Context: Before and during finals week, students at the University of Maryland will offer up sacrifices to give to the the mascot, Testudo, in exchange for good luck and good grades.
Collector: “Do you have any traditions on campus? Like maybe there could be a general one for everybody or a specific club or organization?”
Informant: “Yeah actually so on campus, one of the main traditions that happens every semester is sacrificing items to our campus mascot statue that is in the center of campus infant of the main library. Basically, students during finals season will sacrifice special items and leave it for him as a good luck or good omen to do well on their finals. And then it’s bad luck if you see something you like and steal it from Testudo”
Collector: “Are there specific types of items that they have to sacrifice?”
Informant: “Originally the sacrifices are suppose to be something special to you and they don’t have to be expensive or anything as long as they are personal to you. But how it is now it’s kind of turned into a much bigger event on campus and students will find like anything they can to sacrifice like many might try to find things they find funny and some with literally put up anything and are more worried about the sacrificing part then what they are actually giving.”
Collector: “Like what type of items?”
Informant: “So what I’ve seen this year has been a lot of empty alcohol bottles. Ooh, there was this girl would made a sculpture that was in the shape of a little tent to protect Testudo and that was her sacriface. They also will sacrifice campus signs, leis, school worksheets. They’ll usually also get the electric scooters and bikes and will but them there. There is also a lot of construction on campus and so they’ll but a lot of those materials near him. Balloons, stuffed animals, old projects, flowers, and yeah a lot. Also, the campus throws out all the stuff each night so there’s also a new pile every day.”
Collector: “Have you sacrificed anything?”
Informant: “No I haven’t. Every final season I always put a lot of pressure on the tradition and I want to find something super meaningful to sacrifice and I end up taking my finals before I can make a decision and so I end up not doing it. I feel like personally if I sacrifice something I don’t find special then it would be bad luck on me.”
I think this goes to show the types of traditions students will create on campus to receive stress and also receive good luck on finals. I think this is a super fun one that can be a way of strengthening school pride as it’s a big tradition a bunch of people take a part of. I think it also more deeply shows how much students worry about academics and finals and that they would give up anything to do well for them, even participating in this sort of ritual. I think the way it gets out of hand also shows how some people will just continue the tradition for the fun of it without putting much thought behind it or carrying about how it started which arguably shows a diminished value in the tradition.
pictures for reference: