The Field of Folklore

  3. Career Fields
  4. Field Marshal von Hindenburg.
  6. Fig. 4 Stator and rotor fields

Folklore comprises the unrecorded traditions of a people. The study of folklore records and analyses these traditions because they reveal the common life of the mind below the level of "high" or formal culture, which is recorded by civilizations as the learned heritage of their times.

Whenever, out of habit or inclination, the folk indulge in songs and dances, in ancient games, the merry-making, to mark the passing of the year or the usual festivities whenever in many callings the knowledge, experience, wisdom, skill, the habits and practices of the past are handed down by example or spoken word, by the older to the new generations, without reference to book, print, or school teacher, then we have folklore in its own perennial domain, at work as ever, alive and shifting, always apt to grasp and assimilate new elements on its way.

Folklore comprises traditional creations of peoples, primitive and civilized. These are achieved by using sounds, words, poetry and prose and include also folk beliefs or superstitions, customs and performances, dances and plays.

A simple and workable arrangement of the types of folklore may be based on three modes of existence: folklore is either verbal (proverbs, rhymes, myths, legends, folksong, ballads), partly verbal (superstitions, customs and festivals, folk dances and games ) or non-verbal (folk gestures, folk music, folk architecture, handicrafts, folk costumes and foods).

Folklore under various names has been with us ever since man began to take an objective look at his culture.

The study of folk life is that of man's mental, spiritual and material struggle towards civilization, of that "complex whole", which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Men of learning have in the last century or so gathered, classified and studied a vast body of materials appertaining to folk tradition.

Some of our surviving customs can trace their ancestry a very long way back, and have hitherto resisted all attempts to uproot them, many others have vanished for ever. Especially they disappeared during the last hundred and fifty years or so, for this was a period of great change everywhere, affecting traditional customs as much as anything else.

Customs involve both verbal and non-verbal elements that are traditionally applied in specific circumstances. But unlike superstitions, true customs do not involve faith in the magical results of such application. Thus, the "customs" that incorporate traditional belief in the supernatural should properly be classified as superstition.

A customis a traditional practice, A mode of individual behaviour or a habit of social life - that is transmitted by word of mouth or imitation, then ingrained by social pressure, common usage and parental authority. When customs are associated with holidays they become calendar customs, And when such events are celebrated annually by a whole community they become festivals.

In a sense transmitting folklore is itself a custom. Storytell-ing, ballad-singing, riddle-posing, game and prank playing and the like are all customary acts, for their survival depends on tradition rather than on official control.

Most true folk customs in the US are associated with special events, especially those that require rites of passage - birth, marriage, and death. They begin at once when a child is born. Boy babies are customarily dressed in blue, and girls in pink.

Celebrations of birthday anniversaries may begin as early as the first year in some families and they may continue through one's entire life. More commonly, however, birthday parties are dropped at about high school age sometimes to be revived once at the symbolic age of maturity (21 years) and again as an annual celebration in later middle age. Children's birthdays almost invariably are the occasion for spanking - one spank for each year, with extras "to grow in", or "for good measure". Children in some regions maintain a fairly rigid schedule of extra-punishment days before and after the birthday anniversary - "pinch day", "hit day", "kiss day" and so forth.

Birthday gift at a party may be held over the head of the celebrating child for him to guess the donor or to announce the use to which he intends to put that gift. For each correct guess he is granted a wish.

The loss of "baby teeth" is one of the few other non-holiday occasions in a child's life when customs are followed.

Courtship and engagement begin a new round of customs that lead to a grand final at marriage, the most tradition-regulated personal ceremony in American life.

Wedding customs begin with the "shower" often several of them, to emphasize different kinds of needed gifts.

Customs of the wedding itself are numerous and largely regulated by tradition. They include the dress of participants, the seating of guests, the choice of attendants, kissing the bride, throwing rice, passing the bride's shoe around for money, playing pranks on the married couple, and decorating the car.

Wedding customs, however rough, are essentially celebration of a happy time. But customs associated with death are generally fraught with suggestions of fear or superstition.

From youth to old age, at work and at play, in school and in widening arches of our orbits, from the country with which we identify, we encounter folk traditions, customs, recipes, memories, sayings and allusions that in ^ sum constitute a yearly folklore brew.

Only by turning to the folklore of peoples, probing into its meanings and functions, and searching for links between different bodies of tradition may we hope to understand the intellectual and spiritual life of man in its broadest dimensions.

1. As you read the text a) look for the answers to these questions:

1. What distinctions can be pointed out between folklore and the formal culture of a people? 2. How and in what situations does folklore manifest itself? 3. Can you specify different types of folklore as presented in the text above? 4. What definition can be given to a custom as an example of partly verbal folklore? 5. When and how can a custom become a festival according to the author of the text? 6. What true folk customs are associated with the events that are described in the text as those that require "rites of passage"? 7. What are the anniversary wedding customs that you learned about from the text?

b) Find in the text the facts the author gives to illustrate the following:

1. Most true folk customs begin when a child is born. 2. In a sense, transmitting folklore is itself a custom. 3. Unlike superstitions, true customs do not involve faith in magical results of their applications.

c) Summarize the text in four paragraphs: 1} the definition of folklore; 2) the classification of the types of folklore; 3) different kinds of customs and 4) what can be achieved through studying folklore.

