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Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs

janemick 05 Feb 08 - 04:28 PM
GUEST,Russ 05 Feb 08 - 04:37 PM
janemick 05 Feb 08 - 04:56 PM
Joybell 05 Feb 08 - 05:37 PM
Peace 05 Feb 08 - 05:40 PM
Joybell 05 Feb 08 - 05:49 PM
Joybell 05 Feb 08 - 06:43 PM
Peace 05 Feb 08 - 06:45 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 05 Feb 08 - 07:25 PM
Amos 05 Feb 08 - 07:27 PM
Peace 05 Feb 08 - 07:29 PM
Kent Davis 05 Feb 08 - 07:53 PM
Joybell 05 Feb 08 - 08:03 PM
Kent Davis 05 Feb 08 - 09:24 PM
Kent Davis 05 Feb 08 - 09:26 PM
Andrez 05 Feb 08 - 09:51 PM
masato sakurai 05 Feb 08 - 10:08 PM
Nerd 05 Feb 08 - 10:58 PM
Melissa 05 Feb 08 - 11:22 PM
Kent Davis 05 Feb 08 - 11:49 PM
Nerd 06 Feb 08 - 12:19 AM
Melissa 06 Feb 08 - 12:33 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 06 Feb 08 - 02:48 PM
Andrez 06 Feb 08 - 03:58 PM
PoppaGator 06 Feb 08 - 04:39 PM
Joe Offer 06 Feb 08 - 06:38 PM
Neil D 06 Feb 08 - 07:08 PM
Janie 06 Feb 08 - 08:09 PM
Janie 06 Feb 08 - 08:12 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 06 Feb 08 - 08:25 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 06 Feb 08 - 08:30 PM
DADGBE 06 Feb 08 - 08:55 PM
Goose Gander 06 Feb 08 - 08:56 PM
Rowan 06 Feb 08 - 11:07 PM
Kent Davis 06 Feb 08 - 11:16 PM
GUEST 06 Feb 08 - 11:41 PM
Janie 07 Feb 08 - 12:23 AM
Melissa 07 Feb 08 - 12:58 AM
Joe Offer 07 Feb 08 - 02:04 PM
PoppaGator 07 Feb 08 - 04:32 PM
GUEST,meself 07 Feb 08 - 06:00 PM
Scotus 07 Feb 08 - 07:03 PM
Rowan 07 Feb 08 - 08:17 PM
Joe Offer 07 Feb 08 - 08:33 PM
Kent Davis 07 Feb 08 - 11:40 PM
Janie 07 Feb 08 - 11:54 PM
Melissa 08 Feb 08 - 12:00 AM
Joe Offer 08 Feb 08 - 12:04 AM
GUEST,Volgadon 08 Feb 08 - 01:24 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Feb 08 - 02:49 AM
matt milton 08 Feb 08 - 07:14 AM
Joe Offer 08 Feb 08 - 03:28 PM
Kent Davis 08 Feb 08 - 08:22 PM
Goose Gander 08 Feb 08 - 08:39 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 08 Feb 08 - 09:03 PM
Nerd 08 Feb 08 - 09:38 PM
Rowan 08 Feb 08 - 10:04 PM
Kent Davis 08 Feb 08 - 11:20 PM
Rowan 08 Feb 08 - 11:25 PM
Janie 09 Feb 08 - 12:57 AM
Janie 09 Feb 08 - 01:16 AM
Malcolm Douglas 09 Feb 08 - 01:50 AM
Barry Finn 09 Feb 08 - 03:19 AM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 09 Feb 08 - 04:14 AM
Richard Bridge 09 Feb 08 - 04:37 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Feb 08 - 07:25 AM
GUEST,Bill Brown 03 Mar 09 - 02:34 PM
Brian Peters 04 Mar 09 - 08:00 AM
Bill Brown 04 Mar 09 - 12:33 PM
Brian Peters 04 Mar 09 - 02:41 PM
Kent Davis 04 Mar 09 - 10:44 PM
Brian Peters 05 Mar 09 - 04:21 AM
GUEST,Gus 05 Mar 09 - 09:17 AM
Bill Brown 05 Mar 09 - 01:56 PM
Kent Davis 05 Mar 09 - 08:37 PM
Art Thieme 05 Mar 09 - 09:39 PM
Penny S. 06 Mar 09 - 04:18 AM
Brian Peters 06 Mar 09 - 04:59 AM
Kent Davis 06 Mar 09 - 10:31 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 07 Mar 09 - 12:14 AM
Barry Finn 07 Mar 09 - 12:38 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 07 Mar 09 - 12:51 AM
BK Lick 07 Mar 09 - 02:12 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 07 Mar 09 - 02:21 AM
Jack Blandiver 07 Mar 09 - 04:15 AM
Penny S. 07 Mar 09 - 04:38 AM
Penny S. 07 Mar 09 - 04:58 AM
punkfolkrocker 07 Mar 09 - 06:05 AM
Brian Peters 07 Mar 09 - 07:08 AM
Joybell 07 Mar 09 - 04:52 PM
Brian Peters 08 Mar 09 - 07:36 AM
Penny S. 08 Mar 09 - 08:54 AM
Kent Davis 08 Mar 09 - 02:22 PM
Joybell 08 Mar 09 - 05:16 PM
Penny S. 09 Mar 09 - 04:48 AM
Brian Peters 09 Mar 09 - 06:04 AM
Brian Peters 09 Mar 09 - 09:44 AM
dick greenhaus 09 Mar 09 - 12:03 PM
Brian Peters 09 Mar 09 - 01:03 PM
Leadfingers 09 Mar 09 - 01:04 PM
Art Thieme 09 Mar 09 - 03:18 PM
Art Thieme 09 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM
Joybell 09 Mar 09 - 10:32 PM
M.Ted 09 Mar 09 - 11:41 PM
Brian Peters 10 Mar 09 - 05:21 AM
Bob the Postman 10 Mar 09 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 10 Mar 09 - 02:26 PM
GUEST,Russ 10 Mar 09 - 04:58 PM
Joybell 10 Mar 09 - 05:50 PM
M.Ted 10 Mar 09 - 06:27 PM
Penny S. 10 Mar 09 - 07:00 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 10 Mar 09 - 07:18 PM
Joybell 10 Mar 09 - 08:59 PM
Kent Davis 10 Mar 09 - 10:35 PM
Kent Davis 10 Mar 09 - 10:40 PM
Art Thieme 10 Mar 09 - 11:30 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 11 Mar 09 - 12:07 PM
Goose Gander 11 Mar 09 - 12:45 PM
Kim C 11 Mar 09 - 04:00 PM
Goose Gander 11 Mar 09 - 04:45 PM
M.Ted 11 Mar 09 - 10:35 PM
Kent Davis 11 Mar 09 - 11:06 PM
Brian Peters 12 Mar 09 - 06:43 AM
M.Ted 12 Mar 09 - 07:25 AM
Goose Gander 12 Mar 09 - 12:59 PM
Brian Peters 12 Mar 09 - 03:01 PM
Kent Davis 12 Mar 09 - 08:27 PM
Joybell 12 Mar 09 - 11:43 PM
M.Ted 13 Mar 09 - 12:18 AM
Kim C 20 Mar 09 - 03:02 PM
Stringsinger 20 Mar 09 - 05:00 PM
Kent Davis 21 Mar 09 - 06:40 PM
topical tom 03 Apr 09 - 11:34 PM
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Subject: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: janemick
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 04:28 PM

Loss of supernatural story lines in American versions of British songs

Some years ago at a festival I heard Jeff Warner talking about the changes in song lyrics as they crossed the Atlantic. He said that the supernatural elements in British songs were often lost/removed by their American singers, often resulting in fairly meaningless versions of a song. I don't remember him giving any specific examples.

Does anyone know of any examples of these changes in storylines please?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 04:37 PM

A number of American versions of "House Carpenter" omit all references to the demonic nature of the returned lover.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: janemick
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 04:56 PM

Thanks Russ, I'll have a hunt around and post any interesting changes


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 05:37 PM

Jane -- get hold of a copy of "The Ballad Tree" by Evelyn Kendrick Wells. Published in 1950. You'll find it in a library or second hand. It's well worth buying a copy. It explores this subject.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Peace
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 05:40 PM

"It explores the subject."

Do you recall any reasons the songs would have been 'edited'? Puritan influence? That kinda thing?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 05:49 PM

Hello Peace. I mean this book looks at the supernatural elements, cryptic and overt, within British and American ballads. It's not the only subject studied within it, but it's a good start.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 06:43 PM

Interesting comparisons can be made between versions of "The Suffolk Miracle" and versions of "Pretty Polly".
Demons and dead lovers became ordinary murderers on both sides of the Atlantic, in time, of course.

Changing times account for a lot of changes including the loss of Faeries, Dragons, Giants and Ogres. If a singer is not familiar with the belief system that surrounded the older ballad, they are easily dropped or replaced.

Their shadows linger in the old ballads, but they aren't obvious.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Peace
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 06:45 PM

Thanks, Joy.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 07:25 PM

Supernatural aspects were deleted from American singer's repertories because the nation was settled by puritans! That's it, pure and simple, from where I sit.

Once in a while though, a supernatural song motif will stay around in spite of that; as in one of my favorite songs of the lumberjacks---The Lost Jimmy Whalen. I included it on my cassette that I titled "ON THE RIVER." It is not on a CD other than one I made here at home with ALL of the songs and tales I ever did over the years that had that river connection.

In "Lost Jimmy Whalen" -- the ghostly Jimmy is summoned by his mourning lover and rises wearing "robes of red crimson" from the "depths of the river" where he drowned in a lumbering accident! The song should be in the Digital Tradition. If not, I'll post it. Anne Hills and Cindy Mangsen learned it from me and put it on one of their fine CDs.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Amos
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 07:27 PM

Well, there are also counter-examples. "Teen Angel" comes to mind. ;>)


A


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Peace
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 07:29 PM

Used to love that song. (It ain't folk though. -:))


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 07:53 PM

Here are some examples of songs that, in the Old Country, contained supernatural elements but that either are losing or have lost those elements, at least in these versions. All are taken from Dr; Patrick Gainer's FOLK SONGS FROM THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS, 1975.

1. "The Devil's Questions" ("Riddles Wisely Expounded", Child #1)
The title indicates that the questioner is the Devil, but the text gives no such indication. Perhaps this is an example of a song that is losing the supernatural element.

2."O Where Are You Going? I'm Going to Linn" ("The Elfin Knight", Child #2) Dr. Gainer says, "In the old-world ballad of Child's work, the title of this ballad is "The Elfin Knight", but in the West Virginia versions the knight loses the character of the supernatural and is simply a young man who has a playful sort of game between himself and his former lover. He imposes certain impossible tasks upon her, and she in turn imposes even more impossible tasks upon him."

