Author Archives: Ariel Lockett

Crocus sac

Text (local legend):

“My parents and grandparents always told us to beware of a man carrying a crocus sac because he might come and take us away.”


A is 50 years old and from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His entire immediate family is from there as well born and raised. He currently lives in Texas and has lived there for 20 years.

A: “I was pre-teen back then so probably around 7 to 12 and back then y’know we played outside a lot and kind of had free reign so I would play down at my grandmothers house with my cousins and to make sure y’know we didn’t stray too far like maybe two to three blocks from our house they would tell us this old tale to make sure we were at least within shouting distance when they called us.”

Q: “So this was a commonly used warning story to make sure you all were close to home?”

A: “Well all of the kids knew the story as our parents told us growing up if you weren’t on your best behavior, or if you strayed too far from home our parents would tell us this as kind of a scare tactic.”

Q: “Who were these people really that kids thought would take them away?”

A: “It was the 70’s so you rarely saw women working outside the house back then, it was always a guy of working age probably between 20 and 40 carrying that sack and it was pretty big sack so we believed that they could carry little kids away back then. This was the deep south in the around 1970s so it was pre-backpack (laughs) they would really just use it to like carry tools in or maybe carry some lunch in.”


The text is a legend as it consists of a localized traditional narrative formed from historical and societal norms of the time. While the 1970s was a time for progress as more women were increasingly joining the workforce, During this period, however, it was rare for women to work outside of the house as this was reflective of traditional gender norms. With that said, it may seem intuitive that in this narrative, the alleged Crocus monster was simply working men carrying sacs associated with their outdoor work field used to carry dry goods during work or travel. As described by my informant, the sacs that children believed to belong to the Crocus monster was large enough to fit a small child increasing the fear factor of children who were being told this story. This was told primarily by adults to their children in an attempt to discourage them from straying too far from home and to keep them obedient. This is representative of the challenges in the African American community that shaped the ways in which parents approached raising their children. African American parents were heavily influenced by social, economic, employment, and other factors that disadvantaged the community. For this reason, there was a stronger emphasis on discipline and authority when it came to raising children as the emphasis was on instilling “good behavior” in their children.  This is a prime example of Valk’s idea that legends can have a function of teleological orientation occurring when humans wander from their daily practices or routines into alien territory.

The woman in the window

Text (urban legend): 

“There was said to be a book called “The Woman in the Window” and if you opened it the woman in the window would alway be watching you in a window.”


A is my little sister who is 9 years old. She is in the fourth grade and loves to read. She recalls this story being shared around school by classmates of hers.”

Q: “Do you only need to open the book for this to happen?”

A: “No, if you open the book and read the pages out loud, then the woman will haunt you.”

Q: “Where did you hear about this book?”

A: “I heard it from one of my friends at school. We don’t know if the book is real or not (quietly)…”

Q: “What does the woman look like?”

A: “I have never seen her but my friend says she has long black hair and wears a white dress.”


The text is an urban legend as its truth value is unknown and it was shared between two people who both belief it to be true. The fact that the truth value is unknown likely plays a role in the nature of my informant. She heard it from another classmate in primary school and I find that children’s folklore is more likely to be based on fiction rather than actuality or fantasy versus reality. As the story was told and shared between two children, I also view this as a cautionary tale in a sense that the narrative cautions readers to be wary of what they read and a general warning against the unknown as my informant didn’t know if this book actually exists but she was fearful regardless as her voice tended to lower when speaking about the instance in which the woman in the window may appear. I also notice a connection or similarity between the woman in the window and the story of La Llorna such as the white dress, long black hair, and possible feelings of revenge fueling their actions. As described by Carbonell, a variation of the story of La Llorna involves her acting out of revenge on a lover that wronged her. In a male dominated society, I find this common that children’s horror folklore, specifically in young girls, is center around this notion of the volatility and frightening nature of women’s emotions. Ideas of male versus female distinctions in children’s folklore by Meechling also supports my ideas in interpreting this legend in terms of young girls where the stereotype is perpetuated that a female figure fueled by emotions is something of which to be afraid of.

Sleep paralysis

Text (memorate): 

“My grandmother used to say when I had sleep paralysis that meant that ‘the witches are riding you.’”


A is from Texas and comes from a spiritual, religious background. Her grandmother is very superstitious and she recalls this supernatual explaination her grandmother had on sleep paralysis.

My Informants grandmother would say that this means the “witches are riding you” (they are on top of you trying to steal your energy) and you need to start praying to get it so stop. When in the trance like states she describes it as really quiet as if everything in the room had gone silent. Her grandmother, born and raised in Louisiana was very spiritual and believed in both good and bad spirits.

A: “In High school, I would have numerous occasions where they would get into a deep sleep and couldn’t wake up. Sometimes they couldn’t open their eyes, and sometimes they could but they weren’t able to move or speak. After a period of time they would eventually jump up out of the bed. After I’d wake myself up my grandmother would say that this means the “witches are riding you.”

Q: “What does this mean exactly?”

A: “My grandmother said this meant that they are on top of you trying to steal your energy and you need to start praying to get it so stop. When I’m in these trance like states it is really quiet like everything in the room had gone silent.”


