Author Archives: Cecilia Sweet-Coll

White Lighter Superstition – Police

My informant is a college student, artist and avid pot smoker. He knows a lot of “stoner tricks” as he calls them, most of which he learned from friends in high school. These and other aspects of weed culture mean a lot to him because he sees pot as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity. Uniquely, as far as I have heard, he also uses it as a form of self-medication; he has ADHD and takes Ritalin, but says that it makes him feel mentally cloudy and slow, and that weed, for him, clears things up and makes him able to focus more easily. Thus, pot is an integral part of his daily life, both socially and personally.


He learned about the white lighter superstition from his freshman roommate, who was also an avid smoker.


This interview was conducted in the informant’s bedroom, with another friend of his who had a different version of the superstition.


“So the legend of the white lighter… One version I’ve heard is that it’s bad luck because normally the… ok, this is more of an omen… whatever man. So what happens is the uh, ganja smokers will tap the lighter down on the pipe to push down the ash, and that makes it like stay on the bottom of it so you use dark lighters to conceal that but like, a white lighter, sometimes the police will look at the bottom of it, and if they see ash stains then they know that you’re using it for illegal activities. Well, depending on where you are.”


This is one of two versions of the white lighter superstition I collected, and has more to do with the illegality of pot and the luck component to getting caught or not getting caught. He learned about it within the context of smoking in a college dorm, where he was more worried about getting caught with pot because the risk and consequence was higher, and I assume that’s why he remembered this superstition.

White Lighter Superstition – Musicians

My informant is a college sophomore, animator, and casual pot smoker. He sees weed as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity, and while he knows quite a bit of stoner folklore by just participating in the culture, he’s not very attached to it and it doesn’t mean much to him outside of a social context.

He learned about the white lighter superstition from a friend in high school, who relayed to him this take on it.

This interview was conducted in the informant’s friend’s bedroom, with another friend of his who had a different version of the superstition.

“So what’s your version of the white lighter bad luck thing?”
“Well you see, since I’m actually pretty sure that all… all, all lighters have a white bottom, um, it’s more of a bad luck thing because peoples… people that, that yeah—“ (Stephen interrupts) “Not all of them do, bro” “Well, BIC lighters… buncha musicians that were like ‘I like white lighters!’ died when they were like 20.” “So that’s why it’s bad luck?” “Yeah, cause you don’t wanna like, die when you’re 20.” “Ok, ok, so two musicians used white lighters and they died at the same age so therefore white lighters are bad.” “Yeah! Yeah.”

This is one of two versions of the white lighter superstition I collected that day, and has more to do with celebrity culture and bad luck concerning the phenomenon of famous musicians dying young. This lends a dark twist to the superstition but distances the consequence a bit from the bearer, as opposed to the other version, which has more to do with the luck component of being caught with marijuana.

Cherries and Cherry Queens

My informant is a college junior studying cognitive science and creative writing. He is a casual pot smoker.

He heard this piece of folklore while working on a ranch near his Texas hometown, from an older man who taught him and his fellow ranch hands all about weed culture. He likes it and it means a lot to him because it reminds him of the time in his life when he was a ranch hand and of the people he worked and lived with at the time. He says he hopes to bring the same vibe of that group of people to his friends and smoking pals now.

This interview was performed in the informant’s bedroom.

“What’s a cherry?”

“A cherry is, um, when you light the bowl and then you smoke it and then after you’re done smoking it it’s still like, lit, like there’s still like a red glow in the bowl, so it’s called a cherry and you can pass it and then you say ‘oh it’s cherried!’ and then they quickly but without lighting it continue to just smoke it, and then if they can continue to pass it around the circle and it gets all the way back to you and it’s still lit, then it’s like super cool and like a very rare feat, and then you’re officially the cherry queen. Oh and cherry queen is like an automatic pass, like if you’re cherry queen, and you get cherried, no matter when it stops, it comes back to you and you get to light it again. So like if it goes all the way around the circle and then like two people down it’ll come back to you and reset at you.”

These kinds of very specific stoner traditions and stoner language prove to me that this subculture is very developed and widespread, which counters the notion of stoners as lazy and generally not serious. Within stoner communities or microcommunities, these traditions and lingo are very important and tend to distinguish experienced smokers from newbies.

Donkey wordplay joke

My informant is my cousin, a 9 year old boy born and raised in Mexico City to a half-white, half-Mexican mother and a Mexican father. He has an impressive repertoire of jokes that he knows, and impresses and cracks up the family every time he tells them, usually over the traditional Mexican mid-afternoon meal, which is the heaviest meal of the day and is typically eaten with family or friends, the same way dinner is here. He is very popular in school, probably in part because of his sense of humor as well as his natural charm.

This joke was performed over “comida” as the mid-afternoon meal is called, during an hour-long family-wide exchange of jokes. He learned this joke at school.

“Como haces que un burro se haga burra? Lo metes en un cuarto oscuro para que se aburra.”

Transliteration: How do you make a [male] donkey into a [female] donkey? You put him in a dark room so that he gets bored.

The word for female donkey in Spanish is “burra,” while “se aburra” means “[he] gets bored”, so it’s a classic and funny example of wordplay common among children. In fact, most of his jokes are wordplay, which is classic among children, especially as they are gradually learning the nuances and double meanings of a language, and particularly interesting as he is semi-bilingual due to his mom teaching English to him in the home.

Mexican Boy Scouts song

My informant is my father, a 48 year old pediatric oncologist at Stanford University. He is bilingual, binational and bicultural, born to a white American father and a Mexican mother. He grew up in both countries but spent his formative adolescent years in Mexico City, where he joined the Mexican Boy Scouts or “los escouts” as he calls them. It was there that he learned this joke from a fellow Escout, who he is still good friends with today.

He performs this piece of folklore frequently, usually in the presence of children—before, when my sister and I were little, he would teach it to us when we were camping, and now, since we’re older, he usually does it around our younger cousins, especially around mealtimes.

Here is the song:

“Queremos comer!
Sangre coagulada
revuelta en ensalada
higado encebollado
de sapo reventado
y de postre!
Helado con caquita de venado!!”


We want to eat!

Coagulated blood

Mixed up in a salad

Onion-fried liver

of a scrambled frog

and for dessert!

Ice cream with little deer poops!

This little song has gone from being a piece of his adolescence to being passed on to our generation, so it means a lot to him as both a part of his past, and a reminder of old friendships, as well as a part of his family life now. He uses it to bond now with his younger relatives over the humorous idea of such a disgusting meal, and to reconnect, I think, with his inner child.