To fully understand the concept of folk culture, we must first separate the two words and define them individually, then rejoin them to completely comprehend the term’s overall concept.
Folk, or folkways, are routine conventions of everyday life. They are the customary ways that people act: eating, personal hygiene, dressing, and so on. Folkways are actions and customs that are of little moral significance; they are often matters of personal taste.
Culture is a characteristic of societies, not of individuals. Culture is all that is learned in the course of social life and is transmitted across generations, determining social hierarchy. It is the learned, socially transmitted heritage of artifacts, knowledge, beliefs, values, and normative expectations that provide the members of a society with the tools for coping with problems. It also provides an individual in a society the correct and appropriate ways to eat, dress, and the language to use. Culture is also the beliefs to guide behaviors and the practices to follow, and thus it shapes and structures social life.
Folk culture exists within a society, and it is whatever a member must know or believe in order to operate in a way that is acceptable to its members; thus, they must do so in any particular role that they have accepted for themselves. Folk culture is what individuals must learn and is separate from their biological heritage. It is the forms and means of ideas that people have in their minds, their way of perceiving, relating, and otherwise interpreting these forms. It is the things people say and do, their social arrangements, and events, which are products or by-products of their society as they apply it to the task of insightfulness and dealing with circumstances.
Folk culture and folk customs are the beliefs and traditions, within a group that preserves its language, and the social order and ways of interpreting the world. They are the accumulated mores and way of life (tales) and learning of particular peoples.
One of the major aspects of folk culture is the spoken word or language, as a means to communicate the core concepts within a society, the important religious and philosophical reflections on the human condition. Societal cognition and individuals’ understanding of their uniqueness are a shared attribute often related through a form of symbolic language, and that symbolic language is the central feature of folk culture. Symbolic language affixes a group’s culture and is the shared time and place of a people, which is endowed by nature with a desire to pursue their personal self-interests within the society, which composes their knowledge of themselves. The ideas and concepts of societal cognition can be seen and understood by focusing on the corollary a folk culture has in its relationship to perception, reason, logic, and the way people classify objects and experiences in the world.
Folk culture is often a way a people make sense of their experience in ways that link them meaningfully to the wider world, a picture of reality based on a set of shared assumptions about how the world works. Folk culture is, in essence, the society’s established symbolic frameworks, which highlight certain significant domains of social experience while rejecting others. Many folk cultures are a combination of worldviews that coexist in a single society; or a single worldview may dominate the way a society sees itself in the bigger picture. In addition, folk culture acts as a cultural device for understanding geographical features, societal landscapes, and historical backgrounds of folklore within a framework of socioeconomic and political domains.
Folk culture also explains the past-present continuum of folk traditions as seen in literature, inscriptions, artwork, and other items of material culture. Often, our analysis of pastoral and peasant societies gives us an understanding of environmental orientations and a physical reference within a given society or ethnic group.
One of the most important aspects of folk culture is folklore, and its place in the understanding of folk culture is essential to the overall concepts therein.
Folklore is the traditional art, literature, knowledge, and practice that are circulated largely through oral communication and behavioral archetypes. Most societies with a sense of themselves have possession of a shared identity, and a central part of that identity has to do with folk traditions, the things that people traditionally believe (planting practices, family traditions), do (dance, make music, sew clothing), know (how to build an irrigation dam, how to nurse an ailment, how to prepare barbecue), make (architecture, art, craft), and say (personal experience stories, riddles, song lyrics).
Folk culture flows through the realm of behavior, or more precisely, social action in which cultural forms find articulation. Thus, folk culture forms find voice in artifacts and in various states of consciousness, but these forms draw their meaning from the role they play, “its use” in an on going pattern of life, not from any intrinsic relationship they bear to one another. Folk cultural language in this sense is more than mere communications; the nature of the language as a tool or product of folk culture structures the perception of the outside world, emphasizing certain aspects over others. Thus, folk cultural language establishes a form of communications that helps a society articulate the deeper folk and cultural meanings that define that society’s development, and describes a way for members in such a society to deal with their environment. Folk cultural language is made up of the myths and legends, folktales, and folklores that define and structure societal language. Often, these elements of folk culture are interchangeable, and their features frequently overlap, but a society’s folk cultural language and its elements describe actions of divine beings to explain the origins of the natural world in its past.
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