditions are different from in our neighboring state. I was just at an Indian wedding. Our wedding is typically a four-day affair. What happens is, the day before the wedding, the groom’s family invites their own friends and family – no one from the bride’s side – because, apparently, that is the last bachelor meal the groom is going to have. So it’s a big deal. When I went, they had invited over 100 people, there was catered lunch… The groom was served on silver platters with all kinds of silver bowls… everything! It was like a big, big, deal: all the groom’s favorite foods. It was almost as if you were taking him for his last meal before you kill him or something. We give gifts to the groom… anyway, that is the day before the wedding.

The morning of the wedding, the groom’s family sends all kinds of gifts to the bride’s family. Clothes, jewelry, anything… It depends how rich you are and how much you want to spend.

The morning of the wedding, there are some rituals from the bride’s side. One ritual is turmeric. It is considered very auspicious and anti-inflammatory. In the olden days, there was no makeup or anything, so I think that’s how it started. That, what they do is put a little bit of oil and turmeric on the bride and groom’s face, then take a shower, so you glow on your wedding. I think that’s how it started because it’s all organic. And they put fresh turmeric, sandalwood, and oil into paint, and you put it on each other.

That evening is when the groom goes to the bride’s house and the wedding ceremony takes place. The groom does not come back that night. In our culture, the bride and the groom spend the night at the bride’s house, because the wedding takes place all night long. There is music and dancing, everybody stays up all night long.

The next morning, the groom brings the bride home to his family. So when he brings the bride home, it’s like a big welcoming ceremony, because the groom’s side of the family invites all their friends and family to meet the bride, and they welcome the bride to the house. They shower her with gifts – usually lots of jewelry. Gold is considered as an asset for the women, because women were not allowed to inherit property, so during the wedding, the father of the bride gives whatever value they would give to the son, equal amount value in gold to their daughter. So that’s how the ritual started. But now, not so much, since women are allowed to inherit property, and are now very independent and professional, so they don’t need that.

Then, again, there is a big lunch where they invite friends and family to meet the bride. The following day, typically, there is a reception. There is no ritual that goes on; typically you just invite five, six, seven hundred people… it is a huge affair, with catered food, but there is no alcohol served: never on the wedding or reception day. This is just for your friends and family to meet the new bride.

 

Analysis:

It is interesting to hear how much bigger an affair weddings in India are than they are here. It seems as though Hindus really value large social gatherings, and will throw huge social celebrations for holidays and occasions, like weddings. In fact, it seems that the point of many religious occasions is much more social than it is religious. I was shocked to hear that a typical Indian wedding consists of 500-1,000 guests. I feel that this is likely the result of a seemingly much more inclusive and accepting religion, that values socializing and lifestyle over religious and social boundaries.

 

Customs
Initiations
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Virgin Sacrifice

The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Virgin Sacrifice

The following informant is a 21 year-old student from California, currently residing in Los Angeles and studying at the University of Southern California. They have been a part of the weekly cast of Los Angeles’ “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tradition for at least a year. Here, they are describing a weekly tradition they subject the audience to; they will be identified as I.

I: At “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the one in Santa Monica at the Nuart, we’re called Sins of the Flesh, and we do this thing, there’s a pre-show, an MC introducing the whole thing, and what the MC will do is ask if there’s anyone who has never seen “The Rocky Horror” show live, with the shadow-cast and everything, before. And of all the people that are left, who have never seen the show before, they get 6 people up there, and ask them to perform some kind of weird antics.

And there’s a couple different games that they’ll play, a popular one is “Who’s Your Daddy?” They ask someone the actual name of their actual father, and they have to do an impersonation of their mother screaming their father’s name in bed, you know? Things like that that are lude, and inappropriate, and just fun to see.

There’s another game that they play, called “Scavenger Hunt,” where they basically ask for ridiculous things from the audience, like a pair of panties, or like, a Universal Studios annual pass, or like a condom, just some ridiculous topical things. Once the game is finished, they pick two winners, usually one boy and one girl, but sometimes it’s not that — and what they used to do is a very inappropriate thing where they’d get them into a, kind of, lude position, and then lift them up and down in that position, and it was a lot, and I think it was a liability.

