• Tag Archives Anthropology
  • Mythology from the Heart of Africa – The Mwindo Epic

    Several myth cycles have been featured here before, most often the Cthulhu Mythos, of course, but there have also been mentions of Norse Mythology and more recently the Epic of Gilgamesh. Now it is time for some mythology that is often, sadly, ignored by most:

    African mythology.

    The fact that African mythology is often ignored in cultural studies is tragic, since this continent offers an astoundingly divers and rich treassure of tales that, due to the nature of human origin, go back longer than anywhere else on earth.
    Here is one great example of African mythology: The Mwindo Epic, a tale by the Nyanga people of the Congo:



    Also of note is the way the epic is traditionally told (this is according to the Wikipedia, so accurracy may be flexible):

    The Mwindo Epic varies from typical oral myths in that it is not only spoken, but performed among gatherings of locals. The myth is performed mostly by a single bard wielding a calabash made into a rattle and donning various bells and other forms of noisemakers. To tell the story properly the bard acts out all the parts and does not refrain from being very animated in his dances and acting. It is not unusual for the bard to throw in some narrative not native to the story detailing his own life and his own personal experiences. The narrator is usually accompanied by four younger men who play on a percussion stick.

    Audience participation is important. The audience will often sing along with the narrator and the percussionists during the songs, and repeat certain lines of the story while the narrator pauses between sections. The bard is often shown appreciation by the audience with applause, yells, and gifts.


  • Excuse me mankind, how about a reality check?

    This is a non-steapunk update, this is a rant.

    Did I miss the memo or what is going on here? According to my latest information, the category of creatures called demons are complete and utter fabrications. They are nothing more and nothing less then a form given to our primal fears. These forms were later incorporated into myths and these myths were and still are being abused by some abominations who pretend to be speaking for god (Mr. Robertson, I am talking to you and your ilk here!).

    So, there are no demons, there are just instinctual fears and demonic posession such as this one:

    A sceme from The Excorcist

    only exist in the movies, OK?

    The stuff in the bible and other ancient texts was written in the late bronze age by people who thought the earth was flat and the stars were candles, lamps or something like that but had no idea they were distant suns. They also had no concept for paranoia, schizophrenia or epilepsy. Thus, they came up with possession.

    Why I am ranting about this? Well, the Daily Mail (alas, a rather deplorable publication) has brought this news item, and I do not know whom to give a piece of my mind first.

    I think I must have gone into a catatonic state midway through the article.

    And now a very special shout out (or more a shout-at):

    Oi, Reverend Larson! What you are doing there is mental abuse, nothing less, you intill irrational fears in inocent girls and use them as tools to spread more fear! You are a mindkiller!
    You are one of the criminals, my friend ONESPECIES is talking about in this video:

    And they will go on killing and poisoning other peoples brains and minds for a very long time…

    Oh, and a final note, if you are taking the bible so literaly, Mr. Larson, and teach these girls to take it literaly, why are you training girls? Don’t you know that women are inferior, according to the bible, and probably do not even have souls? You do not know what I am talking about? Well, how about you take a look here.



  • Dieselpunk Superheroes

    I should have tackled this topic before… The deeper I look into the world of comics, the more Dieselpunk elements I find. Which is only natural. The Golden Age of Comics covers the same time and therefore shares the same influences as the Golden Age of Pulp.

    So take a look at these Golden Age Superheroes and villains (and klick, there are more details in the full size images):

    I find it especially interesting to compare the evolution of the artwork and also the heroes. If you take a look at Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern (the guy on the right picture), his ring was a magical artifact, later the ring was alien tech according to Clarke’s Third Law.

    The characters chosen for the Green Lantern Corps have changed to fit the taste and need of their times and the artwork has also changed with time, taste and technology (I love absolutely arbitrary and annoying alliterations…), as this image depicting Kyle Rayner, one of the modern Green Lanterns, shows:

    Green Lantern Rayner

    Yes, I think the much belittled comic really is a mirror of its time and since it has been around for quite a while now as an art form, it is a valuable ressource for sociologist, historians and anthropologists.

    Comics show you what their readers crave, what their hopes and fears are and what heroes they identify with. Comics are literature, like it or not. Like the sagas and myths of old and the regular books we read, comics tell us just another version of the Hero with a Thousand Faces. In that, they are just as valuable as any piece by Tolstoy, Goethe or Twain. Yes, there are bad comics, but there are also a lot of bad novels around.

    Oh dear… That was quite a ramble.

  • I want THAT job

    Remember my article about suitable jobs for Steampunks and Dieselpunks? Seems I missed one or two. Antiques Dealer is also a good choice… But now imagine that:

    You get to travel all around the country, digging through other people’s barns, attics and other assorted places of storage and discover all these things… And you get paid for it!

    Some people do it for a living, on television! Even better: They are doing it again! This is already the second season. They have been paid for doing something incredibly fun like this before!

