USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘prayer’
Childhood
Folk speech
Game
general
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

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.

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.

Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

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.

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Old age
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

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.

Customs
Folk speech
general
Kinesthetic
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

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.

Childhood
Folk speech
general

“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.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

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.

 

Foodways
Material

Panchamrutham Recipe

  1. The main piece: Panchamrutham Recipe

“I make panchamrutham for puja [Hindu prayer]. It’s a sacred offering for God. So panch means 5, amrutham means nectar [in Sanskrit]. Five different things put together to make this nectar. So you put cow’s milk, yogurt, sugar, honey, clarified butter or ghee, and this is supposed to be the sacred offering to God.

“It is made in a silver bowl. And, uh, this is supposed to be…how do they say? Theertham. God’s deity…you pour this panchamrutham over God’s deity, then pour it back into the silver bowl. Like you take a plate, put a small deity of God, then pour this panchamrutham. Then you pour it back in the bowl, and it becomes the…the sacred nectar for us. And you do it for special occasions. Special pujas. You don’t just do it every day. So for us, coconut water is sacred, and this is even more sacred.

“You have to take shower in the morning, and then make it. And usually, you don’t eat any meals before the puja. After the prayer, you have this panchamrutham first, before you break the fast.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?

“I learned it from my mother? Everyone does it for prayer.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This recipe requires very much attention to specific details, and the informant was keen on mentioning that it is not an everyday recipe—it is only for very special pujas, or Hindu prayer sessions. The high specificity of preparations for making Panchamrutham show how important it is in the Hindu religion—it literally symbolizes the nectar of God. All of the preparations, therefore, are symbolic attempts to purify oneself as much as possible before creating something that will come into contact with God. The name itself shows that Panchamrutham is not a fancy recipe found in a cookbook—it has been passed down for thousands of years, and is known for being composed of five simple materials that have been prevalent in Indian cooking for all those years.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American female. She was born in India and grew up with her two sisters in a small town near a holy river in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari River. After moving to the United States and raising her children there, she enjoyed reminiscing on her childhood in India and sharing stories of it with her children, so that they could see the differences in their upbringings and learn about their Indian heritage.

Customs
Foodways
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Yiddish Prayer for the Dead

The following is a prayer, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead, as given by my godfather on the birthday of my late brother.

 

As he explained, the prayer is usually reserved for the day of the deceased’s passing. However, given that my late brother’s passing came only two weeks after his birthday, and the fact that my godfather and I would not be able to see each other on that date, he opted for conducting the prayer on the birthday night instead.

 

The same prayer was given a number of weeks the year prior after my brother’s actual passing. Although my godfather gave the prayer in the presence of his own family on that day, he repeated it during a visit on my behalf.

 

Given before seating at dinner, the prayer is repeated each consecutive year onward. However, it is reserved for kin, not given for friends and familiar faces.

 

Standing at the dinner table with our food before us, my godfather proceeded to recite the prayer (from memory), in its original Yiddish, which is also his first language:

 

Yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba. Be’alma di vra khir’uteh. Veyamlikh malkhuteh, behayekhon uvyomekhon uvhaye dekhol bet Yisrael, be’agala uvizman qariv. Ve’imru: Amen.

 

Yehe shmeh rabba mevarakh le’alam ul’alme ‘almaya.

 

Yitbarakh veyishtabbah veyitpaar veyitromam veyitnasse veyithaddar veyit’alleh veyithallal shmeh dequdsha berikh hu. Le’ella min kol birkhata veshiratea tushbehata venehemata daamiran be’alma. Ve’imru: Amen.

 

Titqabbal tzelotehon uva’utehon d’khol bet Yisrael qodam avuhon di bishmayya. Ve’imru: Amen.

 

Yehe shelama rabba min shemayya, vehayyim ‘alainu v’al kol Yisrael. Ve’imru: Amen.

 

O’she shalom bimromav, hu ya’ase shalom ‘alenu, v’al kol Yisra’el. Ve’imru: Amen.

 

After this point, he took out a small candle and lit it, explaining that after the prayer, the candle is allowed to burn for 24 hours, and then extinguished.

 

The candle was then set in the center of the dining table. However, he explained, tradition does not call for the candle to be placed anywhere in particular. Given that the prayer is said before seating for the dinner meal, it is most often placed among where the meal is being eaten as a matter of simple convenience.

 

Following the recitation of the prayer and the lighting of the candle, we sat and ate.

At the same time next year, it will be done once more.

 

The English translation of the prayer has been included:

 

Exalted and hallowed be His great Name.

