Category Archives: 2009

Nummer 1


A.K.L. THIJS

Een onbescheiden blik in de portefeuille van de Volkskunde-redacteur: Victor de Meyere (1873-1938) bespied met het bricoleren met kopij

Summary: An indiscreet look onto the portfolio of a Volkskunde editor: watching Victor de Meyere (1873-1938) tinkering with a copy.
Unedited copy of Victor de Meyere’s portfolio for volume 1938 of the Volkskunde magazine
Recently, a printing ready copy was found for issue 4-6 of volume 1938 of the Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor Volkskunde. This issue was never published due to the sudden death of editor and owner V. de Meyere at the end of 1938. The manuscript contains folk tales, songs and information about folk belief and children’s games. It provides us with an impression of what 1938 folklorists were interested in. It also shows how V. de Meyere proceeded when laboriously composing an issue of his magazine.
The fact that his texts remained unpublished, is characterizing for the discontinuity between the Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor Volkskunde and the Nieuwe Reeks van Volkskunde which appeared as from 1940.

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H. GEYBELS

Christelijke privé- en massadevotie: verrassend postmodern!

Summary: Christian private and mass devotion; surprisingly post modernistic!
After a critical justification of the formulation of the title, the author moves away from the pessimism of many intellectuals as if the days of Christianity were counted. The fact that quantitative information concerning religious perception is susceptible to relativization and differentiation is illustrated by means of examples: the success of small chapels, processions, rituals concerning the life cycle and the cult of Maria. Apparently, a paradox has arisen between decay and revival. He explains this surprising contradiction by analyzing the post modernistic, fragmented culture (of belief). It is characterized by detraditionalization, pluralization and individualization.
Constant elements in the contemporary Christian private and mass devotion are the many personal ritual customs, texts, chants, music and saint images. They are also frequently identified in non-acknowledged cult places are so to speak readily available for modern man.

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M. A. VAN DEN BROEK

Holland en de Hollanders in Duitse spreekwoorden en gezegden.

Summary: Holland and the Dutch in German proverbs and sayings
The sixteenth century marks the tradition of German proverbs and saying in which an image is reflected of Holland and its people. In the beginning, it is mostly the trade spirit and his sense for business that are positively portrayed. However, the Dutchman is also viewed as rude and impolite. In the eighteenth century – a period of cultural and economic decline – the image becomes distinctly negative.
The once admired trade spirit is increasingly considered as a petit bourgeois mentality and the Dutchman is portrayed as a narrow-minded, money coveting creature, stopped by nothing or by nobody.
Other negative aspects found in proverbs and sayings are the noisy behavior, an unrestrained mentality and an innate rudeness.
Stupidity and anxiety are also considered to be typically Dutch and are proverbially exposed.
By far the most proverbs and sayings come from the border region and are given in the original dialect version.
An alphabetic register and an overview of the most quoted sources complete the picture.

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M.M.A.C. LANGENHUIJSEN

Genealogie en curriculum van een fabeldier: de basilisk

Summary: Genealogy and the curriculum of a mythical animal: the basilisk
At the beginning of our era, the basilisk, a mythical animal, was thought to be a snake. The king cobra had probably stood model for the animal. About a thousand years later, it appears to have undergone a metamorphosis into a cock with a snake’s tail. The habit of picturing snakes with wings and/or claws, but also the Mesopotamic scorpion birdman, might have played some role in the transfiguration. As the mythical animal sprouted from nature, so did it return to it. The taxonomist Linnaeus gave a group of basilisk-like iguanas the generic name Basiliscus. The real basilisk has one other mythical quality: its ability to run an water.

