USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘church’
Folk speech
general
Gestures
Proverbs

Performing Good Deeds Blindly-Mexican Proverb

Main piece:

“Haz el bien y no mires a quien”

Transliteration:

Do the  good and don’t look at who

Translation:

Perform good deeds blindly despite the outcomes

Background:

Informant

Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish 

Context and Analysis:

I asked my Informant, a 74-year-old female if she knew of any sayings that have stuck with her throughout her life. My informant recounted to me this saying claiming it is one she strives to live by. She does not know where she first heard this proverb. However, she speculates it was while she was at church. My informant reports she attends mass once or twice a week. The informant says the proverb emphasizes doing a good deed while expecting nothing in return. She states this proverb reminds her that she should selflessly help others. 

I agree with my informant’s interpretation of this proverb. I think the saying emphasizes performing a good deed. I also believe the proverb puts emphasis on the value of not expecting anything in return when doing a good deed. When someone does something kind for others, they should do so out of the kindness of their heart, not for a reward. 

As I continued to analyze the proverb I also found it could also be telling its audience not to look for other’s reassurance that they are a good person by performing a good deed. An example of this would be, placing money in the offerings basket during a Catholic Mass Service. Many people only do so because they believe others are watching them and will judge them if they don’t do so. However, this is something that should be done out of each individuals willingness to contribute despite what others might or might not think of them.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Santa Lucia Candle Crowns on Christmas

Main Piece
Put that down, that on Christmas eve, Santa Lucia, L-U-C-I-A: Girls would wear real candles in their hair on Church service on Christmas eve, in a crown. It was really annoying because the wax would melt into the hair, and you always thought your hair was going light on fire.
I’m not sure what exactly it stemmed from – I know it is an old Swedish tradition. I don’t just remember why – people didn’t ask, people didn’t care, but we did it. There is definitely a reason behind it, but we definitely forgot it.

Background
The informant had grown up in a religious home, and made note of the different traditions she saw over the course of her life. She took part in this tradition, and therefore can talk about her experience. This occurrence was during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and she is unsure if they are still continuing the tradition, although she believes that they are.

Context
The informant who provided this information is a 52-year-old Caucasian women, born and raised in Southern California. The information was collected while sitting outside her home in Palm Desert, California, on the 20th of April, 2019.

Analysis
This tradition is really interesting to me, due to the fact that I never personally experienced this tradition. Being raised in the same religious way as the informant, I would have expected to have seen this tradition, yet I have not. I do think that it seems like a dangerous tradition, and I am glad to not have taken part in it or seen it thus far. I believe that the tradition relates back to Saint Lucy and her martyrdom, using candles to light her way bringing food to hidden Christians in the 3rd century. I find it interesting however, that the informant does not know what the tradition actually represents, but they still continued practicing it. I think this may be due to the idea that the tradition is representing the religion in a way, and although even if not known the exact reason, the commemoration of the religion is enough for the informant.

For another version of this tradition, please see Florence Ekstrand’s 1998 Lucia, Child of Light (Welcome Press).

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.

-

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

 

 

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