Monday, May 26, 2014

Oshun: West African Goddess

Gods and goddesses play significant roles in various mythologies because it is believed that they are powerful and omnipotent. For example, Oshun, a Yoruban (Nigeria) goddess, is responsible for wealth, romance, beauty and ardor. She is credited with being benevolent, kind-hearted and giving. At other times, she has a bad temper that is often kept in check. Unleashed it is said to be a source of great chaos and destruction.

Her love stories are many. Here are two:
·One of the more common stories about her involves her love for king-dancer Shango, the god of thunder and lightning. The day she met him a drum festival, she became his wife.
·Aj√©-Shaluga, a river spirit, fell in love with her one day when she went there to clean her dress. He offered money and gems he collected from the bottom of the river. She used his offering to set free her children.
·A representative of unseen motherly love, she was the only female of 16 Yoruban spirits sent to create the world. As such, she is also revered as "Yeye" - the great mother.

Oshun's presence is worshiped in various countries. In Brazil she is known as Osun or Oxum. In Cuba her name is also  Oshun Ibu Anya—patron of dancing and the Anya drums.
These stories and more, based upon the Yoruban mythology are folktales that reflect the basic beliefs of the Yoruban people and have been passed down from generation to generation.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Civil War Songs

Confederate & Yankee Folk Music

Folk songs are songs in which the music and text have been handed down by oral tradition among the people of a specific geographic area. Themes usually revolve around three primary motifs: love of self, god and country.

In the library of American folk songs are the tunes of the Civil War. This battle lasted for four long years, and during these years, numerous songs and ballads were composed. From its inception - when Confederate warships bombarded Union soldiers in South Carolina on  April 12, 1861 to the final battle fought in Texas the Spring of 1865 - soldiers caroled about being brave and about patriotism for the side they were fighting for.

Fifers accompanied drummers and human voices did the rest. The songs sung during that time belong to several different categories, including inspirational marching songs to boost morale, traditional negro spirituals, songs about home and for those at home, songs about loved ones away at war. 
Interestingly, drumbeats were originally used to tell soldiers what to do and to help keep them instep. The shrill sound of the fife could easily be heard above most, but not all battlefield sounds.

Buglers, too, were important because they sounded out commands, like morning reveille, night time taps, and advance and retreat.
Many, but not all of the ballads and songs have been written down and/or recorded. Partially because folk music has been around a lot longer than documenting them has been. 

Here are some examples we found on Youtube:

I’m A Good Ol’ Rebel
Civil War Songs
The Rebel Yell of Civil War Veterans

Monday, May 12, 2014

May Folk Heroes

Bonnie & Clyde

What kind of folk heroes would kill 13 people and rob numerous banks? That would be the famous gangster couple Bonnie and Clyde. This folk hero duo chose to live outside the law, resulting in tragedy or triumph depending on how you look at it.Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow first met in January 1930. Bonnie was just 19 years old, while Clyde was 20 years old. From 1932-1934, during the height of the Great Depression, their gang evolved from petty thieves to nationally known bank robbers and murderers. On May 23, 1934, their spree ended when they were betrayed by a friend and shot dead at a police roadblock in Louisiana. While the duo is mainly known for their murderous ways, there are many not so known facts about Bonnie and Clyde. Here are just a few: 
Bonnie wore a wedding ring…but it wasn’t Clyde’s.Bonnie and Clyde may have claimed to be married, but Bonnie was actually legally married to her first husband, Roy Thornton. She was still wearing his wedding ring the day that she died and had their names tattooed on her knee.
Bonnie was an honor student.Bonnie was a very bright student during her school days.She excelled at creative writing and poetry, and continued to write during her bank robbing days.  
Clyde was rejected by the Navy.As a teenager, Clyde tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy. However, lingering effects from a serious illness resulted in him being rejected for medical reasons. Clyde had already tattooed "USN" on his left arm. 
Bonnie and Clyde were buried separately.While the couple wished to be buried side by side, Bonnie's mother would not allow it. She disapproved of her relationship with Clyde and had her daughter buried in a separate Dallas Cemetary. Clyde, on the other hand, was buried next to his brother, Marvin.
Click here for more interesting facts:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Asian Spring Festival: South Korea


Around the world spring and summer months are packed with festivals and fairs that keep traditional folklore – food, dance, art – alive. One of the most prestigious of the Asian festivals is the Dano Spring Festival. South Korean refer to it as the “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. 
Dano falls on the 5th day of May in the Korean lunar calendar and despite the festive fun and games of it all, was created to ward off evil spirits believed to cause bad harvests and illness. Superstitions related to the festival include women washing their hair in iris-infused water and men wearing iris roots around their waist, among other activities.
Throughout the celebration, everyone enjoys traditional games, rituals, and foods of South Korea’s colorful culture. One of the most popular games is Ssireum-a folk style wrestling match where the winner gets a bull. A little better than your average gold medal, right?
 Ssireum embodies the spirit of the Korean people because it combines the test of physical strength with the ability to keep balanced. Other games include  Jeh Gi Cha Gi (shuttlecook), Jool Dah Li Gi (tug-of-war), and Tae Kwon Do.
Traditionally, men focus on displays of physical strength and women’s events highlight their ‘feminine’ nature because this is the prime day to fall in love. South Koreans believe that the lunar 5th of May is when all the energies of the universe harmonize into one. There are other important lunar days throughout the year like January 1st, February 2nd, and March 3rd, but this festival is the most widely celebrated.
 Every culture enjoys special days where traditions are shared.   This is at the heart of folklore.