Sinclair Stevenson. The resignations of Mr. Bayley, Miss Grace Porter, Mr. Balleine, Prof. Murray, Mr. Wells Bladen, Mr. Higgens, and Mrs. Dudley Harvey ; the withdrawal of the subscriptions of the St. The Rev. Alan Gardiner, Mrs. Seligman, and the Chair- man took part ; and some observations by Mr. Crooke upon the paper were read by the Secretary.
Bussell having VOL. A 2 Minutes of Meetings. Gaster Vice-President in the Chair. The death of Sir John Rhys was announced, and, on the motion of the Chairman, a vote of condolence with his family was passed unanimously. Flower, Mr. The meeting terminated with a hearty vote of thanks to Dr.
Baudis for his paper. The President Dr. Marett in the Chair. The minutes of the last Annual Meeting were read and confirmed. Gaster, seconded by Miss Burne, it was resolved that the same be received and adopted, but as to the Cash Account and Balance Sheet, subject to audit. Marett, M. As Vice-Presidents — The Hon. Abercromby; Sir E. Minutes of Meetings.
Burne; Edward Clodd, W. Crooke, B. Frazer, D. Gaster, Ph. Had- don, D. Hartland, F. Rouse, Litt. Sayce, LL.
Tylor, LL. Wright, F. Banks; M. Long- worth Dames; Lady Gomme ; P. Heather ; W. Hild- burgh, M. Hodson ; Miss Eleanor Hull E. Lovett; A. Major; W. Rivers, M. Routh; C. Seligman, M. Tabor; E. Torday His Honour J. Udal, F. Westermarck, Ph. Wheatley, F. Windle, F. As Ho7i. Treasurer — Edward Clodd. As Hon. Aiiditor — C.
J, Tabor. The Chairman delivered his Presidential Address, entitled " Primitive Values," for which a vote of thanks, moved by Dr. Gaster and seconded by Miss Burne, was carried by acclamation. Although the Society has inevitably suffered from the continuance of the war, it is in the happy position of having added 12 new members to its roll. It is feared that few of those whose resignations in the year 19 14 were due to the war, and whose names were retained upon the roil of members, will resume their subscriptions during the current year.
Their names will therefore automatically disappear from the roll. The Council have allowed those who have resigned during 5 for the same cause the option of having their names retained upon the roll and of receiving the quarterly parts of Folk-Lore until the end of the current year. The Council believe that they are adopting a sound policy in making this concession. The total number of members and subscribers now stands at , as against a year ago; but unfortunately a large number of subscriptions are in arrear. The Society is to be congratulated on the relative strength of its financial position.
The Council deeply regret to have to record the death of Sir John Rhys, who for many years had been a Vice- President of the Society, and whose eminence as a Celtic scholar and whose valuable contributions to the study of folklore are so widely known. Annual Report of the Cotmcil. Annual Meeting. Presidential Address: "War and Savagery. Martin Freeman. Varendonck's lecture and the illustrations of Flemish folk-songs given by his twelve-year-old daughter were much appreciated. Martin Freeman's paper was also interspersed with some delightful musical illustrations. It was hoped that at the November meeting Mr.
Lovett would have been able to give his promised lecture on the Children's Toy Museum at Stepney, in the formation of which he has taken so keen an interest, but he was unfortu- nately prevented by illness. The President very kindly stepped into the breach at the eleventh hour, and gave a most interesting lecture on the antiquities and folklore of the Channel Islands, fully illustrated by lantern slides.supersocial.dev3.develag.com/882-la-que-se.php
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The only objects exhibited during the session were some Spanish amulets and charms which Dr. Hildburgh brought with him to the November meeting. Photographs and descriptions of some of these objects appear in the December number of Folk-Lore. The Council consider that they were justified in pro- ceeding with the meetings as usual, notwithstanding the small attendance at some of them. Owing to the stringency of the new lighting regulations, they have thought it ad- visable during the early part, at any rate, of the current session to hold the meetings at 5 p.
Several additions have been made to the Society's Library during the year, particulars of which have been duly noted in Folk-Lore. Gaster and Mr. Longworth Dames were again deputed to attend the meeting of the Congress of Archae- ological Societies as representatives of the Society ; and Sir E. Seligman President of Section H , Mr.
Hartland, Dr. The President has been deputed to serve on the Committee for the provision of a fresh library for the University of Louvain. The twenty-sixth volume of Folk-Lore has been issued during the year. Although it is slightly smaller in bulk and contains fewer illustrations than some of its prede- cessors, the Council believe it will be found to maintain its usual high level of excellence.
A debt of gratitude is due to Mr. Crooke for the pains he has bestowed on the volume, and the Council are glad to think that they will have the benefit of his invaluable services during the coming year. Gaster, has also been issued during the year, and the Council are glad to take this opportunity of offering him their congratulations on his important contribution to the Society's publications.
The Council have not decided whether they will issue an additional volume for the years 5 and , or either of them. The uncertainty occasioned by the continuance of the war renders it desirable to exercise strict economy, and the matter is one which will require very mature con- sideration. The work of the Brand Committee is making steady progress, but owing to the scarcity of voluntary readers whose energies are now necessarily directed into other channels the assistance of paid labour will be necessary to complete the collection.
The work is perhaps as valuable as any that has yet been undertaken and ought to have a very prominent place in the activities of the Society. The Council have to thank Miss Burne for the admirable work she has done as Secretary of the Committee. Their thanks are also due to the other members of the Committee, and to the band of volunteers who have assisted them in the collection of materials for the work. The relations of the Council with Messrs.
In order to avoid unnecessary correspondence the Council have arranged that a printed post-card addressed to the publishers shall be issued with the December number of Folk-Lore each year, giving particulars of the publications issued during the year, and intimating that no claim for any part or volume alleged by a member to be missing will be entertained unless received by the publishers before the 31st March.
In past years members have occa- sionally claimed to receive publications issued three or four years previously. The Council are of opinion, therefore, that there is ample justification for the step which they have taken. The Council desire once again to call attention to the fact that a considerable part of the salvage stock remains on hand. The volumes have been rebound and are in a very fair condition. The price is 4s. The Cash Account and Balance Sheet for the year are submitted herewith.
Adopted and ordered to be printed, ist Feb. The collection of Notes for the Revised Edition of Brand's Popular Anliquities has been steadily pursued during the year, though by a greatly diminished number of workers. It has now so far advanced as to make a survey of the material gathered possible and desirable. It becomes apparent that the new matter in the hands of the Committee mainly represents the living tradition of the nineteenth century, still partially in existence ; while Brand's work consists almost entirely of historical records and literary allusions to such traditional customs.
