Traditional folk culture is an integral part of cultural heritage, which is a source of cultural diversity and education, and which is a basis for the cultural identity of the population in the Czech Republic. Cultural heritage is an important part of tangible and intangible richness of the Czech Republic; it is a source of cultural diversity and education, and it is a basis for the cultural identity of the inhabitants of this country. It becomes evident that cultural heritage plays an important role in relation to leisure activities; it contributes to inhabitants´ refinement and it helps combat different social-pathological phenomena in society. Traditional folk cultural is an integral, albeit peculiar part of cultural heritage; it is specific for being vital, and in contrast to tangible heritage, it still develops and reshapes.
Our interest focusses on traditional folk culture´s expressions of nations, nationalities and ethnic groups living in the Czech Republic. Their presence in particular regions, urban and rural communities and social strata is unequal. These expressions have survived as material artefacts, immaterial spiritual elements or social phenomena, which – as non-written tradition – are passed down in families, or local and wider cultural communities.
Mechanical classification of traditional folk culture´s phenomena and resulting contemporary expressions that are mostly divided into three categories, the material –the spiritual and the social ones, are replaced by dividing this field of culture into the immaterial (intangible) and the material (tangible) one.
Immaterial culture is a summary of items that satisfy spiritual (immaterial) needs of a human: besides folklore, this category includes customs, ceremonies, folk religiosity (i.e. knowledge of and ideas about humans, nature and space, supernatural forces, sorcery, prophecies and folk sayings), and healing and hygiene. In a broader sense, the spiritual culture also includes social culture, i.e. diverse communities, family relations, social bounds in a certain community or group.
Material culture is part of traditional folk culture covering an ensemble of tangible artefacts, techniques, and inter-generational transmissions of knowledge and experience, by means of which the humans could ensure their basic needs, i.e. livelihood and protection from dangerous nature environment. In terms of traditional folk culture, one can speak about the following categories: 1) form of occupation and livelihood (farming, small-volume production, and trade), 2) dwelling, 3) clothing, 4) diet, and 5) transport. Into folk material culture also the category of 6) folk visual arts culture can be incorporated. This specific category goes across the above categories. The primary source of livelihood in agrarian civilization was farming associated with cattle breeding, and handmade small-volume production using natural powers (water, wind) for mechanization. Material artefacts featured the use of local natural materials, subsistence farming, and local and regional specificity.
Identification of Traditional Folk Culture´s Phenomena
The Strategy of Improved Care for Traditional Folk Culture, approved by the Czech government under No. 571/2003, understands the identification of traditional folk culture´s phenomena as the basic task. Based on this task in will be possible to implement further goals: documentation, safeguarding and protection of traditional folk culture, its presentation and spread of knowledge about it.
The identification mentioned in the Strategy stands for the creation of an information system, which is supposed to give an overview about the occurrence and condition of living artefacts of traditional folk culture in all regions of the Czech Republic. The implementation of the project requires the gathering of data on selected cultural phenomena, in accordance with a unified methodology, and to create a clear database. The data on traditional folk culture shall be collected based on a questionnaire which is under preparation and which shall allow the documentalists to gather needful data. The questionnaire also includes a list of entries on traditional folk culture in the Czech Republic.
The tradition is commonly perceived at two levels – as a kind of cultural heritage and as an uninterrupted transmission of values from generation to generation. On the one hand, the tradition stands for a state of culture whose part includes inherited cultural techniques and habits; on the other hand it stands for a process itself, a historical stream of culture in which productive cultural phenomena are permanently transmitted and developed, and the unproductive one disappear. The tradition acts alongside the innovation here, and both principles express natural social inclinations to stability and cultural alternation.
Folk character of culture is usually associated with traditionality and broadest social strata, the folk. Untrained (unprofessional) and usually unknown anonymous individuals were considered to be its creators, and small social units and local associations acted as bearers of this culture.
Goals of the Database
The large group of traditional folk culture´s expressions must be narrowed down to a selection which makes it possible to assess the condition and the transformations of folk traditions, and which becomes a starting point for the documentation, promotion and protection. From the perspective of ethnology, such selection is questionable as the discipline has a firm subject-matter as well as the systematics and categorization of phenomena that it researches. Based on ethnographic and folkloristic criteria we could prefer a common classification of folk culture, making a thorough inventory of it. However, the project is not a displacement scientific instrument, and it is not aimed at surveying diverse material, spiritual and social phenomena created by the complex of folk culture. It is necessary to focus just on representative phenomena. The aim is to put together a database of valuable cultural phenomena from all fields of traditional folk culture.
List of Entries
In the List of Entries, folk culture is divided into particular groups containing phenomena of the same type and the primary function. The optimal solution – a division down to the level of particular phenomena, which are the subject of our interest, is not possible due to the volume of phenomena, their diverse names and values in particular regions. The groups of phenomena represent the lowest level of abstraction which makes it possible to define particular facts and expressions. Titles of groups made up in the above way are called entries. They have a function of an open question according to which the documentalists find out what phenomena of the defined cultural type occurs in their region, and they decide, according to stipulated expert criteria, whether they record it and involve it in the database. Besides the title, the entries also show a brief definition of phenomena that they describe.
Themes for the research on identification and documentation of traditional folk culture in the Czech Republic 2006-2010
2006 – A. Folklore – narration, singing, songfulness, dances, children´s folklore and folk theatre.
B. Traditional ways of livelihood – farming, fishing, hunting
2007 – A. Folk religiosity
B. Settlement, house and habitation
2008 – Customs and Traditions
2009 – Folk nutrition, transport, trade, market, and folk clothing
2010 – Social relations, visual arts