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Folklore: The Devil The Color Black

Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 09:57 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 12 Sep 09 - 10:05 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 10:07 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 12 Sep 09 - 10:09 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 10:11 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 10:21 AM
Jack Campin 12 Sep 09 - 10:22 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 12 Sep 09 - 10:23 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 10:33 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 10:48 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 10:52 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 10:55 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 11:07 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Sep 09 - 11:08 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 11:14 AM
Susan of DT 12 Sep 09 - 11:21 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 11:36 AM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 11:39 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 12 Sep 09 - 11:42 AM
MGM·Lion 12 Sep 09 - 12:02 PM
Rumncoke 12 Sep 09 - 01:17 PM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 01:46 PM
Azizi 12 Sep 09 - 01:58 PM
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Subject: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 09:57 AM

The purpose of this thread is to explore the old belief that the devil and demons were the color black.

I'm interested in any recollections people may have of any supersitions, proverbs, folk songs, or children's rhymes, and children's games that refer to the devil, demons, witches being black (with no disrespect intended for those who are Wicca).

I'm also interested in any references to religious songs,folk songs, proverbs, or children's rhymes of the color white being good (pure) and black being evil (impure).

The impetus for my [current] research of this subject is a 2008 query that I found last night on an anti-rascist parents blog. The query was from an American mother living in Germany who requested information about a German children's game similar to tag called "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man". I'll post that query in my next post to this thread, and explain how that query led me to this subject.

I'll also provide a number of hyperlinks and excerpts from online sources that I have found on this subject. And of course, I hope that others will also do so.

By the way, I used Mudcat's search engine to try to identify any previous discussion thread on this subject, but didn't find any. If there is such a thread (or threads, or posts withing others threads) I would appreciate someone identifying them.

Thanks in advance for your participation in this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:05 AM

Something I heard was that a euphemism for The Devil (euphemisms perhaps being a safer way to refer to supernatural nasties), was 'the Blacksmith'. Also, I think certain ancient pre-Christian sites were due to their pagan roots, associated with The Devil, and thus might be equally be euphemised by place names referencing Blacksmith or similar.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:07 AM

Here is the query that I referred to in my first post to this thread:

"# 15. Sue armstrong wrote:

I live in Germany and was horrified to hear that my son was playing an (apparently common game ) in his gym class called "who's afraid of the black man?"

I told the teacher that I personally found the words offensive and that coloured children in the class might also feel really bizarre singing these words.

Her reply was that she had explained to all the class beforehand that the song was about a chimneysweep and none of the kids had a problem with it and were completely happy.

She basically told me I was overreacting and making an racial issue where there wasnt one.

I am lost for words. I have a meeting with her next week to discuss further.

I am not quite sure though how to get through to her as she obviously does not see a problem there.

I talked to my son who is asian about it and he understood what she had said and was okay with playing the game, but definitely understood how some might find it offensive.

What would you advise me to say to the teacher?"

Posted 18 Sep 2008 at 5:55 am

http://www.antiracistparent.com/2008/07/14/ask-arp-is-it-wrong-to-sing-this-childrens-rhyme/
Anti-Racist Parent "Ask ARP: Is it wrong to sing this children's rhyme?"

-snip-

There are no responses to this query to date (though I probably will attempt a response summarizing my theory that "the black man" in this children's game originally was the devil, and then likely morphed to refer to a dark skinned person, perhaps a "gypsy".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:09 AM

Goethes Mephistopheles, initially appears as a Black Dog.

We also have Devil Dogs in folklore, which are also black.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:11 AM

Hello, Crow Sister. I appreciate your posting that recollection.

I hadn't thought about "Blacksmiths" being part of this mix.

I'll be posting information I've found about Christianity, the devil, and the color black. But first, I want to share what I've found online about that German game that is similar to "tag".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:21 AM

Here is what I posted last night in the Wikipedia talk section about the children's game "Tag" (with several additions of omitted words):

"As an African American I have concerns about the game "Who's afraid of the Black man" even if it really was/is about chimney sweeps.

I found another online mention of that game here: http://watchingamerica.com/News/17920/white-southerners-still-don%E2%80%99t-trust-obama/ about attitudes among some White Americans in the South about Obama winning the Presidential election Die Welt, Germany "White Southerners Still Don't Trust Obama"By Katja Ridderbusch' Translated By Ron Argentati' 19 January 2009

See this note at the end of the article (made because the reporter said that the interviewer still "was afraid of black men": ..."the German children's game "Wer hat Angst vor dem schwarzen Mann," or, "Who's afraid of the black man" is similar to the American kid's game "tag" where the object is to avoid being touched by the "monster." Misunderstood political correctness has also reached this facet of German culture and the adjective "black" is now increasingly being replaced by "wild," or "evil" although the original game had nothing to do with race."

-snip-

I then found a mention of "Whose afraid of black man" in this google book:

"Death bringing the plague (or should one say, the plague bringing death?) survives in the game of German and Swiss children "Who's afraid of the black man?" (Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann?) pg 14 The gender of death: a cultural history in art and literature - by Karl Siegfried Guthke" – 1999 http://books.google.com/books?id=ml36rowcpTUC&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&dq=german+children's+game+%22who's+afraid+of+the+black+man%22&sou


-snip-

A reader's review of this book also mentions that game by the "Who's afraid of the black man" name:

Ancient and Modern Britons: Volume One (Ancient & Modern Britons) by David Mac Ritchie (Paperback - March 15, 1991)
http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Modern-Britons-One/product-reviews/0939222108/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1


-snip-

Finally, I found a reference to the game "Who's afraid of the black man" this er google book: Twentieth-century theatre: a sourcebook By Richard Drain: http://books.google.com/books?id=WMwk3Wrn-14C&pg=PA186&lpg=PA186&dq=german+children's+game+%22who's+afraid+of+the+black+man%22&s

In the sentence I refer to that game is described as a "ridiculous party game" [for adults] p.186 To say: "should I go to the theatre today?"isn't the same thing as: "I've got to go to the theatre today. With an obligation to go to the theatre like that, the citizen concerned gives up of his free wil all those other stupid evening pastimes, like skittles, cards, pub politics, romantic rendezvous, not forgetting ridiculous party games that just waste your time like "Who's afraid of the black man?", "Tailor lend me your wife", and so on."

-snip-

I'd love to know more. The teacher's comments about the "Black man" [originally?]prreferring to chimney sweeps" is probably not correct, since chimney sweeps (who, because of their profession) were blackened by soot were thought to be good luck, particularly seeing them at the first of the new year, but maybe at other times.I've read that this is because in some European cultures chimney sweeps also carried baskets of shamrocks at certain times...Anyway, that superstition about it being good luck to see a chimney sweep at the first of the new year morphed into the belief that a dark haired man entering your door the first of the new year meant good luck etc. My point is that the chimney sweep origin doesn't wash with me (if you'll excuse that expression). I think the "black man" reference was probably a demon or a monster or the devil. But I have no sources for this.

Again, I hope that someone adds more information to this. And maybe one way of doing so is to mention the game and hopefully some German people or other people will add what they remember or know about it now-since it appears that it is still being played-but hopefully with a name change.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:22 AM

The other side got to make the same fashion statement. Google "Black Virgin" or "Black Madonna".

