USC Digital Folklore Archives / April, 2017
Legends
Narrative

San Felipe Road- A Cursed Street

Informant is a student from San Jose, California.

“So there is an urban legend about a road that cuts through San Jose called San Felipe road. It’s a street that goes on for miles across the city, so there are some areas that are very densely populated. However, if you keep on driving down the road, you will eventually reach areas that have very little people very few lights. According to stories that I’ve heard, if you keep on driving down San Felipe very late at night, there are some very creepy things that will happen.”

Tell me about what happens.

“So, if you drive down really late at night and keep on going down, eventually, you’ll reach a stretch with no streetlamps, so that only your headlights will illuminate the road. Once you reach this part, uhh, I’ve heard that a bunch of things can happen. Sometimes, if you look in your rear view mirror, you’ll see a shadowy figure, but if you turn around there won’t be anybody. Also, you might see a white van that will appear and disappear. People have reported some really strange happenings around there. I’ve heard that when you drive back to a lit area and look at your car, you’ll see hand prints on your windows and doors. It’s some really creepy shit, and I don’t think I’ll ever try it, but my friends have told me about it.”

 

Collector’s Comments:

I feel that stories about haunted or cursed locations are very popular, because many people pass through them and can report different occurrences. This is an example of belief being increased by context, as a person who was driving down the road and experiencing it for themselves would most likely be more afraid than someone just hearing about the story. Still, I am very interested as to why these legends are believed to occur, and if there is some back story behind the area that led to the legends.

Folk Beliefs

Tips Come in Waves

“Alright so I worked in ummm…. I worked in like multiple restaurants since I was like a freshman in high school and ummm…. one thing that they’ve always had in common was ummm…. was that there was a superstition around how servers got their tips. So the superstition was that just sort of that they come in waves and like servers take it very seriously like on a day where they get like… zero dollars in tips from multiple tables and they’re not bringing home that much money, they like… it’s really easy to get down about it. but in restaurants there is this attitude that’s like incubated that like what goes around comes around… kind of… so like if they get zero dollars from multiple tables and don’t bring home that much money one day, the next shift they’re very confident that they’ll get a lot of money and because they’re confident that that system will work, they probably serve better and they probably get better tips because of that so it’s sort of like a self fulfilling prophecy so because like, when a server has a bad day for tips because they believe in that philosophy that they’ll have a better day next time they actually do which is very interesting”

What I enjoyed about this superstition is that the informant realized how the superstition worked and how it was a self fulfilling prophecy within the superstition. Aside from that it’s also this superstition within the job as Tok Thompson has said is a way for the people within the job to control something out of their control. In this case it was the servers trying to control how many tips the get.

Game
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Fistbumping

This entry can loosely be described as videogame folklore. The interviewer (D) and the informant, C, were playing a game called Super Smash Bros for the Wii, a widely popular fighting game with well documented analysis for every character, stage, and since two players tend to face each other from a list of characters, every potential matchup as well. There are many unwritten rules that players follow to observe proper “etiquette” when playing the game. The game is played with 4 lives “stocks” and set to an 8-minute timer. The first to force their opponent to lose their stocks is declared winner. It is proper tournament etiquette to fistbump before games start.

 

This interaction occurred after both players had chosen their characters for the next game. The process of “striking stages” happens in order to preferentially pick stages for the next game to happen on.

 

D: let’s strike stages. I’ll go first, strike Dreamland

C: strike FD

D: strike PS2

C: Alright, so Yoshi’s

*both fistbump*


The interviewer notes the gesture of fistbumping as an unsaid mutual agreement that both players can proceed to the next match. There are no explicit rules stating players must fistbump to play the game, of course, but even in friendly play this simple gesture indicates you have a working level of respect for your opponent. It conveys a “no hard feelings” attitude that works for both parties, winner or loser.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Prayer for Prosperity

Every year before Diwali, the informant’s father, M, conducts a tradition where he honors the goddess Lakshmi for the wealth and prosperity that he has received throughout the year. The tradition is at once meant to thank her for past blessings and to ask for for more as the next year approaches. The tradition demands that some money be laid out purely as offering to the Lakshmi and can not be touched for the entire year. A book of prayers is also read from. The image attached depicts a standard setup for such a tradition.

 

 

Screenshot_20170426-222401

 

 

My thoughts: The interviewer used to take part in this ceremony and remembers it as a very regimented tradition. Certain rules must be followed at all times, and the marking of money to be set aside for the goddess is strict in kind and in variety.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

How Do We Sleep At Night?

