Tag Archives: prayer

Lacrosse Prayer

“Dear lord. The battles we go through life, we ask for a chance that’s fair. A chance to equal our stride, a chance to do or dare. If we should win, let it be by the code, with faith and honor held high. If we should lose, we’ll stand by the road, and cheer as the winners go by. Day by day. We get better and better. Until we can’t be beat. Won’t be beat. Ruthless”

This is a prayer the informant would say before every home lacrosse game with his team. He did not attend a religious school, but it was a tradition passed down from the upperclassman to perform this prayer. One player would say each line and the team would then repeat the line after them. The final portion, “Until we can’t be beat. Won’t be beat. Ruthless,” is screamed at full volume. The point of the prayer is to focus the players’ minds and get them hyped up for the upcoming game. It was only performed in home games and done so in the locker room, removed from any fans or the opposing team.

I did further research into the origins of this prayer. It was initially a prayer used by the University of Nebraska football team, dubbed the Husker prayer after their mascot, the cornhusker. It is unclear when this change originated but it has spread across high schools around the country.

“Dios en mi. El en ti, la sangre de cristo, me alibre de ti” Mexican proverb and narrative

Main Piece

Informant: My grandma tells me this story about a lady who lived three towns over when she was living in Mexico. There was a time when bulls got out and were running through the streets because they escaped, and this woman was in the streets and caught off guard and a bull was running straight towards her. And there was a prayer that she said over and over again watching the bull run over.  When the bull came up to her it stopped right in front of her, they made eye contact, and the bull  just walked away. She told everyone in town the prayer she told herself to protect her, and it spread across town and that is how my grandma heard it. The prayer went like this:

“Dios en mi. El en ti, la sangre de cristo, me alibre de ti”

It roughly translates to “God is with me. The Devil is with you. The blood of Christ protects me from you.” 

She always tells me to say this whenever I am in danger, whenever I don’t feel safe, to just recite it over and over again and now I do whenever I am scared shitless. There is nothing else to do! Haha. 

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC studying Lighting Design. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. 

Context

One day the informant was driving while I was in the passenger street and we had to take a very dimly lit dirt road. When he was driving I heard him reciting a  prayer in Spanish while we were taking this road, and since I speak Spanish fluently as well I could understand it was some sort of protection prayer. After we got off of the road I asked him what he was reciting, and asked him about it once more in our interview to get more of the context. 

Analysis

Coming from a very Hispanic city and a Mexican family, the informant was taught this folk proverb and accompanying narrative through in Spanish and through word of mouth. It offers a sense of protection and security, and ties into the religious nature of Hispanic communities. Since this story was passed down from his grandmother, it also is a signifier of identity not only to his family, but to his culture as a whole.

Praying to Your Car

NA: We pray to our car when we get a new car. You basically do like a ritual to the car when you are praying because Indian people believe there is god in everything. Like there is god in a pillow, there is god like that is what we learn when we were younger so it’s like you are praying to the god in the car that nothing will happen to you or the car. 

Interviewer: Do you know what exactly the ritual entails?

NA: Part of it is you have to drive over a coconut you also you know how people wear the red dot on their forehead, the bhindi, it’s not like the fashion kind it is literally just a red dot um you have to do that to your car in certain stops. Then, the is a ritual called like Arti where you put fire on the plate kind of like. I don’t know what Arti is, how to describe it. You basically go in like circles like with the plate and that’s just. I don’t understand why you do that but you do it. So anytime you go to the temple or anything first people will sing songs and read the books we have to read and then at the end of it you do Arti so you go stand in front of the alter where all the gods are and then there is like a silver plate with fire in the middle but its not like a candle it is usually like oil with a cotton swap. Then you have to put a dollar, don’t know why you put a dollar. And then you have to move the plate in a circular motion around the gods for the prayer song 

Interviewer: So you do this in the temple to bless your car?

NA: Oh no you do that for anything, anytime there is a religious ceremony you do that plate thing [Arti] where you go in circles but like when you pray to your car you do that too like you have that with you. 

Interviewer: Can you pray to other things to that are not your car? Is there another common thing you pray to?

NA: You do your car, pictures of elders in your family, your house, anything with like value that you do not want anything bad to happen to. Like you are not going to do your Louis Vuitton bag. I mean if you are really extra you can, but you can do your bike. Something of value. 

Context: 

NA is a 20 year old USC business student whose family is from Sindhi culture in India. She grew up in southern California. This was taken from an interview conducted with NA. She is also my roommate and I asked her about folklore she had related to her Indian background. This information was gathered from an informal interview conducted over Facetime.

Analysis: 

After research, I found this is called a Puja. This protection ritual is tapping into the divine in an object. Not only is this a blessing of an object, but also an indirect blessing of yourself. For example, your car keeps you safe while you are traveling. Therefore, if your car is safe then you are as well. 

