Tag Archives: curse

The M word

Main Piece: 

There’s a superstition in the theater world about saying Macbeth or Lady Macbeth or any like version of that. So you cannot say the M-word in a theater or I take it very seriously. I don’t even say it in like a classroom within a theater. I get really scared of that too. I don’t know why I mean I don’t know why, but I do. And oh my god, one of my professors, I think was Scott Ferris who explained the reason but the reasoning behind it, of why it’s Macbeth and not like any other character like Word or name, but if you do happen to say, the M-word in the theater, you have to go outside you have to spit on the ground, spin three times, something like that. And then or else like something terrible is going to go wrong with your show, or the theater is going to collapse or something’s going to happen. The spirits of Shakespeare will come after you. 

Informant’s Relationship to the Piece:

Me: Have you ever had an experience with like saying Macbeth and like anything bad happening? 

Informant: No. Well, actually, for one show one of our actors said it in the dressing room, and was saying “oh my god, I love Macbeth. It’s such a great play.” And the other actors were like ‘Go outside right now’ and I checked in on them during intermission. And they were saying and they were outside making this-this other actor who said the M word spit and like, spin around. And I was like, ‘what’s going on? I was like, you guys, okay? Like, I’m trying to make sure this show is gonna happen. And they were like, No, he has to do this. And the show went great, nothing happened. I personally have never said it. Um, I know that there’s some people who think it’s so silly and they’ll just say whatever they want, and I think everything turns out to be okay. But there is a part of me that always fears the spirits will come and give us some obstacle.

Context: 

The informant is one of my friends, a 19-year-old theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in one of the theatres on campus as we were talking about folklore. 

Analysis:

I’m also a theatre major and I think the majority of us have different levels of belief about “the M-word”, where my informant takes it seriously to the point where she won’t even say the characters name unless it’s in one of her lines, but I’ve also met people who don’t really care, and of course, there’s always the one person that says it to annoy the people who really believe in it. But, those people are seen in a different light in a theatre space, because the whole point is to build an ensemble, a community, and when you have a person in the space who goes out of their way to scare people in the group, they take the trust out of the space. So even if you don’t believe it, it’s a sort of litmus test to see who you might not want to work with in the future if they know the superstition and like go out of their way to say it. I also think the “cure” for saying the word is fun because everyone has a slightly different way of doing it, where the steps are all basically the same, but with different variations within it, where like you have to spit over your left shoulder, you have to spin three times, then knock three times and someone has to let you back in. In some variations, you have to say the worst curse word you can think of. 

Marriage Luck

Text:

“When I got married, [I was told by my sister-in-law] the bride wasn’t supposed to walk down the center aisle for the rehearsal because it would curse your wedding. It was also seen of as good luck if it rained on your wedding day and that would give you good fortune in your lives.”

Context:

JN is a 50-year-old freelance writer in Minnesota, where she grew up as well. She told me about a wedding tradition from when she got married, because she remembers that she accidentally walked down the center aisle during her rehearsal and was told that her wedding was cursed, but during the wedding itself it rained which she was told was good luck.  


Interpretation:

It’s interesting the superstitions that develop from liminal time periods like weddings, as it seems like so much is changing that we try to rationalize it by creating rules. The fact of the matter is, marriage is huge shift in one’s life, so if things go well or poorly after that, it is easy to blame it on that one day. And during the wedding itself, because those getting married are aware of how important it is and how much is changing, they will likely buy into the superstitions because they don’t want to risk anything going wrong. Either the people will stay married forever or they will get divorced, so either you have good luck in marriage or bad luck. Instead of blaming bad luck on personal decisions or poor choices, it’s easier to blame it on things that are out of one’s control, like the weather or a mistake during the rehearsal. People are quick to look for scapegoats for poor decisions rather than analyze their own hand in their fate. 

The Curse of the Billy Goat

Folklore/ Text:

TM: “You can’t be a Cubs fan without knowing the lore surrounding the curse of the billy goat. During the world series in 1945, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern (William Sianis) brought his pet goat, Murphy, to the game. The goat was messing with some fans in the stands, so Sianis and the goat were asked to leave the stadium. But before they left, he declared a curse upon the Chicago Cubs to never ‘win no more…’ The Cubs lost the game that day and never won another World Series again until 2016. It took 71 years for them to win, all because of the curse of the billy goat.”   

Explanation/ Context: This is an interesting piece of sports folklore, and gives Cubs fans everywhere an explanation as to why they hadn’t won the baseball World Series for such a long time. It’s lore that has been passed on since that unfortunate day in 1945– it certainly helps justify the team’s lack of performance in their games.

Annotation: The unfortunate story of the Curse of the Billy Goat has been adapted to authored literature, like The Cubs Win the Pennant!: Charlie Grimm, the Billy Goat Curse, and the 1945 World Series Run by John C. Skipper. The novel recounts the curse and its effects on the Cubs team over time.

The Curse of the Church in Tlzazalca

PP is an 18 year old college student. She is a freshman communications major whose parents are from Mexico. PP has visited her hometown Tlzazalca in Mexico many times and heard about this curse from her family and the locals.

Context: The informant and I are roommates and I know she has strong ties to her Mexican culture and I asked if she had any folk legends to share as we drank tea on the couch. She has stayed in Mexico over summers and experienced them with her family.

Transcript:

PP: Basically, I don’t know when exactly this happened but I think it’s from the 1800s. The church in the plaza, it’s been there for so many years, it was built when the town was first created. It was supposedly the first building created there and church became really important to the town. But then people were not respecting the church. You kind of have to go to church there [in Tlzazalca] or else it’s taboo if that makes sense. What happened was girls would show up wearing really short dresses and stuff started to happen that were not considered Godly in the church. The priest was really pissed at the town and could not believe their disrespect because the town is supposed to be sacred. At this point he was falling out of the church like a lot of the other locals and he started doing satanic rituals to make them listen to him. He then cursed the town and that is why the town does not grow… By that I mean the town is so small and the population stays the same. As people continue to die, it would become a ghost town, and that is what the priest intended.

Thoughts/Analysis: This is an interesting version of stories were the Godly/heroic figure turns on the town. It reminds me a bit of Beauty and the Beast where the witch cursed the Beast for being selfish. This story is based on a social belief of people in the town. This story sits on the fine line between a myth and a legend because legends are based on social beliefs and might be true, myths are creation stories and would tell how the town of Tlzazalca stays so small.

For a variation of a very similar story, see:

Tayebi, N. “Kuldhara.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 8, 2018. http://folklore.usc.edu/kuldhara/.

Berkeley Seal

Background:

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.”

Context:

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.

Analysis:

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. https://life.berkeley.edu/traditions-superstitions/