USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’
Game

Underground Church

 

 

Underground Church by Lee Thibodeau

 

There’s a group of 15 people, or ten people, you have to pick one priest and two guards. The guards will outnumber the priests in a one to two ratio. So basically, the priest is chosen and the two guards are chosen and everybody in the group will know who is guards and who is the priests and they’re selected randomly. Everyone starts in a set location. You need a big field. You could actually play in an area with a lot of objects like trees or cars or somewhere where there’s actually like structures. The priest and the guards will leave and the priests will be able to choose what their jail will be, the object or the area will be the Underground Church. And the two guards will leave and they’ll pick their own area that will be the jail. And then the rest of the people who are not chosen will be some civilians, or townsfolk and they have to wait in the area where the game started, which is preferably in the middle of the field or area where the game is taking place.

After about a minute, when the priest and the guards have picked their Underground Church, the game will start. How the game works is – the priest wins if he gets, or the priest and townsfolk because they are kind of on the same team, the priest wins if he gets all of the civilians into the Underground Church. The guards win if they capture the priest. So the guards will constantly be on patrol trying to capture the townsfolk and if they can tag them fast enough, they are dragged off to the jail and they are stuck into the jail until another townsfolk sneaks in or the priest comes and everyone gets out of jail at the same time. So- if you’re in the Underground Church, you’re safe. The guards cannot capture you there and that also includes the priest. If the priest is in the Underground Church, the guards cannot take you out. So it’s this kind of battle between people getting stuck in jail and you having to send townsfolk out to the point where the priest has to go out himself, because there is too many people. So- the game can go on for quite a while and if it takes too long, to where the priest or a lot of townsfolk is in the jail, eventually the guards will win. So, basically the priest does not want to get caught.

 

A lot of times when I would play the game, we’d play at this park and there would be a forest. Typically someone would choose a tree and when you’re near the tree, that would be the church or you are touching the tree. And then the jail would be like this. There’s like this gravel structure and it was kind of like a square, on the park and that would be the jail. We often change things around because we don’t want to let the guards to actually know where the Underground Church is ‘cause some of them may hide out and try to catch people trying to get to the church. To save someone basically, someone has to run into the jail, grab someone else who’s in the jail already and then they get 10 seconds of immunity. Just basically run away. As soon as the priest gets caught, the guards win. As soon as all the citizens go into the Underground Church, the priest wins.

 

1. What is being performed?

A field game: Underground Church

 

2. Can you give us some background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

This is a game we would play with groups of friends back in Washington. I learned it first from a friend who lives in my neighborhood.

 

3. What country and what region of that country are you from?

Informant: Washington State, the United States.

 

4.  Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

It is of Christian relations, relating back to Roman times, when Christianity was not an accepted religion. I belong to Christianity.

 

5. Where did you first hear the story?

From a friend.

 

6. What do you think the origins of this story might be?

Roman times.

 

7. What does it mean to you?

It relates back to those Roman times. To me, it reminds me of the ties I have with the friends who taught me.

 

Context of the performance- Late night in the dorm, from a friend

 

Thoughts about the piece- You have to be there in the moment to play this complicated game and understand the strategy. It sounds like a mix between tag, hide and seek and a religious story, a way to collaborate and compete.

Other indoor versions, vocabulary (“centurians” for guards) and team building at

http://www.youthpastor.com/Games/index.cfm/Underground_Church_344.htm#.WO-LU7vytsM\

http://www.jubed.com/view/Underground-Church

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Joshua the Apocalyptic Prophet

Context: When I told my roommate about how I was collecting folklore, he offered to talk about some of the stories he’d heard over the course of his life.

Background: This is something my roommate heard in his religious studies class this semester.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, B denotes my roommate)

B: …And I think especially the Jesus story is folklore.

C: Based on what your professor told you.

B: Yeah, um… He told me — not me personally but he told my class, uh, because we were studying the origins of Christianity at the time — that there was a man living somewhere in the Fertile Crescent, I think, name Joshua bar Joseph, and he [the professor] was like, “Joshua bar Joseph was an apocalyptic prophet,” meaning, he went around saying that the end was near, and that if people didn’t follow him, that they will die, and they would be s— very sad, and their life would be over. BUT— Wait did I say “if?” Sorry. If they didn’t follow him, they would die die, damnation, whatever. But if they DID follow him, uh, they would go to Paradise when they died, y’know. “The Apocalypse is coming, but, if you follow me, you’re gonna go to heaven.” Um, and then he’s [the professor] like, “Does this sound familiar?” and we’re like, “YEAH IT’S JESUS” and he’s like, “EXACTLY, Jesus was just an apocalyptic cult leader!” Um, and I’m like, “Well THAT makes sense.” So, yeah, that’s what my professor told me. But, I guess that means the Bible’s folklore.

