“When it’s the minute [11:11], I close my eyes and make a wish. I try and repeat is as many times as I can until the minutes is over. It usually involves crossing my fingers because I’ve been told that it makes it better.”
When and how did you learn this?
“I’m sure in elementary school, it was one of the few luck superstitions I was taught. I heard in passing, like no one teaches you ‘sit down and do this.’”
My informant is my roommate. She went to public elementary school in Los Angeles. I noticed her pointing out the time 11:11 am, so I asked her to explain it to me. We were standing in our kitchen looking at the digital clock on our oven.
Wish-making rituals are very common (wishing on a star, making a wish on an eyelash, etc.) but what’s so interesting about this ritual is that it’s origin can be dated, and a terminus post quem can be established. The time 11:11 only looks special on digital clocks because it’s four 1s in a row. It doesn’t look or feel special on an analog clock. Therefore, this ritual must have been established after the invention and popularization of digital clocks.
“At the end of the [girl scout] meeting, you stand with your hands crossed, you hold hands, you sing Taps once and them hum the tune until we’re done. Someone starts a squeeze, they squeeze the hand of the person next to them, and they stick their foot towards the center of the circle and make a wish. Then the next person’s hand gets squeezed and then they put their foot in and make a wish, and it goes all the way around the circle. And then you turn around and untwist your hands, and then the meeting’s over.”
The informant is my mother. She was a Girl Scout during her childhood, and then she became a Girl Scout Troop Leader. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.
As a Girl Scout, I participated in the Girl Scout closing circle. It is a universal Girl Scout tradition, seeing as we would do it at the end of large Girl Scout events that included more than just our troop. The Closing Circle ends the meeting in a positive way. Holding hands unifies us as a Girl Scout community, and we through linking up we support each other and our wishes. The sticking out of the feet acts as a marker for how fast the process is moving, and is a visual signal to the troop leader for when to end the song. Taps is a traditional song that has been sung by Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and has its roots in US Army traditions.
Context: The informant is my older sister (LC) and the following text is transcribed from our phone conversation. She reflects on a good luck ritual she used to do with her friends that was taught to them by their parents.
Main Text (LC): “The belief or myth behind the meaning of the Dandelion is that if you make a wish and blow on one, and the seeds all go everywhere, your wish will come true. And I think that’s the myth everyone knows about them. But now, to me, they mean something else. They show up in this book about activism and social justice that I read and the book states that the dandelion is a metaphor for change. The book says that just like the dandelion, only one seed is necessary to spread great change, and I find this message very powerful.”
Analysis: The belief or ritual that blowing on a dandelion grants your wish has been commonplace in the United States for a long time. This practice reminds me of how a child blows out a birthday candle and makes a wish. I think it is interesting how the dandelion is used as a different metaphor in the book my sister read and demonstrates how an object’s symbolism can change over time and garner new meanings.
After I told a friend that I was collecting folklore for one of my classes, he was intrigued so I asked him if he had any folklore he’d like to contribute. I briefly explained the different kinds of folklore he could tell me. He said he wanted to think of something that is specific to his hometown, and the following came to mind, though he prefaced his account to mention that he wasn’t sure or not if this practice was just specific to his hometown.
“I’m not sure how local it is, but I’ve heard many people tell it, it’s called ‘Mirror Man.’ So, what Mirror Man is, it’s similar to Bloody Mary and in…at a sleepover or something one of the kids would go into a bathroom or something, alone, at midnight or 3am or something, lock the door, and look in the mirror in the dark and think of something you want, and you have to stand still and stare at your reflection for long enough to see your reflection move, and that means your wish has been granted and then you have to move. But, if you continue to stare after it’s [the reflection] moved, something bad will happen to you, like being sucked into another dimension by your reflection or something. But, then, some people will try to stay as long as possible after the reflection has moved to see what happens so it’s not just a wish granting thing but a bravery, dare thing.”
Afterward, he told me that he often did this at sleepovers when he was younger, and told me a few personal anecdotes surrounding his experiences, but requested I did not include them.
The informant told me that when she was younger (age 4-5), she would pluck a dandelion and blow on it to make a wish. She learned this practice from her friends in preschool. “It was a lot of fun! We would run around looking for dandelions to blow on and fight over them sometimes.
Me: Do you have to get all the dandelion seeds off in one blow?
Informant: I think so!
Me: Do you still play this game?
Informant: Hmm… I think it’s second nature to pick up a dandelion and blow now. You don’t really think about it.
Analysis: This is a common practice in the United States, where dandelions are abundant in the grass. It is similar to blowing out all the candles on a birthday cake. It most likely stems from the belief that if you blow out all the seeds, they carry your wishes and dreams and eventually blossom. It is unclear where the origin of this game came from, however there are variations, such as if you blow a dandelion and all the seeds come off, your lover loves only you. If some seeds remain, he is not loyal. This may have come from the daisy petal-plucking “He loves me, he loves me not”, game.
For the informant, this game or ritual has become so common-place that it is almost innate for her to want to pluck a dandelion and blow the seeds into the wind.