USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Superstition’

The Toaster Era

This entry was given to the interviewer through digital means. The interviewer asked the informant, Sahit, about any superstitions in the NBA he knows because of Sahit’s die-hard obsession to the sport. He replied with a comment about the “winningness” of the Golden State Warriors.



“I can’t think of any pregame superstitions or anything like that, but there is this thing that recently came up about a toaster that Klay [Thompson] signed. Some guy on Reddit went to a Klay autograph signing but instead of a shirt or a basketball, he had Klay sign his official Warriors-branded toaster. This kinda became a meme in itself because Klay was just so dumbfounded about signing the toaster that there are pictures of the awkward pause right before he signed it. But, since then, the Warriors are undefeated. This is now known as the Toaster Era and the Warriors are 20-0 in the Toaster Era.”


The interviewer had heard about the “Toaster Era” but didn’t know what it was attributed to in the first place. More than anything, this whole thing seems like a passing meme about the Warriors’ insane ability to win against any team in the NBA. I really doubt that the Warriors are undefeated solely due to the toaster, but it is nevertheless entertaining to think of this superstition as a reason for their repeated victories.



Lil B NBA Curse

The informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He has recently become a huge fan of the NBA and he describes something that the casual NBA fan would not know much about. In this piece, he talks about the “The BasedGod’s” curse to me (AK) which was popularized over five years ago by a rapper by the name of Lil B.

For some context, Lil B became a viral sensation with many provocative rap videos and tweets. He refers to himself as the “Based God” and he has drawn a very loyal fan following due to the hilarity of his tweets and rap videos. He is also known for the “Based God” curse which he has given to star athletes who have disrespected his rapping ability.

DP: So I don’t know the entire story, but I do know that Lil B and Kevin Durant (famous basketball player) had beef a few years ago.

AK: What exactly caused the beef?

DP: Well … KD basically said that Lil B is a wack rapper and that his music sucks. Lil B responded to this by dropping a video titled F*** KD and giving him the “Based God” curse.

AK: What does this curse entail? Is there any way to become uncursed?

DP: In this context, he meant that KD would never win a championship. Also, KD was recently lifted of the curse because he decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors and Lil B is a huge Warriors fan.

I found this entire piece to be hilarious. After some further research, I found Lil B to be very outspoken on twitter and most of his fans simply quote him out of the absurdity and comedy of some of his proclamations. Most of his songs have a comedic element to them and in his F*** KD song he states that he could beat Kevin Durant in a one on one game of basketball. For some NBA fans, however, the curse does hold some merit as Kevin Durant is perennially one of the best players in the league, yet he has never won a championship. While most rational fans scoff at the claim that the curse is the reason why, a small but significant subset of fans contend that the curse is the sole reason why. I’m not sure which side of the argument I’m on, but I do find humor in the fact that Lil B has gained so much fame over a simple tweet and video.


Getting My Ears Pulled When Speaking of The Dead

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (telephonically)


Alan is a 62- year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.


Interviewer: Good Morning. You mentioned that you experienced your mother’s family superstition first hand when you were a youngster. Can you explain it?


Informant: Sure. My mother would always pull my ears and those of my sister, when we were very young, when she heard that either a relative or person she knew had just died.


Interviewer:  Was there a reason why she did this?


Informant: She never spoke directly about this, but my mother was a superstitious individual when it came to the evil eye. I have to assume that this had something to do with that. For instance, she would always dress my sister and me in red if we were visiting someone who she felt possessed an evil eye. I remember one time when she just stood in front of this particular person and walking backward pushed my sister and me out of the room. I was young and didn’t really think anything about it.


As I got older I began to realize that the pulling of our ears when she spoke about the dead was a part of her superstitious beliefs. I never observed this behavior with her sisters and brothers (my aunts and uncles). Her mother and father (my grandparents) were both dead before I was born so I never saw if it was somehow connected this action to them. However, knowing my mother, she might have come up with this crazy superstition all on her own.


Interviewer: Does She Still Do This?


Informant: No. The last time I remember her tugging at my ears was when my Great Uncle Joe had passed away when I was 13. We were driving to a supermarket and my father asked my Mother when was Joe’s funeral. As he did she reached around from the front car seat and managed to grab my left ear, but I twisted and prevented her from getting my right one. From that day forward, she never tugged my ears again!”






Thoughts about the piece:  

Superstitious gestures like this one become ingrained even if connection to meaning is lost.

For other Jewish superstitious customs see:





Superstitions Amongst College and Professional Athletes in the Locker Room

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 80

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 9, 2017 (via Skype)



Robert is a 80 year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a retired business executive.  He played varsity level college basketball at the University of Florida and in the National Basketball Association with the New York Knicks.


Interviewer: Good Morning. Do professional athletes have superstations when they are active players?