3. "The Six King's Daughters" (Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight", Child #4) The Elf-Knight is become simply a serial killer.

4. "Old Badman" ("Sir Lionel", Child 18, also known as "Bangum Went to the Wild Boar's Den") The boar remains, but the giant who owned the boar is gone.

5."The House Carpenter's Wife" ("James Harris" or "The Daemon Lover", Child #243) has, in this version, lost the demonic nature of the lover and the visions of heaven and hell.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 08:03 PM

There are still many examples of supernatural beliefs in America. Angels, Satan, ghosts, God, witches, haunted places ...
This isn't a simple question.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 09:24 PM

Amos and Peace,

"Teen Angel", at least the one I know, does not contain any supernatural elements. I wonder if you are thinking of "Laurie". That song reminds me of "The Lady Near New York Town" ("The Suffolk Miracle", Child #272), in which a young person is given an article of clothing by another, the giver later learns that the recipient has been been dead for a year, and the missing article of clothing is found in the cemetery. In the West Virginia version, a woman gives a hankerchief to a man, and it is found when his coffin is dug up.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 09:26 PM

Besides "The Sufflok Miracle", two other songs in the West Virginia tradition that have retained their ghosts are "Down By the Greenwood Sidee" ("The Cruel Mother",Child # 20) and "The Three Little Babes" ("The Wife of Usher's Well", Child # 79).   

Another song that has retained its supernatural element is "The Sister's Murder" (The Twa Sisters", Child #10). In it, a fiddle bow is made from a murdered girl's hair "and when on the fiddle the music did sound, it cried, 'by my sister I was drowned'".

"In Scotland Town Where I Was Born" ("Hind Horn", Child #17) retains the magic ring that "stays bright and fair" as long as the separated lover is true, but "grows old and worn" if the lover is "with some other one". "The Cherry Tree" (Child #54) retains its (non-Biblical) miracle. "The Farmer's Wife and the Devil" (Child # 278) retains its trip to Hell (but it is a comical version of Hell). "The Mermaid" (Child #289) retains the mermaid of its title.

Let's not forget all those roses and greenbriars that grow from the graves of those who died for love and then entwine in a true-lovers knot: "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (Child #74), "Lord Lovel" (Child # 75), and "Barbra Allen" (Child #84).

These songs are found in Patrick Gainer's FOLK SONGS FROM THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS, 1975.

Dr. Gainer made the same point that Art Thieme made, namely that Puritan influence accounts for the loss of some of the supernatural elements in the old ballads.

A point neither of them make (but I will be bold enough to) is that not all of the U.S. was settled by Puritans. New England mostly was, but the South mostly was not. The Puritans were the religious and political liberals of their day. Over 375 years after they settled Massachusets, it is still generally a "liberal" area. Virginia's settlers were comparatively "conservative", and, over 400 years after Jamestown was settled, Virginia (and West Virginia)are still generally conservative. This would lead one to suspect that the supernatural elements of the old ballads would be better retained in the South than in New England.

So, you New Englanders, how well did the old ballads in your area retain their supernatural elements?

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Andrez
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 09:51 PM

Dont let the US religious right cotton onto the fact that supernatural references can be found in folk music or they'll declare it satanic and have it banned before Bush leaves office!

Cheers,

Andrez


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: masato sakurai
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 10:08 PM

From Tristram P. Coffin, The British Traditional Ballad In North America (1950), p. 17:
Rationalization is one of the most powerful of all the forces that work on ballads. In Britain and America as belief in ghosts, fairies, and other spiritual characters dwindles, everyday substitutes are provided, so that an elfin knight becomes a gypsy lover and later an illicit lover or even the lodger, while a mermaid is replaced by a mortal, if mysterious, sweetheart. So strong is such rationalization that most of our modern versions of the old ghost, witch, etc. ballads have lost all or nearly all traces of the supernatural. Thus James Harris generally appears today as a triangle love tale between three mortals, the harp motif has nearly vanished from The Twa Sisters, and Sir Hugh's body seldom speaks miraculously from the well. Of course, certain ballads are still completely retained in their supernatural form, but these are usually out and out ghost stories or religious tales like The Suffolk Miracle or The Cherry Tree Carol that would not survive if rationalized. But, on the whole, the devil, the elf, the mermaid, and the like have left or are leaving the songs. Barry's explanation of the Croodlin Doo evolution of Lord Randal demonstrates the trend.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Nerd
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 10:58 PM

Pretty Polly was a good example. British versions, and many collected in Newfoundland, have the murder followed by the man going to sea. He is pursured by the victim's ghost:

And as he was a-turning from the captain with speed
He's met pretty Polly it's made his heart bleed.
She's ripped him, she's stripped him, she's tore him in three,
Crying, 'That's for the murder of my baby and me'.

In most US versions, he just buries her.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Melissa
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 11:22 PM

Bringing Mary Home has an intact supernatural storyline..nothing veiled about it.

While the Colonists were colonizing, French/Spanish/other traders were romping the area that later became known as Louisiana Purchase. It DOES seem strange for so many songs to have their supernatural aspects cleaned up..seems like there should be big pockets around the country where those parts weren't subdued.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 05 Feb 08 - 11:49 PM

Andrez,

I hope you were joking when you wrote, "Dont let the US religious right cotton onto the fact that supernatural references can be found in folk music or they'll declare it satanic and have it banned before Bush leaves office!"

The U.S. government has never banned any song as Satanic.

The Religious Right is not seeking to change that. Members of the Religious Right are quite aware of the supernatural element in folk music. At least one member has posted several messages on the topic to this very thread.

Whatever the reasons may be that supernatural elements have been dropped from some folk songs, you may be sure that coercion by the U.S. government is not among them.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Nerd
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 12:19 AM

Melissa's right that "Bringing Mary Home" is supernatural, but it's not a British song also found here in the US. Jane was asking about "Loss of supernatural story lines in American versions of British songs."

In fact, "Bringing Mary Home" is not actually a folk song, but a country song written in the last few decades that became popular on the bluegrass scene. I think it was first published in 1965 (that's according to the copyright database).

BTW, the same Urban Legend is the basis of Dickie Lee's "Laurie (Strange things happen)," a pop song also written in 1965.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Melissa
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 12:33 AM

thanks..guess this is yet another thread for me to leave for the Scholars


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 02:48 PM

Oops...It appears we began to suffer Political Correctness a lot sooner than most of us realized. Of course, we have long had a tendency to do the same thing to food and wine - and even some immigrants themselves. We, too frequenly, like to homogenize, take the "seasoning" out and otherwise make bland much of what came from over the water. It must be the Puritan roots.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Andrez
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 03:58 PM

Oh My Gawd, dont get me started on the ability of the religious right to influence the development and implementation of government policy in the US and elsewhere according to its own ideological agenda!   I was joking to a point about the US govt but not about the RR. They are definitely not funny!

Having said that I am not going to sidetrack this thread by engaging around that issue and so thats my last comment on the RR here.

Cheers,

Andrez


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: PoppaGator
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 04:39 PM

As Kent pointed out above, it makes no sense at all to blame the Puritans for changes that evolved in the southern hill country, where there has never been any Puritan influence or even presence.

The replacement of various magical motifs with more rational storylines is probably nothing more than a general trend toward "modernization."

Why would this have occurred more thoroughly and noticably in the US than in the UK, even in relatively "undeveloped" or technologically-backward communities? Perhaps America has simply been more self-consciously "modern" or "forward-looking," even in its most rural areas (where adaptation of "modern" ways might well have been a matter of wishful thinking than of actual attainment).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 06:38 PM

I can't cite any specifics because I'm suffering severe brain farts today, especially since there is a chainsaw working not far away - but I would submit that some songs may have had their supernatural elements removed because of the secularization and rationalization of American society, that the supernatural elements just didn't make sense to the singers. Perhaps some songs aren't "sanitized" for puritanical reasons or for reasons of political correctness - but maybe elements of songs get lost simply because they don't have meaning to the singer because the culture has changed (or, even more simply, because the singer doesn't like it). I think it's wrong to suppose there are evil motives to every change in a folk song. After all, what's the folk process all about anyhow?
Now that the chainsaw has stopped, I can think of one example, although the "removed" elements aren't supernatural - in its pure form, The Jew's Daughter has some of the most horrible bigotry ever to be found in English-language song. By the time it evolved to the children's version of "It Rained a Mist" in America, not a trace of that bigotry was left. Was that censorship? Was that "political correctness"? I don't think so, although there might have been some of that - but chiefly, I think that singers kept the parts they found relevant and enjoyable, and let the other stuff die.
You could say the same for Babes in the Wood.

I gotta go out and check on the guy with the chainsaw, since the noise stopped. He's supposed to be cutting down the tree that blocks the entrance to my garage, so I can buy a new car this week and keep it under cover.....

-Joe Brainfart-


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Neil D
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 07:08 PM

I am skeptical about the theory that our Puritan influence somehow culled superstition from folk songs as they travelled to the new world. Their influence was mostly confined to New England and the most fertile collecting ground for old ballads was in Appalachia and other parts of the southern U.S. (maybe it was a Baptist/Pentecostal influence but I doubt that). Besides the Puritans were plenty superstitious. They burned witches didn't they?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Janie
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 08:09 PM

Superstition is one thing, but mysticism is somewhat different. I wonder if it is not so much secularism, as posited by Joe, or puritanism, but rather protestantism, where mysticism is a pretty rare attribute.   There is nothing mystical about the protestant Devil. He's simply a bad-ass. And while spirits and the daemons in the Old Country may have been frightening, I don't think they were always regarded as "the evil dominions of Satan."      Descended from ancient cultures that preceded the spread of Christianity, it seems there was (and is) a view that 'old magic' supernatural simply does not come entirely under the dominion of the Church.   

Also, think of all the legends and mythologies of the many different cultures and tribes who settled and conquered the British Isles in waves going back into prehistory, and how they became woven into the rites, beliefs and ceremonies of the Catholic church, and persisted, passed down through generations. They were also often often deeply associated with the land or specific areas, especially the mythical creatures.   There are little hidden places, and larger ones too, in the British Isles associated with the supernatural, the origins of which go back probably a thousand years or more. When the people of the British Isles moved across the ocean, they left their faeries, elves and leprechauns in the Old Country, for the most part, and didn't find new species of those fey beings here. Since they did not assimilate, in any way, with the native populations here, and since the cultures and mythologies of native Americans were so different, they also did not adopt or adapt, for the most part, any of the mystical or mythical elements of Native American mythologies or spiritualism.

