“Whenever I’m sick, I usually just have a couple teaspoons of coconut oil each day and feel much better afterward.”
The informant, despite spending most of her time in Boston, grew up on the small island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her dad still works there as a lawyer and she usually visits every Christmas and Spring Break when she’s out of class. After getting sick a few short weeks ago, she advised that I take some teaspoons of coconut oil to help knock the cold out. She explained that is has high levels of lauric acid which supposedly eliminate the coating of some viruses which makes them easier to be attacked by the immune system.
I asked her what made her think of something this random but she explained that it’s what people did when they got sick in St. Croix. Coconut farming is a huge part of life on the island and she also remarked that other parts of the coconut have many helpful healing qualities. I liked hearing about this remedy due to the fact that I think too many Americans are over dependent on antibiotics and unnatural substances to cure simple maladies. Something such as coconut oil is very natural and low cost and it was cool to hear that something so simple and unadvertised could help fix a common cold.
“When I was younger I would dress up in a white dress and a crown with candles in celebration of Saint Lucia at my school. I would give out candy and sing to my friends and classmates because that was the tradition back in Sweden. This ritual is usually done at around Christmas time and usually done as a family. My grandma first taught me about Santa Lucia and bought me my white dress at 7 and I partook in the ritual of handing out candy until I was 12.”
Both of the informants parents, though American born, are very Swedish with native born Swedish parents. My friend grew up just outside of Oklahoma City and she recalls her grandma always wanting to teach her about Swedish culture when she visited from Stockholm. Her grandma really emphasized the event, which I understand due to the fact that it often coincides with the winter solstice. I’ve learned from class that Scandinavians and other northern peoples in Ireland and Scotland all celebrate such events due to the fact that these yearly events greatly influence their lives due to the short appearance of the sun.
The informant later explained to me that though girls usually partook in the traditional ritual of dressing up and handing out goodies that men would sometimes hand out treats as well. Her grandma carefully explained to her that following the ritual each year would help one survive the long winter days without enough light. For my friend, she was always self-conscious about partaking in the ritual because she was always the only one to dress up in school. She recalls her parents forcing her the first couple years to celebrate it because they said it was part of their heritage. She is now happy that they did so because now feels closer to her Swedish relatives and it gives them something to talk about.
I learned about this ritual from the informant after asking her if she ever partook in events when she visited her Swedish relatives over spring break. It was enjoyable to hear more about her Swedish family and their traditions because my family, due to how many generations they’ve lived in America, doesn’t have such European rituals.
“After hearing our friends at our Girl Scout Troop talk about the Ouija Board, your Aunt Mary and I decided to ask grandma to get us one at Christmas. Nothing happened the first time we played with it and we thought it was full of shit. It was supposed to float and guide our hands to answer questions that we asked the board. The second time we played it, it seemed to move a bit faster but I always assumed Mary was screwing with it. However, the movement perked out interest and the more time we spent with the game, the more responsive the guide became. Mary and I swore to each other that we hadn’t moved it and it went from answering yes or no questions to spelling out vulgar words and messages. Still gives me goosebumps thinking about it because we were young and didn’t know much of what this stuff meant until we asked grandma what it meant. We got freaked out and never touched it again.”
My mom grew up with two sisters, all of whom are normal and sane people. I remember my mom and aunt talking about their memories with the Ouija Board when I was little and was always freaked out about it but wanted to know more when I was presented with this folklore collection project. I could tell my mom was uneasy talking about it and didn’t want to delve into too many details. She was only around 8 when she played with it after hearing about it from friends at her Girl Scout Troop and its obvious the game scared her greatly. Talking to her further about the game, she admitted that she feels it is somehow possessed and something that could, simply put, connect you with spirits you want nothing to do with.
I’m conflicted when hearing my mom’s story. My education in high school and even more so at USC has taught me to be rather cynical when hearing unexplainable stories or entirely dismiss them, but my mom and aunt have always been believable people. They would not after all these years lie to each other about intentionally guiding the piece toward certain parts of the board which prompts me to believe that something else could have been doing so. Though I don’t consider myself highly spiritual, its a game I have never messed with based off my mom’s experiences and I have no desire to play it in the near future.
“Every semester, the pledges always have the job of making sure a sticker with our fraternity’s letters are stuck onto the side of the Finger Fountain. It’s almost a game, and if actives see the stickers they’re supposed to take them off the fountain, and then a pledge is supposed to immediately replace it. If no stickers are found on the fountain then the pledges get in trouble.”
When talking with my friend about whether his fraternity hazes or not, the informant told me about this tradition first, which I found rather humorous. Helearned about it in his pledge semester and older brothers in the house say that it’s been done since the finger fountain was first built. The informant didn’t really understand the purpose of constantly applying stickers but I came to the conclusion that it’s a way of the house making its mark on the school and identifying with it. Furthermore, it could be seen as a way of having the pledge make his mark on the fraternity. It’s a task meant to test those who are dedicated and really want to join, as those who don’t replace the stickers display a less serious and caring attitude about pledging the fraternity chapter.
“Senior Pilgrimage is a tradition at my high school. We would walk from our high school for 14 miles down to Mission San Juan Capistrano and even though the walk was long, it was fun to miss a day of class and have all my friends there with me. It was a highly encouraged event to go to, but students had to meet certain prerequisite requirements like turning in all books to the library, paying library fines, finishing detentions, and stuff to go. And if you didn’t want to go, you would have to have a form signed. They would give us out shirts that said “Senior Pilgrimage” and the year then have us start the walk to the mission at 8:00am on the last day of classes for the school.
The informant is a friend of mine from elementary school, though in high school we went to different schools. I ended up going to Tesoro High School while she went to Santa Margarita. She told me that the school liked having everyone participate in traditions such as the one above because it helped bring the students together and gave them a stronger sense of community. She told me more about this tradition when she was at my house last week and we were recalling things we had to do in high school. She enjoyed participating in the event besides having her feet hurt, and felt that she grew with many of the people she talked to along the journey to the mission. She feels it served as a capstone marking the end of her high school journey.
My friend recalls the school engaging in this tradition since its opening in 1987. Since then, every faculty member has ensured that the walk has happened in the same fashion each year, with everyone receiving the shirts marking the year of the pilgrimage. I wish that I too had something like this at my high school. Though strenuous, it would have helped round out my high school experience and mark my transition from high school to college.