Author Archives: bhumbla

The Origin of the Lockhart Family Name.

Main Piece:

Informant: Um, so my last name is Lockhart, and despite being, I don’t know, maybe at best a quarter Scottish, it’s the part of my family that I know the most about just because… you know, having a name attached to you, makes it pretty easy. My grandfather, my Lockhart grandfather is really into genealogy. So he’s like traced all this shit and most of it actually comes from him so most of this is, like, from him. I have no idea how true any of it is.

So I think the Lockhart name… It’s a Scottish clan and each clan literally is like what you think the clan like there’s a little area and all the little Lockharts live there. So then here’s where the name comes from. So, it used to be like Loekard or like Locard. But then, etymologically, it actually got changed to “lock” and “heart,” like the two English words. Because it actually refers to a lock and the heart. Because, and this is the legend my grandfather told me. 

So King Robert the Bruce of Scotland went on the Crusades. Okay and I’m pretty sure he died on the Crusades. So Robert the Bruce goes on a big crusade, and he dies. And I think he gets – his heart gets carried back to Scotland, so that he can get buried.

Interviewer: Is that like a Scottish thing that you only need the heart? Like that’s the important thing to bury, the –

Informant: Um, I don’t think there’s anything particularly Scottish about that. I think he was just like, you know, your king’s dead. You want to take them home. 

So then they literally just put his heart in a little, metal cage and carried it back. And I literally think it started as a pun. Because there was like some Lockhart who was carrying the cage and the other soldiers must have been “Lochard? Lock … Heart? Lockhart! That’s you. That’s literally your name now.”

Interviewer: So, coincidentally the person who is carrying the heart in the cage had a name that sounded like –

Informant: He was the primordial Lockhart, he was. Yeah. So Lockhart is the English version. And that’s when the family’s name changed. I guess it’s kind of a hit. When you’re carrying the king’s heart. So that’s how the Lockhart name got started.

Background:

My informant is a friend of mine from high school who now goes to University of Chicago. He’s Scottish-Irish and his family on his dad’s side has been in America for hundreds of years. He knows this piece because his grandfather on his father’s side had told him. He doesn’t know where his grandfather got it from. He thinks of it as a very interesting story about how his name came about.

Context:

The informant is an old high school friend of mine. We’re both home due to online classes and we frequently call each other. During one of our calls over Zoom, I asked if he had any samples of folklore that I can collect and he shared a few.

Analysis:

The story is a very interesting one, and definitely rooted in history. A quick Google search reveals that Robert the Bruce lived in the 13th and 14th centuries, dying in 1329. He is revered in Scotland as a national hero as he won the First War of Scottish Independence against England (the war covered in Braveheart). 

Interestingly, Robert did not die on a Crusade. While he had vowed to go on a Crusade, he never actually did and he died of unknown, but nonviolent, causes. Even more interestingly, Robert asked that his heart be buried in Jerusalem and a company of knights (including Sir Simon Locard) set out to make it so. Perhaps this is where the idea of the story taking place on a Crusade came from. The company went to Spain and fought Granada. However, most of the knights were wiped out and a few, including Simon Locard, returned back to Scotland. 

To see another retelling of these events, read the novel The Talisman, written by Sir Walter Scott in 1825 and directly inspired by these events.

Scott, Walter. The Talisman. Harper & Bros. Publishers, 1902.

New Years Tradition: Run Around the Block

Main Body: 

Informant: My family doesn’t do this and I don’t think it’s a Nicaraguan thing to do. But some people, what they do is – is they put money in their shirt and they run around their block and the – like, their heartbeat, how many times your heart beats – that’s supposed to multiply the money. So you’re supposed to – you want to get your heart rate really high while you run around.

Interviewer: So then the amount of money in your shirt multiplied by the number of heartbeats you have while going around the block, that’s the amount of money you’re getting in the new year or in the first month of the new year or something?

Informant: No not exactly, I don’t think the exact math matters. And it doesn’t really matter how much money you have in your shirt. It’s more about the heartbeats, the more of those you have while you run around the block, the more money you’ll get in general in the new year.

Interviewer: So if you have a longer block where you live,  you can get more money.

Informant: *Laughs*  Yeah I guess so.

Interviewer: But, so you don’t do this.

Informant: No, I don’t – my family doesn’t do this but I’ve heard of other families doing this

Background:

My informant is a friend and a fellow student at USC. She was born and raised in Florida but her father comes from Nicaragua and her mother comes from the Appalachian region. This tradition is a New Years’ tradition that her family doesn’t participate in, but it’s one that she’s heard of that other friends of hers do participate in. I didn’t ask specifically which friends and where they’re from, but the implication was that they were also Latin American if not Nicaraguan. 

Context:

I had set up a Zoom call with my friend because she said she had some examples of folklore that she could share with me. This sample was shared during that call

Analysis:

Some quick research online yielded no results when trying to look up this tradition/superstition. I really like this one, I think it’s really interesting. I think you can think of putting the money inside the shirt on your chest as literally keeping money close to your heart, emphasizing its importance. Additionally I think the idea that the more your heartbeats the more money you get, is speaking to the ideal of hard work. The harder you run, the more your heart beats, the more money you get. Similarly, generally in life, a good lesson to impart is that the harder you work at something, the more you will be rewarded for it.

