Etymology Of Culture: Cultivation To Encapsulation

In a 1771 letter to Robert Skipwith, Thomas Jefferson included a list of books, recommended for a general private library. Amongst them, Cicero’s Tusculan Questions (Tusculanae Disputationes), a series of texts concerning Greek stoicism. Of particular importance to contemporary semantics is Cicero’s use of cultura animi (cultivation of souls), similar to the German bildung (personal growth through philosophic education), as articulated by Wilhelm von Humboldt, which serves as the basis for the contemporary concept of “culture” as concretized in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. What is interesting to note in relation to Cicero’s cultura animi, and contemporary usage of the word “culture,” is the specificity of the former and the all-encompassing broadness of the latter.

For example, contemporary publications speak of data culture, cannabis culture, gang culture, corporate culture and indeed, even crystal (meth) culture, which is to utilize ‘culture’ as a umbrella descriptor for any normative, collective (non-individual) human action and to ignore the (formerly important) aspects of character development (the privileging of cultura animi and bildung) itself. This semantic shift, then, represents a wholesale transition from ‘culture’ as descriptive assessment and proscriptive project, to mere encapsulation (pure description).

Cognizance of this fact raises the pertinent question: Since ‘culture’ is now deployed as a mere placeholder for everything that a group of humans does at any given point in time, regardless of the content of the action(s), what collective behaviors can be rightly described as ‘uncultured?’ Under the contemporary rubric: None. And so, what then is the purpose of using ‘culture’ as opposed to ‘collective action/behavior’ given that they are now used as synonyms?


Sources

  1. Adrian Bridgwater. (2019) Tableau Advocates Blueprint For ‘Data Culture’ In Business. Forbes.
  2. Marcus Tullius Cicero. (45 BCE) Tusculanae Disputationes (I-V).
  3. (2002) From Thomas Jefferson to Robert Skipwith, with a List of Books for a Private Library, 3 August 1771, Founders Online, National Archives, accessed September 29, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-01-02-0056. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, 1760–1776, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950, pp. 76–81.]

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Stonewall Jackson’s Way (1862)

Come, stack arms, men! Pile on the rails,
Stir up the camp-fire bright;
No matter if the canteen fails,
We’ll make a roaring night.
Here Shenandoah brawls along,
There burly Blue Ridge echoes strong,
To swell the brigade’s rousing song
Of “Stonewall Jackson’s Say.”

We see him now, — the old slouched hat
Cocked o’er his eye askew;
The shrewd, dry smile, the speech so pat,
So calm, so blunt, so true.
The “Blue-Light Elder” knows ’em well;
Says he, “That’s Banks, — he’s fond of shell;
Lord save his soul! we’ll give him” — well,
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

Silence! ground arms! kneel all! caps off!
Old Blue-Light’s going to pray.
Strangle the fool that dares to scoff!
Attention! it’s his way.
Appealing from his native sod,
In forma pauperis to God,—
“Lay bare Thine arm; stretch forth Thy rod!
Amen!” That’s “Stonewall’s way.”

He’s in the saddle now. Fall in!
Steady! the whole brigade!
Hill’s at the ford cut off — we’ll win
His way out, ball and blade!
What matter if our shoes are worn?
What matter if our feet are torn?
“Quick-step! we’re with him before morn!”
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

The sun’s bright lances rout the mists
Of morning, and, by George!
Here’s Longstreet struggling in the lists,
Hemmed in an ugly gorge.
Pope and his Yankees, whipped before,
“Bay’nets and grape!” hear Stonewall roar;
“Charge, Stuart! Pay off Ashby’s score!”
In “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

Ah! Maiden, wait and watch and yearn
For news of Stonewall’s band!
Ah! Widow, read, with eyes that burn,
That ring upon thy hand.
Ah! Wife, sew on, pray on, hope on;
Thy life shall not be all forlorn;
The foe had better ne’er been born
That gets in “Stonewall’s way.”


