CE -- Anthropology and Folklore

Taschenwörterbuch der Ethnologie: Begriffe und Definitionen zur Einführung [Pocket Dictionary of Ethnology: An Introduction to Concepts and Definitions]. Michel Panoff and Michel Perrin; ed. and trans. from French by Justin Stagl. 3d rev. ed. Berlin: Reimer, 2000. 302 p. ill. 21 cm. ISBN 3-496-02668-5: DM 48.00 [01-1-116]

The Dictionnaire de l'ethnologie was first published in 1973 and appeared in German translation in 1975. An enlarged second German edition followed in 1983. The present edition is a revision of the second German edition rather than a translation of the third French edition, Dictionnaire des sciences humaines: sociologie, psychologie sociale, anthropologie (Paris, 1990) and completely reconfigured on a more interdisciplinary level in response to the specific situation of ethnology in France.

The authors and the editor are well-known French ethnologists. In the editor's opinion, the present work is intended to hold a half-way place between a textbook and a lexicon; this makes the use of the term "pocket dictionary" in the title rather misleading, as that term normally connotes a very brief presentation.

The dictionary contains 1,000 entries on 240 pages, a 21-page bibliography, and English-German and French-German glossaries. Also included are two maps presenting the ethnic groups treated in the text, as well as biographical notes on the authors and the editor.

The entries (most of them averaging 10 lines in length) cover persons as well as subjects and include brief bibliographical notes; the citations of articles devoted to subjects give English and French equivalents for titles. No particular bias in terms of a specifically French perspective was noted.

Relying on a dense system of cross-references in place of a subject index, this work makes it possible to grasp whole networks of subjects by paging through the entries. The textbook function claimed by the editor is hardly fulfilled by this form of organization, however. This is a useful reference work, whose bibliographical citations have been updated compared with the earlier editions. [jpl/crc]


Wörterbuch der Ethnologie [Dictionary of Ethnology]. Ed. Bernhard Streck. 2d exp. ed. under the direction of Katrin Berndt. Wuppertal: Hammer, 2000. 431 p. ill. 21 cm. (Edition Trickster) ISBN 3-87294-857-1: DM 59.80 [01-1-117]

There is really nothing negative to say about this dictionary. Appearing 14 years after the first edition, the second gives a thorough and differentiated overview of the field of ethnology. A good subject index provides access to the contents of 80 articles averaging 3-4 pages in length; there is also a biographical section, a glossary, and a bibliography. The history of the discipline of ethnology and of its concepts is covered well, and relationships to other disciplines are thoroughly described. This work, together with the Wörterbuch der Völkerkunde (Berlin, 1999), can be recommended for an accurate and up-to-date picture of the field. [jpl/vh]


Lexikon der Bräuche und Feste: 3000 Stichwörter mit Infos, Tipps und Hintergründen [Dictionary of Customs and Festivals: 3,000 Keywords with Facts, Tips, and Background Information]. Manfred Becker-Huberti. Freiburg [et al.]: Herder, 2000. 480 p. ill. 25 cm. ISBN 3-451-27317-9: DM 49.80 [01-1-118]

This dictionary (which appeared in a second, unrevised edition in 2001) is a companion piece to the author's Feiern--Feste--Jahreszeiten [Celebrations--Festivals--Seasons] (Freiburg, 1998). Over two-thirds of the entries are cross-references, leaving about 800 articles ranging in length from two lines to several pages. The customs and festivals are selected and presented from a religious perspective--the intended audience being those interested in the observances of the religious year. Within that restricted area, it is nevertheless an excellent compendium that functions as a kind of popular chapbook of Catholic customs with some excursions into Protestant and non-religious areas. Particularly welcome is the treatment of folkloric elements, and the overall attempt to draw connections, while never losing the focus of (Catholic) Christian observance. There is little illustration, but there is an ample bibliography of German-language resources, many of which are older titles and journal articles. The cross-references are a weak point--often the reader is led to little useful information or to another reference. Apart from that criticism, this is a highly useful and professional dictionary, a valuable addition to collections for researchers and students of practical-theological questions and religious themes. [sh/mjc]


Kleines Lexikon des Aberglaubens [Concise Dictionary of Superstition]. Ditte and Giovanni Bandini. 2d ed. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1999. 336 p. 19 cm. ill. ISBN 3-423-20210-6: DM 17.90 [01-2-392]

Originally published in 1998, this entertaining and substantial dictionary focuses on superstitions in the German-language culture, with only occasional glimpses at other parts of the world. The authors have established themselves with various publications and translations ranging from religious studies to the works of Haruki Murakami. The intended audience is the broadest possible one: all those who have found themselves at times unwittingly engaged in superstitious practices, and unwilling to dismiss them as ridiculous.

