The Devil between Nature and Culture.


Though devotional literature has its roots in the Church, one of the most civilised spheres of culture, the devil of this genre can be said to represent nature. He is depicted as a fear-inducing being and as a tempter in uncivilised, naturalistic terms. In folklore, which is looked upon as a natural, uncivilised, sphere of culture, he represents both culture and nature. As a fear-inducing being, the devil bears characteristics indicative of culture, but as a tempter he lures people into living a natural, unrestrained life. Thus tradition bearers express that which is alien and dangerous by employing inverted values. Nature and culture are indeed opposites but in the cognitive system to which the present material gives expression, they also complement one another.

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Wolf-Knuts, U., (1992) “The Devil between Nature and Culture.”, Ethnologia Europaea 22(1), p.109-114. doi:

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  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Ulrika Wolf-Knuts (Åbo Akademi University)



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