In collating the two, it will be necessary to discard the somewhat mis- cellaneous arrangement of Sir Henry Ellis's edition, and to adopt one which may better conform to modern standards. Such an arrangement must be on the one hand chrono- logical. It must show the growth or decay of custom from age to age, from chronicler to chronicler : from Fitzstephen to Stow, to John Aubrey, to Henry Bourne, William Hone, and W. Thorns successively.
On the other hand it must be topograpliical. It must carefully avoid confusion between the varying customs of different localities and must bring out the varieties of local colour developed by similar customs in different regions. Although the work of classification has thus been begun, Report of the Brand Coviinittee. Wales and Scotland have been treated with tolerable thoroughness, but numerous Irish works still remain to be examined, besides the Dialect Glossaries, Local Notes and Queries, County Histories, and Archaeo- logical Journals, of a dozen or more English counties.
The cost of this to the Society will be considerable, unless voluntary workers can be found to undertake at least some part of it. Other steps which must shortly be taken are the verification of Brand's references, the examination of the interleaved copies of Poptilar Antiquities in the British Museum, and the study of the ancient agricultural systems of the British Isles with special reference to the influence upon agriculture ascribed to the solar and lunar phenomena.
The Committee must therefore conclude by appealing again for workers, even for workers who in these strenuous days can only give a small portion of their time to the task. Wheatley, Chairman of Committee. Primitive Values. I WONDER if Sir James Frazer can furnish us with an example of a primitive king who, when the proper time had come for him to die for the good of his people, found himself unexpectedly reprieved and bidden to reign for a fresh term.
Something of the sort has happened in the present case. The ceremonial slaying of the President is an annual, or at most biennial, custom which this Society for its own good must duly perform in normal times. But the times are not normal. Hence it has been ordained that the outworn vessel in which the viana of the Society is stored should continue to fulfil its functions as best it may — fit symbol, I suppose, of a diminished, though, let us hope, merely suspended, vitality on the part of that science which the Society exists to further.
As for personal inclination or disinclination to remain in office, I ought perhaps to say nothing about it, since such a consideration is, strictly, not in point at all. A vessel as such has no feelings. Thus the primitive king was expected to keep his private sentiments to himself. Neither need he take up his duties with a nolo episcopari on his lips, nor need he lay them down with a volo iniinolari.
Nevertheless, despite the lack of anthropological precedent, let me thank you heartily for the great honour you have done me in thus affixing a fresh clasp to my presidential medal. Your Presidential Address. As for what I have to say to-night, I must apologize for once more introducing the well-worn topic of the war.
The fact is that I cannot get my thoughts away from the subject, much as I could wish to do so. Even, then, at the risk of repeating myself, I must out with that which I find it in my heart to say ; and, for your part, you must bear with me if I am more than usually tedious. After all, man is on his trial to-day ; and we, as students of man, cannot remain indifferent to the great moral issue that is at stake, namely, whether man is at heart a brute or not. Before embarking on my theme, however, let me refer very briefly and inadequately to the great loss that has befallen this Society in the death of Sir John Rhys, for many years our Vice-President.
He was a personal friend of mine. Indeed, our respective colleges face each other across a narrow street ; and he was always ready to let me drop in upon him for a chat. I used to regard him not merely as a mine of information concerning the manifold questions with which our science deals — though of course he was that — but rather as an incarnation of the very spirit of folklore.
He himself came of the folk, having been born and bred in a countryside that almost literally bordered on fairyland. Moreover, a thorough knowledge of his native idiom gave him a sure clue to the psychology of his own people, so that even the twilight depths of the racial con- sciousness were revealed to him. Thus, as a man of science, he could work from the heart of his subject outwards. The soul of the matter could not escape him, or he would have had to escape from his own soul. About details, however, he might change his mind constantly, and, in fact, did so ; for his sense of proportion, being determined by an abiding 14 Presidential Address.
Some of his critics might complain that he was erratic in his opinions. Those who knew him intimately, however, would say rather that, in all its flights, his mind remained true to an unfailing sense of direction ; such a faculty having been implanted in him by heredity, nurtured by an early training amid homely sur- roundings, and brought to full development by years of patient and intelligent study. Wales never bore a son who loved her more or understood her better.
In such a capacity we are merely concerned with the history of man. But, though human values have a history, they are not fully explained and justified by their history. Ultimately, values are constituted by the will. A man's free choice determines that one course of action shall rank as better than another. At most, history can try to show that, on the average and in the long run, a certain type of conduct as compared with some alternative type leads to extinction on the part of those who choose to put it into practice.
But if the free agent, thus threatened with extinction, boldly replies, ' For the sake of what I hold to be right and just, I am ready to persevere even unto the death,' there is an end to the argument. History has nothing more to say, unless pos- sibly it be by way of an epitaph.
Presidential Address. Is an ethical principle primarily something to die for rather than something to live by? Can the will of man authorize a policy of suicide without abdicating its right to a genuine freedom? If we were, indeed, to pay exclusive attention to certain phases of the history of human morals, it might seem that, in the view of the purest ethical thought, the price of spirituality was the renunciation of the world. Such a doctrine has commanded a large measure of respect in the more advanced religions both of East and West. Philo- sophers, too, have upheld the same idea, whether it be Plato passionately proclaiming the euthanasia of Socrates, or Kant scholastically vindicating the rigour of the moral law.
So there might seem to be nothing in common between the voice of conscience, preaching the absolute supremacy of duty, and the voice of history, prating of consequences and conditions. It needs, however, but a modest gift of psychological insight to rid us of the paradox that moral goodness is neither of, nor for, this world of living and striving humanity. Up to a point the psychology of devotion and of obsession is the same.
A certain contraction of the field of mental illumination accompanies a heightened focus of attention. It is characteristic of the mood of action no less than of the mood of detached contemplation that the consciousness concentrates on a single object. The man who is strung up to the pitch of martyrdom, be it for a good cause or for a bad, has lost the sense of his surroundings. Nevertheless, it is essential that the will, thus braced and mobilized, shall concentrate on the object immediately presented.
As the martyr does not look back, so neither does he look forward. He must establish his everlasting kingdom here and now. He does not sacrifice to that hollow kind of eternity which excludes the present. Thus, though the man of principle, intensely set on the object before him, cannot spare a glance over his shoulder to see if and how he is being followed, we need not think of him as one who leaves the world of men to take care of itself.