The dictionary contains 284 entries (an average of one page per entry). Some well-chosen illustrations and a few botanical sketches by one of the authors add interest to the volume. A bibliography of 126 German-language titles contains only older literature, some of which is quite obscure and difficult to obtain by modern readers. In fact, it is evident that the bibliography as well as the selection of entries is almost exclusively based on the monumental Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens (HdA) which was published in 1927. Even the text of the entries often stays very close to this source. This is not to say that the authors are merely paraphrasing. They have done considerable work selecting appropriate entries, summarizing and emphasizing particular aspects.

However, the fact remains that the contents of the dictionary are based on the state of folklore research in the 1920s. More recent investigations and modern phenomena such as urban folklore have been completely ignored. The dictionary is well written and offers a concise and accurate view of superstitious beliefs and practices as depicted in the HdA. One wishes that its limitations had been more explicitly stated. One also hopes that the capable authors might find a publisher willing to publish a successor volume that would fill in the gaps of the past 70 years. [wh/rs]


Das neue Lexikon des Aberglaubens [The New Dictionary of Superstition]. Walter Gerlach. Unabridged pbk. ed. München: Piper, 2000. 284p. ill. 19 cm. (Serie Piper, 2796). ISBN 3-492-22796-1: DM 16.90 [01-2-393]

This paperback edition of a dictionary published in 1998 contains some 212 entries, an index, and a four-page bibliography. The author is a journalist who does not claim to be a folklore expert. Yet with the glut of current publications on the occult one might consider this one of the more serious efforts, as indicated by a bibliography that contains research from the past twenty years as well as references to 19th century works. One of the problems reflected in the dictionary is the vagueness of the concept of superstition, which in the postmodern world can mean just about anything. As a consequence, the entries cover an extremely wide range, from conventional ones, such as spells, witches, and the number 13, to folk literature (Flying Dutchman), the occult (channeling), underground culture (Elvis cult), etc. The actual entries often fall short of being useful or enlightening. The very first entry on the eel (German: Aal) mentions that in antiquity this fish was the object of superstition and myths, but fails to tell the reader what the actual myths were. It then digresses into observations about the spawning behavior of eels. Especially when it comes to more recent phenomena in the area of superstition the dictionary often disappointingly misses the mark. The entry on "computer" contains a meager six lines and quotes a 1971 general encyclopedia. One would have hoped for insight into superstitions about computer viruses, for comments about the role of the Internet as a medium for the distribution of myths and superstitions, and information about chat rooms on Satanism and the occult.

The dictionary adds little that is not easily available in other sources. Academic libraries will be able to do without it. [wh/rs]


Kleines Lexikon des Hexenwesens [Concise Lexicon of Witchcraft]. Ditte und Giovanni Bandini. Orig. ed., 2d printing. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, 2000. 243 p. ill. 19 cm. (dtv, 20290). ISBN 3-423-20290-4: DM 17.50 [01-2-395]

Amusing and informative, illustrated and well written, this work can be used both for reference and for reading pleasure. The authors do not address the question of the existence of witches, now or ever; the issue is left open. There are 166 articles in all, containing numerous internal cross-references. Articles deal with all aspects of witchcraft, including its history and its appearance in literary works. About one-third of the articles refer to titles in the bibliography, which has 136 titles in all, primarily German, covering 1850 to 1998. (This second edition has not included newer references.) There are some surprising omissions in this bibliography, and the quality of the articles themselves is uneven. Altogether, the results of witchcraft research based on folkloric and historical approaches are well presented here. What is missing is the representation of present-day witchcraft. [wh/mrh]


Kleines Handlexikon der Märchensymbolik [Concise Dictionary of Fairy Tale Symbols]. Felix von Bonin. Stuttgart: Kreuz-Verlag, 2001. 138 p. 21 cm. ISBN 3-7831-1934-0: DM 24.80 [01-2-396]

Felix von Bonin is a member of the Europäische Märchengesellschaft [European Fairy Tale Society] and a freelance journalist and publisher; besides the title discussed here, his name is most often associated with Das steinerne Herz und andere Märchen von der Liebe [The Stone Heart and Other Fairy Tales of Love], the collection of fairy tales he edited in 1998. Bonin formulates his goal for the present volume thus: "This dictionary ... is meant to be a guidebook for a land that lies nearer to our hearts than to our heads. Exposing the depth of meaning in the characters and object inventory of fairy tales makes us experience this intimacy more intensely, more comprehensively, and with greater understanding" (p. 7).