Devils are traditionally associiated with hell fire, so the only colour choices you've got are flame-red or soot-black. Both occur in mediaeval iconography.

More to the point, there are NO traditional associations of the Devil from early Christianity with people from Africa.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:23 AM

I think in some of the witchcaft trials, the Devil was also described as "The Man in Black"


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:33 AM

My search for information and examples of the devil or demons portrayed as a black man* is what led me to the other online resources that I'll mention and provide hyperlinks for.

However, before I do that, I'd like to refer people to this Mudcat thread on the children's game of tag: thread.cfm?threadid=103866&messages=70 and share this particular post from that thead:

Subject: RE: Folklore: Tag (the game)
From: HouseCat - PM
Date: 21 Aug 07 - 12:55 PM

We played "Devil In The Ditch" - you had to have a good-sized ditch, which we did. The "devil" stood at the bottom of the ditch and the poor souls he was trying to steal ran back and forth across the ditch as fast as they could as the devil tried to tag them. First one tagged was the new devil. Our ditch had steep sides and we had lots of skinned knees but it was great fun...

-snip-

Another version of the game of tag that might have its origin in the devil chasing people is this one:


Subject: RE: Folklore: Tag (the game)
From: Kosmo - PM
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 08:59 AM


...We also had the old man on the hill game, where one of us would be the old man (or woman), then the rest of us would each have a number, and then we'd creep towards them (the "old man" would have his/her back facing us) and they'd count and turn on which ever number they liked, the person moving still would have to go back 10 paces. Anyway, say that person was number 5, the old man would turn back round and count to five (at any speed) and then turn again ... and it's the first one to tig the old man that wins.

-snip-

*I usually capitalize the "b" in the word "Black" when it is used as a racial referent. However, it's found in most texts with a small "b". I may use both writing forms in this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:48 AM

Here's a link to an article about Christianity & the depiction of the devil as the color black and as a Black person:
http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/aah/sierichs_12_4.htm

"The Christian Origin of Racism: That Old Black Devil"
Part I by William Sierichs, Jr.

Here are some excerpts from that article:


Christians had equated the color black with evil as early as the second century. In Satan—The Early Christian Tradition, historian Jeffrey Burton Russell said the second-century Epistle of Barnabas portrayed a war between God and Satan, with clear choices. One could follow a path to heaven, while a "road of darkness, under the power of 'the Black One,' leads to ruin. The equation of evil, darkness, and blackness, a source of later racial stereotypes, occurs here for the first time in Christian literature. The immediate sources of Barnabas' use of the terms 'black' and 'blackness' are Jewish, Ebonite, and Greek. Behind these is the Mazdaist idea of the darkness of Ahriman, and behind Ahriman is the worldwide, almost universal, use of blackness as a symbol of evil." Russell added that the Devil's dark color represented his lack of goodness and light, and did not have a racial connection—he might be black but have European features.

Some Christians from an early period, however, did depict Satan and his demons as African or in a context that linked black skin to Satan. An influential 4th-century biography said Satan repeatedly tempted the monk St. Anthony, who was living in the Egyptian desert, and once "he appeared to Anthony like a black boy, taking a visible shape in accordance with the colour of his mind. . . . ."

In a 7th-century biography of clergy in Merida, Spain, a man had a vision in which he saw "some hideous and terrifying Ethiopians, giants, most vile to behold in their darkness, so that from their restless gaze and jet-black faces he was given to understand as he saw them clearly that they were beyond doubt servants of hell." A similar linkage of the Devil to Africans also appeared in the "Passion of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity."

A popular medieval story, "The Voyage of St. Brendan," said the Devil once corrupted a monk. ". . . St. Brendan witnessed the machinations of the evil one. He saw a little Ethiopian boy holding out a silver necklace and juggling with it in front of the monk," who had stolen a necklace. Later, Brendan and other monks "see a little Ethiopian boy pop out of the culprit's breast and cry out: 'Man of God, why are you expelling me from the home I have lived in these past seven years? You are casting me off from my inheritance.'" "

-snip-

Additional references such as those are given in that article.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:52 AM

Here's my transcription of an excerpt from "Before color prejudice: the ancient view of Blacks" -by Frank M. Snowden - 1991 that is provided as a Google book:

http://books.google.com/books?id=KWHMc-jNzlwC&dq=before+color+prejudice+snowden&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=TQCjYECgCr&sig


Page 100
…"In apocryphal and patristic literature black was the color of the devil and of some demons who tempted early Christians or troubled them in visions and dreams. As early as the Epistle of Barnabas (ca: 70-100 A.D.) the devil was called the Black One and the way of the Black One was described as crooked and full of curses because it was the way of eternal death with punishment where one finds the things that destroy men's souls". In an encounter with Melania the Younger, the devil disguised himself as a young black man. The devil is black, according to Didymous the Blind because he fell from splendor and virtue and spiritual whiteness that only those who have been "whitened" by God can possess.

In the visions of saints and monks, demons at times assumed the shape of "Ethiopians". Whether these Ethiopians, incarnations of temptation and evil, sometimes repulsive and unsightly, appeared as women, little boys, or giants, the emphasis was on the color black-a contrast between the blackness of evil and the light of God. Hues of darkness other than Ethiopians appeared in this symbolism. The devil for instance was depicted as Egyptian; and demons as crows or merely black. A key to the emphasis on color, however, appears especially in the description of the female demon in the Acts of Peter (ca 150-200 A.D.), as " most Ethiopian" (Ethiopissimam), not Egyptian, but altogether black, phraseology reminiscent of the gradations in color found in classical descriptions of Ethiopians, Egyptians, Indians,and other dark people"...

Page 101 ...demons had black skin color but] "few demons were portrayed with Negroid features". The symbolism of black demons, like the association of black with death and ill omens in the secular sphere, does not seem to have had a negative effect on the generally favorable view of blacks as dated from the Homeric poems or given rise to any anti-black sentiment"...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:55 AM

Here is my transcription of an excerpt from another Google Book:

http://books.google.com/books?id=3FJtnOsqtqAC&pg=PA232&lpg=PA232&dq=devil+color+black&source=bl&ots=P72eTbWlyK&sig=_egbLl0kjsiur


Lucifer, the Devil in the Middle Ages
By Jeffrey Burton Russell

p. 232

"Though Dante elsewhere refers to the blackness of the fallen angels (In. 29, 21, 23, 131, 27, 113), he gives Satan's three faces three different colors: yellowish white, red, and black. Numerous theories have been coined over the years to explain these colors, but Freccero's is based on careful analysis of the literary background. He begins his explanation with Luke 17:6 in which Christ says that with faith deep enough one could tell a mulberry tree to move and it would move. Saint Ambrose uses the mulberry tree as the symbol of the Devil, for just as its fruit begins as white, matures as red, and then turns black, so the devil begins glorious and white, shines red with power, and then turns black as sin" ...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 11:07 AM

As a bit of a digression, let me mention that my recollection from my childhood in a Baptist church was that the mulberry tree mentioned in the above quote was a "mustard tree" or a "fig tree". Does anybody else recall those types of trees or was that verse always translated as "mulberry tree"?

