USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Symbol’
Customs
general
Initiations
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Figure Skating and Stuffed Animals

Main piece:

Interviewer: Can you think of any superstitions or rituals you had when you were figure skating?

Informant: Me? No I wasn’t superstitious at all. I remember other girls that would do stuff. Stuffed animals are a big part of skating culture. Some skaters have one singular stuffed animal that they carry everywhere, throughout their entire career. Sometimes when a skater performs really well at some event, fans will throw their animal onto the ice.

Background: The informant is my mother. She started skating at a very young age when she was growing up in Maine. For her, figure skating was an outlet from a rough home life. She learned of the significance of stuffed animals to figure skating through first-hand experience at her local ice rink. This interview was recorded in person when she came to visit me here at school.

Context: The informant remembers the symbolism of the stuffed animal through continued exposure to high-level figure skating, where it is common-place for fans to throw stuffed animals onto the ice after a successful routine is completed. However, the informant stated that the act of continually carrying around the same stuffed animal is hardly mentioned on TV broadcasts. I did some extra research into this and could not find any info regarding the continued possession of a singular stuffed animal. However, the practice of tossing a stuffed animal onto the ice is widely known, even among those not familiar with the sport of figure skating.

Analysis: I assume there is probably good reason for the relatively low notoriety of this piece of figure skating lore. For one, it is exclusive to high-level figure skaters who are performing in a competitive environment. As such, this tradition hasn’t permeated into the mainstream due to the difficult barriers-to-entry within the figure skating community. The informant stated that fellow skaters would treat their own stuffed animals “like they we’re diamond encrusted”. Off of that, I assume that high-level figure skaters are naturally protective of their totems. If the most prominent members of this community are reluctant to speak on this significance of the stuffed animal to the figure skater, it is difficult anyone to learn of this tradition. I was also curious to see if the informant could remember why one skater would pick a certain animal over another. The informant couldn’t remember exactly but thought the decision was based on personality. If you consider Figure Skating to be a form of artistic communication, which is the consensus, than the significance of the animal combined with the act of throwing stuffed animals on the ice in praise takes on a different meaning. The figure skater chooses a specific stuffed animal that aligns with her identity. When they are performing they are conveying their own identity through their art form, which is figure skating. If done successfully, the audience will then affirm the figure skater’s performance and identity by throwing the same stuffed animal onto the ice in an act of approval.

Customs
Holidays
Legends
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Three Wise Men

Context:

The informant recounts the different religious and cultural stories that he heard while growing up as a child.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).

 

S: Do you have the thing of the three wise men? It’s a Catholic thing.

 

C: No… can you explain it?

 

S: Like you put your shoes out and then the three wise men from Jesus’ birth come and give you gifts

 

C: Oh.. is that it?

 

S: That’s pretty much it. Like parents put money in your shoes obviously instead of the three wise men. It usually happens around Christmas but I forget the exact date.

 

C: Oh so is this something that you or your family did?

 

S: Yeah. Well it’s a catholic thing. Popular in Spanish speaking countries.

 

 

Analysis:

Biblical stories are often told for the lessons they are able to impart on the listener, but also for entertainment. The tale of the Three Wise Men is one such story that encompasses many functions. The three men are figures of great status in society and they all see an unusual new star in the sky, and knew that it told of the birth of a special king in Israel. This marks the coming of Christ into the world and the spark of Christianity as it exists today. To welcome Jesus’ arrival, they presented him with gifts that hold symbolic meanings in Christianity. Gold was given as something that is associated with kings and the idea that Jesus was to be the King of other kings. The other two are Frankincense, a symbol used to show that people would worship Jesus and
Myrrh, a perfume that showed Christians of Jesus’ eventual suffering and death. The act of giving gifts is still something that we do til this day and it is curious to see if many base their tradition of gift giving to this tale in the Bible.