In the Hindu religion, prayers are an extremely integral aspect to daily life. Hindu people attribute every organic substance as an embodiment of God, and as such, we should give thanks as much as we can. The informant, D, asked his religious father, M, about a set of prayers he remembers having to memorize as a child but since then has forgotten. These three prayers are some of the most central to the daily prayers a devout Hindu can practice, called the Trikal Sandhya. These three prayers seek to answer why we wake up in the morning, how we digest food, and how we sleep at night.

 

This particular entry seeks to answer how we sleep at night:

 

Original:

Krushnaya Vasudevaya Haraye paramatmane. Pranat klesh nashaya Govindaya namo namah

Kara charan krutam vak-kayajam karmajam va shravana nayanajam va, manasam va aparadhum vihitas avihitamva me tat kshamasva jaya jaya karunabdhe shree Mahadeva Shambho

Tvameva mata cha pita tvameva. Tvameva bandhus cha sakha tvameva. Tvameva vidya dravinam tvameva. Tvameva sarvam mama deva deva.

Translated:

I bow and pray Lord Krishna, son of Vasudeva, who takes away sorrows, sufferings, pain and troubles.

O! Benevolent Mahadev; please, forgive me if I did anything wrong, knowingly or unknowingly, by hands, by legs, by speech, by body, by working, by ears, by eyes or by mind. Let be Your victory.

O! God! You are my mother, You are my father, You are my brother, You are my friend, You are my knowledge, You are my wealth, You are everything to me.

My thoughts: While I am not especially religious anymore, I can appreciate the mindset behind these prayers. Hindus see that the act of getting sleep and restoring energy is a God-sent process.

 

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

How Do We Digest Food?

In the Hindu religion, prayers are an extremely integral aspect to daily life. Hindu people attribute every organic substance as an embodiment of God, and as such, we should give thanks as much as we can. The informant, D, asked his religious father, M, about a set of prayers he remembers having to memorize as a child but since then has forgotten. These three prayers are some of the most central to the daily prayers a devout Hindu can practice, called the Trikal Sandhya. These three prayers seek to answer why we wake up in the morning, how we digest food, and how we sleep at night.

 

This particular entry seeks to answer how we digest food:

 

Original:

Yagna shishtha shinah santo, muchyante sarva kilbishaihi. Bhunjate te tvagam papa, ye pachantyatma kernat.

Yat koroshi yadashnashi, yaj juhoshi dadasi yat. Yat tapasyasi Kaunteya, tat kurushva madarpanam.

Aham vaishvanaro bhutva, praninam deham ashritah prana pana samayukta, pachamy annam chaturvidham

Om saha navavatu, saha nau bhunaktu. Saha viryam karvavahai, tejasvi navadim astu ma vidvisha vahai, Om shantih, shantih shantih

 

Translated:

The devotees of God are freed from all sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice, Others who prepare or cook food for their personal enjoyment only, truly eat sin

O! Kaunteya (Arjuna); whatever you do, whatever you eat, offer as a sacrifice. Whatever austerity you perform, do it as an offering to me.

Lord Krishna said in Bhagvad Geeta: “I am the fire of digestion in every living body. I am the sir of life, out going and incoming, by which I digest four kinds of food.

Om, Oh! Lord, protech and defend both of us together. We should stay together and do God’s work together. Let our knowledge shine and become divine in the world. We should never fight with each other, never get envious of each other and stay united forever.

 

My thoughts: While I am not especially religious anymore, I can appreciate the mindset behind these prayers. Hindus see that obtaining nutrition from food is essential to life, and due to that, it is easily attributable to God.

 

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Why Do We Wake Up in the Morning?

In the Hindu religion, prayers are an extremely integral aspect to daily life. Hindu people attribute every organic substance as an embodiment of God, and as such, we should give thanks as much as we can. The informant, D, asked his religious father, M, about a set of prayers he remembers having to memorize as a child but since then has forgotten. These three prayers are some of the most central to the daily prayers a devout Hindu can practice, called the Trikal Sandhya. These three prayers seek to answer why we wake up in the morning, how we digest food, and how we sleep at night.

 

This particular entry seeks to answer why we wake up in the morning.

Original:

Karagre vasate laxmi, karmoole Sarasvati. Kara-madhye tu Govindah, prabhate kara darshanam.

