Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Oral History

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," mighty in our whitey-tighties! We vastly prefer pajamas to nighties. All righty?

Yesterday I wrote about not reading up on my religion, rather just sort of going with the flow of it and picking up this and that as I move along. This goes along with my experience of religion as an extra-sensory aspect of life. Like, I would rather be in a trance than bake a casserole and go to CCD.

I didn't make myself clear in the previous post. I said that Druids didn't write anything down. This is because they transmitted knowledge orally. The most knowledgeable among them had prodigious memories.

The Celts were not the only culture that used this method. Let us not forget Homer and his ancient pals. Imagine being able to say the whole Iliad from memory! But people used to be able to do that.

This brings me to the benefits of oral transmission of knowledge. The knowledge can change as conditions do. In other words, if you've been taught orally that the Earth is the center of the universe, and some scientist comes along and proves this not to be the case, you can pass along to your students the newly-discovered fact without having to re-publish all your literature.

Druidry appeals to me because, in this modern world, it allows for the incorporation of scientific advances (indeed, encourages these, so long as they're ethical). One doubts that Druids were strict constructionists in law, either. Times change, circumstances change, and the wise person embraces this reality.

Thus it is possible to be a good Druid and also believe in evolution, stem cell research, the abolition of human slavery, and research into stain-repellent upholstery fabrics.

Personally I wish we moderns put more emphasis on orally-transmitted information, be it poetry or family legends or quadratic equations. I fear that this part of our brains is atrophying for lack of use. We can't always assume that computers -- or even paper and pens -- will be around to help us recall things. The Druids depended upon their brains for storage. Not a bad plan.

*I would like to thank everyone who suggested stain removals for the unfortunate accident on my armchair. I wish I didn't have perfect upholstery as a personal goal/obsession, but what are you gonna do?

*Postscript to a pesky troll: Billy, don't comment on my web log. If you call yourself a gentleman, you won't leave comments here. If you consider yourself intelligent, you will not comment here. If you want to engage in spirited dialogue, I highly recomment Stuff God Hates. There's plenty of room for you there.


Maebius said...

What she said!
(with tongue firmly in cheek, and a winking nod to Coyote. Pun intended)

Nettle said...

Funny you mention quadratic equations. I still remember the quadratic formula - "x equals negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus four a c all over 2a!" solely because the teacher had us learn it as a chant. Not from the book, and we hadn't even learned what a quadratic equation was yet - we had to memorize the song FIRST and then move on to the books and math problems.

At the time I thought that was kind of nutty but here I am, twenty years later, still ready to solve quadratic equations whenever they come up in my life. (They haven't, ever, but that's not really the point.)

THE Michael said...

I, equally, am amazed at the total lack of utility I have found in any algebraic equation I ever failed to memorize (memorization being that thing that only works when you work it over and over again). Now, if I find some sort of task that absolutely requires a mathematic solution in order to complete, I LOOK THE DAMN THING UP IN A BOOK, where, thanks to the printing press and libraries and other such repositories of knowledge, IT IS WRITTEN DOWN FOR ALL TO REFER TO, WHEN, I might add, SUCH KNOWLEDGE IS ACTUALLY REQUIRED. gasp!

I'm sorry, but I have issues with math beyond addition, subraction, mulitiplication, and division. All else is obtuse.........

Anonymous said...

Anne, have you seen this? It's an article about vultures on Slate!


Vulture World, by Constance Casey, Posted Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, at 7:21 AM ET.

IX said...

I've always felt I've lived a richer life hearing the family ghost stories and legends my grandfather told me.

I just want to be able to have new stories of the same type to tell my grandkids.

Celestite said...

Storytelling is a dying art, if not already deceased.
Storytellers didn't just tell stories, they told the oral history of the family, clan, tribe, nation.

Since written history is written by the victors....I wonder if oral history was any more accurate?

yellowdog granny said...

druids and american indians..like to pass things down in stories..

I wondered how long it was going to take you to snap on BBC...snort*

this is where i get to be a royal asshole and say"i told you so".

Morning Angel said...

This same issue came up on a Heathen forum the other day; oral history, that is.

I was saying that my mom couldn't tell you the names of her great-grandparents, but the Vikings of the Icelandic Sagas had entire family trees (and associated stories) memorized over hundreds of years, long before they were written down after 1000-ish AD.

I consider my on-going genealogy research a big part of my Heathen practice...to learn and to preserve the Kindred.

+++I like the concept of the Druids sans records, too, but BUGGER 'EM! It sure made it hard on historians!!!

Mente said...

I wonder if there is a connection between the rising prevalence of memory-loss among our Elders, the loss of reliance on oral-traditions, and the busyness of our modern lives where Elders and their knowledge are consigned to the unkindness of strangers?

As for being about to count back our lineage; how many of you know all the lyrics to a song? Or can retell a long and complicated joke and get the punch-line right?

Doh! Compose your song or tell your story as an amusing anecdote....think outside the Box.

Maebius said...

Mente makes a very interesting point. I am known for an almost unwilling ability to suck up song lyrics and imbed them in my brain. New song plays once on a radio, I know it a month later.
so, I wonder, do our brains still have the ability, and we simply are presented with different media-experiences (books, etc) so that part of the brain doesn't flex enough in modern times, or seeks to fill that gap as best it can elsewhere....? Hmm....