White Sow, White Stag, and White Buffalo: The Evolution of White Animal Myths from Personal Belief to Public Policy
Selnick, Christa N.
WHITE SOW, WHITE STAG, AND WHITE BUFFALO: THE EVOLUTION OF WHITE ANIMAL MYTHS FROM PERSONAL BELIEF TO PUBLIC POLICYChrista N. Selnick, B.A.C.ABSTRACTWhile white animal myths initially expressed humankind's universal and personal quest for holiness, over time these myths have been retold to convey a divine sanctioning of threatened cultures' governing bodies and used as justification for political and social policies including assimilation, warfare, and rebellion. Identifyingthis pattern sheds new light on cultures and events such as the Devonshire Celts and their relationship to Christianity in Late Antiquity, the Magyars and their land conquests of the early Middle Ages, and the Lakota people and their opposition to the United States government in the late nineteenth century, and may offer a model for understanding the policies of some of today's nations. This study begins with a general exploration of the elements and roles of folktale, legend, and myth as viewed through the lens of anthropology, sociology, philosophy and theology, and the work of Ernst Cassirer, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell and Paul Tillich. The theories of Claude Lévi-Strauss and the findings of David Hunt, Florin Curta and others are used to analyze general color and animal symbols within various cultural contexts. Resultant conclusions are applied to specific myths, namely the Devon Celts' White Sow, the Magyars' White Stag, and the Lakota's White Buffalo. These myths, with their white animal symbols, are examined against the historical backdrop of the period in which these tales were popular within their cultures. As a result, a link is found between popular myth, major events and the political and social policies of the Devon Celts, themedieval Magyars, and the Lakota during times of cultural stress and change.
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