Even in absurdity, sacrament. Even in hardship, holiness. Even in doubt, faith. Even in chaos, realization. Even in paradox, blessedness
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"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage." ~Anain Nin
Losing language, losing culture
“The way you talk identifies the group you belong to,” says David Lightfoot, dean of Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a professor of linguistics. “A language essentially disappears because people choose at some level of consciousness to adopt another group’s language … it’s an act of allegiance to one culture and a rejection of another culture.”
But more than the rejection of a culture, the death of a language can be a step toward the death of the culture it expresses and embodies. Encoded in Middle Chulym, and in every language, are clues to how people lived—kinship systems, economies, livelihood, and leisure. “Language conveys evidence of cultural phenomena,” says Lightfoot. “If a language disappears then the cultural evidence disappears also, because it was only embedded in the language.”
Nearly 3,500 of the world’s languages are at risk of extinction in one lifetime—roughly half the world’s total. And there’s little stopping the dissolution of the Turkic language that originated on the upper reaches of the Chulym River in the district of Tomsk. In a community of 426, only thirty-five elders are fluent speakers. The rest speak Russian only. “It’s a moribund language,” says Harrison. [via mefi]
Culture Soup: The Case for Contamination
I’m seated, with my mother, on a palace veranda, cooled by a breeze from the royal garden. Before us, on a dais, is an empty throne, its arms and legs embossed with polished brass, the back and seat covered in black-and-gold silk. In front of the steps to the dais, there are two columns of people, mostly men, facing one another, seated on carved wooden stools, the cloths they wear wrapped around their chests, leaving their shoulders bare. There is a quiet buzz of conversation. Outside in the garden, peacocks screech. At last, the lowing of a ram’s horn announces the arrival of the king of Asante, its tones sounding his honorific kotokohene or ‘porcupine chief’. (Each quill of the porcupine, according to custom, signifies a warrior ready to kill and to die for the kingdom.) Everyone stands until the king has settled on the throne. Then, when we sit, a chorus sings songs in praise of him, which are interspersed with the playing of a flute. It is a Wednesday festival day in Kumasi, the town in Ghana where I grew up.
Unless you’re one of a few million Ghanaians, this will probably seem a relatively unfamiliar world, perhaps even an exotic one. You might suppose that this festival belongs quaintly to an African past. But before the king arrived, people were taking calls on cellphones, and among those passing the time in quiet conversation were a dozen men in suits, representatives of an insurance company. And the meetings in the office next to the veranda are about contemporary issues: HIV/Aids, the educational needs of 21st-century children, the teaching of science and technology at the local university. When my turn comes to be presented, the king asks me about Princeton, where I teach. I ask him when he’ll next be in the States. In a few weeks, he says. He’s got a meeting with the head of the World Bank.
Anywhere you travel in the world – today as always – you can find ceremonies like these, many of them rooted in centuries-old traditions. But you will also find everywhere – and this is something new – many intimate connections with places far away: Washington, Moscow, Mexico City, Beijing. Across the street from us, when we were growing up, there was a large house occupied by a number of families, among them a vast family of boys; one, about my age, was a good friend. He lives in London. His brother lives in Japan, where his wife is from. They have another brother who has been in Spain for a while and a couple more brothers who, last I heard, were in the United States. Some of them still live in Kumasi, one or two in Accra, Ghana’s capital. Eddie, who lives in Japan, speaks his wife’s language now. He has to. But he was never very comfortable in English, the language of our government and our schools. When he phones me from time to time, he prefers to speak Asante-Twi.
Gift of the Phalli: Creating Myth
What do you do when you want to attract tourist dollars, but keep losing out to that big archaeological site down the road? The citizens of Chucuito saw at the busloads of visitors going to Tiahuanaco and decided to build their own temple. The problem is that Tiahuanaco is pretty impressive so any competition would either have to be equally large, or else something pretty noteworthy.
This article features a photo taken at Chicuito last year by yours truly.
Tierney's recent column on French social unrest caught my eye—not only because I'm half-French, but also because I'm interested in the public-relations tactics of the pro-Bush crowd. As Tierney's ideological predecessor (and former Republican press agent) William Safire well understood, when things get rough for your side, it's useful to change the subject.
Tierney finds it amusing that France is in upheaval over a new labor law, the Contrat Premiere Embauche (contract for first-time hires), that would make it easier for businessmen to fire young workers within the first two years of their employment. Private employers in France pay a heavy price for firing anybody—in justifying paperwork and money—so the theory is that they would hire more raw, untested types if it weren't so hard getting rid of the deadbeats.
If you're an employer, this makes perfect sense; if you're a member of France's “rightist” government, it's a great way to satisfy your corporate backers, as well as appearing to address the problem of high youth unemployment. If, on the other hand, you're a college student or trade unionist, the new labor law sounds like what it doubtless will be: discrimination permitting bosses to exploit and churn the lowest-paid people with the least seniority.
In “Who Moved My Fromage?,” Tierney labors too hard to be satirical about the French “facade of arrogance,” so the jokes turn labored very quickly: “Someone needs to rescue France from its self-proclaimed malaise. Close to a quarter of its young people are unemployed, but they're too busy burning cars to look for jobs.” There goes the drum in Doc Severensen's Tonight Show band: ba-dum-bump!