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Category: 2009

Nummer 2


A.K.L. THIJS

Den Lustelijcken Mey. Het incipit van een populair lied gerecycleerd tot titel van een devotieboekje door Paulus Fabri (Brussel, 1600)

Summary: “Den Lustelijcken Mey“, an ambiguous incipit of a popular devotional booklet “Den Lustelijcken Mey” is the opening line of two quite different songs, a religious and a romantic one. Paulus Fabri, a priest, remarkably
chose this ambiguous incipit as the title for a devotional booklet, printed by Jan Mommaert (Brussels, 1600). In fact “lustelijck” means ‘pleasant’ as well as ‘voluptuous’, whereas “mei” refers either to the month of Mayor to a maypole and a branch with leaves. In this booklet his maypole symbolizes Jezus Christ, the mystical groom-to-be of Catharina van Ouerbeeck, the young woman, for whom Fabri wrote the booklet. She was a novice in the convent of the Annunciates in Leuven and was about to take her monastic vows in May. The Rev. Fabri had a non-elite and mostly female audience in mind. He strongly emphasized the devotion for the Passion of Christ and tried to impart a more authentic religious conviction to his readers. In that respect he incorporated a song in his booklet that was to underline the powerlessness of mankind without God’s grace. Particularly interesting for the ethnologist is Fabri’s information about the way youngsters celebrated the beginning of May by placing a decorated branch-with-­leaves in front of the window of their beloved ones. He also noted that in the last night of April soldiers put a “mei”, more specifically in front of their officer’s accom­modation. The ethnologist finds in this booklet data about aspects of both material and immaterial culture. Fabri proved himself to be a careful observant of traditional practices in different trades.

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D. CALLEWAERT

Wat is er aan de hand? Hand, vingers en vuist in taal en omgang, recht, religie en magie

Summary: Hand, fingers and fist in communication, usage, law, popular religion, and magic
The hand, fingers and fist have played and important role and not only to handle. They are essential in non-verbal communication. They can help in measuring, coun­ting and reckoning or in fortune telling (palmistry). The hand of blessing, the mano poderosa, the hand of Fatima / Miriam, the hand of evil, the hand of glory, etc are well-known elements in white and black magic. Handsel, mortmain, left-handed marriage and handfast wedding used to be important aspects of everyday life. The hand, fingers and fist have also earned an important place in language, which can be idiomatic, metonymical and quite often very plastic.

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G.A.M. DE CLERCK,

Identiteitsdynamieken in Vlaamse dove rolmodellen: een verkenning van tendensen in emancipatieprocessen van dovengemeenschappen en parallellen met etnische minderheden in Europa

Summary: Identity dynamics in Flemish deaf role models: an exploration of trends in emancipation processes in deaf communities and parallels with ethnic minorities in Europe
In an exploratory qualitative case study, Flemish deaf role models experience the pro­cess of emancipation as a turning point in their lives, characterized by shifts in iden­tity dynamics. Deaf people wake up when coming into contact with emancipatory discourses and places with ideal conditions for deaf people. This process of deaf empowerment is intimately tied to a global-local interaction. In relation to develop­ments in larger society, trends in and parallels between identity dynamics in deaf communities in northwestern Europe and ethnic minorities are explored. This leads to the hypothesis that the politicization of deaf identity in the study can be under­stood as a second stage in the emancipation process of deaf people in Flanders. Young deaf people in northwestern Europe move freely between the hearing and deaf world as sign language users in a third stage of the emancipation process. Drawing upon a theoretical framework of intercultural negotiation and shared citizenship, Flemish deaf people’s awakening leads to conflicts and opens the dialogue on the cre­ation of a broader dimension of a sign language sociality in mainstream society. This is necessary for deaf people to participate in society on equal terms and live up to their potential.