Samudra vasane devi, parvata stana-mandle. Vishnu patni namas tubhyam, pada sparsha kshamasvame

Vasudeva sutam devam, Kansa Chanur mardanam Devaki paramanandam, Krishnam vande jagadgurum

Translated:

Goddess of wealth Laxmi resides at the top of palm, Goddess of knowledge Saraswati resides at the bottom of palm and Lord Krishna (Govind) resides at middle of palm and that is why we must look at our palm every morning.

O! Mother Earth, who has ocean as her clothes, mountains and forests as her body, who is the wife of Lord Krishna (Vishnu) I bow to you. Please, forgive me as my feet are going to touch you.

I salute Lord Krishna, the world teacher, the son of Vasudeva, the destroyer of Kansa and Chanura, the supreme bliss of Devai.

 

My thoughts: While I am not especially religious anymore, I can appreciate the mindset behind these prayers. Hindus see that they must treat the Earth as if we are its guest, and this prayer intends to thank God for letting us step on his creation.

 

Proverbs

Don’t Speak

Informant: P, the interviewer’s mother. She grew up in India and speaks Gujurati fluently, the language of origin of this proverb. Fluent speakers like herself still use proverbs in daily life whether in conversation or merely in passing. Her parents’ generation is still heavily accustomed to the concept of arranged marriages, and she told the interviewer this proverb about marriages and finding proper suitors that her parents frequently tell their daughters and nieces.

 

Original Script: ના બોઇ ના બોઇ તે બોઇ, હાહારીયે ખોઈ

Phonetic Script: na boi no boi te boi, hahariye khoi

Transliteration: na boi no boi te boi, hahariye khoi

Full Translation: I mentioned that you should not speak, but you did not listen

 

This proverb tells young girls that if they even have a speech impediment, something unpreventable on their behalf, they should not speak, lest they lose a potential suitor they have been primed to marry. The interviewer has a few things to say about this proverb. First and foremost, he believes that in this day and age there is very little need for arranged marriages, and the importance Indian society placed on them 50-60 years ago has certainly died down a bit after an era of migration to America and becoming aware of American ideals. This dilution isn’t a bad thing, either. Objectifying things such as stuttering place a false sense of ideals in growing minds, especially those that are just beginning to form their own impressions of the world and themselves.

Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Sore Throat?

This entry comes from the interviewer’s mother, P, in a conversation they had about homeopathic medicine. Coming from an Indian family, the interviewer, DP, was curious as to whether or not his mom encouraged him to take homeopathic remedies for common ailments as a child. It should be noted that Eastern medicine is much different than and often rejects Western medicine. At this point, the informant tells the interviewer:

 

“You used to take a drink made of roasted turmeric root. Once the turmeric was dried, I would grind it into a powder and combine it with milk.”

 

DP: “did it help any?”

 

P: “it was supposed to”


 

From the point of view of the interviewer, it is perfectly reasonable for Eastern medicine to be effective in curing common ailments. These remedies have been around for such a long time that there must be some base element of truth – or they wouldn’t be so strongly encouraged. The interviewer also concedes that it isn’t the best to take over-the-counter medication every time one’s throat hurts or they have a headache. In these cases, folk remedies provide the best application.

 

Folk Dance

Nae Nae

In popular culture, dance moves are all the rage. Popular, earworm-esque songs seem to produce dances that go alongside them more frequently than ever before. It is truly a testament to today’s youth and their creativity to make up and, more importantly, make viral these dance phenomena. Not everyone though is entertained with these seemingly childish forms of passing time. My informant, C, told me this when I, DP, asked him what he thought of these “folk dances” in a modern era.

DP: so how do you feel about these dances coming out from hip hop songs nowadays?

C: they’re trash man.

DP: what do you mean?

C: There’s no creativity. For example, take the Nae Nae.

DP: Man, the Nae Nae died out like 3 years ago, what more can you say?

C: Listen to this really quick: You do a hockey goalie stance. When the song says “watch me whip,” you will rotate and extend your right hand in front of you in a way that your hand goes from palmar to dorsal. When you “nae nae” you bring your right hand from the extended position, open hand, and bring it back and forth, allowing the motion of your arm to allow your trunk to move with it.

Jokes aside, this interviewer tends to agree with the informant. The merits of pop culture are definitely present, but when it comes to these repetitive and predictable applications like simple dances, they come across as contrived more than anything else.


*for another popular dance that has stemmed from a song, see Harlem Shake by Baauer*

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