**

Also, I suppose that "blackberries" are different than "mulberries". but I'm a city girl so I don't really know this. The reason why I've brought "blackberries" into this thread is because the reference to "mulberry tree" in that previous post which summarized Luke 17:6 "in which Christ says that with faith deep enough one could tell a mulberry tree to move and it would move" reminded me of these superstitions that I posted on another Mudcat thread:

..."After Michaelmas blackberries were unfit for food because on Michaelmas Day the devil dragged his tail over them"...

**

"The real reason why blackberries should not be picked after Old Michaelmas Day, October 11 (Letters, September 7) was that Satan fell from heaven into a blackberry bush, and he spat on it to poison it"

thread.cfm?threadid=84508&messages=34

RE: Lyr Req: Pig with a pancake on his bum

**
of course, those superstitions or the fact that the berries are the color "black" may have nothing at all to do with the price of beans in Boston (meaning the topic of this thread). But, hopefully, they "lightened" the "spirit" of the thread just a little bit.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 11:08 AM

Black is about darkness in this context, not about the shade of brown of anybody's skin.

As in "The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overpower it" in the prologue to the Gospel of St John.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 11:14 AM

Speaking of "pigs", here's an excerpt from "Folklore, Volume 16 By Folklore Society (Great Britain)" that relates to the subject of demons being described as being the color black:

Chapter: Folklore of the Wye Valley, page 175
"Ghosts we had a plenty, and of the most commonplace kind, the ordinary road or lane ghost, taking the form of a black sheep or pig (I may mention that our pigs are usually a beautiful pink)."

From
http://books.google.com/books?id=YEcKAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA61&lpg=PA61&dq=devil+black+in+folklore&source=bl&ots=TS32Qlf01o&sig=SbD0BamE2


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Susan of DT
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 11:21 AM

Don't assume blacksmith = devil = evil. Wayland the Smith was the prototype ancient smith god and not evil.

I just ran a search for "black" and "devil" in the same song in the DT and came up with 50 hits. A few tidbits from these:
   My wife she's the devil, she's black as the coal (Fathom the Bowl)
   similar: My wife, she's the devil, she's black (Dick Darby)

See: Black Fox
    Wedding at Stanton Drew


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 11:36 AM

It should be understood that I definitely reject the view that dark skin color has anything whatsoever to do with evil or impurity. However, it's my opinion [and the opinion of many others] that this false belief lies at the very core of historical and contemporary prejudice against people with dark skin (including Africans & people of the African Diaspora, as well as people who are called "gypsies", many people who are called "Latinos/Hispanics", people who are called "Australian aborigines", and more).

As a means of better understanding history, and because there is still personal and institutional racism throughout the world, I strongly believe that it's important to research, document, study, share, and discuss this kind of information.

**

Here's a historical reference from United States history of Black people being seen as innately evil because of their (our) dark skin color:

http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:5Uxh5L8lk4gJ:www.oppapers.com/essays/Slaves-Devil/126035+devil+color+black&cd=19&hl=en&ct=cl

Slaves And The Devil

"In early American literature and early European history, Blacks have been accused of being descendants of Satan. European and Spanish cultures have long associated dark skin with the devil and the tradition of representing evil with the color black led to the portrayal of the devil as a black man. Early Spanish literature linked black traditions and rituals as being demonic and that black women performed "acts" with the devil (White 3).

In Harriet Ann Jacobs, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," I noticed two separate occasions when the color of a black person was associated with the devil. The first time was when Jacob's mistress was accusing her of sleeping with her master. The master lied and said that the mistress must have tortured Jacobs into exposing him. Jacobs was appalled that he would say this and said the devil must have no trouble in distinguishing the color of his soul. To me this meant that Jacobs in saying that his soul must be black because whites are known to be good and the black are known to be the bad people. So instead of being the good white man that he should be he is now being deceitful and lying like a sinful black person is supposed to do. The devil must be in control of his soul to make him act the way that he is. Another reason why Mr. Flint's soul must be black is because a white person should never cheat on his spouse with another person, especially not a black because they are linked to Satan so in order for his to have intercourse with a black person must mean he has a connection with the devil as well.

The other incident where blacks were linked to Satan and demonic things is when Jacobs is talking about preserving her self respect but it was very difficult because of the demonic portrayals of Slaves. This is a sad thought to think about a good person having trouble in the world and having everyone look at her as a demon and a relative to the devil because of the color of her skin"...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 11:39 AM

Finally, (with regard to my research on this topic this morning), see these two blog entries from http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:wEWMUpiaru0J:ask.metafilter.com/124814/What-color-is-your-devil+devil+color+black&cd=15&hl=e


"What color is your devil?
June 15, 2009 6:30 AM   
Why is the devil red?

I grew up in the United States, and even thought I am not, nor have I ever been, religious, the symbolic devil I know from mass media is a humanoid with a pointy fork, horns, etc. And he's red. My mother grew up in Poland, was raised a catholic, and the devil she knows is similar in description, but for the fact that he is black - not brown-skinned, black.

I'm curious what this distinction comes from..."
posted by jedrek to religion & philosophy (13 comments total)

**
[one poster's comment in response to this query]

"Indeed, in Polish language there is a saying czarny jak diabe³ (black as a devil) so definitely devil is black in Poland. Quick googling shows that this is true for at least 100 years since Henryk Sienkiewicz used such phrase in his work printed in 1882.

Perhaps, and this is wild guess, devil is black in Poland because Slavic daemons later transformed into Christian devils (like Boruta was transformed into devil Boruta) were black."
posted by przepla at 12:11 PM on June 15, 2009


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 11:42 AM

Wayland, although a divine figure, was at the very least a figure of dubious character:

"One of the archetypes of northern European folklore is Wayland, the divine but evil blacksmith tutored by the trolls. He was maimed (becoming lame, like Hephaestus, the smith-god of the Greeks) and imprisoned by the legendary King Niduth, who forced him to use his magical skills to make trinkets for the court. The vengeful Wayland lured the king's children into his forge, raped his daughter, killed his sons and turned their skulls into goblets from which the unwitting king drank. Then he fashioned himself a pair of wings and flew away cackling with delight. Throughout northern Europe his unquiet wight is said to haunt the Neolithic burial mounds reputed to be his smithies."

Further commentary on The Devil and The Blacksmith here: Smith and the Devil


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 12:02 PM

In a recent cause celebre in Britiain concerning whether a fetish party attended by the head of Formula 1 motor-racing had a Nazi theme, one of the women involved was German. She denied in her evidence that her having been referred to in German by the man concerned, who tho English spoke German, as being "black', had racial overtones:-

"... the court heard that the word 'schwarze' (black) was used during the session - Mr Mosley denied it was used in a racial sense, or to describe someone who was black. Mr Sherborne asked witness Woman B to explain what the word meant to her.
She tugged at her mane of *black* hair and declared. 'I am a schwarze. That is what it means.' " [report in Daily Mail, London]

This may be relevant as it is a German game that Azizi is analysing in this thread. It appears from this that, idiomatically, the man in the game need not even be a sweep, but could just be taken to have black hair.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Rumncoke
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 01:17 PM

Of all the girls in our town,

The black, the fair, the red, the brown

That dance and prance it up and down

There's none like Nancy Gordon.

