Author Archives: Baldur Tangvald

Sleeping on Stomach

Sleeping on stomach vs. on back



My informant notified me that, according to his parents, sleeping face-down is bad.  His parents told him that sleeping face-up would prevent his soul from escaping his body while sleeping.


Both of my informant’s parents are Muslim, and he believes that is where the superstition comes from, but cannot recall where his parents learned it. He says they have told him that as a child, so he only sleeps on his back out of habit—not out of fear. He does not believe in the superstition at all, and only thinks of it when thinking of superstitions. When asked why the back is considered safer, he replied “I’m not sure. I think they believe souls escape out of the mouth, so I’m surprised sleeping face up would protect you.”


The orientation of the body may be related the position of Heaven in Islam: if the soul does manage to escape out of the mouth, it would go in the direction of heaven. Perhaps the fear is that the soul could be accessed from below, in which case devils would have a better chance of stealing the soul.


This superstition could also be founded in medical reasoning: sleeping face up protects the natural curvature of the spine. Also, this could assuage parent’s fears of accidental self-smothering, an attempt to prevent children from dying in their sleep.

Loose Goose

Loose Goose


Practical Joke/Senior Prank


When discussing pranks by high school Seniors, my informant shared one his friend conducted. The following is a transcript of our interview:


Informant: “ It was the closest thing to a decent Senior prank that came out of our school. One time my best friend’s older brother captures a goose when he was a Senior, and there was down by the river, I live close to the Willamette River, and there’s this beach park thing where these giant geese hang out, and they’re fucking mean. You try to feed them but they are really pushy so they’ll attack you unprovoked, I swear to god they want to kill you, so this guy goes down there and captures a goose, I think he lured it into the parking lot over like two hours with a bunch of bread, so in the parking lot they do kung fu stuff and put it in their care and I’m pretty sure it was dangerous and probably a little illegal, so they put it under a blanket and brought it into the school and released it into the cafeteria. No one to this day knows who was responsible for releasing the goose.  It was super angry and ran around and shit all over the place because it couldn’t get out. The custodian had to come out and capture it – it was pretty spectacular I hear. “


My informant said that, although he did not partake in conducting any practical jokes as a high school Senior, a large pastime for his group of friends was dreaming up pranks to pull on the school.


Capturing an animal to desecrating the school, this prank is an act of rebellion against the school. Empowering the student, this demonstrates the administrative body’s inability to control the student population, and serves as vengeance for the house of work demanded of students. Also, this makes a mockery of an otherwise serious space, defacing the school on a less physical level.




Senior Prank/Practical Joke/Story


During a conversation about Senior pranks in high school, my informant recounted a Senior prank he heard happened at a neighboring school. The following is a transcript of our interview:


“Informant: There were two highschools, lakeridge was across the lake and we were rivals with them, but I had heard for Their Senior prank they got a thousand crickets and released them into the ventilation system and for the next month there were still cleaning up piles of crickets. Apparently it was horrible. Teachers were getting really pissed because they would chirp away in the back of the Class room, so during awkward lectures and speeches there would be crickets going in the back.”


My informant said that Senior pranks were often a topic of conversation in school.  Though he did not do any pranks, he said that he and his friends would often talk about them, trading stories they had heard from other schools.


This is an act of rebellion, using animals to desecrate the school.  This empowers the students, who are subjected to the authority of administrative bodies. Breaking down the seriousness of the school setting, the crickets chirp in the back of Classes. Often associated with awkward silence or the silence of an unentertained crowd, cricket chirping disrupts the Classroom and criticizes teachers by comparing them to boring things.  The act of a prank of a school illustrates the students’ empowerment through disobeying rules established by the administration and express students’ annoyance.

Falling Down Stairs

Falling Down Stairs

Type: Tradition/Practical Joke


The following is a transcript of our interview, during which my informant described an unofficial tradition in his school:

“This guy named… I forgot his name but his legacy lives on. When I was in 8th grade he was a Junior, when this thing called may fate this big thing our school does when each Class makes a skit for fun, it’s a big assembly we go to its like 4 hours long. In the middle of it there  is a ball and there is a dance with princes and princesses and there is a ball dance where all the people voted dance with their date, and they’ve been doing it since the friggin 20’s and its all slow and quiet and the lights are off, and this guy goes down bleachers stairs and on his way down he each so much spectacular shit and it was hilarious, and if you didn’t see it you heard it because it was hilarious, and you knew it was too perfect that it had to be planned, so he got up and acted dazed and ran out . the vice principle walked out to see if hew as okay. Same year, the kid does the same thing again, the VP is pissed. Year after that, he’s graduated so my friend named Aaron took up the torch of falling down the stairs in a spectacular fashion during the ball. This time the vice principle,was pretty damn mad so he sprinted out after aaron.


We didn’t think it was going to happen in Senior year, and at the end of the dance, lo’ and behold, two people opposite sides of the gym at the same time fall like halfway down the stairs, it was incredible like a stunt team somersaulting down the stairs, the look on the VP’s face looked like he was going to have a goddamn stroke. That happened my Senior year and I assume it continued.



My informant said he looked forward to this every year; he claimed, “it was the funniest thing I remember happening.” He explained he liked seeing the Vice Principal so mad because he was a very strict member of the administration.


The rebelliousness of this event is crucial: by falling down clumsily in a setting predicated on grace, the prankster destroys the ambiance of the school’s traditional ball, willingly disregarding the authority that disempowers students—the administrative body. Thus, the prank is an act of empowerment, a way for the students to make the moment “theirs.”


Ubmyit: Drinking tradition


My informant invited me to join in a tradition. The following is transcript of our interview:


“ Informant: I just bought a new car right? So to commemorate the day, we do this thing called “ubmyit” which literally translates “to wash” but basically entails us taking a shot of vodka to commemorate the day. Now before you think my family are alcoholics, most Russian families do this whenever something of significance happens which is positive. When I graduate from SC we will likely do the same, as we did after high school.


My informant liked celebrating this way, following the tradition he learned from his parents. His parents, from Ukraine, claimed that it was common for families in eastern Europe. My informant loved it: “It’s not forced or anything but it is a fun tradition indeed. It’s like you drink to the good fortune you have had in your life type of shit”


As a tradition, this is a means of gathering people and having a good time, no matter how small the reason. This acts as a signifier for events in life, a way to codify and commemorate positive experiences.