USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘star’
Customs
Earth cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Advent Spiral

Content: Advent Spiral
Informant – “The Advent Spiral is a somber ceremony for grades 1-8. It happens in the winter. Fresh pine boughs are laid in a large spiral in the center of a dark room. Paper star mats are spaced out equidistantly along the spiral. In the center of the spiral is a single lit candle. A class enters the room. There might be a harp player in the corner, or it might be silent. One by one, a child enters the spiral. Each child has an apple with a candle stuck in its center. The child walks through the spiral, lights their apple candle from the candle in the center, then places their apple candle on one of the star mats. Then the child sits outside the spiral. Once everyone has gone, the room is full of light.”

Context:
Informant – “Walking into the spiral symbolizes walking into the spiral within yourself. Lighting the apple is like lighting the flame within yourself. The apple itself is a symbol of new life. This ritual has is based on the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Celts. They took an ember from their city, from their central sacred hearth of their city temple and transported it carefully to the new land. They took an ember from their holy hearth to whatever land their were colonizing, and then they would light their first sacred hearth with that ember. All the fires were started from that first original coal. That sacred fire is holy, regardless of the religion. It symbolized them carrying their religion forward. It symbolized a unity with the old land, a unity with their culture and religion. That’s similar to the advent spiral. The students place their apples on the stars. Stars represent our connection to the cosmos, an outer world, a spiritual world. It shows that you are giving your light to the whole world. By the end of the advent spiral, the whole room is filled with light. It’s symbolic of what we want the students to do. It’s not Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, whatever. You are a light filled person, and as you grow older share your light so the world becomes a light filled place.”
The informant learned about this ceremony when she started teaching at Waldorf.

Analysis:
The use of pine boughs reminds me of Christmas trees. They are evergreen, a sign of life in the dead of winter.
I couldn’t find any references to Greeks, Romans, or Celts transporting sacred coals on Google. Still, I agree with the informant’s interpretation of the ritual (i.e. it is symbolic of sharing your inner light with the world to make it a brighter place).

For another version and explanation of this festival, see “Winter Spiral and the Meaning of Advent.” www.clws.org/events/winter-spiral-and-the-meaning-of-advent/.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Old Man and the Cot

In a village lived a very generous and well-liked old man. He was so old that he no longer left his cot. The old man had a young wife, and one day, he saw her sneaking out of the house after dark. The old man did not want to distrust his wife, and so he reasoned that he must’ve imagined it. The next day, he didn’t bring it up. The following night however, he again saw her tiptoeing out yet again and so the night after that, the old man moved his cot by the window and saw her meeting a young man. He decided to ask her of her whereabouts the following morning. When he asked her, she looked insulted and rashly replied, “I was by your side all night, I never left. You dreamt it.” The wife was angry that her husband knew of her affair, and she slit his throat that night while he slept on his cot. As he lay dying, the old man called out to God that in exchange for his righteous, honest life, his wife always have a reminder of his death which she would be haunted by after she’d made off with her lover. God hear his prayers and took him and his cot up into the sky, becoming a diamond-shaped constellation.
This was the second story related by Haleh and translated by Mayuri. This story, like the one about the sisters is about the big dipper; however, this one is only about the “dipper” in the big dipper which turns out to be the old man’s cot.  Haleh was cooking for us while we were camping in the Thar Desert, he told the story as a way to entertain ourselves since it was night and apart from the flickering fire that was soon to go out, there was nothing to do and no lights in sight. Therefore, we all stayed around the fire and listened to him and shared stories (all relayed by Mayuri who spoke his language, Marwari).

Folk speech
Musical

Folk Rhyme – Star Light, Star Bright

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

 

While waiting for a Fourth of July fireworks show, my informant first heard this rhyme from her mother, who taught it to her and told her to watch for the first star.  My informant recalls being restless and was likely annoying her parents, so her mother probably taught her the rhyme to keep her busy looking for the first star until the show began.  My informant distinctly remembered her mother telling her that you must first see the star, then recite the rhyme, and only then could she make a wish.  If she did not follow that order, the wish would not come true.  When she finally saw a star in the sky, she recited the rhyme and wished that her pets at home would be ok and that the loud fireworks nearby would not scare them.

My informant suggested that this rhyme is simple and is likely to be shared only between children and the parents of those children.  She also believes that many parents likely use this rhyme to quiet their children before they go to bed.  If they’re preoccupied looking out the window for a star, they’re not making a fuss.  It’s interesting to note that this rhyme also operates as a superstition, because it details how one can make a wish.  My informant is not completely sure of whether or not the rhyme or the superstition came first, but imagines that the superstition came first and the originator of the rhyme took the details of the wish and made them rhyme.  My informant tried to remember if an improper recitation of the rhyme has any impact on a wish, but she doesn’t believe one needs to say the rhyme correctly for their wish to come true.  As long as someone sees the first star in the sky, performs the rhyme, and make a wish, in that order, the wish is likely to come true.

There are several interesting aspects of this rhyme that can be analyzed to gain an understanding to why it is still being passed down from generation to generation.  First, wishing this way means you can only wish once per day, and this limit is likely to make a wisher more sincere in their requests.  Also, the lines, “I wish I may, I wish I might,” suggest that the star that is being wished upon is of a higher authority and can permit and deny the wishes it chooses.  This superstition is unique because it suggests that a wish may or may not be granted, while most superstitions indicate exactly what is to occur.  There is no guarantee this wish will be granted, so one must have faith that by performing the rhyme, their wish will be granted more likely than if they had not.

I have lived in Los Angeles County my entire life, and my personal opinion is that it’s considerably difficult to wish upon a star because the first star cannot be seen through the smog.  Also, with all of the planes and satellites in the sky, it can sometimes be tedious to find a star among bright objects in the sky.  For this reason, children may be performing the rhyme less frequently nowadays.  Also, the rhyme says I should wish on, “the first star I see tonight,” but I’ve heard that for the wish to come true, the wish must be made when there is only one visible star in the entire sky.  This prevents you from walking outside at midnight and making any star wishing star.  This version instills patience, and makes your wish mean something, because you have to wait for the perfect moment when there is only one visible star.

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