Tag Archives: university

Boston University Seal Superstition

Context:

The informant, NR, is a current Boston University student and heard about this superstition from friends while walking around campus.

Main piece:

“So, there’s a, there’s a giant seal in the center of Marsh Plaza, which is kind of like the center of campus. And it’s superstition that like, if you step on the seal, you won’t graduate in time. Literally like, you can go to Marsh Chapel like any time during the day, and like it’s the center of campus so like it’s always going to be, there’s always going to be people walking every which way. But if you observe, you’ll, uh, notice that people will like actually go out of their way to avoid stepping on it, on the seal.”

Analysis:

I think this is a pretty common college superstition, and I’ve heard mention of multiple similar versions on different campuses. Many universities have school seals embedded somewhere on their grounds, and since the seal is associated through its shape with the authority of the university, stepping on the seal could be seen as disrespecting the authority of the educational institution.

Alternatively, the seal could represent the college community, and disrespecting the community by stepping on the seal would result in being left behind while your classmates graduate on time. Other versions, like the one linked below, include conversions for reversing the bad luck drawn by stepping on the seal, but the informant says he has never heard of a conversion for stepping on Boston University’s seal.

For another version of this superstition, see this superstition around stepping on the seal at Auburn University: “Auburn University – Seal Superstition” by Eli Alford, USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 1, 2021, http://folklore.usc.edu/auburn-university-seal-superstition/

War Eagle

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. 

Go Bears?

Main Piece:

“So, I only say ‘go bears’ ironically. We say “go bears” when someone says or does something really stupid, like when someone walks into a stop sign, like any stupid things. I say it truthfully to alumni when they prompt me to, but I pretty much only say it as a joke. My friends have started doing it as well, yeah, other people on the Berkeley meme page do it also.”

Context: 

The informant is my friend. He is a sophomore at UC Berkeley and is Jewish. The mascot of UC Berkeley is the bear. This information was collected during a FaceTime call.

Analysis: 

This is an example of a subversion of an institutional phrase. Like at most universities, slogans are supposed to be a statement of school pride. However, seeing as the youth like to subvert institutions, students tend to not take these slogans seriously and instead turn them into jokes. In this case, the phrase “Go Bears” has turned from a slogan for school pride into a reaction for when someone does something dumb. The punchline of the joke is “wow, people who go to UC Berkeley aren’t actually very bright, and the school shouldn’t take as much pride in itself is it does.” 

Legend – Stepping on the School Seal

Context: 

My informant is a 21-year-old female MSU student from Southern California. She heard this story from a friend who went to a different university, though she couldn’t remember which one. This story was collected when we were on a phone call and I asked her if she knew any school lore. 

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Main Text:

JV: “Ok so one story I remember hearing about from a couple years ago. I can’t remember the school, but according to A, at their university there is a place where the school seal is on the ground and some distance away is a statue of the school mascot. The story goes that if any graduating senior steps on the seal, they have to touch the statue within five or ten seconds or they won’t graduate… Apparently, A saw a guy step one foot on the seal. He paused, yelled a curse, then dropped everything he was carrying to sprint for the statue.”

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Analysis:

Many schools seem to have superstitions surrounding stepping on school seals prior to graduation. School traditions and lore are one of the ways to build community and are especially important at large schools where students otherwise do not have much in common. Stepping on the deal bringing bad luck might reflect an inherent respect for the school and its official representations, which need to be honored and not metaphorically sullied by people stepping on them. Having a way to “break the curse” provides a fun ritual for students to witness. However, it’s also interesting to note that even students who would probably say they don’t believe in magic will drop everything to participate in the ritual as they don’t want to jinx themselves on the off chance that it might actually be real. For another description of traditions surrounding stepping on school seals, see Laskowski, Amy. “The Myths and Legends Behind the BU Seal.” May 9, 2019. http://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/boston-university-seal/

Do not go on top of the Asinelli Tower

Main piece:

M.P:So…I don’t actually know from who and when I got to know this thing, but everyone I know, even people that come to study in Bologna from abroad know this. So basically it is said that college students do not have for any reason go on top of the Asinelli Tower in Bologna before they get their degree or otherwise, they won’t graduate. Now, I don’t have any idea about the reason behind this belief or what kind of energy the tower has [laughs], thing is, everyone I know, me included, respect this tradition. 

Background:

My informant is a 23 years old girl who was born in Bologna, Italy, and who is now getting her master degree in archaeology and Egyptology at the city’s university, and who got her bachelor degree in anthropology and oriental studies 2 years ago always at Bologna’s Alma Mater Studiorum. This superstitious legend and folk belief came to her attention as soon as she started college, or maybe even before, when she was younger, but what makes it particularly interesting to her is that also people who are not originally from Bologna and come to study in the city from abroad get to know and follow this. Another thing that makes this belief exceptionally curious to her is that she is not an especially superstitious person; however, she has always -consciously or not- respected this tradition, and, until she won’t have concluded her studies, she won’t “for any reason go on top of that place”.

Context:

This is a well-known belief of my city, which, even if I am not a student at Bologna’s university, I got to know in time. My informant told me about this while we were chatting at a restaurant in the city center of Bologna.

Thoughts:

Various are the things that make this particular folk piece particularly compelling. 

First of all, it can be considered an intersection of belief, legend and superstition, and it’s possible to see how the three genres overlap and leak one into the other. Specifically, it is interesting to notice how the concept of aesthetic of belief is, in this example, perfectly encapsulated, it being the solid foundation on which the piece is established. My informant made it perfectly clear when stating that, despite not being particularly superstitious, she was convinced of its truthfulness because persuasively influenced by multiple sources from the most different backgrounds and identities. Moreover, this belief is somethings which unites a specific social and peer group, the one of the students who are currently attending university and, therefore, sharing the same life experience. 

What makes it even more interesting is that this tradition doesn’t unite only students attending Bologna’s university, but all those people who are currently attending a college, and this is due to two main reasons. First, if you are a college student in another city and you come to visit Bologna, you should follow, anyway, the tradition, because the belief is said to concern every person who is identifiable with the categorization of ‘university student’. Second, -and here comes the really curious part- every Italian city who as an Atheneum has a similar belief connected to itself. University students shouldn’t go on top of Pisa’s Tower or Turin’s Mole Antoneliana, they shouldn’t look at Minerva’s statue in Rome and Sanmartino’s Cristo Velato in Naples, and they shouldn’t visit Ferrara’s Castello Estense or cross Pavia University’s courtyard, or, otherwise, they won’t get their degree.