Comparing Cultures: Dress, Food, Courtship, Marriage, etc


Wedding Traditions all around the World

Wedding customs around the world

The fashion culture~From the point of view of gender

Each Country is Unique: Food

The Gypsy

Inca: way of life, religion and beliefs

Native Americans: Icons or People?

"The Assimilation of the Aborigines in Australia"

Under the Rainbow

Àsatrù: The Indigenous Religion of the Northern Europeans

Youth and their music

Music-culture:The role and status of music in different cultures

Wedding Traditions all around the World

Marjorie Baillargeon

"Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue..." is probably the best-known American wedding tradition. However, there are many other practices in the American wedding that we do no know. Moreover, this particular event is different in every other country and they also normally changed with time.

In the Japanese marriage, during the age of aristocracy, the bride and groom could only move in together after the birth of a child or the loss of a groom's parent and it would have to be in his house where the bride would be accepted as the wife. This kind of marriage is called "Muko-iri". For the union, a young man could basically choose who he wanted to marry. He would visit the woman of his choice and her parents had to approve or not. If they did, they would organise a ceremony named "tokoro-arawashi" that was the most important function in ancient weddings of aristocracy. Later, in the 13th and 14th centuries, it switched from "Muko-iri" to "Yome-iri". This is actually not anything but the opposite of the "Muko-iri". But at that time, the two persons did not have anything to say in choosing their partner. They would only see each other at the ceremony. A matchmaker called "nakodo" would arrange everything in both families. Another important arrangement that was used was the Labour. In certain areas, such as the Tohoku area in the north, the groom would live with his bride's family to offer labour for a certain length of time. In other parts of the country, such as the Izy Islands, the man would still work for his bride's family while she would work for the groom's family at the same time. This is actually still being practised today. In labour arrangement, one that is better-known was for the two people to do their labour in their own family which implied that the husband woud visit his wife every night to consume their marriage. (

In Chinese marriages, there were many important traditions. The real ones did not really change with time and "visitors still get chances to witness traditional marriages in the countryside". First of all, it was very important to follow some basic principle of three letters and six etiquettes. The first letter was the Betrothal Letter which was the formal document of the engagement. The Gift Letter was the one that would be given to the bride's family and that contained the list of gifts for the wedding once they accepted the marriage. And the Wedding Letter was the document that would be presented to the bride's family on the wedding day to confirm that the bride accepted to become part of the groom's family. As for the etiquettes, the first condition was to purpose. If a boy's parents found a girl for their son, they needed to find a matchmaker who would present the request to the girl's parents. The "birthday matching" is the second etiquette. The matchmaker would then make sure that the girl's birthday and birthhour did not conflict with the boy's ones according to astrology. If there was any conflict, they would stop the process of the wedding. Then, the groom's family would present betrothal gifts to the bride's family. When it was done, they would send them wedding gifts. Then, they would pick a wedding date that was chosen according to astrology again. And the last etiquette was of course the wedding ceremony. "On the selected day, the bridegroom leaves with a troop of escorts and musicians, playing happy music all the way to the bride's home. After the bride is escorted to the bridegroom's home, the wedding ceremony begins." (

In Upper Egypt, having the chance to marry somebody that you choose yourself is really rare. There are two ways for a man to choose a bride : through an old woman who knows all the families, a way called "El-khatba" or choosing one of your relatives on you father's side to continue the family name. The bride's age is also an important point to mention. "Although the state and the church ban marriages of girls under 15, many girls at the age of nine or ten wear pendants in their ears signifying that they are engaged" to men they meet at the jeweler's. (Hala Dergham) The ceremony lasts for many days. There is the El-Henna Day where the bride puts Henna on her hands and legs, the day of the two wedding parties : one for the women and one for the men, and of course, the wedding day. Apparently, women are now more aware of their rights because of education and they used these rights in marriage. They do not have to marry someone they cannot see anymore. Hala Dergham (

"An Indian marriage is a feast for the eyes." Everything is indeed colorful and made of silk. The hands and feet of the bride are decorated with precious stones or paintings. The marriage is normally managed by the parents. There are matchmaking agencies that can find the perfect partner for a young man or woman. Horoscope plays a big role in the selection in conservative families. When there is a match, the girl and her family visit the boy's family. Then, they get married religiously before many relatives and friends. There are also a few love marriages. These are only registered in the government office and are normally settled without the consent of the parents and by the boy and the girl on their own. (

The American and Canadian traditions are very much alike and there are many of them. The "something old" is often an antique family jewelry, the "something new" is normally the wedding gown. There is the "something borrowed", from a family member or a friend, and the garter is often chosen as the blue item. Simple things like groomsmen, bridesmaids, the veil, the wedding bands, the wedding cake and the white wedding gown are all traditions that are very well-known. Even the honeymoon is one. According to the abduction, it was a chance for the new couple to hide from family and friends for a period of time and for the bride to become pregnant before her family could find her. (

There are now international traditions that are even used in American weddings to commemorate the origins of the partners because they are often different from the Americans'. For example, jumping the broom or breaking the glass are popular ones. This is the best of both worlds because they get to marry who they want with all the different traditions that imply their origins. Times have changed and one thing is for sure, we are really lucky here to have the chance to choose who we want to spend the rest of our life with.

Works Cited

"Chinese Marriage Customs." Warrior Tours. Travel. China. Guide.
DERGHAM, Hala. "Marriage Customs in Upper Egypt" Sogang University.
"History of Japanese Weddings." Japanese Lifestyle.
"Indian Marriage." Sites and Cultural Features around the World.
"Wedding, Bridal, Marriage, ~Traditions, Wedding Planner, Bride and Groom." Online96.


Wedding customs around the world

Nadia-Eva Danella

Being engaged and currently planning my dream wedding, I started asking myself how other people celebrated that day of pure love and tenderness. Weddings are moments where one thing is at the bottom of everyone's heart: a fervent hope for continued happiness, protection and success in life for those getting married. Throughout history, there have been interesting similarities in the wedding traditions and marriage customs of people all around the world, but there are also some striking differences in the way they get married. Throughout this paper, you will have the opportunity to learn more about wedding customs from Africa to Oceania.

Japanese Wedding Day
The Japanese bride-to-be is painted pure white from head to toe, visibly declaring her maiden status to the Gods. The bride wears a white kimono and a headpiece covered with ornaments to invite good luck to the happy couple. A white hood is attached to the kimono, which the bride wears like a veil to hide her "horns of jealousy" from the groom's mother, who will now become the head of the family. Japanese grooms wear black kimonos to their wedding ceremony. While the bride and groom exchange their wedding vows, their families face each other. Central to the traditional Japanese marriage ceremony is the ritual of drinking nine cups of sake, after which newlyweds are considered united. Families and guests also drink sake to symbolize the bonding of the couple as well as the two families. The father of the groom, and of the bride, then introduce their respective family members.

