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May you find Peace, The Eagle in the sky

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Other language(s):  Italian, a bit of Hebrew
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Performance Date: 3-15-18


What it is: May you find Peace, Traditional Native American Burial Ceremony

The performance I witnessed was a traditional Native American Funeral Ceremony.

A few weeks after the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara, California and the subsequent mud slide and after every missing person (except Jack Canton) was found, Jack’s best friend Cozmali and his family conducted a beautiful traditional Native American ceremony. The ceremony consisted of music and prayers. This ceremony is highly sacred and private and was not able to be video taped. Altogether (with testimonials included) the ceremony was approximately an hour and a half.

We were explained that the ceremony is about helping Jack find peace on his new journey as well as letting him know he is all on our thoughts. The ceremony however was a bit unusual as we did not have Jack’s body present; thus, certain aspects were left out or adapted to our situation. These objects were also involved: drums, feathers, ash, talking stick, and blankets. The Drums were used during the vocal portion of the ceremony (i.e. chants and songs). The feathers, of an Eagle, were used as a visual representation of Jack’s new journey. The ash was passed around, individuals would pinch some ash and then travelled to the water to “set Jack free”. This aspect was normal done with a mixture of a fires ash and a small bit of Jack’s possessions (or ashes), but since we have not found his body we used ashes from a fire. The talking stick was used so that we could all share stories and memories. Lastly, the blankets were wrapped around Jack’s mother and grandparents to represent the community they had supporting them. At the conclusion an Eagle flew over head, circling us, and we all broke out crying because we knew Jack was going to be ok.

Why they know it:  I personally witnessed the ceremony

When is it said: This specific ceremony is conducted after a death

Where did it come from: The Chumash

Why it’s said: To give the ones we lost peace and to help aid them on their journey

How they know it and what it means: Cozmali has been raised in this culture that dates back centuries and has been taught this process by witnessing it first hand and by his elders. He is not ready to lead the ceremony on his own; however, is very close to being able to do so. This is a cultural tradition that changes with the passing of time; all-the-while remaining very much the same.

Thoughts: Personally, witnessing this ceremony greatly lessoned the pain I was feeling about Jack’s loss. He was a friend of my brother and a positive member of my community. He created philanthropy groups and was an Eagle Scout. Because he was missing, I kept thinking he’d show up alive but after the ceremony, I believe it provided me with the closer I needed to move on and help spread his greatness. The ceremony was beautiful, all-the-while, deeply educationally. This tribe is a part of my home, native to Santa Barbara area; thus, provided me with cultural knowledge of my hometown. This was also a sign that Jack is still with us, as he was a huge advocate for knowledge.

A New Year’s Salad

Nationality: Russian/Ukrainian
Primary Language: Russian
Other language(s):  English
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Performance Date: 4-1-18



What it is: Traditional Salad

“On new year’s eve, Russians traditionally put this salad on the table including potato, bologna or meat, egg, pickles, cucumber, boiled carrot, onion, mayonnaise (Russian) (sour cream can be replaced), canned peas, and salt. Always has to be there for New Year’s Eve, especially when hosting a New Year’s Eve party. I have been told this and it is a common belief among Russins: It is said that if you get drunk enough on New Year’s Eve one person (usually a man) will get drunk enough and pass out in the salad and its good luck for that person and everyone for a year.”

Why they know it:  She is Russian/Ukrainian and has eaten this dish many times.

When is it eaten: New Year’s Eve

Where did it come from: Russia/Ukraine

Why its eaten: This is a traditional dish and is often thought to give good luck to the person (and people at the party) if someone gets drunk enough and passes out in the salad.

How they know it and what it means: Valery has eaten the dish every New Year’s Eve and has seen her grandmother make it many times. Not only is it a traditional Russian/Ukrainian dish but this dish has also become part of her family’s traditions.

Thoughts: Through my investigations I have found that there is always a traditional dish, perhaps not a salad, but un every culture and every family. While I cannot relate to this specific dish, nor do I know what it tasks like, I can relate to the experience, the feelings you get when you make the dish and eat it with the ones you care about. This tradition definitely seems like fun, what’s better than good luck for everyone?

Mushroom Circles

Nationality: Russian/Ukrainian
Primary Language: Russian
Other language(s):  English
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Performance Date: 4-1-18


What it is: Fairy Circles

“I heard a story about fairy circles that since from a scientific perspective, the mushrooms grow in a circle because there used to be tree roots there. Since the tree is no longer there, that makes it a tree grave. Since humans are not part of nature, but fairies and spirits are, they are allowed into the gravesite and we are not. If humans go into the circle, the fairies get mad at the humans for interrupting their funeral ceremony and steal the people.”