2. Use the topical vocabulary in answering the following problem questions:

1. The variety of holidays and festivals in all social communities is determined by the diversity of their characters. One can talk about international, national, political, cultural, religious, ethnic, etc. holidays.

Please, give examples of these holidays and say which of them is your favourite and why.

2. The origin of May Day as the international day of working class solidarity can be traced back to the end of the 19th century. After the brutal suppression of demonstrations for the eight hour working day in the US on May 1, 1886, American trade unions and the Socialist International decided in 1 889 to hold such demonstrations everywhere. Since then, May Day has been the symbol of the working class unity.

Do you happen to know that May Day is not a public holiday in many countries?

Can you speak about the attitude to May Day in Russia now?

3. There is no need to deny that the celebrations of the International Women's Day have acquired new features and developed modern customs in the course of time.

Do you approve of these new customs? How will you explain them to your British or American friend emphasizing its difference from Mother's Day in their countries?

4. National customs and traditions have been historically associated with seasonal changes of the year. The celebration of the magic force of the first day can be seen in the pagan

tradition of marking the first day of winter, spring, having festivals in honour of natural forces - the Sun, the Moon (E. G. Sunday, Monday). Pancake Day (Maslyanitsa) in Russia dales back to the ancient Slavic tradition of saying farewell to winter and welcoming spring by singing, dancing, burning the straw effigy of Maslyanitsa and eating pancakes, which represent little images of the Sun.

Do you know about any other folk holidays marking the seasonal changes? What is the role of such holidays in the cultural development of a nation and in securing the continuity of national customs and traditions?

5. Celebrations like Olympic Games, Youth Festivals, Neighbourhood Festivals, Russian Winter festival, etc. have appeared only recently. Some of them have obviously roots in the cultural heritage of the peoples, others emphasize the modem problems and aims.

What in your opinion is the cultural, political (emotional, moral, psychological, etc.) impact and message of such new festivities for the younger generation?

6. Some young people refuse to observe the old rituals and have a wedding party considering it a terrible nuisance and a waste of money. What is your idea of ??celebrating a wedding? Should the old customs and traditions be observed or should it be held in an absolutely new manner?

7. A school teacher is sure to take part in organizing celebrations of different kinds. What do you think a school teacher's opinion should be on the role holidays, traditions and rituals play in the education and character-shaping of the younger generation?

8. You may remember or know that decorating a New Year tree was considered to be a superstition in the twenties in Soviet Russia. How do you account for that attitude and what in fact is the meaning of the New Year tree to children and adults?

9. What part do you think the national cuisine plays in the celebration of different holidays and festivals? Can you describe some Russian (or English, French, German, etc.) special dishes associated particularly with celebrations?

3. Read the short passages and answer the questions about them giving your impressions to the point:

1. Some people find it difficult to tell the difference between a custom and a habit. Customs are social and habits are personal. Smoking is a bad habit and certainly an expensive one. Customs are common to a large number of people who belong to a society or a nation. For men giving up their seats to old people, to women carrying babies, to people who are ill should be a national custom.

Can you describe any national customs giving your impressions of them?

2. I have always been attracted by the people of unusual habits, I mean quiet, orderly people who enrich their humdrum existences by adopting odd quirks and passions, unlikely routine or harmless mania for useless objects.

Life, I am sure, would be very much poorer without such people in it. Sometimes, I feel, I am lacking in personality since I have none of these strange habits.

And what do you think of people who have such unusual habits as collecting dolls, railway carriages or something, like that? Could you describe any such hobbies and share your impressions of the people indulging in them?

3. Tradition is a chain which links the present with the past, part of our task is to interpret the life and the activity of tradition as a formative and perfecting factor in the development of men in society.

What do you think of the role the tradition plays in our life and what does the successful performance of that role depend on?

4. Story-telling and story-collecting used to be an old tradition in the times well before the scientific and technological revolution. Scotland has stories of so many different sorts that the richness of their variety is almost beyond believing. The tales and legends have been handed down by word of mouth often for generations. Many were passed on by wandering story-tellers, others were composed for special occasions such as weddings and christenings.

No matter what brings folk together, you may be sure that there will be a grand feast spread, and the singing of old songs and ballads, the dancing of reels and most probably speeches

to follow. But to the old days, the high point of the entertainment was the story.

Can you give your impressions of a traditional wedding you recently attended (Russian, Georgian, Moldavian, etc.)? Could you describe the old and new customs and rituals you saw there?

D) Participate in the discussion. (You have only five minutes to talk.) Be prepared to answer any question arising in the course of the discussion. | Television Questionnaire | B) Summarize your observations and report them to the group. | DRAWING BACK THE CURTAIN | ESSENTIAL VOCABULARY | READING COMPREHENSION EXERCISES | Pair work. Make up and act out a diaioue using the speech patterns. | Note down from the text (p. 200) the sentences containing the phrases and word combinations (p. 204) and translate them into Russian. | Pair work. Make up and act out situations using the phrases and word combinations. | Study the essential vocabulary and translate the illustrative examples into Russian. |

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