 

Throughout the world which He has created according to His Will. May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Moshiach.

 

In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, sword, famine and death shall cease from us and from the entire Jewish nation, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.

 

May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified, exalted, and extolled, honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He.

 

Beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world, and say, Amen.

 

Upon Israel, and upon our sages, and upon their disciples, and upon all the disciples of their disciples, and upon all those who occupy themselves with the Torah, here or in any other place, upon them and upon you, may there be abundant peace, grace, kindness, compassion, long life, ample sustenance and deliverance, from their Father in heaven; and say, Amen.

 

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and a good life for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

 

He who makes peace in His heavens, may He make peace for us and for all Israel, and say, Amen.”

 

 

What is interesting to note about the prayer itself is that it does not acknowledge the dead at all and is instead entirely an exaltation towards God. The significance of the prayer is undeniable given its exclusive reservation for family members, but to not mention death at all might prompt a double glance.

 

My uncle explained this as an almost humorous consideration, but elaborated that the absence of mentioning death in a prayer whose very purpose centers on it is that remembrance is almost implied, and that a reminder of the person’s passing is not necessary. I found it noteworthy, then, that the traditional prayer for the dead draws the entirety of its significance in the symbolism of its name and subsequent use, with the actual components of the prayer itself important to a lesser degree.

 

A topic that is often joked upon between my godfather and me is the fact that I am an Episcopalian Christian, and he a Russian Orthodox Jew. It is interesting to consider, then that such a highly specialized and ritualistic prayer may be conducted between members of two religions with a distinct barrier between them. In this case, circumstances of love supersede those of preconceived notions of theological leanings.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bible Study Prayer

Each Wednesday, I meet with a small group of fellow university students for a peer-led Bible study at the USC Catholic Center. Each week has a similar layout in terms of procedure, although in this particular meeting, the primary topic was centered and prayer for the recent passing of a close friend and classmate. Because her death greatly affected many of my fellow classmates (and needless to say, her family, who I also knew), much of the prayers given were subsequently aimed in consideration of these others.

 

The following frames the course of a typical Bible-study meeting procedure, although in the case of an exceptional incident:

 

The same eight members of the study meet in the same room, a quiet second-floor conference area, each week beginning at 6:50 p.m., and lasting for around 45 minutes to an hour. Our study’s leader, Javier, had brought me into the group the preceding year. He starts the session having already brought a dealing of snack foods (Oreos, chips & dip, etc.), seating the members around a circular table.

 

The meeting is formally started with the members bowing their heads, crossing their hearts, and reciting in unison the ‘Hail Mary’ traditional catholic prayer, which goes as follows:

 

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

 

Each member then goes one-by-one relaying their personal ‘highs and lows’ since the last meeting, followed by an ‘coming to God moment,’ meant to illustrate an incidence or realization of spirituality and faith.

 

At this point in the meeting, the leader then transitions to a pre-selected lesson, involving the reading of a particular passage of scripture that exemplifies the day’s lesson, followed by a group discussion of what in the passage stood out during the reading, what conclusions they have drawn, or otherwise. This day’s topic involved a passage from the book of Philippians (2: 5-8),  that highlights the humbled passage of Jesus through the realm of man by taking on the form of a man himself.

 

Two smaller, supplementary readings are typically held that reinforce the day’s lesson. However, the leader took the opportunity to discuss the topic of my passed friend, which I had disclosed to him earlier. The group then held a loose discussion of life and death from their various points of view.

 

Each meeting is subsequently closed with an extended prayer from the leader himself. He took the opportunity to center it exclusively on the topic of the passed friend.

 

While the circumstances did not figure appropriate to record the prayer in its entirety, the leader’s points of acknowledgment and hearkening to God included my own emotional health, that of the deceased parents and her friends/classmates at school, as well as for potential victims of suicide (given that these were the circumstances under which she passed).

 

Perhaps the most important aspect of this particular meeting to analyze is the adaptation of a group’s normal schedule to briefly accommodate and address a member’s trying circumstances. In this case, it was to provide a sense of comfort and counsel by means of spirituality, along with the personalization of holding it among people familiar with each other.

 

The leader’s extended prayer stood out to me the most, for unlike the established prayer recited at the start of each meeting, this prayer was devised entirely in the moment, lasting for a total of five uninterrupted minutes devoid of ‘ums’ or silences in thought.

 

A small, but important point that can also be acknowledged in the general scheme of the meetings is the inclusion of snacks as an attracting factor. By providing food, the study leader is able to provide an incentive for members to arrive and enjoy treats, but also to keep hands and minds from wandering or growing idle during/in between each topic of study.

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