USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘church’
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Protection

Padre Nuestro- Blessings

Every single time when you pass by a church, or any holy site, you give yourself a blessing. Doing so, it shows respect to the Saint of the church as well as providing you protection from the sacred site as you continue in your journey.

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Ruby is a young Mexican-American woman who truly connects to her Catholic roots and leads her way of life through that method. She is also a single mom who works at a Non-Profit feeding the homeless of Los Angeles.

Customs
Gestures
Signs

A Catholic Tradition Honoring My Mother

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish

Age: 20

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Mike is a 20 year old man, born and raised in New York, who is a mobile phone salesman in New York City. He is a high school graduate whose family is of Puerto Rican Heritage.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. You mentioned that you follow a tradition your Mom taught you. Could you explain please?

 

Informant: “Ya it is like I am Catholic you know you know and we really go by this Catholic thing like every time I do the cross. Every time I pass a Church, I do the cross. And I feel if I didn’t do the cross that I would feel different.”

 

Interviewer: You mentioned you would feel different, why?

 

Informant: “Like this was a thing, you know the do the cross, that I use to ah see my Mom do every time, you know, we were passing a Church. Like it ah didn’t matter if youse was on a bus or a car or like just walking down a street, um she would always cross herself.  Then… then I was, you know older then a little kid, ah every time she crossed herself you know and if I was wit her, she would stare at me if I didn’t cross myself.  So I guess, like um I would um feel different like I wuz disrespecting my Mother, you know.  So like , I am a Momma’s boy, she is very close. And um I don’t want to, you know give her anything that wouldn’t be very respectful. Does that make sense to you?”

 

Interviewer:  Yes it does. It is a very nice thing to do. Do you do the sign of the cross even when she is not with you?

 

Informant: “Of course, it’s like so deep in my bones and mind that it is like ya I am like a robot! When I see the church, like I have to stop and do my cross, you know.  It is so beautiful cause I see my Mom smiling a lot every time ah um I do that.”

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Devoted Catholics worldwide have been making the “sign of the cross” since the 400s: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-origin-of-the-sign-of-the-cross/

Here is a demonstration of how to do this movement prayer properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpRzqXG1dhc

 

 

 

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Unitarian Universalist Church

Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.

Background: My roommate has never had a set religious background, and was always in something of a melting pot of faiths when he went to churches like the one described here.

Dialogue: So, I don’t know exactly how Unitarianism, like, started, but… At some point it was just this sort of culmination of, like, various Christian sects, like Episcopalian or Protestant or whatever was around Massachusetts going on. Just a bunch of them sort of, like, coalesced into one group that’s like… “You know what, Trinity or Unity, doesn’t matter! We all have spirit!”

Analysis: The intereseting thing about this piece of folklore to me is how much is blended together in a church like this. It’s not only a mixing of various religious sects, either: at one point, my roommate sang a song he was taught as a kid, about the “Seven Guiding Principles of Kindness.” He remembers only these lines:

One, each person is important
Two, be kind in all you do

The song, interestingly enough, is set to the tune of “Do-Re-Mi” fromthe mucial The Sound of Music. So we have a mashup of popular culture, religion, and folk belief, all in this single church.

Humor

Church Joke

Main Piece: Joke

 

“So this man gets up Sunday morning and is getting ready for church. He looks everywhere in his apartment for his hat but can’t find it. He decides to go to church and possibly steal one from the cloakroom.

When he gets to church, he sits through the service and afterwards as everyone is leaving, he goes up to talk to the priest.

‘Father, I was really inspired by your sermon today. I couldn’t find my hat this morning and I was prepared to steal one from the cloak room and your sermon on the 10 Commandments really helped me.’

The priest said, ‘Yes, thou shalt not steal is a very powerful commandment.’

And the man said, ‘Oh no no no, it wasn’t that one. When you got to the one about thou shall not commit adultery, I remembered where I left my hat.’”

 

Background:

 

My mother told me this joke, and she was originally afraid it was not appropriate enough but I told her anything goes. This is one of her favorite jokes she heard from growing up, as it was told to her by her great grandfather. He used to tell them jokes when they would have birthday celebrations for him, and he ended up living to be 104.

My mom likes this joke because it is one of those that you do not really know where it is going until the punchline, and she has used it many times before. My family would attend church every Sunday, so I think of it as a sort of comical approach to a more serious matter, which is important to have with every aspect of life.