The 'noble army of martyrs' is a many in one, and the member of such an army a one in many, inasmuch as a universal rule is individually obeyed for the common good, by each putting it into action for himself without waiting upon the rest. And this army is no exclusive corps, but by the terms of its service embraces all mankind.
If there were a general desire on the part of suffering humanity to emigrate from this poor planet, the matter could doubtless be arranged ; but, even so, nothing would be gained from the standpoint of ethics, unless sin should somehow be excluded from the baggage. Let us, then, make all due allowance for the psycho- logical need of attending to the moral intuition regardless of consequences, while notwithstanding we insist that this world of men as a whole is the true sphere of moral endeavour. History with anthropolog - merely constitutes an advisory board without power to act.
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Ethics lays down a policy. History, if it deem such a policy disastrous in the light of past events, can at most seek to dissuade. Ethics does not require to prove its case so long as intuition points the direction clearly. History, on the other hand, must shoulder the burden of disproof, and can hope to affect the ethical judgment only if it can make it highly probable that the proposed course of action is incompatible with the present and future welfare of the human race.
Having thus defined the extent to which we as anthro- Presidential Address. That a strife of principles of some sort is involved in the present war between the European Powers will, I suppose, hardly be denied. Moreover, if any one were to contend that the principles thus brought into violent conflict were of the purely political order, and did not implicate certain moral and spiritual issues, he might surely be set aside as a superficial observer.
The political aspect of the struggle is, doubtless, of no little importance. Democracy is at death-grips with the militant state. But more is at stake than this or that type of social organization. Is it to be a reign of freedom or a reign of force? The moral ideas behind the rival organizations are themselves at war. The more vital question for us, then, is whether anthro- pology can show which moral idea is likely to defeat the other, whether in the near future or at any rate in the end. Some philosophers, indeed, would be loth to admit that a war between moral principles is conceivable at all.
I am not referring to those thinkers who would simply declare that whatever conflicted with their own moral principles is neither moral nor a principle at all. I am speaking, not of the jingoes of the speculative world, but rather of the pacificists, who would reconcile all contradictions in some higher, if vaguer, unity. It is easy to parody this notion of a formal all-inclusiveness. Thus, once it is assumed that the perfect animal must be omnivorous in the sense of eating nothing in particular, there can be no difificulty in showing how the carnivorous lion and the herbivorous lamb, when fully evolved, may lie down and be happy together.
But it is better to allow that, discreetly used, such a philosophic method can do much to promote the harmony of the world, by showing half-truths to be com- 1 8 Presidential Address. If, for instance, the democratic interpretation of the principle of freedom were to ignore the need both of self-discipHne and of that external system of sanctions which is the school of such self-discipline, then it would be profitable to realize that something may be learnt from the militant state with its uncompromising ideal of a social drill.
But it is scarcely in point here to discuss the philosophy of Hegel, more especially seeing that it no longer reflects the spirit of the country where it arose. In its stead there reigns in the country in question the philosophy of Nietzsche. The world is for the superman.
Dominancy within the human kind must be secured at all costs. As for the old values, they are all wrong. Christian humility is a slavish virtue ; so is Christian charity. He must put off the new man, and put on the old. Or, if he cannot be archaic in his moral style, at least he can try to be archaistic. Now, dialectically speaking, it clears the air when one party to a controversy is prepared to define his position in set terms.
Often it is only by this means that the other party becomes fully conscious of the purport of his oppo- sition. He who is not with Nietzsche is against him. The adversaries of the nation which appears to find spiritual comfort in a hymn of hate might hesitate to claim a monopoly of the Christian virtues, were it not actually thrust upon them. That democracy implies a doctrine of love cannot be demonstrated by any formal process of logic.
Democracy is not a system but a ferment. The militant state, on the contrary, is a system, and herein lies both its weakness and its strength. It appeals to the head, but it leaves the heart cold. It embodies law ; but it fails alike to embrace morality and to enshrine religion. The militant state is static, democracy is dynamic. The one stands until it breaks, the other is a growing thing which suffers death only to live again more abundantly. And the seed of democracy is social sympathy. Viewed externally, the democratic spirit might seem to be but a spirit of revolt.
Viewed from within, it is perceived to be a spirit of tolera- tion such as enables outworn conventions to be constantly renewed without rupture of the social tie. Hence democracy is hateful to a certain type of philosopher. It smacks of the infinite, that bugbear of the tidy-minded.
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It cannot be reduced to an idea ; its content is a discontent, which is divine only for those who seek God in the indefinable. Love implies hope, which is the despair of knowledge; it implies faith, which is heresy for the dogmatic. Then let us say, in deference to the prejudices of those who view the world through the spectacles of formal logic, that the humanism with which the cause of democracy is bound up is not so much a philosophy as a religion.
It involves a more spiritual interpretation of the destiny of man than does the com- placent conceptualism. And yet it is the upholders of the militant state who appeal to nature and the primitive — as if the voice of nature and the wild bore unmistakable witness to the truth of 20 Presidential Address. Anthro- pology is science only in the sense that history is science. It can and it must keep itself free from the philosophy of naturalism, with its cardinal principle of mechanism, determinism, materialism, or whatever its adherents choose to call their creed.
Anthropology, then, as being primarily concerned with human nature in its more primitive forms, has simply to report on what it finds, leaving it to philo- sophy and religion to discuss its findings and draw their own conclusions in their own way. All that anthropology seeks to do as science is to be fair to the facts. Even if they seem to lead up to contradictory conclusions of a philosophical or practical kind, we anthropologists must frame our descriptions, whether particular or general, so as to do equal justice to every phase of the life-history of man.
Now I am not sure if all my anthropological brethren will be content to acquiesce in such a limitation of outlook. Historically, some of them may say, anthropology is the child of the natural sciences ; a naturalistic philosophy is the mother's milk whence it first drew sustenance. Well, even if that were so, it does not follow that the same diet must suit it in its riper years. Besides, if it come to that, it might be argued that all history is afflicted with a certain bias towards determinism.
After all, it embodies what must be partly and may be wholly an external view of human life. Thus the soulless sort of historian tends to envisage his world of men simply as a puppet-show. But the historian with a soul projects it into his subject, and forthwith his stage is thronged with living actors. So too, then, we need an anthropology with a soul. The Edinburgh Review Ap. Hence, if we are to treat of primitive values, it must be by means of a trans-personal appreciation of those values. We must somehow join souls with the so-called child of nature, in order to discover whether the sophisticated ethics of the militant state are really germane to the wild heart of him, whether the inner spring of his psychology is a lust of domination.
