Tag Archives: tradition

A Lucky New Year

“At the beginning of every new year, my mom and dad put an item related to school in front of Ganesha to bless my brother and I for the year to come”

At the beginning of each year, their parents pray and place an item, usually dealing with education, in front of Ganesha, one of the most worshipped Hindu deities or gods. In Hinduism, Ganesha is associated with success and removes obstacles in one’s life. This is done to bring blessings to the kids for the new year and to bring success and well-being into their lives. For her, her mother places textbooks and a student ID in front of Ganesha. Education is considered to be extremely sacred in Indian culture, specifically for her family. Education, and objects pertaining to it, are symbolic of her whole life “in the eyes of Ganesha” and seen as a sacred pursuit, thus the obstacles on this path will be removed. She also emphasized that it is a ritual and tradition she will carry on for her own family as well.

My first interpretation of this tradition was that it would bring good luck and success into their educational journey, and while that has an aspect, it also encompasses practically their entire life, rather than just the education portion. Due to the importance that education has in Indian religion, it can be seen as one of the more important factors to put blessings into. This ritual was learned through the Hindu culture, demonstrating that something like textbooks can be considered a folklore object, and the act of placing them as a gift for a deity is a folklore practice passed down through families and communities. While folklore is often word of mouth stories and myths, it can intersect with religion and the culture that surrounds it, in this case Indian culture. This practice connects her and her family to their heritage just as folklore intends to do, additionally with the prayers spoken by the parents have been passed down through their ancestors, continuing on today.

Creative Insults

“Take a long walk down a short pier.”

“Go piss up a rope.”

This person grew up hearing his grandmother constantly say these insults to those who inconvenience her. From this, his whole family began to say these to others as well, and even he still says them to this day. Each time he says one, he immediately thinks of his grandmother and her Irish Catholic background. It also emphasizes that she has a strong connection to her Boston background because of the blunt style this language is often associated with.

While these insults can seem harsh, the relationship that this person, and his family, has to them show a strong familial connection and importance in his life. Like most folklore, these insults were passed down essentially as familial tradition as they had an obvious influence in shaping the communication style (insulting) that the family members gradually took up and will most likely continue to use, passing them on to others in their lives. Furthermore, folklore is often seen as having oral traditions, as much of it is told throughout history by word of mouth, being passed down generations and from community to community, just as these insults have done. Additionally, the insults the grandmother uses represents her cultural identity, likely coming from her upbringing and environment living in Boston and being an Irish Catholic. Through these verbal insults, she is able to share this identity and transmit these elements of herself to others, exhibiting common folklore themes of generational sharing, word of mouth, and cultural adaptations. Finally, when I was told about this piece of folklore in this person’s life, I too had heard these insults as I also grew up in Boston, and it brought back many memories that I have with my own friends and family surrounding these phrases!

Superstition: To Ward Off Evil With A Black Rubber Band

“My mom makes me wear a black rubber band or a black clothing item to ward off evil eyes and evil spirits.”

She has spent her whole life always making sure she is wearing a black rubber band, or a black article of clothing. Growing up she was told that this ritual will ensure that all evil eyes and evil spirits will be kept off of her. If she doesn’t have a black rubber band or piece of clothing, then her mom places a black dot, like a freckle, on the center of her cheek. Last year, she moved across the country from her family, and as a going away gift, her mother gave her a black anklet that she wears every day and every night. This person grew up Hindu and the act of having a protective, tangible, symbol is a part of many Hindu traditions that create protection and give blessings. Her mother grew up in a region of India where this tradition is practiced and so she continues to pass it on through another generation of her own family. This person has even started implementing this ritual with those that she loves in her life to ensure evil spirits are kept at bay from them.

My first impression when hearing this ritual was that it is very similar to the evil eye pendants and jewelry many people wear for similar reasons, being to rid off any evil in their lives. This ritual and act appears to have been passed down for generations, a quality important in folklore as there is an emphasis of familial traditions that create the beliefs surrounding this culture. This suggests that there is a strong connection to ancestral cultures and heritage among her family, but also in the Hindu community as well. Furthermore, while to this person the tradition was wearing a black rubber band or the black spot placed on her cheek, she now wears a black jeweled anklet. This shows that while the ritual is still the same, it has progressed and evolved into a piece of jewelry. This can be looked at in a symbolic matter, showing that as folklore and traditions carries on, it is evolved with time and adapts to different circumstances, or audiences when looked at in a wider perspective. It is common ground that folklore is an ever-changing aspect of life, and this simple switch from a rubber band to an anklet is a great example of its resilience. Finally, this person sharing her beliefs with others creates a space for shared cultural identities, another important theme of folklore, as cultural appreciation holds a large spot in the sharing of customs and stories.

“Pride feels no pain”

Text: “Pride feels no pain.”

Minor Genre: Proverb


L explained, “This proverb came down from my great-grandmother on my mother’s side. It was a saying among Southern women, maybe just ladies in general. The context was that you had to put up with pain for beauty; your looks were associated with how proud you were and how you presented yourself.

“Every time my mother brushed my hair when I was little, there were always tangles, and she would say, ‘Be quiet. Pride feels no pain.’”


The proverb “pride feels no pain” has a fairly straightforward meaning regardless of context: it implies that behaving in a manner that fills you with pride is enough to overcome any discomfort you may feel as a result of such actions. It reminds me of the phrase “beauty is pain,” which more directly relates to the idea that discomfort is an inherent part of beauty –– and that pain is a worthy price to pay to feel beautiful. In comparing the two phrases, considering “beauty is pain” as perhaps the more modern counterpart to “pride feels no pain,” it is interesting to consider the implied difference between the words “pride” and “beauty.” The word “pride” carries a more negative connotation for the person it describes, hinting that it is hubris that really disguises pain, while the word “beauty” seems to be used as more of an attribute for a person, and it is the attainment of the attribute that can be a negative experience.

“The Virgin Vault”

Text: “The Virgin Vault” or “The Vault” at Vanderbilt University

Minor Genre: Folk Speech – Crude Stereotype


L explained that “The Virgin Vault,” or “The Vault,” was the unofficial name for an all-girls hall at Vanderbilt in which boys were not allowed. It was the fourth floor of the Dyer Observatory, and its reputation as “the living space for virgins” was well-known among the student body. L lived in “The Virgin Vault” in her freshman year of college, 1993. She explained that she was aware of the hall’s reputation before she moved in – and that the title was “not considered a compliment, but it did not bother me.” It was simply where she could get a room; she wanted to get out of a bad roommate situation, and the only room available was in “The Vault.”


“The Virgin Vault” as a community nickname for an all-girls floor makes for an interesting social analysis in two main ways: it makes gendered assumptions about sexual engagements and implies that it is a negative trait for a girl to be a virgin. While it is reasonable to consider that 1993 did not have the same level of LGBTQ inclusivity that is common today, this phrase and its context implies that sex can only happen between people of the opposite sex. It also raises the question: would an all-boys floor also have the potential to be called a Virgin Vault? The answer is no, at least for Vanderbilt. This is another aspect that creates gendered assumptions about sex and traditional roles: that it is the boy who would be visiting the girl, and not vice versa.

The second interesting implication of “The Virgin Vault” is the implied negative connotation of virginity. Socially, being a virgin is considered “bad” – but so is having “too much” experience. Another aspect to consider is that some girls, including my mother (L), did not consider being labelled as a resident of “The Virgin Vault” to be a bad thing. This indicates that such a charged phrase only achieves power when it is used by/on people who care about its negative (or positive) social implications.