Tag Archives: sign

Throwing beads

Text (ritual/folk belief)

“Throwing and collecting beads is a traditional practice and brings good luck.”


My informant has lived in Louisiana for 4 years and participated in the Mardi Gras festival twice where this practice occurs collecting many beads to wear around her neck in participation of the celebration.

Q: “What is the significance of beads at Mardi Gras parades?”

A: “The practice of throwing beads on Mardi Gras stems from 19th-century French customs where the king would throw jewels and gold to the ‘common people’”.

Q: “How do you get beads?”

A: “The people on floats are above you at the parade and you can reach your hands out or jump and wave to insinuate for them to throw beads down, or people also commonly will flash their boobs to get beads. I didn’t do that though haha. There used to be a legend that University of Lafayette students wore beads to stand out during Mardi Gras and the custom spread to now where beads are commonly worn and exchanged at the festival”


Originating in the 19th century, bead throwing is a traditional ritual/practice taking place where those of higher status or class would assert their position originally throwing any small trinkets to spectators of the parade. The evolution to throwing beads began in the 20th century as people of higher status would begin to dress up themselves and their floats in beads colored in line with the Mardi Gras theme as a symbol of creativity and expression. Today these beads are representative of the Mardi Gras season expressing appreciation for and participation in New Orleans cultural practices asserting a shared cultural identity. The traditional custom of wearing brightly colored beads and the ritual of exchanging or throwing said beads act as a way to show participation and involvement in the festivities as well as a symbol of good luck. Frazer explores the concept of homeopathic magic and the idea that like produces like. Many people partake in bead-throwing rituals in hopes of receiving good luck for the coming year partaking in this homeopathic ritual. His work provides a framework for analyzing the role and significance of rituals, symbols, and practices in various cultures. Recently, however, there has been some controversy regarding the environmental friendliness of throwing around thousands of plastic beads. Many people have called for more sustainable alternatives to this practice which is an integral part of Mardi Gras culture. This conversation touches on the adaptation and transformation of folklore over time to be more accommodating to 21st-century ideals and the evolution of folklore practices to fit the modern standards of societal and cultural norms in the United States.

The “Peace Sign” Gesture


“There’s one gesture I do all the time,” the informant prefaced.

They lifted their hand to a position beside their face. Aside from the index and middle finger straightened out, the hand would’ve been in a fist. Initially, they posed with their palm faced-out and their extended fingers pointed towards their cheek. This sort of pose seemed to lead directly into them popping their hip out. Adjusting the pose slightly, they faced their palm toward themself, pulling in their elbow and having the extending fingers positioned parallel to their cheek. With this pose, they automatically popped out the other hip.

They shrugged. “It’s just something I always do.”


The informant has a deep relationship with this gesture. It’s something they say they do instinctually– like waving at someone you know from afar or looking up when you’re in deep thought.

This gesture couldn’t be pinpointed to a specific point of origin for them. From what they know, the “peace sign” gesture was brought to them as a culmination of exposure to it from an assortment of friends and family.

They interpret it as a friendly, playful gesture that’s easy to do. Generally, it’s used as a pose when taking pictures or as a greeting pose towards friends.


While I understand that different cultures have different meanings behind the “peace sign,” this particular use of it is something common in the culture I’m in. It’s a pose that can be adjusted in a variety of ways as was demonstrated to me by the informant. Regardless of the posture, it’s always used as a positive, cutesy gesture. The inclusion of it in a pose is usually rather flashy and attention-grabbing in some way or another.

Mockingbird Messager

A is 54 years old. She was born in Ft. Waldon, Florida and moved to Sylvania, Georgia at 2 years old. She’d been there all her life until last year (2021). A has a thick Southern accent that’s very pleasant to listen to. She told me about this omen of mockingbirds carrying messages of impending death.

“If you have a mockingbird that keeps coming up to your house trying to get in, it means someone close to you or in your family is going to pass soon… It’s just a message, there ain’t nothing you can do about it.”

For more about bird folklore in general see https://raptorresource.blogspot.com/2017/10/birds-in-superstition-and-folklore.html for Mockingbird specific folklore see Power, Cathy Kelly. “Thirteen ways of looking at a mockingbird: A collection of critical essays,” Chapter 9. Georgia State University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1996. 9628838

Bubbles in Puddles


This piece is collected in a casual interview setting around a cup of coffee. My informant (BA) was born in Lille, France, and moved to California in 2002 with her husband for their jobs at Caltech. She has a Master in Human Resources and Detection of High Potentials, is a mother of two teenage girls, loves to garden and go on hikes, and is overall a very energetic and happy woman. This specific conversation is about predicting rain.

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (BA) and interviewer.

Interviewer: Can you tell me again how you can tell if it will rain again tomorrow if it rains today?

BA: Yes, yes, yes, so it works like this, ok? When its raining, there are puddles that form on the ground right? And after a while, when it rains a lot, the puddles become a little bigger. So when it rains and you see bubbles forming in the puddles, that means it will rain again tomorrow. You understand? **pauses**

Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.

BA: And so when you don’t see bubbles, it won’t rain tomorrow! 

Interviewer: Ah ok, yeah, yeah, I understand. Oh and also where did you learn this trick from?

BA: My grandparents and dad use to tell me this when I was little. We would look at the puddles outside the window to see if there were bubbles when it rained. There was something really cute and magical about it.

Interviewer: And do you still believe it will really rain again the next day if you see bubbles? 

BA: Hmm… well. When I was little I believed it. I kinda forgot about it when I grew older. I guess when I moved to California with how little it rains here I stopped believing it. 


I have heard a version of this old wive’s tale before, but it was not for predicting rain the next day, per say. The version I had heard of before was that when women worked and it was raining outside, if there were no bubbles forming in puddles, or if the bubbles burst immediately, that meant they would go home for the day because the rain would subside. However, if the bubbles formed and stayed, the rain would last and so the women would continue working. 


For another version of this old wive’s tale, please visit this website and find the comment written by “daveq” comment: https://www.weather-watch.com/smf/index.php?topic=7551.0


This folk belief was described by a friend and bandmate as we were finishing a rehearsal. I asked her to tell what she knew of the origin of horoscopes. Horoscopes are the belief that one’s birth date associates them with certain stars and planets, and that personality traits are given through this connection.

“Like, okay, so once upon a time someone was like, ‘Yo, homie, isn’t it weird that all these people who are born at the same time, or like, in the same general time period, have very similar attributes about them?’ And his friend was like, ‘Dude, agreed. I’ve definitely noticed that.’ And so they went off the, the stars. There wasn’t much else to do back then. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god, Galileo is great,’ but what else did he have to do, besides look at the sky? Um, anyway, I digress. So, that happened. A few hundred years later, someone else was like, ‘Aw, shoot, we forgot one.’ So they added in another horoscope which threw off the entire thing, and I don’t know why everyone was just cool with that. ‘Cause that means a whole group of people weren’t the zodiac that they thought they were. So um, there’s that. Um, I’m an Aeries.”