The dictionary contains 239 short articles, from "Acht" to "Zwölf" on characters, objects, and attributes of the fairy tale, and 64 references to synonymous or related terms. Bibliographical references pertain primarily to works of psychoanalytic fairy tale explication (Hedwig von Beit, Verena Kast, Bruno Bettelheim). The philological study of fairy tales is poorly represented: the fact that Bonin cites Lutz Mackensen's dated Handwörterbuch des deutschen Märchens [Concise Dictionary of the German Fairy Tale] instead of the Enzyklopädie des Märchens [Encyclopedia of Fairy Tales], which has been recognized as its successor since 1977, can only be explained by Bonin's disdain for the philological approach, loudly expressed several times in the opening pages of the Handlexikon. On the other hand, the philologist is unlikely to take kindly to Bonin's blurring of the boundaries between myths, fairy tales, and legends (as in the entries for "Adler" [Eagle] and "Auge" [Eye]). Such a reader will also take issue with the author's reduction of the large fairy tale canon to those tales that support his hypotheses (see "Bett" [Bed]), his abstraction from relevant historical context ("Bettler" [Begger]), and his uncritical acceptance of the most adventurous etymologies ("Fee" [Fairy]). [wh/rb]


Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie: mit über 3000 Stichwörtern zu den Mythen aller Völker [Knaur's Lexicon of Mythology: With over 3,000 Entries on Myths Worldwide]. Gerhard J. Bellinger. 3d ed. München: Knaur, 1999. 575 p. 22 cm. ISBN 3-426-66415-2: DM 58.00 [01-2-399]

That Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie is now in its third version testifies to the widespread interest in the topic. The new edition contains 3,115 articles on 230 myths from all around the world dating from antiquity to modern times. However, the term "myth" is too loosely conceived in this work, and the result is a hodge-podge of items from mythology, religion, and symbolism. Moreover, the lack of stringency in the choice of terms included often means that entries contain too little information to be useful--even for beginners. [ak/jb]


Lexikon der abendländischen Mythologie [Dictionary of Western Mythology]. Otto Holzapfel. Freiburg im Breisgau [et al.]: Herder, 2000. 461 p. ill. 21 cm. (Herder-Spektrum, 5500). ISBN 3-451-05500-7: DM 34.00 [01-2-400]

In contrast to the author of Knaurs Lexikon der Mythologie discussed above (see RREA 7:208 above), Holzapfel has concisely staked out his territory: the gods and heroes in the western tradition of the pre- and early Christian period. The 9,200 entries are preceded by informative essays and followed by a chronology and selective bibliography. In addition, there are many illustrations, and quotations, comments, and sources, and examples are clearly marked typographically. Holzapfel's dictionary serves well as a one-volume basic reference work and as a companion to literary studies. [ak/jb]


Antike Mythologie: ein Handbuch; der Mythos und seine Überlieferung in Literatur und bildender Kunst [The Mythology of Antiquity: A Handbook: The Myth and its Reception in Literature and the Fine Arts]. Hans-K. and Susanne Lücke. Reinbek: Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1999. 767 p. ill. 19 cm. (Rowohlts Enzyklopädie, 55600). ISBN 3-499-55600-6: DM 36.90 [01-2-401]

As its subtitle indicates, Antike Mythologie focuses on the reception of the important myths of antiquity in the graphic arts and literature. As a reference handbook, this title fails for largely formal reasons. The division into different sections for the written versus the graphic reception of the myths, the lack of illustrative material in the text section, and the omission of an introductory survey article detract from the title's usefulness as a reference handbook or an introductory text. It serves instead as a tool for those seeking detailed information on selective aspects of this field of study. [ak/jb]

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Last update: August 27, 2002 [GC]
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