Italian Wedding Traditions
In the past, Italian wedding engagements were usually orchestrated by the families of the bride and groom. Lineage was of the most importance, and if the bride's father had any doubts, negotiations could stop in their tracks. In some cases, a matchmaker sent a message to the prospective bride's family of the main's hope to marry. If her family found the groom's proposal acceptable, there would be wedding bells and a marriage. Diamond engagement rings have been popular with Italian brides since the 1400's. Italian have long held that diamonds are created by the flames of love. In medieval Italy, grooms even paid for their brides with precious stones. In preparation for her wedding day, the bride assembles a trousseau, consisting of household items, clothing, and sometimes even her future husband's clothes to bring to the home of the groom. Her family provided her with a dowry of money and possibly domestic goods. Today, this custom continues in the form of the bridal shower.

Wedding Traditions in Hawaii
A Hawaiian weddings, flower garlands known as leis are traditionally placed around the necks of the bride and groom. Leis symbolize love and respect, and they are created from some of the island's most beautiful and fragrant flowers. Each Leis is made up of some 40 or 50 fresh flowers, and tied with a colourful ribbon. These flowers garlands are very symbolic of Hawaiian culture and an integral part of every celebration on the island. The Hawaiian Wedding song, which was of course sung by Elvis in the movie Blue Hawaii is almost always a part of the wedding service. The couple's name in the Hawaiian language may be engraved onto their wedding rings. Both the bride and groom will dress in white, and the groom will have a red sash tied around his waist.

Wedding Traditions in Australia
Australia wedding fashions have changed over the years, but the white wedding dress is still traditionally worn by brides in Australia, reflecting a custom which dates back many centuries. A bible is often given as a wedding gift, which is kept as a precious souvenir for future generation. The traditions which are known and loved in the western world are all present here - the wedding cake, the exchange of rings and the reception with friends and family. Australian weddings will often bring together extended family members, and a couple's marriage will provide a wonderful opportunity for everyone to celebrate the start of their new life together.

Wedding Tradition in Egypt
As in the past, many weddings in Egypt are still arranged, and the tradition of the groom's family proposing to the bride is often practiced. Just before the marriage vows begins there is a musical wedding march called the Zaffa. There is traditional Egyptian music, belly dancers, drum's horns and performers with flaming swords. Traditionally, Egyptians believed that the ring finger has the "vein amoris", the vein of love, which runs straight to the heart. A wedding includes rituals, customs and traditions borrowed from our ancestors and from other cultures as well. It is interesting to learn about the meaning of these customs in order to fully understand the importance of the celebration of love and tenderness.

Works Cited



The fashion culture~From the point of view of gender

Mari Hayakawa

When someone goes to department store to shop for clothes, he or she might see that the department of men's clothing and the department of women's clothing are separated or there is a distance between each of showcases. There is no possibility that we will not see tags that indicate the gender destination of clothes, like this is for men, another is for women. There are no "skirts" in the men's clothing department except in a couple of special cases.

As you know, traditional Scotch cloth is a combination of a skirt with Tartan check, high socks, and dark colored jacket. This costume is accepted as a common symbol of "Scotch", but it is sometimes regarded as a little bit strange as a cultural sign. In the movie "Sweet November", one scene features " a man in scotch costume with bag pipes" discovered by the main character. It was ambiguous but I felt that the scene was inserted to make the audience giggle. "A man wearing a skirt is funny" is a common opinion of society nowadays. It's very clear that there is tacit agreement like "Men can wear only pants, Women can wear both skirts and pants".

We can find the clothes for unisex but the number is low. That is a very real and very stream of recent culture. But where does the custom came?

There is an opinion says that the ancient European people began to wear skirts first in contrast , Asian people began to wear pants. That difference came from the reason that they used the materials at hand to make clothes, that is to say European people used fur and skins and Asian people used vegetable fiber. Because Europeans were the people of stock-raising culture and Asians were people of agriculture. To compare the two materials, the vegetable fiber is fur more easily worked than fur. They can make cloth, then they can cut it, twist it, or tighten it. The flexibility of vegetable fiber allowed the ancient Asiatic people to make much more complicated shaped clothes than skirts, so pants were invented at first, more suitable clothes for work, but there are some exception of the case of the climate restricts the type of clothes. In very hot regions, people tend to wear the skirt-type bottoms (tropicaux). In contrast, the people who live in cold regions, like Greenland, persist in wearing pants type's clothes to protect them from severe cold weather(septentrionaux).

We can see man wearing skirts easily in frescos or sculptures of ancient Greeks or Romanians. They wore "tuniques". At that time, of course, there was no perception like "pants for men skirt for women" (even on the occasion of battle, ancient European male were wearing short skirt).

Until the end of the Middle Ages, men wore short skirts above tights, but after the intoroduction of pants, men got to be inclined to wear pants and began to impose the skirt on women were then forbidden to wear pants. Because the system of patriarchy was already established, thus there was the privilege of males, which women couldn't resist.

According to the article of the web site whose title is "OUBEI WO SHIRU KISO CHISHIKI (Fundamental Knowledge to Comprehend the European World), "Women were put on a lower status than men under the control of male-dominated society, and simultaneously, women were idealized in sexual terms". So the next era that follows the Middle Age, "the Renessance", women had to wear "corsets" to make their waists and Their breasts exaggerated, as soon as they were released from spell of religious precepts. Now there is no way of knowing now women felt or if they accepted this dress style voluntarily or involuntarily, but no one can deny those gadgets ( corsets or deep cut slits around breast and shoulders ) worked well to amuse eyes of men. It is the representation of the expected roll of women in that period, that resembled contemporary "Sexy Barby dolls for appreciationwho are capable of bearing children", I think.

In contrast, man's clothing was very solid with no space to show their skin. Even necks were hid by high collars and scarfs. They fortified themselves with wearing solider costumes than those of women and kept their dignity toward women. I think that is because the defenseless of the clothes for female people means the sign of obedience toward the men.

The expected roll of both of male and female people is different in every period, and fashion culture is the thing which reflects social conditions and social needs. I think "fashion culture" works a social mechanism which makes every individual plat their own expected role. But nowadays, after experienced two World wars, women have gotten citizenship. The expected role for female people has dramatically changed. They are no more "Sexy Barby dolls", at least from the point of view of the law. But because of a long history under patriarchy, the custom of " the skirt is only for Women" lingers. I think each of us has the right to choose what to put on. However we are restricted by prejudice. Yet men are free to choose the skirt and women can refuse to wear the skirt. That is natural.


James Laver. "Histoire de la monde et du costume", Thames & Hudson
Oubei wo yomu kiso chishiki (The fundamental know ledge to comprehend the European world) in Japanese
The date base of images of rare books of Bunkajyoshi University's library



Each Country is Unique: Food

Tanya Ives

There are many things that most cultures have in common. We all cry if we are sad and most of us laugh when we are happy but imagine just how boring the world would be if all human beings were the same, if we had the same tastes, beliefs, traditions, language etc. Luckily, this is not the case. Every culture differs from the others on more than one aspect. This text will be about one of these numerous differences: food. Just about every country has its own special dish. I will not make a list of all of them as there are so many but I will mention some important ones divided by their continent and explain why they are the country's specialty.

