the Bark-footed Tribe, in context

I had a humorous thought today, on the meaning of actions in and out of context. You see, today was one of my circle’s longer classes. We got together under a shade pavilion, drinking iced mint tea to cool ourselves from the Texas heat. There are fire ant mounds in the yard of our covenstead; as a natural deterrent for the ants, we sprinkled cinnamon over their mounds and our feet. The strong smell sends them hiding underground, saving us a lot of pain and itching.

Now the fun part. Imagine that someone, years from now, were to find our covenstead and records of what we did today, but no descriptions as to why…

This tribe of Texans had a complex social structure. They would gather beneath a large tepee, finding repose in cloth seats of multiple hues. The tribal people would pour themselves a mint-based infusion; we are unsure of the tea’s purpose, as no hallucinogenic properties have been found. What has been most fascinating about the study of this tribe is their use of ground bark from a cinnamon tree. While not native to the Texas region, the cinnamon was a common spice in the American food culture. We postulate that it was associated with the constant heat of Texas. The peoples of this area often applied the powdered bark to their feet and meeting places, leading to the common nickname of the “Bark-footed Tribe”. It is said that the purpose may have been to appease the “fire spirits” that caused the hot temperatures. Other scholars believe the Bark-footed were attempting to show, though symbolism, their tribal connectivity and willingness to “walk through fire” for one another (this fire symbolized, again, just the spiciness of the bark and its essential oils). The site in what was once called Killeen contains the most complete picture of the Bark-footed culture.

Now doesn’t that make you think of the anthropological inferences found in our history books? We often assume a lot into the meanings of what we find in locations where tribes or other cultures once lived and traveled. We see what we want to see. Pagans do this often, as do other groups. We look at a cave painting of a curvy woman or a craving of a pregnant female… and we assume goddess worship. What’s to say that some fool didn’t have a pregnant mate? Maybe he got creatively inspired and wanted an image of her. Or maybe it was a rite of passage image, made by the women of a tribe to commiserate a female’s first pregnancy. Maybe somebody had a fat-girl fetish, in a time when life was far too tough for anyone to really get fat from overeating; perhaps seeing a pregnant girl tickled someone’s fancy, and the carvings and pictures were simply prehistoric porn. Who are we to say what the original people really meant to do? We weren’t there.

It’s fun to speculate, though, isn’t it?

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