Spirits of the Earth and Spirits of the Water: Chthonic Forces in the Mountains of West Java
 
By Robert Wessing, Northern  Illinois University, DeKalb,  Illinois
 
Asian  Folklore Studies,  Vol. 47,  1988:  43-61.
 
ABSTRACT:
 
In  the  past two decades  there has  been a growing  awareness  among anthropoiogists  that there often  is a close correlation between a people's cosmology  and  the  way  in  which they  perceive  their  environment (Sperber  1974).  Natural or social relations and situations are explained or accounted for in myths and legends and lore about a geographic area. For  instance,  in  a recent  study on  the  rich  folk-lore  about  the  tiger  in Southeast Asia (Wessing 1986) I showed that the system of beliefs about the tiger is predicated at least in part on the overlap between the ecological niches occupied by the tiger and man. In this paper  I will relate  stories and  lore  about some hills near  a Sundanese  village  and  show  how  the  purported  locale  of  these  stories as being up-hill or down-hill varies with the mythological  and symbolic elements with which these  stories may  be  associated.  The movement up or down a hill is also correlated with  a greater  (up) or lesser  (down) distance  from a source of  water and thus also with wet and dry cultivation and  the  stories  and  lore  interdigitate  the mundane  labor  of  food production with the larger cosmic processes.
 

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