USC Digital Folklore Archives / April, 2019
Childhood
Legends

The Legend of Saci Pererê: a Brazilian Legend

Informant: The legend of Saci Pererê is a one-legged man who lives in the forest, and he loves to play tricks. He has a magical red cap where he can disappear wherever he wants and reappear wherever he wants. He loves to play tricks and he loves to steal kids’ toys and set animals loose, really he just plays tricks on everything. If anything inside of a house goes awry, it is said that it is Saci Pererê’s fault. Also, the legend says that when Saci Pererê does a spin dance, it is the cause of every forest tornado. The only way to capture him in this swirl is to throw a rosary into the tornado. The legend says that if you come in to steal herbs or destroy the forest, Saci Pererê will come after you with his tricks if you don’t get his permission before you take herbs, as he is an expert on herbs and medicines. The legend is meant to scare away people who came to ruin the forest.

Context: The informant grew up in Brazil and heard this legend during her childhood, which is how the informant felt connected to it: it brought the informant back to their roots in Brazil. This is the way in which the informant interprets the legend: they interpret it in the context of hearing about it and growing up in Brazil. The interview took place in a typical, face-to-face, storytelling situation with the informant.

Analysis:

The Legend of Saci Pererê contains all of the characteristics of a traditional legend: it takes place in our world, in this case, in the forest, it has questionable truth value, and it is about questions about factuality and wondering what is real. This legend has great entertainment value for Brazil: it is a legend that has been passed down through generations in that it is a legend that protects the forest, and the informant even said that there is a National Day for Saci Pererê on October 31; this conveys how popular this legend is in Brazil. However, there is a greater cultural significance for this legend: the legend of Saci Pererê ultimately states how Saci Pererê is protecting the forest through his antics and jokes when people come in searching for herbs. This brings in the issue of bioprospecting, where big pharmaceutical companies hire researchers to go to indigenous cultures around the world, see what herbs and cures they are using, and steal these and put them into their medicine, stealing all of the royalties without giving proper credit to the indigenous cultures. The legend of Saci Pererê is a folkloric way of coping with this travesty: there is a character in the legend who offers protection from this. It is a way for the Brazilian people to offer themselves comfort against the huge pharmaceutical companies who have stolen from them. In this way, it shows how legends can be protective for the people who believe them: it provides comfort, security, and identity for the Brazilian people, and this is applicable to many other legends as well. Therefore, the Legend of Saci Pererê not only has great entertainment value for Brazil, but also offers comfort and protection from the negative effects of bioprospecting.

Annotation: For another version of this legend, see p. 391 of Carvahlo, Leonardo F. B. S., et al. “Teaching Brazilian Folklore through Video Games: a Way to Motivate Students.” Nuevas Ideas En Informática Educativa TISE , 2015, www.tise.cl/volumen11/TISE2015/385-396.pdf.

 

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Musical

Baseball Superstitions

Abstract:

This piece is about superstitions a baseball player had before games in high school.

Main Piece:

“S: One baseball superstition I had was when we were on a hot streak, I would play the same exact songs, in like a 20 or 30 minute ride, I would play the same exact songs. In the same order.

C: Did that get old?

S: No, it was getting me hype because I attached it to baseball.

C: Did the order change every year?

S: Yeah so, every season the songs would change. But during the season it was those songs. Once I got on the field, the songs would change because they would be different songs. I would let it fly.

C: So this was on the bus?

S: No, those would change too if we rode the bus. I would drive myself to games and when I was younger my parents would drive me. There is one song I remember, Kiwi by Maroon 5. If you would talk to my parents today, they would know that song and that I would scream Kiwi on the ride. So yeah, same songs. Another baseball superstition is to not step on the foul line. If you talk to any baseball player they will know that. No one really knows why, just don’t step on the foul line. Because then you’re going to lose. And there are certain things like during the playoffs if we were winning or I was doing really well, I would wear the same outfit.

C: Every game? Or every day?

