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

Right Foot First – An Ice Skating Superstition and Ritual

The following informant is a 22-year-old student who competed in ice skating throughout her childhood and well into her teenage years and continues to ice skate recreationally now. She is describing a common superstition she and some of her teammates have. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: One superstition that I have always had when I used to ice skate was that I always used to put my right skate on and tie up the laces before putting on my left skate. I made sure I always did that.

K: What would happen if you put your left skate on first?

S: I just had this belief that if I put my left skate on first, then I would not have as good of a skate, or I would mess up and risk hurting myself. I always thought oh my god you have to put your right skate on first

K: Were you the only one to have this superstition or did your teammates also share it?

S: I’m not sure if other people shared my superstition specifically, but some of my other teammates had similar superstitions. Like my friend J, when she steps on to the ice, she always puts her right foot down first and never the left first for the same reason I put my skates on right first. I, and a lot of the other girls, also followed her superstition as well. Which is probably where I got my superstition about skates.

K: Would you only do this before a competition or anytime you put on skates and stepped on to the ice?

S: Oh, every time I put on skates and went on the ice. I’ve been doing it for years now that I don’t have to worry about accidently putting my left skate on first because I have trained myself to always put my right skate on first and step with my right foot first.

S: One more thing, I am not sure why my superstition has to do with the right-side, maybe it’s because I’m right handed… but that doesn’t really make sense because my friend J is left handed… I honestly don’t know

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. The informant brought up superstitions and I asked if she would like to participate in the folklore collection project. The conversation was recorded and transcribed. Although she only acts out the ritual when she ice-skates.

Thoughts:

I find her superstition about always doing things on the right side first very fascinating, along with her reasoning, that she later disagrees with. But maybe she is not wrong, It seems pretty obvious that if you are right-hand dominant that you would consider your right side to bring good luck and your left side to bring bad luck. But how would this explain her friend. Or maybe in our everyday life we tend to go from right to left, like reading English, her first language, you always read right to left, reading left to right just would not make sense.

Folk speech
general
Homeopathic
Legends
Magic
Protection

Bless You

The following informant is an 8th grader. In this account she is explaining the phrase “bless you”. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as SA and I am identified as K:

SA: So bless you, um… , so basically when you sneeze someone should tell you bless you because back when the plague was around, they thought sneezing was a certain death, so they said “god bless you” and that was like a prayer over it, so when you say bless you to someone you are praying for them

K: how did you hear about this

SA: From my mom, she used to tell us that when we were younger and now I always say bless you to people

Context: She told me this while at my house one weekend.

Thoughts:

This was something I also heard growing up, and like the informant it became drilled into my head to always say bless you. Our moms are sisters, so maybe they heard it from each other, but even growing up I heard it from my other friends. What I find most interesting is that this version, along with others I have heard over the years, its sound very religious, yet people who are not religious say it. It’s become such a common manner that you might not even realize you are blessing someone.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Protection with Holy Water

This is a tradition in which the user drops a little bit of blessed water from a Church around the entrances of their homes in order to keep bad spirits away. This tradition comes from Veracruz, Mexico. The water is supposed to basically cast a protective spell over your home, especially during times of hardship.

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Ruby is a young Mexican-American woman who truly connects to her Catholic roots and leads her way of life through that method. She is also a single mom who works at a Non-Profit feeding the homeless of Los Angeles

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Candles

You are supposed to light up a candle, so that the spirit of a recently passed family member or loved one can be guided to heaven. The candle is supposed to keep away the bad demons and evil itself from guiding the spirit away from the path to heaven. If the candle gets blown out, you need to restart the process and pray so that the spirit can also use your voice as a guide to “the light.”

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Ruby is a young Mexican-American woman who truly connects to her Catholic roots and leads her way of life through that method. She is also a single mom who works at a Non-Profit feeding the homeless of Los Angeles

Childhood
Protection

An Hour Wait Before Swimming

Informant: The informant is a twenty-two-year-old named Samantha. She graduated from Providence College last year and is currently working in New York City as an Advertising Sales Assistant for VERANDA Magazine. She lives in Yonkers, New York with her parents and has lived there for her whole life. She is of Italian, English, and Russian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat next to each other on the living room floor at her house in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: When I was a kid, my grandma told me that I couldn’t go swimming after eating until one hour had passed. I couldn’t even go out and put my toes in the water. Whether I was at the pool or at the beach, I had to abide by this rule. If I did not, I was told that I would drown immediately, probably because I would get a cramp. My grandmother went so far as timing the hour after their last bite.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece of folklore?

