USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘prayer’
Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Prayer for Prosperity

Every year before Diwali, the informant’s father, M, conducts a tradition where he honors the goddess Lakshmi for the wealth and prosperity that he has received throughout the year. The tradition is at once meant to thank her for past blessings and to ask for for more as the next year approaches. The tradition demands that some money be laid out purely as offering to the Lakshmi and can not be touched for the entire year. A book of prayers is also read from. The image attached depicts a standard setup for such a tradition.

 

 

Screenshot_20170426-222401

 

 

My thoughts: The interviewer used to take part in this ceremony and remembers it as a very regimented tradition. Certain rules must be followed at all times, and the marking of money to be set aside for the goddess is strict in kind and in variety.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

How Do We Sleep At Night?

In the Hindu religion, prayers are an extremely integral aspect to daily life. Hindu people attribute every organic substance as an embodiment of God, and as such, we should give thanks as much as we can. The informant, D, asked his religious father, M, about a set of prayers he remembers having to memorize as a child but since then has forgotten. These three prayers are some of the most central to the daily prayers a devout Hindu can practice, called the Trikal Sandhya. These three prayers seek to answer why we wake up in the morning, how we digest food, and how we sleep at night.

 

This particular entry seeks to answer how we sleep at night:

 

Original:

Krushnaya Vasudevaya Haraye paramatmane. Pranat klesh nashaya Govindaya namo namah

Kara charan krutam vak-kayajam karmajam va shravana nayanajam va, manasam va aparadhum vihitas avihitamva me tat kshamasva jaya jaya karunabdhe shree Mahadeva Shambho

Tvameva mata cha pita tvameva. Tvameva bandhus cha sakha tvameva. Tvameva vidya dravinam tvameva. Tvameva sarvam mama deva deva.

Translated:

I bow and pray Lord Krishna, son of Vasudeva, who takes away sorrows, sufferings, pain and troubles.

O! Benevolent Mahadev; please, forgive me if I did anything wrong, knowingly or unknowingly, by hands, by legs, by speech, by body, by working, by ears, by eyes or by mind. Let be Your victory.

O! God! You are my mother, You are my father, You are my brother, You are my friend, You are my knowledge, You are my wealth, You are everything to me.

My thoughts: While I am not especially religious anymore, I can appreciate the mindset behind these prayers. Hindus see that the act of getting sleep and restoring energy is a God-sent process.

 

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

How Do We Digest Food?

In the Hindu religion, prayers are an extremely integral aspect to daily life. Hindu people attribute every organic substance as an embodiment of God, and as such, we should give thanks as much as we can. The informant, D, asked his religious father, M, about a set of prayers he remembers having to memorize as a child but since then has forgotten. These three prayers are some of the most central to the daily prayers a devout Hindu can practice, called the Trikal Sandhya. These three prayers seek to answer why we wake up in the morning, how we digest food, and how we sleep at night.

 

This particular entry seeks to answer how we digest food:

 

Original:

Yagna shishtha shinah santo, muchyante sarva kilbishaihi. Bhunjate te tvagam papa, ye pachantyatma kernat.

Yat koroshi yadashnashi, yaj juhoshi dadasi yat. Yat tapasyasi Kaunteya, tat kurushva madarpanam.

Aham vaishvanaro bhutva, praninam deham ashritah prana pana samayukta, pachamy annam chaturvidham

Om saha navavatu, saha nau bhunaktu. Saha viryam karvavahai, tejasvi navadim astu ma vidvisha vahai, Om shantih, shantih shantih

 

Translated:

The devotees of God are freed from all sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice, Others who prepare or cook food for their personal enjoyment only, truly eat sin

O! Kaunteya (Arjuna); whatever you do, whatever you eat, offer as a sacrifice. Whatever austerity you perform, do it as an offering to me.

Lord Krishna said in Bhagvad Geeta: “I am the fire of digestion in every living body. I am the sir of life, out going and incoming, by which I digest four kinds of food.

Om, Oh! Lord, protech and defend both of us together. We should stay together and do God’s work together. Let our knowledge shine and become divine in the world. We should never fight with each other, never get envious of each other and stay united forever.