But underneath Tierney's strained humor (he suggests a new Marshall Plan, of American self-help wisdom) lies authentic hostility toward France's highly centralized social-support system: “Today's French can't even stand up to unarmed foreigners. When French young adults were asked what globalization meant to them, half replied 'fear.' ” Now that's really funny, especially contrasted with fearless post-9/11 America.
On the streets of Cairo, saving the gods' cats
In the times of the ancient pharoahs, the cat was almost an equal of the gods. Pilgrims would place mummified cats around statues of cat-headed goddess Bastet, along with written prayers. The temple would periodically be cleared of these mummies, which would then be buried in a special necropolis designated for cat burial.
And in 5 BC, a Greek historian observed that the members of an Egyptian household had shaved off their eyebrows to mourn the family cat's demise.
The cat even had a place in hieroglyphics, where it was written as "miu,” not unlike the noise it made as it hunted birds in the marshes, gnawed on a fish under its mistress' chair or slayed serpents — all scenes recorded for eternity on tomb walls more than 3,000 years ago.
But take a short walk in Cairo today, it is clear to see that the former demi-gods have indisputably fallen from grace. Feral cats are everywhere — prey for cars, abuse, disease and starvation.
One woman, though, is fighting a largely lone battle to take Egyptian cats off the streets and put them into homes with people who appreciate their legendary heritage. Her greater dream is to see theses native animals revered for what many believe them to be: modern descendants of cats domesticated in Pharaonic times.
An elaborate greeting in rural Mali
The Dogon greeting is an elaborate affair. It begins when two people are still far apart. It needs to. First one inquires about the other's health and the other replies that he is well.
Then about his wife. She is fine, likewise his parents, his children, his animals. Each inquiry receives the same response. Then the second person repeats the list of questions to the first, getting his replies in turn. Only after this protracted preamble and the mutually swapped phrase 'yappo-yappo' can they move on to the rest of their conversation. But the chances are that by now they have passed each other by and are calling back over their shoulders.
In China, the fox cult lives on
Haunting rather than hunting was what foxes were associated with in ancient China, and even occasionally in modern Taiwan, as the detailed analysis offered in The Cult of the Fox abundantly and fascinatingly shows.
Studies of the irrational nature of much traditional life in China are very much the fashion in academic circles. The perusal of the secular, highly organized, Confucian society so admired by 18th century Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire is now out of fashion. Attempts to understand what the ordinary people believed and felt are considered far more important, and popular religion is understandably at the heart of this current scholarly endeavor.
Kang Xiaofei is a young assistant professor in the US, and in 1997 she undertook a research trip back to the land of her forebears to find out what she could about the cult of fox spirits in China ancient and modern. She discovered plenty, and in the center of her fieldwork research, in the Yulin region of northern Shaanxi, bordering Inner Mongolia, even uncovered an only recently deceased shaman called Lei Wu.
This man had practised healing via possession by a fox demon from the late 1940s until his arrest and imprisonment in 1959 during the anti-superstition Socialist Education Campaign. After his release he continued to practice secretly, and according to Kang's informants -- among them a well-educated accountant of 37, an illiterate ceramicist aged 67 and a blind former carpenter who had become the caretaker of the local Buddhist temple -- even administered to some high-level cadres from the regional government. As so often, apparently, the fox shrine was a hidden-away part of a larger and more public temple-complex. In this case it was a small hexagonal room, rarely unlocked and only big enough to hold three kneeling supplicants. "We don't usually open this to public worship," she was told.
The fox, it turns out, was considered by its very nature ambiguous. It was untamable and inedible, yet possessed quasi-human intelligence and itself hunted close to human habitations. Consequently it became a symbol of the marginal and the semi-legal. Its cult was illicit but widely practised. It was believed to be especially appropriate for people with feelings at variance with the official norms. If you loved someone who was already married, for instance, you wouldn't go to the regular deities for assistance, but the fox spirit might prove sympathetic to your plight.
[via corpus mmothra]
The Last Island of the "Savages"
In the spring of 1974, North Sentinel was visited by a film crew that was shooting a documentary titled Man in Search of Man, along with a few anthropologists, some armed policemen, and a photographer for National Geographic. In the words of one of the scientists, their plan was to "win the natives' friendship by friendly gestures and plenty of gifts." As the team's motorized dinghy made its way through the reefs toward shore, some natives emerged from the woods. The anthropologists made friendly gestures. The Sentinelese responded with a hail of arrows. The dinghy proceeded to a landing-spot out of arrow range, where the policemen, dressed in padded armor, disembarked and laid gifts on the sand: a miniature plastic automobile, some coconuts, a tethered live pig, a child's doll, and some aluminum cookware. Then they returned to the dinghy and waited to observe the natives' reaction to the gifts. The natives' reaction was to fire more arrows, one of which hit the film director in the left thigh. The man who had shot the film director was observed laughing proudly and walking toward the shade of a tree, where he sat down. Other natives were observed spearing the pig and the doll and burying them in the sand. They did, however, take the cookware and the coconuts with evident delight.
In 1975, the exiled king of Belgium, on a tour of the Andamans, was brought by local dignitaries for an overnight cruise to the waters off North Sentinel. Mindful of lessons learned the year before, they kept the royal party out of arrow range, approaching just close enough for a Sentinelese warrior to aim his bow menacingly at the king, who expressed his profound satisfaction with the adventure.