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M. VAN DEN BERG

De duivel in een doosje

Summary: The Flemish ‘galgenjong’: a boxed spirit and charm
The www.volksverhalenbank.be makes it possible to easily look up motifs, characters and items in Flemish narratives. The author deals with a very peculiar magical crea­ture, with characteristics of an imp, man, puppet or animal. It is so small that it fits in a box or a bottle. The Flemish names ‘galgenjong’, ‘galgenaas’ or ‘duivelsjong’ are difficult to translate correctly, but clearly refer to its origin, i.e. the gallows and the devil. But this ‘object’ has also a certain affinity with the English ‘familiar spirit’. It is the result of a pact with the devil and it gives its owners magical powers. Contrary to the ‘familiars’ in English witch trials, it is said that generally men own it. One can only get rid of it by having it stolen or with the help of a clergyman. According to some German texts, one can only sell it at a lower price than what one paid for it originally. Some storytellers claim that a galgenjong is to be given a drop of its owner’s blood and changed like a baby on a daily basis. Illustrations and other sources tell that imposters shaped a mandrake root into a human or animal form and put this sub­stitute into a box in order to sell it to credulous people, promising them good luck, power and wealth. Although this magical creature is typically West-Flemish (and for some strange reason unknown in the eastern province of Limburg) the author man­aged to put this peculiar item into a broad perspective.

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S. TOP,

De ‘natuurlijke’ charme van meiliederen

Summary: The ‘natural’ charm of may-songs
More than a century ago, Pol De Mont (1857-1931), a pioneer in the folklore of Flanders, asked the readers of Volkskunde (1898-1899) to take a special interest in the customs of the month of May, still vivid in those days. People of all ages parti­cipated in a whole range of activities and enlivened them with all kinds of songs, with nature and love as prominent themes. Offering a branch with leaves, called mei, was the highlight of this cluster of rituals. According to the nature of the mei, it could send a positive message of joy as well as a negative one of sorrow. That is why some may-songs were rather pedantic, even religious and therefore evolved into spiritual songs.

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Category: 2009

Nummer 3-4


A. VAN DER ZEIJDEN

De actualiteit van tradities en het jaar van de tradities: een inleiding

Summary: Traditions have again become current topics: an introduction
The Dutch Year of Traditions is a nice occasion to explore the theme of traditions. Traditions are in. Marketing experts say that it has to do with the fact that we live in a retrospective decade, characterized by a strong need for continuity. In uncertain times (terrorism, financial crisis) people look for stability and they find it in tradi­tions.
Science also shows a renewed interest in traditions. After a period of ‘clebunking, when the emphasis used to lie on `exposing’ the seemingly age-old traditions, the present generation has realized that traditions are more than just fake. Traditions play an important role in the process of cultural transfer. It is a heritage one wants to pass on because it is so important for the cultural identity of each of us.

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A. VAN DER ZEIJDEN

Oeroude tradities.
Volkscultuur in het werk van romancier Hubert Lampo (1920-2006)

Summary: Tradition and popular culture in the works of Hubert Lampo (1920-2006)
The novelist Hubert Lampo, the best-known representative of Magic Realism in the Low Countries, published Wijlen Sarah Silbermann (The late Sarah Silbermann) in 1980. This book is more than just an exciting thriller. It is also very relevant for ethnologists, because Lampo combines his vast interest in the saga of the Grail with his search for the mythological origin of the carnival feast in Zoetelede (in reality the Flemish village of Zoutleeuw).
He shares his interpretation of carnival with the (old) mythological school of pop­ular culture which goes back to the Grimms. From Lampo’s point of view carnival is an ancient tradition, `something ancient, something very authentic’, that keeps influencing our daily life, here and now, and even sheds a light on the depths of our soul. Whereas ethnologists abandoned long ago that mythological explanation for all kinds of folkloric expression, Hubert Lampo’s Wijlen Sarah Silbermann – as well as Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code – proves that myth still plays an important role in popular imagination.