How are we to join souls with the savage. If he be a bit of a savage himself — as I hope that more than one of us here present may be — he can make friends with the savage at his door. The cottage stands half way between the city and the cave. Inveterate, yet ever young, the peasant cherishes most the things in our life that change least. Does the peasant form the backbone of the militant state. No man can fight more sturdily than he to defend hearth and home. But does he love war or dominancy for its own sake. Here at any rate we have ready to hand a touchstone to be applied to this great controversy about the bent of the natural man.
Speculation concerning cave- men 'that tare each other in their slime' is infinitely less profitable in comparison. If, how, and why the cave-men fought, we cannot tell for sure ; though perhaps we can answer for the slime. My own theory about the peasant, as I know him, and about people of lowly culture in general so far as I have ' See Folk-Lore, xxv. Thus to the thesis that human charity is a by-product, I retort squarely with the counter-thesis that human hatred is a by-product.
The brute that lurks in our common human nature will break bounds sometimes ; but I believe that whenever man, be he savage or civilized, is at home to himself, his pleasure and pride is to play the good neighbour. It may be urged by way of objection that I over-estimate the amenities, whether economic or ethical, of the primi- tive state; that a hard life is bound to produce a hard man.
I am afraid that the psychological necessity of the alleged correlation is by no means evident to me. Surely the hard-working individual can find plenty of scope for his energies without needing, let us say, to beat his wife. Nor are the hard-working peoples of the earth especially notorious for their inhumanity.
Thus the Eskimo, whose life is one long fight against the cold, has the warmest of hearts. Stefansson says of his newly discovered ' Blonde Eskimo,' a people still living in the stone-age : ' they are the equals of the best of our own race in good breeding, kindness, and the substantial virtues. Yet the inevitable consequence is not a drying-up of his natural affections. In the deserts of Central Australia, where the native is ever threatened by a scarcity of food, his constant preoccupation is not how to prey on his companions.
Rather he unites with them in guilds and brotherhoods, so that they may feast together in the spirit, sustaining themselves with the com- mon hope and mutual suggestion of better luck to come. But there is no need to go so far afield for one's proofs. Stefansson, My Life with the Eskimo , Is it not the fact that unselfishness in regard to the sharing of the necessaries of life is characteristic of those who find them most difficult to come by? The poor are by no means the least ' rich towards God. I am far from suggesting, however, that human nature can afford to dispense with a strain of hardness altogether.
The individual needs grit ; society needs the legal fibre. This is the point that I was trying to make in my last address to this Society : namely, that a certain fighting quality forms an essential ingredient in all true manliness; though it is only by an aberration and perversion of the genuine impulse that it gives rise to savagery in the damnatory sense of the word. But to-night I am seeking rather to maintain the converse proposition, that there is likewise a gentle element in the natural man which stands to the hard element in a normal relation of superiority.
Let me take as a test case the development of the ' will for power' among the simpler peoples. If it appear that it is on the whole a will to exert power over other men, whereby they may become the slaves of the superman, who in this domination and exploitation of the rest tastes the highest value that life affords, then it would seem that the hard element in human nature is the master-principle. But if it turn out, on the contrary, that it is mainly a will to exert power over self, whereby a spiritual experience, indirectly involving a disposition towards a life of social service, may be attained for its own sake, then, so far as a merely anthropological proof can take us, the presumption is that the gentle element has the better natural right to rule.
Now it cannot be denied that the savage is at one with his civilized brother in wishing to enjoy material blessings 24 Presidential Address. His appetites are hearty. But he can at least claim this merit, that he has not based a philosophy on the desire to wax fat. On the other hand, notions of the type of inaiia or orenda, which are of a nascently philosophic order, testify to the predominance in the minds of those who use such expressions of another, and, we may fairly say, a higher form of desire.
To have mana is incidentally, no doubt, to be able to procure pigs or yams to a more than ordinary extent. It makes a man master of his material environment according to the degree in which the mysterious power is present. But primarily mana is sought for its own sake, not merely for what it brings. The felt need is for something indwelling, something pertaining to the inner man. Thus we know how the word mana and its derivatives have given birth in the Polynesian dialects to a multitude of phrases expressive of the various activities and states of the soul.
Among the Kabi tribe of Queensland the professional healer is said to be manngur — full of vitality. He cures his patient by means of certain sacred stones whereby the vital force is trans- mitted from his own body to that of the sufferer ; and we have it on the strength of a native account that there are always such stones in the doctor's inside, his hand, bones,, calves, head and nails alike being full of them.
Mathew, Eagkhawk and Crow , This state of the inner man is the means whereby his practical triumphs are effected, but has value on its own account, if only because it is the end to which his striving is proxi- mately directed. The last example, moreover, calls attention to an aspect of the primitive notion of supernormal power which is a characteristic and even universal feature. Mana implies tabu. The sense of spiritual invigoration is acquired at the cost of withdrawal into self and away from the world.
We need not be offended by the vagaries of tabu as practised, say, by the medicine-man or the divine king. If we are astounded that the savage is so freakishly shy, let us at least take note of the fact that he has made a virtue of his shyness, that upon the fabric of his very fears he has founded a stronghold in which the character may develop. It is the sensitive soul, not the callous, that can thus reach high tension by submitting to insulation. Life can afford to undergo simplification only when the object is to bring out an intrinsic richness of tone.
This power, then, which comes through self-discipline and self-control is utterly different in kind from the power which discharges itself in wanton riot and the breaking of bounds. The savage in his groping way is trying to be a law unto himself, and instinctively avoids the blasphemy of setting up an ideal of lawlessness among the eternal values.
Spencer and F. In the next place, we note that the primitive theory of supernormal power tends to represent it as a gift, or, one might almost say, as a loan on terms. There is great confusion of thought, to be sure, when it is sought to determine the precise source of the benefit received. It may be, as Codrington declares, that, according to the Melanesian belief, it exclusively belongs to personal beings of a supernatural kind to originate mana? If so, this is a far more definite piece of constructive theology than is usually to be extracted from our anthropological records.
The state of mind of the typical savage would seem to be too undifferentiated, too blurred, to allow him to distinguish clearly between the value that he prizes and the agency whereby the realization of that value is accomplished. A multitude of ceremonial acts and abstinences is the outward vehicle whereby the inward reinforcement is conveyed. That the ritual is a mere medium of communication, that it constitutes a sort of visual language whereby spirit speaks to spirit — such an idea is not likely to take definite shape in his nebulous consciousness.
Yet there are hints, even in the most naive of primitive theologies, of an awareness that by means of the externals of religion a participation of the human in the divine is brought about. Thus the crystals and other properties whereby the Kabi healer works his cures come from Dhakkan, the Rainbow; and, whereas these cause the doctor to be i ux7irigiir, 'full of vitality,' Dhakkan himself is marnigurngur, vital and vitalizing in a superlative degree.
