Re: how reliable is the oral tradition ?

Michael K Lerch (
28 Nov 1994 23:56:03 GMT

Rod Hagen ( wrote:

: I'm always a bit worried about those looking for "primal knowledge" on the
: one hand or "reliability" on the other. Societies and their circumstances
: change. Myth, to remain vital, needs to maintain some contemporary
: relevance. The search for "eternal verities" in myth seems similar in some
: ways to the "record it before they die out" philosphy that many
: anthropologists in Australia focused on in times gone by.

I think you make a very good point here. We often tend to forget
that written history also changes in order to maintain comtemporary
relevance. Oral tradition is no different. Cultures change over time,
and so does their view, and memory, of their past.

: The search for "reliability" implies (or is often used to impliy) that
: changes in myth somehow lessen them. Understanding myth as part of a
: living dialectic between people and their social and spiritual world seems
: much more interesting and much more important to me.

Agreed. If a diachronic record is available, one might ask why the oral
tradition has changed, rather than discount it because it has changed.

: Rod Hagen

Mike Lerch