As you study anthropology you get a sense of nostalgia, you notice that there are things we have lost (I)

As you study anthropology you get a sense of nostalgia, you notice that there are things we have lost (I)

Thirteenth interview (I) for the project YoungHumansOfScience where I try to interview people related to this field and understand their stories in order to close the gap between society and science.

Adam:What attracted you to anthropology?

There are a lot of analysis, and I like to know what is behind things. Anthropology is broad, you need a specialization if you want to understand something well. For example, sociologists have a background on anthropology and sociology is the specialization.

This is because anthropology is the study of humans and that integrates it all.

Adam:What awoke the interest in it?

It was most likely because when I was young there was a boom in archaeology themed books, movies, such as Indiana Jones as well as a boom in Egyptology. This was around the 90’s and 2000, I grew during a time when even games were influenced by it and this might be a big factor.

There was a game my mother used to play when I was small, Luxor, and I loved the music in that game. You had to get rid of balls of different colours and the design was based on a pyramid where the balls moved all over the screen. There was also another game, Metal Slug, where you had missions in the desert with an oriental touch pyramids and the music.

At our school we had a teacher that showed us some drawings, they were showing an old street and how it changed over time, how it was in old times, during the medieval times, the renaissance and how it looked now, I enjoyed seeing how that street changed so much with time it awoke my imagination and I loved that feeling.

But what awoke my curiosity more were the stories I heard at home. In Morocco we a lot of myths with what are called Ghbir, a kind of ogre and my mother and grandma always told me stories with them.

They improvised stories where they had the same characters a Ghoul (monster or ogre in Arabic), a boy or a girl and a forest, and those stories where always trying to teach you something.

As I grew I wanted to know more about them.

Where were these stories coming from?

As I started researching I noticed that these stories were all over the world. Before humans were nothing close to what they are now, they were one of the weakest links in the chain, we were prey and each day was a fight for survival.

Those stories we have all over the world were born as a way to transfer knowledge, because, how could you tell your daughter that she couldn’t go to the forest because it’s dangerous? And the answer they came up with were stories as well as games such as hide and seek.

Hide and seek is a way to teach the children how to hide and protect themselves of the dangers around them.

By using a game to teach it they could get rid of the fear and make it more enjoyable and easy to learn. This way whenever they were running to hide they could take it as the game they practiced and move aptly.

If you think about it, most of the games are actually quite morbid, they are way to teach us about danger and death, but as time went on we forgot what was behind them, and now they are just games.

Adam:With anthropology we can rediscover that which has been lost.

My interest for it came was born as a mix of two things. As I grew I felt a sense of emptiness, I was lacking something, something wasn’t okay. And I found that it was exactly that, not understanding where things come from or why we do them.

What I needed was to understand the human being.

Why are there things we consider important? Why do we get close to people similar to us? Why do the different cultures exist? Why are traditions important?

As you study anthropology you get a sense of nostalgia, you notice that there are things we have lost and that if we still had them we would be in a better place. But when I think about it, I wouldn’t want to live in a time where I had to be careful with each step I took.

Adam: Was there any story that surprised you?

Before starting with that we have to be clear on one thing. There is no way to be 100% sure of the real meaning of a story. There are vacuums in history where many traditions were lost and trying to recreate that knowledge is hard. You have to try to get to the original meaning and to do it you look at your culture and cultures close to it where they kept their traditions, and even then there is no way to be sure because may things were transmitted orally and that keeps no records.

So what I am about to tell you is quite likely true but there is no 100% assurance of it, and that is one of the problems with humanities.

Red Riding Hood

Photo by Šárka Jonášová on Unsplash

The story changes a little from one culture to another, but it is always a little girl that goes to a forest, gets eaten and is then saved.

The base of this story is reincarnation. All cultures of olden times, before cristianization of Europe and Africa (around 2000 years ago), believed in reincarnation. Everything was on this earth, there was no Heaven nor Hell.

When you die your acts are weighted based on how honorable you were, and this determines how likely it is for you to reincarnate as a descendant of your family.

The girl being eaten by the wolf represents death, and when she is saved she reincarnates as a new individual. The grandma is the conscience, she is the wisdom. In these stories the elderly are a personification of knowledge, experience and they are the ones in charge of transfering knowledge.

The wolf eats the grandma, and red riding hood and with it they die, but as the lumberjack saves her, the grandma is reborn as red ridinghood.

In many European cultures childs are considered soulless until seven years old. That is also why Halloween happens, it is a festivity where they try to get closer to death and ghosts.

The kids used halloween as an initiation. Before the tombs were left open, and the dead were inhumed with their belongings and the kids have to inherit those objects by entering the tomb and with it the dead reincarnate and the child obtains a soul.

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

It is because of this depth and the joy of understanding it, that I chose this path.


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