Traditionalism and Folklore

Ananda Coomaraswamy and René Guénon touched upon folklore as a vehicle for metaphysics, but never made an extensive study of it. What would it take to mount a truly Traditionalist study of the metaphysical aspects of world folklore and myth?

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“Fair Nottamun Town”: Mystical and Alchemical Symbolism in an Appalachian Folk Song

One of the trademarks of traditional Appalachian folk singer Jean Ritchie is a song called “Fair Nottamun Town,” which passed to her through her family. (Bob Dylan used the same tune for his song “Masters of War.”) She tells how she and her sisters, as children, used to sit in the evenings on the porch of their farmhouse near the town of Hazard in Perry County, Kentucky, and try to untangle its meaning. In later years, on a trip to England, she learned that “Nottamun Town” is a version of the English mummer-song “Nottingham Town,” and that the song has a taboo on it: whoever figures out its meaning will lose all of his or her luck.

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Traditionalism and Folklore

Among the Traditionalists, Ananda Coomaraswamy and René Guénon touched upon folklore, but never made an extensive study of it. And Martin Lings, in the anthology Sword of Gnosis, did a metaphysical exegesis of a Lithuanian folk song. That’s about the extent of the Traditionalist treatment of folklore, though Rama Coomaraswamy told me that his father Ananda had made a collection of folk songs with a view toward a metaphysical treatment of them, but never finished the project.

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