So now, what they do, is they make it so the winners are part of the show, they have small roles at the beginning. There are some callouts where, if you’re going to lie, don’t say you’ve seen it 50 or 100 times, because we would have recognized you by now.

Context

The informant is my roommate, and I am friends with this individual. This bit was told to me in our room. They have been a part of the cast of the Santa Monica weekly performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for at least a year, but have attended the performance for a longer period of time.

My Thoughts

I attended the show once last year — it was fascinating. The seemingly countless callouts, memorized musical numbers, and objects thrown around were a spectacle. It was interesting hearing someone behind such a performance describe the tradition of inducting new members of the community.

It is truly a matter of identity and initiating those who are not yet members of the “in crowd” with harmless yet deprecating jokes that they are not fully aware of, so that they may subject their friends who might eventually attend the performance with the same jokes.

 

Customs
Folk speech
general
Initiations
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Swearing-In

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Swearing-In

The following informant is a 21 year-old student from California, currently residing in Los Angeles and studying at the University of Southern California. They have been a part of the weekly cast of Los Angeles’ “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tradition for at least a year. Here, they are describing a the swearing-in of new members of the community; they will be identified as Z.

Z: At the beginning, it’s like “Raise your right hand, or the hand you masturbate with,” and then people would raise both their hands, “and repeat after me,” and everyone says “after me! after me! after me!”

And then the chant is, “I state your name, pledge allegiance to the lips of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ And to the decadence, for which they stand, one nation, under Richard O’Brien, on top of Patricia Quinn, with sensual daydreams, erotic nightmares, and sins of the flesh for them all.” That’s like the induction speech, or whatever. It’s a lot.

Context

The informant is my roommate, and I am friends with this individual. This bit was told to me in our room. They have been a part of the cast of the Santa Monica weekly performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for at least a year, but have attended the performance for a longer period of time.

My Thoughts

There are layers to this tradition. First off, it is lampooning the swearing in process that is typically held in judicial or political office. While this jokingly places the “induction ceremony” in a substantially more serious light than it rightfully deserves, there is no doubt that this film has become a sort of folklore, and acts as a canon for this community of “followers,” who have clearly come up with their own traditions, jokes, and beliefs as they relate to the film (genres of meta-folklore).

They are also, in ways, playing with the long-used term of “cult following” regarding “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” almost reclaiming the idea of a cult. In my opinion, it is a means of waving goodbye to the already-there establishment, and creating their own “legitimized” community — this is consonant with the overall tone of the film itself.

To read more on this topic, feel free to read:

Tyson, Christy, et al. “Our Readers Write: What Is the Significance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Why Do Kids Keep Going to It?” The English Journal, vol. 69, no. 7, 1980, pp.60–62. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/817417.

 

Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Greek Wedding Ritual

Context: My informant – identified as N.D. – and I were on a FaceTime call. She is of Greek and Peruvian decent, and goes to school in Manhattan, New York. While catching up, I decided to ask her whether she maintains her cultural traditions while at school.

 

Background: N.D. explained that she was going home to Miami in the coming week to celebrate her eldest sister’s wedding. She and her other four sisters planned to perform a traditional Greek bachelorette ritual, that had been done in her family for years. It’s a generations-old ritual that my informant’s family, relatives, and friends, all perform, and it is deeply rooted in Greek culture.

 

Main Piece: “The night before the couple’s wedding, all of the single friends of the bride usually do this thing where we come together and decorate the couple’s future marriage bed. A few of my sister’s friends will be there, but it’s me and my sisters that are going to be doing most of the work. Basically you put a bunch of flowers all over, and put rice all around the room and on the bed, and also leave out coins and money. The idea is that it promotes prosperity, fertility, and love for that couple. My family is very into these little traditions and it’s a fun way for all of us to get together before the wedding and celebrate the bride. Rice is used in a lot of ceremonies like this in Greek culture, and Peruvian culture too actually. Even though it’s such an old tradition, it still has a lot to do with the typical American bachelorette party activities. We’re planning on doing that too, but this is a different way of celebrating that also takes us back to our roots a little bit.”

