Berkeley Seal


Informant studies at USC and has a boyfriend who attends UC Berkeley.

Main Piece:

“So basically there’s seals on the floor there, and you’re not supposed to step on it until you graduate, ‘cus if you do step on it it’s like bad luck or whatever, um, so when he was talking about it I was like ‘man, fuck that’ and I stepped on it and he [the boyfriend] was like ‘no!’ and I was like ‘bro I don’t even go here’ like this shit doesn’t even apply to me.”


My informant and I were discussing school customs, as we didn’t really know any that pertained to USC. They brought up something they heard at Berkeley.


This is a classic example of a college superstition using sympathetic magic, specifically the Law of Contact, that fails the student if they step on the seal (which is an important symbol to the university). There are probably countless stories of people who stepped on these seals and couldn’t graduate. While my informant specifically didn’t say anything about counteracting the bad luck (usually a method of conversion exists so it’s not completely doomed for the student), such superstitions surrounding graduation are commonly found across many colleges with many different variations. Interestingly, my informant raises a question of who this Law of Contact is able to be applied to—they are a student at USC who came into contact with a Berkeley custom, so they believe the “curse” wouldn’t be applied to them.

For more more information on this superstition, see Chen, Kaylie. “Traditions at Berkeley.” UC Berkeley, 12 April 2021.