USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘lucky’
Folk Beliefs
general
Homeopathic
Magic
Protection

4 Will Bring Death

The informant shares how the number four is a connotation for bad luck in Chinese culture. She shared this in a group environment, where another member of the group, ‘Support,’ provided additional information to what the Informant was sharing:

 

Informant: We also don’t like the number 4

Me: What’s the number 4?

Informant: Like the number, four. We don’t like it. It means death. It’s associated with death

Support: Because when you say four in mandarin it sounds like the same word as death in mandarin.

Informant: So literally in my building there is no fourth floor, it’s the fifth floor.

Support: It’s kinda like how sometimes in America in buildings there’s no 13thfloor. It’s the same way… they just skip the number 4 when doing floors.

Informant: Yeah theres no 14th, 24th, they just skp the number.

Support: Oh really?!  I remember seeing the 4thskipped,but I don’t remember seeing 14th.

Informant: Like in my building there’s nothing floor.

 

Support: yeah because you don’t wanna live on the death floor… its kind of a pun.

 

Informant: But then lucky numbers are six or eight for a similar reason. Eight is associated with wealth, like you’re getting more money.

 

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. She has experienced the stigma of the number four first hand, because there is no floor containing ‘4’ in her apartment building in Hong Kong.

Analysis:

I love learning about how different cultures have similar superstitions to the United States, but while similar there is a different reasoning. While the US may view 13 as unlucky, it is not that way in China.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Lucky Number

My conversation with Suzie went as follows:

Me: “I don’t get when people say they have items or things that are lucky. I don’t feel like I have anything like that.”

Suzie: “What do you mean…you don’t have a lucky number or outfit or anything?”

Me: “Haha…no. I don’t think so….Do you?”

Suzie: “One HUNDRED percent. My number is 10:28. Every time I look at the clock it is 10:28 whether it’s am or pm. And I always notice because it’s the same number as my birthday…October 28th. So it’s my lucky number.”

Me: “When did you first start to notice that?”

Suzie: “I actually think I started noticing it when I met my husband because we’d always call each other or text each other at 10:28. He’d call and be like ‘Hi Suzie, its 10:28 so I thought of you…what are you up too?’ right when we started dating.”

 

Background: Suzie is a fifty-two year old mom currently living in Calabasas, CA. She has been married to her husband for 25 years and they have three kids together.

Context: I had this conversation with Suzie after a dinner at her house.

Analysis: The idea of something being “lucky” is so interesting to analyze because it is so unique to each individual. I don’t have anything in my life that sticks out as being “lucky” and neither do any of my immediate family members; we learn so many tendencies from our parents and siblings, so I think this has a lot to do with it. The only thing I could think of in this conversation with Suzie was that my favorite number as a kid was “2” and that was only because my brother’s jersey number was always 2 in the different sports he played. This furthers demonstrates the ideal in Suzie’s story that “lucky” or “favorite” things result from important moments or relationships in your life.

Folk Beliefs
Protection
Signs

Folded Chip Superstition

As she is eating a bag of chips, I notice her shifting the chips around and only picking up particular ones. I asked: “what are you doing?”

She laughs and responds, “If I open any new bag of tortilla chips I will only eat the chips that are folded over. Those are the lucky ones”

 

Background: She is a 20 year old female from Los Angeles, CA and currently a sophomore business student at USC.

Context: This interaction happened in her apartment while we were doing homework.

Analysis: I find superstitious or “luck-driven” behavior like the one described above to be incredibly interesting. I don’t personally hold and superstitious beliefs that affect my everyday actions that I am aware of, but I find it very compelling to consider the behavior we adopt simply by believing something is “lucky” or “unlucky” without any legitimate knowledge of that being true. The first example I think of is throwing salt over your shoulder after spilling salt over to avoid its bad luck. Throwing salt over your shoulder has become a cultural behavior that is unconsciously done because it is so customary and normal. It is intriguing to analyze the origins of superstitions and how they manifest through different behaviors in an individual’s life.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Material

