Piero Fornasetti.

EARTHSTORIEZ celebrates the people, places, the HISTORY & HERITAGE it meets travelling.

Cultural History, Heritage and Folklore encompass such a broad range of human activities that any attempt to list the many genres and categories within it is bound to fall short. Accordingly, what follows is meant to be a representative survey of what you find on earthstoriez – not an exhaustive one.



Originally, a short, humorous tale. Now, the term commonly refers to single episode narratives, regarded as true and commonly concentrating on an individual.

animal lore:

Animal lore is the accumulated fact, tradition, and belief about the fauna of a region.


The attribution of a living soul or spirit to places, inanimate objects,  natural phenomena and creatures– like the sun and stars, trees and rivers, winds and clouds, rocks and mountains, and animals become personal animate creatures that can influence human events.

The belief of the existence of spirits separable from bodies is also present, from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”.

Animism has many forms, which reflect the geographical environment, the religious or spiritual cultural history, and the distinct worldview of the people groups who practice its various expressions. Expressions of animism are found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Neopaganism, and Shinto, as well as other spiritualties or religions.


belief tales:

Legends or personal experience narratives that are told with the purpose of validating a particular folk belief.


cautionary tales:

Stories whose plots embody a message cautioning against the consequences of particular kinds of behavior.


The way of life of a population, including shared knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes, rules of behavior, language, skills, and world view among members of a given society. It shapes human behavior because it is the foundation of conscious and unconscious beliefs about proper ways to live.

Cultures change constantly.

Different members of a society internalize and express different parts of their culture. Subcultures can also reflect differences by geographic region or other subgroups within a larger society.

cultural history:

“Kulturgeschichte” wants to understand a people historically. Johann Gottfried Herder, wrote „Was ich bin, bin ich geworden“ –  What I am I have become.

Because “Culture” does imply everyday attitudes, values, assumptions and prejudices, and the rituals and practices that express them, from magical beliefs to gender roles and hierarchies. In this sense, our instincts, thoughts, and acts have an ancestry which cultural history can illuminate and examine critically.

Cultural history brings to life a past time and place.

Cultural history tries to understand  people’s efforts to create meaning and beauty, to express joy and sadness, and to communicate. Those efforts have taken an extraordinarily wide array of forms historically. It is an exercise in interpretation of symbolic acts and rituals of people in the past and present, including fine arts, literature, music, and architecture. But also everyday material culture, the built environment (gardens, landscapes, and city capes), and food show how rich with cross-disciplinary interactions cultural history is.

Like the air we breathe, the cultural context that shapes our understanding of the world is often invisible for those who are surrounded by it; cultural history allows us to take a step back, and recognize that some of what we take for granted is remarkable, and that some of what we have thought immutable and natural is contingent and open to change.

cultural heritage:

Cultural heritage is in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the religions we follow, and the skills we learn. Sometimes we can touch and see what makes up a culture — other times it is intangible. Like knowledge apparent in the worldview of a people, preserved through books, artifacts’, objects, pictures, photographs, art, and oral tradition.

cultural heritage diversity and religion:

The same religion can have a very different expression in one place compared to another, even though they share the same theology and beliefs. A religious expression is very much influenced by the history of the people practicing it and the surrounding groups influencing them. Religion helps many of us to interpret and create meaning in their lives. It has a powerful influence on family life, identity, diet and understanding death.

For example, Hindus in India, Nepal and in Indonesia (Bali) share similar cosmologies, they share the same Deities, the Ramayana, and the Vedas but the expression of Indian Hinduism, Nepalese Hinduism and the expression of Balinese Hinduism are unique and distinct. Same happens with Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, Buddhism, Jain, Sikhism and many more religious groups, like Christians and Muslims.

Or consider Russian Orthodox Christianity and Roman Christianity, both are recognizably traditions venerating Christ, his sacrifice, and resurrection yet the cultural overlay, history and expression of Christianity in those settings are distinctly different.

