My name is Jordan Lovejoy, and I’m a folklorist from Pineville in southern West Virginia’s Wyoming County. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing with you a little bit about what I do as a folklorist, what folklore is and some types of Appalachian folklore that really excite me.
As you probably know, folklore is many things, and there are many ways to define or categorize it. To break it down simply, folklore is comprised of the folk, which are the people (all of us!), and the lore, which is what the folk say, make, do and believe. We are all the folk and we all say, make, do and believe our own folky stuff, especially in our small groups!
Folklore also has aspects of both tradition and dynamic variation. Think of your Nanny’s homemade peanut butter cookie recipe, for example. Most of us have a handwritten family recipe that has been passed along or shared with us, and that recipe becomes tradition in our family. We might even have certain acceptable times of year for making those recipes, or we might only make them with certain people.
In my family, we only make my Grandma’s coveted and guarded nut roll recipe during winter holidays, and the cooking process usually involves no fewer than 10 people gathered around a kitchen counter, Grandma’s handwritten recipe in front of us. This is our family tradition, and although the recipe stays mostly the same, the making process looks a little different each year. This year especially means the nut roll assembly will take on a new variation. You might have a similar traditional recipe in your family group, and you might also do a little something different with the recipe, like put your own spin on it or make some recommendations in the margin. The same traditional recipe then exists in multiple forms as it’s passed along. That’s folklore, and you — the folk — have made it! It might be informal, but it’s a type of artistic cultural expression that your own folk group communicates and shares.
Throughout the month of October, I’ll be sharing with you a bit of Appalachian folklore that will focus on our words, our creations, our customary practices and our beliefs. From Mothman to handmade face masks, each week we’ll celebrate a piece of Appalachian folklife that speaks to who we are and reflects how we have and continue to creatively shape the world around us.
Thanks for following along, and I'll see y'all next week!