—By J. W. Palmer


“In September, 1862, I found myself at the glades Hotel, at Oakland, on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and in that part of Allegany County, Maryland, which is now known as Garrett county. … I wrote the ballad of ‘Stonewall Jackson’s Way’ with the roar of those guns in my ears.”

—J. W. Palmer quoted in The Photographic History of The Civil War, p. 86.

Experimental Archaeologist Wulf Hein’s Remarks Concerning The Hohlenstein-Stadel Löwenmensch

§00 The Löwenmensch of Hohlenstein-Stadel, discovered in the Lone River valley, in Southern Germany (which was occupied from the Middle Palaeolithic through the Neolithic), is the oldest known piece of man-made figurative art ever discovered. Given this, a considerable number of theories have been developed in a attempt to explain the statuette’s role in ancient Aurignacian society.
§01 Experimental archaeologist Wulf Hein of Archaeo-technik, who, in 2009 was commissioned to create a replica of the Löwenmensch, was, despite his busy schedule, kind enough to share his thoughts concerning the importance of the ancient work of art with me.
“Personally,” Hein remarked during our correspondence, “I believe that the LM [lion-man] was object to some kind of worshipping, most probably functioning as a hunting charme, because according to the latest research the mouth region of the statuette was frequently rubbed with some red substance, perhaps blood.”

Sources
  1. João Zilhão & Francesco d’Errico. (2003) An Aurignacian «garden of Eden» in southern Germany? An alternative interpretation of the geissenklösterle and a critique of the Kulturpumpe model. Paleo. Revue d’archéologie préhistorique.
  2. Thomas Wynn, et al. (2009) Hohlenstein-Stadel and the Evolution of Human Conceptual Thought. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19:1, 73-83.
  3. Wulf Hein. (2013) Ivory Experimentation. Companion book to the exhibition The Return Of The Lion Man: History, Myth and Magic. Ulmer Museum.
  4. Wulf Hein. (—) Tusks & Tools. Private research manuscript to be published in l´anthroplogie.

Notes On Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature by Martin S. Vilas (1904)

The interest in Charles Brockden Brown and his works arises largely from his ranking position among American Prose Writers. Hence, it is not expected that an estimate, somewhat extended and somewhat critical, of his writings is likely to become popular. No other than this, save very brief sketches of Brown and of what he has done, is known to the writer. It may be, then, that the student of American literature will find in this book, written five years ago, something suggestive, perhaps something usually called original.

 

—Martin S. Vilas, 1904; introduction to Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature.


§.00 Martin Samuel Vilas’ Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature (Burlington, VT., Free Press Association, 1904) is one of the better overviews of the work of the American gothique novelist Charles Brockden Brown I have ever come across. Its value lays chiefly in Vilas’ clear and forthright approach to literary criticism (“It has been said,—and rightly I think,—that to study literature correctly and determine the value of the work of each author, he should be studied with reference to himself alone first, next with reference to his place in the history of the literature,” Vilas, p. 66) despite his clear appreciation for Brown as a writer of considerable ability (“Brown is not lacking in invention or originality” p. 56), and praise for Wieland and Ormond, Vilas never allows his appreciation to deteriorate into feeble sentimentalism and excuse-making in relation to Brown’s lesser works (ie. “Brown had been trained a Quaker, but that in no sense excuses him for his inaccurate uses of ‘thee,’ ‘thou,’ and ‘thine'” p. 56).

§.01 As a consequence of Vilas approach (and good writing), the work retains an amusing character, while never compromising swiftness or comprehensiveness to entertainment, which is surprising for a corpus retrospective (cast your mind to any contemporary volume on literary history). The text examines Brown’s novels, Wieland (1798), Ormond (1799), Arthur Mervyn (1799-1800), Edgar Huntly (1799), Clara Howard (1801), and Jane Talbot (1801), in addition to Brown’s social background, philosophic and political influences, and his influence on other writers, all in the space of only 80 pages.

