USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘good luck’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kicking the Lightpost – USC Band Tradition

“So the band has a tradition of, every time we march to the football stadium–the Coliseum–for games, everyone has to kick the bottom of the light pole as we are leaving campus for good luck. Then, we also kick it on our way back on [campus] after the game.

If we win the football game, we always play ‘Conquest’ at Tommy Trojan as, like, a celebration.”

Context: The informant, EK, is a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band (also called Spirit of Troy), and specifically part of the drum line of the band. We were having a discussion about some of the strange and somewhat rituals that the band does on game days (football) and how they affect the outcome of the games. EK feels an obligation to participate in this ritual as she is a member of the band, and fears the consequences of not participating in the tradition as it is a highly ingrained belief in the student group. The band, according to EK, relies heavily on many superstitions and traditions in order to ensure the success of the USC football team.

Analysis: For the informant, this ritual is extremely important for the band and to ensure a good outcome for the football game that they will be performing in. In this manner, this ritual is a demonstration of folk belief and superstition and how it supposedly affects the outcome of events that can be seemingly out of our hands. With this superstition, this group of performers can have a level of control over an unpredictable event.

There is also a participatory context for this superstition. If you do not participate in this ritual and kick the light pole, then if the football team loses, the band can blame the person who didn’t kick the pole. In a way, knowing and participating in the superstitions of the marching band is a way to figure out who is a member, and who is an outsider. Due to this, if you choose not to participate, or merely forget, your band members will see you as someone who is not really a member of that group anymore, and only after you resume your participation in that ritual can one resume their membership. This is mirrored in many other societal groups, from firefighters to physicians to USC students. Particular superstitions and customs are defining components of culture, and the groups that perform them claim them as a piece of their identity.

Customs

Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas – New Year Tradition

Piece:

“For New years my family eats collard green and black eyed peas. The black eyed peas symbolize good luck and fortune, the collard greens represent money and wealth. So that’s like a story for new years.”

Background information: The informant is a USC student, she is from the Bay area but has family scattered all over the south.

Context: This is a New Year’s Tradition that never changes. The informant began doing it ever since she was a little kid. She still partakes in the tradition to this day.

Personal Analysis: Different families have different customs and traditions for New Year’s. My family does a similar thing. Instead of collard greens and black eyed peas, my family celebrates with grapes and champagne. Each person eats 12 grapes, each grape symbolize 1 month out of the year. Everyone has a glass of champagne that they use to give cheers to everyone else in the room. You have to go around and “clink” (touch glasses) with everyone before you can drink it.

 

Childhood
Game
Humor
Legends
Signs

The Legend of Turtle Rock

Text

The following piece was collected from an eighty-four year old woman who lives in Cascade, Colorado. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant” and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “There’s a rock on the drive up the mountain pass called Turtle Rock. Every time you go up that road, we all wait silently in the car looking for the rock. It’s a larger rock with a smaller rock behind it and slightly to the side. What happens is that as you drive by, it looks like a turtle poking his head out of his shell. As soon as you see it, you have to yell and jump around. It’s good luck if you can spot it because it’s really hard to see, especially if you’re driving quickly. All the locals know it’s there. It used to be a game to see if someone could make the steep climb up to the rock. In all my time I only ever saw one person do it.”

 

Context

            The Informant learned of this place and the tradition wrapped around it simply by living in the area and hearing from other people all about “Turtle Rock”. She believes that she has known about the rock that looks like a turtle phenomenon for as long as she can remember. She believes it is just a funny rock formation but it never fails to make her laugh.

Interpretation

            I love the stories that spin meaning from natural occurrences. Like the idea that a certain rock formation can have a meaning that everyone who lives in the area surrounding the rock knows. I believe it’s a way to identify yourself – if you are from Cascade, Colorado, then you must know about Turtle Rock. And if you don’t, then are you really a Cascade native? Furthermore, having an identity that is interwoven with the land around always seems like the most solid identity a person can have.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — Prayer for Good Luck

Text

The following piece was collected from a seventy-three year-old woman from Vail, Colorado. She is Irish Catholic. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant” and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “Oh, whenever my family needs a bit of luck, or we think someone else could use it, all you have to say is ‘Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.’”

Collector: “Then what’s supposed to happen?”

Informant: “Nothing is supposed to happen. It’s just a way of trying to get some extra help from above.”

Collector: “When do you say it?”

Informant: “Well, we’ve always said it whenever we see an ambulance. If one drives by with the sirens, you say a quick JMJ and that helps. Or…haha… if you need some help on a test you think you did poorly on, I would always write JMJ very small in the corner of the paper right before I turned it in. Couldn’t hurt.”

Context

The Informant learned this practice from her father, who would always stop the car and make the kids said JMJ if they saw an accident or an ambulance. It later leaked into other aspects of their lives, more lighthearted in nature. The Informant always felt more confident, or at least hopeful, about a test that she had written JMJ on. She believed that with God on her side, there was such a better chance of things turning out well in the end.