Cargo Cults: In John They Trust
In the morning heat on a tropical island halfway across the world from the United States, several dark-skinned men—clad in what look to be U.S. Army uniforms—appear on a mound overlooking a bamboo-hut village. One reverently carries Old Glory, precisely folded to reveal only the stars. On the command of a bearded “drill sergeant,” the flag is raised on a pole hacked from a tall tree trunk. As the huge banner billows in the wind, hundreds of watching villagers clap and cheer.
Chief Isaac Wan, a slight, bearded man in a blue suit and ceremonial sash, leads the uniformed men down to open ground in the middle of the village. Some 40 barefoot "G.I.’s" suddenly emerge from behind the huts to more cheering, marching in perfect step and ranks of two past Chief Isaac. They tote bamboo “rifles” on their shoulders, the scarlet tips sharpened to represent bloody bayonets, and sport the letters “USA,” painted in red on their bare chests and backs.
This is February 15, John Frum Day, on the remote island of Tanna in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. On this holiest of days, devotees have descended on the village of Lamakara from all over the island to honor a ghostly American messiah, John Frum. “John promised he’ll bring planeloads and shiploads of cargo to us from America if we pray to him,” a village elder tells me as he salutes the Stars and Stripes. “Radios, TVs, trucks, boats, watches, iceboxes, medicine, Coca-Cola and many other wonderful things.”
In Japan, Cute Conquers All
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who adore Hello Kitty, and those who just don't get why the little fluffy feline with no mouth has managed to attract a global cult following. I get the part about Hello Kitty being cute, innocent, and sentimental. She likes to have tea parties and make friends all over the world. How sweet and precious. I just can't understand why this would be of interest to anyone beyond the age of 10.
But Hello Kitty is a $1 billion-a-year franchise for Sanrio, Japan's biggest maker of cartoon characters. It licenses Kitty's image to product makers far and wide. My two daughters, aged 6 and 3, have Hello Kitty pens, cups, toothbrushes, stickers, and a toy vacuum cleaner that makes a lot of noise when dad is trying to watch the World Cup. Last month, the two nearly overdosed on cuteness at a Hello Kitty amusement park in suburban Tokyo.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not interested in dissing Kitty here. It's just that I've long been fascinated by Japan's cult of cuteness -- it's rather like an obsession. The everyday visual landscape of Tokyo -- the ad banners on the subway, storefronts signs, digital display screens, and various forms of mass media like manga (Japanese comics) and fashion magazines -- are just oozing with cute stuff.
Cartoon characters are often used as pitchmen for Japanese products. All manner of companies and services, even banks, have licensed characters like Kitty or imports such as Snoopy, Pooh, and Miffy to jazz up their advertising. Spend five minutes in retail centers like Shibuya and Shinjuku, and you almost feel like you're in cartoon town. Cute sells big time in Nippon.
Japanese cute, which the Japanese call kawaii, isn't just a marketing gimmick. It's embedded in the culture and manifests itself in social and gender roles, particularly those of young Japanese women. Cute isn't just a fashion statement -- pink lipstick, butterfly hair bands, and pastel colors -- it's also a mode of behavior. Cute girls often act silly, affect squeaky voices, pout and stamp their feet when they're angry. It seems to be a cultural statement.
The Hikikomori: Shutting Themselves In
After years of being bullied at school and having no friends, Y.S., who asked to be identified by his initials, retreated to his room at age 14, and proceeded to watch TV, surf the Internet and build model cars - for 13 years. When he finally left his room one April afternoon last year, he had spent half of his life as a shut-in. Like Takeshi and Shuichi, Y.S. suffered from a problem known in Japan as hikikomori, which translates as "withdrawal" and refers to a person sequestered in his room for six months or longer with no social life beyond his home. (The word is a noun that describes both the problem and the person suffering from it and is also an adjective, like "alcoholic.") Some hikikomori do occasionally emerge from their rooms for meals with their parents, late-night runs to convenience stores or, in Takeshi's case, once-a-month trips to buy CD's (sic, shame on NYT). And though female hikikomori exist and may be undercounted, experts estimate that about 80 percent of the hikikomori are male, some as young as 13 or 14 and some who live in their rooms for 15 years or more.
At the border of the Tocantins River in Brazil, on the outskirts of the Amazon rainforest, fourteen indian tribes competed in the First Traditional Indian Games of Pará (I Jogos Tradicionais Indigenas do Pará). From 15–20 June 2004, 470 indian men, women and children played ancient and modern games, such as soccer, archery, spear throwing, tug–of–war, canoeing, swimming and running. Some gave stunning demonstrations of traditional sports played only by their own tribes, like the tree–log relay race of the Gavião indians, where men carry 200–pound (90 kilogram) logs on their back, or the hockey sport of the Kayapo indians called Ronkrã.
What should one expect from such an event? An Amazon carnival? A beautiful parade of feathers and body–painting? A thrilling competition between “real” athletes trained by the jungle? Or a simple portrait of people trying to find their place in the world?