Principles Of Fasting (Folklore History Series)
Wright, Philosophical Review, xxv. If it come, it comes as a boon, as some- thing bestowed by act of grace, something received humbly with fear and wonder. This is made plain by the evidence relating to the making of the medicine-man in Australia. The man who finds in himself a special capacity for ecstatic experience proceeds of his own initiative to develop it by means of a long and painful initiation.
But, if desert cannot command the gift, want of desert can at any time cause it to depart. We remember the Kurnai doctor who confessed to Howitt that he had taken to drinking and then lost all his power. Such a will is fitly associated with a spirit of humility, because the man in us is ever afraid of the brute. Hence, if the monster leave him in freedom even for a brief space, he is ready to offer thanks to some divine Helper.
Lastly, the power thus willed and sought involves a capacity for social service, though as it were indirectly and by way of implication. At first sight the savage conception of supernatural power may seem to be quite unmoral. The wonder-working healer and the baneful sorcerer, the good spirit and the bad, are alike powerful in a transcendent way. That there should be some ambiguity in the notion is inevitable. A judgment from heaven is easily mistaken for a plague from hell.
Or, again, magic and religion are wont to borrow weapons from each other's armouries, the black mass parodying the sacred rites of the Church, while the exorcist defeats the wizard simply by reversing the machinery. Nevertheless, at the most primitive levels of thought, as the facts of language prove, there is a clear distinction drawn between powers of light and powers of "Cf. Hubert et M. In practice, indeed, this antithesis is not likely to be applied consistently, more especially when the reference is not to men, but to remoter beings such as spirits or gods.
Savages sometimes descend to a veritable devil- worship, placating the evil demon with a fawning submission, and incidentally flattering the devilish element in themselves. On the whole, however, they know the bad kind of super- man from the good. Thus one who has the evil eye is always abominable. Primitive philosophy is hardly capable of the paradox of admiring a good hater. If a man work black magic, let him die the death — so runs the universal code. The good kind of supernormal power is known by its fruits. The term "folklore" was first coined in by an Englishman, William John Thoms, and was a phrase used to describe the study of the ancient system of customs and beliefs practiced by common people.
Subsequently in other nations, folklore became a means of establishing a unified national culture that also included language, music, and literature. To an extent these criteria applied to the United States in the nineteenth century as it began to forge an identity of its own. In contrast, though, to some nations in Europe where aristocrats sought proof of their own nationhood through the customs and language of the peasant class, America's literate population, already accustomed to a communicative spirit generated by newspapers, periodicals, and books, rejected the concept of an autocratic ruling elite.
This is not to say that there was not already a burgeoning folkloric element rooted in Old World mythology such as the witch tales of New England and Appalachia. In general, though, tales and ballads about trappers, hunters, explorers, adventurers, and a myriad of liminal American characters that had experienced captivity, revolution, and the wilderness meant that folklore had taken on an American guise which embodied the country's exceptionalism.
There were also existing aboriginal cultures predicated almost entirely on the oral tradition. However, it was the Native Americans themselves who became objectified within the wider society while their culture remained firmly enclosed within the tribal environment. Subsequently, their myths and traditions remained, and still remain, detached and ethically different from the main body of the nation's folk traditions.
By the mid-nineteenth century, it was increasingly clear that the divisions perceived to exist between folk culture and mass culture were beginning to be blurred. American folk characters of that time embodied the principles of individualism and liberty while perpetuating ideas of nationhood and anti-elitism. All-American heroes such as Davy Crockett and Kit Carson were mythologized through almanacs, newspapers, and dime novels that anticipated the Superman comic boom a century later.
The frontier and the West continued to be a source of fascination well into the twentieth century as Crockett and Carson plus a plethora of Western characters from Jesse James to Calamity Jane were, through the medium of the moving picture, ensconced forever within the nation's consciousness. As well as influencing the course of popular culture, folklore was, during the latter part of the nineteenth century, a topic that required intellectual pursuit. As anthropologists, ethnologists, and historians attempted to situate an unwritten past through songs, myths, yarns, aphorisms, games, and numerous oral histories, folklore became very much a product of modernity.
By the time the American Folklore Society AFS was founded in , the United States had suffered a civil war and an economic slump; it had also undergone an accelerated industrial revolution that had seen its cities grow from cow towns and industrial ports to sprawling urban landscapes where immigrants and refugees from southern and eastern Europe brought their own folk traditions.
The AFS's membership was drawn from mainly middle-class professionals who saw an opportunity for scientific research that reached outside the university curriculum. By the s, the AFS had branches in cities across the United States, eclipsing by far similar organizations in Europe. It would be easy to view such an institution as emblematic of a subliminal yearning for a simpler, preindustrial America idealized through the rose-tinted spectacles of a socially and economically privileged, predominantly eastern, professional class. However, prominent folklorists of the late nineteenth century, for example T.
Crane and Lee J. Vance, would offer the unearthing of "primitive" materials as valid evidence of humanity's advancement. In this sense, it could be argued, folklore was intrinsic to the modernizing process as folk specialists set about researching isolated communities in order to promote the benefits of what came to be known as the Gilded Age.
Collectors and folklorists such as the first president of the AFS, Francis James Child, who compiled an extensive catalogue of British-based folk songs the final volume of which was published in ; Cecil Sharpe, an Englishman who made several trips to the Appalachians between and to document the "Elizabethan" ballads of Kentucky; and Vance Randolph, who initially visited the Ozarks of Arkansas during and discovered a powerful British influence within the local folk culture, provided a case for those who insisted there was no such thing as a quintessentially American folk heritage.
Thus, even in those environments relatively unaffected by mass culture and industrialization, extant folk traditions were unequivocally linked to Great Britain , suggesting a regional homogeneity that was untypical of America as a whole. In this context, how does one assess African American culture and its contribution to an identifiable American folklore? The unavoidable fact that African Americans were denied, through slavery, the educational and economic advantages enjoyed by the majority of U.
Although informed by both African and European elements, in essence what emerged from the plantations of the South resembled conventional notions of folklore inasmuch that it was a mythology steeped in an oral tradition of trickster tales, animal stories, and work songs. Fundamentally, whereas the rest of America had an already-established written tradition, most slaves were never allowed the opportunity to achieve any adequate level of literacy.