§.02 However, Vilas’ criticism, deft though it is, contains some flaws, as demonstrated in his analysis of Brown’s treatment of wild nature, “He could not describe a cavern, a precipice or a deep ravine without letting his imagination lead him into something that is gruesome. Thus nature becomes not an emblem of the bright and beautiful, but the representation of an infinite and awful power which hangs over and around all things” (p. 58). This characterization is accurate, but is held to be a failing in Brown’s works by Vilas, who notes that his contention with this “gruesome” portrayal of wilderness, is theological in origin. He writes, “[Brown’s descriptions of nature] never go back with a glad and cheerful heart to say,—I am of nature and of God. I exist as a part of it and of Him. If he is great and wonderful, aye, awful at times in his manifestations, I rejoice in it, for it exalts me that see in it an expression of myself. The Almighty is great and powerful, so am I in a small degree as a manifestation in one form of Him.” Vilas then writes, “… these optimistic feelings were not akin to the soul of Brown. His philosophy was the philosophy of darkness and distortion.” (p. 59) At the first, it should be noted that even if it were true that Brown’s philosophy was one of “darkness and distortion” this, in no way detracts (indeed, would enhance) the powers of his prose. I consider this criticism to be irrelevant in relation to Brown’s prose, precisely because it is a problem only in contradistinction to Vilas’ personal philosophy (of providential-anthropocentric unity), which, itself, is far less realistic, than Brown’s more cautious and skeptical view of nature’s savage increase (contemplate Leishmaniasis, or the black plague, cancer, the flesh-feasting botfly, the rivers of blood spilt by the man-eating tigers of India, or the thousands upon thousands who die to mosquitoes annually). That Brown long-suffered with health complications (chiefly consumption) was likely a factor which effected his outlook on ‘nature,’ and one which would predispose him towards a view of ‘the natural’ which was less than ideal (much to Vilas’ evident chagrin), in spite of his gentle yet sedulous religiosity.

§.03 Despite the reservations and harsh criticisms expressed in his text, Vilas’ view of Brown, both as a novelist and American, is ultimately favorable, as he concludes, “Within the limits of his strength, he did a great work. He realized his duty to his country and to civilization to contribute as much as within him lay and he never faltered though beset constantly by weariness and disease. His patience, his conscientiousness and his unfaltering devotion to the light that came to him led him ever on with a resolute heart and, even when disease was constantly preying upon him, his smile of affection always covered the deep-seated anguish. His pure and upright life was reflected in his writings, and if he could not write brilliant facts so that they would endure, all things of him exhibited the greatest of all truths that the highest virtue consists in ‘the perfection of one’s self and the happiness of others.’ It was then a courageous thing to be an American writer and especially to attempt to be the first American novelist, but Brown constantly displayed that courage. Had he not deserved to be first, the position would not have been accorded him. If he did not set the pace, he started the movement. It is with very great respect and considerable admiration that I have studied this ‘brief but blazing star’ that during his short and sickly life worked with such unfailing earnestness along lines that to him seemed best and highest.”


Sources (alphabetically, by author)

  1. Arkaprabha92. (2015) The Realm of Shadows & Chimera: Gothicism in Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland or, The Transformation. JUSAS Online.
  2. Cheryl Spinner. (2010) Martin S. Vilas, Early 20th Cent. CBB Scholar. Electrically Speaking (Cheryl Spinner’s Research Blog).
  3. Martin S. Vilas. (1904) Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature. Free Press Association.
  4. Memoir of Charles Brockden Brown (preface to Cornell University’s edition of Wieland).
  5. Rob Velella. (2010) Birth of Charles Brockden Brown. The American Literary Blog.

Reading List Of Works Formative To Early American Thought

Medieval Works

  1. Ordinance of William the Conqueror (1072).
  2. Laws of William the Conqueror (c. 1066).
  3. Constitutions of Clarendon (1164).
  4. Assize of Clarendon (1166).
  5. Magna Carta (1215).
  6. De Legibus Et Consuetudinibus Angliæ (c. 1235).
  7. Summa Theologica (1265-1273).
  8. Marco Polo’s Travels (c. 1300).
  9. The First Manual of Parliamentary Procedure (c. 1350).
  10. The Declaration of Arbroath (1320).