More than a sports event, it was an opportunity for the daily audience of 3,000 to see how Brazil’s indians are struggling to relate to modern society and each other – protecting their own culture as they assimilate to urban life.
to play and be played
I teach Orwell’s 1984 to my junior-level students, and I recall humbly how easy it is to be both played and to play others. And I urge my students to be authentic in their relationships with the friends, parents, and teachers in their lives, while knowing, all along, that capitalism and patriotism and all the other –isms that swarm all around us are actively trying to manipulate us into some course of action or another.
traveling in yezidi land
I had been hearing about the Yezidi people who live in villages near Dohuk. Followers of an ancient religion, whose proponents claim it is the oldest in the world, there are thought to be about a half million Yezidis, living mostly in the area of Mosul, with smaller bands in forgotten villages scattered across Northern Iraq, Syria, Turkey and other lands. Saddam had labeled the Yezidis "Devil Worshippers," a claim I'd heard other Iraqis make, but no source offered substantiation. I wanted to know more.
Nearly everything I heard pronounced as fact about Yezidis was certain in only one narrow sense: before long, someone equally confident of their information would provide a different set of facts. The only way to find the truth would be to talk with Yezidis in situ, so I asked an interpreter in Dohuk to take me to a Yezidi village.
This wasn't my first foray in search of mythic danger. I'd learned some things from when I tracked down cannibals in the jungles of northern India. A current anthropological rap sheet is of paramount necessity before venturing alone into the wild. Safety first is my motto.
"Will they kill me?" I asked.
"Of course not!" he answered immediately, incredulous at the very idea. "They are Yezidi! They are good people."
"Just asking." I said, thinking safety first.
a little more magic
Barren 12,000-foot (3,650-meter) peaks rise sharply around La Paz, Bolivia, the world's highest capital at 11,200 feet (3,400 meters).
On Cerro Cumbre, a mountain clearing that La Paz residents call holy ground, the wind carries the smoke—and smell—of animal sacrifice.
Margarita Quispe Acho, a self-described witch, is performing a ritual that her grandmother taught her. Through prayer and a burnt offering of llama fetuses, Acho asks Pachamama, a god that many Bolivians call Mother Earth, to bring health, happiness, and especially prosperity.
Acho and other witches, medicine women, folk doctors, astrologers, fortunetellers, and sorcerers live and work on the Calle Linares, a cobblestone street in an old quarter of La Paz known for generations as the Mercado de las Brujas, or Witches' Market.
the city that touches the clouds
Founded in 1548 by Alonso de Mendoza at the site of the Native American settlement called Chuquiago, the full name of the city was originally Nuestra Señora de La Paz (meaning Our Lady of Peace). The name commemorated the restoration of peace following the insurrection of Gonzalo Pizarro and fellow conquistadors two years earlier against Blasco Núñez Vela, the first viceroy of Peru. In 1825, after the decisive victory of the republicans at Ayacucho over the Spanish army in the course of the South American Wars of Independence, the city's full name was changed to La Paz de Ayacucho (meaning The Peace of Ayacucho).
uros on titicaca
The floating islands are man-made, created from cane, or cane-brake (totora), pulled away from the bottom of the lake by the movement of the waters. Walking on the 'ground' surface was very strange, essentially walking on reeds. Even the huts and most of the boats are made of cane. The boats are used for fishing as well as for collecting cane when it's needed for restoring the islands as the lower levels rot away in the salt water.
As numerous as the dances themselves are the lavish and colorful outfits the dancers wear. They range from multi-hued polleras (layered skirts) donned by barefoot female dancers to the short skirts, fringed shawls and bowler hats used in the highland version of the marinera dance. For centuries the Indians in the altiplano were accustomed to working hard, then celebrating their special days with gusto. In fact, many of the dances incorporate features of the most repressive times for the Indians with dancers dressed as mine overseers or cruel landowners characters that are mocked during the festivities. It is difficult to find a month in Puno without at least one elaborate festival, which is always accompanied by music and dance.
For the Incas, the valley of the Urubamba river is the entry point to the jungle, the Antisuyo, the amazon, the land of the chunchos. The river's ancient name was Willka Mayu or Sun River, and the snowy peak which was its source was called Willkan Uta or "the house of the sun". This valley was inextricably linked to the worship of the sun, since willka is the quechua term for the sun god, a word which was formerly preferred to the now popular inti.
Cusco or Qosqo was built at 3.400m in the shape of an enormous puma (see picture above right). The body of the puma contained the most important palaces, temples and governmental buildings while the fortress just outside the city, known as Sacsayhuamán, formed the head of this sacred animal.
In pictures: Kalash spring festival
Tucked away in the mountains of northern Pakistan, the tiny Kalash minority celebrate the end of winter in May each year with the Joshi (spring) festival. It is a time to give thanks for the end of the harsh weather and to celebrate the arrival of the more productive spring months. Until recently the Kalash had no calendars or watches. They work out the festival dates by the position of the sun.
land of the jaguar, of the condor
Countdown: 4 days, 19 hours, 24 minutes
The more ancient character inherent in it was displayed in the presence of deities many of which were little better than mere totems, and although a definite monotheism or worship of one god appears to have been reached, it was not by the efforts of the priestly caste that this was achieved, but rather by the will of the Inca Pachacutic, who seems to have been a monarch gifted with rare insight and ability-a man much after the type of the Mexican Nezahualcoyotl.
In Inca times the religion of the people was solely directed by the state, and regulated in such a manner that independent theological thought was permitted no outlet. But it must not be inferred from this that no change had ever come over the spirit of Peruvian religion. As a matter of fact sweeping changes had been effected, but these had been solely the work of the Inca race, the leaders of which had amalgamated the various faiths of the peoples whom they had conquered into one official belief.
