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Tag: cultural interaction

Which saints do we honor on All Saints Day? It depends on what cultural tradition we're talking about.

Which saints do we honor today?

Blessings on All Saints Day

The words "All Saints Day" and "Los Días de los Muertos" float above a fabric pattern of sugar sculls and circles of colorful dots.

This is one of those “universal” days celebrated in several cultural traditions. But exactly which saints are we venerating on this day? Who are they, and where did they come from? That depends on which tradition you mean. 

The ever-flexible early Christian Church adopted Celtic Samhain and reframed it in a culturally Christian way. Robust traditions in Poland and other Slavic countries point to pre-Christian roots as well. Missionary priests rediscovered it in their Mesoamerican and Filipino converts a few centuries later

Thus, neopagans todaytraditional Christians, and followers of Aztec, Maya, and other native/First Nations traditions of North America all find themselves in a similar place at this time of year, venerating (or at least remembering) some group of the dead. 

So, which saints are which? 

That’s a good question. The answer has changed over time. As early as the fourth century, Christians at Antioch gathered to honor those who had been martyred. In the seventh century, church leaders set the Day of the Dead on May 13thAt that point, “saint” apparently meant “martyr.”

The Martyrdom of St. Alban, from a 13th-Century manuscript now at Trinity College Dublin, was inscribed and illustrated by Matthew Paris.
The Martyrdom of St. Alban, from a 13th-Century manuscript now at Trinity College Dublin, was inscribed and illustrated by Matthew Paris

Later the definition of All Saints was broadened to all venerated saints. This included a great many “baptized” local gods and goddesses. Also , the observation moved to the fall season.

While not precisely the midpoint between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it’s within a week of it. Since the earliest pre-Christian observances lasted over several days, it might be called a “season.” 

Converts from many traditions came under the umbrella of Christianity. The early break between the Eastern and Roman churches, and later the Reformation (Might note that Reformation Day is October 31) divided Christians into yet more subgroups and denominations. Each developed its own focus. 

Protestants, who don’t venerate capital-S Saints with the same understandings as Roman Catholic traditions, often speak “the saints” in terms of “the Church Triumphant.” By this they mean all Christians who have died

But no matter which saints you understand it to mean, I hope you have a blessed day.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to OneQuirkyMoose on Etsy, for the “Day of the Dead” fabric pattern that forms the background of my “All Saints Day” image. The photo of The Martyrdom of St. Alban by Matthew Paris, is courtesy of Wikipedia.

Why can’t we be friends?

Sometimes folks just don’t hit it off right away.

Especially if they’re different in a lot of ways. Maybe they don’t look too much alike. Maybe they come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different belief systems. Or speak different languages.

Does that mean they’re doomed to hate each other?

We humans get crosswise with each other, too. But heck, we aren’t even different species.

Maybe the dog and the ferret are onto something.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Giant Gag, via Pinterest.

Unique manifestations

Artdog Quote of the Week

“Other cultures are not failed attempts at being like you.”

There are people in this world who don’t see it that way. They can’t look beyond their own frame of reference, and they resist seeing their own privilege, which simultaneously insulates them and quarantines them from full participation with the rest of the world.

Sadly, they miss more than they know.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Quote Addicts for this image and quote.

I hope you’ll also check out Wade Davis’s website. Davis is an anthropologist and author who works with National Geographic, so he really knows what he’s talking about in this quote.

Cultural exchange and a Japanese Cubist

This week’s Artdog Image of Interest:

Cultural exchange flows both ways, or it isn’t an exchange. In earlier posts this month, I’ve explored Japonisme in Europe, and the influence of Katsushika Hokusai’s prints on the French painter Paul Cézanne. Japanese art clearly changed the look of Western art in many ways.

But did Western art have any effect on the art of Asia? Indeed it did, and here is an example. Today, I’d like you to meet Tetsugoro Yorozu‘s Leaning Woman

Tetsugoro was part of the Japanese Yōga (“Western-style”) art movement at the turn of the 20th Century. Although he died when he was only 41 (of tuberculosis), he was an influential painter in his day. Fascinated with Western-style art from an early age, he traveled to the US to study art, but had to return almost immediately to Japan, because of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

He experimented with a variety of Western styles, but he is best known for promoting Cubism in Japan. Tetsugoro’s Leaning Woman currently resides in the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Japan.

No matter where they originate, exciting new ways of looking at the world will always beguile artists–no matter where they originate.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Wikipedia for the image of Leaning Woman.

Essential to the world’s beauty

Artdog Quote of the Week 

There is strength and beauty in cultural diversity. Cultural exchange, cultural interaction, is the way we achieve it.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Quote Addicts for this image and quote.

The most dangerous thing . . .

Artdog Quote of the Week

IMAGE: Many thanks to Stop Bullying (government website); I found this image via PBS.

The Pot and the Bowl

Artdog Image(s) of Interest 

We often hear that the United States is a great big melting pot, where immigrants come from all over and get assimilated, so that they can become Americans. As you can see from the style of the image above, this idea has been around for a while.

This “melting pot” idea assumes the cultural differences will get melted right out, and we’ll all turn into generic Americans. Everybody will share the same cultural references, speak English, and leave the Old Country behind.

It’s balderdash, of course. People don’t “melt” that easily, and they can only interact with the world via the cultural references they have. Even several generations after the first, many aspects of a person’s cultural heritage live on in them. I do like the “Equal Rights” spoon Miss Liberty is using to stir us with, though. It would be nice if we saw that spoon a lot more often in public life.

Or maybe we’re like a salad bowl, as a more contemporary image says: all the assorted individuals mix together and interact with each other, but they maintain most of their original flavors and characteristics. (in this illustration, is the English language kind of like the . . . salad dressing?)

I’m not sure that’s an entirely apt metaphor, either, because after a while we do grow more like our nearer neighbors, while older ties and influences may loosen. Assimilation may never be total, but it is an important force.

Fact is, neither is a perfect image, because people aren’t (normally) pieces of food. We’re way more complicated than that. This is a worry and an irritation to those who like to keep things simple, but I have a feeling those folks have enough frustrations already: life is rarely uncomplicated.

If you’re the kind of person who lives in fear, then the “otherness” of people from different cultures can be frightening. If you’re the kind of person who finds variety to be the spice of life, then nothing tastes better–pot OR bowl–than cultural diversity.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the WYPR article America: Melting Pot or Salad Bowl? for the image of Melting Pot Stirred by Liberty, and to the Oswego (NY) City Schools Regents Prep website for the Salad Bowl of Immigration image. 

An impossible mission?

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

I’m not sure Suzuki is correct–either that international cultural exchange is impossible, or that it is impossible to see beyond one’s own cultural context.

Instead, I think that when people from different cultures interact, they almost inevitably are affected by the new ideas and approaches they encounter. Far from being impossible, it seems to me that cultural exchange is inevitable.

Moreover, once cultural interaction has taken place, the new approaches or ideas (or visuals, or sounds, or flavors, or any of the other aspects of cultural interaction) have been experienced, they are impossible to un-experience. And what does that change? Cultural context.

Not completely, of course. Not all the way to seeing in terms of the newly-experienced culture’s context, certainly. But it still can be interesting, startling, or occasionally even life-changing, to experience life surrounded by a culture not our own.

Suzuki and Bogart are correct, however that making the effort to see beyond one’s own context has the potential to break down rigid assumptions. And once the walls of those assumptions have fallen, who knows what creative things might happen?

IMAGE: Many thanks for this quotation and image to A-Z Quotes.

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