 

Analysis: I found it interesting how the idea of rice is intertwined in such a large number of cultural customs, especially in regards to weddings. In other cultures, the throwing of the rice at the end of the wedding ceremony symbolizes rain, which is thought to be a sign of good fortune and prosperity. In the case of Greek culture, the rice is placed in the most intimate part of the couple’s life.

 

Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Praying for a Good Harvest: Indian Festival of Lohri

Text:

S: “Lohri is basically celebrated in Punjab and Haryana [states of India] and also in other parts of the country but has different significance you know across the country… So basically it’s the time when you uh sow the fresh crop…But so what we do for Lohri is we burn a bonfire kind of a thing and uh the auspicious thing to eat and to throw into the fire is uh groundnuts, revdri [specific food item], and uh popcorn – so these are supposed to be auspicious and then you pray to this pious fire, the bonfire, and pray that this harvest is good. And so the crops are supposed to be harvested in April and this festival is in January so you basically want the next harvest to be good because you’re now sowing for that round of harvesting essentially. And also it marks the going away of peak winters, and the coming in of spring, and like just like the going away of cold weather.”

S: “It is also like celebrated with the neighbors, like it’s a community thing. And the first Lohri of a child or of a newly married couple is very important – the family hosts that Lohri and calls all their relatives and friends over and then you know serve them dinner after they all sit around the bonfire and offer their prayers and everything. And everyone has dinner around the bonfire and eats together and it kind of brings in a lot of social interaction also.”

S: “And if it’s not like your first Lohri, then people just get together and they do like potluck, and they bring like one-one dish – you still have to organize it – but people just get one dish and do it together.”

S: “You also have these specific songs associated with Lohri, I don’t remember them but um, the kids are supposed to be going to everybody’s house and singing those songs and asking for Lohri – like you do in Halloween – and people give them money. I mean we used to do that when we were kids but I don’t think people do it anymore.”

S: “So this day is very auspicious, 13thJanuary, or 12th, it’s very auspicious, and with the Hindu calendar, it’s the beginning of the month of, I think it’s the month called Makar, I’m not too sure about that. But the thing is like, so the Hindus everywhere celebrate it but in their own way so I think it’s called Pongal in the South [South India] and Bihu in Assam [another Indian state] and it’s called Makar Sakranti in UP [another Indian state]. And then they have their own ways of celebrating it, like the Haryanvis [residents of the state of Haryana] celebrate it by eating kichdi and ghee [specific dish] and UP people celebrate it by having til ke ladoo [another specific dish]and I don’t know about Bihu, how they celebrate it but, so basically that day is auspicious in the Hindu calendar so it is celebrated in various ways in different parts of the country.”

 

Context:

The informant is a middle-aged doctor from India. This conversation took over the phone around the time of the festival mentioned. The informant mentioned to me her plans for the weekend involved celebrations related to this festival, and I was curious and asked her to elaborate more on what the festival was. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses. Certain key terms that were originally in Hindi have been Romanized and their translations or explanations are given in brackets.

 

Interpretation:

Sowing and harvest festivals are pretty common globally and are especially prominent in an agrarian society like India. The unpredictability of the many factors that are needed for a good harvest leads to folk traditions like this one. However, their influence expands even to those who are not part of the community of farmers and in this context the meaning and function of the festival changes to be about regional cultural heritage. The informant mentions how the same festival is celebrated across India under different names, and with different specific practices even though all its variations are about praying for a good harvest. In this light, the details of how you celebrate the festival tie you into a particular community – for the informant, it is the community of people from Punjab/Haryana. The informant also mentions this emphasis on community, and how the festival is especially important to establish entry into the community by new members – whether by birth or by marriage. Further, the ties of the earth cycle (which is at a period just before spring) to the life cycle are also seen through the focus on children and the Halloween-like tradition of going door to door and asking for money. It is also interesting how the symbolic foods to throw in the fire have evolved to include foods that only exist in the modern world – namely, popcorn – and the informant spoke of them with the same reverence as the more typical foods that are groundnuts and revri.