Words to a Clog morris tune, refering to hair colour.

Anne Croucher


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 01:46 PM

I'm sure that many references to "black" in European folk songs, children's rhymes, and folk sayings, refer to hair color. However, there's no denying the old references in European culture that also exists that referenced black skin color and not black hair color.

In my opinion, the belief that white is good and black is evil, led to attitudes such as this poem by William Blake that was written in 1789 (though I grant you that for his day, Blake was probably far more enlightened with regard to race than many of his peers).


THE LITTLE BLACK BOY (from the book "Songs of Innocence")

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but oh! my soul is white.
White as an angel is the English child,
But I am black as if bereaved of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree,
And, sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say:

"Look on the rising sun, -there God does live
And gives his light, and gives his heat away;
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

And we are put on earth a little space
That we may learn to bear the beams of love;
And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

For when our souls have learned the heat to bear
The cloud will vanish, we shall hear his voice
Saying: `Come out from the grove, my love and care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice!' "

Thus did my mother say, and kissed me;
And thus I say to little English boy:
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy,

I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear
To lean in joy upon our father's knee;
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him, and he will then love me.

http://www.online-literature.com/blake/629/


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 01:58 PM

Here's a link to a website that includes some poster comments about William Blake's poem "The Little Black Boy"

http://www.eliteskills.com/c/12346

Among those comments was one which indicated that Blake was talking about "chimneysweeps" and not about a Black child.

I doubt that.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 02:28 PM

I absolutely agree that a 'chimney sweep' attempt at explanation re the Blake is absurd - of course he is writing of a child of African descent. But not, surely, in any hostile way, but as a DENIAL of the common-at-the-time equations of black=bad white=good, which is what I take to be the theme of this thread — it is the soul within and not the surface colour that matters, Blake asserts.

Have you, Azizi, read Conrad's 'The Nigger Of The "Narcissus"', 1897? It is many years since I read it; but I seem to recall that you might find its attitudes and overtones relevant to your work and concerns: the black seaman of the title, if I remember accurately, proves a source of difference and dissent and ill-feeling among the crew.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 02:40 PM

And I am black, but oh! my soul is white
-William Blake


it is the soul within and not the surface colour that matters, Blake asserts
-MtheGM -

My read of this poem is that Blake believed that the ultimate type of soul was a "white soul". Or maybe he thought that that was the only kind of soul that anyone could have.

This is a Eurocentric approach to religion and to life.

**

I feel sorry for any non-White person who craves a "white soul".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 03:09 PM

Yes, I take your point there, Azizi. 'I am black but o my soul is white' is pretty middling hard to stomach nowadays! But of course Blake [with the best will in the world - which was, literally, what he had] would have been Eurocentric. How could he have been otherwise then?

Always very difficult to think oneself back into the thinking of an earlier period. I am always much exercised by the constant iteration of that now unsayable word in Huckleberry Finn, one of the world's greatest novels IMO. We must remember that, at the time the book is set, back from its own time in the real old slavery days of the 1830s, not only Huck & Tom, but Jim himself also, would have used the word absolutely naturally in everyday talk. It would have been the only word they had as referent to the concept it represented.

Another thread has just been revived on the 'DonkeyRiding' shanty; and for purpose of this thread, would draw yr attention to the verse: "Was you ever in Timbuctoo Where the gals are black & blue Roll their arses with a roll&go Riding on a donkey". It's partly for the rhyme, of course, & 'black & blue' is in itself a cliche for bad bruising so might well spring to the mind of a shantyman needing to improvise a rhyme in a hurry to keep the work going: but it might nevertheless be relevant to your thread & you might like to include it in your thinking.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Anne Lister
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 05:32 PM

Picking up briefly on the connection between blackberries and the colour black - blackberries, mulberries and blackcurrants are so very dark red they appear black when ripe, and leave a dark purple stain on skin and clothes. Mulberries grow on trees (blackberries are the fruit of the bramble briar, which is a hedgerow plant, and blackcurrants grow on a bush). The phrase about the blackberries being less good after the Devil has touched them is to do with the likelihood of frost damage rather than their colour. You wouldn't want to eat an unripe (red or green) blackberry so there's no negative association with the colour itself.

It might be interesting in this discussion of the word "black" to say that black as the colour of mourning in most of Europe was a very late development (possibly as late as Victorian times)as black was a very expensive dye for clothing until that time. Someone dressed in black was perceived as high status and wealthy - in the case of the Devil he was dressed in a most distinctive colour.

As to black animals, black skins etc being perceived as evil - in a society where the norm was a white skin (or a pink pig, or a white sheep) it's surely just a departure from what was considered normal, rather than anything else?   Just as someone with an extra finger was looked at with suspicion, and any kind of mental illness was treated as possession by the devil.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 06:07 PM

Thanks to all who have posted to this thread thus far.

**

MtheGM, and others: I prefer to keep my posts in this thread focused on the main issue that I raised[that is descriptions of the devil being the color black and/or a Black man, and possible psycho-social implications of that description, including negative connotations of the color 'black' itself. That said, I appreciate you sharing with me other information that may not be not as closely related to this particular topic.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 06:16 PM

Here are excerpts from a book that I just found on Google Books that I intend to spend time reading (Note the references to "the Black Man" as the devil in Germany in relationship to the German children game "Who's afraid of the black man" which was what prompted me to engage in this online research)


White on black: images of Africa and Blacks in Western popular culture By Jan Nederveen Pieterse

Page 164-165

"The most common interpretation of Black Peter derive from the Christian traditions of the early Middle Ages in which he were a devil or a demon. Medieval appellations for the Devil, such as "The Black Man", or schwarze Peter, and variations on Beelzebub such as 'Bugaboo', support this. Thus he [the devil] goes down the chimneys in the guise of Black Jack or the Black Man covered in soot; as Black Peter he carries a large sack into which he pops sins or singers (including naughty children); he carries a stick or cane to thrash the guilty'. The Black Man ('Schwartz Mann') with whom mothers scared their child was either the devil or a Negro.

St. Teresa of Avila, a mystic and mother Superior of a monastery, complained of being tormented in her visions by a " small Negro". In fact, this was a classic figure out of monastic demonology: in the influential Life of St. Anthony composed by Anthanasius, Bishop of Alexandra, about A. D. 360, one of the forms taken by the devil was that of a black boy. By the early Middle Ages, this had become a well-established theme in demonology.

"Black Peter", the Dutch card game in which Black Peter is the card of misfortune, is no longer played (it went out of fashion after the Second World War), but the saying 'drawing the Black Peter', is still common. It denotes not only bad luck, but the fate of the scapegoat in a social ord political conflict.

In traditional accounts, St. Nicholas acted alone. The association of Black Peter with the St. Nicholas legend, which itself has a curious history, appears only to be recent and to date from the nineteenth century, at least as part of popular iconography. Thus a combination occurs in Heinrich Hoffman's story Der Struwwelpeter (1844). Here some boys mock a Moor for his black skin and suddenly a 'big Nicholas' appears who sternly admonishes the boys. (His skin is black, yes, black as soot/But pure as snow is his soul!). When they carry on with their mockery, he throws them one by one into a huge inkpot, from which they emerge blacker than the Moor. The moral: It was only because of their wicked mockery/that they landed in the pot/So dear children! Do not mock/if about others you see something odd." A fine moral, although it also bears out the notion that being black itself is a punishment.

