Sunday, April 13, 2008

Unstructured Glossographia


The Shakers were an odd religious group by even the standards of most of the utopian movements of the 19th century (and believe me, there were quite a lot of odd ducks in that group). They are most well known for their absolute prohibition on sexual intercourse, which is even more remarkable given the longevity of the group which managed to last well over a century via the acquisition of new converts (indeed, you can still find the occasional neo-Shaker).

Beyond the celibacy edict, however, the Shakers had other interesting and unusual traits. Above is an example of Shaker glossographia, which is the written version of glossolalia (aka "speaking in tongues") which should be familiar to anyone whose had any exposure to Pentecostalism (which is, arguably, the last and most successful of the Protestant Utopian movements).

Ubuweb Ethnopoetics has a good collection of Shaker glossographics. While I, of course, don't believe that there's anything genuinely divine in their compositions, I find it interesting to contemplate the ecstatic states of mind that led to their creation.


Marvin the Martian said...

Fascinating! I knew they spoke in tongues, but I never knew that they drew in tongues too!

Andrew Lias said...

Now we just need to find a group that practices interpretive dance in tongues. (Glossokenesis?)

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