Africans in general eat lots of corn based meals. Corn is one of the only things that this continent can grow as there isn't very much horticulture or agriculture due to the droughts. Africans usually eat with their hands and not with utensils. Egypt has a food called Molahai, which is a green leaf like spinach, and also Kofta which are meat balls. Tunisians and Moroccans both eat a lot of couscous as it is grown abundantly in their countries. I'd also just like to mention that most Muslim countries don't drink alcohol as it goes against their religious beliefs but they do consume sweet black tea. It is believed that if they are hot inside, they don't feel the heat outside as much, thus explaining this hot drink.

This continent has many varieties of foods. Here are some of the countries main dishes: Japan's dish is sushi which is raw fish filled with seaweed. They also drink Saki which is an alcoholic beverage served warm. This helps them to digest their meal. China is another place where rice is grown so a lot of it is eaten; however, it is Chow Mein that represents authentic Chinese cuisine. This is a noodle-based dish with small pieces of chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms, all of which is grown or caught in the country. The Chinese also drink a lot of green tea as it too helps the body to digest food. In Korea, food is abundant due to its Peninsula and its distinguished climate. Kimchi, a vegetable dish consisting of vegetables and highly seasoned with pepper and garlic, is its most consumed dish. For all of the cultures mentioned above, its people eat with chopsticks and special flat spoons which is another thing that makes them different from the rest of the world. Thailand and India's main dish is curry. In Thailand, this curry is usually beef and is based with coconut milk which comes from all the coconut trees on the island. India's curry is never beef. Cows are this country's sacred animal and they are never eaten so their curry is chicken most of the time and is served with Basmati rice which is long-grained and nutty tasting. Last, but certainly not least, is Russia. Borsch is their specialty. This meal is made of beef and vegetables and is always topped with sour cream. In Russia, people drink Vodka to keep them warm during their harsh winters. Lots of the Far Eastern countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia eat large amounts of fish as they are all little islands with waters full of them.

The Caribbean Islands eat Creole food (spicy food) and fish as they are surrounded by them. Barbados and Trinidad both have the same national dish which is a beef stew called Pepperpot. Yam is the most popular vegetable and Breadfruit is the most popular fruit on these islands.

Tortillas, the "bread of Mexico" is the most popular and well-known dish in the South. It was the principal food of the ancient Aztecs and they date back thousands of years before Christ. Although it is officially Mexican, all of the Southern States eat it and it is the dish that represents the whole side of the continent. Tortillas look a lot like thin pancakes and are made of corn which is the sacred plant of Mexican religion. The population dips their tortillas into stews and uses torn-off pieces to scoop up sauces. They are eaten plain or with butter, beans, meat, chili or sauces. Feijoada is the national dish of Brazil and is a subtly seasoned mix of black beans, pork and sausage created by Brazilian slaves many centuries ago. Another famous dish from the Southern USA is Jambalaya which consists of bean and spicy food dishes. Beans are the most cultivated food in this area so it is used in lots of the local's dishes. The most popular one is the moto bean which is a boiled corn kernel that has been dried. Jalapeño (pronounced halapino) which is a small plump dark green Mexican hot pepper also represents the Southern continent's gourmet foods.

Europe is another continent made up of many different food dishes. Italy, to start with, has a lot of lean cuisine. Their must popular dish is pasta which is served after the entrée. (Italians always have two main courses). Meat then follows and is all washed down with a liquor afterwards to help with digestion. Spain's dish is Paella which is made up of short grained rice with vegetables and fish stock. This is usually preceded by gazpacho which is a soup, served cold, made with cubed or pureed cucumbers, onion and tomatoes. To wash the meal down, Sangria (red wine, soda water and alcohol) and Margarita (hard alcohol drink made of Tequila) are most popular. Greece enjoy their Mezze- a starter, usually of salad with Feta cheese and stuffed vine leaves or their baked sliced and layered eggplant- before their Ossobuka which is a stew made with lamb moussaka. The Scandinavian countries also have their specialty sandwich: Smorgasbord, which is filled with cold meats and salad. Germany's special dishes are well known ones, the Wiener schnitzel (a thin breaded veal cutlet) and Sauerbraten/Sauerkraut which is a red cabbage dish. Moving on to the UK: Due to such poverty in Ireland many years ago, potatoes were cultivated as they were cheap and easy to grow. Today, the Irish still eat a lot of potato dishes. England's dish is Fish and Chips. Fish because England's waters are full of them and potatoes because Ireland is just next door to them so they get their potatoes for low prices. The British are also known for their tea drinking! France's big invention, although it is not really their local dish, is extremely popular and well known everywhere in the world. It is made in three succeeding hot oils which puff up slices of potatoes: The French fry!

Due to a very strict eating code, everything the Jewish people eat must be Kosher. Due to their religious beliefs, they are not allowed to eat pork so most of them eat baba ganoush which is a Middle Eastern mix made from Eggplant. This is Israel's special dinner.

New-Zealand's most consumed food is lamb. Not surprising considering the millions and millions of sheep that invade the island! Australians eat a lot of this too as they are right next to New-Zealand.

The USA and Canada don't really have a special dish but in Québec there is of course Poutine! French fries with cheese and sauce. Also, statistics say that cold countries eat a lot more stew than warm countries as it warms them up in the winter time.

As we have seen, there are many different foods in the world coming from lots of different countries. It is these differences that make each country and culture so special and unique. Without them, the Earth would be a dull place where everyone was the same. Fortunately there are many other things than food that differentiate countries from each other such as their flags, clothes and currency.

Works Cited

Global Food,
Chinese Cuisine,
MURRY, Joseph and Alaine NOFFS. Food and Culture, Almac Editions,1996, 120p.



The Gypsy

Isabelle Desjardins D'Amours

I had an encounter with some Gypsies, when I was travelling in Spain several years ago, since then I always wanted to know more on them. They were mysterious people wandering in the streets of Grenada, with all their luggage. Since, I was traveling the same way, I had the chance to have several conversation with them. I noticed that the way they talk Spanish was different from they other Spanish people. At that time, I tought they were talking Catalan because it was a different dialect. They are simple people trying to live as simple as possible with the knowledge they have..

Gypsies do not refer themselves as Gypsies they use group name that reflects cultural, linguistic, and historical tradition, such as Rom, Roma, or Romanies. These are general terms used by the travellers, although many people in these groups translate their names as "Gypsy" when speaking to non-Gypsies (gadzja). The Gypsies' life abound with great mystery. Their origin remains always an enigma. As their name suggested they were believed to come from Egypt. When a thousand or more years ago, the nomadic ancestors of today's Gypsies began their long journey, they often had to halt sometimes for long period, in regions where they lived in proximity to peoples of different languages and customs from whom they borrowed certain cultural and linguistics traits. By tracing the developpement of their dialect a linguistic mix refered as Romany, linguistic studies, which began in the last century, as brought the most certain information on the origin of the Roma. Comparisons between the various dialects of Romany and Indian languages such as Sanscrit, Prakrit, Marathi, and Punjabi, to cite a few, have firmly established the Indian origins of the Gypsies. The nomadic ancestors began migrating from India around 1000 A.D.. The reasons why they left India at that time are still ambiguous. I found two reasons why the first Gypsies left India; the first one is the first Gypsies to leave India are believed to be people of low, caste who earned their living by singing and dancing. They began migrating from India, first as minstrels (official servants or class medieval entertainers) in Persia (Iran) and later to escape the devastation and wide destruction by a series of Muslim invasions. The second and more recent hypothesis suggests that the ancestors of the gypsies were crafts people and musicians at courts of Indian princes and belonged to the middle-class. Travelling from one court to another, they made utensils and jewelry and entertained Maharajas with music and dances. Nomadic life led this tribe to the west, first to Byzantium and northern Africa, and then to Europe.