 

My thoughts: While I am not especially religious anymore, I can appreciate the mindset behind these prayers. Hindus see that obtaining nutrition from food is essential to life, and due to that, it is easily attributable to God.

 

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Why Do We Wake Up in the Morning?

In the Hindu religion, prayers are an extremely integral aspect to daily life. Hindu people attribute every organic substance as an embodiment of God, and as such, we should give thanks as much as we can. The informant, D, asked his religious father, M, about a set of prayers he remembers having to memorize as a child but since then has forgotten. These three prayers are some of the most central to the daily prayers a devout Hindu can practice, called the Trikal Sandhya. These three prayers seek to answer why we wake up in the morning, how we digest food, and how we sleep at night.

 

This particular entry seeks to answer why we wake up in the morning.

Original:

Karagre vasate laxmi, karmoole Sarasvati. Kara-madhye tu Govindah, prabhate kara darshanam.

Samudra vasane devi, parvata stana-mandle. Vishnu patni namas tubhyam, pada sparsha kshamasvame

Vasudeva sutam devam, Kansa Chanur mardanam Devaki paramanandam, Krishnam vande jagadgurum

Translated:

Goddess of wealth Laxmi resides at the top of palm, Goddess of knowledge Saraswati resides at the bottom of palm and Lord Krishna (Govind) resides at middle of palm and that is why we must look at our palm every morning.

O! Mother Earth, who has ocean as her clothes, mountains and forests as her body, who is the wife of Lord Krishna (Vishnu) I bow to you. Please, forgive me as my feet are going to touch you.

I salute Lord Krishna, the world teacher, the son of Vasudeva, the destroyer of Kansa and Chanura, the supreme bliss of Devai.

 

My thoughts: While I am not especially religious anymore, I can appreciate the mindset behind these prayers. Hindus see that they must treat the Earth as if we are its guest, and this prayer intends to thank God for letting us step on his creation.

 

Rituals, festivals, holidays

St. Anthony’s Good Luck

Informant:

Dina is a college freshman from Northern California, she comes from a large yet close knit Italian family.

Piece:

“So…. I am very forgetful person and when i was little, my mom and grandma used to tell me to say a prayer to St. Anthony whenever I lost something so that I could find it. And I’d be “like what do I say to St. Anthony” and they would say “well say dear St. Anthony please help me find whatever it is that you can’t find.” And I would say a little prayer and I would look really hard and I would find something and then they would tell me “well you have to remember to thank St. Anthony.” So I would say “thank you st. Anthony.” And then I would always attribute it to St. Anthony that I found my missing item thinking he was the reason I found my missing item. As I got older I began to do it myself without praying to him.

Collector’s thoughts:

The informant performed this piece in an apologetic fashion, seemingly embarrassed to admit that she had done this. To her, the praying to St. Anthony was not so much of a religious performance, but rather as a way to find a physical thing that had been lost.

 

 

Customs
Foodways
Proverbs

Lazy Grace

KM is a third-generation Japanese-American from Los Angeles, CA. She now lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband and 18-year-old son.

KM was raised in a Christian household, where her family said “grace” before dinner every night:

“I have four siblings and we always ate dinner together with our parents. We’d sit around this big round table and every night, we would take turns saying grace before eating…we were supposed to come up with something original, like something that had to do with the day or different events going on in our lives, but usually my siblings just defaulted to ‘God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” I always tried to have an interesting one, but I think everyone else just wanted to eat.”

I asked KH if she still says grace in her family, or if she and her siblings carried their religious traditions on in their new nuclear families:

“Ultimately I was unsuccessful in getting my kids to go to church. My husband grew up in a Catholic family and now wants nothing to do with the church, and I couldn’t get my kids to show much interest either. I don’t think anyone else in my family still goes to church…except my parents. They’ve been going to the same church since they met.”

My analysis:

Religion is one of those things that can either define a family, or be irreconcilable when two families come together. In KH’s case, religion’s importance started to waver amongst her and her siblings, despite the traditions of their parents. The “grace” prayer in her family shows one generation trying to pass on their beliefs through a ritual, and the next generation participating half-heartedly, or just to please authority. Eventually as they started their own families, her siblings decided the tradition wasn’t particularly important to them, and refrained from instilling it in their own family. More broadly it seems to symbolize the diminishing importance of their religion, and maybe a certain progressive movement amongst families to not force it on their children.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Informant is a 19 year old female who was born in Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is my roommate.

