The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #122508   Message #2689430
Posted By: Jack Blandiver
29-Jul-09 - 04:45 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: What is Folklore?
Subject: RE: Folklore: What is Folklore?
What individuals do are simply personal habits, practices, beliefs or rituals.... a whole host of things; certainly not folklore.

There are schools of thinking that would question that, given the equation that any community is comprised of individuals and that all folklore is, therefore, ultimately the reserve of individual who is never entirely passive to their culture. Culture only exists because of the individual and that everything they do, therefore, is an aspect of that culture and its folklore.

How many people does it take to make a community? If two people can have their own language (as can be shown) then two people can have their own folklore. The individual can be a lore-carrier, folk singer, storyteller - think of Duncan Williamson, a very creative storyteller, and yet very much a part of his tradition. Other examples abound of traditions being carried by an idiosyncratic genius, such as Seamus Ennis and Davie Stewart, which is is why I'm as drawn to their work, likewise to other idiosyncratic traditional genii such as John Coltrane, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Sun Ra.

The life of Folklore is very often the individual practitioner; if we lose sight of the individual (as so very often happens) then we lose any real understanding of the community. The legacy of the antiquarian is the inclination to see community in terms of its collectivity rather than its individuality; to see folklore as being somehow separate from the folk, and define it accordingly, and romantically, across the class divide. As E.P. Thomson said: Folklore in England is largely a literary record of eighteenth and nineteenth century survivals, recorded by parsons and genteel antiquarians regarding the across a gulf of class condescension. (Folklore, Anthropology and Social History, 1979)

Thus the identity of the individual is subsumed by a perceived compliance to his/her community wherein they only exist as a faceless participant in the illusion of the Mexican Wave that is all the folklorist is interested in. Maybe this one of the reasons why instances of contemporary folklore - such as Hen Parties, wayside shrines, Fluffy Morris, holidays etc. - get overlooked. Indeed, to many I dare say the term contemporary folklore is an oxymoron.

In short, where there is folk, there will, and must, be folklore.


Nice to know Darby O'Gill was actually filmed in Ireland; it is said that Brigadoon (1954) was filmed using Holywood studio sets because Vincent Minnelli couldn't find anywhere Scottish enough in Scotland!