The nomadic gypsies have spread throughout the world; they consider themselves a distinct group, culturally and racially. For Gypsies travelling is not a pastime or leisure activity, but a way of life. In fact a common misconception of the latter part of the nineteenth century suggested that the inclination to travel called "wanderlust"was a product of genetic determinants. It was said that it was as natural for Gypsies to move as it was for the majority of the population to stay in one place. The Gypsies are a rare race of nomad. In the ninetheenth century they travelled the countryside carrying all their belongings in caravans (vardos) which was the most common form of habitation used by travellers. The Gypsies' nomadic lifestyle made it necessary that their occupations involved mobility. The Gypsies were first and foremost smiths and workers in metals, horse dealers, exhibitors of animals, musicians and fortune-tellers. Women were renowned for their fortune telling skills, and they firmly believed in their abilities to see in to the future. Gypsy women sold fortunes at fairs; they read palms and tarot cards, and cast charms and spells. It was an important part of the Gypsies tradition and women made considerable profits. Aside from the labour oriented functions, another activity in which the Gypsies have participated is entertaining; they danced, sang, and played musical intruments.

The relation between Gypsies and gadzja (non-Gypsy) are a souce of livelihood and a certain amount of political power and with few exceptions, the Gypsies establish relations with gadzja only because of some economic or political motive. Economic relations between Gypsies are based on cooperation and mutual aid, and it is generally considered immoral to earn money from other Gypsies. The gadzja are only legitimate source of income and skill extracting money from them is highly valued in Gypsies society.

In the 19th and 20th centuries the Gypsies suffered many further injuries and ultimatly, like Jews, were victimized by German Nazis. During World War II they were subject to deadly medical experiments, and many were forced to undergo sterilization. By the end of the War more than 500, 000 of them had been exterminated. After the war Gypsies continued to face prosecution in Eastern Europe and also in America, in some places they were forced to assimilate and settle. Gypsies in Western Europe have traditionally been kept on the move because of laws which have gived them no alternative. American Gypsies have learned to hide their identity in order to avoid discrimination, and since the end of World War II in particular the American Gypsy population has become increasingly urban and increasingly settled, though living invisibly in order to be able to live free of harassement.

The Gypsies are a race of nomad with a culture in constant change since they are moving from one place to another. Because they interacted regularly with other nations and that they are a transnational nation, their culture was/is in constant development. The interaction and influences of all the different groups encounter in the process of travelling and living with them, constatly brought changes in the history of Gypsies way of living. The characteristics of the travelling people that are preceived by sedentary people are those, which contrast with that society, like their way of life, the way they dress and their customs. These wanderers were viewed with suspicion by the authority, since they did not comformed, they were always considered as marginals from the community they have lived in, and they were considered as an affront to the norms of a modern society. Because of preponderant influence or the authority of others, in some case their culture as irreversably lost it own identity, they were forced to assimilate to the others or were completetly rejected. But still most of the Gypsies feel strongly that they belong to a cultural minority whose values are as important as those of the non-gypsy community.

These days most of the Gypsies have adopted a sedentary lifestyle and most of them feel strongly that they belong to a cultural minority whose values are as important as those of the non-Gypsy community. Everyboby has the right to their own cultural identity and to be protected against racism. When Gypsies fight for their ethnic rights, they are also fighting for the future humanity. For the Gypsies, the past lives on in the present. Centuries of oppression have left their mark, and all too often relations between them and gadzja are coloured by suspicion. The Gypsies cannot forget; we must try to understand them and establish a new dialogue.

Works Cited

The Patrin Web Journal



Inca: way of life, religion and beliefs

Arnaud Mouzin

Between 1200 and 1535 AD, the Inca population lived in the part of South America extending from the Equator to the Pacific coast of Chile. The beginning of the Inca civilisation started with the conquest of the Moche Culture in Peru. The Inca were warriors with a strong and powerful army. Because of the fierceness of their army and their hierarchical organization, they became the largest Native American society. The height of their reign in the 15th century came to a brutal end in 1535 when the Spanish conquistadors took over their territory.

Their cities and fortresses were mostly built on highlands and on the steep slopes of the Andes Mountains. The architecture of the Inca cities still amazes and puzzles most scientists. Steps made of stone lead up to the top of the cities, which consist of stone houses and religious buildings. The blocks of stones weigh several tons and they are fit together so perfectly that not even a razor blade can slide through them. The central city was mainly used for government purposes, while the citizens occupied surrounding areas. Their homes were made from the same stone material and had grass rooftops.

The comprehension of how irrigation can benefit agriculture is evident by the expansion into the highland areas. They developed drainage systems and canals in order to expand their crop resources. Potatoes, tomatoes, cotton, peanuts and coca were among the main agricultures of the Inca. Llamas were used for meat and transportation. There was more than enough resources available for everyone. Increased subsistence levels led to a growth in the Inca population.

The Inca society was organised by a strict hierarchical structure. There were many different levels with the Sapa, high priest or ruler, and the army commander at the top. Family members were councilors to the Sapa and even women had authority in the Inca hierarchy. The temple priests, architects and regional army commanders were next. The two lowest classes consisted of artisans, army captains, farmers, and herdmen. Farmers provided most of the subsistence for the rest of the population. They had to pay taxes in the form of gold, which were distributed to the higher classes.

Since population was increasing and the organisation of the Inca became stronger, the need for protection became necessary. They built enormous fortresses on top of steep mountains that enabled them to see their enemies and defend themselves. One of the most famous Inca fortresses is Sacasahuman, located in Cuzco, the Inca Empire capital. Even though the Inca never had invented to the wheel, they built sophisticated roads system to connect the villages. The roads were paved with big stones and barriers to protect the messengers, or chasqui, from falling down the cliff. The highest point in an Inca village was reserved for religious purposes. This point was the closest to the sun, which represented their major god, Inti, the Sun God. The six major gods of the Inca represent the moon,the sun, the earth, the thunder/lightning and the sea. Pachamama is the Earth god, who is the mother of all humans. The Inca had shamans who believed in animal spirits living on earth. Heaven was represented by the condor, the underworld by the anaconda, and the brother by the puma. The Sun Temple, located in Machu Picchu, Peru, was a religious calendar that marked the winter and summer solstices. The Inca were not only fierce conquerors but they also had a violent punishment system. If someone stole, murdered, or had sex with a Sapa wife or a Sun Virgin, they were thrown from a cliff, hands cut off or eyes cut out, or condemned to starve to death. Prisons were useless because punishment usually led to death. Recent excavations of the Inca sites has revealed mummified bodies of the Inca royalty. They have been preserved by ice in the peaks of the Andes mountains.

The 40,000 members of the Inca army were killed by a 180-member Spanish conquistador army, which was commanded by Francisco Pizarro. The warriors of the Inca were no match for the Spanish guns. By 1535, the Inca society was completely overthrown.