Informant: I like this piece of folklore because it reminds her of her childhood and going to the beach or the pool with her grandma. Even though this idea is irrational and clearly not true, it created memories for me and my grandma to share and to look back on and laugh. I want to pass this rule on when I have children, even though I understand that the true reason behind this notion is that you can get a cramp if you try to swim too soon after eating. The wait, however, provides  a sense of suspense and excitement and a chance for quality time. I remember that my grandma would tell me stories by the pool while we waited for the hour to go by. It brings back memories of carefree summer days when I was growing up.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoy this piece because I heard the same thing growing up. I never really thought that I would drown if I were to swim less than an hour after eating, but I did fear cramps. I like that Samantha was able to form memories from experiencing this piece and look back on it fondly. This example truly shows how folklore impacts people’s lives and, in particular, their childhood. The fact that she will pass this tradition on so that her children can also form these memories is good to hear, knowing that the folklore will continue. Perhaps, they can pass it on as well and keep the tradition alive.

Folk Beliefs
general
Holidays
Protection

Spare Change in a Purse

Informant: The informant is a twenty-two-year-old named Samantha. She graduated from Providence College last year and is currently working in New York City as an Advertising Sales Assistant for VERANDA Magazine. She lives in Yonkers, New York with her parents and has lived there for her whole life. She is of Italian, English, and Russian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat next to each other on the living room floor at her house in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: I learned that whenever I would give a wallet or handbag as a present, I’d have to put a few coins inside. This represents the idea that that the person receiving the gift will always have money in his or her bag or wallet. My mother taught me this when I was little because every bag or wallet she gave me contained spare change.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece of folklore?

Informant: I like this idea because it’s a really nice gesture. When you give a gift to somebody, it shows that you are wishing that person to never be without money. Following this makes me feel good. I love wishing luck for others, especially people I love, and I usually only give these nice gifts to people I really care about.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed learning about this piece because it promotes a sense of selflessness. Not only is someone giving a gift, but they are also providing the receiver with what they think is good luck. This is interesting because typically, at least in most folklore I’ve heard to do with good luck, people act in a way to give themselves good luck. In this gift-giving, people seek to give others good luck, which is rather unique.

Adulthood
Childhood
Initiations
Musical
Protection

An Extra Birthday Candle

Informant: The informant is a twenty-two-year-old named Samantha. She graduated from Providence College last year and is currently working in New York City as an Advertising Sales Assistant for VERANDA Magazine. She lives in Yonkers, New York with her parents and has lived there for her whole life. She is of Italian, English, and Russian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat next to each other on the living room floor at her house in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: I learned that you when celebrating someone’s birthday, you always need to have one more candle than necessary on the birthday cake. This candle has to be left unlit. I learned this from her grandma. For kids, this extra candle is one to grow on, so it symbolizes the hope that they will grow big and strong in the following year. On the other hand, for adults, this extra candle is for a long life and luck.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece of folklore?

Informant: I like it because it’s a family tradition. It reminds me of my childhood because I always had an extra candle on her birthday cakes. Also, this concept always excites children who want to grow and become big and strong. As an adult now, I likes the idea of having this candle to promise a lucky year. I definitely plan to pass this tradition on to my children one day.


Personal Thoughts: This tradition is interesting to me because it highlights the fact that superstitions and traditions in general are not only for children; they are important to adults too. While kids love the idea of growing up to be big and strong, adults do not easily forget such traditions they celebrated growing up. They keep the tradition alive by changing its meaning to something which they want in their lives no matter how old they are- good luck in the next year.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

The Colors of the Devil

Informant: The informant is Janet, a fifty-six-year-old woman from Yonkers, New York. She has lived in the Bronx and Westchester County, New York throughout her entire life. She is of Italian descent, is married, and has two children.

