This hypothesis was brought to my atention by my old
friend Bob Schlesinger, who attended the University of
Northern Iowa, here, in the 1970s, and is a patent
attorney in the Los Angeles area. It reminds me of
some remarks by a character in the novel "Walden Two,"
by the psychologist B.F. Skinner, published in 1948.
It was about controlling the behavior of sheep.
In the story, sheep were first fenced in by an
electric fence. Eventually, the fence was replaced by
string with pieces of colored cloth hanging from it,
and the sheep came to transfer their fear to the
string. The older sheep somehow transfered their fear
to the younger ones, so that sheep who had never been
shocked still feared the imaginary fence.
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 16:11:16 EST
Subject: Re: Were Tibetan prayer flags invented to
"fence in" the wolves?
I have seen a few movies on TV that were produced in
China and Mongolia in which the stories were set in
the far past. Most about generals and wars, of course,
and the war banners were plentiful. In the case of
war, such flags would have been used for identifiction
of forces, and to make a frightening impression of
insurmountable numbers on the enemy.
If Tibetan prayer flags were originally invented with
regard to wolves, I should think they would have been
to keep them out of the village. Anything that isn't
"natural" is likely to frighten off any wild animal.
By extension, it's possible the idea could have
transformed into a device to keep spirit demons out of
the village as well.
I dunno though. The idea that Tibetan prayer flags
might have evolved from fencing in wolves doesn't
really have face validity to me. When peoples around
the world have prayed, they've come up with all sorts
of devices to either get the attention of the gods, or
to ritually solemnize their actions, or to "send" the
prayer to the gods (who are usually in the sky or
air). Candles, incense, horns, bells, claps, chants,
songs, you name it. A banner waving and snapping in
the wind is as good a device as any to get the
attention of the gods and to send a prayer into the
wind toward heaven. I think it stands alone and
doesn't have to have evolved from some other practical
tool. If anything, I should think that upon observing
wolves were afraid of prayer banners, fencing in the
wolves would have evolved from that.
You'd have to ask a Tibetan. :)
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