 

Context:

 

The first time my mom told this joke my family and I were headed to brunch on Sunday after church as we always had when my siblings and I were kids. My parents would always ask us what we had learned that day in church, and this day was based around the ten commandments. My mom, being the jokester that she is, decided to whip out this joke in the car afterwards and it aroused a lot of laughter from my brother, sister, and I while my dad was slightly less impressed, but still chuckling.

I asked when else my mom would bring this joke out and it generally was along the lines of conversation based around church and religion, although it was more so when the environment was more loose and it wouldn’t offend anyone who was more so of a traditional religious person.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I like this joke in that when I first heard it I kept trying to figure out where it was leading from the beginning and it having to do with church and all. I also like that there is some sort of intelligence needed in the sense that if you do not know what adultery is, you probably won’t understand the comical aspect to it.

I’m also a fan of comedy that relieves some level of seriousness to certain subjects. Most people will generally think of church and religion as a fairly serious topic, and this being a play on one of the major teachings in the Christian religion definitely gives a sense of comic relief.

folk simile
Folk speech

Like dogs in church- “Como perros en misa”

“Como perros en misa”- Like dogs in church. This saying is used when one is having the worst day possible where you feel attacked from all sides with no warning. Back in the day in Colombia, churches used to have their door always open and on hot days, stray dogs would sometimes seek refuge inside a cool tile church only to be physically kick out by a variety of feet, leaving what should have been a sanctuary, bruised and confused. So when you ask someone how was their day and they answer “Como perros en misa” you now know that they have had a surprisingly terrible day. The correct response is “I am so sorry, that sounds horrible” as you would expect to react to a puppy being kicked without reason.

Analysis: There have been times this semester when everyday for a whole week I felt like a “perro en misa” because everything would go wrong and an undesirable event would happen like surprise reading quiz. The American version would be something like “ when it rains, it pours” but that along with “Mercury is in retrograde” seem more impersonal and generalized, while “perros en misa” is more specific and means that you are personally are being brutalized, not the whole world.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Snakehandling

Background: E.M. is an 18-year-old student at USC studying Cinema and Media Studies. She is Salvadoran but as lived all over the US, so she has picked up folklore and customs from a lot of different places. For a while, E.M. lived in Kentucky and this is a story that she heard there.

 

Main Piece:

E.M.: So when I was living in Kentucky, I… one of my friends… when we were young children… one of my friends said that um said that she knew that one of my neighbors did snake uh would do snake rituals in church and that she heard that from her parents. So she was kind of scared of this lady, um, and when I asked my parents about it, um, I I found out that that lady was a Pentecostal, and that basically in her church they believed that snakes couldn’t hurt them or that that the venom of the snakes couldn’t hurt them, if they believed in God. Um so they would use the snakes during sermons, even, they would handle them quite dangerously, and that even people would get sick or get hurt I guess, but it was an important part of their religion because they said that in the Bible, it says that if you’re a true Christian, snakes can’t hurt you and they belong to you to use them as you see fit.

 

Q: Did you ever see this practice live?

 

E.M.: I didn’t ever see it in person. It’s not something commonly done, but it belonged to this particular church that was a very old church, and they had been doing it for a really long time. I heard it from the other kids, and it kinda became a rumor or a scary story we would tell each other that turned out to be true. We were scared of it because it was very different from our own religious practices, like this would never happen in our own churches or anything like that.

 

Q: Where did you live in Kentucky?

 

E.M.: I lived in Louisville Kentucky, but this lady was from… I, I believe she was from Appalachia and she had moved there and there were rumors about her, showing there was this big divide between city life and country life in Kentucky.

 

Performance Context: In Pentecostal churches in some areas of Kentucky.

 

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting how people interpret the Bible in different ways though they all read the same words. In particular, it is intriguing how people make folklore and folkloric practices out of religion. However, the folklore is an extension of the religion and not a true part of the religion itself. Many subtleties in the Bible are interpreted by different sects of Christianity to mean certain things, however, they are never explicitly told to perform these practices (such as snakehandling).

For more information, please see Chapter 3 (Religious Folklore) of Elliott Oring’s book Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, in which snakehandling is mentioned.

Childhood
Musical

One Child of God

This is an Indonesian church song that the informant’s mom used to sing when she was younger. Her mom grew up Christian and went to a Catholic, all girls school.

Translation

“‘One child of God goes to church, and then he brings a friend, and they go to church.’ And then it starts over, it’s like, ‘Two children of God, one of them brings a friend, and they go to church.’ All of them go to church together and it’s like this growing…”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories.