Informant: So there’s this bedtime prayer and it goes like “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.” When I was younger, I had a doll and every time I squeezed her, she would say that. And when I went to bed, my mom would squeeze the doll, and the doll would say it and I would say it, and then it became a ritual that we would have. And in my mind, as a child, I didn’t think that it was scary until it started being incorporated into American horror movies. So when I was 10 or 11, I remember watching a horror movie, and this very scary doll saying the same lyrics. So now, it’s a common prayer that started to be associated in multiple horror movies, and the origins are definitely from the bible, but it’s not a typical religious saying. In my generation, it was common that stuffed animals or dolls would say it. But now they don’t really sell these things anymore, because it’s turned into a creepy symbol in American culture, and it scares people.

Collector: Who gave you this doll originally?

Informant: My mom gave me the doll. I just remember having it. In my mind, it was like a protection spell, like it protected me in my sleep. Like in my mind, it never registered as something that was scary, until I started seeing it in horror movies, because of the way that they made the dolls say it. It was in such a creepy manner. It still exists in some parts of culture. I’m not saying it’s completely a horror movie thing, but in my perception I’m very scared of it now. The earliest version was from 1711 I think, like it dates back that far. It technically is a prayer, but it turned into this ritual between my and my mom when I was a kid. And I know other of my friends who had that said to them, when they were kids, mostly because I was also raised by a Christian family and went to a Catholic school.

Collector: Does this particular piece of folklore have any special significance to you?

Informant: It has meaning to me because it’s a big representation of my youth. That like, when I was younger, it was this comforting thing to me, and it’s shown me like how, as I got older, my perceptive of the world has changed.

For another version of this myth, see “Standard Publishing Editorial Staff. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. N.p.: Standard Pub, 2011. Print.”

Because I have personally never watched a horror movie, I cannot say that I find this particular phrase creepy. However, I can see why it has been used in multiple scary stories, as it is very suggestive of death. I think it’s interesting how people actually manufactured and bought dolls with this saying inside of them, and I think that might have been something that contributed to the rise of this saying in horror movies. When I actually think about the prayer though, it makes sense as a protection spell, and really isn’t scary at all. Basically, it asks God to protect your soul while you sleep, and if anything were to happen to you at night, then to at least bring your soul to heaven. I think it is the particular phrasing and word choice of the prayer that has made it such a creepy horror icon today.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Prayer Before Performance

“The Rangerette Prayer was a very special prayer to our team, and we said it before every performance on the football field or dance competition or wherever we were or whatever we were about to do. We would get in a circle, and um cross our arms, right over left, and hold each other’s hands with one foot pointing toward the middle, facing the middle. Um and basically the um seniors and juniors would sing like uh the first part of the song and have the freshmen and sophomores imitate the second part, and essentially we had to learn it that way, we learned the song from the seniors and juniors. And the prayer was the Lord’s prayer and we sang it in a more dragged out kind of tone, and we were never really taught the tune, we just sort of had to pick it up from the juniors and seniors. We also had like a special ending that was, “In the name of the Father who created us, the spirit who sanctified us, and the son who redeemed us,” or something like that and then we all said Amen. It was kind of funny because the ending we all did not know very well because the seniors and juniors said it so quickly that we didn’t even really know what we were saying until much later.”

 

Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.

 

Analysis:

The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.

I think that this practice exemplifies the bonds that the members of the Rangerettes are supposed to have. Because members of the team attend an all-girls Catholic school, there is an emphasis upon prayer. By holding hands in a circle and singing a prayer, the bonds of the team are exhibited through this practice. The holding hands in a circle solidifies the bonds that hold a team together, and also represent the sisterhood that is supposed to be in place. A team cannot succeed if they are not unified, and by demonstrating their unity before a performance, they are striving to succeed in their performance. Also, if this ritual is not practiced before a performance, there is a possibility of failure or bad luck when the team performs. This once again reinforces the need for the team to be unified as they are dancing as one team and must be on count.