Why they know it:  This was something that was once told to Valery that she has held on to ever since.

When is it said: This is not something that is told at a specific time or for a specific reason other than to help explain where ‘fairies’ have come from. This concept is something a lot of people believe in, in many different areas, she herself believes in fairies. The myth above is told in several different settings: normal conversation, after a class, during a movie (about fairies), etc.

Where did it come from: She is not entirely sure where this came from. This example has been told to many people. She heard it from a friend, who had heard it from a friend, who had heard it from their grandmother, and so on. So this has been passed around for years and across so many people.

Why it’s said: It’s said for context. There isn’t a specific reasoning behind it. It can also be used as a warning to be cautious around fairy circles.

How they know it and what it means: Valery knows the meaning from her friend but also from others who have told her similar to or the same thing. This, however, is not something she can say she knows with one-hundred percent certainty as she has not seen the fairies that live, party, exist in fairy circles.

Thoughts: Growing up I used to see these ‘fairy circles’ all over our backyard. I was always told to be careful around mushrooms so I never went to close; however, I never knew the background, to what I always thought was just mother nature. Now knowing this I can say that I too believe in these fairies and the graveyards of tree that were once there. I have always been interested in stories, myths, legends of things that are somewhat magical because I always believe the magic is what made it so beautiful. While I am not a fan of mushrooms, I can appreciate this story and have looked at grassy lands differently… seeking for the fairies.

Intricate Eggs

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other language(s):  n/a

Age: 81

Occupation: n/a

Residence: California

Performance Date: 3-15-18



What it is: Painted Eggs

“My best friend, your mother’s Aunt Helene Balaban, perserved the Ukrainian tradition of painted eggshells. She explained it as: you would take the egg and use a tiny straight pin to put a hole on each side of the egg. Once the eggs have been pinned you gently blow the egg yolk out (through the hole) so that all was left was the shell, this makes sure that the egg would not rot. This step has to be done very very carefully so that the egg shell does not break. The outside is then painted in traditional Ukrainian colors and patterns. These are then presented as gifts (house warming gift, holiday gifts, birthday gifts, even the smallest events could be used to give out these beautiful objects). This is a very intricate process, because it was so easy to crake the shell but a very fun one all the same. After the eggs are painted, they are then varnished.”

Why they know it:  Valerie was give an egg by her best friend and asked about the background to them.

When is it done: These are done for any event. Traditionally, they are a holiday gift and given to friends, family, and neighbors.

Where did it come from: Ukraine

Why it’s done: Since the process is so intricate and time consuming, these eggs are done to represent the love the painter has for the recipient. While these are given at events like a house warming party (or even just as a gift), the recipient would know how much they are cared for because they can see how much time and effort went in to making these objects.

How they know it and what it means: Helene Balaban knows of this tradition from her mother, who knows of it from her mother, and so on. This has been passed down through generations. Valerie knows of this tradition because she received the beautifully painted egg and is very close with Helene who told her of the tradition.

Thoughts: I really wish that I have seen one of these eggs. While I have not met Helene Balaban, she is part of my family and thus I share her culture like she shares mine. Knowing that this is something that meant a great deal to her and subsequently my Grandmother makes me value this tradition, even though I haven’t witnessed it. I know hope to continue this tradition and not only show my love for my friends and family, but for my Great Aunt as well by continuing her traditions.

Beware the Golden Handcuffs

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Other language(s): French
Age: 52
Occupation: n/a
Residence: California
Performance Date: 4-18-18



What it is: “Beware the Golden Handcuffs”

Why they know it:  This was a saying that was thrown around her law office

When is it said:. Reference when warning someone. The proverb is said when someone gets greedy, is asking for to much, or gets that ‘sparkle in their eye’ around things of high monetary value or spiritual/emotional value.

Where did it come from: She is unaware of where it comes from but has used and heard it for decades.

Why it’s said:. “Golden handcuffs refers to something that starts off super super great but slowly starts to control your movements because the great part is too financially or emotional hard to give up. For instances, Brianna joined an organization that really benefits her life style as a working mother giving her a ton of flexibility with her hours. Over the years she might have wanted to change jobs in order to be more intellectually challenged but she couldn’t give up the flexible hours. For me, the salary at White & Case [her law office] was so huge that even though I really thought about working for the courts or becoming a professor, I couldn’t give up the money.”

Thoughts: The proverb above has really impacted me but not only in the way its explained. I can also see this being applicable to the things that cause the “sparkle” in your eye. As warning against greed and that nothing comes for free or without consequences.