 

Annotations:

For a more detailed description of Lohri, including an example of the songs the informant mentioned, refer to p. 26 of the book Let’s Know Festivals of India by Kartar Singh Bhalla (2005, Star Publications).

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Italian American Wedding Tradition

The below folklore is something my informant noticed while at Italian American weddings. My informant will be referred to as D, and is a mid 40s white man.

Text:

D: At many Italian American weddings, and maybe some others, when they tap their glasses it calls for the bride and groom to kiss.

Me: Do you have any idea why this is or how it came to be?

D: No I have no idea.

Context: D has told me this a few times, especially when we are discussing weddings. It is often a funny story he tells, because to this day it still catches him off guard. This is because he had always grown up with the belief that tapping your glasses means you want to give a toast. But when he’s been to Italian American weddings, people would always tap their glass and D would expect a toast, but instead see the bride and the groom kiss each other. He often laughs about it when he thinks about it and remembers it because it caught him so off guard and was so surprised by it.

Analysis: This folklore is most important because it demonstrates different cultures different wedding traditions. That is what made it interesting to both my D and I, as we thought tapping your glass at weddings meant giving a toast, not that the bride and the groom should kiss. Also, the Italians have a reputation for a very romantic culture, so them encouraging romance at a wedding is no surprise. Other forms of this tradition say that the clinking of the glasses scares the devil away, and therefore the bride and groom should kiss while the devil is gone (1). All in all, it is a fun tradition that was good for me to learn about as I had never heard it before.

Works Cited

Longobardi, Alfonso. “Wedding Customs and Traditions for Your Wedding in Italy.” Italian Wedding Photographers | Weddings in Italy, 27 Apr. 2015, www.alfonsolongobardi.com/italian-wedding-customs-wedding-traditions/.

 

Adulthood
Folk speech
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Polish Wedding Joke

Main Piece

QJ: “Can it be a dirty joke?”

Collector: “Yes.”

QJ: “A lot of the jokes I grew up with are kind of dirty…most Polish ones are…I think one that my grandfather would say asks what is long and hard that a Polish bride gets on her wedding night?”

Collector: “What?”

QJ: “A new last name.”

Analysis

This joke seems to be fairly popular among Polish people, and I have heard it beyond my informant. In fact, I have heard it outside of the realm of Polish culture, and have seen different ethnic backgrounds attached to it. It seems that many prideful Slavic people make light of their often long and hard to pronounce last names through jokes like these. Given my informant’s background for the joke and explaining that he heard ones like these growing up, I would also assume that his culture and family have more of an openness to tell dirty jokes in front of younger audience. Generally, it would seem that older people have more of a relaxed ability to tell jokes that otherwise would not seem appropriate. This joke also implies a patriarchal society, where a woman would receive something from her husband in any interpretation of the joke, but no jokes suggest the woman giving the man anything.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Holidays
Initiations
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eating Almonds at Persian Weddings

Description

“Whenever someone gets married, it’s a tradition to eat almonds at the wedding so that the wife becomes fertile. I first saw this at the first Persian wedding that I went to when I was, like, eight years old. They put little bags of almonds underneath every single guest’s seat during the ceremony. At the end, when they marry each other, all the guests take out the almonds and eat them. Obviously, I was confused when it first happened, and my mom said, ‘Oh, you do this so the wife becomes pregnant.”

Context

I was with friends when the informant offered this piece of information. We had been talking about how people our age (early 20s) are getting married very quickly, which then devolved into a conversation about weddings, both traditional and not. The informant learned about this custom, as outlined in the description, through weddings she celebrated with her own family, and she learned through observation.

Analysis

I think small details like these within larger events or celebrations are very interesting. In high school, I learned a lot about fertility charms, such as the fertility goddesses made of stone. The act of eating almonds raises a lot of questions for me, questions aimed at wanting to know why almonds, why eat them, etc. I’ve not been to many weddings, but my first thought when I encountered this ideal was — what happens if someone is allergic to nuts?