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E. TIELEMANS

Het stripverhaal De Mysterieuze Mijn van Suske en Wiske en het voortleven van de historische heks Leyn Weckx.
Een schoolvoorbeeld van een ‘invented tradition’
Summary: The comic De Mysterieuze Mijn from Suske en Wiske and the living on of the his­toric witch Leyn Weckx. A dassic example of an `invented tradition’
The Flemish artist and scenarist Vandersteen and his successors used folktales as a source of inspiration in many of their comics. In this article one of these comics The Mysterieuze Mijn (The Mysterious Mine) (1990) is the object of study in order to find out how facts and fiction are integrated and how this comic hos contributed to remember the name of Leyn Weckx until now.
An important reason to study this album was the historic figure of Leyn Weckx, about whom many artides have been published because the original records which lead to her execution through burning in 1725 have been preserved.
A legend tells us that Leyn Weckx escaped during her transportation to the execu­tion field and she disappeared in a well. In the course of the 20’h century she became known as the pitwitch as coalmines appeared in the landscape of Limburg in Flanders.
In the eighties of the 20’h century the link between the historic Leyn Weckx and the pitwitch was “officialized”. Many festivities were organised and until now Leyn Weckx is alive and well.

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H. OP DE COUL

Limburg, de mythe.
Hoe het verzinnen van tradities bijdraagt tot de vormgeving van een gewenste Limburse identiteit

Summary: Limburg, the Myth. How inventing of traditions contributes to the design of a desired Limburg identity
The author gives his view of a number of stages and events in Dutch Limburg mak­ing use of the concept of `invented tradition’ as used by Hobsbawm, Leerssen a.o. This province, put together in 1815 by politicians and officials, is known for a strik­ing ‘Limburg feeling’. This can be accounted for by the idea of a `thought up’ com­munity for which the cultural fundament was laid by the catholic church in found­ing schools and teaching priests in Limburg. Later on the regional broadcasting sta­tion played its part by conceiving programs in the regional dialect and organizing and transmitting big events in the province, among others carnival ceremonies. During the carnival period in particular a lot of traditions are invented that strength­en the local solidarity.
The author relates the – unsuccessful – efforts to create a new and modern citizen, made during the last century in the coal industry area in South Limburg. Only when the reminiscences of the coal mines were rigorously wiped out a renewed and happy – so it seems – quest for the roots of the Limburg people occurred.
It’s the author’s opinion that intellectuals and artists can help to reinforce the feeling of self-confidence of individuals and groups of people by using the concept of `invented tradition’.

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J. HELSLOOT

Halloween in Nederland

Summary: Halloween in the Netherlands
In a world of shifting boundaries in expressive and festive culture, Halloween was taken over from the Unites States in the Netherlands, like in many other countries, since the early 1990s. It was adopted especially as a ‘theme’ for fancy dress parties in disco’s and bars, schools, and children’s and youth clubs, and less as a new calendar ritual. Grim Halloween processions or an American-style heli-house can also be seen. In the sometimes elaborate and beautiful representation of ugliness and horror the main attraction and fun of Halloween seem to reside for participants. The author argues that this eager embrace of the sinister testifies, in an inverted way, to a grow­ing sensibility in respect of accidents, surgery and death. Simultaneously, however, the deliberate show of ‘bad taste’ is not intended to be taken seriously. Precisely this ambivalence may offer an explanation of Halloween’s appeal.

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L. INDESTEEGE

Het Ossenfeest in (B.) – Limburg

Summary: The ox celebration in (Belgian) Limburg
The `oxen’ are mainly 30-year-old male singles in the north-eastern part of Limburg. Their names have been recorded in the ‘ox book’ since the beginning of the 20d’ cen­tury. An organizing-committee decorates the house the ox lives in and there are satir­ical poems. A very heavy ox (often a concrete one) is only taken away from the door after payment of a ransom (food and especially lots of drinks). The number of ox cel­ebrations has been gradually increasing, thanks to word of mouth, to newspaper ads, boards and the internet. There are also similor celebrations of 30-year-old singles in The Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, but the ox celebrations in the N-E of Limburg are more numerous and more intense. Southern and West Limburg have only sporadically ox celebrations and their number has remained limited.
Three elements are obvious: drinking, looking for a mate and especially mocking the `ox’ without a partner. That is why this ox celebration, strongly present in this restricted geographic area, is considered a modern version of charivari.

