IS THERE AN ECOLOGICAL PLACE FOR FOLKLORE IN THE 2020’s?


Robert Aitken beneath the ancient caves of Sutherland, Highlands of Scotland

As the wages of technology seeks to further envelop us at the start of this new decade, what role exists for Folklore? What I’m talking about is the wider, bigger themes of ecological beliefs and customs handed down past generations about place, activity and people. I’m asking is there even a place for such a Lore in this so called ‘smart’ world of ours. Or, will we ignominiously turn our cheek and let the bot driven algorithms code us to oblivion.

One of the infecting aspects of today’s technology in society is the epidemic of loneliness. Another is the spread of a global culture. Mass tourism, chiefly instigated through empire invasion, is responsible for the dissolving of many indigenous cultures at a frightening rate. To give some context it is reported there are approximately 6000 active languages worldwide. In the next 50 years 95% will vanish! We may think we have brought technological modernity to various parts of the of globe, but we ultimately brought destruction, by way of homogenising marginal ways of living, and with it the ecocide of the natural world. In an education report from the year 2000 it was found that 1/4 of people are unable to name a single myth or legend. It also found that the majority of people had never heard a traditional piece of music or song in the previous 2 years. This may on the surface seem a trite point, but is a warning light to where we are heading. Just think - no more Pan - no more his pipes played by the rushes - no more sweet music carried by the breath of wind.

But the ancients, in the legacy of their Lore, were deeply rooted in environment and conservation. Whether it’s the Aboriginal peoples of America, Europe, Asia or the South Pacific etc., these were the original scientists. But they spoke of ecology and of community of spirit, whereas western ideology compartmentalises life in tighter and tighter boxes. When we realise that areas such as plant science and healthcare are actually one interconnected force of life we begin to understand that a holistic approach actually helps us make sense of the technical aspects of our lives. We should do well to remember it was a Lore based science that allowed people to survive, indeed thrive, two ice ages and millennia by observing, questioning and then testing these questions over and over again. If past peoples didn’t go through this process they would have perished long before.

Ironically, the myths perpetuated about indigenous skills not based on scientific knowledge is a complete fallacy and part of the big-tech marketing drive that material possessions and owning the latest gear is your only salvation. But Lore possesses something more powerful than any tech-company can devise.

Explorer John Rae discovered the missing link in the North West Passage by adopting and learning the ways of indigenous Arctic peoples

The word Lore, whether from Old English, proto-Germanic or Dutch origins etc. has at its core to ‘Learn’ or ‘Instruct’. We humans are built to connect to knowledge - we are hard wired to bond with nature. It’s one mainframe we cannot detach ourselves completely. That dormant faculty remains strong within us no matter how hard some artificial intelligence tries to condition us otherwise. But we do need to rekindle the practise by re-instructing ourselves and learning the young that the wellbeing of yourself and the planet is one. That conserving your own mental health and that of the ecology around you is one. And that passing this knowledge from one person to another is all one.

I’m sure many of us have felt the clarion call to heal the damage being done to the planet and help ourselves in meaningful ways. In this globally changing political and societal landscape there is a growing need to repatriate ourselves in a more localised culture and align with the natural order directly around us. It won’t be easy. It will mean less material goods, less obsessing about shiny trinkets and less craving at the altar of new. It will be back to basics no doubt and nature can be a harsh taskmaster. But the benefits physically, psychologically and spiritually are incalculable for the sanctity of each person's soul and that of all living life.

The truth is this knowledge has always been available to us if we just stop, gaze up from our devices and recalibrate our bodies to a different frequency. If the Lore of our ancestors can travel aeons in time to get to the here and now in 2020, maybe we can take the small step and tune in to the vibration of a primordial and instinctive kind of know-how. If you enjoy reading this article please Like & Share #loreoftheland © 2019 Rob Aitken


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