North Carolina Folklore

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Information about North Carolina Folklore

Published on November 17, 2008

Author: EdgrT


North Carolina Folklore : North Carolina Folklore Dr. Tom Shields NCST 2000 Introduction to North Carolina Studies Fall 2008 What is Folklore? : What is Folklore? Folklore The root of the term is folk, which implies that it is something passed along orally, that is by word of mouth, rather than in a more formal and controlled manner (such as by book, film, recording, etc.) There is a range of folk materials: Folklore and folklife—general terms that include beliefs, myths, tales, practices of a people, etc., transmitted orally Specific forms of folklore may be folk music, folktales, folk medicine, folk art People often overlook the more general idea of folkways—practices, customs, and beliefs shared by the members of a group as part of their common culture The Purpose of Folklore : The Purpose of Folklore One important result of a group’s folklore and folkways is to give a sense of group cultural identity Groups can be as broad as Americans or North Carolinians or as small as ECU students, a neighborhood, or an individual family Folklore and folkways promote shared ideals through such things as cautionary folktales or activities that promote group cohesiveness A story such as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is a cautionary tale, warning children not to lie A town’s Fourth of July celebration is an activity that promotes group cohesiveness, both as Americans and as members of the town Examples of Folk Traditions : Examples of Folk Traditions The North Carolina Folklore Society web site <> gives a good overview of the variety of folk traditions: “A church congregation sings hymns guided by a song leader with geometric shapenotes. Children swap handclapping chants in a city park. Beach vacationers dance the shag at a coastal nightspot. In the twilight of Easter dawn, a Moravian band picks up the tune of a brass anthem from another church orchestra down an Old Salem street. Cape Fear pilots tell stories of navigational mishaps, and mill workers play pranks. At a summer reunion, urban and rural branches of a family talk and share foodways. Descendants of German settlers welcome the New Year with musket shooting, while African-Americans cook a good luck recipe of black-eyed peas. As his wife carves baskets able to carry water, a Cherokee woodcarver shapes a native-wood block into an ancient tribal totem.” The Effect of Folklife : The Effect of Folklife The North Carolina Folklore Society site goes on to highlight what the purpose and effect of folklore is: “Through traditions, North Carolinians express their sense of family, community, and place. Handed down by informal talk and example, such activities and materials form the folklife of North Carolina's peoples. This rich cultural heritage teaches and expresses values, delights and entertains, links generations, and sometimes just passes time. But always it connects people and gives lives meaning beyond the present.” Folklore as Familiar : Folklore as Familiar Think about the sorts of folklore and folkways in your own life Too often we associate folklore with the exotic or colorful Remember, for people who belong to a culture, most of its associated folklore and folkways doesn’t seem unusual because it is part of the everyday lore Folkways in Your Own Life : Folkways in Your Own Life As a way of beginning to think about folkways in your own life, consider traditions that your family, church, or community may have about how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas Just to start with foodways, what does your family eat at Thanksgiving? How does this food reflect your family’s background and/or the part of North Carolina (or another state) that you live? Does your family serve ham and turkey? Ham is a southern tradition, strong in many parts of North Carolina because of its strong connections to pork production Does your family serve cornbread or wheat bread stuffing? Does it have chestnuts or apples or oysters in it? Does your family not celebrate Thanksgiving? Why? What does this say about your family’s sense of identity? Everything from turkey shoots to Christmas lighting displays to church pageants to family gift giving traditions are folkways

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