 

Initiations
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Legend of El Dorado

Main Text:

AC: “I don’t necessarily no why they call it the Legend of  ‘El’ Dorado because it’t not a person, it’s not a thing, it’s a ritual. What this ritual is the ritual in which a person of a tribe of the Muisca civilization in present day Columbia the leader is chosen. So the Legend of El Dorado is the ritual and process through which this selected individual goes through. Typically, actually always I believe, the this individual is the current leader’s or the Casique’s (the leader is called the Casique) nephew from his sister’s side. This is because in the Muisca civilazation women were actually very highly regarded and they were the only people who could really discipline. So they had more power than men in most cases. So it is typically the oldest son of the eldest sister of the current Casique if that makes any sense. So as soon as the individual is chosen he was sent off to a cave in sacred ground. I forget what it is called but it is sacred because of gods and stuff. This guy goes here for like six years in seclusion and he can’t eat what a lot of people would consider luxury. For example stuff like salts, I believe it was like chili peppers and meat. So really the only thing he could eat were like fruits right, so he was on a dietary and social restriction. He could have no sexual pleasure, like he had to have a complete mind over matter kind of situation.

“So something about the Muisca people is…something that is significant to this is their religion. I am kind of jumping all over the place because I haven’t been through it in a while. So in the Muisca religion there was this evil god who came down and started terrorizing the Musica people. Essentially he made the Muisca people turn evil. So then there was another goddess Bachué who is essentially our version of Jesus Christ I guess and she came down and saved everybody and he banished the evil god. Because of all the darkness he caused he made him into the moon in order to illuminate all this hatred, it is symbolic because he caused darkness and now he has to stop darkness in the night. On the contrary, the sun was supposed to represent warmth, kindness, intelligence, wisdom and all of this. So while the Casique, or the Casique-to-be, the nephew was in this cave he was not allowed to see this sun because he wasn’t allowed to really know the wisdom yet. Like he wasn’t allowed to do that yet. right? So, he could only go out at night. And he was… I don’t necessarily know if he was with other nephews of like other sisters because that wouldn’t really make sense or if he was like training with the Casique, like he would like go and help him out. But the point is that at night he would have to march, he would have to stomp really hard in order so that everyone else would know where they are right. And they can’t step on grass because if they like step on grass they can’t hear each other march and they don’t know where a cliff is because it is in darkness, they can’t really see anything. So that is why they have to march while they are out getting food and all that and they have to be back inside the cave before the sun comes up. They can’t see the sun at all for like six years and they are on dietary restriction and social restriction.”

“At the end of the six years they bring this woman, supposedly like the baddest bitch of the tribe to test his temptation and all of that and if he passes then the next and final part of the ritual is to bring him out to Lake Guatavita which is sacred because… so here’s what happened. This is a complete side tangent to why t hey chose Lake Guatavita to do this ritual- so before this ritual I suppose there was this leader. And this leader was always super busy to his wife and like doing this and that and he had sex with a bunch of different women. So this original wife was like ‘man, like what the fuck’ so she started basically fucking this other guy, like she fell in love with this other guy. The Casique and this lady had a daughter together so she started cheating on him and he was like ‘there’s something fucking fishy here right’ like ‘She is getting dick somewhere else and I need to figure this out.’ So he sends this elderly nurse to go and spy on her and he finds out that it was actually true. So they have this big ol’ banquet like in the ruse of something like a banquet for the Casique and he served venison heart to the wife. He is like ‘Here my wife, here is some venison heart’ which is like a super big luxury, it’ deer heart. And as soon as she finished this mother fucker starts laughing like really loud. So then these peeps are like ‘ What the fuck? What is going on?’ and he is all like ‘Bro where is your man at? Like your man is nowhere to be found.’ And she realizes she just ate her man’s heart. So completely heartbroken she goes to Lake Guatavita which is the nearest lake, she brings her daughter and she drowns both of them. The Casique is like ‘ Brooo like I didn’t want that to happen I just wanted them to stop seeing each other.’ So he feels really bad and he sends out a bunch of priests and a bunch of his town and whatever and they all go. The priests go in the water to try and find them and the priests say that they actually saw her and the daughter and that they created a kingdom down there. That they are safe,  they are good, they are happy and that they don’t want to come back up. So now that is kind of like the ritual. They do it to honor an elder Casique’s sacrifice I guess. It is not really a sacrifice but anyways that is why they chose that lake. So the Casique-to-be, the nephew, after 6 years he passes the test and he hasn’t been like talking to anybody. He’s been in this fucking cave for 6 years just eating nothing but nuts and berries and now he is ready for the final part of the ritual.