Interpretation

            I believe this piece to be interesting in the ways it can be applied and at the same time very familiar to me. Growing up, my family’s mantra for a quick bit of help or luck came as a result of very quickly saying “Come, Holy Spirit”. Hearing another family that has a similar practice, but different words is heartwarming to me, because I enjoy hearing that people have faith in small phrases, that saying them can bring good luck and fortune.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Foodways
Game
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Symbolizing that Christ Has Risen Through Greek Easter Eggs

The informant shared a Greek Easter tradition of cracking red eggs with me, while her younger sister provided supporting information. The game starts with every member of a family receiving an egg, and then cracking it against someone else’s egg. Whoever’s egg remains un-cracked at the end of the game receives good luck for the year.

Informant: The Greek eggs are dyed red because it signifies the blood of christ… the red… and um they can only be dyed red on Thursday… Maundy-Thursday. And also when you crack the eggs … when you crack the eggs it’s like Christ being released from the tomb

Support: the shell symbolizes the tomb 

Me: Do you practice this every year for easter?

Informant: Yes, yes. The interesting thing is that depending on the calendar. Sometimes Greek Easter and regular Easter are the same day. And other times it can be as many as  4 weeks apart?

Support: Yes, Greek easter has to be after the Passover and it has to be the first full moon of the month

Informant: After the first full moon

Support: Yes after, there has to be Passover and then after the first full moon. It has to be after that. Because the last supper was a Passover dinner, so we’re on a different calendar. We’re not on the Gregorian calendar, we’re on the Julian Calendar.

Informant: But in the American tradition, Easter is the same time as Passover because that’s when Jesus went into Jerusalem was before the Passover. But the Greeks have a different date for the Passover I guess.

Support: It’s because we’re on a different calendar. But it can’t be celebrated before, so those two things.. Passover and the full moon dictate when we celebrate.  

 

Context: 

The Informant is a Greek woman who was born in the United States. She currently lives in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA. Though she was not born in Greece, her parents immigrated to the US and she was born into a very Greek community in Phoenix, AZ. The performance was held during an Easter party, in front of her younger sister, who provided supporting information, as well as me.

Analysis:
Being part Greek, I have always been aware of the ‘Red Egg’ tradition my family practices during Easter. However, I never knew how in depth it went as a cultural practice. For me, it was just a game where the winner would receive good luck for the year, but as I talked with the informant I discovered that it was so much more. The tradition represents the many different components of Easter in one unified ritual.

 

For more information on Greek Easter eggs and why they are dyed red, you can reference page 25 of Greece by Gina DeAngelis.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Beliefs
Foodways
Game
Holidays
Magic
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Goodluck Dumplings

My informant shared a piece of Chinese culture she practices with her family during the Chinese New Year:

Informant: Ok so for Chinese New Year, we make…the tradition is to eat Dumplings…and then we will hide one coin in one of the dumplings and whoever eats that dumpling will have good luck.

Context:

I was talking with a group of friends while we were working on a class project and some of the group members wanted to share pieces of their traditions with me. It was a very casual setting and the performance took place in front of three other individuals.

Background:

The informant is from Hong Kong, China, but attends school at USC. This practice is something she normally does with her family during the Chinese New Year.

Analysis:

I found this really interesting because it reminds me of how in New Orleans, the baby is hidden in the Mardis Gras cake. Whoever finds the baby will receive good luck for the year. While these two traditions use very different foods and tokens to spread luck, they are surprisingly similar.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Signs

Chinese Superstition: Eyelid Twitch

Context: The informant, a 19-year-old Chinese-American college student, shared this proverb with me on the Lunar New Year. We were discussing how her parents raised her to embrace her Chinese-American identity. She began describing several cultural superstitions that she was taught as a child and continues to practice today

Text:

Informant: Alright, so I’m not sure if it’s all Chinese people or just my family, but… so basically… you know when your eyelid twitches? I’m sure it happens to everybody, but whenever my right eyelid would twitch… like whenever I was younger, I would run to my mom and go, “Look! My eyelid is twitching!” And she would be like, “Is it your right eyelid?” And I would be like, “Yeah.” And then she’d be like, “That’s bad luck.” But then if it’s my left eyelid, apparently that’s good luck. So now every time my left eyelid twitches, I get really excited about nothing and when my right eyelid twitches, I get really nervous in case something bad happens.

Interviewer: Do you know where your mom learned the superstition?

Informant: I actually don’t. I’m sure it’s just been passed down through our family forever, but it might also just be like a wider Chinese thing because Chinese people are weirdly superstitious about a lot of things. But yeah, I still practice it, and I’m sure I’ll pass it on to my children.

 Informant’s relationship to the item: Though the informant does not know the origin of the superstition, or why it is practiced by her family members, she has believed in the superstition since she was young and continues to believe it today. She mentioned that, depending on which eye it is, her eyelid twitching will either fill her with excitement or dread, due to the folk belief associated with it. Because it is a lesson that her mother taught her as a child, she also plans on passing the superstition on to her children.

