Author Archives: Alex Bozzo

Contemporary Legend – Hawaiian

About a twenty minute hike from the edge of my town (Waimea, on the big island of Hawaii) is the back of Waipio Valley, the first in a chain of seven valleys on the northeast coast of my island. By Hawaiin tradition, Waipio is thought to be the entrance to the underworld, where the dead souls of Ali’I (Hawaiin Royalty) go after they die. They sat night the Ali’l come out and walk through the valley (and consequently the hills of my town) accompanied by their court. We call them night marchers. From a distance they look like a chain of flickering lanterns moving across the hillside and through the trees. As they get closer you hear Hawaiin chanting, especially the word “awe” (pronounced ah-vay) meaning “stay away.” And if you happen to be in the proximity of a procession, before you cross paths you need to shed all your clothes (because peasants wore no clothing) and lie face down on the ground (a sign of fealty). If you stay standing, or look at the night marchers, you will be forced to join their slow procession forever.

Steve commented that he is a very spiritual person and was not entirely skeptical of this idea. He understands the history and culture of the area and similarly believes that everyone of every faith has a different idea of the afterlife and concepts surrounding it. Death is a curious thing and it is certainly interesting that they would believe in the entrance to the underworld being on earth. In my opinion what contributes to this is the fact that we have so many volcanoes, the original people of the area saw how much power came out of underneath the earth it is no wonder they assumed the gods lay underneath the earth as opposed to the sky in the traditional Christian perspective.

I find this to be a very interesting piece of folklore. The portion that refers to an opening to the underworld speaks to the idea that humans crave knowledge about what lies ahead of us after our time on earth passes. We can not stand dealing with the unknown so we create beliefs such as this to help ease the trouble of that time in our life. This piece also reflects the concept of respect for authority and the difference amongst the social classes in early Hawaiian society. The fact that the peasants would be on the ground with no clothes is an extreme to say the least. In general this superstition is certainly one that would entice visitors to experience the culture and history of the area.

Proverb – California

“A tree falls the way it leans”

Kelsey told me she learned this proverb from her basketball coach, when she was seventeen and the captain of her high school basketball team in Mountain View, CA. Kelsey heard this proverb one day talking to the coach about how to motivate the team after a bad practice. The coach said that the girls were not practicing at game speed tempo and therefore were performing poorly. Kelsey interpreted that to mean the team must bring the same intensity to practice that they brought to the games.

Kelsey also says that she thinks this proverb’s meaning transcends basketball. I think from a human standpoint, this proverb is really addressing the importance of our individual choices. Each choice we make, no matter how small we perceive it to be, affects the way we grow and develop. We set goals for ourselves, straight paths that we want to follow. We try to make decisions based on the premise of which choice will bring us closer to our goal, but inevitably we sometimes stray from the path by choosing to compromise our goals on fleeting whims. We have to avoid choices that cause us to bend our metaphorical trunks so far that they break, and instead resolve to make choices that transform us positively.

I certainly agree with Kelsey, this proverb reflects the fact that our choices dictate who we become as we grow up. When I see this proverb I’m also reminded of the other proverb “You play the way you practice,” meaning if you are too relaxed during practice you will perform poorly in the game. This proverb matches up well with Kelsey’s original sports oriented context. I also have heard this proverb from coaches during practice. I always interpreted to mean that if you want to be successful in reality you have to put forth a great deal of effort at all times.  I feel this proverb discusses how our actions reflect who we become in life.

Annotation: de Lay, Gerd. International Dictionary of Proverbs. New York: Hippocrene Books Inc.: 1998.

Smokers Superstition – Long Beach, CA

Smokers Superstition- Long Beach, CA

“Whenever you smoke a fresh pack of cigarettes you have to take the first one and flip it upside down in the box and then smoke it last, otherwise you will have bad luck.”

Bill said he learned about this superstition when he was 17 years old and a senior in high school in Long Beach, CA. He had just gotten into the notion of smoking because of a great number of people in class doing so. From one friend, he could not recall a specific person, he was told to flip the first cigarette upside and save it for last. If he did not it would be bad luck. Bill told me at first that he really did not believe the bad luck aspect of the superstition, but he practiced anyway because that’s what everyone else in his high school did. However, he then mentioned that one day he did not flip the first cigarette over and later that day he returned to his car and saw that he had been hit on the side by another car trying to park. Needless to say he saw this as a direct correlation to him not flipping over the cigarette and therefore he paid the price. This makes absolute sense because usually in the case of odd superstition such as this people are skeptical until they actually disobey the superstition and pay the consequences.