Native Americans: Icons or People?

Jenaleigh Kiebert

Attending both a middle school and high school with Indian mascots, the "chiefs" and "warriors," respectively, I had never really thought twice about the actions taken by both student bodies at many school events. At many of my high school's sports events, for example, one could often find our school mascot, the "warrior" costumed in loincloth and headdress with the all too common painted, caricatured, Indian face and the stands littered with students and fans sporting similar attire. Two years after high school graduation, when the use of mascots was discussed as part of a course at my home university, I began to realize the underlying significance of my previous school mascot in which many, at some time, had taken much pride. At that point I also began to realize how many companies, schools, teams, etc. make use of stereotypical Native American images. From names of SUV's to baseball teams, butter labels to school mascots, Native American names and caricatures abound in today's consumer societies, producing a very misguided and stereotyped image of this group of people.

When Indian women are spoken of, one of the first images one may picture is that of the Indian princess. While the specific attributes of an Indian princess may have changed over the years, the images remain similar throughout. "There are paddling princesses and fishing maidens, sewing princesses and maidens of the feathers or the flowers; but most common are maidens-sometimes almost twinned- merely posed as imaginary Indians amid pristine, romanticized scenery" (Valaskakis 31). Consumer societies of past and present have used such images time and again to advertise places and items of a wide variety. As products with icons of both Indian women and men continue to fill the shelves, the misconceptions are continually perpetuated and brought into the homes of consumers worldwide. "These romanticized princesses which adorned calendars, advertisements, paintings and postcards- with names like Winona, Minnehaha, Iona and even Hiawatha- worked in consort with their male counterpart, the Indian warrior to establish the historicized Indian as 'one of the icons of consumer society'" (Valaskakis 31).

One of the most serious issues of appropriation in the United States concerning the "male warrior" image is its overt use as mascots for baseball teams, and educational institutions. "Indian mascots are prevalent in more than 2,000 primary and secondary schools across the country" (Corntassel). With created rituals, clothing, and dancing, these mascots do nothing other than perpetrate stereotypes and mock the rich cultures of First Nations. Some schools and teams claim that these mascots generate interest in native cultures and present the importance of tradition. The problem, however, is that "these references may encourage interest in mythical 'Indians' created by the dominant culture, but they block genuine understanding of contemporary native people as fellow Americans" (Meeks). The use of such mascots in schools provides that many children grow up with stereotyped images of native people which they may not be able to separate from the reality of existing native nations. In a resolution released July 14, 2001, the Inter-tribal Council of the 5 Civilized Tribes stated "American Indians as mascots is a negative means of appropriating and denigrating our cultural identity that involves the display and depiction of ceremonial symbols and practices that may have religious significance to Native Americans." It is incomprehensible that such misguided displays are tolerated in schools of today. Furthermore, what kind of learning environment is this creating for Native American children wishing to attend public schools? The fact that "American Indians have the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation and even lower college attendance and graduation rates" may be quite indicative of the effects these kinds of false representations may have on a group of people (Meeks).

It is difficult to understand why caricatures of Native Americans as mascots is still widely tolerated, while any similar image of another race would be highly criticized and shortly removed. Perhaps it is because society as a whole is reluctant to give up their romanticized ideas about native peoples, or perhaps it is because there are too many who think of Native Americans as a people of the past. Regardless of the reason it is time for education to be spread and stereotypical images removed. "It's ultimately up to the community at large to demand the equality of a cross-cultural education and mutual respect" (Corntassel). In recent years some communities have responded by changing school names and finding new mascots. Through the ongoing spread of cultural awareness changes are sure to continue and progress will be made in the reversal of prevailing Native American stereotypes.

Works Cited

Corntassel, Jeff J. "Let's teach respect, not racism. Ethnic Mascots Demean American Indians." . Originally published: Roanoke Times. Roanoke, VA: Sept. 28, 1999.
Inter-tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes. "The Five Civilized Tribes Inter-tribal Council Mascot Resolution."
Resolution no. 2001-8. American Comments, a web magazine. July 14, 2001.
Meeks, Elsie. "Statement on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports
Symbols." Adopted by The United States Commission on Civil Rights April 13, 2001.
American Comments, a web magazine.
Valaskakis, Gail Guthrie. "Sacajawea and Her Sisters: Images and Indians." In Indian Princesses
And Cowgirls: Stereotypes from the Frontier / Princesses Indiennes et cow-girls: Stereotypes
de la Frontière. By Marilyn Burgess and Gail Guthrie Valaskakis. Montreal: Oboro, 1995.




"The Assimilation of the Aborigines in Australia"

Valerie Angers

"Assimilation, invasion, othering, genocide, power, and dominant culture" are all terms that described the situation of the aborigines in Australia, and what they lived during many years. All of this began in 1788, when the Europeans arrived in Australia. First, they expelled the aborigines from their ancestral lands and took all the rights. They even "denied the existence of the aborigines" (The Arrival of the Settlers). The Europeans othered the aborigines by hunting and herding them like animals. They set the aborigines apart; they excluded them from their own lands. It is not human to do this. You cannot treat humans like that, or like they did not exist. The aborigines tried to fight against the Europeans, but "they were not well organized and strong enough with regard to the colonists" (The Arrival of the Settlers). Europeans had the "power" because they were the dominant culture since the beginning. They were stronger and used force with the aborigines. They not only colonize Australia, but they invaded it, like parasites. They imposed their own culture on the aborigines.

In fact, "the Anglophones tried to Europeanize the aborigines by imposing European names," and they also "took children off the reserves to civilize them" (The Arrival of the Setters). This is called "assimilation." They absorbed the aborigines into their cultures, but Europeans were not on their land. Aborigines were also taken to do household and manual chores. It was "initially expected that the Aboriginal population would be a source of manual labour" (Miles 26). They were treated like animals. "They were perceived as a physically unattractive species with minimal potential for process" (Fleras and Elliott). They tried to resist, but it became worse after. According to the United Nations, this period of time was called "genocide" in part, because aborigines resisted the Europeans. Because of this, a lot of communities disappeared, and aborigines lost their culture and identity. Today, only 2% of the aborigines still exist in Australia and only since 1967 do they have a right to Australian nationality. They can also require the return of their lands. Aborigines in Australia are not the only people who had had to fight against a dominant culture and it's still happening today. The first reason for this is the incomprehension and the misunderstandings between cultures like the aborigines and the Europeans.

"The Europeans invaders did not understand Aboriginal culture and believed their own was superior." This is the reason why it happened in Australia and in many other countries. Because the dominant culture, the Europeans, didn't understand, they didn't try to understand Aboriginal culture. They didn't see the aborigines in their own culture and they erased them in a way so as not to be bothered by them. If in the beginning Europeans had had better communication with aborigines maybe this part of history would have been different and things better for everyone.

Works Cited

Fleras, Augie, and Jean Leonard Elliott. Unequal Relations: an Introduction to Race, Ethnic, and Aboriginal Dynamics in Canada. Ontario: Pearson Education, 1999.
Miles, Robert. "Representations of the Other." Racism. New York, London: Routledge, 1989.26.
The Arrival of the Settlers. 2002. Home page. 20 October 2003.
The Invasion of Australia. 20 May 2001. Home page. 20 October 2003.



