Tag Archives: weather

First Rain – A College Tradition

Background information/context of performance: DC is a 21-year-old student at University of Southern California, Santa Cruz. She grew up in Los Angeles and Alameda, CA, but is currently living in an apartment in Santa Cruz. Now that we’re back on campus, DC has been able to engage much more with UCSC culture and traditions.

DC: First Rain is another tradition that Santa Cruz has, but I think it’s the same for a lot of colleges. It still hasn’t happened this year though (laughs). Because it hasn’t even rained. It’s pretty sad, um, but I guess we still have a few weeks for it to happen.

Me: If there had been a first rain at UCSC this year, what would the tradition look like?

DC: It rains a lot in Santa Cruz usually. But a lot of students like to exercise by walking and running around campus, so maybe this came from that? I don’t know. But basically, like, whenever it rains on campus for the first time during the school year, everyone will run through campus naked. I think everyone runs from somewhere to Porter College, and the run ends there.

Me: Do you know anyone who has been able to participate in First Rain? Is that how you now about it?

DC: Yeah, I think I know a couple underclassmen friends who have? I’m not really sure. I think people mostly just know about it because it’s a big Santa Cruz thing. It just fits with the whole, like, hippie kinda reputation the college has. I remember Kayla is the one who told me about it in high school, when I decided to go here. Maybe they knew from their friends who went there in past years too.

Me: It might be too late for a First Rain this year, but would you do it next year?

DC: (laughs) Um…maybe! If my friends did it with me then I feel like it would be funny. And I’ll be a senior so I may as well since it’s my last chance. But I’m not, like, in a rush to do it. I think it’s funny though, I would definitely wanna see one before I graduate.

I have heard of this tradition occurring at multiple universities, but UCSC definitely has a culture that I feel like aligns with it tradition the most. The college is known to have a very free-spirited and artsy student body, so learning about their First Rain tradition was a fun way to see how that reputation is kept up. I also think it was very interesting to learn that First Rain has become less accessible due to the lack of rain in California, despite the fact that it was established when it rained very often during the Fall and Winter months in Santa Cruz. Hearing about this made me think about the relationship between climate change and longstanding folklore and traditions – if something like UCSC’s First Rain can no longer occur annually because the environment is much dryer than it used to be, I can only imagine how other cultural practices and traditions throughout the world have changed/become obsolete as a result of climate change as well.

Wooly Worm Weather Prediction

Background: My informant is a 50 year old woman from Tennessee. She first heard about the folklore from her father, but has heard it many times anecdotally since.

J: Wooly worms are funny little caterpillars, I’m sure you’ve seen them before. They’re everywhere in the south. 

Me: I saw tons of them in Maine when I went to summer camp! So, tell me more about them. 

J: Well, I’m no bug expert. I know they’re orange and black, and they’ve got fur! *laughter* I always thought they were funny-looking. They’re usually in the foliage, but some of them come out to uh, say hello at picnics and such. But people think the ones you find in fall can predict the severity of the winter. If the orange band is big, the winter will be mild. A bigger black band means a nasty winter. It’s a common belief. 

Me: I think I’ve heard that before. Do you think it’s true?

J: I had some cousins who really thought so. When we were younger we’d go out and look for them and they’d try to make predictions. I was probably only 6 or 7. I didn’t care so much, I just wanted to hold them, and uh, I suppose I didn’t have a good frame of reference back then. I didn’t really know what was a big band or a small band, they usually all looked the same to me. I think I can tell better now. But I’m not sure myself if it’s real. I remember bad winters, but I don’t remember if I saw big black bands on the caterpillars before them.

My thoughts: This superstition is very common, especially east of the American continental divide, so much so that after our conversation I looked it up and saw that a scientist in the 50’s tried to scientifically prove its accuracy. He didn’t ultimately do that great because his sample sizes were too small. Very similar to this practice is Groundhog day, where Punxsutawney Phil looks for his shadow, and if he sees it, it means six more weeks of winter. The difference is that the wooly worm predictions are more localized and personalized, as anyone who finds a caterpillar can make their own predictions. Groundhog day is mostly endemic to Pennsylvania, though even in California some people take it as a prediction for our own winter, which is quite silly. I think the wooly worm predictions have a better chance of being legitimate than the groundhog prediction, though both are ultimately just longstanding and fun folk superstitions. 