Of course there are exceptions, given the proliferation of written slave narratives, but such instances are relatively rare. In contrast to Native Americans , whose traditions and myths were never allowed to enter into the dominant realm, African Americans, partly because of language and Christian belief, possessed cultural traits that were instantly recognizable to whites.
As the songs of Stephen Foster and the blackface minstrelsy craze that proved to be the nation's most popular form of entertainment for the best part of a hundred years would help to testify, there was a long-held fascination with black America. Though distorted by sentimentalism, parody, and racist caricature, it was a fascination which allowed for a certain amount of cultural cross-fertilization.
Beginning with the publication in of William F. Allen, Charles P. Ware, and Lucy M. Garrison's Slave Songs, there would be a steady flow of African American—oriented folk material that would be absorbed into white society through various mediums including music, literature, and the pages of the Journal of American Folklore.
In the Fisk Jubilee Singers were first assembled to perform Negro spirituals. The Fisks, who refined the spiritual to make it acceptable as a serious art form to white audiences, would subsequently travel to England, appearing before Queen Victoria. In popular fiction, Joel Chandler Harris 's chronicling of slave folk tales, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings, published in , provided a predominantly white readership with an amusing foray into the world of the plantation.
In writing the Uncle Remus stories, Harris incorporated the dialect of the Gullah islanders, an isolated community that resided off the coast of South Carolina. Believed to have retained many African oral inflections, the islanders were of some interest to folklorists. Dubose Heyward, incidentally, was a white southerner who spent years observing the folk characteristics of the Gullah community in Charleston.
Although white novelists were initially responsible for illustrating the folkways of black America, it would be African American authors who would successfully combine the oral traditions surfacing from the nineteenth century with modernist literary forms. Although Paul Laurence Dunbar 's dialect verse drew national acclaim in the early s, it would be those black writers and poets who rose to prominence in the wake of the s Harlem Renaissance who would successfully intertextualize trickster tales, folk songs, and other folkloric elements into their art.
Thus, African American literature has taken from folklore in order to give historical license to a people whose past had hitherto only been written through the eyes of the enslaver. The interchange between the black folk tradition and the white literary tradition suggests a synthesis that transcends racial barriers. To an extent, this is often repeated in American folk music. In the South , historically the most racially segregated region in the United States, there was and is a huge public domain of folk songs that have continually traversed the color line.
Songs that seem to typify an America undergoing industrialization and urbanization, such as "Casey Jones," "Stagolee," "Frankie and Johnny," and " John Henry ," have passed back and forth between the races only to be claimed by both. The South has produced white blues singers and black hillbilly groups, while jazz emerged from its African American folk roots in New Orleans to become a quintessentially American art form. White country music owes much to African American blues.
In , one of the first artists to perform on the Grand Ole Opry was a black harmonica player called DeFord Bailey, who improvised nineteenth-century folk tunes such as "Fox Chase" which he had learned from his father, a former slave from East Tennessee. White hillbilly's first million-selling artist, Jimmie Rodgers , who developed his musical style working with African Americans on the railroad, produced a number of highly successful blues sides between and , while African American blues singers like Huddie Ledbetter Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson would include traditional white forms in their repertoires.
Put in this context, one could certainly argue that the interchange between southern black and white folk traditions, especially in folk song , produced a synthesis of sorts which could almost be defined as a single southern folk culture. The blurring of folklore and popular culture that was hinted at during the nineteenth century through the depiction of folk characters in dime novels , almanacs, and newspapers took on another dimension with the technological advancement that succeeded World War I.
Radio, the phonograph, and the cinema all provided a facility for mass communication in an era when the unfettered consumerism of the postwar Jazz Age was followed by the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. During this period, America was becoming a more fluid society, with African Americans and rural whites from the South migrating to the urban centers of the North and the Midwest.
Of course, these migrants brought their folk customs and their traditions with them. Ironically, as many Americans became effectively displaced, they developed a keener sense of their own regional heritage. For example, blues artists who migrated to Chicago during the s would, in many of their songs, express a yearning for their southern homeland—a yearning that reflected the feelings of many whites as well as African Americans.
As southerners moved north, the children of those immigrants that had poured into the United States over the previous fifty years were gradually being assimilated into the wider society. Gershwin and Berlin, blues singers from Chicago, white jazz bands from New Orleans : none of these were creating folklore; they were instead helping to produce commodities for the mass market.
However, they were also prompting an idea of a common folk heritage that was rooted in the pastoral. Similarly, cinema portrayals of western heroes from the previous century added to the illusion of a rural America that predated mass immigration and urbanization. So, even for the children of immigrants, a perception of an American past was constructed that was all-inclusive. The New Deal epoch and the ascendancy of the Popular Front during the s produced a celebration of the people that was reflected in the photography of Dorothea Lange , whose "Migrant Mother" signified the stabilizing effect of the family and the dignifying presence of women at a time when many men were forced to travel the length and breadth of America searching for work.
Lange was employed by the Works Progress Administration WPA , a federal agency that was, between and , responsible for sending folklorists, writers, and photographers out on field trips to observe the cultural mores, oral histories, education, political views, and medical needs of families in case studies that spanned twenty-four states.
The work of the WPA marked a trend that had witnessed folklorists and collectors set out to explore the treasures that existed within America's cultural undergrowth. Prompted by the anthropologist Franz Boas at Columbia University , Zora Neale Hurston made several exploratory journeys to the South to unearth a wealth of African American folktales, rhymes, and jokes which would find the light of day in her groundbreaking chronicle of African American folklore Mules and Men, published in For folk music, under the auspices of the Library of Congress folk song archive, John and Alan Lomax first went to the South in recording folk songs, reels, and obscure country blues by performers, some of whom had never left their locality.
John Lomax was also responsible for bringing Huddie Ledbetter out of Angola State Penitentiary and to the attention of folk music. To complement the Lomaxes' field recordings, the maverick avant-garde filmmaker-artist and part-time anthropologist Harry Smith uncovered dozens of vinyl recordings from between and , a time when record sales plummeted.
Smith's collection, which covered southern traditional music from Appalachia to Texas, found its way to Folkways Records and was eventually released as the Anthology of American Folk Music in The anthology would have a huge effect on the folk boom of the early s, a time when folk music had become firmly entrenched as a vehicle for political protest. Quite clearly the celebrating of a people's culture was a concept held dear by the political left.
In , the organizers for Martin Luther King Jr. This notion of unity through diversity was evident in folk festivals that were first staged in the s, a time when institutions such as Tennessee's Highlander Folk School took sharecroppers and trained them to be union organizers. One of the tactics employed by Highlander to attract both blacks and whites into workers' collectives was the conversion of Negro spirituals and traditional folk songs into songs of solidarity.