A Stand Against Assimilation
"In the past we used to learn from elders and have no written history or learning," says Luke Rehmat, a member of the dwindling 3,000-strong Kalash community nestled in the mountains of the Hindu Kush in northern Pakistan. "We want to preserve our culture, but it is also very necessary to get a good education for all, including women." Until recently, the lifestyle of the Kalash had changed little since the community was established, according to their oral history, by settlers from Alexander the Great's armies in 377 BC.
It happens all the time: during an airport delay the man to the left, a Korean perhaps, starts talking to the man opposite, who might be Colombian, and soon they are chatting away in what seems to be English. But the native English speaker sitting between them cannot understand a word.
the cunning folk
The term ‘Cunning Folk’ appears to be Anglo Saxon in origin and was in common usage from around about the 14th century up until the early 20th. It referred to a professional practitioners of magic, people who employed magical means to find lost or stolen property, cure ills, find a loved one or protect a livelihood, for a price. They came mostly from the upper end of the lower class (literacy was often essential as many cunning folk were self taught) and were often artisans or craftsmen as well as cunning folk (this, it is thought, gave them enough flexibility to see clients and a useful cover for their practice which was for most of it’s history existed in a legal grey area).
They seem to have mostly set up shop around urban areas and in market towns, contrary to the common idea of a rural wise-folk, because they would be guaranteed more trade there. Often they started off as herbalists and medics before branching out into charms, astrology and other more magical activity such as finding thieves or curing a bewitching. Contrary to the more modern ideas they weren’t witches, from records of the age it seems that there was a distinct difference in peoples minds between witches (who were generally considered as malicious) and Cunning Folk (who were often called on to remove witchcraft). Neither however were they enlightened occultists, a large number of these practitioners appeared to be in the game for purely altruistic reasons and some were downright bastards, using a variety of tricks and deceptions to fool their clients with a few going so far as to actually slowly poison them to ensure continued business.
This maybe painting a generally bleak picture of Cunning Folk so it’s worth pointing out that from what I’ve read so and the talk I attended last night that a lot of the historical evidence of Cunning Folk comes from their detractors and trial transcripts, the practice of a cunning trade was illegal throughout most of their history and the practice of a magical trade meant walking a legal knife edge. Considered at first Diabolical and later purely fraudulent it is probably a better reflection on their trade that so few of them were ever arrested and tried, this seems to suggest to me that the majority of them went quietly about their business without causing undue attention. If we use as a modern comparison the Yoga movement today, a historian in a hundred years time is probably going to find more information on these folks than he/she will on the many other thousands of teachers.
Hawaiian is the only indigenous language in the United States that showed growth in the 2000 census... About 200,000 of Hawaii's 1.2 million people are of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Hawaiian is recognized, along with English, in the state Constitution as an official state language. Some lawmakers want to require that Hawaiian be used on government signs and in government documents, although two bills on the matter have stalled. The language already is spoken in the islands in a variety of ways. Ceremonies usually include a chant or prayer in Hawaiian, and Hawaiian music with lyrics in the native language are making people more aware. There even is a new Hawaiian music category for the Grammy Awards.
not all who wander are lost
"Gypsies" in the United States [via plep]
Several groups, all known to outsiders as "Gypsies," live today in the United States. In their native languages, each of the groups refers to itself by a specific name, but all translate their self-designations as "Gypsy" when speaking English. Each had its own cultural, linguistic, and historical tradition before coming to this country, and each maintains social distance from the others.
Belief in cargo reflects long-standing beliefs in Melanesian cultures. The exchange of goods and objects of wealth are a fundamental way in which communities and social relationships are maintained. Through generous giving, individuals gain power. The 'big man' is the one who has the most to give, who is followed by his community and may even become a local prophet. This focus on wealth was linked to a belief that the ancestors continue to have influence over a community long after their death. Melanesians believe that ancestors speak to them in dreams, providing instructions for 'proper living' and foresight of the future. They further believe that their ancestors will one day come back to life, bearing unimaginable wealth and secure the long-term future of their community. Cargo prophets were just another sort of traditional island leader...
In the native view, the Christians worshipped the god Anus. He created Adam and Eve and gave them cargo of canned meat, steel tools, rice in bags and matches. He took it all away when they discovered sex and he sent a flood to destroy them, but he gave Noah a big wooden steamboat and made him the captain so he would survive. When Ham disobeyed his father his cargo was taken away and he was sent to New Guinea. Now his descendants were being given a chance to reform and regain their cargo. All through the twenties the natives patiently worked hard, sang hymns and prayed to Anus. But by the thirties it became clear that the missionaries were lying; they had been good Christians and worked hard, but it was the foreign bosses who did no work that got all the cargo.
The Andaman and Niobar Islands are the home to four Negrito and two Indo-Mongoloid tribes. Those belonging to the Negrito racial stock - Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese - are still at hunting-gathering stage of economy. Small in number, sensitive and isolated, they have been under severe stress. The Indo-Mongoloid group of the Nicobarese, relatively sturdy and resilient, have accepted the challenge of change and have prospered and multiplied. The other Mongoloid community, the Shompen, semi nomadic and living in small, scattered settlements, still shy away from outsiders. They are somewhat better off than the Great Andamanese and the Onge, whose numbers have sharply dwindled. However they are not as remote as the Sentinelese and the Jarawa.