Under the Rainbow

Veronique Laforest

Last week, this lovely couple was on its way to get married. Of course, they have been thinking about it for some time now, but it is Mark who decided to take the big step. His partner was thrilled to see that Mark was going to stop thinking about what his family, friends and colleges would say, since the majority of them had a little something against his spouse. It was going to be a small celebration anyway because the courtroom cannot fit so many people. Luckily, no one objected to their union, but unpleasant disapproval was felt in the room when Mark warmly kissed Bernard…

People are getting more familiar with this kind of situation since the media is constantly talking about it, but nonetheless are they more comfortable? How well are we informed about this subject? Do we know anything at all? Depending on where we live, what our beliefs are and what kind of education we received, the opinions might differ enormously. For instance, in Canada, "courts have recently recognized gay marriages heralding hundreds to tie the knot in Ontario and British Columbia". Society is starting to accept this "new" difference that is being imposed to its "original way of living" and so must adjust its laws and manners. Marriage is, by law, the union of a man and a woman, but this has become a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, "the restriction against same-sex marriage is an offence to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them". It is also permitted in Quebec to marry someone from the same sex, but it is obvious that a lot of people are still intolerant to this; statistics show that 54% of Canadians are in favour of the idea. But, our neighbours to the south though, seem a little more conservative. As a matter of fact, the President of the United States said: "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another." Vermont is the only state that permits same-sex union, although pressure is made in other parts of the country to do the same.

In Europe though, the Netherlands has recognized registered gay partnership since 1998. Belgium, Germany, France, Sweden, Iceland and Norway are also countries to have legalized gay weddings. Denmark was the first, in 1989, to give gays and lesbians the right to get married. In many cases however, the couples do not have the same advantages as heterosexual pairs, such as health insurance benefits and linking bank accounts.

On the Vatican point of view however, homosexuals still have a lot to do to make their rights heard; Pope John Paul II declared that supporting same-sex unions is "gravely immoral" and "would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity." Some other people pretend that legalizing gay unions will encourage polygamy and polyamory (group marriage), but before concluding so dramatically, why not just give them the chance they deserve…

Works Cited

Hinojosa, Maria. "Gay Marriages." CNN/World, Europe. 31 July 2003.
Kurtz, Stanley. "After gay marriage." Gay marriage. 2003. http://24.104.12/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/938xpsxy.asp



Àsatrù: The Indigenous Religion of the Northern Europeans

Raphael Leduc

The word Àsatrù is of Scandinavian origin, meaning Faith in the Aesir, and somewhat belies the larger scope of the faith which was loosely shared by all Germanic tribes. But from Scandinavia come most written texts containing the elder lore, since that region was Christianized last, and therefore our modern knowledge includes Scandinavian terminolgy the most. Other names for the faith include Odinism and Wotanism, derived from the ruler of the Scandinavian and Teutonic pantheons, respectively (which are essentially the same, like the Greek and Roman pantheons). These terms were coined by medieval Christians. The best sources of lore concerning Àsatrù are the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda, and the Old Norse and Islandic Sagas. is a very comprehensive bibliography of these historical works. Present day Àsatrù is a reconstruction of the old ways, concerned with historical accuracy more than other neo-pagan religion revivals. It has been recognized as an official religion of Iceland in 1972.

Three groups of divine beings are recognized in Àsatrù. The Aesir are a god-tribe from which come most Gods of the pantheon. They are generally associated with the elements of air and fire, and the artificial. The Vanir are another god-tribe from which a few Gods of the pantheon are drawn and are closer to earth and water, and the organic. Both tribes are in a truce following a war which ended in a draw and exchanged hostages, which explains the Vanir present in the Àsatrù pantheon. The Jotnar or Etins are the Giants who embody the forces of destruction and chaos and against whom the Gods war. In some stories there are helpful Giants, and surprisingly Jotnar and Aesir frequently interbreed. The world is destined to end in the battle of Ragnarok where the Gods will die fighting the Giants. But Ragnarok is seen only as a winter, and the world will be born anew after its destruction.

Thor, the Thunderer, is the son of Odin and Earth. He embodies Strength and Courage, tirelessly battles against the Giants, and is known to display practical common sense. His sign, the Hammer, is the most common piece of symbolic jewelry worn by current and ancient practicioners. He is perceived as being the closest to the common man, which explains his popularity, especially with farmers. The English word Thursday comes from the Anglo-Saxon form Thunar.

Odin is a God of Wisdom, Magic, Death, War, Battle-fury, and Poetry. He sacrificed his eye to drink from the well of wisdom and hung nine days from the World-Tree to learn the secrets of the runes, and the wisdom he imparts is often tinged with madness. He is assisted by Valkyries in leading to Valhall (Hall of the Slain) those who die in battle. There, they prepare for Ragnarok. He was not as popular as Thor, Frey, and Freya as he was the God of Warriors and Kings. Our word Wednesday is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Woden.

Frey is the twin brother of Freya, and is of the Vanir. He is associated with prosperity and good weather. His twin sister Freya is a wild deity of beauty and pleasure, a user of magic and the most warlike of the Goddesses.

Frigga is Odin’s wife. Her prime concern is social order. She is responsible of the household, and her blessing is called on for childbirth and traditional women’s craft.

Loki is of the Jotnar, and is Odin’s blood brother. He is a trickster figure responsible for some of the best and worst that happens to the Aesir. For example, his trickery led to the death of Baldr, Odin’s son with Frigga. Yet Baldr will rule the world that follows Ragnarok, which is possible since he avoids destruction in the final conflict by being in the Land of the Dead.

Ostara is a continental Germanic Goddess of fertility, and was celebrated in Spring. We are most familiar with her through her Anglo-Saxon name Eostre which led to the English form Easter. Her symbols are a hare or an egg…

Tyr is a god of justice and valor in battle, and from his Anglo-Saxon name Tiw comes our word Tuesday.

According to a poem, Voluspa, the universe was created when Muspelheim (land of fire) and Niflheim (land of ice) collided. Then Odin and his brothers slew the Giant Ymir and made the world from his body. Later, people were made from trees, the first man was Ask (Ash) and the first woman was Embla (Elm).

I recommend this website as a detailed overview of all the different Gods and other mythic figures and concepts: focuses on various aspects of Norse mythology.

The worldview of Àsatrù is best explained through their Nine Noble Virtues (found at

The bravery to do what is right at all times.

The willingness to be honest and say what one knows to be true and right.

The feeling of inner value and worth from which one knows that one is noble of being, and the desire to show respect for this quality when it is found in the world.

The will to be loyal to one's Gods and Goddesses, to one's folk, and to one's self.

The willingness to be hard with one's self first, then if need be with others.

The willingness to share what one has with one's fellows, especially when they are far from home.

The willingness to work hard--always striving for efficiency--as a joyous activity in itself.

The spirit of independence which is achieved not only for the individual but also for the family, clan, tribe, and nation.