” So he stands in a certain pose and he does that because this is the first time that he is allowed to be out in the sun, right. And they coat him in gold because- another thing about the Muisca people that is important is that they saw gold not as the Europeans see it. They didn’t see it as a currency. They actually believed that gold not in the shape of a form as in a God or a tool was useless. That is how they valued gold and at the time when all of this is going on I believe like 60% of the world’s gold was located in fucking Columbia. So they saw this gold as symbolism and that it came from the sun god, I forgot his name, so they think that the Casique-to-be is representative of him. So what they do is right before the sun rises he goes outside and golds that pose and what they do-they being four priests- is that they cover him in gold. It is supposed to be symbolic of the knowledge he is supposed to learn from the sun god. Come sunrise he is in this stance that allows him to absorb the most sun, AKA absorb the most wisdom and the most wealth so that he could properly lead his community. All this is to be a leader. He is sacrificing himself to be a leader. He can’t let go of that form right but he is in a cave so how does he get to the lake? He holds that form for hours while priests physically carry him to the lake. Okay so he is holding that shit the entire time covered in gold, mind you. The way they made the gold stick is they cover him in resin so that as soon as the earth hardens the gold would stay like that. So he is in this like now, right, and in this lake they have raft. The priest put him on the raft and they get on the raft themselves. The priests are in the corners and the Casique is in the middle and they bring a bunch of offerings called tumbas or something. All of these gold pieces are the offerings to the god that resides there or the god that made all of this possible. So he goes and as soon as he reaches the center of the lake they stop everything. They stop the raft and there is a bunch of people from the community here watching this go down because it is their future leader. It is kind of like an inauguration for the president so they all show up and they are surrounding this lake and they start lighting these huge pots in order for the smoke to cloud out the sun. The smoke is no longer important because he got all the wisdom that was needed , all the knowledge, everything, so now they block out the sun with all of this stuff. As soon as they reach the middle everybody is dead silent and they had these drums playing from the clifftops and as soon as they reached the middle everything stopped playing. Keep in mind this guy is still holding this fucking stance which is physically draining right. So as soon as they reach the middle they start pushing all these gold offerings, hundreds of gold offerings, into the lake. As soon as they do that finally the last offering- the gold on the Casique. He jumps into the lake and obviously gold is heavy right, so you’ll drown. And you can’t surface until you get all of the gold off of you so if you don’t get the gold off in time you become part of the offering. He scrapes all of this gold of with a Tumi knife and this Tumi knife is important because it is symbolic of sacrifice because they used it in sacrificial rituals and this and that. So obviously if he fails to scrape this off with this knife he becomes part of the sacrifice and this ritual. But of course there are people that are able to successfully scrape off this gold, he emerges and he is now the Casique.”

Context:

I knew AC knew this ritual because it was told in his family so I solicited this this information from him while we were in the car driving to go back to our hometown together for a party. AC says the he thinks the Legend is passed down for two reasons. His first reason is that this lake and city is extremely well known because either Spaniards or Portuguese people witnessed the gold being dumped into the lake and when they told people it got blown out of proportion to people believing that there is an entire city made out of gold. This belief of course then intrigues people, a lot of the time purely out of greediness, to visit Lake Guatavita and possibly even try to loot it and find all of the gold, both of which keeps this story being passed down from generation to generation in these individual’s families. The second reason that he believes that the Legend of El Dorado is passed down is as a way to preserve the Muisca people’s culture. I also asked him if he were to tell this ritual to someone, why he would tell it. He responded that it teaches about the sacrifice of becoming a leader. He continued to tell me that there are certain things that you have to do and give up in order to becomes something or someone that people admire and that he would use this as a teaching mechanism to put “community over self”.