"...the surviving Wanniya-laeto community retains much of its own distinctive cyclic worldview, prehistoric cultural memory, and time-tested knowledge of their semi-evergreen dry monsoon forest habitat that has enabled their ancestor-revering culture to meet the diverse challenges to their collective identity and survival."
Nguzo Saba: the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. These values are called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles.
In 1994, hopes were high that the agency could fight their cause and secure a declaration on the rights of indigenous people, to stand alongside the universal declaration on human rights. But the declaration lies unsigned, and the UN's own test - a measurable improvement in the lives of some 250m indigenous people in around 70 countries - seems unlikely to have been met. Many indigenous campaigners say they are frustrated at the failure of diplomatic moves to improve life for some of the world's most disadvantaged people. But most have welcomed stronger links between their indigenous groups and interested organisations, and a sense of growing political power.
Fooey to the World: Festivus Is Come
Gather around the Festivus pole and listen to a tale about a real holiday made fictional and then real again, a tale that touches on philosophy, King Lear, the pool at the Chateau Marmont hotel, a paper bag with a clock inside and, oh yes, a television show about nothing.
The first surprise is that from Tampa Bay, Fla., to Washington, from Austin, Tex., to Oxford, Ohio, many real people are holding parties celebrating Festivus, a holiday most believe was invented on an episode of "Seinfeld" first broadcast the week before Christmas in 1997.
Japanese Fairy Tales (via MeFi)
Onward Tibet is a beautiful gallery of images and sounds from a trek to that magical (yet occupied) land of ancient knowledge.
While the photos on this website present an image of Tibet as a peaceful, serene land filled with beauty and joy, the reality that lies beneath could not be further from that. The ability of Tibetans to be a fundamentally joyful, peaceful, and welcoming people, while continuing their day to day struggle to survive, serves as a primary inspiration for both the work I do for Tibet, as well as in my own personal life.
More on Ladakh:
Lewis and Clark re-enactment evokes
Lewis and Clark re-enactment evokes tension [via MeFi]
Two hundred years after Lewis and Clark's tense encounter with Black Buffalo's Teton Sioux, historical re-enactors following the explorers' route have received a blunt warning from some American Indians. "All you did by coming up into our territory is open old wounds," said Alex White Plume, a Lakota from Pine Ridge, S.D., who was among a group of Indians who met Saturday with expedition leaders, including a direct descendant of Capt. William Clark. The expedition members had invited the Indians to their camp on the Missouri River to express their concerns about the re-enactment. About 25 Indian men, women and children came carrying a banner asking, "Why celebrate genocide?" "We're here to ask you to turn around and go home," White Plume said. "Don't proceed through our territory."
Mary's Walk through Africa
My friend and colleague Mary Walker has been on quite an adventure in Africa, taking absolutely amazing photographs. Here are two albums of her journeys so far: Trip to Nkhoma Mountain (Malawi) and Safari Adventure (Tanzania).
Omniglot: a guide to
Omniglot: a guide to abjads, alphabets, syllabaries and other writing systems... fascinating and thorough!
Rocinha is the largest slum,
Rocinha is the largest slum, or favela, in Rio. This traveler handed out several disposable cameras to the children who live there, and this is what happened...
Burning Man: A Black Rock
Burning Man: A Black Rock State of Mind
It is this freedom from commercialization, this brief moment of living the ideal and casting off the shackles of capitalism that make Burning Man such an oasis. Indeed, much of Silicon Valley leaves their cubes and offices for the playa, finding release, escape, and inspiration to bring back home. For now, the ideal can only exist if we work the rest of the year. But for one week we can drop our guard a little, fly our freak flag higher, talk to strangers and invite them into our temporary homes, embrace the land and the beautiful fury of nature, and walk amongst the human imagination as it manifests its vast mysteries into the arms of creation, unfettered and ever on the wing.
The Romany Gypsy Photograph &
quiet american presents one-minute vacations
quiet american presents one-minute vacations
I love doing this, recording the sounds of the environment where I'm travelling. I'm especially excited about this December's Haitian journey and the wonderful music there.
Because I care: How To
telugu= Neenu ninnu pra'mistu'nnanu
The Top 100 Wonders of
My green couch, which is being feted tonight with a gala reception (a "couch warming party"), is 101 on the list. Really.
I am Mahabir Pun. I
I am Mahabir Pun. I would like to take you on a tour of my village (Nangi), and my country (Nepal and the Himalayas). I would like you to learn about our High School in Nangi Village, Nepal. Some people from abroad have visited and worked in Nangi and have interesting stories to tell you of their time here.
10 Quirky Landmarks, including a
10 Quirky Landmarks, including a field of corn (but not a typical field). [via somewhere, I forget where]
Suspiciously superstitious: Superstitions Database •
Suspiciously superstitious: Superstitions Database
• A frog brings good luck to the house it enters.
They apparently haven't heard the
They apparently haven't heard the conversations I have witht the cats: Congo word 'most untranslatable'
The world's most difficult word to translate has been identified as "ilunga" from the Tshiluba language spoken in south-eastern DR Congo.
Today is 'Juneteenth,' which celebrates
Today is 'Juneteenth,' which celebrates the end of slavery in U.S.
With its lighthearted name and tragicomic origins, Juneteenth appeals to many Americans by celebrating the end of slavery without dwelling on its legacy. Juneteenth, celebrators say, is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday without the grieving.