Analysis: This is a really good example at how religion is deeply tied with folklore. From my roommate’s perspective and the perspective of the professor who gave him this narrative, the Bible is considered the alternative way of telling their story, where it would be commonly thought of as the “correct” way of telling the stories contained within. The fact that the story of Jesus allows for such variations—I’ve personally also heard the names “Joshua ben Joseph” and “Jeshua ben Joseph” ascribed to Jesus outside of Biblical context—attests to the fact that the Bible can be seen as merely another, more popular form of  a certain folk belief.

Customs
Foodways
Proverbs

Lazy Grace

KM is a third-generation Japanese-American from Los Angeles, CA. She now lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband and 18-year-old son.

KM was raised in a Christian household, where her family said “grace” before dinner every night:

“I have four siblings and we always ate dinner together with our parents. We’d sit around this big round table and every night, we would take turns saying grace before eating…we were supposed to come up with something original, like something that had to do with the day or different events going on in our lives, but usually my siblings just defaulted to ‘God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” I always tried to have an interesting one, but I think everyone else just wanted to eat.”

I asked KH if she still says grace in her family, or if she and her siblings carried their religious traditions on in their new nuclear families:

“Ultimately I was unsuccessful in getting my kids to go to church. My husband grew up in a Catholic family and now wants nothing to do with the church, and I couldn’t get my kids to show much interest either. I don’t think anyone else in my family still goes to church…except my parents. They’ve been going to the same church since they met.”

My analysis:

Religion is one of those things that can either define a family, or be irreconcilable when two families come together. In KH’s case, religion’s importance started to waver amongst her and her siblings, despite the traditions of their parents. The “grace” prayer in her family shows one generation trying to pass on their beliefs through a ritual, and the next generation participating half-heartedly, or just to please authority. Eventually as they started their own families, her siblings decided the tradition wasn’t particularly important to them, and refrained from instilling it in their own family. More broadly it seems to symbolize the diminishing importance of their religion, and maybe a certain progressive movement amongst families to not force it on their children.

Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Scattering Ashes at Sea

The informant, AA, is from a Vietnamese family. While she was born in California, her parents are first generation immigrants who escaped the Vietnam War. While she is Christian herself, many of her family members are Buddhist. AA describes a funeral tradition that combines elements from both religions:

“So when my grandpa passed away, we followed Buddhist funeral traditions as well as our own. My grandpa was Buddhist, and so was my grandma- my older relatives were all Buddhist. In Buddhist tradition, you’re supposed to cremate the body and put the ashes in an urn. So we did that. And a week afterwards, we went out to sea on a boat, and a pastor was there. He delivered a sermon and we all said prayers as we were spreading the ashes into the sea. Basically it’s meant to symbolize this idea of- taking souls across the sea into another world, the afterlife so to speak.

It was just a way to mourn and respect my grandpa. I think that for my parents it was a great relief to be able to spread his ashes and let him be free. They didn’t want to keep him an urn. It was a very liberating gesture.”

Is this specific tradition particular to your family or is it commonly done?

“The spreading of ashes, I think, is commonly done in a lot of traditions. It’s definitely common for Buddhists. What’s special about this funeral is that we incorporated some elements from our own religion- Christianity- with my grandparent’s old Buddhist beliefs. There was a bunch of different people at the funeral. It was a very mixed group.”

 

My thoughts: This personal account shows how religious practices can take place outside of the established church doctrine and combine many aspects from different religions. There are some recognizably Buddhist practices that took place at this funeral, such as the scattering of the ashes in the sea. The idea of having a pastor and a sermon, however, appeals to the Christian members of AA’s family. They have created a completely new funeral tradition that is a composite of different faiths and is ultimately unique to this family. Every family expresses their faith differently- there is no one standard way to be a Buddhist or a Christian.

 

Folk speech
Humor
Protection
Proverbs

Jesus Be A Fence!

“Whenever I’m tired or have a hard practice I be like, “Jesus be a fence” like be my strength…or before a hard test…or just when I have a lot to do and I need Jesus to be a fence, that’s like when I say it so…pretty much every day! Or like, “Oh Lord stop me from doing somthin wrong…” like if I’m feelin temptation…it goes from simple to extreme.”