Muslims the world over share their reverence for the Holy Koran, the Prophet Mohammed, and the pillars of Islam (alms giving, prayer, the Haaj) but its practice in the Arabic countries, in Indonesia, Europe, the US and in India can appear markedly different on the surface, and include many local customs unique to the expression of faith in that region.

No one has a single culture, but we participate in many cultures. We may have one or more ethnic cultures that participate in depending on their parentage, religious culture(s), occupational cultures, gendered or non-gendered cultures, hobbies etc.

culture hero:

Character in myth who finishes the work that brings technology (usually symbolized as fire), laws, religion, and other elements of culture to humans. Culture heroes may take over the business of creating order out of chaos where a Supreme Creator left off. The culture hero serves as a secondary creator or transformer of the universe. He/she transforms the universe by means of his gifts into a universe in which humans can live. In some myths, the culture hero cleanses the universe of things that threaten human existence: monsters, cannibals, or meteorological phenomena.


A group of tales that focuses on a central character, plot, or theme.



Tree worship refers to the tendency of many societies throughout history to worship or otherwise mythologize trees.

From dendro- +‎ -latry, from Ancient Greek δένδρον (déndron, tree) + λατρεία (latreía, worship)


ethnic group:

Originally defined by Gordon (1964) as a group of individuals with a shared sense of peoplehood based on race, religion, or national origin, it is now commonly used to refer to a group with a distinctive culture.

Ethnicity is the active expression of culture.

An ethnic group is a large group in which members self-identify. They internalize and share a heritage of, and commitment to, unique social characteristics, cultural symbols, and behavior patterns that are not fully understood or shared by outsiders.


Ethnobotany is the study of how people traditionally use plants – the botanical knowledge of a social group and its use of locally available plants in foods, medicines, clothing, or religious rituals.

The prefix ethno-, translates to ethnic “ethnic” and includes the study of culture, beliefs, language, and folklore.

The suffix -botany, is the study of plants.

Ethnobotanical knowledge encompasses both wild and domesticated species, and the term implies the study of indigenous or traditional knowledge of plants. Both ethnomedicine and ethnopharmacology overlap significantly with ethnobotany.

ethnobotanical lore:

At earthstoriez, we particularly treasure those threads of the fabric of knowledge that carry an awareness of how humans are woven into nature. This knowledge is apparent in the worldview of a people, which arises as beliefs, stories, myths, instructions, songs, art forms, rituals, recipes, and practices. The lore has for millennia informed the young people of these cultures in how to be human in a natural world. Lore comes from the same root word as learn. It includes both knowledge and know-how, passed down from ancestors.

ethnomedicine – ethnopharmacology:

Ethnomedicine is the study of traditional medicines, whether written (as in Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine), or remembered and transmitted via oral tradition (such as in much Native American, Latin American or African folk medicine, or in Euro-American herbal medicine). Medical anthropology studies contemporary ethnomedicine, which includes concepts of what illness is and how healing occurs. Ethnopharmacology is the study of the uses, effects and modes of actions of naturally-occurring drug compounds. This is a key field that often explains the effectiveness of herbal medicine, stimulants, analgesics, inebriants or psychoactive species.


Ethnomusicology approaches music as a social process in order to understand not only what music is but why it is: what music means to its practitioners and audiences, and how those meanings are conveyed.

etiology (narrative):

The word etiology is derived from the Greek αἰτία, which means cause. In the field of literature a narrative is said to be etiological when it attempts to explain (in mythic, religious, or literary terms) the origin of something. It is, in other words, an imaginative story triggered by a question about how (or why) something came to be in the world. It is opposed to a historical or scientific explanation. Etiological narratives are not synonymous with the origins of people and peoples or with the founding myths of places.


The study of the origin of words and the way in which their form and meanings have changed throughout history. From Greek etymologia “analysis of a word to find its true origin,” or “study of the true sense (of a word).”