New World immigrants no longer had the the daily reinforcement of their long cultural histories around them in force. Families were broken up, the keepers of the stories - the purveyors of these older traditions who passed them in not only in story and song, but in daily practice that socialized another generation to them, often did not make the journey across the ocean.    And if they did, think of the difference in the power and sense of realism between, "When I was just a lad, I saw the faeries dancing one night right by the spring hidden by Hadrian's Wall at the edge of the village. Be careful you stay away from there at night, Child", and "When I was lad in Scotland, I saw the faeries...."

The culture(s) of the British Isles did not cross the waters intact. In New World protestantism, the supernatural and magic were (are) nearly always regarded as the work of the Devil, that big Bad-Ass guy trying to trip you up. And the Devil is nearly always viewed as a trickster. And if you lose to the Devil, it's your own damn fault for not being 'good.'

So, being as the folk process involves, as others have said above, change, and usually change to reflect the meanings and values of whoever the current 'folk' are, it is not surprising that a good bit of the magical element has gone from the American derivatives of those old ballads.

Which is all an awful lot for some one to say who really knows nothing at all about the subject:>)

Having said all that, let me confess I don't know a thing about any of this.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Janie
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 08:12 PM

And I was just doubly redundant! One of these days I'll start routine editing posts before I hit submit.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 08:25 PM

What is the religious right but a possibly logical extrapolation, over time, of the puritan ethic that planted it's pretty radical seed into the psyche of America to grow into and become the manifestation that we see perpetrated upon us today jn Washington. Of course the puritan ethic, whatever it was, has been bastardized and deleted, morphed and "refined" into this group of mod "patriots?" that can, amazingly, seem to deny the presence of the separations between church and state (and never the twain shall meet) that were set out so graphically by those early guys sometimes called the founding fathers. The religious right sure does worship those founders when their early rules/pronouncements from 1776 suit their purposes. (like guns!)

I stand by my feelings that it can be traced back to the attitudes that became the dogmas of people we call puritans.

Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 08:30 PM

Janie,
That's brilliant and right on.
Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: DADGBE
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 08:55 PM

It seems like the remaining supernatural influences in North American folklore may be left behind for the purpose of scaring folks. Fear is not often dealt with in song but Rosalie Sorrells' recording of The Haunted Hunter combines both. While I think that it was found as a printed broadside in Canada, it would be interesting to hear more info about it.

Other instances of folk material used to convey fear that come to mind are The Lonesome Roving Wolves, The Texas Rangers and all those camp stories designed to frighten young summer campers; many of which use supernatural themes.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 08:56 PM

Ah, the Puritan thesis (as outlined by historian Edmund S. Morgan in The Puritan Dilemma) rears its head again! But it really can't explain this specific phenomena outside of New England, as others have pointed out.

"The culture(s) of the British Isles did not cross the waters intact. In New World protestantism, the supernatural and magic were (are) nearly always regarded as the work of the Devil, that big Bad-Ass guy trying to trip you up. And the Devil is nearly always viewed as a trickster. And if you lose to the Devil, it's your own damn fault for not being 'good.'"

Perusing Ozark Magic and Folklore by Vance Randolph (among other sources) should make it fairly clear that British-descended settlers in the New World were not at all unfamiliar with magic and witchcraft (for lack of better terms) and were not always adverse to making use of it in their day-to-day lives.

So, admittedly, I too don't really have an explanation for the loss of the supernatural in Anglo-American folksong.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Rowan
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 11:07 PM

As an outsider (from the other New England) I have wondered about "the American attitude" towards religion and secularism too; I understand the naturally limited application of stereotypes but time is short for detailed writing. To my mind, Janie's post makes a lot of sense, even though Michael correctly challenges its application outside the US version of New England.

And this left me wondering whether another aspect of American culture, specific to the US and seemingly absent from either Canada or anywhere south of the Rio Grande (all of which are also American) is the sense of "moral vision" that seems resident in the US. Ever since 1776 there has been a notion, widely accepted in the US, that the US must play a leadership role modelling desirable notions of how a society ought to work. The most recent example might be the notion that the US must foster "democracy" in areas of the world where it currently doesn't occur.

Now, without getting into listing numerous lapses, it seems to me that a society that has lots of people accepting the notion they have a role to promote such a "moral vision" might find it relatively easy to drop off various bits of 'irrelevant' or 'unwelcome' culture. Like revenants and other relics of an unrational age.

Might this go some way towards addressing Michael's challenge about geographical distributions?

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 11:16 PM

The more I think about it, the more I think we have been using the wrong word for the thing that is disappearing from American versions of British songs. We don't really mean "supernatural", do we? God and the Bible are supernatural, yet they show no signs of disappearing from American songs. Wouldn't it be more precise to say that the elvish elements are disappearing?   

As Janie has well stated, folk songs do "change to reflect the meanings and values of whoever the current 'folk' are" and therefore "it is not surprising that a good bit of the magical element has gone from the American derivatives of the old ballads".
God and the Bible are important to many of "the folk"; elvish knights much less so.

So could we say God is here to stay, but Elvish has left the building?

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Feb 08 - 11:41 PM

Kent,

Very nice one!!!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Janie
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 12:23 AM

FWIW, I think that is a really good way to frame it, Kent.

And Michael, I don't disagree with you. But I don't think puritanism has anything to do with it. I do think New World protestantism does. There is still 'magic in them thar hills.' I know a fair number of people, old herbalists, country people here in the Piedmont, or up in my home in West Virginia, who still work 'spells' and 'hexes.'    Still people with a reputation for having the 'sight.', etc. But, speaking in broadly general terms, there is not a strong 'fey' or as Kent puts it so well, elvish quality to those beliefs and practices. There is not a a cultural history of European paganism. We don't have daemons with the implied pagan idea of an immaterial being somewhere between human and pagan divinity. We have demons. Evil spirits, plain and simple. Little devils.    I can't think of any examples right now, but there are definitely folk songs and ballads that originated here that include talk of demons, devils, ghosts. But no daemon lovers.

According to the reference masato posted above, the same transformation has happened, to at least some degree, on the other side of the pond, also, where the ballads originated.

Magic just ain't what it used to be, I guess.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Melissa
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 12:58 AM

Maybe the paranormal references were subdued during the time when "granny women" were considered problematic?

It would probably be easier to come up with a sensible guess as to "why" if you could narrow it down to "when" and compare it with history of the time...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 02:04 PM

Another question I'd have is how much did Puritan sing, and WHAT did they sing? I can't picture them singing much other than hymns, but maybe I'm wrong. The Puritans became Congregationalists, and then became the United Church of Christ, and then became quite liberal - you wouldn't call them "puritan" now.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 04:32 PM

Joe, didn't the Unitarian Church (as well as the UCC) come from Congregationalism, which came from Puritanism? They are very "non-Puritan" these days!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 06:00 PM

Incidentally, the Congregationalists were one of the three sects that merged (the others being the Methodists and the Presbyterians) to form the United Church of Canada, one of the most populous churches in Canada. Again, the United Church tends to be fairly liberal.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Scotus
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 07:03 PM

Nobody's mentioned 'Black Jack Davy' NOT casting the glamour over the unfortunate lady (the gypsies used this strategy to get her out of the castle in the older Scots versions).

Jack


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Rowan
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 08:17 PM

Incidentally, the Congregationalists were one of the three sects that merged (the others being the Methodists and the Presbyterians) to form the United Church of Canada, one of the most populous churches in Canada.

In Oz, the church formed by the same union is called "The Uniting Church"; there were several previously existing "United" churches in rural localities where no one protestant brand could muster enough people to warrant a separate building or congregation but, combined, they could. My father's neighbourhood in Sth Gippsland was an example. The Uniting Church in Oz is relatively progressive and liberal.

But I can't (at the moment) think of examples of songs that are endemic to Oz (as distinct from having been transplanted during the recent folk revival) that feature presence or deletion of revenants, daemons etc.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 08:33 PM

Yep, PoppaGator, both the Unitarians and the United Church of Christ have roots in the Congregationalists, which have Puritan roots. The Unitarians have an annoying practice of "sanitizing" songs, although now for the purpose of Political Correctness. The UCC seems to be a lot more open to Philosophical Messiness. I suppose the current best-known UCC leader might be Peter J. Gomes of Harvard - eloquent, black, and gay. The Puritans would not be pleased.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 11:40 PM

Several posters seem to think that the Puritans were conservatives. That is understandable since the social mores of the Puritans somewhat resemble the social mores of modern conservatives. It is understandable, but it is not historically correct.

In the 17th Century, the conservatives were High Church Royalists. The Puritans were the political and religious LEFT. This is irritating to the left, which despises the old Puritans, and to the right, which rather admires them.

Politically, the Puritans were so far to the left that they overthrew the monarchy and, in 1649, executed King Charles I. Their religious program was not based on conserving tradition, but rather on ELIMINATING (Roman Catholic) tradition. At least in their own minds, they were purifying England, hence the term Puritan.

Did this "purifying" include cleaning up superstition in the old ballads? I don't know. If so, one would expect the ballads collected in New England to be more "cleaned up" than those collected in the Southern Appalachians. Are they?

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Janie
Date: 07 Feb 08 - 11:54 PM

Anybody remember the Garrison Keeler monologue about the Rapture occurring - to the shock and dismay of both the Unitarians and the Baptists, the Unitarians were taken up, and the Baptists left behind. "Unitarians don't want Rapture -they want understanding!" It was one of the funniest pieces I have ever heard him do.

A lot of those Child ballads came over AFTER the puritans. The puritans of New England were some of the earliest, but not the most multitudiness of British Isles immigrants. Scotsmen, , Welshmen, Scots-Irish. Most of them quite hostile to Catholicism, but less so to the Anglicans. And they came much more because of economic conditions than seeking religious freedom.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Melissa
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 12:00 AM

According to Janie "There is still 'magic in them thar hills.'" which would seem to imply that some areas weren't scrubbed as thoroughly on the Washboard of Religion...IF that's what brought on the shift.

Maybe after a generation or two, songwriters didn't put in mystical stuff--because it wasn't such a part of their lives..and with that trend, they could easily have begun the process of 'updating' the Old Songs.

When everyday life is scary, hard and exhausting, scary songs might have simply lost their appeal. Isn't that what happened with Fairy Tales?

