This post grew like Topsy out of a response to a comment of Geoffrey Philp's. Thanks to Geoff, my friend, Ruth Minott Egglestone, FSJL, Martin, Nalo and all the folks who listen in to our conversations...
In general: I don't think we are ever 'just writers', in all the ways that signifies! Our interests and operations can never be just as writers because it's impossible for any of us to be just that. I also worry now, in my old age, about the dangers of arrogance, my own especially.
As for the case in point: I am now, as a result of our conversation, concerned not merely with the Anancy phenomenon itself, but with the procedural example it offers, the opportunity for finding out HOW TO FIND OUT about cultural tings, especially in an oral society. So for me, there IS a problem of being right, in the sense of accurate. My particular concerns are inevitably also as an old teacher, an editor, a compiler of textbooks, one who seeks to understand the culture, and especially one who is worried by those with power and access to the means of overhauling things and serving them up differently – whether on purpose or by mistake.
Those powerful people include us, you and me, and we need to care enough about our stories, our his/tories and her/stories, our myths, our conundrums, our ring games, etc., etc., to try to pass them on intact – for there will always be changes, willy-nilly, no matter how hard we try. Ruth Egglestone, for example, was correct, meticulous, scholarly, when she told us her source for that particular understanding of Anancyism, and gave us, therefore, the opportunity of asking, “Well, who is this person? What does he know?”
The stories and understandings will come in many forms, and that multiplicity, that variety, is also precious. Some of the stories will have changed over time, and we want to know about those changes and, if possible, when and why they occurred. And contemporary writers and storytellers will themselves make changes (as you, Geoff, have done in respect of Anancy, say) and that's good, too.
But I'd like to know when and who and why changes occurred, whether by accident, and, in that case, what was the nature of the accident, or whether on purpose, and in that case, what was the nature of the purpose. That's all part of the story, the history, belonging to it in the way an etymology (Cicero calls etymology the veriloquium) enriches the significance of a word. It pleases me, for example, that we can know how the word ‘chortle’ came about, that it was a conflation of chuckle and snort, coined by Lewis Carroll in THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (1871). Knowing dat likl tory is part of my pleasure in the word.
For now, that's how I'm seeing our stories, including this Anancy one.
I do know that Anancy, before the Atlantic crossing, was Creator God, and that he survives in our Anancy Stories in a diminished state, as the Trickster-Spiderman, a version of, inter alia, the Signifying Monkey, and of the orisha variously known as Exú, Esu Eleggua, Esu Elegbara, Eshu Elegbara, Elegba, Legba, Legba-Petro, Maitre Carrefour and Eleda. (For one thing, he figures prominently in my PhD dissertation!) But I’d venture to say that Legba is NOT diminished, certainly not as Anancy is, and thereby hangs a tale in which I’m interested.
Nor have I ever thought of Anancy as weak, even in his diminished state on this side... But that’s perhaps best kept for another post, for hopefully did likl chat don't done yet. Selah!