Tag Archives: Rituals, festivals, holidays

Swim Team Bleaches Their Hair

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Background: 

My informant, AK, is a 19 year old student at the University of Michigan. She was born and raised in Southern California and is studying engineering. While in high school, AK was an active member and team captain of her school’s swim team. She attended the school from kindergarten until she graduated and knew the place inside and out. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance: 

AK: Every year, the guys on the swim team would bleach their hair. I’m not really sure why, but no one ever questioned it, it was just kind of what they did. Maybe it was so they looked more unified before league finals. 

Thoughts:

I hadn’t realized until after I came to college, but the swim team bleaching their hair at the end of the season was not unique to AK and I’s high school. In fact, it was common practice all across the country. Others I’ve spoken to about this can’t explain the reasoning either, but they all do it. While I would like to know the reason why, I think it’s kind of special for this tradition to be so widespread. This is something that anyone who swam in high school can relate to and remember and bond over. This is an excellent example of how folklore connects people who may not connect otherwise. 

The Ritual Game: One Man Hide-and-Seek

--Informant Info--
Nationality: British European
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Sherman Oaks, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 11, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Interviewer: Okay so how do you play this game?

Informant: Well as the name suggests you have to do this alone, while everyone is out of the house, preferably. You take an old doll that you don’t like anymore, cut it open and remove all the stuffing. Then fill it up with white rice. Once the doll is totally full of rice, cut a hair from your head and poke it into the heart of the doll’s body. Then take a knife and prick a finger, doesn’t matter which one, and wipe the blood onto the rice protruding from the doll’s back. Once you’ve done that, take a bit of red string and sew up the back of the doll and cut it off with the same knife you used to prick your finger. Once it’s sewn up give it a name, and it has to be a name that no one you know has.

Interviewer: Sounds like you have to be very careful during all this prep work.

Informant: Oh yeah and we’re not even done yet. Actually playing the game is specific too. You then have to take the finished doll to a bathroom, run a shallow bath, and then place the doll in the water. Turn out all the lights in the house, finding a hiding spot and count to ten. You shouldn’t forget to take the knife with you when you go to hide. Say ‘ready or not here I come’ then go back to the doll. Repeat ‘I found you, I found you, I found you’ then ‘you’re the next it, you’re the next it, you’re the next it’ and tie the knife to the doll’s hand. Then go to hide again, it doesn’t have to be in the same place. If you make it to sunrise, you’ve won the game.

Interviewer: Do you get anything out of winning?

Informant: No, I don’t think so. You just get bragging rights.

Interviewer: What happens if you lose?

Informant: The doll kills you, supposedly. But if you need to stop the game, like if the doll finds you, it’s recommended that you always have a glass of salt water prepared to pour on the doll. When you pour the water, shout ‘I win, I win, I win’ then the game is over.

Background: One Man Hide and Seek was part of a film project that she was doing for school. She researched this game but does not remember which sites she learned it from or its origin.

Context: I was interviewing my informant for rituals that she learned about through research and hearsay from others. She was happy to tell me about this one since it resulted in one of her favorite movies that she made.

Thoughts: I severely doubt that the original reason for doing One Man Hide and Seek was just so one could have bragging rights, so it must have been a ritual for something else originally. I did a little digging online and found a site that suggests the ritual was originally posted on a ‘Japanese horror bulletin board.’

Please see “One-Man Hide and Seek / Hide and Seek Alone.” Know Your Meme Accessed March 20, 2020

The Ritual Game: The Midnight man

--Informant Info--
Nationality: British European
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Sherman Oaks, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 19, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: It’s some ritual that was apparently used to punish bad people somewhere in Europe. The ritual starts at 3 AM and you need a candle, a piece of paper, and your front door. You write your name on the piece of paper then put it outside the door under a lit candle. Knock on the door 12 times and make sure it is EXACT, and make sure to get the last knock to stop at 3AM. Then open the door, pick up the paper and the candle and the game has begun. It lasts until 6 AM, so it’s only three hours but you have to keep your candle lit for all that time. The Midnight Man will try to blow out the candle or scare you into dropping it. Your candle is your only source of light so it’s pretty easy to get super scared. If your candle goes out and you cannot relight it within 5 seconds then surround yourself in a circle of salt and sit there until morning. Do not under any circumstances turn on a light! Both of these things are ways of forfeiting the game but that doesn’t mean the Midnight Man leaves. He haunts you until you complete the game.

Interviewer: So what do you get for winning the game?

Informant: I think you get to make a wish and it will comes true.

Interviewer: So what happens if you lose?

Informant: He kills you, obviously. [laughs]

Background: My informant had done research into different dark ritualized games such as this for a film projection she was doing. She did not end up using this game as the final inspiration for her movie.

