Traditional Cultures Before Widespread Westernization Term Paper

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¶ … traditional cultures before widespread westernization, including a review of the anthropological literature, such as ranking, non-market exchange and systems of production, domestic organization, power, authority, and traditional religious systems. Please focus on Western cultures, with a global perspective.

The conflict between traditional modern values is age-old; not only does it affect every civilization in its nascent solitude, it stretches far into the encroaching powers of other societies as they meld together into larger communities. Never has the gleaning of cultural specifics been more decisive and alternative than in the widespread westernization that ships, monarchs, and colonization spread and grew through the years, from the Dutch East India Company to Starbucks and MacDonald's. Westernization slowly washed away and eroded the strong and distinctive traditional cultures that flavored the rest of the world, but they also joined together the local flavors of the separate Western cultures at home. Through power, authority, social hierarchy, religious systems, domestic organization, trade and production, and even the most quotidian aspects, before the dawn of widespread Westernization, Western cultures were unique, diacritic, and individual.

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Culture, that complex whole that incorporates knowledge, belief, morals, customs, and learned social behavior that characterizes the traditional ways of doing things in a particular society, is a concept constantly in flux. With traditional western cultures, despite the all-encompassing westernization that swept Christian culture and modernization across the globe, originality engulfs even the most seemingly prosaic cultures. French, Saxon, Anglo-Christian, Celtic, and Italian cultures all pervaded the Western world before they molded into a greater secular, religious force of trade not only spreading over Europe and the Americas, but through the trade routes to colonies and beyond.

Term Paper on Traditional Cultures Before Widespread Westernization, Including a Assignment

From the earliest moment in European's history as rapidly developing, studied cultures before the widespread dissemination of what historians and social scholars have called Westernization, the small geographic territory that has come to define the Western world was frequently overrun by those spreading authority and culture from afar. From the fabled battles of ancient Greece to the conquests of Rome, most of the information available about traditional Western cultures comes from those whose centralized power amassed to such point as to not only provide domination of external and hinterland areas, but also to study them. While the triumvirate ruled solidly from Italy, geography and stunted technology prohibited total integration of some of the earliest mass-culture conquerors from abroad; the Celts, for example, were reknown empire-wide for their verbose prowess.

Most of the information about traditional Celtic culture and society comes from the Greek geographer Posidonius, who viewed the islanders from the typical prespective of conqueror: they were, to him, barbarians.

What they tell us is slanted by their perceptions of the Celts as barbarians. Because the Celts were an oral culture, they left no written records. However, because of the confluence of Celtic and Christian cultures, some aspects of Celtic culture permeated early Christian written material."

Defiantly oral, the early Celtic society was not only stymied in its language but also in social structure. The druid class comprised the most educated group, and served the function of priestly rules throughout the polytheistic Celtic communities not only in the British Isles, but also throughout the Alps and other parts of Western Europe. While evidence left imprinted on pottery and inscribed on coins and swords suggested a colloquial literacy of the merchant class, the druids promoted the use of oral fluency to not only maintain the education of the people but also to preserve lore, tradition, and ceremony. Some historians contest that the druid conviction to reject the written language was out of fear of power loss, particularly in their fruitless shunning of ogam (groupings of incised lines), but others still contest that it was just a cultural pique. Because of their strict reliance on words to translate not only the news of the day but the stories and histories of ore, it took on a mythic power that some trace as far back as the days of La Tene, the small village near Luc da Neuchatel in modern-day Switzerland known for its Iron Age culture.

The druids served much the role that Roman advisors later did; not only where they the philosophers, scientists, lore-masters, teachers, and judges, they were also counselors to the kings, whose patriarchic families had ruled the hills of the Isles for as long as oral history preserved. The druids linked the people to the gods, following not only a lunar calendar, but also what they presumed to be the sacred natural order. The rest of society consisted of bishops, abbots, peasants, merchants, and rulers; mystical figures dominated the agricultural-based lives of hardships monopolized by harvest rituals, myths of Puck, and the requisite importance of "luck," traditions so captivated by insular culture that they spill from antiquity into the days of Westernization and the modern.

The cultures of the indigenous Nordic cultures were equally as reliant on the mystic concepts of magic and luck; hard daily lives, dependence on natural forces and agricultural success in lands less than conducive, and extreme weather fostered an ingrained respect for the natural forces that might bring a good harvest or a winter of starvation. The Nordic cultures spread throughout Northern Europe, and while singularly unique, they were largely similar from Danmark and Faroe (Denmark), Suomi and Aland (Finland), and the Sami of Lapland. Now largely called Scandinavian, their cultures spread from the Faroe Islands north of Ireland to the most Eastern parts of Russia and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Livonia, and Curonia. By the end of the Middle Ages, the groups were highly compatible, but documentation prior to that notes the varied societies of the Vikings and the Old Norse.

The Vikings, of popular imagination, were in fact seafaring warriors whose lack of sustenance at home forced invasion of the British Isles, Scandanavia, and France throughout the 8th to the 11th centuries.

Because the lives of the northern westerners were so desperate, taking to the sea in hopes of finding better land, food, and sustenance was not uncommon; the earliest not of a Viking raid was in 787, when a group of men from Norway sailed to Dorset and, mistaken by the royals as merchants in search of trading taxes, murdered the king. The Vikings were a literate people, whose patrilinear society was extremely brutal, as revealed by the rune stones that serve as cultural records throughout England and the Northern territories. While many runes serve to mark and commemorate a life and death, providing the family name and clan association, e.g. "This stone was erected by Halfdan and Oystein, sons of Viking," still others described the great successes in battle, long voyages, and love.

Trade was non-commercial, and the Vikings were known for more pillaging than equitable divisions of assets; what they were not offered, they took by force. Early on, their role as raiders speaking Old Norse instilled fear in many of the Norsemen whose villages they entered, but by 1000, they were known for systematic trading, settling, and even mercenaries. They established trading centers from Birca to Kiev, and most famously under Harald Hardrada even led a campaign to North Africa and Jerusalem.

Where they made trade, they established dominion; their kings, of ancient clan orientation, ruled, became great leaders of the age of Christianization later on.

As recently as half a century ago to have included the Viking Age in a series that bore the title 'Great Civilizations' would have been a contradiction in terms, since Europe is presumed to have civilized the Vikings rather than the Vikings to have contributed to the civilization of Europe."

The Vikings were a defining aspect of the culture that would one day become the Westernization that spread throughout the world.

Unlike their northern neighbors, the Scandinavians were not aquatic warriors; they were village-oriented farmers, fishermen, and hunters. They operated on a very local level, but were forced to establish lines of communication with other villages to establish lines of defense against the attacking Vikings. Together, the "northmen" established a large defense fleet called the ledung to protect themselves from the invaders, preserving not only their little villages, but also their families, fish, lands, and game. The Norse mythology pervaded the Scandinavian culture, an orally purported religion that claimed no divine text, but instead was a collection of tales that asserted the earth was a flat disc in which the gods lived in the center, separated from the humans by a rainbow, the Bifrost bridge. The cold underground was run by the goddess Hel, and the Giants lived in an appropriately sized Jotunheim. The fire giants did not live with the others, but were instead neighbors of the Svartalfheim, the dark elves, and the Nidavellir, mine dwarves. In between the Underground and the holy center was the Midgard, or the world of men ("middle earth").

The Saxons, whose home encompassed not only British Isles but also France and Germany, combined ancient Germanic mythology with that of the Norse. By the 8th century, the Anglo-Saxons… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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