The spirit of stick-to-it-iveness that can always bring one back from defeat or failure--each time we fail we recognize failure for what it is and, if the purpose is true and good, we persevere until success is won.

Àsatrùar (practicioners of Àsatrù) were and still are a very hospitable people, who fully respect the differences of faith and opinion of others (pantheons and ancestors are not seen as universal) while being fiercely dedicated to their own. Most modern-day revivalists judge others according to honor and valor through deeds and eschew prejudice. On the position of women, Loone Ots says in her essay :

The Poetic Edda seems to be the poetry of men. So women, goddesses and noblewomen mostly, are introduced from their point of view. Their appearance is not of importance; it is rather their fidelity to their husband and/or their kin and their status as mothers of the family that is emphasised. Wisdom is also respectable, as we see in the case of Sigrdriifa, Glaumvör and Kostbera. Generally, women can reveal a stronger character than men (Niidudr's wife, Brynhildr and Gudruun). A mild and lovely woman, feminine in the contemporary sense, does not succeed, like Svanhildr. Effeminacy is most shameful for a man. Women, however, are held in honour; they behave independent enough and have an acceptable right to speak about all the things of life.

Although these conclusions are drawn from the Poetic Edda, a fictional work of poetry, we don’t have much else to study that details life in pre-Christian days, and it is probably representative to a good degree of the status that women enjoyed and the role that they played.

The rites of passage of Àsatrù are very close to what we are used to. Birth, Coming of Age, Marriage, and Death are celebrated. At Birth the child is given a name and a fate, Marriage involves swearing oaths before the Gods/Godesses and the hallowing of the bride with the Hammer, and Death involves either cremation or burial, or both.

Festivals in Àsatrù society are based on agricultural life. The most important is Yule, which takes place at some point between the winter equinox (December 21) and the first two weeks of January and would last twelve or more days. We are very familiar with the elements of Yule since they survived in the European tradition of Christmas. Decorated trees and wreaths, Yule-logs, elves, all of these come from the Heathen festival. It marks the separation between the old year and the new, the time at which fates are set and Yule-oaths (a stronger version of a New Year’s resolution) are sworn upon boars (representing Frey and Freya). The next festival varies in name. For Germanic folk it was Ostara (Easter) whereas the Norse called it Sigrblót (victory-blessing). Ostara happened between March 21 and the next full moon, and Sigrblót was placed closer to May. Customs associated with Ostara include the painting and hunting of Easter eggs which were brought or laid by the Easter Hare. The festival was an embodiment of spring, the awakening and renewal of the land and the soul. Midsummer is celebrated on the eve of the summer solstice (June 21). Traditions include green decorations and fires, and it is considered the high point of the year. Winternights occurs on the first full moon after the autumn equinox, marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter preparations. Awareness is turned from outside to inside after this festival, marking the passage of summer to winter. These are only the most important celebrations, and the lesser ones are detailed at .

Currently, there are organizations of Àsatrù throughout Europe and North America, and some are found in Australia. The religion has experienced steady growth since the early 1970’s and the faithful are mostly concerned with their neighborhoods and families. I was surprised to see how much of this culture has remained with us despite the time and the vast differences between the old Germanic lifestyle and ours, a testament to the richness of our culture.



Youth and their music

Zach Vanasse

The two have come together over the past half a century in the molding and creation of various subcultures with the ability to evoke social change and send fear through the likes of adults everywhere. Often times these subcultures of youth, created in part by various genres of music, are viewed as threats to the peace and conservativeness of the larger culture they exist in.
The beginnings of the youth/music subculture first began in the latter half of the 1950’s with the ever growing presence of Elvis Presley and rock and roll being revealed to the youth of America.

Up to this point growing up as a teenager in the post World War II world was one which the youth were expected to take very seriously, in which one was expected to begin a family, and take on many responsibilities in life. But with a sudden booming economy parents began to expect less from their teenagers, encouraging them to finish high school and even go on to college. Suddenly teenagers could now have fun as a huge weight of responsibility had been lifted off their shoulders. With a larger cash flow they could now spend on items of their choice, and enjoy a new found freedom.
The teens of the 1950’s begin to explore music beyond that of the typical “white” music that they had been exposed to in their homes during prior years. Along with a growing lack of responsibilities and thusly an increased freedom, and independent mind also began to grow throughout the youth culture. The newly liberalized generation began to make decisions for themselves, often decisions different from that which their parents would choose. This began to form what would, from this point forward, be known as the “generation gap”. A gap that the older generation found themselves suddenly very uncomfortable with. Although there were endless amounts of factors creating this gap the older generation found it easiest to target the music the youth were listening to as the cause.
All the while teens were now beginning to purchase radios and televisions to use for their own entertainment purposes. With this growing young audience, television and radio producers began to target this massive audience, who had a willingness and ability to consume products, as their main market. Suddenly the choices teens made began to affect society, as teens were now dressing differently, speaking differently, and had their own social consciousness. At this moment the youth/music subculture was born. There was now an entire generation who, although ethnically were the same as their parents, had their own thoughts, ideas, manners of speech, style, and through the music, their own art. The new rock and roll music became easy to blame for this new subculture because rock and roll itself was born to the African-American culture and thus was an “outside” influence on the “white” culture. It was in a sense, thought to be, an invasion of the white culture by the African–American culture through the youth via the music. Although rock and roll began with African-American artists such as Chuck Berry, by the end of the fifties there were also many white artists, such as Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, emulating what they had heard from the African-American artists and bringing it to the white youth for mass consumption.

By the mid nineteen sixties the youth/music subculture was at its largest and most influential, with artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin leading the “hippie” revoloution, a revolution filled with an excess of drugs and sex. The peace and love
“hippies” were the first in a long line of youth/music subcultures to be titled. Future titles for these subcultures would include terms like Mods, Punks, and Metal Heads. Each group would have their own style of dress, and their own bands with a unique style of music and message. The mods, for example, dressed quite posh and stylistic. They were lead by bands like the Who, and drugs and love seemed to be there message. For Punks the style has been the leather or denim jacket, the Mohawk haircut and the body piercings, led by bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash, with anti-establishment messages, and the Metal Heads often associated with mullets and jeans, and bands such as Metallica and Black Sabbath, with lyrics of Satan and destruction. Each generation after the youth/music subculture genesis of the fifties seems to spawn another title, and another style of music, and another way of thinking. And every time these new subcultures seem to take a bad rap from the more conservative mainstream culture.
Some of the most recent youth/music subcultures to take on scrutiny from the mass culture have been rap and in the early nineties, the Seattle born grunge. Often main stream culture and media scapegoat the music behind these subcultures for any problems that may occur in society associated with youth. For example the Columbine High school shootings were, by some, thought to be the result of the shooters listening to the music of “goth” rocker Marilyn Manson. Other violence in schools and elsewhere has been blamed on rap lyrics which are often a reflection of the rappers early years growing up in the mean ghetto streets. Now, just as in the fifties, the older, more main stream culture, are often times uncomfortable with all the youth/music that exists.

