Author Archives: Shane Munson

Salt Over the Shoulder: Faeries or Demon?

Piece:

KE: “If salt spills, you pick up a little pinch of it and throw it over your left shoulder. It’s for the faeries because you don’t want to make them mad you spilled the salt so you are giving them some. But there’s another meaning I know where there’s a Demon behind you and you are throwing salt in his face.”

Context:

The informant grew up knowing the faerie version from her mother, since she was little. Someone else told her the demon version when they saw the informant throw salt over her shoulder in college.

Analysis:

This is a simple practice that takes on two wildly different meanings. The faerie version gives the person the chance to “share” the spilled salt, whereas the demon version requires the person protect themselves after making a mistake. It makes sense that a parent might tell their child the faerie version, if they were even aware of the two different versions. As the informant’s mother comes from a Wales and Irish lineage, I wonder if the faerie version stems from there, or pure chance as to which version the informant’s mother learned first. This practice goes back to the idea of the world needing to be in balance– so if salt spills, you need to correct it by using the salt for a purpose, either sharing with faeries or protecting against demons. In the faerie version, a child might be encouraged to spill salt in order to feed the faeries, whereas the demon version makes spilling salt a punishable offense.

Turn Over A Teacup For Lost Things

Piece:

JG: “For as long as I’ve been alive, whenever I’ve lost something and especially when that something was lost at my grandma’s house, my grandma would flip a teacup over. And it would always get found. It was your last resort. Sometimes that would be the end, sometimes I would keep searching. But I would always find the thing I was looking for.”

I: Would you stop looking after you turned the teacup over?

JG: Most of the time, yes.

I: Why a teacup?

JG: I don’t know! But that’s what she always used.

Context:

The informant learned this practice from his grandmother, although his mother also used the teacup to find lost things. The informant said he did not know why it was a teacup in particular that got turned over, but that it was always that type of cup. The practice has been in his family for as long as he can remember. He still does it now at his own place.

Analysis:

Turning over a teacup seems like a random gesture and a last resort, but in many ways it conveys a sense of magic/ belief in a higher power that somehow the turned over cup will result in the lost item being found. Flipping over the teacup represents the nature of lost items– something is not how it’s supposed to be, it is not in place. By putting the teacup out of place, the lost item can return to being in the place it is supposed to be, a sort of balancing of energy and things.

Urban Legend for Screenwriters

Piece:

DD: “This was happening in the 30s or the 40s. Jack Warner of Warner Brothers got annoyed that the writers on contract came in at 10,11, hanging around. He decided there would be a new rule: all the writers on contract would act like everyone else, clock in at 9 am and clock out at the end of the day. And this policy was enforced for a while. Time passes and Jack and an old pro screenwriter -I can’t remember his name, let’s call him Saul- with hits under his belt, go to a preview in Pasadena. After the preview the audience would fill out cards about what they thought. Warner and screenwriter are looking at cards. And the cards are terrible. Warner says “Saul, what happened?? Where did we go wrong??” And Saul with dead pan sincerity of the natural comic replied “I don’t know Jack. I clocked in every morning at 9 am.”

The policy was dropped.

Context:

The informant was told this story in college by a screenwriting professor. It was told in the context of talking about how writers work. The informant said the story resonated with him as he could never write on a dictated schedule.

Analysis:

As a Screenwriting major, this story makes me laugh and confirms part of my identity as a writer. The idea of clocking in and out seems very secondary to the much larger task of writing and creating worlds from nothing. It is a point of pride with many employed writers that they do not have a “typical” job and the old pro screenwriter’s response to it proves a point. Of course, a screenwriter who wasn’t a pro might not be able to give such a witty response to a superior, but having the legend of this screenwriter provides a source of comfort and humor for screenwriters who perhaps have not ‘made it’ yet. To me, this story is an urban legend for screenwriters and artists.

The Leprechaun Place

Piece:

JK: There was this game we would play in elementary school. It’s really weird I think we made it up. We had a leprechaun place.

I: No way! So did we!

JK: Oh! Ours was… It was a tree that had a sort of a knotted indent in the base of it, in the playground for 1st-4th graders. And kids would make dresses out of flowers or furniture out of plants or the little pizza tables to put in it. Some girls would bring in barbie furniture but that was known as cheating. When the stuff moved around the next day, it would be like “Oh the leprechaun came!” When stuff went missing we would be like “Oh he liked that.” It evolved that the leprechaun had a wife, because kids wanted to make cute mini dresses and stuff. And then the teachers got mad at us for playing the game and shut it down.

Context:

The informant went to a private elementary school in Corona Del Mar, and this would have happened between 2003-2008. Many kids played the game, and it involved creativity, which the informant made a point of sharing with me. The game was played during recess and lunch and involved children from multiple grades.

Analysis:

This game speaks to the imaginations of children. I also had a similar experience of a ‘leprechaun place’ in elementary school, as mentioned above, although I do not remember it in as much detail. However, the magic of the leprechaun place seems to be the idea of another world with other beings that are smaller than you—similar to how children must feel around adults. This game gives children the opportunity to play caretaker in a sense, such as making clothes or tables for the leprechauns. The idea that Barbie furniture was cheating the game is poignant—the children realized things they made meant more than things manufactured for them. Such a distinction implies that children are proud of their work and eager to earn recognition for it, as shown through the fact that the children would see if the leprechaun took or simply moved their left item.

French Wedding- Umbrella Tradition

Piece:

BM: “One of the wedding traditions still in play in the Brittany region and in the Loire region is the tradition of the umbrella.  And it is not because these regions are also famous for frequent rain. Referred to as the ‘dance of the umbrella’ this is a beautiful tradition which takes place during the evening of the wedding banquet.  It is also called the Umbrella of Happiness.  When the newlyweds open the wedding ball, the couple must dance a slow dance under a large white umbrella while the wedding guests throw streamers at them.   The streamers which stay attached to the umbrella represent each year of happiness awaiting the young couple.”

Context:

The informant is a 64 year old woman from France who married an American, although she still often resides in France. She has been to multiple weddings with this tradition being practiced.

Analysis:

This practice is very symbolic. The umbrella being white is an important element that implies a brighter future, versus the more somber quality a typical black umbrella would provide. Dancing under the umbrella perhaps is representative of standing together “rain or shine” in marriage, and the streamers being thrown remind me of rice being thrown as couples exit a chapel. An element of luck is involved with how many streamers attach to the umbrella– in essence, this stands for how there are elements of life the couple cannot control, no matter how dedicated they are to each other.