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M. VAN DEN BERG

Tussen verleden en toekomst
Reflecties over de omgang met traditie(s)
Summary: Between the past and the future: reflections on how to deal with tradition(s)
Traditions are regularly returning rituals, practices and customs that create the feel­ing of belonging to the same community. They can be local or universal, age-old or recent, not conspicuous or festive. Many traditions are not as old as sometimes believed. Besides, they are often invented by individuals, organisations and institu­tions.
Traditions come and fade away. Adaptation and transformation are more essential for the survival of a tradition than its deliberate fixation. In order to try and protect e.g. immaterial heritage, including traditions, scientists agree that it should be a dynamic process. Although it may be interesting to explore the origin and back­ground of a tradition, in the end what matters for those involved is interpreting the meaning, relevance and function of what is passed on to them. Some Flemish peo­ple still have romantic, nostalgie and even nationalistic feelings and are less open to foreign influence and innovations. Present-day ethnology recognizes not only the importance of tradition(s) for the present and the future but also pay more and more attention to new trends, especially as regards urban and multicultural society.

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O. RIETER

Tradities, nostalgie en beeld(ver)vorming

Summary: Nostalgia and distortion of tradition
Traditions can be centuries old or relatively new. They are often passed on from gen­eration to generation and are not necessarily statie, but can be dynamic. Traditions are frequently nostalgie. Nostalgia involves looking back to an idealized past. The phenomenon plays a part in identity formation and can help people see purpose in their lives. Nostalgie traditions are not necessarily conservative. Progressive people can be nostalgie traditionalists is some sense as well.
Nostalgia is partly about the past of entire generations and is connected to popular culture (think of the idolization of movie icons and music stars from the past). It is also possible to develop nostalgic feelings for a period one hasn’t lived through. One can be longing for an Arcadian version of the past, in which life was supposed to be less complex and more wholesome.
Cherished nostalgic traditions are often more distorted than invented in the Hobsbawmian sense. This looking back to a longed for past can involve creativity. Nostalgie remembering can also be a reflexive activity, in which one thinks about the relationship between identity, memory and personal history.

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P. ABSPOEL

De projectie van traditieloosheid

Summary: Wishing tradition away
Is it really irrational, as modern people tend to think, to entrust oneself to the guid­ing hand of tradition, which promises to help us discover what is relevant and real in a way we could never do on our own? Even scholars studying culture are not immune to an allergy to tradition (even to the word!) that can be traced to the breach with tradition in the name of reason. Reflection on the role and function of tradi­tion is further hindered by the fact that modern praxis corresponds more and more to an instrumental logic.
Relying on Maurice Blondel’s philosophy, a view is offered of tradition as an irre­placeable means for exploring and assimilating reality, induding ourselves. We may be unable to stabilize of totalize the ingredients of the opaque world that tradition makes us accept as real, we may not be able to get to the bottom of what we reflect and see reflected in it; but that is no reason to exclude all this from our definition of the real.
Characteristic of our culture is the looming of a gap between the experiences medi­ated by tradition and the image of reality mediated by our thinking. This doesn’t make us any freer, but exposes us to exploitation of our nostalgia for the traditional and to the erosion of practices which we value, but don’t know how to defend ration­ally.

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R. PINXTEN en K. DE MUNTER

Tradities zijn verandering
Summary: Tradition is change
In the standard view the notion of tradition is tightly linked with concepts of con­stancy, inalterability and the ensuing rights and duties. In the present contribution we analyse this concept from the point of view of researchers who are rather more familiar with oral cultures. We state that concepts of time and temporality can be very different in these cultures. In the past, we suggest, we were misled to some extent by the western notion of time and the attached so-called opposition between our ‘warm’ or historical culture and the non-western `cold’ traditions, as voiced by Lévi-Strauss. With S. Kauffman’s complexity theory applied to culture and tradition, we offer a new approach.

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Category: 2009