S: Every game we’d play it’d be the same thing. And you don’t wash your uniforms during the playoffs if you’re doing well. I would even go so far as to wear the same outfit to school the next day.

C: To make sure the luck was there?

S: Yeah I was very a superstitious guy.”

Context:

The informant is a 20 year old from Bentonville Arkansas who has played baseball since he was 9 years old. He continues to play baseball for the USC Club Baseball team.

Analysis:

I think it makes a lot of sense to have superstitions and precautions when preparing for a game in any sport, but it seems like baseball has a lot that you wouldn’t realize unless you played it. I think it is important to have superstitions because they bond people together through this belief. If everyone has the same superstitions, then it becomes something people can be “checked” on too. It creates a team sense of identity and if you don’t follow or believe in the superstitions, it makes you “other.”

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Streaking the Lawn at UVA

Abstract:

This piece is about a tradition at UVA (University of Virginia) about streaking the lawn at the Rotunda, a very specific building on the campus.

Main Piece:

“L: So I don’t know if this is a custom or tradition or just a rite of passage, but UVA students do this thing where they streak the lawn of the Rotunda which is part of Thomas Jefferson’s setup. And so how you do it, it’s actually really long. You have to take off your clothes on the steps of the Rotunda and then run all the way down to the other building where there is a statue of Thomas Jefferson. And you have to spin around 3 times and then say something and then you run back. And you’re completely naked. So I did it this winter, and you do it at night so you don’t get caught. But I feel like so many people do it now that you can’t get in trouble for it. Like what? You’re going to arrest one kid who got caught doing it when thousands of people have been doing it.

C: Is there something that prompts it? Or do you just have to do it if you’re a student there?

L: I think it, like if you’re in clubs or something then maybe one of the activities or initiation or something might be to go streak the lawn with your club or something. Because my friend who goes to UVA did it for the first time last semester and she’s like “oh yeah I’ve been doing it every week.” It is like a really long run, I didn’t even make the full run because I got so tired.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old from Charlottesville, VA who has lived near the UVA campus her whole life and has many friends who attend the school. She personally learned this and participated in the tradition over winter break in 2018.

Analysis:

I think these kinds of traditions at universities are a way to bond a community or feel a deeper connection in clubs, like in initiations. This tradition of streaking reminds me of fountain hopping at USC. Fountain hopping happens on people’s birthdays or at graduation. Streaking seems more vulnerable than jumping into a fountain fully clothed, but both seem to be ways students rebel against administration and have some fun.

Humor
Initiations
Legends
Narrative

Pool at the Top of the School

Abstract:

This piece is sort of a legend or belief that there could be a pool at the top of Albemarle High School. It is a prank or joke that the upperclassmen pull on incoming freshman.

Main Piece:

“L: For our high school, they tell the incoming freshman that there is a pool on the roof. You guys didn’t have that?

C: No, I’ve never heard of that.

L: So what they tell you is that “oh you can’t get onto the roof, but there is a secret, exclusive pool that if you make friends with the janitors or something, you’ll get to go up and see the pool roof.” So my brother, he’s at SCA here, but he made the video that they show to eighth graders at the end of the year when they come into the school as incoming freshman and, um, he was playing around with Final Cut and they went up to the roof and he figured out how to CGI a pool on the roof to trick all the eighth graders. And at lunch they were all like “omg there is really a pool on the roof.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old girl who has lived in Charlottesville, VA for her entire life before moving to California for college. She attended Albemarle High School for all four years and first learned of this “pool on the roof” when she was an incoming freshman.

Analysis:

These kinds of pranks on “new” students or freshmen remind me of initiations that happen at clubs or in Greek Life. I think it is an event that students have to go through and the original belief is what bonds them together as the “new” student class. Going through that shared belief and realization that it is a joke helps bring the students into the community that has also gone through it.

Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rain Song from Living Earth Camp

Abstract:

This piece is about a rain song that is sung at Living Earth Camp when it hasn’t rain in awhile. It stems from “native” songs, but there is no evidence.

