Author Archives: Paul Lazzari

The Science Bunny


A: I mean if you’re looking for a real piece of folklore, I have a science bunny. You remember the science bunny.

ME: science bunny?

A: the science bunny goes in the pocket of lab coat

ME: ohhh!! (I remembered the science bunny at this point) 

A: every time I have a biology lab or any time that I’m in my lab coat really. Which is a lot. I was in it like uhh probably eight hours a week this semester.

ME: where did you get this bunny?

A: it was a gift for Chinese New Year that was sent from my aunt who’s not my aunt. So she sent me a little–

ME: like a family-friend aunt?

A: a family-friend aunt. 

ME: I have those too

A: and then they had like, the ears had like lanterns and some stuff on them. So but then it was so tiny that I could stick it in my pocket. And then whenever we had exams, my friend and I (who is in biology and chemistry) wed take out the bunny– Cause usually we’d be sitting around each other in the exam room– the bunny, all the knowledge all the science knowledge it’d absorbed by sitting in my pocket, it was going to give back to us. So, that is my little superstition. I’m also convinced that somebody lives in my basement at home, secretly. But that’s not a superstition

ME: well that’s a legend, for another story

A: that’s a legend

ME: interesting, you’ll have to tell me more about the basement guy later. Uhh, the bunny… why do you think you do the bunny? Does it help?

A: I don’t know if it helps, but I think it’s fun to have traditions because it became kind of a little point of comradery. And the fact that one friend would always bully the bunny, so then I would bully the friend. And then also like my other friend, he always just liked seeing the bunny. It was kinda a thing we could all rally around. So it was like every time the science bunny came out… one of my friends was like o my gosh you’re such like a, you’re gonna be such a pediatrician. You with your little bunny. You carry a stuffed animal with you. And I was like aww. And it’s kinda cute, you know it’s just something to hold on to. So yeah…

ME: I appreciate this, thank you

A: glad to get your homework done


This tradition was shared with me by a friend and USC peer while waiting to collect boxes in preparation for move-out.

A grew up in Missouri, USA. A was at the time of sharing a pre-med student.


Good luck charms are quite common. Seeking good luck on academic tests and challenges is similarly precedented. The science bunny reminded me of a rabbit’s foot: a common good luck charm. I don’t think A’s use of the science bunny was directly influenced by ideas of rabbits’ feet, but it’s interesting on a basis of convergent practices.

The idea that the bunny might absorb knowledge from observing labs and then return the knowledge to A and her friends is also interesting to me. Despite A not fully believing it this seems to be an instance of magic.

A finds meaning in this practice because it brings her closer to her friends. “It was kinda a thing we could all rally around.”

Don’t Pass a Penny on the Street


ME: that sort of thing might incur bad luck? That you believe genuinely

L: so to be honest I’m not a very like superstitious person, however I definitely have some like things that have been passed down in my family. Umm that like I still kinda like, even though I don’t like “believe it” believe it, I always will like follow it because its just kinda part of our family and my heritage. Especially like umm, for example, I have a really big one– and I know it’s such a stereotype, but like my great grandfather uhh, was jewish and he like loved through the great depression, had a very very poor family. And I’ve heard this is a Jewish stereotype, but I’ve like learned from him, our family has like learned down through the generations, that if you like, for example, see a penny on the street you always no matter what pick it up. Because wasting money is like is such horrible luck. And like if if you know, if the universe gives you the gift of like finding a like a penny on the street you take it and then you like think about your family. So that’s a big one that I learned from my mom 

ME: so passing it would incur bad luck upon you?

L: uhh yes…

ME: or is..?

L: – no that’s part of it, but like yeah it’s bad luck because, it’s about like appreciation for money and appreciation for like being given things.

ME: clarifying: you learned that from…?

L: I learned that from my mother who learned that from her grandfather who is Jewish, yeah. And I think that is like a wider Jewish thing. I’ve heard that

ME: thank you


This superstition was shared with me by a friend after going grocery shopping together when we sat in my bedroom to do schoolwork together.

L is a Jewish-American USC student studying sociology who grew up in Colorado.


L attributes this superstition to a respect for money and for good fortune. I think this makes sense, especially with the origin of the practice L describes: her great-grandfather growing up poor during the great depression.

A Christmas Pickle


Talking about Christmas traditions

L: Also, whoever– The way we decided who opens their presents first is that there’s one uhhhh ornament on the tree that is a pickle, and whoever finds it first gets to open the first present.

ME: I heard about this from my friend A!!

L: really?

ME: A was talking about a Christmas pickle

L: do you know where it’s from?

ME: no I have no idea

L: I don’t know where it’s from 

ME: her [A’s] guess was like: someone in America was like let’s make a Christmas pickle and try to sell it. That was her guess. 

L: yeah, no yeah, we have a Christmas pickle. It’s sparkly

ME: You have a Christmas pickle that’s uh an ornament 

L: I’ll show it to you

ME: tell me what– tell me about the Christmas pickle

L: ok so the Christmas pickle, that’s from my dad’s side of the family. Ummm. I don’t even know where it came from, I should really ask them. But like I just remember ever since I was a little kid ‘find the pickle.’ it would always be my grandparents who would hide it on the tree and then like we would all search for it. I usually was the one to find it first. I’m not kidding, like almost every year. I don’t know why, I’m usually not that observant, but umm yeah the Christmas pickle. Loved it. Umm yeah, don’t know where it came from. And we would always go from there, youngest to eldest for opening presents. One at a time, always. Like that stuck.


This tradition was shared with me by a friend after going grocery shopping together when we sat in my bedroom to do schoolwork together.

