The Four elements project, why and what for
“Four elements”, an Erasmus K2 project is a study about the material side of four elements -earth, water, fire, air- and imagery attached to them. Project partners from six European countries are being interested in the collective common representations behind the four elements as they appear in myths, legends and tales. They have collected stories and created a resource library, and have been writing a manual as well as building an on-line course. The course is intended to be used by adult educators who teach adults English and are involved in intercultural learning targeting different groups (adults with dyslexia, hearing problems etc.)
CVO EduKempen, Belgium (Coordinating Partner)
The Central Library of Voru County, Estonia
Wood Apprimeurs, France
Istituto dei Sordi di Torino, Italy
DomSpain Consulting, Spain
Slovenian University of the Third Age, Slovenia
Project contract number: 2018-1-BE01-KA204-04866
Similarities? Yet to be confirmed
In their approaching Joint staff training in Reus (hosted by Dom Spain Consulting) partners of the “Four Elements” will be confirming that myths, legends, folk tales from different European countries may be different but also similar. In doing so, partners are basing themselves on their own findings but also those of many researchers, particularly the German Grimm brothers (Little Red Riding Hood etc.) who studied Indo-European origins of our languages and tales.
But what do myth, legend and tale stand for?
Old myths are the greatest stories ever told; the mythological topics are those of creation and destruction, fate and invention, heroism, cruelty, sensuality and war. Modern, urban myths, however, are different, though both types of myths are based on subconscious collective representations (Roland Barthes in Mythologies). The four elements are a material reality common to all, the plot of the stories may be different or similar, subconscious collective representations behind the stories may be quite different but also quite similar”, are, as time goes by, ever more convinced the “Four elements” project members wanting to consolidate Ejuropean awareness.
Embodying collective representations of the world, myths used to have a central place in the spiritual social life supposedly conveying primodial truths. As prose narratives, the oldest myths had elements of religion, philosophy and art. Being mostly about gods, they were predominately sacred and associated with theology and rituals.
By contrast, legends and tales are more “human”, more local, more down to earth, though full of positive or negative supernatural beings: water sprites, water snakes, dragons, dwarfs, gnomes, goblins, etc. threatening or protecting humans. By now you have already guessed that simplistic dichotomic thinking is present in myths, legends and tales which function as an outlet for human feelings (fear, joy, envy, pride, values, etc).
In most European countries myths have similar topics
To cut a long story short; in most European countries myths have common topics revealing common origins, but subconscious representations, images attached to them may differ. Myths can be our common intangible cultural heritage staging the power of four elements: earth, water, fire and air. For instance, in most European cultures myths about the creation of the world are related to soil and water. To illustrate this point, in Slovenia, there is a myth telling the story of God who under the scorching sun was hot, so he dived into the sea (in some other countries he made the Devil or birds dive!). When god came back fertile soil and the world were created and all was good in the best of the worlds as long as people were obedient; bread and fruits grew on the trees, fish was there… Creation of the world is thus connected with earth (sand leading to fertile soil) and water in all European cultures. In myths explaining the possible end of the world, water again is involved.
In this project the four elements were approached through works of different national and international researchers, story tellers or story collectors, but also Gaston Bachelard, a French philosopher of sciences and Roland Barthes and his Mythologies. The latter studied discordant subjects from food, cars, religion to advertisements, searching for the symbols, modern urban myths that hide feelings, values, thinking and representations of (European) cultures. Thus “steak and French fries”, or generally most popular dishes are related to the hidden feelings and subconscious collective representations based on patriotism, pride, repulsion etc. Good advertisers know it very well, since they address the same topic (stage the same product or service differently in different countries.
Dr. Dušana Findeisen is a teacher of English and French language and literature and andragogue. On her own or jointly with her colleagues she introduced a fair number of innovations in theory and practice in the field of adult education: socio-cultural animation and education for local development, older adult education, Slovenian Third Age University, Summer School for Adult Educators. She contributed to the development of study circles in Slovenia, she co-funded the journal Andragogic Perspectives and is on its editorial board. For five years she was an Age Platform Europe expert in the field of employment and education of older people, and an external expert of the European Commission in this field. So far she has coordinated and delivered about twenty-five transnational projects. She is currently the Head of the Institute for Research and Development of Education at Slovenian Third Age University. She is vice-president of DANET, Danube Networkers for Europe. She publiahed 5 monographs and several hundred articles. Research areas: community education, older adult education, dyslexia in adults, diversity in companies, but also burn out at work, identity at work, migrations and migrants, integrated counselling for older adults, film education in adult education, pre-reitrement education, socially engaged education of older workers, digital inclusion versus digital exclusion, functional illiteracy, etc. So far she has published 5 monographs and hundreds of articles.