Main Piece:

“L: I went to like a nature camp in the years I was in middle school over the summer. So it was like a sleepaway camp, but it only lasted a week. And it was weird because it was mostly white people, but they’d be like “oh this is the ancient song, this ancient rain song.” I don’t think they realized how problematic it was. We had this one time when it hadn’t been raining lately, like we we in a drought or something, so they took us down to the river and said “so we’re going to sing this rain song.” So you sing this when you are splashing the water around and it goes like “wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah, wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah. Washa-ta-day-ah-day-ah-day-ah.” And you do that over and over again. And it actually ended up raining the next day.

C: Wow, so it worked?

L: Yeah, so now I have all this white guilt singing it.

C: What is the camp’s name?

L: Living Earth Camp. And it was or felt very spiritual and connected to nature. But it was still like a $500 camp for a bunch of kids to cover themselves in mud.

C: Where was it?

L: Like an hour away from where I lived, so still in Virginia.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old girl from Charlottesville, VA. She attended this camp for 3 years in middle school and learned this song the first year she was at the camp when she was in 6th grade.

Analysis:

Rain songs that are based on “native” traditions never seem quite genuine, but the intention behind them is interesting. I thought it was curious that a rain song has to have roots in “native” folklore, and not from somewhere else. This reminds me of learning of tourist items that were labeled as “authentic” or “native.” I think a lot of people try to go back to the roots of Native culture because of it’s connection to the Earth and spirituality. Though there is more to Native culture than that, in today’s popular culture that is what is most projected. Since children are little, we learn that there are certain things to sing to cause things to happen. When we want the rain to come, we sing things like this – the rain song, to bring rain. When we want rain to go away, we sing “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” It is important to recognize when songs are a bit problematic like the informant did as well.

Legends
Narrative

Ghost in McCarthy Honors Dorm 3107

Abstract:

This piece is about a ghost sighting in USC McCarthy Honors Dorm Room 3107. A white figure sleeping with the informant in bed was spotted by her roommate and told to her later.

Main Piece:

“L: Last year I was in the dining hall and one of my friends that wasn’t one of my roommates was making some joke about my room being haunted. And I was like “what? No. Don’t tell me this.” And my friend was like “Oh did your roommate not tell you this?” So it was my direct roommate. So one night we were all hanging out and watching movies or something and the next morning my roommate asked that friend, “why did you sleep in my roommate’s bed last night?” And she was like “I didn’t sleep in her bed last night.” And my roommate said “No I definitely saw a really pale bed laying next to her at night.” So it was laying with me.

C: That’s the creepiest thing I’ve heard.

L: So I think it’s because I have all white blankets and maybe it’s because I had all my blankets pushed to one side and maybe looked like a person. It happened in May of last year, so I only had a few more weeks left in that room.

C: And you lived in the village so they were new?

L: Yeah they were new. So no rumor of them being haunted. But we were watching Buzzfeed Unsolved, so maybe she was super paranoid or something.

C: What room were you in?

L: 3107. In the lofted double. So we were high up. Like you can barely see each other from the beds because we are so high up. She thought it was my friend who was really pale, but then we thought it was a ghost.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old sophomore who lived her freshman year in Room 3107 in McCarthy Honors Dorm at the USC Village. She was the first year of students to live in the newly built dorms, so there was no rumor that there could be ghosts from past students or people.

Analysis:

Unlike the informant, I had heard rumors about ghosts being at the USC Village before. Though these ghosts were not trying to haunt students, it was more of the idea that they were haunting the school for taking over the neighborhood due to gentrification. I had heard from people in the community the continuing dislike of the expansion of USC, especially the USC Village. I have heard of ghosts from Denny’s that couldn’t afford to get a place in the Village due to this type of sentiment as well.

Childhood
Game
general

The Concentration Game

Abstract:

This piece is about a childhood hand game called the Concentration Game where it is important to generate new things and not repeat what their opponent has said before.

Main Piece:

“L: Have you ever heard of the concentration game?

M: How do you play?