...From his origin in early Christian demonology down through the Middle Age, Black Peter appears to have little to do with Africa or black people. On the other hand, the points at which Christian demonology overlap with the imagery of black people are of course not without their significance nor without their ramifications."

http://books.google.com/books?id=XWL8QVcSlO4C&pg=PA164&lpg=PA164&dq=devil+black&source=bl&ots=y4GSFhL0p0&sig=TXxk90e--V0Q_syCZEh

[Other than book titles, italics were added by me for highlighting certain phrases or sentences.]


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 06:50 PM

"I prefer to keep my posts in this thread focused on the main issue that I raised[that is descriptions of the devil being the color black and/or a Black man"

From your OP I took it that you were interested in the relationship between the Devil and black as a colour - which is the only folkloric relationship I knew between the Devil & blackness - hence my responses referencing the colour black rather than the 'black' skin-tone. But you have certainly unearthed some interesting examples of the Devil's colour, also being represented by African skin colour.

It would seem that Black people, especially as they would have been perceived as being unenlightened in the *Christian* sense (which is what I think Blake is (rather clumsily in our eyes) aiming at with his Black childs skin (physical suface) counterpointed with a "White Soul" (spiritual content), & English child who is "White as an Angel" imagery.

In other words the Black child is born a 'savage unchristian heathen' (Under a tree, Eek think of the germs!), but he has a "White Soul" (phew! Lord be praised!). The English child is like a pure Christian 'Angel' both within literally and without symbolically, because he's been raised a Christian.

It would seem that African images, alongside other archetypically 'satanic' black imagery (such as black fruits, coal, cats, dogs, farm animals and clothing etc.) were clearly also drawn into the general 'dark' synonyms for Satan. But my guess here at least, is that the symbolic value of human blackness as Devil's colour, may be strengthened by the non-Christian and thus darkly heathen nature of the (then "Pagan") African continent.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 06:53 PM

"both within literally and without symbolically"

Doh! Make that 'without literally and withing symbolically'!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 06:54 PM

Here is another quote from Jan Nederveen Pieterse's bookWhite on black: images of Africa and Blacks in Western popular culture that focuses on representations of Black people in German culture (again, my interest in German culture in this regard is because of the German version of the children's game of tag that I have just learned about.)

Page 159

"Blacks inhabit German novels and operas as if they were a species of exotic birds. Helmut Fritz mentions a number of black figures in German works, such as Monostatos in Mozart's Die Zauberfote; Solieman, a little Moor in a fairy tale costume who serves as a mascot in Robert Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften; Franz Grillparzer's Negro Zanga; and the black evil-doer Congo Hoanga in Heinrich von Kleist's Verlobung von St Domingo. From this inventory alone a pattern emerges of German representations: blacks with oriental names (that is, domesticated by or filtered through Arabic culture, often situated in Egypt), like Sarotti-Mohr, tend to be enjoyable, decorous types; while blacks with African-sounding names are aggressive, threatening. This is an interesting bifurcation which seems to suggest some deeper European feelings about Africa. Again the motif of 'two Africas' returns.

In everyday German culture blacks are figuratively consumed in the form of Mohrkopfe and Negerkusses-two different sorts of cream-filled chocolate cake; hence the term the 'edible Negro'. The principle that blacks exist to satisfy white needs has thus been well established. As porcelain flower-bearer servant types like the Sarotti-Mohr decorate German middle class homes-another embourgeoisement of the nobles black page of the past."

-snip-

[Italics are presented as found in that book]


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 07:10 PM

Crow sister, I truly appreciate your contributions to this thread.

See my post without that one bracket character and instead with a colon or whatever : is called and with a portion written in italics for highlighting.

"I prefer to keep my posts in this thread focused on the main issue that I raised that is: descriptions of the devil being the color black and/or a Black man, and possible psycho-social implications of that description, including negative connotations of the color 'black' itself."

**

I have placed this limitation on myself because I have a tendency to go off-topic when I read or think of some other aspect of this complex topic of Black racial depictions in European and American culture.

Thanks again.

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 07:41 AM

With the spirit of a (safe) adventure, I'm continuing my online search for references to colors and images used to describe the Christian devil.

I consider this online search an "adventure" because I don't know where the Google Internet seach will lead me and what historical, folkloric treasures I might find. I consider this adventure to be "safe" because I'm mounting this search from the comfort & security of my own home using relatively "free" internet services, with no concern that what I repost will land me in any legal difficulties* or will lead to any physical harm to my body or to my mind.

*As I understand it, the mandate if not the policy of Mudcat Cafe (also known as Mudcat Discussion Forum) is to help ensure the preservation & dissemination of folkloric articles on the Internet. One way this "mandate" is achieved is by providing hyperlinks to the "original" posted articles and by Mudcat members and guests liberally posting excerpts from those articles onto this site.

The assumption is that Mudcat, which was launched in 1997 and has continually been online since then (except for periodic brief interruptions of service for some technical reason or the other), will continue to remain free and available on the Internet for a long period of time for its members as well for any "guest" who happens upon it.("Guests" usually visit a particular Mudcat discussion thread by entering a key word or key words into an Internet search engine such as Google or Yahoo and then clicking on the hyperlinks that are given). A "thread" is a series of comments on a particular subject.)

Concomittedly, the concern Mudcatters have is other websites (which perhaps don't have as dedicated a founder/owner, moderators, and community as Mudcat), may disappear from the Internet with no notice at all or may close off their access to the general public, again without any prior notice or warning. And then-were it not for inforamtion posted on Mudcat threads such as this one-information contained on those no longer accessible sites would once again be lost to the general public or the general public would have a much more difficult time trying to find such information in physical libraries located in far flung cities whic would take much more effort than Internet searching to visit.

All this to say, if I understand Mudcat "policies" correctly, not witstanding the confusion that still exist over how & when Internet material can be used in other documents, I don't worry about being prosecuted (or persecuted) because I'm freely re-posting these excerpts from other websites.

I should also say that having had home dial up Internet service for several years before upgrading two years ago to broadband service, I remember how difficult it was on dial up to use hyperlinks to travel from one website to another. That's another reason why I post excerpts along with their hyperlinks (web addresses/URLs).

I know that I'm fortunate to the time to engage in this online research. And I know that I'm fortunate to have a home computer (I recently upgraded to a lap top!). I also know that I'm fortunate to have the money to pay for broadband Internet service that is readily available in my city.

I recognize that for me this thread is mostly a "presentation [of information] thread rather than a "discussion thread'. I'm learning a lot from this research but I realize that this information is probably not of interest to most of the members of this forum. However, I appreciate the opportunity to share what I'm finding here with (and for) those who may also be interested in it.

I continue to post this information on Mudcat (rather than elsewhere on the Internet) because this material is folkloric and Mudcat Cafe isn't just about folk music.