For more info on wooly worms, see https://www.almanac.com/woolly-bear-caterpillars-and-weather-prediction

Ghost Story: Cursed Tomb

Main Piece: 

“If there’s a woman and she’s pregnant with a kid, if she dies and gets buried, there’s a possibility that the kid is still alive. The tomb will be cursed and the kid will still live and grow and live in the tomb. And the village where the tomb is won’t receive any rain for many years.”

Background:

My informant said that this was a folk belief that he had heard, like a ghost story, growing up in China. The informant had little personal relationship to this story, but had heard it repeatedly from a variety of ages. It seemed more region-specific than specific to another group. He offered interpretations of the story both as a regular “spooky story” to tell and as a folk belief in farmers to help avoid or explain away destitute lands. 

Thoughts:

Ghosts are often reflections of what a culture considers unfinished business or a scar from the past. It’s likely that in this case, we’re seeing part of a natural grieving process for the loss of both the pregnant woman and the unborn child. Because there is a feeling of doubled loss, a supernatural consequence may feel necessary. Additionally, there’s a strong sense in this story that the natural order is being disrupted. Pregnancy is supposed to lead to new life, but it is disrupted here and ends in death. As a consequence, the natural order of the weather is equally negatively disrupted. The curse on the tomb is a curse of no rain and thus no crops. 

Bubbles in Puddles

Context: 

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. 

Thoughts: 

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. 

Annotation:

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

Valley of Manoa

Main Piece:

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

Informant: In Oahu, there’s the valley of Manoa, which now is like a famous hiking trail. The story is that Hine, the wind of Manoa, married Kani, the rain of Manoa. Together they had their daughter, Kaha- she descended from the very rain and wind of Manoa, she’s beautiful and ethereal, and everything. So, Kaha’s promised to marry the prince of the sea, Kauhi. She spends her time secluded from everyone else, up in the air, looking down on the valley of Manoa. One time she saw the chiefs of the villagers of Manoa, and decided to step down from the clouds. She fell in love with him. She stepped down and she was turned into a human being. She wasn’t sad because she always envied the people of Hawaii and Manoa Valley. She married the chief, and made family at the valley. But she knew that Kauhi would be eager to get her back, so she had to stay away from the sea to be safe. One day, she for some reason decided to go out for a swim because it was such a beautiful day. To get her back, Kauhi had turned into a shark and tried to bring her to the ocean. But she had turned into a mortal, so the shark accidentally killed her. After he realized what he did, Kauhi brought her body back to the shore. Her body was buried in the valley where she loved her people. To mourn her, her parents, the wind and the rain, will cry for her even till this day. And that’s why the Manoa Valley gets so much rain and wind.

Interviewer: Where did you hear this story at first?

Informant: My grandpa would just have these stories, he’d tell it to me and my siblings anytime we visited the islands. But when I went to Manoa Valley, there was actually a little sign there at the entrance that described this very story, so I guess it’s a pretty common tale.

Background:

The informant is a 20 year old USC student. She is of caucasian and Japanese descent. Her father’s side of the family is Japanese, and third generation Hawaiian immigrants. The first wave of Japanese immigrants into the islands of Hawaii started in the late 1800s, but the U.S. annexation of the islands sped up the process of this movement. At their peak in 1920s, the population percentage of Japanese in Hawaii was around 45%. According to my informant, the culture that her family grew up in was a mixture of indigenous Hawaiian and Japanese.

Context:

The conversation took place over a Zoom call. The informant was alone at her room, at her family house in Irvine, California. It was a comfortable environment.

My thoughts:

Any culture, around the world, will have a piece of myth that tries to explain natural phenomenons. The Valley of Manoa is especially known for its unpredictable rain and wind that come in waves, and this piece of myth was a very justifiable and poetic way of describing this phenomenon.