The Banba Doll

The Main Piece
The Banba Doll, the name the Tan family has given it, is said to have the power to “affect the way your day will go. It has seven sides, one for every day of the week and you’re supposed to change its side every day.” This folk practice and object has been performed and passed down for generations. If one forgets to turn the Banma Doll, then the “Banma Doll will forget to give you your blessings.” It is also a metaphor for being sure one has all their belongings and double checking one has done everything necessary before leaving the house. Since the person was so forgetful, repercussions will come. The object has different Chinese characters on each side, each representing one day of the week. Rachel went on to state the importance of turning it over on the right day. “I’m not exactly sure why we had to turn it over on the right day, my grandmother never explained that part to us, but I remember her specifically saying that if we didn’t turn it over on the right day, then we might as well have not turned it over at all.” This action represents the idea that if one is going to do something, then they should do it right.” This is both a folk object and practice as it has been passed down from generation to generation and is a practice done daily.
Background Information
My informant is Rachel Tan, a current undergraduate student at USC. Although she has left it in her home in Singapore while she is away at college, whenever she returns home she is sure to turn the doll over. She says it has become common practice for her ever since her mom gave it to her. “I’m not sure where it all started, I just know it’s been in my family for what seems like forever and no one can seem to get rid of it.”
Context
We were discussing traveling over the summer and she brought up the fact that in her room there is the Banba Doll. I had no idea what that was so she continued to tell me more about it and the significance it held in her family.
Personal Thoughts
I found it odd for families to uphold such tedious practices with a background they were unknowledgeable on. It shows the power folk objects such as the Banba Doll can have on people. I personally would not partake in this practice, but perhaps it is because of its age and ancestry that the practice continues and I am simply unable to relate.

Game
general
Magic
Protection

A’s Baseball Game “Lucky Shirt”

Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.

Bolded portion is a quick summation of the the particular piece of Folklore.

 

“J: We’re at game four, 2012 playoffs, and it was the As- Tigers. I’ve been an A’s fan my whole life, I grew up an As fan, even when my brother switched teams… I idolized him when I was a kid… I stayed an A’s fan, beacuse I love the As! This was the first time since the playoffs that I really cared a lot alot, I mean I cared when I was a kid but I started getting more and more interest and this is the first time they went to the playoffs in 7 years.

So we were really excited, they weren’t supposed to make the playoffs, they weren’t even supposed to win 70 games… they were the worst team in baseball. So we were at this game and it was a, if they win they got a, they got to play the next game but if they lost it was over. Everything was done for.

Me: Mmmm hmmm

J: So in this game they were losing 3-1 at the bottom of the ninth, and we were just depressed, thinking it was over with, we’re done. Except for they started to rally and they rallied, and this, Seth Smith went up and hit the game tying two win double. Everyone just started going crazy, we all started jumping up and down… we couldn’t breathe we were so excited and actually the guy behind me didn’t really think it was going to happen as well, because the whole stadium was kind of praying that this would happen. It was against the best closer in the game, and he got up and got really excited and actually spilled his beer on my shirt. I didn’t really think anything of it  because I was so happy that we were winning. I noticed it after it happen and was like “oh my god you spilled beer on my shirt”, he tried to clean it up but it didn’t really work it was already past, we were celebrating for like five minutes.

And so, after that happened, with two outs, the same guy on second. Coco Crisp  went up and hit a game winning RBI single and the whole place went crazy. That was one of the coolest if not the best game I ever went too. Period.

….

J: I felt like that shirt, every since it happened, had to be lucky. They did this amazing thing, this improbable thing. It’s something that no one could have ever seen them doing. Since that day, any time I got to an As game, I wear jerseies over it since it still has a stain and everything but I wear my shirt over that jersey, and every since that year they’ve got back to the playoffs every single time.

So I believe anytime I wear that shirt under my jersey, they got back to the playoffs.

Me: The next game in the playoffs, did they win that, were you wearing your jersey?

J: No. We went straight to it the next day, we were trying to do everything to make them do better but  I didn’t have my jersey on. I didn’t think about it at the time, I just thought “beer-spilt shirt”. I think maybe if I wore it it would of been better, I really think it would of been better seeing how good the shirts been every since then…

Granted the As lost the next game, and unfortunately they lost the playoff series, but I felt like that shirt, ever since that happened had to be lucky. Because they just did this amazing thing, this improbable thing, that no one ever could have seen them doing. They just did it. So since that day, whenever I go to an As game, I wear jerseys over it, because it still, it still has a stain on it and everything, but I wear that shirt under my jersey, ever since that year they’ve gone back to the playoffs every single time. So I believe that as long as I wear that shirt under my jersey, they’ll go back to the playoffs.

Me: That next game that they lost that, did you not wear your jersey?

J: No. I wasn’t at it.