Blessings are very common in Sindhi culture where the Arti can be used as a general blessing as well for use for specific purposes. The use of the Bindi is often used to bring out the power in the Chakra. Placing in on the car is likely a way to calling upon the divinity that lives in the car. The coconut seems like an offering of some kind to a god or gods that are often used in blessing rituals. 

Lead a Snot — Our Father Parody

Text

The following piece was collected from a fifty-two year old Caucasian man from Chicago, Illinois. The man is Irish Catholic. The man will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant”, and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “When we were in Mass, my siblings and I would say our own version of the Our Father.”

Collector: “How did it go?”

Informant: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead A SNOT into temptation, but deliver US from evil.”

Context

            The Informant learned that funny version of the prayer in a Catholic grade school. At the weekly Friday Masses, the children would come up with all kinds of ways to keep themselves entertained. He remembers this version because he claims it “always made [him] laugh”. While he claims he doesn’t believe only snots should be delivered to evil, he does believe it speaks a little truth about people getting what they deserve.

Interpretation

My first reaction to this piece was to laugh out loud. I am very familiar with the Our Father prayer, as I am Catholic as well. Hearing it told in a child’s way, from a grown man, was very funny. But I also believe he was right in making the point that it goes to show a little that not everyone can be forgiving. The original line is “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. In the satirical version, the prayer points out to actually deliver the snots – the brats, the people who deserved to be punished – to evil. I thought this showed the flip side of the same coin – people can be forgiving when it suits them, but when they can conversely want people to pay for their sins.

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.

Chinese Eyelid-Twitching

Informant:

E, a 22-year-old Chinese-Taiwanese female who was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is currently a senior at the University of Southern California.

Background info:

E’s first language was English, but because her parents were immigrants, she quickly learned Mandarin as well. Her parents are proud of their culture, and thus they often participated in many Taiwan and Chinese traditions, and believed many of the superstitions, as well. This is one of the superstitions E’s mother believed.

Context:

Late at night, a lot of weird conversations happen. Because E is on a project with me, we were working together at around 2:00am when we started discussing superstitions. When she knocked on wood, it brought this conversation up. The following is a transcript of the piece as told by E.

Main piece:

“One superstition that my mother would tell us was like… you know how sometimes you will get almost a pulse in your eyelids? Or it feels like your eyelid almost twitches? Well, there is this belief that if your left eye does this, it means good fortune will come to you, but if it happens in your right eye, then bad fortune will come to you… It’s sort of strange, but my mother fully believed this. Like, she would always exclaim out loud if one of her eyelids was doing the thing… She would always tell us to make sure to tell her so that she could do a prayer to prevent the bad fortune, but we never would.”

Thoughts:

I’ve heard a similar superstition in American folklore about your ears. If your right ear burns or hurts, then someone is talking good about you, but if your left ear burns or hurts, someone is speaking ill of you. It is interesting that this superstition implies that the left side is good, and the right side is bad, when most superstitions usually imply the opposite. I believe this is because most people are right-hand dominant, and thus the stories would favor the right unconsciously. It is cool to see a story favoring the left, and I’d bet it was started in a community where people were more left-dominant.

Mexican Novenario

The majority of Mexico follows the Catholic religion, and in doing so, the rosary is an integral part of every day life, bringing about the goodness that only Divinity is able to bring. When someone feels that their death is near, family members and friends go to their home every day and say the rosary, praying together for some sort of miracle. If it is perceived that the person is bound to pass, they pray for their peaceful passing. Once a person has actually passed, they participate in what is called the Novenario. Through the Novenario, family and friends bring their rosaries to pray for nine days, as it remains a crucial aspect of that person’s ascension to Heaven. At the end of the nine days, it is customary to eat a final grand meal to thank the life of that particular person and all those who participated in the prayers. Traditional dishes include tamales and mole. Once this is complete, the person is expected to be in the hands of God.


 

The interlocutor has taken part in many Novenarios because of her relationship with her Mexican family members who have passed, mainly extended family members that she was connected to but did not have an intimate relationship with. She mentioned that the most excruciating Novenario she witnessed was the one that was in service of her own mother. The Novenario transpired as usual, but the interlocutor mentioned that this was an especially unique Novenario because the entire house was filled with many more people than it was designed for. Many women cried as they clutched their rosaries, muttering prayers amid the clamor of food preparation. In this aspect, the interlocutor felt immense comfort despite her sorrow. She mentioned that the Novenario, while integral to person who has passed, serves to comfort the living in their sadness.

The myriad religious connotations through the Novenario illustrate the reliance on religion during a time of loss and reflection. It is the backbone in which the Novenario is based, proving that many pious Mexicans rely on religion for comfort and peace of mind through their unwavering faith. The nine days spent praying acts as a sort of watch for the spirit, keeping the person company on their difficult journey from the physical to the divine. They protect and help guide the spirit that would otherwise get lost, utilizing prayer and presence to aid their passing.

