USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘good luck’
Game
general
Humor
Protection
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Religious ‘Crossing’ and Pre-Performance Chant Parodies

Informant (“A”) is a 19 year old, female from Rancho Santa Fe, California, and attends The University of Southern California. She is a Human Biology major. She is of European descent and her family includes her mother, father, and older brother who attends college in Texas. Informant has studied ballet for 17 years, including work in a professional company.

A: “…Now this one is going to sound really weird but recently there was a production of ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ and there was this kinda offensive song sung in it.
This sort of got turned into a backstage chant, and like I’ve also heard other people do this too. We all huddle in and whisper this ‘We’re gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn, we’re gonna rape kill pillage and burn, eat the babies’. We say this multiple times getting louder each time until all of us are full on screaming it backstage. You know how people can like to scream vaguely offensive stuff, but its not that bad to us because we all know where it’s from. Then right before I go on stage I’ll do like a cross, you know the like Catholic one. I’m not really religious but I’ve been doing it for years. I think it started when I did a really hard solo and it had that cross in it. It basically tells me that I’ve done all I can and now I just have to perform. It’s another aspect of getting mentally ready, because so much of performing is about being physically but also mentally on your game.”

Analysis: The crossing seems to be a sort of parody of superstition. It may be an attempt to ‘use’ a previously accepted superstition in a socially accepted way or to comically parody their own use of superstition before the performance.
This backstage chant seems to be a sort of ‘trust building exercise’ that uses both humor and chanting to reinforce a sense of community. In high stress situations like ballet performances, such reinforcement likely serves to cater trust in other dancers, as the difference between an effective performance and a mishap could rely on other dancers.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Purple Fuzzy Bear

Informant H is 19 years old and was born in Inglewood CA. She moved to a place near Valencia just outside of LA soon after she was born. After 5 years, her little sister was born, then her little brother, and then her youngest sister. The family then moved to Bakersfield. H homeschooled for many years and then transitioned into a public high school.

 

H: So the very first people who started Xpressions started this um I guess its like a pre-show ritual where they have this little purple fuzzy stuffed animal and he’s about, I don’t know, he’s very small like this size, like a small ball. And we stand in a circle um backstage before its time for our show and the director holds the little fuzzy bear and he goes around and he puts it in front of everyone and everyone has to kiss the fuzzy bear for good luck.

Me: That’s really cute. Do you think people believe this will actually give them good luck and if they don’t do it like maybe they wont have a good performance that night?

H: Not necessarily. I think we know that the amount of effort and time we put into it is what’s gonna make it a good show but I think its just something that everyone has done every semester. So just knowing that from the very first group of people who did it now were doing it its cool that connection to the people who started it.

Me: So it’s about the history and the tradition more?

H: Right.

Me: Do you think the bear itself has any significance? Other than it was picked sort of randomly, do you know why it’s purple…?

H: I don’t know why its purple, I think its just a personal article, I don’t know any other significance to the bear.

Me: Do you believe personally that if you had done this or if you don’t, do you think something is going to happen?

H: Nope! I just think it’s a cute tradition.

Me: Do you think that’s why people do it? They just do this because it’s a nice bonding exercise?

H: Yes, I think it’s very much like a bonding exercise.

Me: Do you think it serves any other function besides a bonding thing between you guys?

H: I feel like bonding is mainly…and just that you know that that’s something you have in common with the Xpressions people because I know its changed over the years. So that’s something you have in common with someone who is an alumni of Xpressions, like oh you remember when you kissed the fuzzy bear?

Me: Is this like a secret thing? Do you guys talk about it very much?

H: Um no its just something we do like right before the show just like oh remember guys kiss the bear.

Me: And all the new members everyone together…?

H: Yeah everyone.

 

Analysis:

This dance group uses this fun tradition and ritual to bring all its members together and prepare them to work together as a unit for the show. Like other rituals, it ties them to the past and the origins of the group while keeping them in the present as they are about to perform. Also like other rituals, this takes place on a liminal moment in time, right before the dancers perform and is used to bring the dancers good luck.  This ritual also includes a kind of folk item, the fuzzy bear.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations

Kicking the Flag Pole

“When USC students go to football games, as they head off of campus they kick the flagpoles on the edge of campus. It’s suppose to be for good luck. It’s supposed to help the team win. I heard about it when I was at orientation and the guide pointed at the poles and told us that ‘All the students kick theese poles on the way to the Collesium.’ It’s like a superstition thing. I have done it once during freshman year when I went to a game and sure enough when I did it I saw tons of other people doing it too. It’s definitely caught on.”