Me: Do you feel personally responsible for the loss of the As?

J: A little bit. I’d rather not. I mean it was just a hard game and we just got back, we were actually at football practice and we came back and we were all sweaty and the game was on and we just went straight to it at one of my friends house. We were trying to everything to make them do better, but I didn’t have my jersey on. I didn’t think about it at the time after, because I just thought it was just this weird old shirt. But, after maybe if I wore it it would have been better. I really think it would have been better seeing how good the shirt has been ever since then, but i’d rather not take blame for it because it was really depressing.”

 

Analysis: The informant J has this folk belief that his shirt is “lucky” and can influence how his team plays. Although he doesn’t seem exactly sure that his jersey has this strong influence, and he cannot prove it does, he still has the belief that if he does not wear it, his team won’t do as well. He even mentioned that he feels some responsibility for having his team lose when he didn’t wear the jersey, and he really thought it would have gone better if he had. Folk beliefs around lucky items of clothing, especially for sports teams, seems very popular. Many times the people who wear the lucky items of clothing do not want to question its validity in case this somehow takes the luck away. This can lead to wide spread beliefs such as the one J explained above.

Folk Beliefs

Lucky Red Shirts

Click here for video.

“So whenever I have to dress up formally for a competition or a recital or an interview I’ll always wear my lucky red dress shirt. It’s something I’ve done since probably middle school. I always get a different red shirt, but it has to be red which is my favorite color. Whatever I do it gives me that luck that I need to do well to do whatever I need to do that day.”

It seems like the color red instills confidence in this informant. Interestingly, he is Chinese American. Many Chinese see red as a lucky color. Perhaps this is doubly so for him as it is his favorite color. Having lucky items of clothing seems quite common. This informant differs from the norm of having a lucky item of clothing in that he does not have one lucky red shirt, but derives luck from red dress shirts in general. In this case, red dress shirts are less like a lucky item, but closer to a symbol he derives strength from.

While not religious, the red dress shirt is somewhat analogous to the Christian cross. Those of the Christian faith gain strength and feel protected by crosses, they feel the presence of God when they see symbols of their religion. They feel this way not only about all crosses of their religion, not just about one specific cross. Similarly, my informant feels lucky and successful from the symbolic power of a red dress shirt, not just one specific red dress shirt.

Furthermore, the fact that he wears a dress shirt may affect his confidence. Many people claim to feel more confident and assertive when dressed professionally.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Lucky Socks for Basketball

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“So I used to play basketball and when I played well I’d mark my socks, so if I played well I’d always wear the right sock on the right foot until I played bad and then I’d switch them up.”

I think this is a good example of contagious magic. According to my informant, the thinking behind this is that if he plays well with a certain sock configuration, the socks must either be causing the good performance or they must soak up some of the “mojo” of the good game and will lead to good games in the future. However, once he starts playing poorly, it’s obvious that the sock configuration has lost its magic and needs to be reconfigured. This is a way for him to relieve pressure from himself and stay calm in stressful games. If he does well, he will continue to do well thanks to his lucky socks. If he does poorly, it is not because his game is bad, but because his socks are no longer good luck socks and simply need to be changed. By rationalizing his basketball performance like this, my informant is able to stay cool and confident under pressure. Furthermore, the belief is that luck can be recycled, as long as he finds the proper order for his socks.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Lucky Horseshoe

My informant described to me on of the good luck charms, (perhaps superstitious), that her sister used when she was younger. She would keep an actual horseshoe by her bed and hang it so that the horseshoe was like the letter U on the wall. It was hung this way to make sure that luck did not literally pour out. For whatever reason, my informant’s sister hung it up to keep the luck in, whereas in some cultures the horse shoe is hung upside down so that luck pours down on a person.

I asked my informant if she knew the history about the horseshoe, why it was used, and what region the horseshoe as a good luck charm originated. She was not certain, but she thought maybe it was from their Irish heritage.

Upon further research I found that horseshoe, made out of iron, was originally used to ward off faeries as part of Celtic tradition. Since then the tradition as been adopted as a good luck charm and the symbolism of the iron in the horseshoe is no longer an essential part to the good luck charm.

It should be noted that my informant told me her sister was superstitious and that she used multiple luck charms from multiple regions, though most of them were European. The informant’s mother even had an elephant pointed at the front door, which was said to bring good luck. I speculate that this might be an American adoption of multiple customs and luck charms.

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