Your collection sheets serve as an introduction to one of the most interesting aspects of folklore: collecting it. While you are allowed to collect any type of folklore mentioned in the Brunvand text or on the Folklore web site, you must actually collect the folklore during this semester--you are not to simply copy the folklore from the Internet, attempt to remember an example from your past, or borrow the lore from a textbook. In other words, while it is acceptable to write about a proverb you heard used last week, you are not to write about a proverb you found on the Internet, heard your parents use ten years ago, or just discovered in your textbook. It follows, therefore, that you would need to attend a baby shower or a funeral to do a collection sheet on either topic. You are also encouraged to vary the type of folklore collected. In other words, if your first collection sheet covers a superstition you observed, you should try to collect some other form for your next two collection sheets, i.e., collect a joke, an urban legend told by a friend, a tall tale told by your uncle, etc. The difficulty with doing a collection sheet does not come with finding the folklore, for it is prevalent across all levels of society. The difficulty is in the presentation of the collection sheet, and student collectors seem to do best if they follow some sort of basic collection procedure. Although the specific procedure will vary somewhat depending on whether the collected folklore is oral, customary or material, the basic rules are fairly simple. Print out the format example and student example below and read over them a few times. As for common student problems, quite a few students fail to number each section, others don't include each heading as shown below, and a few always fail to cite at least three sources. If you are having problems with this assignment, post a question in the Discussion area or ask other students for their opinion in the Student Lounge or Chat areas. Remember, you will submit your completed Collection Sheet in the "Tasks, Tests and Surveys" area for a grade and post a copy to the "Collection Sheet" forum in the Discussion area so that other students can appreciate and comment on your work.
First, record what you hear or see exactly as presented. A proverb or riddle, whether obscene or ungrammatical, must be verbatim. Use a tape recorder or write fast--do not merely summarize or report the gist of it. The context and any other background information should be included as soon as possible, and sometimes a photo or drawing is needed to really capture the event or situation (you can attach an image file). Information about the informant and the folklore should be clear and complete. For example, when collecting folklore, Brunvand mentions that you might want to ask such questions as: "Where did you learn that? When do you use it or tell it? Do you believe it, or do others?" The following format is the one I would like you to follow. Be sure to answer all the questions under each heading, and you must include the numbers and heading as presented below.
(1) Name of collector--your name
(2) Type of folklore: Indicate whether it is a proverb, a calendar custom, a riddle joke, an urban legend.... Whenever possible, use your Brunvand text to support your classification choice, and be sure to cite the reference. At a minimum, you must clearly establish your reason(s) for listing the folklore as you do.
(3) Informant, place and date of collection: from who, where and when did you get the folklore. Be specific. Indicate the gender, age and anything else you can about the informant. The specific information you include will, of course vary, depending on the situation.
(4) The exact text, custom or object: This section will vary depending on the type of lore collected. If you collect a joke, place the exact text of the oral joke in this section. If you are writing about the calendar custom of decorating a Christmas tree, attach a jpeg or gif image of the decorated tree. If you collected a Native American tale, type the exact text of the tale in this section. If you observed a rite of passage (birthday, marriage ceremony, funeral...) clearly describe the ritual. Note that the information in this section is objective rather than subjective--it is a textual or graphic portrait of the oral, customary, or material folklore.
(5) Context: This must include
--the specific circumstances of the collecting: (How did you collect it? Did the informant just tell the joke or legend? What was going on when you collected it? Who else was there? What were you doing there?) Note that this section is often a mix of objective observation and subjective opinion.
(6) Analysis: This section
should offer some insight into the folklore you
collected, and there must be clear evidence of critical thinking. As
your knowledge about folklore increases, the significance and depth of
this section should expand, but I must see some comprehensive analysis
that clearly addresses the following two points:
--what might be the function of the folklore? In other words, human beings rarely do something without a purpose, so try to speculate about the possible function(s) of the specific folkore. For example, if you collect a joke, did the joke function as just a social ice-breaker? Was the joke offered as way to bring up a controversial topic in a socially acceptable manner? Was the joke offered as a means to establish someone's superiority? While there is not likely to be "one right anwser," please try to avoid offering overly simplistic or illogical explanations. If at all possible, support your position by logic and/or cite an authority on the subject.
--what might the folklore reveal about the person or group? Does the folklore indicate anything about the values, needs, and desires of the teller or audience? For example, an audience's response to a joke might tell something about the audience, and certainly the teller of a joke might well be indicating something by the type of joke told. While you should be cautious of making unwarranted assumptions or gross generalizations based on very limited observation, you are expected to freely speculate on what the folklore might reveal about the person or group. Although this section is primarily subjective, you should provide support for your claims (i.e, you can cite the opinion of experts, refer to comments made by the informant, and/or show a logical basis for your belief).