L: So you and a partner are doing almost like the patty-cake, like, right to right, left to left, then both, hand clapping. While you’re doing it you’re saying a rhyme.

M: How does the rhyme go?

L: The rhyme starts off, well it’s not totally a rhyme, it’s just how the game starts. You say together – Concentration, 64, no repeats or hesitations. One person says – I’ll go first and then the person says – And I will follow. And then you both say Category is anything.

M: Can it be anything or do you choose things specific?

L: I’ve always played that you have it as anything and then just name things. And it’s harder when you’re thinking of everything and not just one category because you get stuck on the thing the person said before you or what was said last.

M: Can you give me an example of what you would say?

L: Boat. A boat.

M: So you would say boat and the next person would say anything?

L: Yeah anything else like cow.

M: How do you lose?

L: You hesitate or repeat. No repeat or hesitations.

M: How long does the game go for?

L: With my friends not very long. Like less than ten seconds.

M: Do you know why it’s called 64?

L: No. That’s just what it’s called.”

Context:

The informant is a 13 year old girl who is a military brat and has lived in Kansas, Virginia, and Germany. She is currently a middle-schooler in 8th grade and learned this game in elementary school. Currently she lives in Arlington, VA and attends HB Woodlawn since 6th grade. She was introduced to this game by one of her close friends, but she can’t remember exactly what age or when. She says it has been a staple of their free time for many years.

Analysis:

The concentration game is a hand game that I think a lot of children learn at a young age. In other variations, there is a specific category that is chosen that things must be named from. I think this game is popular with children because it is easy to remember and easy to play either for long periods of time or short periods of time. I think the game also helps improve memory and promotes creative thinking. You have to constantly remember what you said before, and remember what the other person said so that there is no repetitions. The creative thinking aspect comes into play with the “no hesitations” part, having to constantly create new things on the spot. In that way, I can understand why an “everything” category can be tricky and mix up the players. Sometimes too many options can be overwhelming and the topic gets stuck no matter what.

 

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

German Holiday Foods

Abstract:

This piece is about specific German foods, specifically baked goods, that are eaten at Christmas or other special occasions.

Main Piece:

“My maternal grandmother came from Germany, first generation, so her parents came from Germany. So she had a lot of German traditions, but the ones I remember the most about her had to do with baking and very special baked goods and pastries for certain occasions. She made something called a stollen every Christmas morning she would make it fresh and everyone had to have their stollen before they could open their presents. When there were special occasions, like when we had lots of family around she would make lebkuchen and she even had a special pan for it. It was a pastry with fruit on the top and it was amazing. But she always insisted certain pastries for certain occasions.”

Context:

This subject is an adult woman who remembers her grandmother and the traditions from her German heritage she brought to the holidays. The subject has German ancestry that would be highlighted through foods at the Christmas time or when there were large family gatherings. She learned these foods from her grandmother. Though she does not continue the tradition exactly, she makes cinnamon buns that her family must eat before opening presents these days.

Interpretation:

These kinds of foods remind me of baked goods traditions like having cake on your birthday or a wedding cake. The idea that there are certain pastries for certain occasions rings true with those kinds of baked goods as well. I think it is nice that the subject also tries to keep the tradition alive in her own way by making cinnamon buns. This kind of shows the evolution from one kind of cultural food through the change of culture the subject is in. As a person that does not identify as German, the subject makes the tradition “her own” in a way, while still holding on to her heritage.

general
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pre-Show Rituals

Abstract:

This piece is about pre-show theater rituals at Mira Costa High School. It deals with all the students in a theater production following and believing a tradition of naming a celebrity that will come to the show and a song that is sung before the show.