Context: My informant and I were staying up late on the night of the 19th, just finishing playing video games together. We were walking through the house in the dark and she tried to scare me with this scary ritual, saying that she was going to do it.

Thoughts: I imagine the combination of sleep deprivation, lack of light, and the general atmosphere of being in an empty house would make for a fun time. Apparently this can be played with multiple people at one time so you could probably mess around with each other a great deal. With that in mind, I suspect this actually could have been a punishment ritual, though I am unsure where it would be used. The game could be turned into a form of psychological torture to get people to confess to crimes by making them think a demon was coming to kill them anyway.

Peace and Chow

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Zimbabwean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 5th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant is a member of an outdoors club on campus that has a tradition of doing “Peace and Chow” after every dinner they eat on trail. The informant says “Peach and Chow consists of the two guides of the trip organizing us into a circle. Then we grab hands, right over left to create a criss-cross effect. Once we’re are all connected anyone who is grateful for anything from the day sticks their foot into the middle of the circle. Then they say what they are thankful for. If anyone else in the circle agrees, they all wiggle back and forth. This continues until we’re done saying things we’re thankful for. Then someone in the group recites a quote, probably about nature. After the quote we pass the pulse, which starts from one of the guides squeezing the hand next to them and the squeeze makes it all around the circle. Once the circle is complete we unwind and it’s done”.

Background:

The club has existed on USC’s campus since 2008. Peace and Chow originated with the start of the club but no one knows the direct origin, who started it and why. On each trip there are always two guides and 8-10 participants. The guides are in charge of leading Peace and Chow and it is not required but heavily suggested they do it every trip.

Context:

The ritual of Peace and Chow happens after a meal, most likely dinner, when the group is out in the wilderness either at their campsite or in the backcountry. The informant described this as a ritual that held a lot of importance to them.

Thoughts:

Food is common to surround with certain rituals. In terms of Christianity it is common to pray before every meal. Peace and Chow acts as sort of a “prayer” of thankfulness for these students on their outdoor adventures. It is also common in outdoor communities to try and feel in touch with one’s surroundings. This ritual helps the group remain in touch with each other and the land around them as they are able to grow closer as a group. This ritual creates a sense of community for people that were recently strangers. Food tends to have a way of bringing people together and this tradition adds to that feeling.

Bloody Mary

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Unemployed
Residence: San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/24/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: “So you go into the bathroom, turn off all the lights, look into the mirror and say, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” three times and by the third time, you turn on the light and there will be like a scratch on your face…and you’re haunted.”

Collector: “Cool. Is it only in the bathroom?”

Informant: “It needs, uh…. I’m pretty sure. I mean all I ever heard was the bathroom one, like going into the bathroom and it needs to be pitch black.” 

Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from friends while attending Catholic elementary school in San Diego, CA. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings as well as horror films. 

Context: The piece was collected during a casual at-home interview. I asked the informant to share this piece because I have multiple childhood memories of her performing the ritual.

Analysis: This game/ritual is fairly common among young women and was very popular at our Catholic elementary school among both genders. While many folklore scholars have posited that this game is entrenched with female puberty and menstruation, I believe this piece was also integrated with our conceptions of the “Virgin Mary” as a human and yet divinely endowed, liminal character. Other variations and meta folklore suggest multiple different interpretations as to who “Bloody Mary” refers to. To both me and my sister in Catholic school, the only Mary we could conceive of was the Virgin Mary and the story became a sinister way to expose the contrast between the benevolence and kindness expressed within Catholicism with the strict, harsh realities of the institution we were a part of. My sister later added that the game never worked for her because she never completed it in total darkness, suggesting that although the ritual may not manifest in a supernatural encounter for everyone that participates, people still believe. 

PLUR Handshake and the Exchanging of Kandi – Rave Culture

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Unemployed
Residence: San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from attending multiple raves and EDM music festivals in the southern California region. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings as well as horror films. 

Context: The following was collected in a casual in-person interview in the informant’s home. 

Piece: 

The following is a transcription of a conversation about the exchanging of Kandi (which are homemade bracelets often with colorful plastic beads) in EDM culture through the handshake dubbed “P.L.U.R.” 

Collector: What does PLUR mean?

Informant: “Peace, love, unity, respect. So basically to anybody it means coming together and sharing something with like another person. My favorite part about it is like if you’re really connecting with someone at like party or you know like a rave um I’ll look at somebody and I’ll be like okay you look like you’re a hella stoner so we’ll like talk about be like ‘Hey like what’s your name oh my god you’re so cool’ and maybe dance a little bit and then we’ll do like this thing. So it goes peace, love, unity, and respect. And I would bring it over and then you would look at what it says. And it says ‘Smoke weed everyday.’ 

