Occupation: Graduate student
Residence: Pasadena, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/13
Primary Language: Russian
Other Language(s): English, French, Czech
My informant is from Lipitsk, Russia. She moved to the United States for graduate studies, and is a graduate student at USC at the age of 33. I collected many superstitions from my informant, and also wedding traditions, using her own wedding as an example. This collection is a counteraction of the bad luck of seeing a black cat. You must spit three times and knock on wood to reverse the bad luck of the black cat.
Continuing the woman with buckets story:
Me: Is there a way to counteract or undo this? [the bucket story]
Informant: with the woman and the buckets no, but with the cat, you got to spit 3 times and then knock on wood 3 times [informant demonstrates]. Sometimes people cross themselves so there is this weird blend in Russia of the Orthodox religion so Christian Russian orthodox and Pagan traditions. So we’re mixed of boths because on the one hand we got the.. so when you see the superstitions they are technically pagan. So they come to this pagan, prior to Christ. Because there shouldn’t really be Christian traditions. But then they counteract the tradition of the black cat they cross themselves. So they are using the Christian way to counteract the pagan belief. So in the Russian mind, both of the m coexist.
It was interesting to see that the black cat comes up in other cultures besides our own. A black cat seems to be the universal symbol of bad luck. Additionally, in the United States people knock on wood to reverse bad luck, just as in this Russian folk belief. The spitting, however, is something that is not commonly accepted in the United States. The idea of spitting could be seen as a way to get the bad luck out of your system. The comment on the fact that the Church who does not allow superstitions, yet crossing is used as a way to counteract them, shows how the two religions are mixed in with the folk beliefs.