In pictures: An Ethiopian herder's
In pictures: An Ethiopian herder's way of life
The beautiful Japanese art form
The beautiful Japanese art form Ukiyoe, with its everyday scenes of traditional life, has now been welcomed into the 21st century; presenting Ukiyoe Flash.
Bohemian culture 'is now the
"We have to recognise that many of our present assumptions about life have originated from people who, sometimes in very small ways but motivated by revolutionary ideals, hope and defiance of convention, challenged the establishment 100 years ago. In a way, we're all Bohemians now. We can conduct relationships with people from any social class without fear of ostracism, while deploring oppressive, stratified societies."
A journey which resurrects life
The journey of a blouse
It is a hot, brain-stiflingly humid afternoon in the remote Zambian city of Chipata. In a nameless alley on the outskirts of a large open-air market, an extraordinary scrum is going on at my feet. Around 40 women are stooping over a pile of old clothes, pulling out shirts and tops and tossing them this way and that with appreciative squeals. Mary, the stallholder, has just slit open a fresh bale of garments all the way from England.
Images from Madagascar via Plep.
Images from Madagascar via Plep.
Freaks, geeks, and hoochie shows
Memoires of a roadie show: We are now halfway to the town. Every barn we have passed is covered with flaming posters, and dates telling the people when the big show will visit them. Market men are making quick time to reach the town in advance of their competitors, and the result is a perfect cloud of dust kicked up by their big-feet "mules." Young women gaily dressed, and old women hanging on to the stakes of a lumber-wagon, "stare their eyes out" at our mirror-sided bill-wagon, and wonder what the plumes in our horses' head-gear mean. They don't get by us quite so easily as they imagined they would; for Bill has chirruped to "Jim," who starts the whole team in motion, and away we go, leaving the "haybinders" to swallow some of that dust they had circulated for our benefit.
Erinn Go Brach! Extensive index
Erinn Go Brach! Extensive index on Irish lirerature, folklore, myth and drama
The Grittiest Job: Images and
The Grittiest Job: Images and context of America's coal miners. Especially worth visitng and moving are the images of the 'breaker boys' and other children who worked in the mines. A follow up to the earlier post.
Working in the coal mine:
Working in the coal mine: Descent into darkness
How to tell if you're
The following is a first crack at an ostensive definition of 'American culture'-- things shared by the vast majority (let's say 90%) of native-born Americans. Many of these won't sound 'cultural' at all to Americans; they'll sound like just descriptions of the way things are. But each one of them would be contested in one or more non-American cultures.
Anything goes in Rio
It is 2.30 in the morning. On Brazilian television a man in a silly hat is measuring a woman's breasts.
Big Chief says tradition drives
Since 1947, Big Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana, 78, of the Yellow Pocahontas tribe in New Orleans, has continued a family tradition he traces back at least 140 years. Through designing and constructing a new suit almost every year of the 50 he spent masking, Montana has helped to keep the history of Mardi Gras Indians alive.
The Colorful German Festival of
The Colorful German Festival of Fasching
Well, it's Fasching time again - Southwestern Germany's peculiar mix of Catholic Carnival and ancient pagan Rites of Spring all rolled into one. Where we live, in the deepest, darkest part of Germany - the Black Forest - it goes on for the whole week leading up to Lent (falling some time at the end of February, beginning of March, depending on the church calendar for that year). Revelers adorn themselves with elaborately wood-carved masks, which are passed down from generation to generation, and are transformed into witches and devils, forest trolls and swamp ghosts, who will take to the streets to "sweep" winter away, shouting, Naree! Naro!
Traditional knowledge 'in peril'
Forest lore and knowledge passed down over generations by indigenous peoples is open for exploitation by anyone...
Introduction to Tibetan Orthography I'm
I'm an armchair linguist who knows the Japanese and Korean scripts well, and has a nodding acquaintance with many others. I'm no longer shocked by letters and pieces thereof magically disappearing or changing shape or engaging in shameful public acts with each other. I've come to expect baroque and archaic rules and long lists of exceptions. But Tibetan's pure, shameless, in-your-face weirdness still managed to shock me.
Belatedly, Happy Chinese New Year
Belatedly, Happy Chinese New Year (flash)!
In pictures: Lunar New Year
Christiania, the spunky Danish autonomous
Christiania, the spunky Danish autonomous zone near Copenhagen, may soon be shut down after 32 years of self governance. "I built my own house here. I have two young children who are third generation Christianites. I am not going to give all that up without a struggle."
'Kurisumasu' in Japan, courtesy
'Kurisumasu' in Japan, courtesy of MeFi.
Legends of Maneki Neko via
Legends of Maneki Neko via MeFi
Seldom Asked Questions about Japan.
Seldom Asked Questions about Japan. I could read this all day.
Excellent Beeb article on Mauritania.
Excellent Beeb article on Mauritania.
Tsk, tsk, America. It seems
Marrakech Berbers sing to survive
Berber tribes in the Moroccan city of Marrakech are using musical talents once developed as a means of identity to get together money to live.
This has always been one
This has always been one of my favorite urban folktales:
Captured on South Beach, Satan later escaped. His demons and the horrible Bloody Mary are now killing people. God has fled. Avenging angels hide out in the Everglades. And other tales from children in Dade's homeless shelters.