15th & 16th Century Works

  1. Malleus Maleficarum (1486).
  2. Journal, C. Columbus (1492).
  3. Epistola De Insulis Nuper Inventis, C. Columbus (1493).
  4. Letter to the King and Queen of Spain, C. Columbus (1494).
  5. King Henry VII’s Commission to John Cabot (1497).
  6. The Prince, Machiavelli (1513).
  7. Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed, Luther (1523).
  8. The Bondage of the Will, Luther (1524).
  9. The Act of Supremacy, Henry VIII (1534).
  10. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1540).
  11. The Journey of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza De Vaca (1542).
  12. From The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, Copernicus (1543).
  13. The Council of Trent (1545).
  14. A Short Treatise on Political Power, John Ponet, D.D. (1556).

The list is a work in progress and will be continuously updated. Recommendations for the future inclusion of works is welcome.

Thou, Thee, Thy, Thine & Ye: Meanings & Usage

In works of old, high-fantasy or historic fiction one may have chanced across the strange words: thou, thee, thy, thine and ye. Whilst most people understand the jist of the words (that they all refer to people), the way each is to be correctly (formally) deployed is somewhat more difficult.

Thou, thee, thy, thine and ye are archaic personal pronouns (words which are substitutes for nouns or noun-phrases) which are generally articulated in the form of subject and object (depending upon the pronouns relation to the structure of a sentence). Subject pronouns in modern English typically take the form:

  • I (singular)
  • we (plural)
  • you (singular and plural)
  • he/she/it (singular); they (plural); it (dummy)

Example: I like writing.

Whilst object pronouns take the form of:

  • me/us
  • you/you
  • him/her (singular); them (plural); it (dummy)

Example: Writing likes me.

Modern English reflexive pronouns (self-referential pronouns) typically take the form of:

  • myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself (singular)
  • ourselves, yourselves, themselves (plural)

Example: I myself find writing difficult.

The Middle English pronouns follow a similar trajectory:

  • Thou = you when the subject (“Thou liketh writing.”)
  • Thee = you when the object (“Writing liketh thee.”)
  • Thy = your possessive form of you. (“Thy blade well serves thee.”)
  • Thine = your possessive form of you, typically used before a noun. (“Thine writing smacks of mastery.” or, “The writing is thine.” — thy own can be used in place of thine to similar effect)
  • Ye = you all | all of you used when referring to a group of people (“Ye fools!”)

Or, to put it more formally:

Subject form | Object form

I — I               | Me — Me

You — Thou  | You — Thee

You — Ye       | You — You

Just like with modern English pronouns, the more you (or rather, thou) practices with the words and uses them in a sentence the easier it will be to write fluently with them. Don’t agonize over precision of grammar if, in doing so, the fluidity of the writing is shattered, especially if your (thy) work is fictional (save when it is a work of historical fiction) and focus instead on the particular way your characters speak as they won’t always speak with ‘perfect’ grammar (provided there are any significant differences in those character’s articulation of language).

Fiction Writer’s Compendium: Middle English

Below is a resource for writers, consisting of dozens of Middle English words paired with their modern-day equivalent meanings. The list is not meant to be exhaustive of all Middle English. If there are any words you wish me to add to the list, feel free to contact me and let me know (Middle English to the left, current English to the right broken by ‘-‘).