    I am talking about these two guys:

    Some guys really have all the luck… Ahem, dear History people, if you want to expand into Europe… I happen to be an anthropologist *hint-hint*, you know where to find me on the ætherweb…

    Some quick info about the incredible lucky people and the person who is in charge of the home base:

    Mike Wolfe

    A lifelong “picker,” Mike has been combing through junk since the age of four. Over the years, he’s earned a reputation as one of the country’s foremost foragers, traveling coast to coast in search of forgotten treasures. Where other people see dilapidated barns and overgrown yards, Mike sees potential goldmines packed with rare finds and sensational stories.

    Mike spends as much time as he can on the road, usually with Frank – his friend of 30 plus years and picking partner-in tow. „A picker’s kind of like a nomad,“ he explains. Wherever they go, the two guys unearth hoards of unique items and spend some quality time with the offbeat characters who own them.

    What exactly does Mike look for? „Anything I can make a buck on,“ he laughs. That could be anything from antique baby carriages and vintage jukeboxes to old cars and scrap metal. Mike’s clients include interior designers, art directors, photographers and collectors – and he owns Antique Archaeology, a specialty shop that sells antiques, vintage items and more in sleepy Le Claire, Iowa.

    Visit Mike’s official company website

    Frank Fritz

    Like his childhood friend Mike, Frank started picking early, collecting rocks and beer cans as a kid. He worked for many years as a fire and safety inspector but always had a passion for antiques, junk and anything with an engine. These days, he spends most of his time on the road with Mike, digging for treasure in barns, garages and junkyards across America.
    Even-tempered and affable, he has a way with potential sellers and a knack for putting out fires: Mike calls him the bearded charmer. Frank does get a little carried away, however, by anything with an engine, and Mike often has to talk him out of buying yet another motorbike for his collection.

    With their complementary personalities and shared love of picking, Frank and Mike make the perfect team. Still, since they’re both out to cash in on their finds, some healthy competition always comes into play.

    Visit Frank’s official company website

    Danielle Colby

    While the guys are out picking, Danielle holds down the fort at Antique Archaeology – Mike’s store and base of operations. She spends her time talking to buyers, packing up shipments and keeping Mike and Frank in line, while they keep her in stitches with their antics and jokes. Mike likes to say she’s the glue that holds them all together. A mother of three, Danielle is always working on a new creative project, whether it’s painting, designing clothes or selling vintage-inspired gifts online. She feels extremely proud of the „boys“ and fortunate to work with such a talented pair.

    You can also find them at the place where the whole ætherweb congregates when it is upset or needs to be uset by someone (a bit like Sator Square in Ankh-Morpork, I guess): Facebook.

    There is a similar thing on (far less cool but also very fascinating) here in Germany. On Bavarian television to be precise. It is a show called Kunst & Krempel („Art & Junk“) and people bring their heirlooms and things they found to experts.But the format of American Diggers is far more interesting. The joy of discovery those two can experience every time…

    Here are some of the treasures Mike and Frank found and which will feature in the second season:

    Alas, German television will not come up with a show like this, and if they do, it is probably going to be on one of those cheap excuses for TV stations which shall remain anonymous here…

  • Observations from the Fringe of the Oktoberfest

    So, another Oktoberfest has come and gone and I have once more avoided any sort of participation.

    However, I had plenty opportunity observing the common Oktoberfest drunkard in the wild. It is almost unbelievable, the sub-basement level certain members of Pan narrans reach once sufficient levels of alcohol are involved.
    Granted, having studied anthropology, it was rather interesting to observe the horror that unfolded but as a Steampunk of the gentlemanly persuasion, I find the displayed behaviour rather shocking and hardly bearable.
    What I found particularly annoying was the presence of several drunken gaggles of common Oktoberfest visitors (Orc bavaricus) on the train going into Munich around 10 a.m.

    And all these severe cases of severe pseudo-tradition… All of a sudden, everybody in Munich is wearing Dirndl or Lederhosen, no matter if they are actual Bavarians or not, and after the big Bavarian party is over, this „traditional“ garb (I guess a pink Dirndl is hardly something traditional, neither are Lederhosen with glitter on them. Don’t ask!) is stored away again, not to see the light of day again until next year, just to serve in another feeble display of something which is considered traditional but is really nothing more than getting drunk while wearing an ethno-costume (pretty much like carnival, come to think of it.
    Just now (00:39 on the train back to Augsburg), a rather imposing and rather drunk metalhead felt the urgent need to do an impromptu and rather loud and bad Erich Honecker impersonation, may the Allmighty Airkraken protect us.

    Oh well, and the horror will return next year…

    And in completely other news: As of today, Germany has been united (again) for 20 years. Last time the re-unification lasted from  1871 to 1945. Let’s see how long we manage this time.