USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘cup’

Lapp Mug

The item pictured is a traditional Lappish drinking cup/mug (known locally as a guksi) gifted to me by a local Saame (Lapp) woman while I was spending time in Finland in an area known as Lapland, which covers the northern expanse of the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, and Norway and is largely located within the Arctic Circle.

The Saame, the group to which the woman belongs, are a people indigenous to Lapland.

Although the woman did not speak English, my guide acted as an interpreter between us as I asked questions regarding the mug.


The mug itself is carved out of a single piece of wood collected from burls on birch tree trunks. The birch tree is ubiquitous in the Finnish wilderness and is the most commonly used material in the construction of most Lappish items, including the mug itself, sled frames, furniture, and even entire homes. Revered for its strong, hardy, and unyielding quality and capable shock resistance, the use of birch is an endless sight in Lapland.


The most significant characteristic of birch, as it relates to the mugs, is its antibacterial properties, which necessitates little to no cleaning. Thus, the mug bears with it benefits of both health and convenience. Any cleaning of the mug is to be conducted with a simple combination of cloth and water, as it is believed soap or detergents will damage the mug.


As for the actual construction of the mug, what is most noteworthy is the presence of two holes through which to place one’s fingers. This serves a practical purpose for maintaining additional stability as to not accidentally drop the mug, although the dual hole it is not a strict method of construction, as many guksis contain a single hole. Another benefit is the insulative properties of the wood when drinking hot liquids, as one can wrap their hand around the entirety of the mug without discomfort, as opposed to the tendency for ceramic mugs to become heated (hence the necessity of a handle.



Cup of water and broom prank

Informant is a junior at Penn State University who grew up in NJ. Informant tells me that they heard about the prank first from a camp counselor, and then on a TV show which they can’t remember.

The following is a description of the prank and how to pull it off:


“So, it’s pretty easy. All you need is a cup of water, a chair, and a broom. And somebody else in the house with you… to prank of course.

First, you take the chair and hold the cup of water to the ceiling so the rim of the cup is on the ceiling. Then, take the broom and use the stick part to press the bottom of the cup to the ceiling, holding it there. Now you can move the chair back… or have a friend do it or something, because you have to keep the cup on the ceiling.

Next, you just wait until somebody walks by. Ask them if they could hold the broom for a second so you can run and grab something, or go to the bathroom, or whatever you want to say. The idea is that if you get them to hold the broom and walk away, they have no choice but to just stand there or have a cup of water fall on them. It’s foolproof!”


This prank is pretty sinister because of how easy it is to set up, and how dire the circumstances become for the poor soul who falls for it. Ideally this is a prank you would pull on a close friend or family member. Although the intent can be lighthearted, I would imagine this would really drive anybody crazy– especially if he or she had something else to do before being either drenched in water or reduced to standing under the cup helplessly.

“It has to be somebody you could afford to anger and disappoint, like your brother” my informant tells me, giggling.