The name of this church song is “Satu Anak Tuhan” which mean “One Child of God.” When I asked the informant if this song is sung more in youth groups, she said she had absolutely no idea, but that it was just one of those little songs that you learn when you’re younger. This reminds me a a children’s song that most latin or hispanic people know, and that I myself learned from my dad who speaks Spanish, called “Un Elefante se Balanceaba.” The song begins with one elephant balancing on a spider web, and when he sees that it holds him, he calls over another elephant, and then they are both balancing on a spider web. This song can continue indefinitely. Just as with “One Child of God,” it is mostly children who learn and sing this song, and both were probably created to pass the time on long car rides, or to teach numbers and counting.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church

“Okay, so, I’m Greek Orthodox, um, and there’s a number of, like, traditions in the Greek Orthodox church that, um, are not found in a lot of other Christian churches. Um, Greek Orthodox is very similar to Catholicism, um, maybe a litter stricter, um and on Easter… First of all Easter is not with the Western Calendar, um, they go off of a different calendar, um, and so their Easter is not, um, always the same Sunday as, um, regular Easter, I guess, or what most people think of… the Western Easter. Um, or the Easter found in most other Christianities. Um, and so it’s normally, like, 3 or 4 weeks after, sometimes it’s before, a couple times it’s, like, coincided, um, but so you– we have lent and everything, similar to Catholicism, um, but you’re not supposed to eat meat at all, there’s no meat at all, it’s not just a no-Friday thing, uh, and, um, so, during the week of— I guess during Holy Week, leading up to Easter you’re supposed to… So Easter is always on a Sunday. But the Orthodox Church does their Easter service on Saturday night and it’s normally at, like, ten o’clock Saturday night and it goes to about 12:30am, um, sometimes later, um, and afterwards at the Church there’s normally, like, a big feast. Because you haven’t eaten meat the whole time and you come at, you know, one o’clock in the morning and everyone’s eating and has the big, like, breakfast celebration. Um, and then the next day you’ll, like, get with your family and have another big, massive feast with a lot of meat, um, so that’s fun. And normally the services, like the Mass services, last at least two hours, um because its different in, like, Catholicism the, the priests have to, um, they prepare all the communion stuff beforehand, before everyone gets to mass. Um, in the Orthodox Church, they do it in front of you. So when you get there, you’re watching the priest set up and they have a lot of little, like, rituals they have to do um in order to prepare the communion, um, so that’s why it lasts so long. Partly because in the beginning, it’s just a lot of rituals and things like that and a lot of people come in, like, halfway through the service so it’s not uncommon to see people coming in like halfway through um and then normally the homily is a little longer than it would be in a, um, Catholic church.”

 

My informant is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, a faith she inherited from her mother’s family. My informant is well versed on the practices in the Catholic Church as she attended a Catholic high school. Her understanding of additional branches of Christianity can be contributed to her father’s Protestant faith. My informant feels most connected to the Greek Orthodox Church and remains connected to her faith, even on the USC campus.

As a student who also attended Catholic school, I find it interesting that religions who are very closely related belief-wise have so many differences in practice. The manifestation of faith is as diverse as the people who practice it.

 

The calendar that my informant was referring to is actually two calendars. The Greek Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar.

Read more about the calendar of the Orthodox church here:

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7070

 

 

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Traditions in the Greek Orthodox Church

“When you, like, leave your shoes somewhere, if they are facing upwards… so the sole of your shoe is facing upwards, you have to go turn it over. Um, so it, as if—so the bottom of your shoe is the dirtiest part and you don’t want that facing up to face God. Um, so you always turn it back over so that the top of your shoe is facing upward. Um, even if it’s on the side, normally you’d flip it to the– flip it down, so that the bottom doesn’t face up. Um, other things like that….

You never cross your legs in Church. Um, I mean, like, possibly you can do your ankles if it’s- you’re just really uncomfortable, um, but normally you’d never, ever, really cross your legs. Men or women, can’t cross their legs. Um, it’s just a sign of respect, um, things like that.

Also, a lot of, it’s much more common now for any churches, you can kind of go in very casually dressed, um, maybe, you know, look a little nicer, but in the Orthodox church, you get dressed up every week. So you see a lot of people with heels, like women with heels, um, or nice dresses all the time. Um, if you don’t you kind of stick out. Um, you know the men always wear, like, a nice shirt and khakis and things like that, um, Sunday best definitely applies.