Flip over the Slipper

Main Body:

Informant: This is one superstition that I always follow, I’ve followed and lived by this my whole life. And it’s – when you see a slipper, and it’s upside-down, I always have to flip it right side up. Because, in my mind, that’s really bad luck, for it to be flipped over.

Interviewer: Why? Why is that bad luck?

Informant: Because … I heard from my grandmother, and my mother, that somebody will die or some – some bad luck will happen if you keep the slipper upside-down.

Interviewer: And this is just any slipper anywhere?

Informant: Any slipper in your house, in your house. But honestly, now I’m so conditioned that it could be anywhere, any time I see a slipper that’s flipped over I have to put it back right.

Background:

The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This sample of folklore is something that her mother and grandmother passed down to her. She doesn’t really know what to make of it, she just accepted it as fact and has been living by it her whole life.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.

Analysis:

Growing up in an Indian household (in America), I was never told this specific superstition but I can definitely see its influence in a lot of Indian beliefs. There is a lot of emphasis in Indian (or Hindu, I’m not sure) culture in things being the “right” way and the “right” way being cleaner than the “wrong” way.

For example, if you knock over a book on the bookshelf you have to straighten it up as you don’t want it to get scuffed or dust to collect in the “wrong” areas. If you eat you eat with the right hand as that’s considered the “correct” hand (back in the day the left hand was reserved for wiping oneself after going to the bathroom). With all this in mind I can see this superstition as an extension of those beliefs. If a slipper is flipped over, it’s dirtier side is exposed. We want to put it right side up again to maximize cleanliness.

Sweeping After A Guest

Main Body:

Informant: My grandmother never allowed us to sweep, like sweep the floor or clean the house in any way, until the person, the visitor, who left the house gets to their destination. So for example if someone is going to a different city and we know they’re going to get there by 2 o’clock, we are not allowed to sweep or clean until 2.

Interviewer: Would you check in with your departed guest to make sure or –

Informant: No, there were no phones back then so you’d just have to guess like “Oh they should be there by now. They must have reached the place. Now we can sweep.” It’s because – the thing is, when you have a dead body in the house, for example, someone died in your family, and when they take the body away for cremation, then you sweep the house after the body. So that’s why a person leaving, and you sweeping right after, that’s, in a way, implying that they’re dying or that they will die. It’s just bad luck that you don’t want to mess around with. 

Interviewer: Wait, so you said that after someone dies, you sweep the house after their body is cremated?

Informant: After their body leaves to be cremated. Think about it as a hygienic thing. There’s a body lying in the house for a certain number of hours and you have to get the body ready. And in the old days you couldn’t really preserve the body as well so they used to cremate pretty quickly so a dead body would be pretty unclean. So to sweep after a guest, you wouldn’t want to imply that they’re, you know, dead.

Background:

The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This tradition of folklore is something that practiced back in India but doesn’t really strictly follow as much in America. It’s just something that everyone in her family did so she regards at as one of many rules of life. 

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.

Analysis:

This makes sense to me because a surprising amount of Indian traditions have to do with the idea of cleanliness and purity. And there are a great deal of Indian superstitions that have to deal with treating people as you would treat a different class of people (whether that’s literal class or living people vs dead people, etc.). So this tradition seems to be a natural amalgamation of the two. Sweeping quickly after a body is done when it’s a dead body in question as the body degrades fairly quickly after death and you want to ensure your house is clean. So sweeping quickly after a guest invites bad luck on them or implies they are unclean, so you only want to do so once they have safely made it back to their home.

New Pinch

Main Body:

Informant: So let me tell you about “New Pinch.” All the children, like all of the children in India, when we grew up, any time you wear – wear new clothes, your friends or family or anybody will see you and they’ll, you know, they’ll say, “Oh new clothes!” Then they’ll pinch you and say “New Pinch!” And you’re supposed to say thank you, otherwise they’ll keep pinching. 

Interviewer: So saying thank you is the only way to get them to stop.

Informant: Yes. 

Interviewer: Is it one thank you for everyone pinching you or just one is good enough?

Informant: No, it has to be one specific thank you for each person. So yeah this is something that everyone I knew did as a kid. Even know, you know, I still do it all the time so I guess it’s imprinted. I don’t know maybe it’s because we always wore uniforms to school if someone had a new piece of clothing or whatever that we saw them in, it was much more of a big deal than it would be here. But I’m not sure, that’s just an idea.

Background: 

The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This tradition is something she’s done since being a child, something that’s part of her culture. As her own child, I have personally been the victim of it many times, often after receiving clothes from her.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.

Analysis: 

This reminds me a lot of birthday punches. Birthday punches, if you’re unfamiliar, are definitely an American custom but it could be done elsewhere as well. My experience with it definitely peaked in middle school and I feel like the boys did it much more than the girls. Essentially, if it was your birthday, you would get punched, usually on the arm, once for every year of age you had. Boys would often chase each other down and they would not hold back at all.

Similarly, “New Pinch” has that aspect of introducing pain when something good is happening to someone such as getting new clothes. It feels like a way for a person to remind the person who has the new clothes that they’re not so special, that other people still have to be acknowledged (in this case, with a thanks). Additionally it’s interesting that “New Pinch” is always said English, despite originating in India. It could be that the people who get new clothes semi-regularly are those with the money or status to be able to attend a good school that teaches good English. So it acts as a sort of class indicator.