Context of the Performance: We sat next to each other on a couch in the living room of her house in Yonkers, New York over my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: In the late 1980s, I was working at Whitehall Laboratories in New York City. One day at work, I wore a beautiful black skirt and a purple jacket with black trim, with matching purple and black suede shoes. While walking through the office, a coworker I barely knew said to me, “Oh, you’re wearing the colors of death.” A little while later, when I was back at my desk, my phone rang, and I was told that my cousin Maria died. Years later, my nephew was attending College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and he gave me a purple and black coffee mug, to represent his school’s colors, for Christmas. I refused to use it for months, until I thought that I was being ridiculous. So I used it one day, and that night, I got a call that her aunt was very ill and was rushed into the hospital. I wouldn’t throw the mug away because I was scared that it would only add to my bad luck. So I left it at the top of the cabinet and haven’t touched it since then, in 2012. Ever since, I totally avoid the colors purple and black together, and purple in general.

Interviewer:Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: This idea is very important to me. I feel unsafe wearing this mix of colors and won’t let my children do it either. I always warns people who wear these colors together to be careful because I truly believes that they are the colors of death.

Personal Thoughts: I think that this is very interesting because I’d never thought of purple as a color associated with the devil. Also, what’s interesting is that Janet has two instances of hard proof of this superstition. These pieces of proof could not have occurred because this superstition was in her head. These unfortunate events happened and were entirely out of her power.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Stepping Over Someone

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: Basically, if you’re sitting or lying down, you can’t have someone walk over you. It will bring bad luck. If they do, they have to cross back over you so that you’re safe. I learned this from my parents who were both born in Greece, and I believe that it is a Greek tradition. They taught me and my four siblings this when we were little. My friend actually does it too, and her mother told me once that I actually don’t have to do it anymore because, apparently, stepping over someone will stunt your growth. Since I’m done growing, she said that I don’t have to do it, but I still do.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece of folklore?

Informant: I like it because it’s important. Everyone has that piece of superstition that they follow. I know it’s not real, but I feel better doing it. Also, one time at soccer practice, I was sitting down with my legs stretched, and one of my teammates stepped over my left leg. I wanted to tell her to come back but didn’t want to bother her or sound weird. Then the next day, during a game, I pulled my hamstring in my left leg. I knew I should have told her to come back and step over me again.

Personal Thoughts: I find it interesting that although Aliki heard that she no longer had to perform this piece of folklore, she did anyway. Her decision to continue with it demonstrates the power folklore, especially folklore that people learned growing up, has over people. What is also unique about her piece is that she experienced an unfortunate event after not having followed the superstition, so she blamed herself for pulling her hamstring.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Entrance and Exit Superstition

Informant: The informant is Janet, a fifty-six-year-old woman from Yonkers, New York. She has lived in the Bronx and Westchester County, New York throughout her entire life. She is of Italian descent, is married, and has two children.

Context of the Performance: We sat next to each other on a couch in the living room of her house in Yonkers, New York over my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: When you enter a building or home, I was taught that you must exit from the same door you entered through. Doing so would ensure that you avoid bad luck, which you would receive if you were to exit through a different door. I learned this piece from Joan DeLuca, a longtime friend whose children attended the same elementary school mine. We were together at a friend’s house for dinner. Joan made sure to leave from the same door we entered through and explained the idea to me.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece? Why is it important to you?

Informant: I like this piece because I’m very superstitious and feels safer following this routine. If I didn’t, I would feel very uncomfortable. It would haunt me. This piece is very important to me because I feel that if I were to exit through a different door and something unfortunate were to occur, whether it be something small like tripping or major like a death, I would blame it on my foolishness of not exiting through the same door.

Personal Thoughts: I find this piece of folklore to be quite intriguing because she feels so strongly about this superstition. She would truly blame herself for an unfortunate event, were it to occur after she exited through a different door from the one through which she entered a building or home. There seems to be a balance which must be met to avoid bad luck within a lot of folklore. If you do one thing, you must eventually turn around and go back to “make it even” in a sense, or balance it out.

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