Reference Books of the Week

If you are interested in mythology and folklore, whether it’s for a class assignment, or for your own personal edification, the Gleeson Library/Geschke Learning Center has a wide array of resources on the subject. Here are just four titles that you may find interesting.  These and many more works on mythology and folklore can be found in the Reference Department on the first floor of Gleeson Geschke.

The Woman’s Encyclopedia Of Myths And Secrets by Barbara G. Walker

This encyclopedia presents the female aspects of the origins of myths, legends, religious observances and practices that have often been either suppressed, or that have become buried through the passage of time.  Readers may be interested to find out that “Easter” was originally the name of a pagan goddess (Eostre, p. 267).  In addition to the feminine aspects of myths, this encyclopedia also gives the origins of several well-known words and phrases (“hocus pocus” is a corruption of the phrase “hoc est corpus meum” from the sacrament of the Eucharist, p. 405). This is an essential guide for anyone who wants to delve deeper into the origin of myths, legends and religious practices that still influence us today.
GLEESON REFERENCE: BL458 .W34 1983  c.2

Mythology: A Visual Encyclopedia by Jo Forty

This encyclopedia is a good launching point for anyone who is interested in mythology.  The book is divided into sections for each of the regions of the world starting with the oldest civilizations and proceeding to those most recently encountered by Westerners.  In addition to summaries of the mythologies of the various religions, each section also has an A-Z area that lists the various deities and concepts for each region.  Of course one of the key features of this encyclopedia is the copious amount of full-color and full-page photos and illustrations.  The book is also fun to browse.
GLEESON REFERENCE: BL311 .F67 2001

African Folklore: An Encyclopedia. Philip M. Peek and Kwesi Yankah, editors

This is a very comprehensive and detailed one-volume resource which examines not only the specific practices of various African folk traditions, but also examines the role that various forms of practice and expression take, such as through drama, architecture and dance, as well as the role that modern world plays such as through film, television, radio and tourism.  The entries are arranged in strictly alphabetical order, and are not divided according to region or ethnic group.  This resource should be at the top of any reference list for those who are interested in African folklore.
GLEESON REFERENCE: GR350 .A33 2004


The Greenwood Encyclopedia Of World Folklore And Folklife. Edited by William M. Clements, Thomas A. Green, advisory editor

This is a comprehensive four-volume encyclopedia, with each volume devoted to folklore and folklife from a different area of the world.  If one is looking for a comprehensive survey of world folklore, this is an excellent resource with which to start.  In addition to exploring specific practices, the encyclopedia also has a section at the front of Volume 1 that examines topics and themes that relate to folklore, such as heros, archives, colonialism and creolization (a process by which the multiple cultural groups encounter each other and thus create new forms of cultural expression).  Again, this is definitely a good source for those who want to a comprehensive overview of world folklore.
GLEESON REFERENCE: GR35 .G75 2006

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s