As a fellow student at USC I know this tradition to be true. It is interesting to note that this was taught during the orientation process to the university. During orientation at USC students are not only taught official protocols of the university but they are also taught about the unofficial culture of the campus, through an official medium. The kicking of the flag pole could even be considered a ‘right of passage’ for students attending football games. As if only the true fans and devoted students partake in this good luck ritual. This tradition is not only to ensure success for the football team during the game, but also an initiation into true fandom.

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Signs

Pigs Bring Wealth

Pigs Bring Wealth

The Informant:

She was an elderly who came to the U.S. in the early 1990s. Although Christian, she says she still believes in this superstition a little bit.

 

돼지 꿈구면 행운이다.

돼지는 한국에서, 이 뭐냐, 돈이야. 옛잘에 모든 사업 아니면 일하는분들은 돼지머리를 잘라서 절을 하는거야. 절하다가 코에다가 돈 집어넣고, 입에도 넣고, 귀에다 넣고, 아므튼 늘수있는데에다 넣는거야. 

If you dream of a pig it’s good luck.

Long ago, a pig is a form of income. It is equal to money or wealth. People who ran businesses or stores would cut off a pig’s head, lay it on a table, and bow down to it. While bowing down, as a sign of worship, they would stick money in its nose, mouth, ears, anywhere on the head that they could. They did this so that they would succeed and become rich.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Signs

Good Luck Before A Big Day

Good Luck Before A Big Day

The Superstition:

I know for exams, if you accidentally break a utensil or a plate on the day before a really big day, then you’re going to succeed. I guess it’s following the idea that you lose something then you gain something. But it has to be broken on accident, not on purpose.

The Analysis:

The idea truly follows the logic that when one loses something one also gains something else. The broken object signifies the loss. It is also similar to the idea that the storm must come before the calm, or one must get through the night before it becomes day. Nothing comes free in this world and to gain is ultimately to lose.

Folk Beliefs
Humor
Magic

Dokgyebi’s Club

홍두깨도깨비(Hong Du Kkye Dogyebi) – Dokgyebi’s Club

The Informant:

Born in Korea before the split, she managed to escape to South Korea during the Korean War with her husband and family. She immigrated to the U.S. and resides in New Jersey with her eldest son and her grandchildren.

 The Story:

도깨비가 자기의 홍두깨를 치고 다니면 돈이 가득하게 찬 우물하고 분수들이 땅에서 나타난데. 도개비는 머리위에 유니콘처럼 뿔이있고 마술사 같아. 사람들에게 “넌 뭘 갖고싶니?” 하면서 돌아다녀. 좋은 사람들한테만 주지 근데. 나쁜 사람이 돈 달라고하면 아니면 소원을 빌면 그 도깨비는 얼굴이 화나게 변신을하고 그 나쁜 사람에게 불행을 빌지. 도깨비는 밤에만 나타나. 어떤 귀신이라고 생각할수도있고, 하지만 무섭지는않아. 착한 귀신이지, 좋은 사람한테는.

 When the dokgyebi hits its club around wells of money springs out. It has a small horn on its head, like a unicorn. It is like a magician and can make things appear or make wishes come true. It walks around and asks people what they want. When a bad person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, the dokgyebi face become mad and wishes the bad person illness. When a good person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, it is granted. A dokgyebi only appears at night. It is a type of ghost, but it is not scary to nice people.  

The Analysis:

A dokgyebi appears randomly and only at night. It is a mystical figure, almost a cross between a ghost and a fairy. Instead of a wand it carries around a club, which signifies that it is not only nice but also can be bad. However, it is mean to only people with bad hearts or ill intentions. The meaning of the story is that one should be careful of how one lives, no matter the time and space. You never know who is watching you and so you should always try to lead a give life, inside and out.

 

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
general
Magic
Protection

Luck from the family Ankh

The informant (L) is a 22 year old film student at the California State University Los Angeles. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her grandparents started an oil business in Oklahoma and had to live in Saudia Arabia once the business took off, from 1974 until 1991. They traveled while they were living overseas and would often bring back gifts for their family still in Oklahoma. One of these gifts was an ankh from Egypt for each person of the family. Though L’s family is Mexican, the gifts were given because they are connected to Isis and Isis is connected to the concept of life according to the Egyptians. L was not alive at the time so she did not receive one of the ankhs, which she was slightly bitter about. She still believes in the power of the ankh in protecting her family, and said that everyone in her family who has one wears it or displays it in their house. She also gave me  an example that proved the ankhs protected her family. Her older brother was working in a factory in Oklahoma when he was a young adult and due to an accident, one of the machines malfunctioned and spit out shrapnel. Though her brother was not the one using the machine, he was so close to the machine that shrapnel hit him before he could get out of the way. When he looked down, he realized that the shrapnel had hit the ankh he was wearing and bounced back instead of cutting into his body. The ankh is worn over his heart, so the shrapnel could have done major damage if it had managed to pierce his skin. L believes this is physical proof that the ankhs protect her family from harm.