Fictional narrative ending with a didactic message that is often couched in the form of a ‘‘moral’’ or proverb.

fairy tales:

Fairy tales are traditional stories, intended primarily for children, which recount human encounters with supernatural beings such as fairies, witches, ogres, and the like, most often conveying a cautionary message. Many such tales were compiled by the Brothers Grimm.

folk art:

predominantly functional or utilitarian visual art created by hand (or with limited mechanical facilities) for use by the maker or a small circumscribed group and containing an element of retention—the prolonged survival of tradition. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Folk art comprises a range of artistic
productions and handicrafts. These include paintings, sculptures,
quilts, pottery, and furniture created by ordinary, unschooled folks
using traditional styles and methods, and often employing imagery or
symbolism from local mythology.

folk history:

Accounts based on perceptions of historical events rather than on written documentation or similar media.

folk music:

a type of traditional and generally rural music that originally was passed down through families and other small social groups. Typically, folk music, like folk literature, lives in oral tradition; it is learned through hearing rather than reading. It is functional in the sense that it is associated with other activities, and it is primarily rural in origin. A folk singer
is a person who sings folk songs or other songs in the folk idiom.


Traditional customs, beliefs, stories (tales) and sayings of a community, passed down through generations largely by word-of-mouth. Term coined by folklorist by W. J. Thoms to replace earlier popular antiquities.

Read more Memory, Modernity & Identity


Highly formulaic and structured fictional narrative that is popularly referred to as ‘‘fairytale’’ and designated by folklorists as Märchen or ‘‘wonder tale.’’ Term coined by folklorist Stith Thompson. Stories passed down through generations, usually through word-of-mouth, within a community or culture. Most of these stories originate in popular culture and contain the cultural memories, ideals and philosophies of their communities.



The term heritage has evolved considerably over time. Initially referring exclusively to the monumental remains of cultures – the concept of heritage has gradually been expanded to embrace –living culture and contemporary expressions.

Contemporary expressions of culture refers to current, shared themes, beliefs and values of the society. It includes present practices, trends, as well as political and social beliefs. Ways we tell our stories, celebrate, remember the past, entertain ourselves, and imagine the future. Our creative expression helps define who we are, and helps us see the world through the eyes of others.

Traditional cultural expressions are also called “expressions of folklore”, they may include music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, or many other artistic or cultural expressions.



A joke is a humorous story or anecdote meant to provoke laughter through irony, wordplay, the thwarting of expectations, the juxtaposition of images, and other long-practiced techniques.



Story (narrative) told as truth, set in the historical past, and that does not depart from the present reality of the members of the group.

local legend:

Legends derived from and closely associated with specific places and events believed to have occurred in those locales.

local communities

“the human population in a distinct ecological area who depend directly on its biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services for all or part of their livelihood and who have developed or acquired traditional knowledge as a result of this dependence, including farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, forest dwellers and others.”

See CBD, Development of Elements of Sui Generis Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices, UNEP/CBD/WG8J/4/INF/18, p.5.


A body of traditions and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth. (tree lore, plant lore, child lore weather lore…)


medical anthropology:

Medical anthropology, refers to all practices that might alleviate disease, including rituals and psychotherapeutic approaches to healing that are regarded as effective by members of a social group.

Minnesang and Minnesänger:

German courtly love poetry, or Minnesang, emerged around 1170 (to the14th century), produced both by singers who wandered from court to court looking for patrons of their art, and also by members of the highest aristocratic circles.

The first signs of profound changes affecting Minnesang occurred around 1200 with the appearance of great poet Minnesänger such as Walther von der Vogelweide, who went far beyond the artificial conventions with which the Minnesang had been governed by introducing an element of practical realism, both in his love poetry and in his Sprüche. He wrote a great many philosophical and political Sprüche that reflected prevailing conditions of the Reich and the church. They contained satire and humor, frequently attacking high ranking persons.

The Minnesang was meant to be sung but the melodies were not well documented and mostly only lyrics are left.