Analysis:

AC mentioned that he believed this legend is passed down due to the greediness of colonizers and the widespread belief that El Dorado is an entire city made of gold. To add on to his analysis, many people today go searching for this city of gold and they more likely than not explain to people what they are doing which keeps this legend passing right along through any society that has any concern for wealth and riches. Many modern day examples really put this greediness on display, such as the movie The Road to El Dorado and many others like it. This folklore legend has been adapted to fit media in such a way that this legend of the “City of Gold” is reaching more and more people which causes more and more people to tell the legend in hopes that one day someone will find it and get h off of the gold that they find, even though most of these people do not realize that this is a legend about gold being dumped into a like to accept the Muisca’s future leader.

In addition to the greed analysis above, there are two other parts to this legend that can be analyzed: the culture’s relations to gold in Columbia as well as the role leadership plays in many people’s cultures. To start with the gold analysis, one needs to know a little of the history of Colombia. Gold in Columbia used to be in great abundance before South America was conquered and taken advantage of by the Spaniards. To make the first part of the analysis simpler, I will be using the Tumaco region of Colombias an example to represent Colombia’s vast wealth in gold and what this meant for the indigenous people at the time and for generations to follow. In the Tumaco region since B.C. and early A.D. times, metallurgy was a huge cultural aspect for the indigenous peoples living there because of the enormous amounts of gold and platinum available in the land. Even though the land was constantly looted for its precious metals, much like Lake Guatavita has been in history, the gold that was found on this land formed a large part of the culture of indigenous tribes because it allowed them to make precious cultural artifacts representing their gods among the things and animals they found to be sacred. Knowing the vast amount of gold found in just one region of Columbia one can begin to appreciate the amounts of gold that spanned Colombia as well as appreciate the art and cultures that formed from this gold. This history of metallurgy and the presence of gold explains one reason why this legend has been passed down and will continue to be passed down. Gold has always been a part of Colombia’s history and even the first Spanish Conquistadors acknowledged this and called it sacred land. Because of this sacredness many cultures and tribes, such as the Muisca themselves, were built around the presence of gold and this legend is passed along as a way to remember one’s origins and history.

The second reason that could explain why this legend gets passed along today still is the large influence of leadership that appears in the legend. The entire legend and the ritual performed in the legend is all about picking a leader worthy enough to represent one’s tribe, village and culture. As AC touched on in his explanation for why he would tell someone this legend, I would like to expand on the leadership lessons that this legend could teach. This legend has survived throughout history because everything in life has a leader no matter how big or how small. The school has its principle, the university has its president, animals have their pack leaders. young children have their parents, et cetera, and each one of these leaders were in one way or the other picked for this position. Leadership is very universal and can be arguably taught in any civilization around the world, which is what makes the telling of this legend so powerful and long-lived. This legend teaches about disciple, self-restraint, perseverance and sacrifice, all of the qualities that one would teach someone for them to be a successful person in society, not even a leader per se. In other words, I believe this legend is passed down because in one part the lesson of leadership is very universal and comprehensible in almost any culture and it teaches future leaders of any kind in any place and in any culture  the qualities that one needs in order to survive in this rigid world.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hindu Marriage Ritual

Main Piece:

According to the informant, the equivalent to saying vows in a wedding ceremony and saying I do to each other, the pandit (Hindu priest) says prayers while the bride and groom hold hands and walk around a fire seven times to signify the seven lives that they are going to spend together.

 

Background:

Informant is a 22-year-old USC student from India. Her parents raised her as a Hindu, but she does not practice the religion while at school.

 

Analysis:

The seven lives come from the fact that the Hindu religion involves the reincarnation of the soul when one dies. The couple is destined to marry each other within each of their seven lives. In the view of the informant, the ritual should change with each reincarnation with the couple walking one less time around the fire to represent each life they have lived together.

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