Sunday, November 10, 2019

Week 12: Famous Last Words... Fun with Twine

I might manage to do a couple of Wikipedia Trails later today (I really want to learn more about fetishes like the rabbit's foot after reading that great article by Bill Ellis), but just in case I don't get around to that, I thought I should write the Famous Last Words now. On the one hand, this week was awful; I've thrown my back out worse than ever before, so what I thought was going to be this really easy and carefree week has not been that at all (this has been the most weird and stressful semester, what with my dad and all that going on plus getting iritis, and then our cat died, and now this back thing...), but luckily I did lots of creative and fun things, which has got to be the best possible medicine for back and all the rest of it too.

The Nursery Rhyme Maze I made with Twine was a total blast, and I used that new Chapbook style to do it.

I learned so much by doing the rabbit's foot research for my new Storybook story. It's not the best story... but the rabbit's foot is pretty amazing stuff, and the Bill Ellis article showed me how I really can, and should, look at the conjure fetishes and the folktales as interrelated. Here's the new story: The Rabbit's Foot.

And........... NaNoWriMo! I kept up with my word count as of yesterday, and I should have no trouble hitting my word count today since I got up so damn early because my back hurt and I couldn't sleep... so it's just now 2PM which means I can spend the afternoon with Nasruddin and Birbal. One of my funniest discoveries there so far was the Osho (Rajneesh) was a fan of Nasruddin stories, and I downloaded two books of Nasruddin jokes from the Osho site. It's nice to have some good Hindu-Islam synergy going on in the midst of all this madness in Ayodhya right now.

So, I could write more here, but I think I will stop and go write for NaNoWriMo. I'll take a quick look at the Twitter #NaNoWriMo stream to see if I can find a cool graphic to use to end this post...oh yeah: here we go! If I can go write something now, I'll have my 10-day streak for November. Write on! :-)

Week 13 Tech Tip: Twine Style

For a storytelling experiment, I used Twine to create a Nursery Rhyme Maze, and the default black-background style just did not have the right feel. So, I tried out the Chapbook style, and I think it looks perfect. I wrote up a new Tech Tip for people who want to try out the other Twine styles!

Twine is one of the projects I support at Patreon. Chris Klimas has done such a genius job with this project, and he keeps on adding great new features along with great support and documentation too!

Story Lab: Storybook Research

In my last research post I wrote about finding an article by Bill Ellis, so I read that now and took notes; this is the single most useful article I've found for my Brer Rabbit project in general. It has so much good insight into folklore processes (at work in both fetishes and in storytelling), and it also gets at the cultural appropriation that makes working on the Brer Rabbit tradition so tricky: Disney (and others) took the rabbit, and the rabbit's foot got appropriated too!

Here are some notes I took on the article: it's given me so many good ideas and important themes to keep in mind.

Bill Ellis (2002). Why Is a Lucky Rabbit's Foot Lucky? Body Parts as Fetishes. Journal of Folklore Research, 39 (1), 51-84. Here it is online with OU Library proxy.

fetish from West African pidgin fetisso, from Portuguese feitico, where the term referred to veneration of saints' body parts

"the fetish is a physical object shaped to comprehend a spiritual or personal value that would be difficult to grasp otherwise"

"a narrative, like a fetish, may take on some characteristics of a living entity, providing a symbolic means for storytellers to approach and evenmodify the underlying social problem"

"fetish beliefs can be considered the material culture counterpart of a cognitive process that also leads to legend formation"

ELLIS DEFINES FETISH: "the fabrication, acquisition, and use of a material object invested with extraordinary spiritual forces, which thus becomes a metonym for an implied narrative and so a means of gaining control over complex social relationships"

he puts roots of the rabbit foot tradition "in the politically subversive tradition of African American conjure"

"the rabbit's foot can be interpreted as one of many traditions arising from the ambiguous social and political relationship between Black and White culture in the early twentieth century"

in early 20th century rabbit's foot had taken its place beside horseshoe, four-leafed clover and wishbone as iconic lucky charm

has testimony from Hyatt that even whites saw it as black tradition: rabbit must be "caught by a Negro after midnight in a Negro cemetery"

Puckett documented rabbit foot traditions in 1880s in New Orleans, certified for example as: "left hind foot of a graveyard rabbit killed in the full of the moon by a red-headed, cross-eyed nigger at 12 o'clock at night, riding a white mule"

he inventories other gravesite fetish beliefs and practices

he also discusses other animal body parts, esp. witch associations: "these animals are often considered to be a human in another form"

"we see the rabbit's foot as part of a broader agenda of Black folk magic: the use of power objects to help the bearer resist a status quo seen as ethnically bankrupt"

curious anecdote of a conjure bag in Uncle Tom's Cabin!

he has a lot on human body parts, commodification of rabbit's foot in early 20th century, with urbanization too (people couldn't go to rural graveyards to do the deed themselves)

Ellis argues "that the rabbit's foot is a metonymic echo of a ritual event in which an animal's body part is acquired as a substitute for a human body part, one that will invest its owner with enough charisma to challenge -- or maintain -- a disordered power structure"

on marketing: "if the charm is rooted primarily in African American folkmagic, its brisk consumption by Anglo Americans is a sign of its efficacy as a fetish."

intense: he contends it is a substitute lynching! "Perhaps Whites who appropriated and reinterpreted a Black fetish found a culturally accepted way of maintaining their hegemony. Certainly many Anglo borrowing from African Americans followed this pattern"

~ ~ ~

There is lots more I wanted to follow up on here, but I will just note for now that "graveyard rabbit" is definitely a thing: there is an Association of Graveyard Rabbits dedicated to documenting and preserving sacred grounds.