 

Analysis: As a Christian, my informant looks to Jesus as a source of inspiration and fortitude in all aspects of her life. The proverb is laid out in a metaphor in which the speaker literally asks Jesus to hold them up or provide support like a fence. The proverb can be used in many different situations as a means of conveying momentary weakness and a desire for divine intervention on behalf of the speaker.

 

Although it is mostly used in serious scenarios or during times of legitimate distress, the phrase can also be used in a more humorous setting depending on the scenario. For example if someone was on a diet and saw a donut in a shop window they might use the proverb as a means of conveying their desire to restrain from eating the donut and their need for divine intervention to help them do so.

Proverbs

Golden Rule

My informant is a USC student from Wyoming. She is a Christian and her grandmother was a strict Catholic, so many of the things she learned from her mother and grandmother had tied to Christianity and the doctrines of the bible.

“Do unto others as you would do unto yourself”

“My mom taught me that. And basically it means just treat other people how you would want to be treated. So you don’t want someone to be mean to you then you shouldn’t put out like, bad vibes cause then your Karma’s gonna come back and someone’s gonna be really mean to you. But if you’re nice–if you’re nice to everybody then hopefully somewhere somebody’s gonna be nice to you, even though i dunno, people aren’t very nice but if you just like, put good vibes out in the world it’ll be good! And you’ll be good! So just treat people how you want to be treated.”

 

Analysis: This was a proverb that my informant learned from her parent. Often times some of the most important lessons that we learn come from things that our parents tell us as children growing up. In this case the proverb reflects my informants religious and personal values, as she mentioned that in the bible one of the principles that is expressed is to treat others with kindness. The spread of this proverb within the family from parent to child demonstrates the nature of folklore and the natural affinity for people to share beliefs important to them with other members of their family as a means of maintaining collective views within that family.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

“The good Lord put a strong foundation on precious things”

“Well, so my mom used to complain about how big my feet were for someone so small, and my grandmother would tell me that, ‘The good Lord put a strong foundation on precious things.’ . . . So that was the saying that made me feel better.”

 

The informant was a 50-year-old woman who works as a middle school teacher teaching English, dance, and history to 7th and 8th graders. Although she has spent the last 19 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she grew up in Lubbock, Texas and Austin, Texas. She is also my mother, and this interview took place over Skype one afternoon when we were talking about things she did when she was growing up. The informant learned this proverb from her grandmother (known in the family as Me-Ma) and the informant thinks she learned it from her own mother (the informant’s great grandmother).

 

The informant says that her grandmother used this saying “in that moment because I was feeling bad about how big my feet were and it made me feel special.” She thinks it means “that you should be happy with what you have and things will change and you will be fine. At least someone’s looking out for you ahead of time and you don’t even know.”

 

This proverb sounds right in line with the things that would be said among that side of the family. What I mean by this is that my mother learned a lot of similar sayings that sound like they might come from the Bible, but actually do not. The reason for this might be that religion was a really important authority in this group of people, and making something sound like it is entrenched in that way of thinking gives it legitimacy, even if it’s something silly. Additionally, it is interesting that such a strong proverb was used to make a little girl feel better about her big feet. This might be because a child would be more likely to believe something, even if that something was as substantial that she should accept her herself, if it came more formally phrased.

Customs
Holidays
Magic
Material

Palm Frond Weaving

Context:

I was wandering down the main street of Lahaina, HI, when I saw two people weaving coconut palm fronds into fish, roses, and a couple of other designs. I stopped and asked the young woman about palm frond weaving.

 

Interview:

Me: These are really neat. Where did you learn how to weave palm fronds?

Informant: From my friend.

Me: Where did your friend learn, and why do you do it?

Informant: He learned in the Caribbean. Apparently it was a common art form there. Here, we do it for fun, mainly. And for the tourists.

Me: Do you know how palm frond weaving originally began? And why the fish, the roses, and the crosses?

Informant: I don’t know exactly, but apparently weaving palm fronds has roots in Christianity. You know, Palm Sunday?

Me: Oh? That would make some sense, I suppose. Given how palm fronds are associated with Palm Sunday, I can see how weaving palms became a tradition.

Informant: Yeah. Though it is not solely a Christian tradition. It is simply associated with Easter and Palm Sunday the most, which is why most of the designs that are woven are crosses – the most recognizable symbol of Christianity, especially during Easter, doves – a symbol for peace, hope, and the Holy Spirit, and the fish – which became a symbol of Christianity during the days that Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire.

Me: Ah. Interesting. And the roses?

Informant: That is not so much religious roots as it is more to express gratitude, or to be given to someone who has lost a loved one. You know, like how you would give flowers to someone as a gift? Palm frond roses are essentially the same.