What did the songs change to?
Did they go from "you have no control over this situation" to "fork in the road" type where the character had to choose which way to take their story by their response toward the song situation?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 12:04 AM

Well, Kent, from today's perspective, everybody in the 17th century could probably be labeled conservative. Still, I wonder about the songs sung by the Americans of the 17th Century. Can't say I've been impressed by the American songs I've seen from the 18th Century. None of them seem to have much imagination in them. I don't really think that it was the "washboard of religion" that scrubbed things clean - indeed, most religious groups seem to be quite open to matters of the imagination. I think, perhaps, that it was "polite society" that tended to sanitize the songs of the common folk. The Enlightenment of the 18th Century didn't really seem to allow for the supernatural. But hey, if the Puritans executed witches, don't you think they must have believed in supernatural witchcraft? As for Puritans being "liberal," I don't think executing witches would be considered a "liberal" act today.
-Joe, still wondering what songs the Puritans sang-


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Volgadon
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 01:24 AM

Hmm, the Enlightenment was also the age of the gothic novels.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 02:49 AM

'Suffolk Miracle'.
Up to twenty years ago this was one of the most popular ballads to be found among traditional singers in this part of the West of Ireland; long after it had disappeared elsewhere.
The supernatural element in ballads has always been a 'movable feast'; my particular favourite being the version of 'The Grey Cock' 'known as 'I'm A Rover', where the night visiting lover becomes a ploughboy, whose parting shot is:
"Remember lass, I'm a plooman laddie,
And the fairmer I must obey".
The most authoritative (and readable) work on the supernatural ballads by far is still, 'Folklore in The English and Scottish Ballads' by Lowry C Wimberly (Fredrick Ungar Pub. Co. N.Y. 1928.).
It was re-published in the 1960s in paperback by Dover Books.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 07:14 AM

For no other reason than the fact that the first reply in this thread mentioned "The House Carpenter", I thought I'd draw people's attention to a nice recorded version of this song I heard on myspace t'other day by a young Scots guitarist called David Gunn:

www.myspace.com/davidgunn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 03:28 PM

Thanks for the book tip, Jim. It's apparently out of print, but I was able to find a used copy for a ridiculously low price.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 08:22 PM

Joe Offer makes a very interesting point, I think, when he says, "if the Puritans executed witches, don't you think they must have believed in supernatural witchcraft?" He's right, of course; many people of that time (Puritans and Cavaliers alike) believed that witches could harm others by casting spells.
Since the Puritans did believe in witches, one might expect that, even as the Elvish elements faded from the old ballads, the theme of witchcraft would survive, at least in New England. Maybe it did. (Where are the New Englanders when you need them?)
In the Southern Appalachians, there is hardly a trace of witchcraft in the oldest songs. In Patrick Gainer's FOLK SONGS OF THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS, there are 50 Child ballad texts, but not one has a witch. In Leonard Robert's SANG BRANCH SETTLERS, Mr. Roberts collects several stories involving witches from his sources, the Couch family of Eastern Kentucky. He also collects texts of eight Child ballads (#s 3, 53, 54, 81, 84, 95, 274,and 278), but not one has a witch. I don't know why.   

P.S.
Joe Offer, I didn't mean, when I described Puritans as "liberals", that they were liberal in 21st Century terms, as if Oliver Cromwell had been attempting to nationalize medicine or get the troops out of Iraq. I meant that they were the liberals of THEIR day, the ones who wished to accelerate the trends of their times, rather than slow or reverse those changes. Of course, some of them were, on important issues, liberal even in OUR terms. On the issues of preserving the monarchy and preserving the Established Church, John Milton was to the left of Tony Blair.   

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 08:39 PM

Kent is correct, the Puritans were the 'left-wingers' of their times, as strange as that may seem to us now. So it may not be all that strange after all that New England became a bastion of liberalism. Abolitionism, the women's suffrage movement, 'alternative lifestyles', all sprang from Puritan soil.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 09:03 PM

TAM LYNN, a Child ballad for sure, is crammed full of masterful magic, transmutations, morphing and witchery of all kinds. That is the Queen of the fairies in that grand song, but a witch by any other name would smell as sweet. Did Cecil Sharp find it in the U.S. southern mountains from anyone that hadn't learned it from a book, broadside or whatever?? I rather doubt that he did.

To update: The new found voices and vociferousness of the religious right came down pretty hard on occasion upon Tolkien, Harry Potter, Manly Wade Wellman's tales of John with his silver-strung guitar protecting him from all klinds of supernatural doings there.

They are still striving to get these images and tales "gone from American life."

Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Nerd
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 09:38 PM

Art, Tam Lin barely survived in Britain. There have been a very few versions collected from oral tradition in Scotland and Northern Ireland...none, I think, in England (though I may be wrong) and none in the US.

A.L. Lloyd wrote of it:

"It was thought to have disappeared from tradition but of recent years a number of versions, mostly fragmentary, have turned up among country singers, particularly Scottish travelling people. I cobbled this set together, in part from Child, in part from recent collection; the tune is derived from one used for this ballad by travellers. Many consider it the best of all English-language ballad stories."

Pretty much everyone who records this takes either A.L. Lloyd's adaptation or Fairport's as the starting place, though some groups have started to go directly to the Child books to come up with something more unusual.

Wimberly is a fun book, isn't it?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Rowan
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 10:04 PM

So it may not be all that strange after all that New England became a bastion of liberalism. Abolitionism, the women's suffrage movement, 'alternative lifestyles', all sprang from Puritan soil.

I take it that this refers to the US version of New England. It might be of interest to some (but a radical thread drift) that South Australia was the first jurisdiction to give women the vote and that Paraguay was the site of an alternative lifestyle colony with personnel from eastern Oz; both date from the 1890s. The colonists were led by William Lane, who gets a mention in The Ballad of 1891 but, while the squattocracy regarded him as demonic, the songs don't.

And Art's The new found voices and vociferousness of the religious right came down pretty hard on occasion upon Tolkien, Harry Potter, Manly Wade Wellman's tales of John with his silver-strung guitar protecting him from all klinds of supernatural doings there.
They are still striving to get these images and tales "gone from American life."


reminds me that, while I noticed the loony right in the US waxing strange over JK Rowling, they were quite silent about CS Lewis' Narnia Chronicles.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 11:20 PM

It's not quite correct to say that the religious right in the U.S. is "quite silent" about C. S. Lewis's THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.   Generally speaking, the religious right loves those books and promotes them at every opportunity. They also love C. S. Lewis's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, which consists of letters of advice from one demon to another. Step into almost any religious bookstore in the U.S. and you will see what I mean. http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/332928011/ref=pd_ts_b_nav

The religious right has no objection to supernatural themes as such. The objections to J. K. Rowling's works are based on the way she handles those themes, not on the themes themselves. But that is a matter for another thread.

I'm still hoping to hear from someone who knows the ballad tradition of New England.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Rowan
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 11:25 PM

Thanks Kent. It must just have been the noise about JK Rowling reached me in the Oz version of New England but the noise about CS Lewis didn't quite make it.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Janie
Date: 09 Feb 08 - 12:57 AM

I ran across this interesting tidbit From http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ballads/early_child/#his No sources cited so don't know how accurate a statement it is. (And is Greg Lindahl a Mudcatter? I've run across his name and his website before.)

Most magical and supernatural ballad themes also tend to enter ballads at this time. If a ballad has ghosts, or people returning from the dead, or magicians casting spells, it is most likely (thought not certain) to have come from the eighteenth century or later. In earlier ballads, supernatural influences are largely restricted to the devil and the occasional elf. (The latter tended to be unnatural minions of evil, not Tolkien-type elves.)

Janie


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Janie
Date: 09 Feb 08 - 01:16 AM

Just want to say how much I appreciate the sharing of knowledge and perspectives from many people with knowledge of the music, history and lore here (of which I ain't one,) and to Jane, for starting the thread.    AKA Why I Love Mudcat

It has led me to do some light research and reading on-line about puritanism, the English Separatist movement, The Great Awakening, history and origins of elves, fairies, brownies, leprechauns, ogres, hobgoblins, James I, James Child, waves and patterns of migration to the America's from Europe in general and the British Isles in particular, Cromwell, James I, the Salem Witch Trials, the history of Baptists, the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason - not to mention a chance to listen to some recordings from the Max Hunter collection, some Child Ballads and the history of Christian mysticism.

Nary a thing about calculus, however.

Not a bad way at all to spend a quiet Friday night.

Janie


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 09 Feb 08 - 01:50 AM

Greg Lindahl's comments are pretty accurate. The mistake people have tended to make is to assume that supernatural elements in a song 'must' somehow indicate antiquity. What they actually indicate is period; and, in song, the supernatural has been fashionable at various periods; chiefly (from the records we have available) the 18th and 19th centuries.

That doesn't necessarily invalidate the comments made here, but it does reinforce the point (frequently not grasped by amateur folklorists, who tend to rely on outdated authorities) that any analysis needs to be based on concrete evidence rather than mere 'intuitive' speculation. Wimberly and his contemporaries tended to follow Frazer's theories, but folksong scholarship has moved on a wee bit over the last century, just as it has in other fields.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Barry Finn
Date: 09 Feb 08 - 03:19 AM

Jovial Hunter or Abraham Bailey retains the witch & some of the supernatural aspects of the Boar that kilt 500 men as well as the old world disire of "your 'hawk, your hound, and your Gaily-Dee".

They met the old witch wife on a bridge,
Blow your horn, Center,
"Begone, you rogue; you've killed my pig,
As you are the jobal hunter.

She says, "These three things I crave of yourn,
Blow your horn, Center,
'S your 'hawk, your hound, and your Gaily-Dee,
As you are the jobal hunter."

He says, "These three things you can't have of mine."
Blow your horn, Center.
"Is my 'hawk, my hound, and my Gaily-Dee,"
Just like a jobal hunter.

He split the old witch wife through the chin,
Blow your horn, Center.
And on their way they went again,
As you are the jobal hunter.

Though as a song it is recent "Susanna Martin" the tune by Claudine Langille formely of the band Touchstone, the words are directly taken from the Salem Witch trials.

I think one also has to consider the culture of the song's source rather than just it's age or period. Take sailors of the Canadian Maritimes some of their songs of wrecks, the Ghostly Crew & another one the Ghostly Sailors & Captain Glen both collected on Devil's Island or Child #20, the Cruel Mother, collected in Maine & in the Appalachians still retained much of the supernatural with it's magic blood stain & the knife that "the farther she threw it the nearer it came". I suspect that Sailors hung onto their old world superstitions in the new world a lot longer than most but not all, so maybe it's not a mattter of religions at all but what group or culture hung on to those superstitions longer & why & where they settled. Just a thought.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 09 Feb 08 - 04:14 AM

Just wanted to say how much I'm enjoyng this thread and that I've already ordered two out of print books on the nback it. Thanks, everyone! I've got nothing helpful to add, mind...