al, or, al be that – though

als – as

anon – at once

artow – art thou, thou art

atte – at, at the

aventure – chance

axe – ask

ay – always

been – are

bet – better

beth – are; (imperative) be

brenne – burn but,

but if – unless

can, kan – know, be able

canstow – can you, you can

cas – happening, chance

certes – surely, certainly

clepe (n) – call

clerk – scholar

cokewold – cuckold

coy – quiet

ech – each

echo (o) n – each one

eek, eke – also

er, or – before; formerly

everich – every; every one

fay, fey – faith

forthy – therefore

fro – from

gan, gonne – began

hastow – have you, you have

hem – them

here – her

hight – named, called

him lest (list) – he wants

hir (e) – her, their

ich – I

ilke – same

kan – know, know how to; can

konne – learn; know how to; can

koude – knew; knew how to; could

kynde – nature

lasse – less

le (e) ve – dear

lite – little

lystes – jousting or tilting fields; enclosed grounds for formal combat

maistow, maystow – may you, you may

make – mate, husband, make

mo – more

moot – may, must, ought to; so (also, ever) moot I: as I hope to

morewe – morrow, morning

mowe – may

muche – much, many

nam – am not, namo, namoore, no more

nas – was not

nat – not

nathelees – nevertheless

ne – not, nor

nere – were not

nolde – would not

nones, nonys – occasion

noon – none, no

noot – know not

nyce – foolish

nys – is not

o, oo, on, oon, that oon – one

of – of; off

pardee: (lit. “by God”), a common oath – certainly

prime, pryme – 9 A.M.

quod – said

rakel – rash

rathe – early, soon

rede – advise; interpret; read

seistow – you say

sely – innocent, simple

seyde – said

seye – say

shaltow – you shall

sikerly – certainly, surely, truly

sith – since; then

somdel – somewhat

sooth, soothfastnesse, sothe – truth

swich – such

syn – since

than (ne) – then, than

thilke – this, that, at that

tho – those; then

tweye – two

unnethe – scarcely

unwemmed – undefiled

verray – true, veritable

wantrust – distrust

wene, -eth – think, thinks

whylom – once, once upon a time, formerly

wight – person, thing

yaf – gave

ycleped – named

ye – eye

yeve, -en, -est, -eth – give, given

ynogh – enough

ywis – surely, certainly

Celebrations Of The Winter Solstice Through Cultures & Time

Myth bares a indelible connection to the changing of the seasons and the modulation of the land they harbing. Hercules contestation with the Hydra (a multi-headed water monster) in ancient Greece bares parallels to the struggles of Greecian water managers and their multi-faceted (ie. multi-headed) irrigation systems. The snake-god Apophis (Apep) who clashed every morning with Ra as he rode his resplendent barque across the sky, was slain at the beginning of the Nile flood season, but was immortal and eternally recurring (just like the interplay between dry and flooding seasons). The indo-European god Indra (Devendra) defeated the water-serpent Vrtra (which draws its roots in the word wrto/eh, meaning, ‘enclosure’) a victory which corresponds to the release of mighty floods; the beginning of monsoon season.

As with the Greeks, Indo-Europeans and Egyptians, so to with our modern holiday celebrations, chief among which is Christmas, which is, of course, connected to the Winter Solstice; the death of winter and the birth of spring; a renewal of life.

Origins of Christmas

Ritualized celebration of the Winter Solstice is an exceedingly ancient practice that can be traced back to the beginning of recorded history. Whilst many popular celebrations of the the solstice survive to this day, such as the Iranian Shab-e Yalda (a celebration of the triumph of Mithra), or the Chinese Dong Zhi (a celebration of the increase in positive energy concurrent with longer days), the Japanese Toji (practice intended to start the new year with good health and luck), or the Hopi rite of Soyal (night long festival of dancing and gift-giving, celebrating the solstice), none are as famous as the western practice of Christmas.

In modernistically recognizable form, Christmas can be traced back to the establishment of December 25th celebration of the Invincible Sun, Dies Natali Invictus (birthday of the unconquered) or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of Sol Invictus), by the roman emperor, Aurelian in the 3rd century. Later, in 273. It was not, as might be thought a solstice celebration, but rather a religious ceremony. The Christian Church selected Aurelian’s date as the official birth of Jesus (which was also the birthday of Mithras) and by 336 the solar celebration was Christianized, with Christ having supplanted The Invincible Sun, as the singular focus of the event. The debt to the ancient cult of the sun has continued ever since. Will Durant, in his The Story of Civilization wrote, “Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient Pagan world.”