Collector: Do all of the bracelets have words on them? 

Informant: “Um not all of them have words. So like some people will be like ‘Oh it’s my first rave blah blah blah’ and you could just give them whatever. But like, for me like why I enjoy it is like I’ve been lucky enough to have people who have given me stuff with words. And I like to spread ones with words because its like way more personal and shows that like you really connect with somebody.”

Collector: So you wouldn’t do it with someone you don’t really vibe with.

Informant: “No but um I mean I feel like you vibe with everybody at those events. Usually though like if I’m giving you one, you’re giving me one back. So like you would have one and we would both look at our things and be like oh this relates to you or this is cute or you’ll like this or I hate this one so. For people I don’t really vibe with I’ll give them my ugliest one.”

Images of the process are included here: 

Peace is represented by the two participants touching their index and pointer fingers to each other, making peace signs. 
Love is represented by the two participants joining curved hands to form a heart. 
Unity is represented with two flat hands with the palms touching each other and thumbs wrapped around the opposite hand. 
Respect is represented with the interlacing of the two individuals’ fingers and the bracelet being drawn from the wrist of one individual to another. 

Analysis: The PLUR handshake is a fun and fast way of building a community and making friends at raves, parties, and even the beach. Kandi is a way to visibly identify those who participate in EDM culture and serves as a sort of invitation to others who participate in this culture to engage in conversation and even friendship. Historically, raves have been dangerous places with illicit drugs and little supervision. Woodstock 99, a 1999 music festival, ended in destructive riots and other festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival have had numerous deaths. Although raves and festivals are much safer today, with medical staff readily standing by, the PLUR and Kandi traditions began in 1990s underground rave culture when this wasn’t the case. I believe the ritual functions to reassure rave goers and build a network of accountability and trust. Since drugs like ecstasy and LSD are often consumed at these events, the handshake may also serve as a positive affirmation in order to assure that participants are having a “good trip.” Furthermore, EDM culture has historically been inclusive toward minority groups and LGBTQ. I believe this handshake is an extension of the welcoming and respectful undertones of EDM culture.

Pre-Choir Performance Ritual

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Native American
Age: 14
Occupation: student
Residence: Franklin, Tennessee
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-26-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Blackfoot, Spanish

Main Piece:

Interviewer: You’re in choir, right?

Informant: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Is there any kind of rituals you guys do. Like anything before you guys start?

Informant: Well, one of our teachers, right before we are about to go into a concert, she’ll have us sit in a room and turn off the lights. Then she’ll close the blinds so we are sitting in a dark room. She has us sit criss cross applesauce and close our eyes and doing breathing things. And then she has us think of different places or different things, like, think you’re at the beach and you hear the waves and how at first they are very soft. Then the waves crash, then they go back to soft. Then she compares that to our voices. Then she goes, like, wind on the tall grass or in the trees or something and how you can hear it. But it wasn’t like one thing was way louder than anything else. It was like it all blended together. That’s how she had us get ready for a concert, so we had a calm mindset. We also had, like, a synchronous mindset, where we are all in beat with one another. But it wasn’t like a stressful, like we have to be in beat. It’s like a ‘can we be like nature,’ where we all move together’. And eventually when we move together it will all sound pretty.

Interviewer: Wow, that’s beautiful? Is there anything after the recital that you guys do?

Informant: Not really. I can’t think of anything we do afterwards.

Interviewer: What kind of breathing exercise?

Informant: Well, at first, she has us hold our breath for like 10 seconds, or something. And then breath in and out and in and out. But then our breath has to be in sync with the others, so it’s not like we’re going “huh, huh.” (Breathing hard and erratic.) And how you’d hear like different layers of it from everybody. It’s like “in sync” breathing. So we’ll go “in 1, 2, 3, out 1, 2, 3, in . . .” It’s like different kinda like counting.

Background:

The informant is a fourteen-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in eighth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. We were in the kitchen and I asked her about different groups she was a part of at school.

Thoughts:

Not only was the choir a place to find community, it was a place of ritual, harmony and synchronization. Pre-recital was spent in meditation, softly centering the mind in balance with nature. I enjoyed hearing her explain their choir’s pre-performance routine. It was also a picture of the beauty that can come out of community and teamwork. It is not solely about the individual. Rather, individuals in a group working together as a cohesive unit. Ritual is a creative process, key in attaining a certain frame of mind and promoting active engagement.

Preparing for Performances

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Native American
Age: 12
Occupation: student
Residence: Franklin, Tennessee
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-25-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Informant: We played with xylophone for a couple of years before percussion. And once we were able to be in percussion, you got to use it a lot more. So it’s basically for the kids that wanted to have more time playing on it and making music with it and going more into depth with the instrument. That was for those students who wanted to.

