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Out Of The Ordinary

Folklore and the Supernatural

Barbara Walker

Publication Year: 1995

This contributed volume explores the functions of belief and supernatural experience within an array of cultures, as well as the stance of academe toward the study of belief and the supernatural. The essays in this volume call into question the idea that supernatural experience is extraordinary.

Among the contributors are Shelley Adler, David Hufford, Barre Toelken, and Gillian Bennett.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

THIS BOOK IS AN OUTGROWTH OF UTAH STATE UNNERSITY'S 1991 FIFE Conference on folklore and the supernatural, with some of the articles stemming from lectures presented during the conference by guest faculty members—specifically, David Hufford, Barre Toelken, Timothy Lloyd, and James McClenon. ...

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pp. 1-8

THE ESSAYS IN THIS VOLUME CALL INTO QUESTION THE IDEA THAT THE supernatural is something strange or even extraordinary, and reading them as a whole brings attention to the fact that aspects of the supernatural are comfortably incorporated into everyday life in a variety of cultures (even in those "advanced" communities ...

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I. Perception, Belief, and Living

From the moment we are born, our world is patterned by our culture, and this includes not only what we eat or wear or say or do, but also to some extent our ability to perceive, what we know or believe, and how we think. These things are basic and instilled so early that it is as though the world ...

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1. Beings Without Bodies: An Experience-Centered Theory of the Belief in Spirits

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pp. 11-45

THIS ESSAY CONCERNS A PARTICULAR SET OF "FOLK BELIEFS," THAT IS, unofficial beliefs. The meanings and implications of this definition are discussed at some length below. Most academic theories have assumed that folk belief—especially beliefs about spirits—is false or at least unfounded, "non-rational" and "non-empirical." ...

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2. The Moccasin Telegraph and Other Improbabilities: A Personal Essay

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pp. 46-58

IN 1956, I TOOK MY PARENTS ON A SUDDEN UNPLANNED TRIP TO MEET THE Navajos I had been living with for the previous two years. I had borrowed a friend's car, and we had driven all night long from Salt Lake City to Blanding, a tiny town in Utah's southeast corner. We arrived just after dawn in the Navajo settlement ...

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3. Folklore, Foodways, and the Supernatural

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pp. 59-72

I CONCEIVE OF FOLKLORE AS THE INTERSECTION OF ARTFULNESS AND EVERYDAY life. I say artfulness, rather than art, for a reason: folklore does not depend on the creation of works of art comparable to those of "high" art. Very often this artfulness is exercised in the making of everyday things. These things don't have to be objects, ...

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II. Supernatural Power and Other Worlds: Making Contact

Throughout the world, it is not unusual to find cultures where people believe in an afterlife or in spiritual healing or in premonition. But often, when individuals are attempting to contact someone who has died, or they are seeking supernatural healing or trying to divine the future, people will contact an intermediary ...

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4. Ghosts, Spirits, and Scholars: The Origins of Modern Spiritualism

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pp. 75-89

STARTING IN 1850, THROUGH MOST OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, THOUSANDS of Americans of every class were enraptured, entertained, and mesmerized by drawing-room seances in which the spirits of the dead were reputedly conjured up to answer, primarily through audible raps, any question put to them. ...

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5. Aftermath of a Failed Seance: The Functions of Skepticism in a Traditional Society

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pp. 90-106

I REMEMBER HEARING A STORY ONCE ABOUT AN ATHEIST RIDING ON A BUS WHO said, "God, if you really exist, make a rainbow appear in the sky right now." Suddenly, a rainbow appeared. The atheist remarked, "What a coincidence! A rainbow!" ...

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6. Supernatural Experience, Folk Belief, and Spiritual Healing

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pp. 107-121

SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCES PROVIDE A FOUNDATION FOR SPIRITUAL HEALING. The concept supernatural is culturally specific, since some societies regard all perceptions as natural; yet certain events—such as apparitions, out-of-body and near-death experiences, extrasensory perceptions, precognitive dreams, and contact with the dead ...

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7. "If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked a Cake": The Folklore of Foreknowledge in a Neighborhood Group

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pp. 122-142

The focus of this essay is this "common consent and agreement" about knowledge of the future, as it is understood by a group of elderly women in my own hometown, and the ways in which I believe that the women's social situation and moral code shape the folklore that they share. I want to begin rather obliquely, however: ...

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III. Demons and Gods: Cultural Adaptations and Incorporations

Within a society, elements of the supernatural might be included within a broad spectrum of belief, but how that assimilation takes place or in what form varies from culture to culture. This final section provides three rather diverse accounts of how the supernatural functions among groups in the United States. ...

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8. Bad Scares and Joyful Hauntings: "Priesting" the Supernatural Predicament

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pp. 145-158

SCROOGE'S INTERPRETNE DILEMMA IS A COMMON ONE IN THE NARRATNE arts—a dilemma faced by fictional characters which extends to include a real-life audience of readers and listeners. Whether the tone of the work is gently facetious, profoundly serious, or calculatingly sensational, the author portrays a character caught ...

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9. The Tourist Folklore of Pele: Encounters with the Other

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pp. 159-179

Every year hundreds of packages and letters are sent to tourist bureaus, travel agencies, hotels, and national parks in the Hawaiian Islands from people who have visited the islands as tourists. The packages, sent most frequently from the U.S. mainland, 1 contain volcanic rock, sand, or articles made from volcanic material. ..

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10. Terror in Transition: Hmong Folk Belief in America

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pp. 180-202

WITH THE FALL OF THE CAPITAL CITY OF VIENTIANE IN 1975, THOUSANDS OF Hmong fled their native Laos and, often after extended delays in Thai refugee camps, began arriving in North America. In the West, the Hmong are more widely known than other Laotian ethnic groups because of their efforts during the war in Vietnam, ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 203-211

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pp. 212

BARBARA WALKER is assistant director of the Folklore Program at Utah State University where she teaches and is director of the Fife Folklore Archives; each year she coordinates the annual Fife Folklore Conference on a variety of topics ranging ...


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pp. 213-214


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pp. 215-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780874213201
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874211962

Publication Year: 1995