All of this to say, my thanks to Max Speigel, Mudcat owner & founder, for launching and maintaining Mudcat Cafe and thereby providing me and others with a forum to share such interesting, thought provoking material.

Best wishes,

Azizi Powell


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 08:02 AM

As an African American who has long been interested in learning more about traditional West African cultures, and who has for 30 years and counting been a free lance "African storyteller", I'm gratefult to have happened upon "The Devil's Colors: A Comparative Study of French and Nigerian Folktales". That heavily footnoted article, written by Françoise Ugochukwu, an Igbo (Nigeria, West Africa), is included in a journal called Oral Tradition, 21/2 (2006): 250-268. It is found at this Internet address:

http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:99a_h7JKMrYJ:journal.oraltradition.org/files/articles/21ii/Ugochukwu.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk

-snip-

I'll re-post several excerpts from that article in my next posts to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 08:35 AM

The online version of Françoise Ugochukwu's "The Devil's Colors: A Comparative Study of French and Nigerian Folktales" contains two different page citations. As far as I can tell, one numbering system refers to the author's book and one numbering system is from the journal article. Furthermore, this article includes footnote numbers after certain sentences. All of these numbers may cause difficulty finding the passages that I'm reposting in the "original" Internet article. For the purpse pf this thread, I'm retaining what I think is the page number from the book. I am also including footnote numbers, but I'm not reposting the actual footnotes themselves.

Here's the first excerpt I'm posting from http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:99a_h7JKMrYJ:journal.oraltradition.org/files/articles/21ii/Ugochukwu.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk:


Supernatural Encounters
page 252-253

..."Storytellers from Réotier (Upper Alps) variously describe the devil as a young man dressed in a monk's black frock or as a black man with red lips and protruding eyes, or as a handsome Caucasian male dressed partly in white and partly in red, or as a red-haired man (Joisten 1977:332) that lives in the thick of the forest or up a mountain that can be black, red, or green—usually green in southern France and black in the northern part of the country (Ugochukwu 1986:105, 108, 110).

Although the devil is most often associated with black—a huge black man a folktale collected in 1896 (Teneze and Abry 1982:186)—he likes other colors as well, appearing dressed in green (ibid.:31) or in a red coat, or as a little red man springing out of the hearth flames who later turns into a younglord clad in blue (Joisten and Joisten 1986:66). A legend from Bessans(Savoy), published in the Almanach du petit dauphinois in 1936, mentions a red demon who disappears in a green, sulphur-smelling flame (ibid.:85). In avariant, this creature is wrapped in a black mantle (88), just as frescoes from the Bessans church represent the devil as yellow and black in the midst ofred flames (74).Oral literature from both France and Nigeria records encounters with other supernatural beings and details their appearance. In Guyenne, Saint Peter is white-bearded (Seignolle 1971:79); Dauphiné fairies, the "fayes," are women dressed in white (Abry and Joisten 1992:13). Ghosts of the dead are wrapped either in a white shroud or in black linen (ibid.:59). Van Gennep records that, in Brittany, dwarfs carry huge and deformed heads over stunted black bodies (Teneze and Abry 1982:215). The "naroves" of the Jura legends, wild malevolent beings, are stocky and black-faced, and run bare-foot covered in rags (ibid.:260). Another evil being, the bogeyman, Invisible except for his hand and black or green in Dauphiné folktales, drags children into torrents, wells, and abysses (Joisten 1996:231). And there are reports about green, yellow, and blue horned demons (Joisten and Joisten 1986:86).

In Igboland, white is traditionally associated with ancestral spirits, as testified by G. T. Basden's (1938) photo of an Igbo initiate's ceremonial body-painting with one side painted white, the combination representing his being half-man, half-spirit. Many of these spirits are associated with animals of the same color, as they either take their form, appear in their company, or require them as sacrifices. Such spirits include black or white snakes (Ugochukwu 1992:94; Teneze and Abry 1982:37) and cats of all colors according to a legend from Saint Maurice en Valgaudemar (Upper Alps), but mostly black as noted in Dauphiné folktales (Teneze and Abry 1982:114;Joisten and Joisten 1986:64) where the devil manifests himself as a black dog or cat, with black cats or black chickens used as sacrifices to attract him. Folktales may also display a series of white animals: horses that carry their rider into a flowing river, pigeons and doves that help the hero (Teneze andAbry 1982:215; Bettelheim 1976:137), and chamois glimpsed by a dying hunter (Joutard and Majastre 1987:29).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 08:53 AM

Here is my second repost from http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:99a_h7JKMrYJ:journal.oraltradition.org/files/articles/21ii/Ugochukwu.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk:


Excerpt of Between Heaven and Hell

pages 255,256, 257 with one footnote

..."Black and white have been considered as constituting two opposite poles, with red standing somewhere in between. These three colors seem to be the most prominent and universal in all languages, possessing an ancient and powerful symbolism (Verity 1980:113). In French oral literature, the red color associated with the devil is directly inspired by the fire and flames of hell, 11 and illustrates the fact that the appreciation and reading of colors has been heavily influenced by traditional/popular and imported religions. In France, folktales record an overwhelming influence from Catholicism and the Bible, which have given white its positive connotation—associating it not only with snow but with cleanliness, innocence, and beauty—while equating black with evil, as further evidenced by French and English expressions such as "black soul," "black magic," "black market," and "dark secrets." Nederveen Pieterse comments (1992:196): "In a . . . perspective in which 'clean,' 'white,' 'fair,' 'light,' 'good' go together as the foundation of aesthetics and civilization, it is obvious that 'dark,' 'black,' 'dirty,' 'sinful,''evil' will be grouped together as well." Interestingly, the same reading of white prevails in Africa, both in the language and in folktales, in spite of the fact that those are laden with traditional beliefs.

Whenever she appears in folktales, the Virgin Mary is white,12 and folktales and popular culture usually highlight the beauty of fair women, as proved by the stories of Snow-White and All-kinds-of-fur (Grimm and Grimm 1976: 144, 201). In Igbo folktales and culture, the fairer a girl or a woman is, the closer she is to the spirits. masks that represent young, unmarried girls always have a white face (Basden 1938:368). In addition, white is the favorite color of the mermaid cult, associated with white handkerchief dancing, mirrors, and the presentation of white objects and fowl to the River spirits, a fertility cult prevalent all along the West African coast and the River Niger. Adepts describe mermaids or Mami Wota as bothf air and European in appearance, with long, flowing hair, as described in"Uncle Ben's Choice," one of Chinua Achebe's Girls at War short stories (1986:79), or in Nigerian videos that depict folktales and popular religion. African myths collected by Veronika Görög-Karady (1976:220) equally associated white Europeans with water spirits.

[footnote: This could be explained by the fact that Europeans came from the sea, and then into Igboland by boat on the river Niger].