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 09 Feb 08 - 04:37 AM

Kent, there is an argument that much of the oppostion the the Jacobean kings stemmed from the fact that those kings were seeking to impose a change on the British - a change from the English convention that the King ruled to some extent by the imprimatur of the nobles (as illustrated by Magna Carta) towards a new idea that the Jacobeans had learned from central Europe, namely the divine right of kings to govern, make laws, and impose taxes by proclamation. If so then the opponents of James and Charles were not seeking change but seeking to resist change.

And as to the Wild Boar (or Avram Bailey, as I know it), I thought the third "trophy" was a "gay lady", not a "Gaily-dee". And Ithought he was a "noble" not a "jobal" hunter. What are "Gaily-Dee" and "Jobal"?

Oh, and I thought the "Grey Cock" was Burns, and the chorus added later.

I reilise this is thread drift, and the central thesis remains interesting, not least for the fact that pretty well all of the studies seem to be American, whereas one might have expected some British study of the supernatural in British folk song. I suppose that illustrates the almost total lack of British respect for British tradition. Ho hum.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Feb 08 - 07:25 AM

Joe,
Pleased to hear you managed to get a copy of Wimberly (Dover I presume?) - thought it was long gone. I hope you get as much use out of it as I do. In my opinion it is American folksong scholarship at it's very best.
On the other hand, Phillip's Barry's note to 'The Lakes of Col Fin', in 'New Green Mountain Songster', with its mermaids and magic islands, is an example of scholarship at its worst, endowing one of the most beautiful ballads of domestic tragedy with mystical nonsense.
I recently came across a piece (unfinished) I once wrote on how the 'folk' approach the supernatural; 'Things That Go Bump in The Ballads'. This was inspired by a a fascinating conversation we had with MacColl once, when I asked him how an agnostic like me should approach the singing of supernatural songs. His reply, for me, was proof of what a great singer he was.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Bill Brown
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 02:34 PM

I stumbled on this thread as I was wasting ti . . er, researching ballad lyrics and had just come across a collection of Danish ballads "Ancient Danish Ballads" By Richard Chandler Alexander Prior (full text can be found online), and it has songs with fairy-tale creatures such as elf-maid and giants and dwarf-kings.

btw, it's hard to resist a song with a character named "Fair Hermeline," especially when she's being impregnated seven time by a dwarf-king.

Seeing this I realised that I have not come across many fairy-tale stories or critters in English ballads. So, I did a search on Mudcat to see what lyrics I could find of that sort, and found nothing (aside from what look to be a bunch of LOTR-inspired parodies) except this thread about how there aren't many fairy-tale stories or critters in English ballads.

So, I guess we'll have to swipe them from the Scandinavians if we want any.

As for the other issues this thread has spawned:

Read "Wordy Shipmates" by Sarah Vowell, a very entertaining book about the American pilgrims.

A book that every folkie should be required to read is "The Battle For Christmas" by Nissenbaum (I hope I spelled that right), which deals with Puritans AND Unitarians (in many senses the original yuppies) and how the former tried to suppress Christmas and how the latter successfully transformed it. Though what they did to give us our modern Christmas is in many ways appalling, the book also drives a stake through the heart of sentimental notions about the older traditions. Extremely well written, too - a regular page-turner.

A book on New England ballads, actually ONE ballad but it mentions others in passing, "The Meetinghouse Tragedy" by Charles Clark.
http://www.amazon.com/Meetinghouse-Tragedy-Episode-Life-England/dp/0874518725

The author uses a song about the collapse of a village meetinghouse as it was being constructed (killing and maiming a number of local men) as a starting-off place for a description of pre-Revolutionary rural New Hampshire life.

Fortunately, he includes a chapter discussing what TUNE it might have been sung to, vital information usually missing from old song books such as the previously mentioned "Ancient Danish Ballads" book.

Frustrating to have a great lyric with a Dwarf-king or Mountain elf-maid in it and no idea what the tune is.

--Bill Brown


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 08:00 AM

Thanks, Bill, for resurrecting this thread, which I somehow missed the first time round.

> there aren't many fairy-tale stories or critters in English ballads <

To deal with that first, in F J Child's 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads', you can find dragons or firedrakes (Laily Worm, Kemp Owyne), elves and fairies (Tam Lin, Elfin Knight, Thomas the Rhymer, The Wee Wee Man), witchcraft (Willie's Lady, Alison Gross), demons (James Harris, King Henry), magic (Two Magicians), speaking corpses or body parts (Young Benjie, Two Sisters), mermaids (Clerk Colvill and, er, The Mermaid) and the Devil himself (Riddles Wisely Expounded, Farmer's Curst Wife), let alone any number of ghosts. Child himself was an admirer of the work of the Brothers Grimm and drew many parallels between his ballads and their analogues in Scandinavia and elsewhere. Nonetheless, the supernatural is represented in only a small proportion of the ballads he identified, and many of the above were known only in Soctland.

This thread, however, is asking us what happened to all those supernatural phenomena when the ballads migrated across the Atlantic. There's something fairly basic that doesn't seem to have been pointed out so far, which is that the supernatural elements were lost in the British versions of many of these ballads as well.

[Kent Davis, 05.02.08 wrote:]
>> "The Devil's Questions" ("Riddles Wisely Expounded", Child #1)
The title indicates that the questioner is the Devil, but the text gives no such indication. <<

Child himself didn't regard this as a 'Devil Ballad' until he belatedly discovered the 15th century copy 'Inter Diabolus et Virgo' just in time for it to be included with his appendices. Of the examples listed under 'Riddles Wisely…' in ESPB vol. 1, three out of four - the oldest dating from the 17th century - contain no reference to the Devil. Of course FJC wasn't to know that a text including a spectacular appearance by Old Nick would turn up in (I think) Wiltshire after his death (see Willams 'Folk Songs of the Upper Thames'). But even Kent Davis's statement isn't actually correct. The original version of "The Devil's Nine Questions", collected in 1922 in Virginia, includes the threat "I'll take you off to Hell alive", which could hardly be clearer.

Under 'The Elfin Knight' (#2), Child lists twelve examples, only four of which have an elfin character setting the impossible tasks. In one other the setter may be the Devil. The ballad continued in English oral tradition in the well-known 'Scarborough Fair' form, and also the 'Acre of Land' form, neither of which have any supernatural element. Elvish versions were still being sung in 20th Century Aberdeenshire, however.

For 'Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight' (#4) only one version of out six in Child actually contains an elf-knight (which FJC himself believed might represent contamination from #2). Again this ballad has a vigorous history in English oral tradition, but without any netherworld connotations.

James Harris (The Demon Lover, Child 243) is generally agreed to represent the template for the common North American ballad 'The House Carpenter'. But here too the picture isn't straightforward. One of the older (English) texts listed by Child contains no hint that the vengeful lover is any kind of demon or ghost, although the Scots versions he prints generally do. And although the demon has disappeared more or less completely in the North American versions – many of which derive from a specific broadside in which the supernatural wasn't represented – there is nonetheless a single notable exception with a specific diabolic reference. I refer you to Clinton Heylin's fascinating, if rather scattergun, book 'Dylan's Demon Lover' for further discussion.

I could go on. 'The Grey Cock (248)' made it to Newfoundland complete with walking corpse, but in North Carolina the 'Pretty Crowin' Chickens' versions of the same ballad have become simple night-visiting songs. 'The Suffolk Miracle' (272) is a ghost story on either side of the Atlantic. 'The Two Sisters' (10) exists in supernatural and rationalized versions on both sides of the pond. 'Young Hunting' (68) seems to have lost its supernatural elements before it crossed over. Many of the more gothic magical ballads have never been found in North America at all ('Tam Lin' actually did turn up there once, according to Bronson, who hints that book-learning may have been involved).

To summarize, whether we choose to regard the waning of supernatural elements in the ballads as the result of ecclesiastical pressure or the growth of rationalism, it's something that happened on both sides of the Atlantic, and was not a straightforward linear process in any case. It's also important to realise that many of the ballads will have crossed the ocean more than once, very likely in versions already differing significantly from one another.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Bill Brown
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 12:33 PM

Thanks for the learned response, Brian!

What a coincidence, I just heard your music last Sunday when a friend played your Different Tongues CD for me. I particularly liked the Bonny Bunch of Roses song.

--Bill Brown


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 02:41 PM

Thanks, Bill.

You may be familiar with the Child Ballads already, but if not, you can search online and find all the texts (although not the fascinating introductory notes which you might well enjoy).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 10:44 PM

Brian Peters,

I appreciate your contribution to the discussion. You are right in saying that some versions of "The Devil's Nine Questions" make it clear that the questioner is the devil. My post of 05 Feb 08 concerns the version collected by Patrick Gainer, published in 1975 in FOLK SONGS FROM THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS. The text of that version does not make it clear who or what the questioner is.   

The month after I made that post, another of Dr. Gainer's books, WITCHES, GHOSTS, AND SIGNS: FOLKLORE OF THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, was re-published. It is available here: http://wvuecommerce.wvu.edu/index.cfm?do=store.store&id=8101775801_65w

As the title implies, Dr. Gainer collected plenty of supernatural material in West Virginia. He found lots of stories of witches and ghosts but, as noted earlier, he did not find many ballads with an elvish element. I'm not sure why. Dr. Gainer himself blamed the Puritan influence. I greatly respect his views but, because of the relative weakness of Puritan influence in West Virginia, I'm not convinced. It would be interesting to hear from some New Englanders. The Puritan influence was, I believe, strongest there, even stronger than the Puritan influence in England itself.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 04:21 AM

My apologies, Kent - I was scanning fairly quickly through the thread. Working from Bronson for my Transatlantic ballad migrants, I wasn't aware of the West Virginia version of 'The Devil's Nine Questions'. I don't suppose you could post the text here, could you? Does the tune resemble the Mrs. Rill Martin version from Va (which seems to be the basis for the ballad as it's now often performed)?

I'm also interested in the Gainer-collected version of "The Elfin Knight" (Child #2). The ballad doesn't seem to have had nearly as wide a currency in the Appalachians as some of the others, and the refrain "O Where Are You Going? I'm Going to Linn" is one I has understood to be associated with the North East of your country.

When did Dr. Gainer actually collect his material?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: GUEST,Gus
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 09:17 AM

An interesting parallel to Tom Jefferson's bible. He edited the New Testament, removing all mention of the supernatural. Full text here.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Bill Brown
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 01:56 PM

Ah, the damn Enlightenment, spoiling our fun again!

Ahem, which reminds me of a chantey, "One Hundred Years Ago" as recorded by Keith Kendrick. it goes in part (if memory serves correctly):

They used to believe that pigs could fly, oh yes, oh!
But I don't believe it, no not I,
One hundred years ago.

They thought that the moon was made of cheese, oh yes, oh!
Well, you can believe it if you please,
One hundred years ago.

They thought that the stars were set alight, oh yes, oh!
By some good angel every night,
One hundred years ago.

