Friday, July 21, 2023

Lecture 2: Jersey Devil

   Like many life-long residents of South Jersey, I became acquainted with the Jersey Devil from an early age. My Father would often take us on weekend trips to Basto Village and he would tease me by showing me renditions of the Devil, which horrified a 5 year old me.  Up until a few years ago, I always thought the Jersey Devil was a myth made up by bored residents back in the day. However, eventually I read about the true origin of the "Leeds Devil" that was described in Lecture 2. 

   Though interesting, I am truly fascinated about how the myth of the Leed's Devil sustain itself for centuries and eventually took on a life of it's own. Speaking frankly, I feel the Jersey Devil is a prime example of how various elements of folklore are simply reflections of the culture for which it originates from. Most accounts of the story states that Mother Leed had her 13th child sometime in the 18th Century. Several accounts place the date around the Eve of the American Revolution. With that being said, i feel it's important to be cognizant of the JD story within the broader context of what the Pine Barrens was like during the colonial era. 

  For many in Colonial America, the Pine Barrens served as a refuge for outcasts from mainstream society. Many outlaws would evade prosecution by hiding out within the desolate Pines. I would also like to bring up that more than two centuries before arguably the most memorable Sopranos episode was shot within the Pine Barrens, there was multiple "Pine Robber" crime syndicates and outlaws such as Joe Mulliner that operated within these dense woods during the War for Independence. 

 What I am trying to get at is that I feel one of the reasons why the Jersey Devil legend has survived for so long is because It meshes well with the Pine Barrens outcast culture. Moreover, I feel that the solitary Jersey Devil perfectly encapsulates the isolation, both geographically and socially that epitomizes the area. The desolation of the Pine Barrens are still felt today. Frankly, I would pity the motorist whose car breaks down on one of the numerous backroads that crosses through the Pines. 

   Personally, I get the perception that the Jersey Devil remains popular even today because in some ways he represents the values associated with "Piney" residents (Strength, Tenacity, Cunnigness, Fierceness, Persaveriness, etc) to the point of contention where he held up as a symbol of pride. I feel this thesis is validated if you simply drive around the area and see how many businesses are named "Jersey Devil _____". If you turn on the TV to watch the Devils play on the NHL or even if you decide to loosen up with a drink (I work at a liquor store and a local winery makes a batch called "Jersey Devil Red") 

 To summarize, I feel the Jersey Devil is a prime example of how many paranormal creatures are really just an extension of the culture for which these tales of folklore originate from. Though, I found it interesting on how the Jersey Devil tale originates from a local political dispute, I also feel it's important to emphasis why this myth caught on and has remained within the public conscious for 3 centuries. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Joseph. I love how you mentioned the Jersey Devil is a prime example of how various elements of folklore are simply reflections of the culture for which it originates from. I never really looked at it from this perspective and it makes so much sense. Thinking about other folklores, I see the same thing.