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A painted sculpture of a face covered in golden leaves

The Green Man, Vernacular Christianity, and the Folk Saint

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This post is part of an occasional series about the Green Man, a figure from European folklore. In this post we approach the Green Man through the lens of vernacular religion, suggesting that in the Middle Ages he was an element of vernacular Christianity. We suggest the folk saint as a frame of reference for understanding the Green Man. This allows us to understand how a figure rooted in paganism, which once appeared on pagan temples, could become, for medieval Christians, a focal point of religious ideals.

Song Hunting in the Appalachians with Karpeles and Cowell: In the Footsteps of Cecil Sharp Part 1

Posted by: Stephen Winick

On September 8th, 1950, two women set out from Washington DC for the Appalachian Mountains on a hunt for folk songs. The veteran English folklorist Maud Karpeles, 65 years old and intent on revisiting some of the singers she had encountered with Cecil Sharp more than thirty years before, was accompanied by the American folk song collector Sidney Robertson Cowell, 18 years her junior, who had worked in many areas including the Appalachians. Their 27-day expedition in Cowell’s car, bearing an Eicor tape recorder loaned by the Library of Congress, took them from Virginia to North Carolina, and yielded 91 recordings, plus a number of photographs. In this series of blog posts we will be exploring their adventures along the trail, meeting some of the wonderful singers they encountered, and comparing the versions of the songs they recorded.

a man in a camouflage uniform

Three Days

Posted by: Lisa Taylor

The following is a guest blog post by Travis Bickford, head of programs and communications at The Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). On August 28, 2005, it was 111 degrees in Baghdad. That kind of heat makes you conspiratorial, like “nah, this ain’t real” kind of heat. I’d only been in country a …

The Green Man: Pagan or Not?

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In this sixth post about the Green Man, a figure of British and European folklore, we suggest the figure, while it had roots in pagan belief and iconography, had by the Middle Ages become a Christian image. In this post we look at pagan antecedents, including the Roman god Silvanus and foliate heads found on Roman temples. We also carefully examine the 1939 statements of folklorist Lady Raglan concerning the Green Man's status as an old pagan image with a new meaning in its Christian context.

Group of people laying long poles across lit barbecue pit in ground

Caught My Eye: Buckaroos and Barbecues

Posted by: Allina Migoni

This is a guest blog post by Drew Holley, a master's student in the Folklore Studies program at Utah State University with a particular interest in food and film. Drew completed his internship at the American Folklife Center earlier this year. Today’s blog will showcase foodways collections (traditions and practices surrounding food) found at the American Folklife Center.

Sketch of FWP writer and poet Sterling A. Brown

The United States vs. Sterling A. Brown – John Edgar Tidwell

Posted by: Guha Shankar

In this guest blog, Dr. John Edgar Tidwell, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Kansas, focuses on the critical importance of Sterling A. Brown's work as Editor on Negro Affairs for the Depression-era Federal Writers' Project, and his efforts in the struggle against racial inequality by "authenticat[ing] the representations of Blacks in the American Guide Series travel guides." The response to his work by authorities speaks volumes about the repressive political climate that sought to suppress any research and analysis of societal conflict and injustice such as Brown's. Dr. Tidwell presented a version of these remarks at an AFC symposium in June 2023 to mark the publication of the anthology, Rewriting America: New Essays on the Federal Writers’ Project (2022), which critically examines the FWP on its 80th anniversary. It is most appropriate to publish this blog today, since it was 45 years ago today, on November 16, 1978, that the Library of Congress celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Archive of Folk Song with a day-long symposium featuring, among others, Alan Lomax, song-collector and archivist for the Archive in its early years; David "Honeyboy" Edwards, master blues singer and later a Grammy recipient; and Sterling A. Brown, author, poet, and guiding figure in the FWP.