This text exemplifies a blend of a memorate and superstition as a seemingly natural phenomenon such as sleep paralysis is reasoned through the belief in supernatural existence such as witches. As described when “the witches are riding you” this really means the spirits are on top of you trying to drain your energy. This is a form of contagious magic where things that were once in contact can continue to act on one another as described by Frazer. The spirits of witches believed to be on top of my informant during her sleep paralysis were in contact with her and thus saying a prayer would be a valid form of contagious magic to protect oneself against the negative spiritual hold. My informants grandmother had a strong faith in spiritual belief and practices as they are from Louisiana where spiritual practices such as voodoo were common thus this is a common motif with Louisianan and African cultural influences. This is a practice is likely to have originated as a way to explain phenomena such as these before the emergence of modern medicine. This also can be classified as a superstition given it is a belief not based on scientific reasoning but rather myth and cultural tradition. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that just because something is not based on scientific evidence, that doesn’t undermine its truth value as scientific belief is not equivalent to truth.

Brer rabbit and tar baby

Text (folktale): 

“The story has three characters. The brer rabbit, brer fox, and tar baby. It tells the moral story of how resourcefulness can allow you to reach your goals.”


My informant heard this story growing up as a child in Louisiana. It is an African-American folktale related to and a variation of the “Tortoise and the Hare” tale.

A: “This is the story of a sly fox and clever rabbit. The sly fox makes a tar baby figure, lays it in the path of bre’r rabbit, and hides behind a nearby bush. When the rabbit comes walking down the trail it gets stuck to the tar and can’t get free. The bre’r fox walks from behind the bush to see the effect of the trap he set, taunt, and contemplate how he wanted to kill bre’r rabbit. Bre’r rabbit begs and pleads to brer fox to do anything but throw him in the nearby briar patch. Bre’r fox hears this and decides to do exactly that. What he doesn’t know is that rabbits are brought up in dense thickets so he is accustomed to it and shouts “I was bred in a briar patch”. Being thrown in the briar patch ultimately allows him to escape from bre’r fox who is shocked and can’t really believe what had just happened.”

Q: “What do the names bre’r and tar baby mean or come from?”

A: “Bre’r is used a lot in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) as another way to say brother or like acquaintance. In its original context, tar baby just represented a sticky situation that was harder to get out of the more you struggled but in other contexts it was interpreted as having negative racial connotations. In this story though, it refers to a black doll made of tar with a straw hat.”

Q: “Where did you hear this story?”

A: “Well these characters were part of James Harris’ “Uncle Remus” stories from the late 80s and my grandpa would read the stories to me and my siblings growing up. They would try to get across lessons like the the importance of community and resourcefulness, and the dangers of pride.”


This text is a folk tale or fable in my interpretation, specifically, a trickster tale. It is a variation of the commonly know fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” where the hare is over confident in his speed and takes a nap during the race meanwhile the tortoise takes its time moving steadily and wins the race. The rabbit and tar baby variation is more commonly heard in African American communities and is representative of the African American experience during times of slavery. The tar baby is a metaphor for the exploitation of African Americans by slave owners and the institution of slavery as a whole. It is a mild retelling for children of the “sticky situation” showing how it can be overcome through resourcefulness and intelligence. The brer rabbit symbolizes that ingenuity and resourcefulness of enslaved people as they used their creativity and astuteness to withstand and survive their oppressors. The fable is a form of trickster tales as the brer rabbit takes the role of the trickster as well as the fox. As Carroll describes, the trickster term is illustrative of a clever hero in a tale who uses their cunning ability and wits to achieve their end goal. The brer fox, the trickster “villain” of the variations of the brer rabbit and tar baby tale, is representative of a trickster who uses their sly nature to deceive others for their own personal gain often resulting in his own loss. In the variation from “The Tortoise and the Hare” tale, the moral of the story also adapts and is reflective of the cultural context from which it may have originated. As bre’r is a term stemming from AAVE, it implies a sense of African-American brotherhood making it clear the context and origin of the characters and story.

Crawfish Festival

Text (festival/traditional food)

“The Crawfish festival is a classic festival we’ve all been to growing up since it has carnival rides, games, and good food you can only really find in the south.”


My informant was born and raised in Texas and has been to the festival with family and friends numerous times since they were a child.

Q: “What is the crawfish festival?”

A: “The crawfish festival is a festival usually celebrated in southern states and includes carnival games, vendors, crawfish, and other southern comfort foods. It’s basically a celebration of southern culture and hospitality where people come together and appreciate community and popular southern delicacies.


The Crawfish Festival is popular in Louisiana, Texas, and other southern states for both locals and visitors to come together, enjoy, and commemorate southern culinary traditions not typically found in regions outside of the south. Crawfish isn’t the only traditional culinary form available at the festival, there also includes crawfish, étouffée, jambalaya, and more. These traditional foods are all part of Cajun and Creole cuisine. Crawfish are popular in Creole cuisine as they are abundantly found in the south, étouffée is a roux including crawfish and other seafood topped over rice, and jambalaya is another rice-based dish including sausage, chicken, and seafood typically served at large gatherings. People of all backgrounds and cultures travel to the south to participate in the Crawfish Festival as this is a way for cultural heritage and culinary lore to be spread and enjoyed across various communities. Seafood and dark meat products were major food sources for enslaved African Americans. This cuisine is a reflection of various influences and factors representative of a larger cultural identity in African American communities. Appadurai discusses the cultural significance of cultural cuisines in asserting cultural identity and representations of class hierarchies. These southern foods commonly eaten by enslaved African Americans, is an acknowledgment of African American resistance to slavery while embracing cultural customs predominately seen in the southern United States. This is representative of how culinary lore and recipes move where people don’t as they assert a cultural identity and exemplify resistance to the impacts of colonialism.