In addition, the manner in which the team members learn the prayer is representative of the way in which the team works. The older, veteran members, always juniors and seniors begin the prayer. This demonstrates their “seniority” and their authority on the team. They have been there before, and understand the importance of this ritual, and are in turn passing it on to the next generation of team members. As the younger, new members, always freshmen and sophomores, echo the seniors and juniors, they are reflecting their need to learn from the older members in order to become fully part of the team so that they might continue to pass down this tradition over the years. It is also interesting how the juniors and seniors never formally taught the prayer, but rather expected the new members to simply pick it up.

This may not be unique to simply the prayer ritual on this team, but could also extend to the rest of the ways in which the new members are expected to become acclimated to the team. The veteran members expect the new members to simply “pick up” what they already know, without overtly telling them. This could be concordant with rituals that decide who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to members of the team, as well as the attitudes that older members generally had toward the new members. The idea that the older members were wiser due to their experience might have been carried out not just through this prayer ritual, but through other practices on the team as well.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Folk speech
Gestures
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Burning Esfand (Persian Rituals)

Do you have any traditions or rituals that your family does?

 

Okay yeah, superstitions and stuff, it’s similar to the salt thing, my mom will burn sage on a stove, I think it’s sage, I’m pretty sure it’s sage. And like it’ll still be in the little pot, and they’ll put it over your head just like to keep bad eyes away from you. Like if you were at a party, and all these people are like, ‘Oh my god your daughter’s so beautiful, or like, they’ll say all these things and…It’s not always a compliment, but they’ll think like, if all these people are complimenting you, they’ll take it weirdly, like people are gonna have an evil eye on you. They’re just superstitious, so they think if a million people are complimenting you, one of them is gonna have like, one of them is gonna be fake, they’re not all gonna be true and real.

 

So your mom has done this to you?

 

Yeah so after like a big party, if all these people went up to her and were like ‘oh my god, your daughter is so beautiful,’ they’ll just give me compliments. And she’ll come home and it’ll be like two in the morning, she’s done that before! Once we get home from the party she’ll just burn sage, oh it’s called Esfand! In Farsi. She’ll burn it and kinda like, circle it over your head for like 5 seconds. And from what I know it’s not a prayer, but she’ll just say like, “keeping bad eyes away from you” or something like that, in Farsi.

 

So she burns the leaves in a pot?

 

Yeah, like a special little pot.

 

Oh so there’s a special pot for doing this?

 

Yeah there’s like a specific kind of pot for it. It’s just tiny, it’s not like a huge pot, it’s small, it’s not metal, maybe it’s ceramic.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a superstitious belief and accompanying ritual intended to keep bad intentions or bad spirits away. There is also a clear emphasis that parents or older family members do this to younger family members to keep them out of harm’s way. There is a sense that this ritual, also involving a gesture, incantation or prayer of some sort, and a physical, material tool, can undo or ward off evil, even if it’s already intended for the young person, but there is a sense of urgency, that it must be done as soon as possible for the most protective power.

Customs

Dear Heavenly Father …

Shirley Turner Jean grew up in Rialto, California.  She graduated from Dwight D Eisenhower high school I 2004.  From there, she pursued a bachelor’s degree in physical education at Cal State San Bernardino.  Shortly thereafter, Shirley obtained a Masters Degree in Kinesiology from Azusa Pacific University.  She has sense obtained a number of credentials from Azusa Pacific University.  She currently lives in San Bernardino, California and teaches at Synergy Middle School in Los Angeles, California.  She is a PE teacher.

My husband and I pray together every night.  After we have finished our day and are getting ready for bed, we take a minute to hold hands and pray.  Our pastor always says that a couple that prays together, stays together so we try to make sure that we do this every night.  So, we get on our knees next to our bed, hold hands, and pray.  We thank God for all of the things that He has provided for us and our family and friends.  We thank him for blessing us and we ask that He continues to bless us.  If any of the people we know are travelling we ask for Travelling Grace for them and we ask for Him to intervene in the lives of anyone that needs His help. … I don’t know how else to explain it.  We just have a conversation with God.  After that, we lay down and sleep.

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