They hung a man for making steam, oh yes, oh!
They cast his body into a stream,
One hundred years ago.


So, if even _sailors_ started making fun of the old timer's ignorant superstitions, its no wonder the elves, dwarves, and dragons got the boot.

--Bill Brown

(tongue firmly in cheek)

PS, I sometimes add my own verse:
They said that the Bible told them so, oh yes, oh!
That the world was made not long ago,
One hundred years ago.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 08:37 PM

I don't have time to post those songs tonight but I will by Saturday, Lord willing.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 09:39 PM

I had a VHS video cassette of a film called Tam Lin which featured Ava Gardner and Roddy McDowell. It was a retelling of the old tale (sort of) but updated to high-rise buildings and very urban folk drinking and smoking a lot as they hit on each other. I remember being intrigued by it, but it wasn't very good. The various morphings seemed more like an LSD trip than anything else.A year or two ago I sent it to Anne Hills---but, come to think of it, she never mentioned it. But I sent it to them because Tamlynn (spelling?) is her and Mark Moss' daughter's name.

So, in a myriad of ways, I guess, the old motifs carry on...

A fine discussion!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Penny S.
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 04:18 AM

Tam Lin has been used as the base for children's fiction by Diana Wynne Jones - Fire and Hemlock - and Catherine Storr, whose title I can't remember, but may have had Thursday in it. Storr's was quite psychological and not so magical. Wynne Jones was much closer to the source.
Only relevant in that they cast light on how changing outlooks change interpretations.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 04:59 AM

>> The various morphings seemed more like an LSD trip than anything else. <<

In a workshop I once shared with Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin, Jody remarked that the narratives of ballads often have a dreamlike quality, particularly with respect to the alternation of detailed accounts of action or dialogue with sudden lurches to a different time-frame (what Ruth Perry calls 'leaping and lingering'). On the same occasion, his account of the morphing of Napoleon Bonaparte into the meaningless 'Young Rapoleon' in the Appalachian 'Bonny Bunch of Roses' variant was rather amusing.

It's a bit off topic, but on the subject of modern retellings of ballads, I know there have been fantasy comics based on them, and then there was a detective novel by Ellis Peters (the Brother Cadfael author) called 'Black is the Colour', in which one of the ballad stories (I forget which) was the key to the mystery. Who could resist the following synopsis?

"Singers and musicians are gathered for a course in folk music that will occupy a weekend in the fantastic country mansion called Follymead. Most come only to sing or to listen, but one or two have non–musical scores to settle. When brilliantly talented Liri Palmer sings "Black, black, black is the color of my true–love's heart! His tongue is like a poisoned dart, The coldest eyes and the lewdest hands…, "she clearly has a message for someone in the audience. Passions run high. There is murder brewing at Follymead...."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 10:31 PM

The material below the line is from FOLK SONGS OF THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS, by Patrick Gainer, 1975. Dr. Gainer's title and introduction suggest a supernatural interpretation, but the words of this version do not actually mention the supernatural.

The book does not give the date when the song was collected. Some of the songs were collected as early as 1924. If I find out more, I'll let you know. I'll try to post "O Where Are You Going? I'm Going to Linn" tomorrow.

Kent
--------------------------------------------------------------
THE DEVIL'S QUESTIONS
(CHILD 1, "RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED")

   This ballad has not been reported previously from West Virginia tradition. It was sung by Blanche Kelley, Gilmer County. The devil asks the maid difficult questions, which she must answer satisfactorily or be carried off to hell. When she answers the questins wisely, the devil disappears.

   The word "peart" in the refrain is a dialect word meaning cheerful and becoming.

If you can't answer these questions to me,
O maid so peart and bonnie,
Then you'll be mine and go with me,
and you so peart and bonnie.

O what is higher than the tree?
O maid so peart and bonnie,
And what is deeper than the sea?
And you so peart and bonnie.

O what is louder than the horn?
O maid so peart and bonnie,
And what is earlier than the morn?
and you so peart and bonnie.

O heaven is higher than the tree,
As I am peart and bonnie,
And hell is deeper than the sea,
And I am peart and bonnie.

O thunder is louder than the horn,
As I am peart and bonnie,
And sin is earlier than the morn,
And I am peart and bonnie.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 12:14 AM

alright.. I give up..

been googling for the best part of a third of a bottle of Talisker
and still can't find a song i heard on a CD I borrowed
about 7 years ago.

I'm fairly certain it was Mike Seeger
and the song was something to do with a drowned girl
and maybe a fiddle bow or something similar
made from her rib bones..

this thread reminded me..

so i have a nagging memory it might be a pretty good example
of a definitely spooky yank folk song..

i meant to keep it as 'one for me to record one day'
but must have forgot some where along the way..


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Barry Finn
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 12:38 AM

Hi Punkrocker
The song you're looking for is called the "Two Sisters" (Child #10).
If you enter the (Two Sisters) into the search box in the upper right hand corner of this page you'll find numerous versions of the song.
Good Luck

Barry


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 12:51 AM

thanks Barry..

thats the song..

doubt if I contributed anything useful to this thread
but I've definitely got something very positive out of it..

now to search a dusty mouldy back room full of boxes of tapes & CDrs..

cuz i really liked the version I heard..


cheers again...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: BK Lick
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 02:12 AM

Jerry Garcia & David Grisman's version is here
and Bob Dylan's variant (Percy's Song)is here.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 02:21 AM

thanks mates..
now I know the title "Two Sisters" again,
i can see where its already been mentioned
above in this thread..

cheers.....


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:15 AM

Tam Lin has been used as the base for children's fiction by Diana Wynne Jones - Fire and Hemlock

True Thomas (Child #37) is also pretty crucial to Fire & Hemlock - one of the scariest things I've ever read!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Penny S.
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:38 AM

A bit of a tangent, but Tam Lin is a good example of folk story where the woman in necessary to rescue the hero, and I'm now going to have to look at others I know because my brain is insisting that they all involve the man being in the grip of Faery, and the only one it is proposing as proof is Kate Crackernuts. I used to read this sort of thing at school to instil the idea that fairy stories were not all passive girls being rescued by princes, and the feminists were wrong.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Penny S.
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:58 AM

The Catherine Storr is called "Thursday". One summary is "A fifteen year old girl tries to help an emotionally disturbed boy", but others refer to the ambiguity about faery. As I recall, drugs were involved.
I have also discovered that Storr committed suicide, which seems awful, as she had written about the dark places, and I would have thought that would have been a defence. She was apparently unhappy about a number of rejections.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 06:05 AM

ok.. I can go to bed now..
What I was up all night searching for is credited to
Mike Seeger
as "Wind & Rain"

not sure I still really like the short samples I can find online..
its too fast and jolly..
But at least we identified the right song
so I can slow it down to a proper depressing miserable drone


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:08 AM

Kent: thank you very much for this. It's an interesting version: no direct mention of the Devil, as you say, but an implicit threat in verse 1. Interesting chorus, and a riddle ("sin is earlier than the morn") that I hadn't come across in studying different versions of this ballad.

Penny S.: you're right, the hero of 'Tam Lin' is not the elven abductee, but Lady Margaret. But then, the ballads are full of strong female characters: they outwit the Devil ('Devil's Questions'), turn the tables on serial killers ('Outlandish Knight'), and refuse to marry the man chosen for them ('Eppie Morrie' and many others). Try 'False Fooodrage' for another great heroine. There are some pretty meaty female villains in there too!

Punkfolkrocker: Talisker, eh? Great stuff - no wonder you want your ballads strong and dark. I recommend Jody Stecher's version of 'Wind and Rain'.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:52 PM

Back again. It's an interesting thread.
Brian -- I did point out that supernatural elements get lost on both sides of the Atlantic in time. From an early post:
"...Demons and dead lovers became ordinary murderers on both sides of the Atlantic, in time, of course."
Also from an early post of mine:
"'The Ballad Tree' by Evelyn Kendrick Wells. Published in 1950."
This is an excellent and readable book on this subject. Can't hurt to repeat this here.

I'd like to add "Let's go a-huntin'"/"Billy Barlow" to the discussion. Wren Hunting songs from the British Isles, like for example "The Cutty Wren", became a simple rat-hunting song in North America. (Of course nobody knows for sure where the change was made.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:36 AM

>> Brian -- I did point out that supernatural elements get lost on both sides of the Atlantic in time. From an early post:
"...Demons and dead lovers became ordinary murderers on both sides of the Atlantic, in time, of course." <<

So you did, Joybell. And thanks for the "Let's go a huntin'" reference - I didn't know about that one. I like the way ballads get adapted to new environments as they migrate. In one Appalachian version of 'Lord Randall' he bequeaths his sister his "mule and his waggon" rather than the old "horse and saddle".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Penny S.
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:54 AM

I've just re-read Fire and Hemlock, which is powerful stuff. The version of Tam Lin it refers to is the one I knew, which has a Fair Janet as its heroine.

Does anyone know the version of Thomas the Rhymer which has him going back to Faerie?

The stories I was recalling turn out to be the variations on the Bull of Norrowa, Beauty and the Beast, etc - one of them, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, is referred to in the book, where the woman does something forbidden which nearly results in her losing the man, and him being well and truly lost. They go back at least as far as Cupid and Psyche, which is not only about the apotheosis of Psyche, but also about Cupid breaking free of his mother's control. Much more relevant to modern life than the Queen of Elfhame, but even more difficult.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:22 PM

This West Virginia version of CHILD 2, "The Elfin Knight/Scarborough Fair", resembles the version from Vermont found in the Digital Tradition as "Scarborough Fair 2.

The material below the line is from Patrick Gainer's 1975 book (now out of print) FOLK SONGS FROM THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS. We've discussed whether the Puritan influence explains the loss of elvish elements from ballads in the U.S. I notice that Dr. Gainer refers, in the passage below, not to a "Puritan" influence, but to a "puritanical" influence. I wouldn't say that the Puritan influence was strong in West Virginia, but I suppose the dominant religions and culture of West Virgina 100 years ago could be called "puritanical".

_______________________________________________________

O WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I'M GOING TO LINN
(CHILD 2, "THE ELFIN KNIGHT")

   In the old-world ballad of Child's work, the title of this ballad is "the Elfin Knight", but in the West Virginia versions the knight loses the character of the supernatural and is simply a young man who has a playful sort of game between himself and his former lover. He imposes certain impossible tasks upon her, and she in turn imposes even more impossible tasks upon him.

   The preternatural world of fairies and elves does not survive in the folklore of West Virginia because of the strong puritanical influence. The fairies generally were a benevolent folk who helped man, but since good could only come from God, and since fairies weren't in the Bible, they could not exist. Therefore, the old-world ballads and stories of fairies did not survive in oral tradition, or were adapted to include only mortals. Sung by Moses Ayers, Calhoun County.