L is a Jewish-American USC student studying sociology who grew up in Colorado.


Christmas games and present-giving styles vary greatly from house to house. The Christmas pickle seems one such game/style. Before this year I was unfamiliar with the tradition.

L says she has no idea where the practice came from, but that she loves it. I offer that the tradition may have been started by a company with the intention of profiting off of selling Christmas pickles. This style of tradition creation is not unprecedented, especially in America.

Mula Sin Cabeza, Brazilian Headless Horse


M: umm , oh another one is the, ah, mula sin cabeza. This is actual like folklore that umm basically is the…  mula sin cabeza its a type of horse without their head, that’s the name

Me: ok

m :  umm

Me: is it mula sin cabeza?

M: yeah, aaand what happened is it’s a creature that is created or born or whatever, when a woman sleeps with a priest. Which your no supposed to cause like a priest is like 

 Cannot have sex and bla bla bla. But, if you do, the woman becomes that horse 

O: what!?

M: yes..

O: that is so anti-woman.

I laugh

M: well, whatever, it’s, it is what it is

Me: maybe society is anti-woman

M: yeah

O: oh m goodness society

M laughs

M: and then so she would 

[I laugh because o realizes that I’m recording and leaves]

M: she would like walk around at night, cause you know the mystic anything will transform at night

[O leaves closing door]

M: and so, and the way she is, imagine like a horse without a head, and on the place the head was supposed to be its just flames

Me: yo, thats metal

M: right, it’s literally that! It like a horse without its head and in its place fire. What else we have…

Me: wait wait, what does the horse do?

M: just haunt the city

Me: the whole city.

M: yeah cause, like it would like walk around us when it was.. And don’t have a head. And it was like a punishment for like sleeping with the priest. Cause you’re not supposed to sleep with the priest

Me: that’s your take on it? You’re not supposed to sleep with a priest

M: yeah basically. In conclusion, do not sleep with priests

I laugh

M: so fleabag would not have survived Brazilian culture

ME: you’re right


The informant, M, is a 19-year-old USC international student from Brazil. She delivered this piece in the workroom of a campus center before class alongside other pieces in order to share some personal and Brazilian folklore. She learned about this legend growing up in Brazil.

O is a mutual friend of the informant and me, they briefly walked into the workroom and commented on the legend, before realizing I was recording and leaving.


As M said “You’re not supposed to sleep with the priest.” this legend clearly indicates the cultural value of not sleeping with priests.

To me (as partially stated in the text) transforming the woman who slept with the priest rather than the priest indicates blame on women for the sex rather than priests/men. This would indicate a larger cultural understanding that having sex with a priest is wrong, not a priest having sex. This could relate to western christian notions of purity culture that blame women for the loss of virginity and other sexual acts.

The specifics of M’s speech also indicate that mystic transformations are thought to more commonly happen at night,

Loira do Banheiro, The Brazilian Bloody Mary


Me: ok, we’re recording

M: Oh okay great. Let’s start with the Brazilian version of Bloody Mary. So we call her the blonde woman. It’s a legend, like of course, as every child would when I was in school and I was like elementary school, of course, the children were like ‘oh yeah! Its a legend, but it actually happened here in this school. Umm it’s basically a story that she was a girl she was blond she’s in school bullied. And she went to the bathroom to cry, and then she slipped, hit her head, and died

Me: oh my god

M: and there’s a specific stall that it happened in. In my school it was the bigger one for accessibility. after that I never went to that bathroom again by the way. Cause I was, I was like ‘i don’t believe in it’ but still like ‘Yeah I’m gonna use the other one.’ umm, and to summon her you had to like throw like a one piece of hair. And then..

Me: your hair?

M: yes

Me: Okay

M: on the toilet and then like flush three times, go to the mirror and say like. Uhh loira do banheiro, loira do banheiro, loira do banheiro. Which, loira do banheiro is blond from the bathroom. And then she would appear and kill you.

Me: obvi

M: yes. And then I remember I had a friend who like, my friends would go to the bathroom to try it, but that’s like– it would only work in the girls’ bathroom and there were two boys. So I don’t know how they were doing it!? Cause I never went with them cause I was like I’m not doing that. But yeah. Dunno what they were doin’, but yeah whatever we were kids so it’s umm

Me: what’s your take on what that means? Like what’s the meaning, what’s the story?

M: ummm I don’t know. I think it’s, probably for either just– it’s just a scary story the children told each other or maybe to make them behave when like between going to the bathroom and going back to class. But yeah, I think that it’s just a scary story that kids created.

Me: alright


The informant, M, is a 19-year-old USC international student from Brazil. She delivered this piece in the workroom of a campus center before class alongside other pieces in order to share some personal and Brazilian folklore. She learned about this legend growing up in Brazil.

The informant suggests that the legend is either “just a scary story the children told each other” or something adults said to make kids behave in bathrooms.


M says that this is a Brazilian version of Bloody Mary. Indeed the two figures share much: They each appear in girls’ bathrooms. they both are summoned by some action and three repetitions of their name. both kill their summoner. And both fall into that space of legend where people will say they don’t believe, but then avoid the thing/action/place anyway.

Because of this association with Bloody Mary, this legend may also be related to the fear of menstruation (as other scholars have drawn the connection with Bloody Mary). This seems believable because both stories are set in bathrooms and are most popular among young girls, but I hesitate because of the Loira do Banheiro lack of blood references. Instead, there is the focus on hair: you put a piece of hair in the toilet to summon her, and her name-worthy trait is her blond hair.

There is also the moral included that you should not bully someone because they might die and haunt a bathroom killing children.