Informant: “Well basically if you had a good game you never change your socks for the next game, you wear the same jock.  if you had a particular outfit that you wore to the game and it was a bad game then you would change the outfit and if it was a good game maybe you would wear it again the second day.  And those are some of the superstitions. If you were parked in a specific spot and you did have a good night then you would want that same spot. Then you would arrange everything you could to make sure you got the same spot all over again.


Interviewer:  So this is your recollection when you played ball in College as well as professionally for the New York Knicks.


Informent: Correct


Interviewer:  Was this about all players?


Informant: Most players all have superstitions. Some of the guys would before the game have warm ups. They would want to be the last one to shot the ball in the hoop before the game started. So they kind of hang out when everyone is getting ready to go to the bench before the game started and then they would take the ball and shoot the little jump shot just cause that was a superstition and they wanted to have the last shot.


Interviewer:  When did you first start observing these superstitions?


Informant: When I was in college at the University of Florida. Most ball players have a superstition. I mean it goes into how you put your uniform on, the same way. If you had a good game you always wondered what made you have a good game.


Interviewer: And ah did it ever play out to the point that where your superstition reinforced your belief?


Informant: Yes. You would have the superstition and if you hit three or four in a row you would say that’s it, that’s it, and then you would keep doing it until it changed. When it changed you would look for another superstition.


Thoughts about the piece:  

Anyone who has played or even been a spectator of sports observes silly rituals that are important to fans and players. This professional basketball player took the rules of luck seriously. For other sports superstitions that famous athletes believe see:


Folk Beliefs

Whistling at Night


Interviewer: What is being performed?


Informant: Whistling at Night by Rayna Koishikawa


Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?


Informant: My Kumu (hula teacher) told us whistling at night summons night maschess (ghosts of Hawaiian warriors)


Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?


Informant: Maui, HI


Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?


Informant: I don’t belong to this group but it is a Hawaiian superstition.


Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?


Informant: My Kumu


Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?


Informant: Hawaiian legend


Interviewer: What does it mean to you?


Informant: Childhood superstition


Context of the performance- Talking with a classmate before class


Thoughts about the piece- Whistling is thought to bring bad luck in Russian, Japanese and many other cultures. I’ve heard warnings not to whistle in kitchens (French Revolution origins) or while sailing (New England- whistle up a storm). Here is another version of the Night Marchers of Hawaii:

More Hawaiian superstitions at:


Folk Beliefs

A Superstitious Fear of Crowds

“Whenever me and my family go places, we always avoid big crowds because we have this superstition that only bad things can come from crowds.  I don’t really know why we ever started avoiding crowds so vigilantly, but now we make it a point to never be around a big crowd, especially in places we aren’t familiar with.  It’s a family superstition we take very seriously.  So, when I was in Nice, there were a lot of big crowds and I didn’t feel comfortable, and I didn’t feel safe, so I told my girlfriend that we should leave, so we did.  As we were walking away we started to see people running behind us, and then someone told us to run, and then we heard shooting.  That was the day of the Nice terror attack.  And if we hadn’t left because of our fear of crowds, we would’ve been right in the middle of the attack.  Then, a year later, we were visiting London, but because it was right in the middle of tourist season we were always around crowds, so we left early.  Two days after we left, there was a terrorist attack.  And if we had stayed in London for our entire planned trip, we would have been there for it.  Now I think it’s a good thing we have our superstition, it’s saved us a few times.”


This is a really interesting case of a superstition being validated by random events that seem to have meaning.  What I find really fascinating about superstitions is that, no matter a person’s background, upbringing, or beliefs, they are probably superstitious about one thing or another.  Everyone is susceptible to believing in a superstition simply because sometimes certain events happen in a person’s life that are seemingly undeniable, and that’s probably the source of their superstition.

Folk Beliefs

Paying for Pearls 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: I learned that you cannot give pearls as a gift, not even anything that contains a pearl. Pearls represent tears, meaning sadness, so if you give someone something with pearls, they must give you money in compensation, even if it as little as a penny. Then, it’s like they purchased the pearls from you and did not receive them as a gift. My mother taught me this at home when I was a teenager when she gave me a piece of jewelry with pearls. She asked me for a penny.

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

Informant: This piece of folklore is important to me because I don’t want tears brought into my life because I associate crying with something bad happening in my life. I also don’t want this to happen to others. I am very superstitious, so I feel better and safer following this tradition, even though none of my friends had heard of this.

Personal Thoughts: I think that this piece is interesting because I had never heard of something like this. Providing compensation for a gift is unusual, and I have never participated in anything like that. I also like this tradition because while it requires the receiver to provide money, it promotes the selflessness of the giver. The receiver must only provide a single penny, and the giver is not only giving a gift but also looking out for the the luck of the receiver.

Folk Beliefs

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.

Folk Beliefs

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

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.