Background: Informant is a middle-aged woman living in Seattle, who went to Auburn University. She told me this story on the phone.
Informant: I don’t really get it, but there’s a story about the War Eagle at Auburn…the mascot is actually the tiger, but The War Eagle (they have a great Vet school there and also rehab bird of prey) flies at the start of every game. Starts at the top of the stadium and lands in the center of the field, with 90,000 (yes, really) fans yelling Waasaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, Eagle, Hey! It’s kinda cool actually.
Thoughts: It’s interesting to hear folklore from universities, especially because universities and schools can get so intense about their traditions. Even at USC, people think that the mascot is Tommy Trojan, but the real mascot is actually Traveler the Horse. It almost feels like another “in-the-know” piece of information that you have to be familiar with the school to know and not the commoner would know. It reminds me of the “Fight on!” Being so common and known among all USC students and alums, but to someone who isn’t familiar with USC as an institution, having someone scream “fight on!” At you would be jarring.
Informant CA, a current undergraduate student at Auburn University at the time of this collection, described a popular folk belief shared by university students. This belief had existed before CA became a student at the univeristy, however, CA learned about this belief only once they had become an undergraduate student themself.
The belief centers around a statue called The Lathe which is located on Auburn University’s campus. The Lathe dates back to the Civil War where it was used to manufacture military supplies for confederate soldiers. It was gifted to a sorority on campus and can be found on the side of Samford Hall.
The Auburn folk belief is that Auburn students can bring their significant other to The Lathe at midnight to test their faithfulness to one another. After they kiss next to The Lathe, if the wheel of the Lathe does not move then they have been faithful to each other and are believed to get married.
This folk belief is one of the many traditions that are known and shared across the student population at Auburn University. I feel that this particular belief speaks towards the cultural and communal values at Auburn Univerity. While its students come from all across the world, Auburn University is located in Alabama and, therefore, the “Bible Belt. ” Southern states are often known for their close affiliations with Christianity which shape “southern values.” While not all students would identify as religious or southern, the value of faithfulness is evident in this popular folk belief and run parallel with southern/religious values. Since folk beliefs create identity and culture, the values underlying this belief speak to Auburn’s identity and campus culture. After hearing this belief, I feel confident in assuming that being unfaithful to one’s partner would be frowned upon at Auburn. By providing couples with a way of “testing” their partner, this university folk belief is helping to ensure a continued value of faithfulness.
Informant CA, a current undergraduate student at Auburn University at the time of this collection, described a longstanding and well-known superstition shared amongst the student population at Auburn.
According to CA, the superstition is as follows:
The Auburn University seal can be seen embedded into the bricks in the ground in front of Langdon Hall on campus (see photo). If a student walks on or across the seal at any point during their time at Auburn University, it is believed that the student will not graduate in four years and will marry someone from the University of Alabama (the school’s biggest rival). The only way the student can undo/reverse this is to jump and swim in the fountain in front president’s mansion at midnight on February 29th (leap day).
CA went on to explain the seriousness of this superstition. Auburn students are careful to walk around the seal on their way to or from classes/activities. According to CA, students will gather in groups to go to the fountain at the president’s mansion on February 29th in hopes to reverse their actions. Extra campus security is said to be stationed at the president’s mansion on February 29th to avert any disorderly conduct that might arise because of this superstition.
As a social undergraduate student at Auburn University, informant CA is well aware of this superstition and adheres accordingly. While the informant has never walked on/across the seal themself, they have a friend who did. The informant’s friend, an Auburn student, and believer of this superstition participated in this superstitious belief by swimming in the president’s fountain at midnight once February 29th came around.
While I do not attend Auburn University myself, I believe that this superstition works to create the student community and culture at Auburn University. While all colleges are composed of unique communities, I feel that this superstition is evidence of the lively and spirited nature of Auburn University’s campus culture. This superstition is one of many at Auburn University – all of which are actively working to unite its student body. After hearing about this superstition, I am lead to believe that community is highly valued at Auburn University… so much that one would rather humiliate themselves and risk getting into trouble than get “left behind” by not graduating with their friends/class. This tradition also leads me to believe that the value and importance of the Auburn community are carried on after students graduate as well. If you were to walk across the seal and marry someone that attended the University of Alabama, it is almost as if you have broken ties with your Auburn community. To ensure that you stay on good terms and connected to the Auburn community after graduation, you are encouraged to adopt this superstition as a belief as an undergraduate.