Author Archives: Elan Bialobos

White Lighters: A Smoker’s Superstition

E: So you won’t use a white lighter?

J: Never, it’s horrible luck. I won’t use one, keep one on my person, or be in the room when someone uses one.

E: Why do you say so?

J: All of the members of the “27 Club” were found to have white lighters on or around them at the time of their death.

E: Could you tell me what this club is and who its members are?

J: The “27 Club” is the name associated with young  legendary musicians who all died at the age of 27. The likes of which include: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Fredo Santana.

E: Have you ever experienced any sort of change in luck with a white lighter?

J: Personally I had glassware break the same week that I used one. It’s an unfortunate coincidence but not one I want to take a chance at again.

E: When did you first hear about white lighters being bad luck?

J: It actually wasn’t till well into high school when a friend told me a story about them and a white lighter that I found out it was a cursed object.

E: What happened in their case?

J: This is one of a few stories that I’ve heard from people and misfortunes with the lighter but this story starts at the beach. Two of my friends went to the beach one day and while they were enjoying their fun in the sun one of them found a white lighter. Thinking “oh cool free lighter!” they went back to my buddy’s house and used it. Later that same night a person was murdered on the beach.

Analysis:

After doing some research I found out none of the members of the 27 club died with white lighters on them and it’s really just a common misconception. For many deaths the iconic white Bic lighter had not even been invented yet. Although I am a very superstitious individual and when I hear a new superstition they stick. I find it interesting that feeding the belief has both proved some strange coincidences as well as created an association with musical legends. This is likely due to a high frequency of addictions in musical history.

4/20 An Informal Holiday

This is the transcribed conversation I had with a friend from Marin County, a county extremely close to San Rafael. This friend also happens to observe this Holiday and I inquired into its origins.

E: How did this unconventional holiday come to be?

J: In the early 70’s at San Rafael high school a group of friends who called themselves “The Waldos” began this tradition. One day one of the teenage boys got word from his brother’s friend that someone had planted a massive field of marijuana plants. Fortunate for the Waldos the field was apparently abandoned, so they decided to try and harvest.

Everyday, at 4:20 p.m., after their sports practices had ended the boys would go search for the bud. Unfortunately they never found the treasured field but it eventually became a tradition that everyday at that same time they would congregate and partake in a group smoking session. Eventually the tradition caught on with other students. It became part of of everyday vernacular. Because the Grateful Dead originate from an area not too far from the origins of 4/20 apparently some of the Waldos were friends with members of the group. Eventually the group further popularized the tradition and terminology, thus this day came to be.

E: When and how did you first hear this story?

J: I was fairly late into middle school or early into high school when an older friend of mine told me about it.

E: There are a lot of other theories as to its origins why are you so certain it stems from the Bay Area?

J: To begin it’s actually a common misconception that Bob Marley’s birthday is 4/20, it’s actually in February. Also, yes it does happen to be Hitler’s birthday but that’s no cause for celebration. The Waldos have the earliest recorded evidence of the use of the phrase and ideas about the tradition.

E: What does this day mean to you?

J: Honestly it’s more than weed. It’s about getting to spend time with people that you enjoy, and if people that you don’t enjoy are present then you can bond over weed. There’s a whole culture that came from that one group of friends in high school, I think that’s pretty special.

Analysis: 

I found the alleged origin story of this modern holiday that came to be really interesting. Humble roots to say the least. I think it’s also amazing to see the pride people from the Bay Area have for being the site of its creation. The hometown pride and the sense of camaraderie showed me that the day means a lot more to people than it seems.

Greek Coin Cake

The Folklore:

E: You told me about a Greek New Year’s Day food tradition, could you tell me more about that?

H: Every year on New Year’s Day, my family eats a unique cake known as the Vasilopita, baked with a gold coin in the center. Its a tradition that has been passed down for generations, supposedly having been started with St. Basil centuries ago. He was said to have baked cakes for the poor on a holiday and snuck gold coins to them to help them out as well. Today, the whole household gets together to cut the cake, each slice for a different person. The first three are for the father, son and the holy spirit, the next is for the house, and the next is either the oldest member of the household or the head of the household, and then going down from there. Whoever gets the coin is supposed to be given good luck for the entire year.

E: Where did you learn this?

H: I’ve been doing it my whole life, but I always associate the tradition with my grandmother, because she is usually the one making the cake.

E: Why do you remember it?

H: It’s memorable because its always the first thing we do on the New Year. No matter if I’m at a party or out with friends or anything like that, my first move after that’s over is always to go home and cut the vasilopita with the family

E: What do you like about the tradition?

H: I think the tradition is about staying humble and remembering how lucky we all are. It’s also about hope and optimism with a whole new year just beginning. It sets the tone for the year and refocuses me on what’s ahead.

Context:

My informant is a first generation American his family being from Greece. He’s always been very lively when speaking about his heritage. He was elated when he heard I had to interview people about folklore. This was our transcribed conversation.

Analysis:

This is extremely similar to La Fève which is essentially the same concept but in France. I was so happy to see something from my culture have so many parallels with another culture. The only difference is in France instead of a gold coin it’s a figurine. Nonetheless, I believe it serves as a good reminder to be charitable and to come together with your family.

Budda Baba: Pakistani Boogie Man

This is the transcribed conversation I had with a friend of mine from Pakistan about what is essentially the Pakistani Bogeyman.

About:

E: What can you tell me about the Old Man?

A:  Throughout my childhood I would be frightened by the “Budda Baba”, which translates to “old man” in English. This was an icon in the childhoods of many Pakistani children as their parents would use him as a scare. An example from my life that happened the most was that my mother would say that this “Budda Baba” would come if I didn’t go to bed. I would immediately go to bed and hide under my blanket, trying to hide from this fictional man, and by doing so I would eventually go to sleep.

E: Was there any narrative or tale associated with Budda Baba?

A: None that I know of.

E: Did any of your friends experience similar of instances of being told Budda Baba would appear?

A: Many of them, but most instances were when they were misbehaving.

E: Around what age did you first hear about this and until what age did you believe it?

A: My parents first told me about Budda Baba, in the prior example, when I was around 7 years old. I believe it till around 12 when I figured out what my parents were doing.

E: Is it as relevant today?

A: Yes, my younger sister is ten years old and my parents and extended family still pull the Budda Baba on her.

E: What value does this still hold for you, if any?

A: I was never a very disobedient child but it did overtime reinforce the idea of parental authority. Although it is a pretty good way to get your kid to listen to you.

Reflection/Analysis:

I found the concept of the Budda Baba intriguing. For one the threat of the old man is rather vague, the only information is that he would appear and is visually menacing. I feel as though one of the factors contributing to this fear is how ambiguous it is and the possibility of how morbid it could be. This reminds me of Scandinavian folkloric tales of monsters who would kidnap, torture, or kill misbehaving children, though those stories have more grim endings. I also believe the translation of the monsters name should be noted. Since it’s an old man rather than some horrific beast, I think it reflects a sense of respect for elders and double as a parallel of a patriarchal society.