Something we did, we would go around the carpet playing different instruments. So we would say like. . . like we had this certain beat that we would do on every single one. And to prepare for all of our performances, we would do a thing called “Rock your mallets to the top.” So we would say “Rock your mallets to the top.” Then you’d go to the bottom and say, “to the bottom do not stop. Hit them in the middle please. Hit them on your long tong C’s.” And then we’d change to D’s and then we’d change to minors.

Interviewer: Do you think you could do the whole thing for me?

Informant: It’s not very long. It’s . .  *laughs,  “Rock your mallets to the top. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. To the bottom do not stop. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. Tap them in the middle please, doo doo loo doo doo loo. Hit them on your long tong c’s. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom.

So we basically would do that and then we’d switch instruments. And then she would say, uh, she would just count to 3 and, or we would do certain, different like patterns and she, our music teacher, would do it and we would repeat them back. And sometimes she would say, we’d put it in different, um, you could take certain bars off. We would do C pentatonic a lot, where you take off your F’s and B’s and so there would be groups of 2 and groups of 3 and then she would ask us to do a certain thing on a group of 3 and a certain thing on a group of 2. And that’s kinda how we prepared for every single one of our performances.

Background:

The informant is a twelve-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in sixth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. I was asking her about groups she was a part of at school.

Thoughts:

She emphasized that this was a musical group for those who wanted to dive deeper into the subject, in this case, spend more time learning the instrument. It was fun to hear the rituals and chants the students would use during practice and before a performance. Ritual is a creative process, key in attaining a certain frame of mind and promoting active engagement. It is also a picture of the beauty that can come out of community and teamwork. It is not solely about the individual. Rather, individuals in a group working together as a cohesive unit. 

Chinese Housewarming Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence: Chicago, IL
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

According to RE, there is a Chinese tradition for when you buy a home. “When you first buy a house, before you enter for the first time you have to throw new, shiny coins into the house then the first three items you bring in is oil, sugar, and rice. The meaning behind it is that the coins bring money into the house. Oil sugar and rice bring prosperity.”

Context:

RE, is a sophomore at USC and is familiar with Chinese traditions. She is very invested in this culture and knows a lot about it. This was taken from a conversion over text regarding these traditions.

Thoughts:

I think this traditions is interesting. One thing I know about eastern cultures is that they have values and traditions that have to go with omens. One trend I notice is that omens play a big part in their lives whether good or bad. Symbolize matters a lot and this piece speaks to that part of Chinese culture. Throwing new coins into the house as the first item is obviously a symbol of money, which is a goal for people in life. Another symbol is the oil, sugar, and rice. These being signs of prosperity make sense as they are basic ingredients in food. Prosperity is the idea of living a good life and the start to that is always having food on the table. This helps add to the idea that symbols play a huge role in Eastern Asian culture.

Pomlázka Celebration

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Czech
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: N/A
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/13/18
Primary Language: Czech
Other Language(s): English

Informant: On every Easter Monday it is a Czech tradition for men to create a Pomlázka, which is an approximately one meter long wooden stick. This stick is then used to whip women on the butt.

The whipping is traditionally accompanied by a song, its purpose is to cleanse the woman of diseases and they are rewarded with sweets if they are children and alcohol if they are old enough to drink. Then, in some parts of the country, it is also a tradition for women to spill or pour a bucket of cold water on men as a reaction.

The songs usually are something along the lines of “give me eggs”, referring to the overarching tradition of Easter eggs. The most commonly song is something like: “Hody, hody, doprovody, dejte vejce malovaný, nedáte-li malovaný, dejte aspoň bílý, slepička vám snese jiný”, which I believe roughly translates to: “Hey, hey, give us coloured Easter eggs, if you don’t have coloured ones, give us at least white ones, your hen will give you new ones”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.

Background: My informant actively participates in Easter celebrations in Prague, where this tradition is widely practiced. According to him, most people find it ridiculous, but nevertheless entertaining, a view which he shares. He believes that this is an important expression of Czech culture, as this tradition dates back generations, but also thinks that it is practiced mostly for entertainment.

Analysis: This was one of the first holiday based customs I encountered while collecting elements of folklore. I was surprised that, despite occurring on Easter, the custom is actually relatively devoid of Christian symbolism, instead focusing on the egg element of the holiday. This seems to reflect a less-dominant role of religion within Czech culture, as Easter Sunday, a not unimportant day for Christians, is celebrated without the mention of Jesus or the resurrection at all. There are, however, some religious undertones, as the whipping sticks used by the men supposedly “cleanse” the women of their diseases.