Me: Okay. Makes sense, as roses do not have as much of a symbolism in Christianity, especially around Palm Sunday, as some of the other designs do. So how widespread is palm frond weaving?

Informant: People all over the world do it, as it has become a Christian tradition, as due to the European explorers and colonization, Christianity has been spread worldwide. Though my friend and I don’t do it so much for the religious aspects.

Me: Interesting. Well, thank you for talking with me.

Informant: You’re welcome, and I hope you do well.

 

Analysis:

I find it to be incredibly interesting that palm frond weaving has become a Christian tradition. Until this interview, I had never known of this Easter and Palm Sunday tradition. Palm Sunday celebrates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. As he was entering the city, the people laid palm fronds down in front of him. To me, this practice of weaving palm fronds on Palm Sunday is rather like a kind of magic – using the palm fronds at that time and weaving them into such shapes is a kind of ritual that helps to connect the practitioner with his/her faith, as Easter is the most important holiday for Christians no matter their denomination. The cross is almost like a talisman, a reminder of how Jesus was welcomed into the city and how he was betrayed and killed not a week later. The dove is often a symbol of hope and peace, such as what Christ’s resurrection offers to Christians. The fish is a reminder of the persecution that the early Christians suffered as their Messiah suffered under the Roman Empire.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Good Friday Contemplation

“My dad grew up in a very strict Roman Catholic family. His mom was from Italy, from a city near Rome, very strict. And so every good Friday from 12-3 (which is supposedly the time when Jesus was on the cross), she made my dad sit in his room and think about Jesus’ suffering. Until Jesus was ‘off the cross’ and he could come out of his room. But he spared me that. But apparently, she had done that—her mother had done that to her, her mother had done that to her, and so forth. Not praying, just thinking about Jesus’s suffering and sacrifice for three hours. It went way back.”

Good Friday is the day that, according to Christians, Jesus was crucified and thus made his sacrifice to save humanity. This ritual was presumably meant to focus devotion and think about what Jesus had done for mankind, to try and understand the value of his sacrifice. Rather than praying, which could easily just be beseeching at that age, this tradition could mean to honor the suffering and the actions of Jesus, hopefully inspiring piety and good behavior thanks to the contemplation of such immense suffering. It is significant that it was meant to occur at apparently the same time that Jesus was on the cross so many centuries ago; such a thing would make the exercise more meaningful (homeopathic magic), possibly inspiring the person who is thinking about the suffering to be as brave or as compassionate as Jesus.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech

Know How To Make God Laugh?

“You know how to make god laugh? Tell him your plans.”

Clip from Interview

Informant: I know a saying, I think its pretty common though:

“You know how to make god laugh? Tell him your plans.”

Interviewer: “Who did you hear that from, was there any background to the occasion you heard this saying?”

Informant: “I don’t know who told me, I think it was my mom, I want to say. I don’t know, I come from the south so it is like bible belt, so I definitely heard it while I was back home in Nashville. I don’t know it is just a very Christian community, I think I was like telling someone about what I wanted er what I what I wanted to do with my life or something and that is what they came back with. I think it was like you never know sort of what lies ahead of you. God has it all planned out and you have no idea what it is.”

Interviewer: “Why did you like this saying, like why did you remember it until now?”

Informant: “I just think that it’s a good way to look at the world. I believe in God and I believe he does have a plan for all of us. Um, and I also just I never thought I would be a screenwriting major um until junior year and its like you know you just…” “and I also believe that… I’ve just been looking back on my life and I go there is no way this is all just circumstance or this is all just random. It was obviously because A has led to B which has led to C which has eventually led me here. I just think it is a good saying and like you know, just trust in God cause he has answers. You never really know what’s in store”

 

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California studying screenwriting. She is a Caucasian female and comes from Nashville. She is Christian herself and comes from a religious background. The informant heard this folklore from another person in her community, possibly her mother, when asked about her college plans.

As stated in the interview, the informant was impacted by the saying. She still remembers it and can recall the saying rather quickly. She does believe in Christianity and so she found the statement to ring true with her beliefs that God is an omniscient figure who “has it all planned out.” The informant interpreted this saying as an instruction to have faith in God because he will take care of it. The informant related her understanding of this saying to the movie Marley and Me stating that although the main character “had all these plans, they didn’t work out, but she was happy in the end.”

In comparison to some of the other folk beliefs I was able to gather, this informant had a very close connection to this saying; a connection which was apparent in her mannerisms and speech during the interview.

 

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