L seems to be very convinced that the ankh protects her family, and the example regarding her brother makes it seem that the ankh both protects the family from physical problems (like the shrapnel) and provides a sense of comfort for those who have an ankh to wear. While L wishes she had her own, she implied that the protection extends even to members of the family who do not have their own personal ankh. I also think the connection to the ankhs have to do with their origin: the grandparents brought them to the family and therefore connected themselves to the ankh as well as the ankh being a spiritual object in ancient Egypt. By having an ankh, the family is connected to itself and something more than what is on this earth.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Protection

Evil eye sayings

Context: The informant is a grandmother of 8 whose parents were originally from Afghanistan but settled in Pakistan. She also lived in Saudi Arabia for many years and has a working knowledge of Farsi, Arabic, and Punjabi along with her native Urdu. She says that a common thing to say when you see someone  in new clothes, or looking particularly beautiful; or when someone has very good fortune in (for instance) an exam or a job; or, especially, with children and new babies; is

“Nazr-bad-door” or “Chashme-bad-door”

 

 

 

 

 

 

which, word-for-word, means “look-bad-far-away” or “eye-bad-far-away”, but translates to, “May the Bad Gaze/Evil Eye stay far away from you.”

Analysis: The purpose of this little saying is basically to keep away the Evil Eye, which the informant says can be put on someone if they are envied or have something that others covet (eg, good grades or good health). When the Evil Eye is put on you, you may fall sick, fail in your job or school, lose your money, etc. Children are especially susceptible because they are often the center of attention, especially in the informant’s Pakistani family, and so if someone merely looks at a child with selfish or ungracious thought in their mind, the child could fall ill or have an accident, etc. It is thus important to remember to praise God when you see something beautiful and not be jealous or ungrateful, and this phrase is a way to remind oneself of that, and also to express the desire to protect someone from others’ ill gazes as well. The informant said all this as what people “used to believe”, implying that the traditional phrase is kept even though the specific belief may have been altered or abandoned altogether.
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Protection

Kicking the Flagpoles

Item:

“Oh my family would kill me if I didn’t kick it. I know when I was younger and obviously just distracted, I’d forget, and they’d make me go back and kick it.”

At USC, it’s a tradition to kick the base of a specific set of flagpoles as you move from the tailgating portion of a football game day to the Coliseum. As told by the informant, a member of the Trojan Knights, there’s a history to the tradition. When the flagpoles were installed and large crowds moved past them, the sound of feet accidentally hitting them was very distinct. Because they are placed right in front of the most logical exit toward the Coliseum, this repetitive sound became so commonplace that the crowd began intentionally doing it. Now, it serves as a necessity for true Trojan fans to kick the flagpoles. Not doing so brings bad luck for the team that day.

 

Context:

The informant began following this tradition when he was 6 years old. He learned it from his grandfather, who attended USC about 60 years ago. He says that it’s very important to it’s family — if he neglected to kick it, they would give him flak for it. If the team lost after that, he would be considered partially at fault by his family. As a Trojan Knight, this is especially important to him.

 

Analysis:

It’s interesting to see where people think traditions start, especially in cases where the reason it started is relatively arbitrary but the tradition itself has gathered so much meaning over several decades. The idea of flagpole placement leading to people bumping into it and making a distinct sound against the metal turning into a long-standing tradition that determines the success of a team is, arguably a bit ridiculous. But perhaps it develops from confirmation bias — if the team wins and you kicked the flagpole, then people like to make the association. But if the team loses, there are a lot of other factors than the hypothetical flagpole correlation to blame. So, people lean toward associating success with the action they took to wish for it. Whether or not the origin story is true or not, it’s fascinating to think about what will happen as the geography changes. What if the school moves the flagpoles in a construction project? Or if the road is closed and an alternate route has to be taken? The degree of the tradition’s importance is hard to gauge when it is so physically convenient to participate — you almost HAVE to walk past it. That’s why it developed. So what happens when the convenience isn’t present?

Folk Beliefs

Lucky Italian Leather Bracelet

The informant explains that he has a bracelet that he stole in Italy at a street market by the Trevi Fountain.  The bracelet is leather and braided and he has had it since he was fifteen.  The informant explains that he wears it at all of the music shows that he performs at because he feels as though if he doesn’t perform well then he will be punished.  He feels as though he has the bracelet for a reason and needs to prove why he has it.  He also thinks that the bracelet gives him good luck.  He also believes that the bracelet represents his Italian heritage – taking a piece of Italy away.  He uses it as a way to remember his trip as well.

The informant’s militant wearing of his leather bracelet in all of his musical shows demonstrates individual’s belief in the power of good luck charms.  In contemporary view there are many instances in sports, music performances, and much more where people have different superstitious beliefs to enhance their luck or performance.

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