Seemingly, the whole political climate of the s and s lent itself to the reinterpretation of folk songs as propaganda. Woody Guthrie rewrote countless traditional folk songs so as to convey a political message. By listening to the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers as a young man, he was inheriting an oral tradition, but one which had become universalized by twentieth-century technology. The radio, in particular, furnished a network that spanned the country. The fireside chats of President Franklin D. Roosevelt epitomized the "folksy" or homespun quality that has characterized many American heads of state from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan.
The radio then, whether regional or national, engendered a spirit of community that encouraged a perception of American identity among its listeners. The fact that commercial interests became interwoven with folklore established a trend that carried on into television. From the early sponsorship of the Grand Ole Opry and the s King Biscuit Flour blues broadcasts in Helena, Arkansas, to present-day television commercials advertising beer that evoke rural Mississippi and the Delta blues, the business community has promoted folk culture as an exemplar for American identity in order to sell its own product.
In spite of the view that folklore has become more of a commodity than a people's culture, there is still much to suggest that oral traditions, folktales, and songs will continue to flourish in an age of spiraling technology and global communication. The Internet and the World Wide Web now provide access to the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, and any number of folklore centers, all of which contain elaborate chronicles of migrant narratives, field recordings, blues songs, and transcriptions of WPA interviews.
American folklore is not static and there is still an immense amount of material that remains unrecorded and underresearched. Events, disasters, and wars all produce their unwritten histories though technology has helped to preserve those histories. Who is not to say that rap music represents an extension of the African American oral tradition, or that the AIDS memorial quilt signifies a folk heritage which predates the industrial age?
The revival in American "roots" music, the boom in handicraft sales, and the success of television shows like The Beverly Hillbillies are all examples of how folklore, commercial interests, and popular culture blend into one another. In this respect, folklore allows the past and the present to meet head on and interacts with popular culture and the commercial world in a way that has almost become an American tradition in itself.
Anderson, Benedict. London: Verso, Bronner, Simon J. Logan: Utah State University Press, Brunvand, Jan Harold. New York: Norton, Denning, Michael. New York: Verso, Dorson, Richard M. American Folklore. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, Filene, Benjamin. Grundy, Pamela. Kelley, Robin D. Levine, Lawrence W. New York: Oxford University Press, Michaels, Walter Benn. Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism. Durham, N. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. July 9, Retrieved July 09, from Encyclopedia.
Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Folklore means folk learning; it comprehends all knowledge that is transmitted by word of mouth and all crafts and techniques that are learned by imitation or example, as well as the products of these crafts. Objects which are mass produced and knowledge which is acquired through books or formal education are a part of culture, which includes the total body of learning, but they are not folklore.
In nonliterate societies folklore is virtually identical with culture, but in literate industrialized societies it is only a fragment of culture. Anthropologists and humanists have defined folklore differently, but their definitions are in fundamental agreement in excluding all learning that is transmitted by writing.
Folklore includes folk art , folk crafts, folk tools, folk costume, folk custom, folk belief, folk medicine , folk recipes, folk music, folk dance , folk games, folk gestures, and folk speech, as well as those verbal forms of expression which have been called folk literature but which are better described as verbal art.
Verbal art, which includes such forms as folktales, legends, myths, proverbs, riddles, and poetry, has been the primary concern of folklorists from both the humanities and the social sciences since the beginnings of folklore as a field of study, and it is with this principal segment of folklore that this article is concerned.
European interest in folklore goes back at least to the sixteenth century and the age of exploration, but the modern study of folklore is generally considered to date from the early years of the nineteenth century, when the Grimm brothers began collecting German folktales in the field. A variety of forms or genres of verbal art have been distinguished by folklorists, but neither the categories nor the terminology has been standardized. The following categories have proved useful.
The differences between myths, legends, and folktales are hotly disputed, but distinctions similar to those made here are recognized in some nonliterate societies and have long been employed by students of European folklore. In the society in which they are told, myths are considered to be truthful accounts of what happened in the past. They are taught to be believed, and they can be cited as authority in answer to ignorance, doubt, or disbelief.
Myths are the embodiment of dogma; they are usually sacred, and they are often associated with theology and ritual. Their characters are usually not human beings, but they often have human attributes. Myths account for the origin of the world, of mankind, of death; for characteristics of birds and animals; or for features of the landscape. They may recount the activities of the deities, their victories and defeats, their friendships and enmities, their love affairs, and their family relationships.
Like myths, legends are regarded as true by the narrator and his audience, but they are usually secular rather than sacred. Their principal characters are human, and they concern a period less remote than that of myths. They tell of migrations, wars and victories, deeds of past chiefs and kings, and succession in ruling dynasties. They include local tales of buried treasure, ghosts, fairies, and saints. Legends correspond to Sagen in German and traditions populaires in French.
Prose narratives that are regarded as fiction are called folktales. They usually recount the adventures of animals or humans, but ogres and even deities may appear in them. A variety of subtypes can be distinguished, including drolls or noodles, trickster tales, tall tales, dilemma tales, formulistic tales, and moral tales or fables. Folktales are known as Marchen in German and as contes populaires in French. They have been known as fairy tales in English, but this is inappropriate both because fairies seldom appear in folktales and because narratives about fairies are usually regarded as true.
The distinction here between truth and fiction refers only to the beliefs of those who tell and hear these tales, and not to our beliefs, to historical or scientific fact, or to any ultimate judgment of truth and falsehood. In diffusing from one society to another, a myth or legend may be accepted without being believed, thus becoming a folktale in the borrowing society.
Occasionally the reverse may also happen. In a period of rapid cultural change an entire belief system and its mythology may be discredited. Even in cultural isolation there may be some skeptics who do not accept the traditional system of belief. Nevertheless, it is important to know what the majority in a society believes to be true at any given point of time, for people act upon what they believe to be true. Proverbs, maxims, and similar terse, sententious sayings can be grouped together.
Proverbs have a deeper meaning, one which can be understood only through the analysis of the social situations to which they are appropriate. While prose narratives are world-wide in their distribution, proverbs are primarily an Old World genre, important throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Proverbs have been reported from the Americas and from Oceania, but not in large numbers and not with sufficient documentation to determine whether they are in fact proverbs or some other form of aphorism. Riddles differ from proverbs in that they require an answer, but they may also be concisely stated.
African riddles are usually phrased as short declarative sentences, rather than as questions, so that they resemble proverbs in form and so that initially it may be difficult for an outsider to recognize the implicit question to which he is expected to provide the correct answer. Riddles vary considerably in their form of statement; and many European riddles take the form of rhyming poems, as in the case of Humpty Dumpty.