"O where are you going?" "I'm going to Linn."
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"Give my respects to a lady therein."
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee

"I want her to make me a cambric shirt,"
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"Without any thread or needlework,"
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee

"I want her to wash it yonder hill,"
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"Where dew never was nor rain never fell,"
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee

"I want her to dry it on yonder bush,"
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"Where tree never bloomed since Adam was born."
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee

"Now since you have asked these questions of me,"
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"And now I will ask as man of thee,"
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee

"I want you to buy me an acre of land,"
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"Between the salt sea and the salt land,"
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee

"I want you to plow it with an old ox's horn,"
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"And plant it all over with one kernel of corn,"
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee

"I want you to hoe it with a peacock's feather,"
Follow ma la cus lonelee
"And thresh it all out with the sting of an adder,"
Ma kee ta lo, kee ta lo, tam-pa-lo, tam-pa-lo
Follow ma la cus lonelee


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 05:16 PM

Lord Randall is an interesting one. We do a theme concert where we present songs from the British Isles and their counterparts from America. (With a few from Australia.) In it we compare Lord Randal with "Billy Boy". Before the internet we didn't know that "Billy Boy" was first published in England. May not mean much but it did make our show more complicated.
While involved in a study of 19th century performers I've found so many of the songs, involved in this discussion, that were taken to America from the British Isles -- mainly England -- by performers during that time. Their versions add another layer of complexity. I've suspected, for example, that Sam Cowell's version of Lord Lovell replaced versions in oral tradition. If indeed they were ever in America, in oral tradition, before his tour there. Sam Cowell actually inserted supernatural elements into songs he re-wrote -- or took them out -- as the fancy took him.
Such fun. So complicated. Hope I live long enough to untangle a bit more.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Penny S.
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 04:48 AM

Going back to one of Joe Offer's posts, I understand that the early settlers included several Protestant groups with different attitudes. I grew up a Congregationalist in the UK, and I gathered that their lot were less rigid than some others (but they would teach that, wouldn't they?). Then I became a Quaker - different again, and some executed by Puritans in Boston? I would expect that the attitude to traditional themes would vary between groups and within them. Would some of them not have abjured singing ballads completely?

Penny


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:04 AM

Joybell, can you tell me more about Sam Cowell? That's a new name to me, but his editorial pracitces sound interesting, especially if they then went on to influence oral tradition.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 09:44 AM

Oh, and thanks again to Kent for posting those lyrics.

"And thresh it all out with the sting of an adder" - that's a good one!

The nonsense refrains are similiar to Lawrence Older's 'Flim-A-Lim-A-Lee' from the Adirondack's.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:03 PM

Could it be that the removal of supernatural elements had more to do with when the song was collected than whith where?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:03 PM

It's not as simple as that, Dick - it's not always the older versions that retain the supernatural elements, and there are 20th century-collected variants complete with elfin knights and magic fiddles. Bear in mind that the collected versions of any ballad represent only a snapshot anyway. The earliest known 'Demon Lover' (a broadside including no demon as such) is from 1657, but there's plenty of reason to suspect that the ballad had been around for some time before that. The original form of any ballad is a matter for conjecture.

Having said that, you can detect a general trend towards rationalism and, if the disappearance of the supernatural in American versions is indeed demonstrable, I'd guess it's because some of the ballads were enjoying a vigorous existence there, a hundred or more years beyond most of the versions at Child's disposal.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:04 PM

100


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 03:18 PM

Alas, some stories are just mesmerizing. Some are just too graphic to ignore. Others pique our interest initially, and then, later, seem to demand we look not only between the lines, but in-between every word. Those can become a life-long passion on various levels.

At last, it is often a case of people/human beings JUST liking a good story. When those tales become too close to our beliefs and where we live emotionally, it is, once again, the old Pleasure Principle rearing it's head. If it gets uncomfortable, it is human nature to clean up the imagery.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM

Yes, clean up the imagery, and some want to force others too clean up their imagery, and their lives as well.

And then--------------9/11. A price for freedom of speech et all??!

(blatant thread drift)

Art (again)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 10:32 PM

Brian, Sam Cowell 1820-1864 was among the first Music-hall performers (possibly the first depending on how you define the term Music-hall). He was born in England into an acting family. Raised in America from the age of two. His wife wrote a wonderful biography spanning the time of their tour in America. It's worth reading. "The Cowells in America. 1860 - 1861" with an introduction by Wilson Disher.
Tell you what, though. I wrote a chapter (and quite a bit more) about him in my study of the Billy Barlow phenomenon. You can find it at as an e-book. It's called "Hey Ho Rageddy-o. A Study of the Billy Barlow Phenomenon".
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: M.Ted
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 11:41 PM

One suspects that our American forbearers just didn't put a whole lot of stock in the supernatural, or in people who believed in it--and many of them didn't put much stock in the Puritans either--


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 05:21 AM

Joybell, could you point me to your book online? I can't find a link that works from Google.

Another thing we need to remember is that people don't necessarily have to believe in fairies to enjoy telling fairy stories. It seems to me quite probable that many of the ballads were passed on from parents to young children in much the way that fairy stories always were. As Art Theime said, a good story is a good story.

And what keeps people gripped is not necessarily what you'd expect - singers through the ages have been unaccountably fond of the talking birds in 'The Outlandish Knight' and 'Young Hunting', whilst allowing other (arguably more exciting) elements of the story to slip away in the process of transmission.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 07:55 AM

Hey Ho Raggedy-O by Joybell.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 02:26 PM

I can't speak for others, but I prefer my folklore and folk lyrics "unvarnished and unadulterated." The unfortunate zeal of the politically correct has been at work on some of the editing. Predating this influence is Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. which seems to view any reference, however oblique, to the supernatural to be the work of the Devil. I prefer to let the listener or reader draw personal conclusions. Frankly, some of the omissions are just plain silly.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 04:58 PM

Really interesting thread.

I am late to the party,as usual.

Suppose we approach the phenomenon from a different direction.
The question becomes, "When would have been the "high water mark" of supernatural elements in ballads?"
What characteristic(s) of that era, should it exist, would explain the presence of supernatural elements in ballads?

A very simplified version of the argument usually voiced in this thread is that People stopped singing about ghosts because they stopped believing in ghosts.
But what evidence do we have that there has been a significant decresase in the percent of the population that believes in ghosts over the millenia?


Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 05:50 PM

Bob the Postman. Thank you. I've tried and tried to do that.

Hello Rus. I don't believe the simplified answer works. You're quite right that it's a common answer to this question.

I'm with Brian about people not having to believe in the supernatural to use it and enjoy it. Much of the drama in songs, plays, literature, poems, depends on taking people beyond the every day world.
I'd begin to answer your question by saying tentatively that a high point might have been during the 17th and early 18th century.
I'm not a folklorist, though. Just an interested observer since I was a kid.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: M.Ted
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 06:27 PM

Here is a slightly long, but interesting excerpt from the book, "Funeral Customs" by Bernard S. Puckle that leads us to think that even in the 14th Century, those who believed in ghosts and such things were the object of amusement and derision by those who did not. "Watchers" refers to people who were employed to watch the body for signs of life, since not everyone who looks dead actually is. "Jusserand" was a French ambassador and scholar of the late 19th and early 20th Century, who wrote essays on English history.

"Jusserand tells us that in the fourteenth century the watchers sought to enliven the tedious hours of duty by what was known as "rousing the ghost." This performance seems to have consisted of playing practical jokes to frighten the superstitious relatives, and in taking various liberties with the corpse. It may have originated in attempts to "raise" the dead, as it is suggestively called; in other words to call back the spirit of the departed by certain forms of witchcraft or "black magic", such as were frequently attempted in the Middle Ages. This abuse must have been very common, and the occasion of great scandal, for at
the Council of York (held in the year 1367), "Those guilty games and follies, and all those
perverse customs which transformed a house of tears and prayers into a house of laughing
and excess," were expressly forbidden.
The Guild of Palmers of Ludlow permitted its members to perform the duties of the night-
watching of the dead only on the understanding that they should "abstain from raising
apparitions, and from indecent games."
In the South of Ireland this folly, in course of time, developed into a recognized form of
play or pantomime, acted at night by the watchers in the chamber of death. Here a sham
battle took place between two of the younger men, one of whom was supposed to be
eventually killed by the other, and then restored to life by a person taking the character of
a "Sorcerer."
In addition to the play, the more nervous of the relatives were scared by the actor, who
would mimic the voice and gestures of the dead."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Penny S.
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 07:00 PM

A thing that really bothers me about old customs involving the f*****s - oops, I really didn't like typing that - them pharisees - is the tales accruing ot the idea of changelings. The one where you go to put the suspected changeling in the fire is very bothersome. I don't think it can have been very healthy to develop autism when that was practiced. Nice little well developing baby suddenly turns obnoxious....

Penny


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 07:18 PM

Did "The Omen" come with a theme song??


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:59 PM

Penny, There's a lot more to "changelings" than that one idea. There's much more to a whole belief system from a particular culture, at any one point in time, than any one idea we may now pluck from within them.
Also the use of images and ideas from the past are the stuff of poets and may not necessarily acurately reflect social customs.   
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 10:35 PM

Guest, TJ,

In your post of 2:26 today, you said that fundamentalism "seems to view any reference, however oblique, to the supernatural to be the work of the Devil".

A Protestant "fundamentalist" is a person who believes in the "fundamentals" of Christianity: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fundamentalism In the context of the modernist-fundamentalist debate, the "fundamentals" are the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus, the historical reality of his miracles, atonement for sin as the purpose of his death, and his bodily resurrection. For more, please see the following, especially section 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist-Modernist_Controversy#The_Doctrinal_Deliverance_of_1910_.28a.k.a._The_Five_Fundament. The "modernists", in contrast, doubted these points.

In other words, the "modernists" doubted the supernatural; the "fundamentalists" AFFIRMED (and still affirm) the supernatural.

In the 1600s, the Puritans did attempt to "purify" society of "Romish" influences, but that was NOT due to their belief in what would later be called "fundamentals". The anti-Puritans, the High Churchmen, believed in the very same "fundamentals". So did the Roman Catholics.

It was the old Quakers who were MOST intent on eliminating pagan influence. That is the reason why, for example, Wednesday (Wotan's day) was called "Fourth Day" by the Quakers. See section 3 of this reference for more:http://www.worldspirituality.org/quaker-language.html You are probably aware that the modern Quakers are among the least fundamentalist of all groups that self-identify as Christian.