Just a few weeks ago there was a riot in Montreal after a hardcore/punk show had been cancelled. Most reports describing the situation began by describing the dress of most of the rioting crowd (in this case they were punks dressed in leather or denim jackets, some with Mohawks and many body piercings). And most reports seemed to finger the blame for the riots solely on the assumptions that these youth were just some young punks out looking for any excuse to smash things and that people who dress or look like this and listen to this music are a problem to society. The fact is that, yes in this case the rioters, who were by all means in the wrong, were in fact members of the youth culture we have titled “punks”. But this does not mean that we should assume that all punks are bad people looking for any excuse to smash and riot. Let’s not forget the 1993 riots following the winning of the Stanley Cup by the Montreal Canadiens in the exact same city the most recent “punk” riots took place. Following the riots of 1993 no one suggested that all Canadiens fans were probably bad people and that society should probably beware of them. Such should be the case for any youth/music subculture. Indeed most every culture or subculture is going to sprout some bad seeds, but we can not crush, or treat as black sheep, any culture or subculture based on these isolated occurrences alone.
The fact of the matter is these youth/music subcultures often spawn a positive moving forward for society as they open the minds of the youth who are willing to create change in society, and music, due to its young, free feeling is often going to be associated with these ideologies and in fact will often come to create the title of whatever subculture it is associated with. But for some reason these youth/music subcultures will seemingly forever carry a negative connotation, perhaps due to the willingness to change, something generally the larger culture is afraid of, the same fear of change, and fear of the different that has come to create prejudice. Thus looking at these youth/music subcultures constantly in a negative and belittling light is in essence, just another form of racism which, like all prejudice, inhibits us from truly communicating, and understanding one another.




Music-culture:The role and status of music in different cultures

Sophie Boucher

Culture is a people’s way of life, learned and transmitted from one generation to the next. The culture inheritance tells us how to perceive the world, how to behave in different situations. It works so automatically that we are aware of it only when it breaks down or we confront our culture with another one.
What is music in different cultures? Sound, noise, songs? According to John Cage, composer of contemporary music, “music” is an agreement among the composer, performer and listeners.

Music is a humanly made sound, it moves with humankind on our explorations, conquests, migrations, and enslavements. Music culture is always a process shaped by many outside influences.

In this web-page, we will see 3 examples of music-culture: North Native America, Africa, East Europe.

First example: North America/Native America

Navajo music represents their identity. Music is a major portion of every aspect of life. From ceremonies to everyday life, music permeates this society.

Yeibichai song
In the largest Indian tribe, the Navajo have Yeibichai song in which Indians dance and the representation of the presence of the gods brings gods’ power to the ceremony and helps the sick person get well. The dance includes such ceremonial practices as purification by sweating and vomiting, making prayer offerings for deities.

The Enemyway ceremony

The role of nature
The great ceremonial chants are long series of song that accompany the ritual procedures. The disease theory of the Euro-American world is recognized by the Navajos, and they gladly take advantage of Western medicine, such as hospitals, surgery and antibiotics. But, in addition, they see bad dreams, poor appetite, depression and injuries from accidents as resulting from disharmony with the world of nature. The Navajo see the power of the natural world, of animals, insects, and also of earth, water, wind and sky as active potencies that have a direct influence on human life. All of these forces may speak directly to human beings and may teach them songs, prayers and ritual acts.

The Navajos have 2 religions: the evangelical Christianity and the Native American Church. In this latter religion, songs are prayers made for friends and family members who are ill or otherwise in need of help. For the first religion, the Navajo make requests for particular hymns on the occasion of birthday, anniversary of a death or some other signal family event.

Today, new Navajo music has texts in English and orchestral accompaniment, results of a hybrid culture which changes and evolves, adopting new ideas and technology from the Euro-American culture.
2nd example: African music

When Africans were forced to leave their country as slaves, they only brought with them their culture and music which mixed with the American-European one. That’s why a big part of the music we listen to today comes from African music. Indeed, rock, jazz, blues are music styles built with African components: improvisation, rhythm (polyrhythm, syncope), pentatonic scales, search of tone (saturation, buzz), riff.

Listen to this extract and we will see much better
the features of African music culture.

Music-making events
The music helps the workers change their attitude toward the job. Like in the cotton field, with hard jobs, music lifted the workers’ spirits. African music often happens in social situations where people’s primary goals are not artistic: ceremonies, work, play. Music making contributes to an event’s success by focusing attention.

Beliefs and values
Often, Africans conceive of music as a necessary and normal part of life. Traditional songs and musical instruments are not commodities separable from the flux of life.
We could even say that an instrument is like a person who spoke the same language and helped Africans to create music.

3rd example: Central/Southeast Europe

The power of Politic
The villages near Sarajevo had enjoyed traditions of folk music and adjusted to newer styles coming in from nearby cities up to that point, but in 1992, the fighting has changed not only political and ethnic boundaries but music as well.
Like in the previous cultures, traditional music accompanied life’s events. But in Bosnia, most of the population is a Muslim population which have always spoken the same Slavic language. So, songs deals about the Prophet Muhammad, courtship (men and women sing about each other and present themselves the way they want to be understood: rural or urban, available or unavailable, wedding…

Personal reshaping by musicians who have moved from their homeland to the United States
The new music is a mixture with old tradition folk-style melody, Turkish and Rom traditions and some features of rock. Europe is an area where the ultramodern and the traditional have long coexisted. During the fights, songs were used to promote musicians’ cause (Serbian, croate)


What about your music-culture ?
We are easily fascinated by cultures and peoples greatly separated from us in geography or time, in sound and style, in ways of making and practice music. But there is also a music-culture surrounding us, one that we see and hear only partially because it’s too close to us. We are absolutely surrounding by music, pubs, implicit language that stimulates us unconsciously: music in a supermarket, schools, church classes, children games and many other musical situations included people of a group.

In West Europe and North America, we first hear music in the context of family life. People often say they were very strongly influenced by the kind of music they heard before they were old enough to have their own records. Yet despite the parents’ intentions, youngsters often rebel against parents' taste in music and choose to listen to what is favored by people in their own age like Rock’n Roll, rap etc…In addition, lullabies sung by grand-mothers and mothers can be very important, because they not only lull, they promise, praise and teach cultural values.

In a brief…
Music reflects our culture, our beliefs and values. We often appreciate a special music style because we agree with its spirit.

Music is like a game or a conversation: without rules (play in the same tempo, harmony…), we couldn’t play and without agreement about words, we couldn’t hold a conversation. If a listener doesn’t understand the rules, he can’t understand the musician’s intention. That’s why an audience is a community, a group that carries the tradition and norms of the performance.

Musical experiences, performances, and communities change over time and space. Each styles of music has a history and is a memory itself. With the recording, music can be reheard and a mark of the memory. And furthermore, the subject of the music is memory: a ballad as a sentimental souvenir, war songs for encouraging the warriors, African griots that sings tribal genealogies and history.

Music is a way of organizing human activity. Making music is constructing and developing ideas, which come from the people who carry their culture. Music is fluid, dynamic element of culture, and it changes to suit the desires of humankind.


Worlds of music Third Edition, Jeff Todd Titon, general editor

MUH 251 : Histoire du jazz Gérald Côté, ethnomusicologist, Université de Sherbrooke

Navajo Indian: Native American

Musique et danses d’Afrique

Guide de l’Afrique