Myth is set in a world that predates the present reality. A myth is a traditional sacred story, usually featuring goddesses, gods and heroes, which purports to give a cosmic explanation of a natural phenomenon or cultural practice. It is part of the cultural fabric, conveying essential (if not literal) truth and meshing with other stories and beliefs in the society. This narratives explain the will (the intent) and the workings (the orderly principles) of a group’s major supernatural figures.



Romantic tale.



Historically religion is one of the most powerful forces shaping culture. Beliefs, practices, rituals, cosmologies, explanatory models, and specialized classes of people comprise culture, and much of this is defined and given significance by religion. Culture is often about power, who is entitled to it and who isn’t. Religion sometimes has a strong hand in determining this as well, so it is among those systems of power operating in human societies.

But the same religion can have a very different expression in one place compared to another, even though they share the same theology and beliefs. A religious expression is very much influenced by the history of the people practicing it and the surrounding groups influencing them.

Religion helps many interpret and create meaning in their lives, and often intersects with medical practice. It has a powerful influence on family life, identity, diet and understanding death.


sage or saga:

Following the general use of the word “Sage” in German secondary literature its etymological based on “to say” and translated into legend.

While the Norse sagas are written prose narratives.


“Sacred” refers to “any expression of traditional knowledge that symbolizes or pertains to religious and spiritual beliefs, practices or customs. It is used as the opposite of profane or secular, the extreme forms of which are commercially exploited forms of traditional knowledge.” (Daniel J. Gervais, Spiritual but not Intellectual: the Protection of Sacred Intangible Traditional Knowledge, 11 Cardozo J. Int’l & Comp. L. 467, 469-490 (2003).)

Sacred traditional knowledge refers to the traditional knowledge which includes religious and spiritual elements, such as totems, special ceremonies, sacred objects, sacred knowledge, prayers, chants, and performances and also sacred symbols, and also refers to sacred traditional knowledge associated with sacred species of plants, animals, microorganisms, minerals, and refers to sacred sites.

Whether traditional knowledge is sacred or not depends on whether it has sacred significance to the relevant community. Much sacred traditional knowledge is by definition not commercialized, but some sacred objects and sites are being commercialized by religious, faith-based and spiritual communities themselves, or by outsiders to these, and for different purposes.


Can be defined as whomever or whatever provides someone a transcendent meaning in life. It may be expressed as a relationship with one’s god(s) or the creator, but can also refer to values such as: nature, energy force, belief in the goodness of all, or belief in the importance of family and community.

Among some populations, it includes organized religion. It may or may not include belief in, and communication with, forces in the form of spirits.

story & stories:

Tale, narrative, lore, myth, oral histories.


Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are orally shared as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values. Art, ritual, and performance overlap in various ways, stories are continually told and retold.

Modern storytelling has a broad purview. In addition to its traditional forms (fairytales, folktales, mythology, legends, fables etc.), it has extended itself to representing history, personal narrative, political commentary and evolving cultural norms.


A saying is the simple, direct term for any pithy expression of wisdom or truth.

 Traditional values have disappeared or are changed over time, but some proverbs that explicate moral and spiritual wisdom remain with the people. Still told to help educate and pass wisdom down from one to another, they teach a message of behavior or give philosophical wisdom.

They have been defined as the wisdom of many and the wit of one.

Although sayings, like motto, mantra, aphorism, proverb and maxim may be highly believed and are current in the same culture they ironically often contradict each other.


tale type:

Standard, recurrent folk narrative plot.

tall tale:

Fictional narrative often told as a firsthand experience, which gradually introduces hyperbole until the audience realizes by the conclusion that the tale is a lie.


Belief, ideas, customs and practices passed down from generation to generation within a community. These include religious or ritualistic practices and often trace their origin to certain folktales, legends or myths.

tree lore:

A body of traditions, stories and knowledge on trees, held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth.



Version of a story.

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Works Cited & Multimedia Sources

For this glossary we used Green T. The Greenwood Library of American Folktales. Four Volumes. 1944-2006.



https://ethnomed.org › culture › religion