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Calamity Meat and Cows of Abundance: Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Irish Folklore

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Abstract:

Opposition between evidence-based science and improvable religious belief is assumed in Western intellectual tradition. By contrast, Native American theorists argue that religion constitutes part of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), which this paper argues exists in European contexts. Irish tales of changeling cattle encoded vital data for survival in a specific region; such Local Sanctions describe human difficulties that follow ecologically inappropriate actions. Other narratives are Global Warnings, concerning interconnections whose significance transcends individual health to include threats to the health of the planetary system. This paper urges analysis of European folktales and folk rituals as traditional environmental texts.

Keywords: CALAMITY MEAT; CHANGELINGS; COW GODDESS; FAIRY FAITH; GLAS GHAIBHLEANN; HOLY WELLS; NATIVE SCIENCE; SAINT BRIGIT

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/ajec.2010.190204

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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  • Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures relaunched in 2008 as the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

    Previously published as the Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures

    Published since 1990, AJEC engages with current debates and innovative research agendas addressing the social and cultural transformations of contemporary European societies. The Journal serves as an important forum for ethnographic research in and on Europe, which in this context is not defined narrowly as a geopolitical entity but rather as a meaningful cultural construction in people's lives, which both legitimates political power and calls forth practices of resistance and subversion. By presenting both new field studies and theoretical reflections on the history and politics of studying culture in Europe anthropologically, AJEC encompasses different academic traditions of engaging with its subject, from social and cultural anthropology to European ethnology and empirische Kulturwissenschaften.
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