Main Piece:

“Before a play at my high school, every single time, we would have a big speech. It was always a senior and they would be like “okay guys, like blah blah blah.” We’re all emotional. Then we would get in two lines looking out at the audience, and we’d be super emotional and then they would always flip it like “And you know what? Beyonce’s coming here tonight. So we have to perform for her.” And they would always choose like a random celebrity and honestly, my freshman year, they said Selena Gomez was coming and I like didn’t know it was a tradition, so I was like “why the hell is Selena Gomez coming and how does everyone know she is coming?” And luckily I didn’t say anything, but I was like really confused. And then afterwards we would go upstairs and get shoved into this tiny room. And the seniors would be in the back of the room and we would all hold hands and sing Piano Man every time before a play. And there were these little traditions, like there was always one person on the harmonica, and at another part we’d have to kick out a leg and another part where he references a girl or something and we’d have to kiss the person to the left of us on the cheek. Then when you’re going out of the room there was always this picture of something provocative and you’d have to jump up and slap it at the doorway.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old from Manhattan Beach who was involved in theater productions at her high school by playing in the orchestra. She learned these traditions after her first production with the school and had to quickly catch on so she was not left out.

Analysis:

Any kind of tradition before a big event is significant to those involved because it promotes unity as a group and good luck. I think name-dropping a celebrity after a big emotional speech is a funny way of reminding the performers and those involved that there is pressure, but to also have fun with the process. Not explaining that it is a joke I think is part of the ritual, and also enforces the idea that there is an “in group” (the theater kids who know the ritual) and an “out group” (students who are not involved in theater). The part about the tiny room is strange to me too because it almost feels like an initiation into the world as well.

Folk speech

Baseball Slang

Abstract:

This piece is about different phrases or words that deal with baseball slang.

Main Piece:

S: The first one I’m going to talk about is like when someone is pitching if they hit the dirt, like if it goes short of the plate, like a low pitch, you call it a worm killer.

C: A worm killer? Why?

S: So baseball is this very mental game, it is more mental than any other game because if you let something affect your mind, you’re going to play worse. Like it is one of those sports, I was actually talking to my boss about it the other day, they’re directly correlated to one another. Your mental and physical performance. And I truly believe that a lot of the slang comes from trying to jab the other players.

C: Get in their head?

S: Yeah, get in their head. I think it is the most mental game out of all the major sports, because it’s all chatter. Like worm killer, you’re going to yell it to make fun of the pitcher for sucking. I say a lot of things like, well I don’t know how you would transcribe this, so when someone is batting and you’re on their team, and the player is batting, you kind of say gibberish almost. Like “um-nam-um-nam-um-nam.” You kind of just keep going. It’s kind of like, the main basis of it is “come on now.” if you can kind of hear it in there. So everyone is just doing that in the dugout like that Spongebob episode.

C: That’s funny.

S: Yeah, so there’s that and there’s “get off me ball.” It’s what you would say if the pitcher hits you, then it’s like check that ball. Make sure it’s okay or the player’s okay. There’s “wear it.” Wear it means like if you’re a batter and a pitch comes into the batter’s box, but you like turn away to get out of the way, your own team will yell wear it. So you can get on first base.

C: If it hits you?

S: No if it doesn’t hit you, but you like get out of the way of the ball. People would say “wear it” like you should have gotten hit. Which is obviously kind of hard, like you don’t want to sacrifice your body, but you know there’s that. Another thing we’ve been screaming is “Is he a diamond back because he’s rattled.” So if the opposing pitcher is pitching and we are getting hits on him.

C: So he’s doing bad?

S: Yeah so “is he a diamond back because he’s rattled” like rattled would mean he’s all screwed up in the mind. That means we really got to him. These are the funny ones. I mean there’s actual baseball lingo that is kind of serious. Like “dinger” means homerun.

Context:

The informant is a 20 year old student from Bentonville, Arkansas. He has played baseball since he was 9 years old and continues to play on the USC Club Baseball team. He has picked up this lingo and slang from years of playing on different teams and learning about the customs.

Analysis:

I think the informant was right about the purpose of this particular slang. Baseball seems to be all about what goes on behind the scenes, this slang included. Getting into a player’s head seems to be key in how well you play as well. I think one aspect of this slang that was not touched on in this piece was how it affects your own head. The informant described how to get into other players heads, but it would be interesting to learn if there were methods players took to block out distractions.

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