However, it is interesting to note that while I was interviewing my friend another associate of ours, also a smoker, claimed to have never have heard of this superstition before and thought it was absolutely absurd. It is important to note that this other gentleman is from the Midwestern part of the country. This is a prime example of the Historic Geographic method developed by the Kronhes because this piece of folklore is quite avid in one part of the country and noticeably absent in another.

I feel this is a very interesting piece of folklore that reflects an example of occupational folklore, you are not considered part of the smoking crowd unless you know this tradition. Superstition is a natural part of human existence because people have very little control over their life so they often practice superstition to ensure no harm will come their way. I myself do not smoke so would not engage in this superstition, but Bill made an interesting point about doing it simply because his friends were also doing it, a reflection of peer pressure in our society. We all can relate to this feeling of wanting to belong, even if that thing you belong to, such as smoking, is bad for you. We long for acceptance and the opportunity to fit in.


He who sleeps, is a jackass

Shanzeh told me she heard this proverb from her parents. It would be used in the morning when they would try and get her out of bed if she was moving quite slowly. In all honesty the saying never convinced me to get up, but I’ll always remember it because my parents always said it. It basically tells one to wake up and live their life. Life is short and we can sleep after that, right now it is important to live your life to the fullest. Shanzeh also commented on the bluntness of this proverb. I told there that it actually follows exactly what a proverb should be, it is fixed phrase and expresses a particular world view. In her opinion the word “jackass” is not meant to be taken literally, it is better to say that you are being lazy if you lie in bed for too long and that you would be wise to get up and start your day. Shanzeh added that although she does enjoy her sleep in college but feels much better getting up early and taking advantage of the full day, always remembering the proverb of her parents.

I really like this proverb for that very reason, the outlook expressed in this proverb, although phrased very bluntly is actually very optimistic. This is trying to convey the message that life is too precious to waste lying in bed and you would be a fool to do so. When I heard this I was also reminded of the classic American proverb by Ben Franklin: “the early bird catches the worm.” Both proverbs encourage the same values of time management and taking advantage of the early morning hours to attack the day and make the most of life. This proverb is meant to encourage people from being lazy and to really use their time here on earth very wisely. If one really examines this proverb on a very deep level, it would speak to some concept of the afterlife. Our time is very limited and we best make the most of it while we can because there is no guarantee about what is going to happen after we pass from earth. So get up early and enjoy life.

Baseball Tradition – California

The Rally Cap- Baseball Superstition

Although I myself am I participant in this tradition as well I felt by interviewing Mark, a NCAA Division 1 athlete, the collection would benefit more thoroughly. Mark has been playing baseball for nearly 14 years. I myself have been on many teams with him throughout that period, including little league when he learned of the practice of the rally cap when he was 9 years old while playing baseball in our hometown of San Jose, CA. Mark recalls the coach explaining to him the rally cap is used late in the game when your team is down and you need some support. While batting and trying to score the winning runs, those not playing in the game will turn their hats inside out and flip the bill (as displayed above). Marks states that this is the most popular form of the rally cap.

Mark sees the rally cap as a way to inspire your team and provide a little motivation to overcome the deficit and win the game. Why the rally cap is used for this is simple according to Mark. In order to succeed at the game you have to relax and let things happen. If you try too hard, you will fail. The best thing to do when you get up to the plate is be loose and let your body do what comes natural. Baseball is such a head case game that if you get down on yourself too much you will pay the price. When Mark is on the bench and his team is down he is always very vocal and supportive of the team making sure everyone has their rally caps on.

In my own personal experience with the rally cap I have come across several different styles in which to wear it. One other form of the rally cap is to fold it to one side and where it only on one top half of your head. By demonstrating different versions of the rally cap this tradition follows in proper form of folklore by having multiplicity and variation. The rally cap is seen in use from little league all the way to the big leagues where both fans and players will don the rally cap to provide their team with a little extra motivation.

I feel the rally cap is a very humorous and light hearted thing, the notion and appearance of the rally cap is a fairly comical one and therefore gets the players feeling a little bit looser and relaxed, ready to play the game. Although the rally cap does not have any true power, it adds a little energy to the players and it does nothing but create positive feelings amongst the players. Baseball is meant to be a fun game and the rally cap reminds us of that fact.