D'you know about the Georgia
D'you know about the Georgia and Carolinas' sea island culture of the Gullah? Mostly known for their crafts which can fetch a pretty penny, the Gullah way of life (which may be endangered) is an interesting synthesis of American and African culture. They speak a unique dialect of English, which you can hear with Aunt Pearlie-Sue's folktales. Of course, there's the food... check out the recipies for Frogmore Stew and other classic island cuisine.
The Mexican tradition of Dia
Hopi dancing in pictures and
Indian Snake Charmer Is an
...activists say that image may soon be a thing of the past as India's fabled snake charmers struggle for survival thanks to a government ban on the possession of many species of snakes.
The Druze community reside in
The Druze community reside in Israel, Lebanon and Syria who've been rather overlooked as the middle-east situation complexifies. Discover (scroll halfway down) an ancient culture and it's faith that have had to adapt to an increasingly unstable climate.
Meteorite strikes Indian village, sparking
Meteorite strikes Indian village, sparking fires and such, while in New Dehli, there's an animal blessing for peace (Note: next weekend is a tradtional Christian animal blessing time, honoring the feast of St. Francis).
Mass wedding in Bombay
Mass wedding in Bombay More than 500 couples from the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community have taken part in a mass wedding in Bombay (Mumbai).
Overheard in the London tubes,
Overheard in the London tubes, via MeFi
This eternal truth is above the logic of force, the concept of environment, or the terminology of society. Go figure.
She was at the party when an ant fell out of her nose. No-one knows where it came from.
I am composed of thousands of tiny pixels.
Everything Morrissey predicted in the 80s is coming true.
That girl in the leather coat has an Adam's apple.
Agayuliyararput: Our Way of Making
Agayuliyararput: Our Way of Making Prayer
The most 'average' place in
The most 'average' place in England: Just an average day in Average Town
A toutes les visiteurs francais,
A toutes les visiteurs francais, enjoyez bien les celebrations pour l'independance de la republique! Vive la France! Bastille Day
Tribe of 'sea gypsies' discovered
Tribe of 'sea gypsies' discovered "They have found that children of the Moken tribe, who wander among islands scattered off the coasts of Thailand and Burma, can see submerged objects more than twice as sharply as European children."
Blue Bird Escape also blogs
Blue Bird Escape also blogs from Tehran. Scroll down for an amazing, moving and poignant poem. What she described reminds me oddly of my experiences in Haiti.
"Even though the choices are little
Even though women are not given enough
Even though there is no way beyond the mountains
As TV enters the Kingdom
Great Concept: Backpack Nation "The
Great Concept: Backpack Nation
"The basic mission and strategy of Backpack Nation is to transform the world's dire political situation by sending individual travelers from the developed countries to serve as roving ambassadors to the world's less-wealthy countries."
I feel fortunate that I've done this sort of thing in Haiti, Hungary, Poland and greatly look forward to a similar jaunt next year in either Honduras or Vietnam. Link ripped lovingly from MeFi.
Comedy in Brunei"Comedy is at
Comedy in Brunei"Comedy is at its merriest and most festive when the rhythm of life can be affirmed within the civilised context of human society," Hj Ahmad was quoted as saying.
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are Copyright 2005 by theodore "jay" joslin and joyous jostling studios. Thank you, Wanderer, for All.
i am jay joslin: a spirit-fed mountain hopping lover of everything, an ordained lefty-veggie-homo, and bon-vivant go-go dancing with all the messenger mockingbirds of morning.
Progressive Voice of the Mountains
Free Radio Asheville
Eclectic Music for Mountain Folks
(see rights notice at bottom)
Keep it even,
"Not all who wander
You contain everything
Everything contains you
If you desire the Infinite,
look no further than the window.
Ten Considerations for Being Well n this Goofy Universe
0. If you find yourself
wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor. 1. Always be of service to
the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being
of service to your becoming Whole. 2. You will be called upon
to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never
turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in
their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night
that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to
share . 3. The rewards of being
true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met
with nothing. 4. You’ll also see that
knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own
struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but
yours is the power to choose it. 5. You’ll find that some of
your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s
okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them
I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I
tried it on. 6. Your growth will be a
mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you
strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing
minutes. Don’t count on second chances. 7. In those times when
everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t
forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are
a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle
to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re
having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic
flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that
there’s a little of each one hidden in both. 8. Respond as best as you
can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any
situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF,
leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in. 9. Whatever you’re doing,
celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got
when you’re done. Magic lives in the action. 9 ½ . All matter is energy.
All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short
time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came.
Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy
that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a
sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore,
why be bored? 9 3/4 . Choosing to live in
the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling
obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to
continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there
with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences. 10. The Universe itself it
not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered ,
butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So,
whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as
best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy,
unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.
0. If you find yourself wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor.
1. Always be of service to the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being of service to your becoming Whole.
2. You will be called upon to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to share .
3. The rewards of being true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met with nothing.
4. You’ll also see that knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but yours is the power to choose it.
5. You’ll find that some of your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I tried it on.
6. Your growth will be a mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing minutes. Don’t count on second chances.
7. In those times when everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that there’s a little of each one hidden in both.
8. Respond as best as you can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF, leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in.
9. Whatever you’re doing, celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got when you’re done. Magic lives in the action.
9 ½ . All matter is energy. All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came. Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore, why be bored?
9 3/4 . Choosing to live in the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences.
10. The Universe itself it not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered , butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So, whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy, unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.