The supernatural fantasies of C. S. Lewis and, to a lesser extent, J. R. R. Tolkien, are popular among fundamentalists. The modern denomination that is most opposed to anything that could be seen as pagan or elvish is the Watchtower Society a.k.a. "Jehovah's Witnesses". Protestant fundamentalists consider them to be false teachers.   

I do not wish to over-state the point. Fundamentalists do not simply embrace anything and everything supernatural. Some things they celebrate; others they discourage; but it is not true to say that fundamentalism "seems to view any reference, however oblique, to the supernatural to be the work of the Devil".

Respectfully,

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 10:40 PM

Since the old Quakers were especially intent on eliminating pagan elements from the culture, and since they were especially prominent in Eastern Pennsylvania, I wonder if ballads and other folk songs from that area were particularly "purified" of elvish elements. Does anyone know?

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 11:30 PM

burning bushes
pillers of smoke and fire leading folks in the desert
life after death
virgin births
seas opening for people and then inundating the bad guys

These few examples, and so many more supernatural and magical events permeate American songs today!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 12:07 PM

Kent:

I appreciate your scholarly and informed response to my remarks. I certainly meant no disrespect to true believers. I believe in tolerance and in freedom of religious choice. I have to agree that over-simplifying or "typing" folks as I may have appeared to do does a disservice to some, though it was not my intent. My brief is with those who seem to live their lives in fear, who are frequently reactionary and intolerant of the beliefs of others - in other words, zealots of all stripes, many of whom only selectively understand or apply the tenets of their own professed faith. It is from that base that I usually see or hear the heated objections to the supernatural in folk music and folklore.

In America these days, we seem to want to go to any lengths in order to offend no one; i.e., the P.C. movement. I am concerned that in taking this to an extreme, truth, free speech (including folk music and scholarship) are inevitably compromised. We will all be the less for it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 12:45 PM

"It is from that base that I usually see or hear the heated objections to the supernatural in folk music and folklore."

Could you provide a specific example of "zealots" from "that base" who object to the supernatural in folklore?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kim C
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 04:00 PM

I talked about this a bit in my Master's thesis last year, and I don't have a whole lot to add to what's already been said here. It's not so much that supernatural elements are gone from American songs, as it's already been pointed out that plenty of old and new songs still have those elements.

What is pretty evident in the study of Anglo-American ballads, and murder ballads in particular, is that the Americanized versions of particular songs tended to lose the ghosts, presumably because people either a) found belief in the supernatural to be outdated, or b) religious revivals in the colonies led people to change those songs accordingly. Murder ballads originating in America tend to leave off the ghosts and deal with retribution instead. It's just the folk process at work.

The quote Masato posted from Tristram Coffin explains it pretty well, I think.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 04:45 PM

Kim -

Since 'anglo-americans' continued to tell ghost stories and hold belief in the supernatural, I'm not sure that a. or b. can explain why some ballads (but not others) have lost the supernatural/ghost element. My own belief: this is merely a reflection of the American tendency to simplify ballads, sometimes to the point of losing the narrative.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 10:35 PM

The Society of Friends was and is a major force in Pennsylvania, and have their own music, culture, and folkways, which adhered fairly strictly to their religious ideals--However Pennsylvania was conceived as a haven for persecuted religious groups, and the Quakers did not impose their own culture or values on them, and encouraged them to live and believe as they wished.

Though the Quakers are very progressive in their ideas and beliefs, there are numbers in other groups, particularly among the Pennsylvania Dutch, who are not, and folk beliefs in the supernatural persist, accompanied by superstitions, legends, and all the sort of things that folklorists savor.

In living memory, there was the murder trial of Albert Shinsky, who maintained that his victim was a witch who had hexed him, and, to this day, barns are decorated with signs that are thought to have magical powers, and there are still Pow-wows and hex doctors who practice their arts.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 11:06 PM

Other than the fact that I was blessed with unusually wonderfully parents, my childhood was, I believe, a fairly typical American fundamentalist childhood of the 1960s and 70s. Obviously I was raised on a steady diet of the Biblically supernatural. For what it's worth, here's a list of some non-Biblical supernatural folkloric elements from my childhood:

1. requesting, in writing and in person, toys from Santa Claus
2. believing that Santa knew whether our behavior was good or bad.
3. believing that some of the toys were made by elves and delivered via flying reindeer.
4. searching for baskets of candy and eggs that had been delivered by the Easter Bunny.
5. hiding our milk teeth under our pillows for the tooth fairy to exchange for money.
6. attempting (only half-seriously) to reach the end of the rainbow. in case there really were a pot of gold there
7. dressing up as monsters, ghosts, or witches on Halloween.
8. reading fairy tales based (loosely) on those collected by the brothers Grimm, Perrault, etc, and watching movies based (even more loosely) on those fairy tales.
9. hearing, but not really quite believing, what would later be called "urban legends", such as the vanishing hitchhiker.
10. learning (but not believing) superstitions like "Step on a crack, break your momma's back".
11. playing at witchcraft (using a Ouija board, for example).

Except perhaps for #11, these experiences were common among the children of American fundamentalists. My point is simply that American fundamentalism is compatible with non-religious supernatural elements of folklore.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 06:43 AM

> What is pretty evident in the study of Anglo-American ballads, and murder ballads in particular, is that the Americanized versions of particular songs tended to lose the ghosts <

> My own belief: this is merely a reflection of the American tendency to simplify ballads, sometimes to the point of losing the narrative. <

Simplifying ballads happened to a greater or lesser degree everywhere - I see no particular evidence that it's an 'American tendency'. Remember that singers were often being asked by song collectors to remember songs that they had learned as children, or at least not sung actively for many years.

Nor am I convinced that 'Americanized versions... tended to lose the ghosts'. Which ballads do you mean? If you're comparing the C18 and early C19 texts published by Child - mostly from Scots sources, some remembered only as recitations, and some quite possibly 'improved' by poets - with those collected from oral tradition in Appalachia or the Canadian Maritimes a hundred years or more later, you're not comparing like with like.

If you look at the versions of those ballads collected from Scots and English oral tradition in the 20th century (which would be the fairer comparison), you find the same kind of 'simplifying' processes ocurred there too. And, as I pointed out above, there are many examples of the supernatural in C20 American ballad variants.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: M.Ted
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 07:25 AM

Kent-They had Ouija boards at Woolworth's, on the same shelf as Monopoly. Beyond that, did you believe that if you lit a candle, shut off the lights, and said, "Bloody Mary" three times, or thirteen times, or something, that she would appear in the mirror?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 12:59 PM

Brian -

You may be correct, and we all may be chasing ghosts here. At one point I was putting together a list of American ballads (native or British in origin) that indeed had supernatural elements. I'll post it here if I find it. I do believe that American balladry generally has fewer ghosts, elves, etc., and that American singers often abreviated their ballads even more so than British singers.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 03:01 PM

That would be useful, Michael. It would be good to have some hard evidence. Incidentally, what of all those 'talking birds' I mentioned earlier? Do we rationalize them as parrots (as some singers indeed did) or are they to be regarded as supernatural?

Another question to ponder is: at what point does an 'abbreviated' ballad become a 'half-remembered fragment'?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 08:27 PM

M.Ted,

I remember hearing about "Bloody Mary", but not really believing it. My wife, from a similar background as mine but 5 years younger, tried it. I realize now that Ouija boards have more in common with Monopoly than with magic but, 40 years ago, I didn't. I thought I was quite the explorer of the paranormal.

The only time I was ever taught anything that a folklorist would consider a serious attempt at magic was in 1974. My Sunday School teacher, who was also my great-aunt by marriage, had invited the Sunday School class to spend the weekend at her cabin. Our ages ranged from 13 to about 10. We had a weinie roast and one boy burned his hand. My aunt then "talked out" the burn. There was no blistering and the boy said the pain stopped. Of course, we bugged my aunt into telling us how she did it. She was reluctant, but finally agreed to tell the boys individually. She said a female could only tell a male and a male could only tell a female. She repeated a short chant three times. I no longer remember just how it was worded, but it was short, one or two sentences I believe, and sounded Biblical but, I suspect, was not. My aunt did not consider this a form of magic or witchcraft, but I suppose was aware that it could be seen as such. She was VERY reluctant to tell us how she did it. Here are a couple of links related to the practice: http://www.farmersalmanac.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=349 and http://www.nchealthandhealing.com/topic/1/. My aunt would have probably been in her 50s then. I think she learned it from an older relative, perhaps her father. She was from Southern West Virginia.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Joybell
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 11:43 PM

Brian, I have come to believe that you are correct too. At the time I wrote my study of the Billy Barlow characters, and when we began performing a theme concert comparing songs from the British Isles to American ones, there was not so much information easily available. Now I know the subject is much more complex than I once thought.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 12:18 AM

The Pennsylvania Dutch would call that a "Pow Wow"--related, though not exactly identical with "laying on of hands". Similar to what the Christian Scientists do, and akin to the "Healing Touch" that is quietly being introduced to hospital and rehab settings--

It seems to work, at least in the hands of some people--a rather wise pediatrician that we once used said that there is a lot less science to medicine than is generally supposed.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kim C
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 03:02 PM

"Nor am I convinced that 'Americanized versions... tended to lose the ghosts'. Which ballads do you mean?"

Take "The Two Sisters," for one example. Early non-American versions have the "singing bone" story line, while later American versions tend not to have it. Also, I don't know if "The Gosport Tragedy" and "Pretty Polly" are related at all except for the murdered girl being named Polly, but in the first, Polly comes back and kills her killer, in the second she doesn't. Maybe that's just a coincidence; I don't know - but overall, I think it's true that for a period of time, at least, supernatural story lines were out of fashion in American ballads, for whatever reason.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american son
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:00 PM

One song that seems to depart from this theory is the Appalachian "Lady Gay" as sung
by Buell Kazee.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: Kent Davis
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 06:40 PM

Good point, Stringsinger. "Lady Gay" is especially interesting since it includes the types of supernatural material most likely to remain in American songs: ghosts, religion, and, possibly, witchcraft. I say "possibly, witchcraft" because the "grammarie/grammaree/gramarye" that the children were sent to learn was, supposedly, witchcraft: http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-definitions/gramarye


The West Virginia version collected by Patrick Gainer has lost the witchcraft (the children are simply learning "grammar"), but retains the other 2 elements. See my post of 05 Feb 08 at 9:26 p.m., where it is called "The Three Little Babes" (Child 79).

For some who might not be familiar with the song, here are a couple of links: @displaysong.cfm?SongID=3463   and http://appalshop.org/archive/kazee/.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Folklore: supernatural gone from american songs
From: topical tom
Date: 03 Apr 09 - 11:34 PM

One of the most haunting songs is "the Knoxville Boy"
by Larry Stephenson.


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