Um, and it’s different also with communion. Um, I know a lot of protestant churches don’t have communion every week, Catholic churches do, we do have communion every week, um, but its not, like, you don’t have to have a first communion for it, you don’t have to have, um, any sort of like training or preparation for it. Um, they’ll give it straight to, like, infants, um, and also it’s not grape juice, like a lot of churches use, it’s wine. Um, and there’s also a tradition, I don’t know if this is true in the Catholic Church or not, um, but if there’s any leftover wine, or communion, you can’t just get rid of it, um, you have to drink it. The priests always drink it, so in the back of the church it’s always a little funny to just watch the priest, like, chugging bottles of wine.”

 

My informant is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, a faith she inherited from her mother’s family. My informant is well versed on the practices in the Catholic Church as she attended a Catholic high school. All these small details are things my informant picked up from her mother and grandmother as she was growing up. She says that she is always aware of how shoes are lying on the floor, even in her college apartment. The rest of these details are only important when she is in church.

 

 

general
Legends
Myths
Narrative

The Church on the Hill

The following are the informant’s exact words:

“This is a story that my grandmother tells. It’s a pretty popular story, umm… that involves that… Juan Diego, a young man’s name… a peasant and a Mexican. And when she tells it, it is that he is walking one day, uhh… and the Virgen di Guadalupe appeared to him and said, “I’d like you to build me a church, here.” It was a particular hill I believe. And uhh… and he was like, “Well okay, I guess”. And ummm…  then he goes to, I believe, the power that be, the kinda Catholic Church, the bishop. And he says, “Okay well we need to build this church because the Virgen di Guadalupe appeared to me and said she wants a church.” And, uhhh, the bishop, because of, you know,  the lowly statues of this peasant, Juan Diego, said, “Well you know, why should we believe you, you need to have some proof, you need to find some proof.” So he’s kinda turned away. And the next day, or I don’t know, a week later I suppose, he’s walking by the same place, but he actually tries to go a different way, he’s kind of trying to avoid her I think (laughs), but she appears again! And she’s like, “Hey, why are you trying to avoid me?” You know. And he proceeds to tell her, ummm, you know, “They don’t believe me, you know, there’s no proof.” And she says, “Well, climb up on this hill and uhhh pick some roses, and uhh pick these roses umm to bring to this bishop.” And umm so he does that, he picks these roses. And he carries them in his ‘thilma’, in his shirt, uhh kinda like this, like makes a kind of pouch with his shirt and carries them. And then goes to the bishop and says, “Okay, she appeared to me again.” And uhh the bishop’s like, “Well where’s your proof?”And so he, he drops the flowers from his shirt. And you know, he’s thinks like, here’s my proof, the flowers, the roses. But actually, the roses, being carried in the shirt, had stained his shirt, his ‘thilma’ and there was an image of the Virgen di Guadalupe. And then the bishops all got down on their knees, because this is a holy thing, you know, and imagine this miracle, ‘milagro’, and so he got down on his knees. And there’s a church there today, right this is a church, a famous church, and that’s the story of that church.”

The informant said that his grandmother told him the story when he was much younger. The informant is half Mexican, and he included several Spanish words in his retelling of the story. The story seems very personal to the informant, because he learned it from a cherished family member and it ties back to his heritage. However, he said that he could not remember the name of the church, though he knew it at one point. Thus, the story meant more to him as a tale in itself, tying back to his grandmother, his Mexican heritage, and his religion, than a tale about a specific church. When he was telling it to me, his voice became more excited towards the end of the tale, when Juan Diego’s proof succeeds in convincing the bishops to believe him and build the church. The informant believed in the tale and regarded it highly.

Many narratives have meanings beyond the literary plot. This narrative has ties to heritage and religion. The informant, living in Los Angeles, doesn’t often get to celebrate his unique heritage and religion, and narratives like this help to reaffirm some of his beliefs. The story venerates both the Virgin of Guadalupe, the new Catholic church, and the efforts of a poor peasant man following the will of God. Thus, it is held dearly by a religious common-man. I found the tale interesting, more so because of the informant’s enthusiasm and emotional connections to it. I don’t know if I believe that the roses stained the shirt in the form of the Virgin, but I believe that something similar could have happened, or that the stain could have looked similar to her form. In any case, the connotations of the story are more important that it’s actuality. I think this legend is a good example of the strength of Mexican heritage and familial ties, the prominence of Catholicism in Mexico and its emotional power, and the tendency of legends to connect with the common-man.

It should also be noted that I didn’t know how to spell some of the Spanish words, specifically “thilma”, and I couldn’t find it online. I spelled it phonetically.

 

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