25 June 2018

Chevalier Charles Coulombe on Oral vs. Written Tradition

The Chevalier discusses the value of oral tradition with a skeptical Mr Frankini. He points out that in a preliterate society memory was vital, that people were trained to remember. Whilst he doesn't mention it, the memorisation of lengthy, complicate genealogies by the Celtic peoples is one example.

He does mention the Iliad and the Odyssey as examples, but the same holds true for the great epics of the North. The Children of Lir in Ireland, the Mabinogion in Wales, the oral tales collected in the Kalevala in Finland, and even the Matters of Britain and France, were all, originally, designed to be memorised and retold orally, often chanted to the accompaniment of an instrument such as the harp. 

Fascinatingly, he does not touch on the Holy Tradition of the Church, of which the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."42"And [Holy] Tradition (which is unwritten, i.e. oral-JW) transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."
However, he points out that oral tradition must never be discounted or given less authority than written sources without good reason.

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