• Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023

Central Michigan Life – Component of his globe: Mythology professor finds information from folklore


Mar 17, 2023

As Professor Ari Berk sits in his workplace preparing for class, he is surrounded by folklore figurines and mythological books, some of which are his personal performs. He is passionate about what he teaches, and is eager to share it with other individuals. 

Berk is a folklore and mythology professor at Central Michigan University. 

He mentioned his adore for folklore began as a young youngster. He study stories on giants and hobgoblins, mermaids and fairies, stories obtaining sturdy ties to the earth and the atmosphere we reside in and he produced these connections early on. 

Berk mentioned he regularly went camping with his parents and came to associate the sounds of the sea and the formidable mountains with the books he study. He surrounded himself with these stories, he mentioned, and they felt like household to him. When he grew up and had a youngster, Berk mentioned it became a household for his son, also. 

Berk spoke of his memories walking by way of Veits Woods with his son, noticing logs pushed up against trees and recognizing them as troll’s homes. He travels to locations exactly where folkloric stories take location, bringing his son with him. 

Ari Berk’s Renaissance Fair posters are displayed Monday, March 13 at his residence in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Berk says the Renaissance Fair is a single of the causes he was inspired to grow to be a teacher.

The author of various folkloric books himself, Berk mentioned his son would give feedback on early drafts and support him edit ahead of publication. Folklore appears to have surrounded Berk’s life for as lengthy as he can bear in mind.

With degrees in ancient history, American Indian research, and comparative literature and cultural research, Berk has a wish for understanding the globe in which we reside and the value of our ties to other individuals. But it is his connection to folklore that shows his correct passion for individuals and the planet. 

Berk mentioned that folkloric stories can inform a lot about the history behind the locations they are set in, as nicely as the history behind present events throughout that era. 

“Its uncomplicated to dismiss folklore as stories about mermaids, or elves or hobgoblins … but in fact, (such tales are) usually about how we treat other individuals and how we treat the globe that we reside in,” he mentioned. 

He spoke of symbolic influences inside folkloric stories, about mermaids that show us how our lives are tied to the welfare of the sea. Stories of giants showcase our connection to the land mountains, hills, stones and rocks. Legends of fairies give way for us to deal with our previous or support us grieve the loss of these we adore, he mentioned.

The creatures are various but the outcome is the identical: there is wisdom in these stories that can teach humans how to reside in accordance with the atmosphere, irrespective of whether they think in the stories or not. 

Berk mentioned he thinks there is a lot more to mythology than just belief. 

“I’m typically asked, ‘Do you think in ghosts and fairies? Do you think in mermaids or merpeople?’ … I usually really feel like that is the incorrect query,” he mentioned. “What’s the distinction if I say yes or no? … I feel the query ought to be, ‘What do you feel these issues (imply)?’”

“What do they symbolize or represent?”

Berk mentioned he believes that the mystery behind folklore is what can make it so intriguing. He talked about how it is uncomplicated for individuals to get caught up in the “literalness” of it, but what they should really be paying focus to are the lessons they can glean from these stories. For instance, he mentioned, how to interact with neighbors and ancestors, how to treat the planet Earth, how to appreciate what the earth has provided individuals and most importantly, how individuals can give back. 

Ari Berk poses at his desk Monday, March 13 at his household in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Berk also enjoys painting, and a lot of of his performs are hung on his walls.

Mermaid Specialist

Named a “mermaid specialist,” Berk has been invited to judge a contest hosted by the seafood enterprise Chicken of the Sea. In order to win the contest, somebody demands to scientifically prove the existence of mermaids. According to the company’s web-site, if no a single wins, Chicken of the Sea will donate 1 million ounces of seafood to meals pantries about the United States.

According to Berk, the contest is element of a enterprise rebranding for Chicken of the Sea in an work to be a lot more environmentally friendly and sustainable to the planet. 

“My hope is that [the contest] would encourage individuals to appear a small bit a lot more into the folklore,” he mentioned, and added the contest permits individuals to “think about the sanctity of the world’s water. 

“It’s about shaking hands with the sea.” 

Berk mentioned even if individuals do not see an actual mermaid, it at least begins the conversation about folklore’s connection to the atmosphere. 

Gifts for the River

Berk presently serves on the Denison Committee at CMU, an organization the school’s web-site mentioned is committed to “enhancing the Native American Research System.” 

He has also helped produce a system named Gifts for the River. The wellbeing of our planet is tied to the waters, and however humans have destroyed more than 75% of the earth’s rivers, according to The Guardian newspaper. Gifts for the River is the committee’s acknowledgment that it is time individuals get started to give back.

Gifts for the River is an “online living notebook” that is a “celebration of the Chippewa River and the communities that reside along it,” according to its web-site, giftsfortheriver.com. The system seeks to bridge the connection involving humans and the water by creatively engaging with it, irrespective of whether that be by way of music, poetry, sketches, drawings or even cleaning up the river and the surrounding Isabella County region. 

Even though the present state of our waters is troubling, Berk mentioned, searching to Gifts for the River is a terrific way to get started appreciating the atmosphere we reside in and understanding how to take care of it. As a professor who is regularly surrounded by nature, by way of the books he reads, the lectures he teaches, his walks in the woods and his visits to the river, Berk has produced a connection that he believes could advantage a lot of other individuals.

“There’s anything about getting (a element of a story) larger than oneself,”  Berk mentioned. “It is genuinely effective in the way it impacts the human spirit.” 

Ari Berk poses with his cat Monday, March 13 at his residence in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Berk adopted his two cats from Karma Kat Cafe.

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