(7) Works Cited: This is the place to list the works you cite in the body of your paper. As for where to get resources worthy of citing, well, use your Brunvand text, the many COS Library online database resources, and web pages posted by reputable organizations for definition, historical background, and analysis of the collection topic. Follow standard MLA format for intext citations and the Works Cited to indicate specific sources you have consulted--and I expect each collection sheet to at least refer to three sources, and each of these sources must be listed in your Works Cited.
I. Name of Collector: John D.
II. Type of Folklore: Calendar Custom--kissing under mistletoe suspended above doorway. According to Brunvand, "A custom is a traditional practice--a mode of individual behavior or a habit of social life--that is transmitted by word of mouth or imitation, then ingrained by social pressure, common usage, and parental or other authority. When customs are associated with holidays, they become calendar customs" (329). Brunvand also notes that calendar customs "cluster around a few annual events (339). A calendar custom could include wearing green on St. Patrick's Day, lighting firecrackers on the Fourth of July, or participating in any of the many calendar customs associated with Christmas (decorating a Christmas tree, taking a kid to see Santa Clause, or as in this instance, hanging mistletoe).
III. Informant, place, date of collection. Jim Smith's home in Weed, California on the evening of December 23, 2001. Mr. Smith is a single man, employed as a logger, and has spent most of his thirty-five years living in the local area.
IV.The exact text, custom or object. I have included a rough drawing of how/where the mistletoe was attached/located in Smith's home. The doorway where the mistletoe was hung led from the living room to the kitchen. It was held in place by a small tack, tied together with a gold string, and suspended about 3 inches below the doorway.
V. Context: Mr. Smith had invited a few people over to his home for a bit of holiday fun. His home was fairly typically decorated--Christmas tree, Christmas lights outside, and a Christmas candle burning on the living room table (the table was covered with small gifts wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper). I first noticed the mistletoe when a young woman, one of the guests, started to go into the kitchen to get a glass of wine. Just as she got under the doorway, Mr. Smith grabbed her by the arm and pointed out the mistletoe above the doorway. The young woman seemed to object in a playful manner, but she was immediately reminded by the group of the tradition: (One young man even yelled, "Hey, you walked under it--you got to get kissed.") and she readily submitted to the kiss.
During the course of the evening a number of the women and men were "caught" under the mistletoe. Although some of the kisses were "as quick as a nun's kiss," I did notice that as the night wore on some kisses became longer and more intimate. Further, most everyone knew that a kiss was the "punishment" or "payment" associated with being "caught under the mistletoe," but no one indicated any knowledge of the origin or other significance of the custom. Without drawing undue attention to myself, I asked most everyone in the room a couple quick questions about the mistletoe ("What are you expected to do if you get caught under it." and "Do you know where or how the custom started?") Although everyone, except a student from Nepal, knew something about how the custom was applied, nobody even attempted to offer anything concerning the origin of the custom.
VI. Analysis: After the party I visited the COS Library and discovered that mistletoe, a joining of the "Anglo-Saxon words for 'bird dropping' and 'twig,'" was considered by the Druids as providing "magical health-bringing powers" (Morris 103). Perhaps more relevant, according to Tony van Renterghem, "special meaning was attached to...mistletoe, which brought forth fruit in winter." He goes on to say that the "Germanic tribes believed that all who passed under the mistletoe were kissed by Freya, their goddess of fertility" (77). Sir James Frazer believed the custom of kissing/mistletoe is a survival from the Saturnalian sexual license.
Anyway, the party in Weed seemed to be using the custom as a shared tradition, a party icebreaker, and a way to increase sexual interaction. Like the Christmas lights outside the house, and the giving of gifts, the mistletoe perhaps helped to establish that the group was united by their shared beliefs and customs, and this worked to make everyone feel "at home." Still, from all the possible Christmas tradition that might have been selected (Yule log, singing of songs, seasonal foods), the specific use of the mistletoe was likely selected because it fit it best with the specific needs and desires of those attending--it worked as a great party icebreaker and kept sexual interaction present throughout the evening. I was impressed by the power that the tradition held--all objection to being kissed withered away under the charge that one must obey tradition. As Brunvand states, a "custom is a traditional practice... ingrained by social pressure..."(329).
VII. Works Cited
Brunvand, Jan. The Study of American Folklore. New York: Norton, 1995.
Frazier, James. The Golden Bough. London: University of London. 1922.
Morris, William and Mary, Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. New York: HarperCollins, 1988.
Rentergham, Tony. When Santa Was a Shaman.
New York: Llewellyn, 1995.