Riddles again are primarily an Old World genre, although some have been recorded in other parts of the world. Poetry, tongue-twisters, and verbal formulas. Poetry is widespread, at least in the form of song texts, but has received far less attention than the forms of verbal art mentioned thus far. Tongue-twisters have been recorded in various parts of the world but have been little studied. Incantations, invocations, passwords, greetings, and other verbal formulas have also been neglected by folklorists, although they appear in linguistic studies and in ethnographic descriptions of ritual and etiquette.
Like tongue-twisters and some song texts, verbal formulas are often obscure in meaning and both difficult and almost pointless to translate. Comprehension is often less important than correct recitation, and verbatim accuracy may be essential to their religious, magical, or social effectiveness. In view of this it is not surprising that these forms have received less attention than prose narratives, proverbs, and riddles, in all of which both comprehension and communication are involved.
These forms of verbal art are not watertight compartments, as the case of rhyming riddles suggests. Dilemma tales, which are widespread in Africa, leave the solution up to the audience. Often classified with riddles, they are clearly a borderline form; they seem usually to call for argumentation rather than a correct answer. Trickster tales may be either myths or folktales; and ballads are narratives in songs. Some tales incorporate songs in the development of the plot, and others end by quoting a proverb to summarize a moral. The social significance of verbal art is stressed in the following section, but its aesthetic attributes are also important.
Their study provides a common meeting ground for the humanities and the social sciences that is rarely if ever equaled in other data on human behavior. Language imposes limitations on the artist in folklore as the medium of expression does in the graphic and plastic arts, music, or the dance.
In the case of verbal art the medium of expression is the spoken word, and verbal art is subject to the limitations of the phonetics, grammar, and vocabulary of the language. For this reason linguists are best qualified to consider the question of style, which can be defined as what the artist is able to achieve within the limitations of his techniques and media. Linguists have, in fact, contributed several important discussions of this subject.
More often they have recorded prose narratives as a convenient means of collecting texts for linguistic analysis, with the result that many of the most accurately recorded and carefully transcribed collections of verbal art are to be found in linguistic studies. Amusement is an obvious function of folktales, riddles, and tongue-twisters, but verbal art has other, more important functions.
In nonliterate societies verbal art plays a major and often explicitly recognized role in education. It is important to learn myths and legends because they contain information that is believed to be true. Proverbs are often characterized as the distilled wisdom of past generations. Learning the values of a culture as they are expressed in proverbs is similarly considered important -in its own right; without some command of proverbs, individuals in many African societies cannot effectively fulfill their roles as adults.
Whereas African proverbs are considered to be the province of adults, riddles are for children. Riddles teach the characteristics of plants, animals, and other things in nature, as well as some features of technology, material culture, and social structure. Even folktales that are regarded as fictitious are recognized by Africans as important in the education of children, because so many of them are moral tales. The importance of verbal art in education has been noted in nonliterate societies throughout the world. Verbal art provides a medium for the transmission of knowledge, values, and attitudes from one generation to another and thus contributes to the continuity of culture.
Social control. Verbal art helps to maintain conformity to cultural values and accepted patterns of behavior. It is widely used to express social approval and disapproval, to apply social pressure, and to exercise social control. Proverbs, songs of ridicule, and even riddles and folktales may be used to criticize those who deviate from the accepted norms and social conventions. On the other hand, proverbs, praise names, and praise songs give recognition and reward to those who conform. African proverbs are especially important in this respect.
When action is contemplated that may lead to social friction, open hostilities, or direct punishment by society, proverbs can be used to express warning, defiance, or derision of a rival or enemy. They may also express advice, counsel, or warning to a friend. Because of the high regard in which they are held, and because they are considered especially appropriate to adult life, African proverbs are highly effective instruments of social control. Because they express the morals and ethics of a society, they are convenient standards for appraising behavior in terms of the approved norms.
And because they are pungently, sententiously, and wittily stated, they are ideally suited for commenting on the behavior of others. Social authority. Verbal art serves to validate social institutions and religious rituals. Malinowski showed how, in the Trobriand Islands of the Pacific, myth provides a warrant and a charter for magic, ceremony, ritual, and social structure.
Myths can be cited as authority on questions of religious belief and ritual procedure, and to justify rights to land, fishing grounds, social position, tribute, or political authority. This important function can be seen in many societies, but it is not confined to myth. When dissatisfaction with or skepticism of an accepted pattern is expressed, or when doubts about it arise, there is usually a myth or legend to validate it; however, a moral folktale or a proverb may serve the same purpose.
Sociopsychological function. Verbal art provides a psychological release from the restrictions imposed on the individual by society. Ever since Greek myths were recorded in writing, it has been recognized that characters in myths do things that are regarded as shocking, sinful, and even criminal in daily life. Myths and folktales provide an opportunity for people to talk about kinds of behavior that society prohibits them from indulging in, and about kinds of success that they can scarcely hope to achieve themselves.
In the case of the latter, their popularity has declined as fewer young couples live with their in-laws and the family is increasingly fragmented. In American Indian societies that practice mother-in-law avoidance, the trickster violates his own mother-in-law. Tales of polygynous marriages feature far more prominently among the monogamous Pueblo groups than in societies where polygyny is accepted.
In West Africa the Ashanti and Daho-means recognize the value of being able to criticize and laugh at authority and other matters, both secular and sacred, in a way they cannot do normally, through folktales and songs. Even riddles and tongue-twisters, although considered the province of children, sometimes involve sexual references that are considered off-color by adults. The familiar theme of rags to riches, the widespread tale of the magic flight or of the seven-league boots, and tales of resurrection after death are also meaningful in terms of psychological release.
Cultural continuity. When the functions of education, control, authority, and release are viewed together, it can be seen that verbal art has the broader function of maintaining the continuity and stability of culture. It is used to inculcate customs and ethical standards in the young, to reward the adult with praise when he conforms or to punish him with criticism or ridicule when he deviates, to provide him with rationalizations when he questions the institutions and conventions of his society, and at the same time to provide him with a compensatory escape from the hardships and injustices of everyday life.
It operates to ensure cultural continuity from generation to generation through its role in education, by emphasizing conformity to the accepted cultural norms, and through the validation of social and religious institutions. By providing a psychological escape from the institutions and norms which it sanctions and enforces and by providing discontented individuals an opportunity to talk about forbidden forms of behavior, rather than practicing them, verbal art preserves the established customs and institutions from direct attack and change. Political uses of verbal arts.
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