White, the color of water cults, has also been used as an alternative and a substitute for black as a mourning symbol, with expressions like "white as a sheet" evoking both the shroud that envelops the corpse and the whitish, bodiless ghost. In the course of the Igbo ozo title-taking ceremony,14 the incumbent's body is smeared with white chalk to signify his being ushered, through spiritual death, into the spirit world (Basden 1938:138).Oral tales from Congo record that the dead turn white, explaining their loss of pigmentation by their long sojourn in water (Görög-Karady 1976:219). In the Igbo folktale "The Son of the Rainbow," white is associated with cruel, merciless spirits. A child's quest for his departed father brings him and his mother to the river spirit who asks her to return to the riverbank with her child, a white clay pot, a white piece of cloth, and other white objects, seven in all. She obeys. Once there, she sings a lament, at the end of which the child falls into the water and drowns (Ugochukwu 1992:227-33). Customs and traditional rites associate both black and white equally with death, as in Igboland where pieces of white cloth are traditionally brought to the deceased's house by visitors,15 while mourners dress in either black or white. The colors of mourning clothes are the same in traditional Savoy— black for the family, white for the poor invited to the bedside, with blue worn as a substitute for black toward the end of the mourning period (Milliex 1978:144-46), a reminder of the previously mentioned closeness of black and blue."...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 09:11 AM

Here is my third repost from http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:99a_h7JKMrYJ:journal.oraltradition.org/files/articles/21ii/Ugochukwu.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk


History as Source and Key to Color-Coding

[page 257]

..."According to Bonte and Izard (2002:779), perceptual categorizers are universal and only serve as a reference; culture-coded symbolism then usesthem as primary material to build on. In the end, what matters is not the color itself but the way it is read. Goethe's opinion was that "we associatethe character of the color with the character of the person"; he personally considered the "white man" to be "the most beautiful"(1840:328 n. 839, 265n. 672). In Europe, as in Africa, history has been the major factor of transformation in the reading of colors.

In that regard, the impact of religious beliefs upon the reading ofcolors cannot be separated from historical influences, as world events likethe crusades and colonization went hand in hand with the spread ofmissionaries. Although Catholicism brought about a radical change in European reading of color (Verity 1980:113).

In itself, none of that process had anything to do with skin color, but in thecourse of time, and as early as the fifth century C.E., it did acquire that connotation: "black became the color of the devil and demons" (Nederveen Pieterse 1992: 24). This attitude was later reinforced by Europeanconfrontation with Middle Eastern Islam and the transfer of black demonsymbolism to the Chanson de Roland, where Moslems appear "black as melted pitch." Threatened by heresies, confronted by Islam, the thirteenth-century Christian world gathered itself against strangers considered as monsters, those branded as "satanic" (Delacampagne 2000:80) and promisedto destruction. In the sixteenth century, the introduction of black servants into European courts further reinforced that reading, while a tendentious interpretation of the Bible and of Ham's curse (Genesis 9:25, 10:6) was used to rubber-stamp this negative color coding.

On the part of Africans, interaction with the Portuguese andnineteenth-century colonization brought about, on the one hand, assimilationbetween white, water, beauty, power, and riches, and, on the other, betweenlight and religious purity.18 Yet other, negative connotations came into play, no doubt brought about by the colonial experience, connotations that match the ambivalent character of the spirits, as already noted by Görög-Karady 1976:240). In Igbo language, for example, white is associated with laziness(ura ndi ocha = the "white sleep," that is, a lie-in, sleeping at a time when one is expected to be awake and busy working) and alienation (oru oyibo = "white work," initiated by the white and destined to benefit them only, that is, nobody's job, a job that neither benefits nor concerns workers). Such expressions widen the gap between blacks and whites. On the other hand,Igbo language does not restrict the term "white" to Europeans but extends it to fair-skinned Igbo and even albinos although in Nigerian English, these last two groups are more likely to be called "yellow"...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 09:19 AM

Before I post one last excerpt from Françoise Ugochukwu's "The Devil's Colors: A Comparative Study of French and Nigerian Folktales" book, I want to call particular attention to this sentence "On the other hand,Igbo language does not restrict the term "white" to Europeans but extends it to fair-skinned Igbo and even albinos although in Nigerian English, these last two groups are more likely to be called "yellow".

Could this explain the coinage & use among 19th century and earlier African American of the color referent "high yellow" (high yella)?. It appears to me that most light skinned Black people don't have a yellow tinge to their complexion, so why was the term "high yellow" used instead of "near white" or some other color referent?

Ugochukwu's statement provides the clue that we should study the use of color language in West Africa to explain that African American referent.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 09:20 AM

You've probably read Conrads classic 'Heart of Darkness' (it's been a highly debated work and a contraversial one for Black people in particular) which explores prevailing Victorian assumptions & prejudices regarding spirituality, morality, and "unenlighted" Africa (or "the Dark Continent"). If not (and you can endure some of the characterisation of "natives"), it's an extremely short read and should provide much symbolic imagery pertinent to this thread, along with plenty of further reading: essays galore have been written on the themes it contains.

Online Text Here


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 09:47 AM

Here is my last repost from http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:99a_h7JKMrYJ:journal.oraltradition.org/files/articles/21ii/Ugochukwu.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk, though that article provides much more material that is pertinent to the topic of this thread.

[page 260]

In the French tradition,the world of spirits is close yet rather feared and characterized by a clear duality: God and the saints are good; the devil and demons are bad. In themiddle, we find familiar spirits and the ghosts of purgatory souls, whose status is rather ambivalent yet inoffensive. In Nigeria, while spirits are clearly discerned as different, encounters with them are common and reveal these beings as human-like in character—ambivalent and unpredictable,having feelings and capable of both the best and the worst. What differentiates them, in the end, is thus more their spirit status than their character.

It follows that in folktales the giving of a color or a shape to a personis not a reflection of reality:21it only tags the person or object as alien. Colorhas therefore no inherent value—it is only used as a marker of identity. Allocating a color to persons/objects amounts to extracting them from the unknown, taming them, pre-empting the harm their interaction could inflict,and disabling them by classifying them within cultural parameters. The disguise one observes in folktales, with the devil and other evil spirits optingto change their color/appearance in order to appear human, is a rejection ofthe categorization that would prevent them from interacting with people—just as concealment through color change is widespread in the animal world,from fish to chameleon...

Masquerades, whether in Switzerland or in Nigeria, also reveal people camouflaging themselves with soot, wooden masks, and cloth to embodyancestral spirits, and changing color and shape in order to interact with thosespirits. Color is thus an essential tool of both categorization and communication, as color symbolism is known to be instantly read and decoded within cultures"...

Alternative Readings

pages 262,

"Whatever the type of difference highlighted by folktales—deformityor darker skin—the message is the same: "acceptable" human beings looklike you and me; they share our skin color and our features and are thereforedeemed acceptable, as corresponding to our canon of beauty. Foreigners,however, look different; they are perceived as animal-like or monstrous, andthe reading of their features justifies their separation and facilitates theirrejection. That is why the miller's wife rebukes the devil with thisexclamation: "What are you here for? Blacks are not welcome here!"(Méraville 1970:158)

One must say that the message from folktales is not always that clear,in that "one way literature projects its knowledge and thought is through . . .allegory" (Fletcher 1991:93). There are a number of reasons for the encoding of the message. Folktales are part of oral literature, a heavily encoded lore as one can verify from the study of traditional songs. As such,they aim at a mixed audience and thus offer several layers of meaning which each group deciphers with the help of the social keys available to it––children usually take the text at face value, while adults and initiates read far more into it. The encoding allows the message to be delivered indiscriminately while still respecting cultural taboos Such a rendering finally excludes outsiders, who may not possess the cues that would enable them to understand the whole meaning of the tale. The same applies to color terms; used "with a belief in their power to communicate" (ibid.: 101), they do so, yet selectively."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 09:53 AM

My apologies for that bold text. If a moderator would change the text back to the "regular font" after the sub-title "Alternative Readings", I would very much appreciate it, since-when it comes to reading online blog messages- too much black is not beautiful :o).

