Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic

I Hate White Rabbits

My informant was a Boy Scout as child. Throughout his childhood he was dedicated to the scouts and ultimately earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Because of this he has spent a lot of time in the Boy Scouts’ community and knows of the customs attributed to the branch of this community located in Georgia.

Transcript:

Me: So you mentioned you were a boy scout.

Him: Yeah I was.

Me: Are there any rituals or traditions that you would do in the boy scouts that you wouldn’t do elsewhere?

Him: Oh? Yeah I now a good one like that. So when I used to be a Boy Scout we would often go camping as a troop. At night the whole troop would often gather around a campfire. We would usually sit in a circle around the fire and because it was usually windy the fire would always be blowing in some direction. Smoke would be blowing in someone’s face. We had this superstition that if you said “I hate white rabbits” when the smoke was blowing in your face it would magically change direction. It obviously didn’t work much, but it was still a superstition that we bought into.

Me: And where did you learn this?

Him: I learned it from an older scout when I was a Tenderfoot and then when I was a leader within the troop I would tell this to the new scouts.

Me: One more thing. Why white rabbits?

Him: Honestly I couldn’t tell you.

 

Analysis:

There are two things from this that are particularly interesting. The first thing is that the informant acknowledged that his folk ritual was a superstition and didn’t work. This implies that despite the apparent meaning, they do not say “I hate white rabbits” in order to actually get the smoke away. Instead, I believe that they do this ritual as a subtle sense of community. That is to say that even if you do not believe that saying “I hate white rabbits” will work, you would do it anyways because thats what members of the community do. Knowing this makes you an official member. The second thing of note is the line “I hate white rabbits.” It seemingly makes no sense, as white rabbits have nothing to do with smoke. Furthermore my informant revealed that while he partook in the ritual, he did not know why they used the specific phrase “I hate white rabbits.” I believe that this reveals that the tradition is at least a few generations old, meaning that the original creators have long been forgotten by the Boy Scout troop. As such, it is plausible that the phrase was initially meant to be used as a joke, but ended up persisting and becoming a tradition.

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