Fountain of Mercy prayer

Main Piece: The Fountain of Mercy prayer takes place at 3 o’clock (either AM or PM), as this is considered a special hour where prayers will be more powerful. If you pray with your rosary at this time, it is said that all of your prayers will be answered. For each of the rosary beads, you pray that Jesus has mercy on a certain person, and it is common to list family and close friends. “However, towards the end you realize that you run out of people. There are about 20 beads on that thing – you’re gonna run out of names, so you start listing random people. Like, ‘have mercy for that one person I saw on the bus early last week,’ and ‘have mercy on the person at the checkout counter.’” The prayer is uniquely designed to force people to think about and pray for other people besides themselves: “It forces me to remember that other people outside of my direct orbit exist while I’m existing, too.”

Context: The informant (OC) is half Paraguayan and half American, and she speaks both Spanish and English. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult, so the informant is first generation, but the rest of her mother’s side of the family resides in their home city – Caazapa, Paraguay – and are very well-known in their community. Her father’s side of the family are “classically Jewish” people from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. Although she is not religious herself, her upbringing was culturally Jewish and Catholic. Our discussion took place in her home in Orlando, Florida while her mom made us tea and lunch in the background. OC originally heard the prayer from her mom and cousin; she has always remembered it because Paraguayan culture highly values family and taking care of others, which is what the Fountain of Mercy prayer reinforces. Personally, the informant cannot perform the prayer every day at 3 o’clock because of her busy college schedule, but whenever she has a free moment to clear her mind, she does an abbreviated version and simply asks God to forgive certain people as well as herself.

Personal thoughts: I think it’s interesting to see how the informant adapts the prayer to her modern life, which reflects the disparity between her everyday life and the lives of her relatives in still living in Paraguay. As a first generation pre-med student who also works part-time, OC is working under the pressure to prove herself in a fast-paced, future-oriented America that values material success such as wealth. This American mindset directly contradicts the day-by-day, mindful lifestyle of her Paraguayan family. For example, her mother, who is still deeply connected to Paraguay, makes it a habit to perform the prayer every single day at 3pm, while OC almost scoffed at the idea of giving a whole hour of her schedule to prayer and nothing else. Rather, religious mindfulness comes secondary to the demands of America’s demanding education system, begging the question of whether modernity and future-oriented thinking (two concepts that are expanding more and more each year) can truly exist in perfect harmony with devout religiosity.

“Ich bin klein”

Main piece:

Ich bin klein

mein Herz ist rein

darf niemand drin wohnen

als Jesus allein.

 

Informant’s English translation:

 

I am small,

My heart is pure,

So no one will live in my heart but Jesus alone.

 

Context: The informant (DB) is a first generation immigrant from Germany; her mother is from Silesia, Germany, and her father is from what was previously known as East Prussia, so she is fluent in both German and English. She was raised Christian but does not consider herself very religious. DB grew up in Orlando, Florida, has two kids, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Our conversation took place while eating quesadillas for lunch our home in Atlanta. The informant heard this nursery rhyme from her mother, who heard it from her mother, who heard it from her mother. She values it because it’s “such a simple yet sweet prayer that any child can understand.” DB remembers “Ich bin klein” as the one solitary moment she shared with her mother before bed; despite their busy life and large family, they were always able to regroup and return to each and God at the end of the day.   

Personal thoughts: Popular Christian prayers tend to involve long sentences or invoke complex biblical concepts, which can be especially confusing for children. Take the Lord’s Prayer, for instance – one line reads: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” An 8-year-old has no grasp on temptation or evilness. Although these kinds of prayers are touted to be family friendly, many times children will simply recite them word-for-word without actually being able to fully understand what they are saying. The beauty of the “Ich bin klein” prayer is that it begins by reinforcing the innocence and simplicity of child (“I am small / my heart is pure”), which are words a child can easily grasp, and ends with an affirmation that the child reciting the prayer loves Jesus (“So no one will live in my heart by Jesus alone”). Bam. Easy. No mumbo jumbo about debts and trespassing – just an affirmation of a child’s purity and love for Jesus.

Give Us Lord, Our Daily Bread

God is good, God is great, let us thank him for our food, by his hands we all are fed, give us lord our daily bread.

My dad first heard this from my uncle’s wife, and has instilled this into our family gathering meals. This “makes us think about where our food comes from and to be grateful for it. To the sink for until remind us that we have food on our plates and we are able to sustain ourselves based on our fortune. I think it is especially important to note that my dad and uncle adopted this tradition for my aunt’s family, who had been practicing it for many years before.  When analyzing each part of this prayer, God is great is acknowledging God’s power. God is good, is supposed to imply that God is looking out for each individual and acts on our behalf, for our own good. Let Us Thank Him, is showing praise and thanks to a higher being for the deeds that have been done in life. For Our Food is quite literal. It refers to the creation of our food throughout the entire process. Whenever we visit everybody in the room and extended family knows this saying. It is important to acknowledge a simple saying, that also rhymes and takes less than a minute to say. It is also a great way to break The ice and pave the way for great conversations.