**

Thanks, Crow Sister. I'll read that essay.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 10:15 AM

My mom went back to work, immediately after my birth, so I was in the care of a succession of Black maids/nannies. We are talking 1958 -1962 in Virginia so quite a common practice for professional women.

My mom told me that the first carer was the best ever except for one problem. Evidently when I was a terrible 2, the woman tried to correct/control me by telling me if I wasn't good, the "boogie man" would come and get me in the night. My mother, I am afraid let the woman go from employment for that. Perhaps, it caused me nightmares, unable to sleep without night light, whatever. I did need a night light until I was 8 or 9.

I had no memory of a physical description of this character from my early years and I do not remember making an association with evil. The fear of him was more along the lines of disappointing God or Santa or your parents. Something you wanted to avoid as a newbie in a confusing world of rules and behaviours and feelings you just don't understand.

But when I was 12 or 13, this character was given form by a male cousin who was trying to frighten me. Suddenly the "boogie man" who I had long dismissed to the realm of myth (with Santa to keep him company), was a real black man (with white hair) who lived in the shack in the woods behind my cousin's house. In later adult years, I understood just how racist this cousin and his parents were. And have since dismissed his childish pranks to make the "boogie man" real at the expense of a perfectly innocent and kindly old gentleman.

But now I wonder, in the southern US, is this enigmatic character of "boogie man" a force of good or evil dependent upon black or white culture? What are his physical attributes (black or white) respective of culture?


More on ancient association of darkness to evil in next post.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Sep 09 - 06:22 PM

VirginiaTam, see this Wikipedia page on the Boogyman:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogeyman. For what it's worth, I added an edit comment to the talk page of that article, referring the editor to this thread and specifically to my 12 Sep 09 - 06:16 PM post in this thread. In that post I quoted a passage from "White on black: images of Africa and Blacks in Western popular culture" by Jan Nederveen Pieterse which mentioned "Beelsebub" and "Bugaboo".

**

I recall mention of "the boogyman" by my father when I was a child (in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1950s). However, the warning that "the boogyman's gonna get you" was given playfully with an imitation "spooky" voice and as a prelude to him pretending to chaseg my sister's and me. From that same time period, I recall my father saying (in that same spooky voice before chasing us) "I am the ghost of old John McDonald". I'm going to EAT YOU UP!" Then he'd walk like a zombie with his arms outstretched chanting "Yum Yum. Eat'em up. Yum Yum. Eat'em Up.

We loved it.

**

I think that's one of the reasons why my sisters and I didn't take the boogyman seriously. Another reason was that we were too firmly rooted in the Baptist church, and that church didn't teach anythig about bad spirits except the devil. But we knew that God was stronger than the devil, so didn't spend time worrying about "him".

And, speaking for myself, another reason why I wasn't afraid of the "boogyman" was because his name was too close to the word boogies, and while it was yucky to think of a man made out of those, it wasn't at all frightening.

That said, I can see how hearing about the boogyman under other contexts could indeed be scary.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 03:09 AM

Yes Azizi

I was going to make mention of Scotland's mythological boggarts.

Last night I had (but couldn't post as Cat was down) more thoughts on the association of darkness to evil. I see in Anglo Saxon saga, Beowulf that the story promotes the concept of safety within doors of the mead hall with big fire (light) and society of others to protect the residents therein from the dangers of the darkness and the unknown.

Along comes Grendel, a personification of darkness and wrongness especially regards his isolation from the society of man (belonging to a group figured large to ancient peoples). Grendel (and his mother) are "purported" to be of the line of Cain, cursed by God and naturally associated with evil. I know! Why on earth are there allusions to Judeo-Christian religion in a Norse Saga? Likely because it was an early Christian priest, scribing the orally passed story and infusing with his own beliefs. Anyway, you get my drift that some early white cultures associated darkness (perhaps even being darkskinned) with evil.

Heart of Darkness is a brilliant story. On the surface the darkness attributed to the natives of the "Congo"? Exactly what is the source of the darkness? The natives or the hearts of the exploitative businessmen? Lots of threads of darkness in that tale. I must read Conrad again.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 07:57 AM

VirginiaTam, this thread has made me realize how very deeply rooted racism against dark skinned people is in all parts of the Western world, and through Western colonization, in other parts of the world.

I read a significant amount of chapter I of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". But I can't bring myself to continuing reading it right now.

And I intend to also read more about the subject of this thread some other time.

**

This is my last post on this thread.

Thanks to all who posted here.


Best wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: Mr Happy
Date: 08 Nov 09 - 06:31 AM

Or in other words:

" Time profit possible toll sheriff to state frequently unwisely as the morbid state the value which and the main full unambiguous official proved. In this automobile, the revenue and expenditure changes, in their such life free will provide rate on auction and authority direction fees."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: GUEST,Jayto
Date: 19 Jan 10 - 08:27 PM

Hi Azizi how are you. I havent heard from you in a while and wanted to say hi. As usual I love you post here but that is nothing new. I always enjoy reading your posts. Just wondering here and thought I would throw this out there for you as well. You know that older generations had a fear of the dark. Night was forboding and feared because they couldn't see. Well at night it is black so I wonder if some of the association comes from fear of the dark instead of skin color. I don't know really I have never heard anyone say that but I wonder if that may be a subconscious factor. You may think I am nuts and way off base but just kind of curious and have never really thought about that before but since it crossed my mind just now I thought I would throw that out for consideration. Great reading your post Azizi.
cya
JT


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 10:57 PM

Poster is Lady Jean.
As a child I was partial to "Hot Stuff the Little Devil" comics. They were produced by the same people who did Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy the Witch. Hot Stuff and his large devil family (He had a number of aunts and uncles, I remember.) were all red. Though Hot Stuff wore a white diaper.

Saint Perpetua dreamed that she overcame the devil, "In the guise of an evil Egyptian". Evil being the important qualifier.

Cotemporary stories of the devil, showing up at dances, squiring girls to parties, or joining in on a Sunday poker game, all have him as a handsome man, no race mentioned. In the older stories, he's recognized by his cloven hooves. In a more recent story, he gives himself away by floating above the floor.

Christian tradition gives the devil and demons cloven hooves. Jewish tradition gives them goose feet. I'm not sure what that says about the different cultures.

I do know that, when I found cloven hoofprints in my back yard, I planted daisies and St. John's Wort near them, just to be on the safe side.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 11:03 PM

Oh, that was me, LadyJean. I have to fix my cookie again.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 09:37 PM

The Blackheart Man is a figure from Jamaican folklore who's a warning to children to beware of strangers. He's an enchanter who takes out a person's heart.


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