Author Archives: sbleak

A Lucky New Year

“At the beginning of every new year, my mom and dad put an item related to school in front of Ganesha to bless my brother and I for the year to come”

At the beginning of each year, their parents pray and place an item, usually dealing with education, in front of Ganesha, one of the most worshipped Hindu deities or gods. In Hinduism, Ganesha is associated with success and removes obstacles in one’s life. This is done to bring blessings to the kids for the new year and to bring success and well-being into their lives. For her, her mother places textbooks and a student ID in front of Ganesha. Education is considered to be extremely sacred in Indian culture, specifically for her family. Education, and objects pertaining to it, are symbolic of her whole life “in the eyes of Ganesha” and seen as a sacred pursuit, thus the obstacles on this path will be removed. She also emphasized that it is a ritual and tradition she will carry on for her own family as well.

My first interpretation of this tradition was that it would bring good luck and success into their educational journey, and while that has an aspect, it also encompasses practically their entire life, rather than just the education portion. Due to the importance that education has in Indian religion, it can be seen as one of the more important factors to put blessings into. This ritual was learned through the Hindu culture, demonstrating that something like textbooks can be considered a folklore object, and the act of placing them as a gift for a deity is a folklore practice passed down through families and communities. While folklore is often word of mouth stories and myths, it can intersect with religion and the culture that surrounds it, in this case Indian culture. This practice connects her and her family to their heritage just as folklore intends to do, additionally with the prayers spoken by the parents have been passed down through their ancestors, continuing on today.

The Safety of a Dollar Bill

“Every time I leave to go on a trip, I put a dollar bill in front of Ganesha to bless myself with safety for my travels to whatever destination”

Whenever she is traveling, she never forgets to put a one dollar bill in front of a statue of Ganesha, one of the most worshipped Hindu deities or gods. In Hinduism, Ganesha is associated with success and removes obstacles in one’s life.The dollar bill is an offering to Ganesha in order to receive a blessing of peace and safety on her next adventure. This money is never touched again and never removed. Every dollar bill she has placed in front of Ganesha throughout her life still sits right as she left them. While her parents taught her this practice, this ritual has been passed down many generations of her family and is a largely shared practice in the Hindu religion and culture.

I had never heard of this spiritual ritual before, especially when traveling or embarking upon a new adventure. My familiarity with an act like this is something similar to leaving a dollar or a trinket on a shrine of a god or a spiritual entity one believes in. For example, in Catholicism, Saint Christopher is the saint of protection and guidance for those on journeys, and people in this religion will wear a pendant with this saint on it for a sense of safety. This demonstrates the variability and immense diversity in folklore; some traditions are similar and hold comparable values while coming from totally different heritages and backgrounds. While folklore does not always stem from religious beliefs, this shows that it can interlace with so many different categories of life and be passed throughout centuries, while still holding on to key aspects of the tradition, story, practice, etc. Overall, this ritual that this person practices examples how traditions are passed down throughout generations and entire cultures with adaptability to circumstance and environment. For example, this person and her family use a dollar bill to represent the token given to Ganesha, while in India, or other countries where Hinduism is practiced, these tokens may be different, whether it is a different currency used or something completely different, such as a special trinket. Folklore has the ability to shape individuals practices and beliefs all while creating and sustaining a connection to cultural communities.

Creative Insults

“Take a long walk down a short pier.”

“Go piss up a rope.”

This person grew up hearing his grandmother constantly say these insults to those who inconvenience her. From this, his whole family began to say these to others as well, and even he still says them to this day. Each time he says one, he immediately thinks of his grandmother and her Irish Catholic background. It also emphasizes that she has a strong connection to her Boston background because of the blunt style this language is often associated with.

While these insults can seem harsh, the relationship that this person, and his family, has to them show a strong familial connection and importance in his life. Like most folklore, these insults were passed down essentially as familial tradition as they had an obvious influence in shaping the communication style (insulting) that the family members gradually took up and will most likely continue to use, passing them on to others in their lives. Furthermore, folklore is often seen as having oral traditions, as much of it is told throughout history by word of mouth, being passed down generations and from community to community, just as these insults have done. Additionally, the insults the grandmother uses represents her cultural identity, likely coming from her upbringing and environment living in Boston and being an Irish Catholic. Through these verbal insults, she is able to share this identity and transmit these elements of herself to others, exhibiting common folklore themes of generational sharing, word of mouth, and cultural adaptations. Finally, when I was told about this piece of folklore in this person’s life, I too had heard these insults as I also grew up in Boston, and it brought back many memories that I have with my own friends and family surrounding these phrases!

Superstition: To Ward Off Evil With A Black Rubber Band

“My mom makes me wear a black rubber band or a black clothing item to ward off evil eyes and evil spirits.”

She has spent her whole life always making sure she is wearing a black rubber band, or a black article of clothing. Growing up she was told that this ritual will ensure that all evil eyes and evil spirits will be kept off of her. If she doesn’t have a black rubber band or piece of clothing, then her mom places a black dot, like a freckle, on the center of her cheek. Last year, she moved across the country from her family, and as a going away gift, her mother gave her a black anklet that she wears every day and every night. This person grew up Hindu and the act of having a protective, tangible, symbol is a part of many Hindu traditions that create protection and give blessings. Her mother grew up in a region of India where this tradition is practiced and so she continues to pass it on through another generation of her own family. This person has even started implementing this ritual with those that she loves in her life to ensure evil spirits are kept at bay from them.

My first impression when hearing this ritual was that it is very similar to the evil eye pendants and jewelry many people wear for similar reasons, being to rid off any evil in their lives. This ritual and act appears to have been passed down for generations, a quality important in folklore as there is an emphasis of familial traditions that create the beliefs surrounding this culture. This suggests that there is a strong connection to ancestral cultures and heritage among her family, but also in the Hindu community as well. Furthermore, while to this person the tradition was wearing a black rubber band or the black spot placed on her cheek, she now wears a black jeweled anklet. This shows that while the ritual is still the same, it has progressed and evolved into a piece of jewelry. This can be looked at in a symbolic matter, showing that as folklore and traditions carries on, it is evolved with time and adapts to different circumstances, or audiences when looked at in a wider perspective. It is common ground that folklore is an ever-changing aspect of life, and this simple switch from a rubber band to an anklet is a great example of its resilience. Finally, this person sharing her beliefs with others creates a space for shared cultural identities, another important theme of folklore, as cultural appreciation holds a large spot in the sharing of customs and stories.

A Coincidental Blessing

“100 Years”

When both she and her mother call each other at the same time, the first thing that is said on the phone is “100 years”. This person is a part the Hindu Culture and this phrase represents a blessing to her and her family; 100 years of prosperity, as I was thinking of you and you were thinking of me.

Initially, I did not understand what the phrase “100 years” meant and how it could be a blessing in the context of a phone call. However, my initial interpretation was that it could mean “what are the odds?”, like something that only happens once every 100 years. Both her and her mother thinking of each other and the same time and calling each other in that moment is an amazing coincidence, thus rare. This phrase holds a symbolic value in her culture, showing a spiritual connection between her and her mother, and in a greater perspective, demonstrates the value of family and interconnectedness in Hinduism. Additionally, this also shows a shared ritual between family members which is a common motif among folklore tradition, which serves to exhibit a connection to heritage and ancestors. A phrase being passed down throughout generations plays in many folklore contexts, and I believe, is the basis of what makes folklore, folklore.