 

For another version, see: All About the Wise Men

https://www.whychristmas.com/story/wisemen.shtml

Cooper, James. “The Christmas Story – All About The Wise Men.” The History of The Christmas Story — Whychristmas?Com, www.whychristmas.com/story/wisemen.shtml.

Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

EVKitty

Informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is well-aware of most USC folklore and he describes a very peculiar one to me (AK).

In this piece, DP describes the folklore surrounding a very special cat that hangs around a dining hall at USC named Everybody’s Kitchen or EVK for short.

EVKitty

DP: So I actually found out about this cat my first time at EVK freshman year. Basically it’s this regular cat but it just hangs right outside EVK by the outdoor seating. I’m not really sure whose cat it is, but I just know it’s been there for a while.

AK: So you have no idea where it came from?

DP: Well there’s rumors that it’s Stan Rosen’s cat. He’s the faculty master for the Birnkrant Dorm. I should probably know this cause I lived there but oh well haha.

AK: Sounds interesting is there anything else I should know about EVKitty?

DP: Yeah there’s actually a facebook page dedicated to her. It’s legendary.

This was another piece of USC folklore, but I especially enjoyed this one because it is so specific and probably unknown to a lot of students. For those that have no idea, they would be thoroughly confused to see a cat roaming around the outside seating of a dining hall. However, for those who are aware of this folklore, they have really done their part to help spread it to the larger USC community. I found out about EVKitty through word of mouth, and I’m sure many other students have also found out from their fellow friends and peers.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ritual: Water

Main Piece: “One ritual that my family partakes in is when we go on long trips or vacations. So basically when you leave the home for an extended period of time, someone will throw a cup of water while you’re walking away from your house, so, to the back of your feet kind of”

Background: This is a ritual for the informant and her family. The informant was born in the U.S. and her parents were born and raised in Afghanistan. The family has been in the United States for about 30 years but still practices many pieces of Afghan folklore. The informant thinks this particular ritual uses water as a symbol of purity for leaving a place with “good and clean intentions”. She notes that this ritual takes place at the doorway.

Performance Context: The informant and I had lunch together and sat at a table across from each other.

My Thoughts: This Afghan ritual uses the symbols of water and the threshold of the doorway. Besides the notions of water as a symbol of purity, I understand the threshold of the doorway as significant as an entry and exit point. It is interesting that the informant and her family continue to practice this ritual, even in the U.S. The informant mentioned how rarely her family takes vacations and trips. I wonder if her family may have a reluctance to go to new places, as the informant noted earlier that their immigration and assimilation to the U.S. was somewhat troubling and disturbing to their culutral beliefs and traditions. I also intepret the ritual as a combination of valuing the past and looking forward to the present. The U.S. is known to have a forward looking mentality, while countries of the Middle East hold the past in high regard.

folk metaphor
Folk speech

There’s Always Two Sides

This saying is one that my informant said she uses on a regular basis:

“No matter how thin the pancake, there are always two sides”.

My informant said that she learned this proverb or saying from a friend that was born and raised in Japan. Her name was Kozuko, and my informant met her in the 1980’s when her husband was stationed in Japan for the army. My informant believes that it was a proverb that was common within Kozuko’s family. Kozuko had translated the phrase from Japanese and told them how to say it in English. My informant thinks that it originally may have been a different word than ‘pancake’, because those are not a Japanese food. My informant uses this saying, she says, to express that there are always two sides to a story. She told her kids this when they would make decisions without considering the consequences or the people that they could hurt in the process. She says that she always thinks of her friend Kozuko when she uses the phrase, and is happy that she was able to bring it back to California.

I, for the most part, agree with my informant’s analysis of this piece of folklore. I believe it was likely developed as a more clever way to say that there are two sides to every story. I believe that this metaphorical way of saying that is a good way to get the message across. I had never heard this saying before, and after researching it more, could not find many sources and sites of it. This leads me to believe it is a rather rare saying, and potentially rarely translated from Japanese, or wherever its true origins lie.

[geolocation]