The Yule Log

The ancient nords annually burnt a great log in honor of the god, Thor. Upon coming into contact with Christians, the practice was adopted and syncretically incorporated into the broader framework of celebration.

The Tree

The fixture of the ‘Christmas tree’ is part of a broader meta-cultural phenomenon which is often expressed through a ‘tree of life’ or ‘tree of the world’ (such as the Eagle-Serpent Tree described in the Myth of Etana or Yggdrasil which also features serpent-eagle motifs) which acts as a nexus for mythological narrative within which are generally metaphors concerning diametrically opposing qualities (such as snake and eagle, land and sky, good and evil, the seen and the hidden, etc). Trees were central to ancient peoples for their fires, their lodgings and shade after a long days toil; additionally, the greening of trees after the passing of winter signaled a great revitalization, the conquest of life over the frigid reign of death, so it is understandable why trees have always been so central to celebrations and rites related to the Winter Solstice (and it is likely that man-made habitation will take up a similar position in the far off future; for example, it may be the space ship which is venerated by exomoon colonies, as the vessel of life). In The Book of Christmas Folklore, Coffin writes of the history of the practice: “Most people have heard that the Christmas tree originates in the tannenbaum and is some sort of vestige of Teutonic vegetation worship. THIS IS PARTIALLY TRUE. However, the custom of using pine and other evergreens ceremonially was well established at the ROMAN SATURNALIA, even earlier in Egypt” (p. 209).

Santa Claus

One of the most iconic of mythological figures associated with contemporary Christmas celebrations is Santa Claus, a fat, bespectacled jolly man possessed of magical powers who travels the word, sliding down the chimney of innumerable homes to give gifts to the deserving. This belief can be traced back to the norse goddess Hertha, who would appear in one’s fireplace to grant good luck. The practice of leaving gifts underneath the tree are also nordic, as Odin would leave gift beneath evergreens during Yuletide, a tree considered sacred due its association with the deity. Tony van Renterghem in his When Santa Was a Shaman, writes:

“In newly Christianized areas where the pagan Celtic and Germanic cults remained strong, legends of the god Wodan were blended with those of various Christian saints; Saint Nicholas was one of these. There were Christian areas where Saint Nicholas ruled alone; in other locations, he was assisted by the pagan Dark Helper (the slave he had inherited from the pagan god Wodan). In other remote areas…ancient pockets of the Olde Religion controlled traditions. Here the Dark Helper ruled alone, sometimes in a most confusing manner, using the cover name of Saint Nicholas or ‘Klaus,’ without in any way changing his threatening, Herne/Pan, fur-clad appearance. (This was the figure later used by the artist Nast as the model for the early American Santa Claus)” (page 96).

Celebrations of the Future

In my own personal capacity, I should like to see the celebration of the Winter Solstice focused upon a veneration of the ingenious human industry which girds us from the rending chaos of frostbite and frigidity, of all that turns against dissolution and all that revitalizes our commitment to our fellows, in sonorous mirth and joyous creativity, as we contemplate the return of warmth and growth and plan endeavours for the Spring.

This season, if you should find yourself warm and well-stocked, thank the local architects and engineers, the electricians and designers who have, through the powers of their mind, created the magnanimous shell which girds you from near-certain death.


Sources & Resources for Further Reading

  1. David C. Pack. (undated) The True Origin of Christmas. RCG.
  2. HOIM Staff. (undated) The Shocking Pagan Origins of Christmas. Hope of Israel Ministries.
  3. Klaus Antoni & David Weiss. (2013) Sources of Mythology: Ancient & Contemporary Myths (Two-Faced Solstice Symbols & The World Tree). 7th Annual International Conference on Comparative Mythology.
  4. Patti Wigington. (2018) History of Yule. ThoughtCo.
  5. Patti Wigington. (2018) Yule Wassail Recipe & History. ThoughtCo.
  6. Sarah Pruitt. (2016) 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations Around The World. History.
  7. Stavanger Writer. (1997) Christmas In Norway. Stavanger-Web.