Interpretation: The cultural superstition shared by the informant is an example of a sign superstition. Sign superstitions involve the belief that certain random happenings are signs that either good or bad luck is imminent for the viewer. Magic superstitions differ from sign superstitions in that the person who desires the good luck/fortune usually has to deliberately complete a specific task in order to acquire the good luck. Sign superstitions occur randomly and without warning, to either the pleasant surprise or the chagrin of the viewer. Additionally, sign superstitions usually have some sort of historical or psychological element associated with them. For instance, a black cat crossing one’s path is widely considered to be a bad omen because black cats were associated with witches in medieval times.

 

Contagious
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Venezuelan Yellow Underwear Superstition on New Year’s Eve

Context: The informant, a 20-year-old college student who was born in Venezuela and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, described various rituals and superstitions that relate to both her passion for theatre and her Venezuelan nationality. The following is an excerpt from our conversation, in which the informant recalls a Venezuelan superstition that people take part in during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Text:

Informant: On Venezuelan New Year’s, we have a tradition that… it’s kind of weird… we have a tradition that you’re supposed to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve. It’s supposed to be good luck, but I don’t really know. My mom always told me it was thing, but she and my dad never did it. Then I was like, “Well, I want good luck!” So, I started doing it. Maybe it’s like yellow and like gold and gold having to do with riches or something… maybe it’s something like that. But we always would talk about it and do it. I purposefully bought a piece of underwear the other day, so that I know I would have it for this year, because my other pair is too old. So yeah, I definitely intentionally do it and it’s another integral part of my New Year’s Eve experience every year.

Informant’s relationship to the item: Though the informant’s parents do not take part in the New Year’s Eve tradition, the informant has taken it upon herself to buy multiple pairs of yellow underwear in order to take part in the Venezuelan tradition. This demonstrates her belief that the practice holds some form of validity, in spite of the fact that no one in her immediate family practices it. Additionally, she expressed some embarrassment while she was describing the superstition to me, due to the nature of the tradition. Yet, she still reaffirmed her belief in the folk ritual.

Interpretation: The Venezuelan New Year’s Eve tradition of wearing yellow underwear is a good example  of a superstition that involves a color that holds symbolic significance to a group of people. Throughout the world, colors are culturally-encoded; sometimes a color’s symbolic meaning is more universal and other times it varies throughout communities. In this case, the yellow underwear seems to represent good luck and good fortune because yellow and gold are often associated with money, wealth, and riches. In more recent years, which has seen Venezuela living through one of the worst economic collapses in the world right now, the New Year’s Eve superstition likely is even more significant to Venezuelans than before. The tradition could also serve as a very tragic reminder of current misfortunes.

Folk Beliefs
Protection
Signs

Sailor Superstition: Dolphins swimming in the wake are good luck

Content:
Informant – “Dolphins are considered good luck when they swim with the ship. And it’s bad luck to kill a dolphin.”

Context:
JK – “Where does this belief come from?”

Informant – “I just think that dolphins are friendly to humans. They have a long history of…there’s stories of them chasing sharks away and swimming with humans. They are sweet creatures and really intelligent. That level of intelligence demands respect.”

JK – “Where did you hear it from?”

Informant – “I just grew up with that. My father would tell me about dolphins. And there have been a couple of times in my life where I’ve actually seen it. They’ll play in the wake of the ship. It’s really neat.”

Analysis:
There seems to be very logical reasons for this superstition. So much so, that it hardly seems superstitious. Dolphins are historically friendly/helpful creatures, so a pod following your ship is definitely a good thing. It’s hard to think of a valid reason to kill a dolphin, so it makes sense why doing so would be seen as bad luck.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Material
Narrative
Protection

Saint Christopher Medallion

Content:
Informant – “When I was being raised, Saint Christopher was an important saint. All of us, the kids, got medals, little medallions that we wore, that were Saint Christopher medals. Saint Christopher was the patron saint of travelers.
Now Christopher means Christ carrier. And the legend is that he was a big person, almost a giant, and he came upon a little boy on the bank of a stream and the little boy asked him to please carry him over to the other side. And so Christopher said sure and proceeded to carry him on his shoulders across the river, and as he went further and the water got deeper the boy got heavier and heavier, and it took all his strength, and when he finally reached the shore, exhausted, he asked the child ‘My gosh how could you weigh so much?’ And the child revealed that he was really Christ and that he was carrying the weight of the world. And then he disappeared.”

Context:
Informant – “I grew up with it. And while I was growing up, Christopher was touted as being a real person, but more recent research has found that there is no real record of his existence. The first mention of him was like 3 centuries after he supposedly existed. So they say he’s pretty much a legend.

JK – “What were the medallions for?”

Informant – “It was really a religious good luck charm. It was supposed to protect us from the travails of travels and journeys and all that.”

Analysis:
There is an interesting connection between the medallion and the story. One wears a medallion around one’s neck. You feel the weight at the back of the neck – the same place where you would feel the most weight if you were carrying someone on your shoulders.

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