Beginning in the late 19th cent., when a celebrated chorus from Fisk Univ. traveled throughout the United States and abroad, wide attention was given to the spirituals of American blacks. This body of song was long thought to be the only original folk music of the United States, and research into its origin centered mainly on the nature and extent of its African ancestry. Because slaves were brought to the United States from many parts of Africa, no single African musical source is clear. Elements that African music and American black spirituals have in common include syncopation, polyrhythmic structure, the pentatonic scale, and a responsive rendition of text. Audience participation increased the improvisatory nature of the spirituals, with the result that tens and even hundreds of versions of a single text idea exist.
Early in the 20th cent., Cecil Sharp explored the extent of American folk-song literature, much of which he demonstrated to be of British ancestry. After that discovery, G. P. Jackson traced the considerable influence of revivalist and evangelist songs from the early 19th-century camp meetings of the Southern white population. Jackson claimed, using hundreds of comparative examples, that many black spirituals were adapted from or inspired by these white spirituals. African musical traditions were apparently amalgamated with the religious songs of the white South, which had many sources, to produce a form of folk music that was distinctly black in character.
Collections and arrangements of spirituals have been made by R. Johnson and J. W. Johnson, R. N. Dett, G. L. White, J. A. Lomax and A. Lomax, R. Hayes, and others. See also G. P. Jackson, White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands (1933) and Spiritual Folk-Songs of Early America (1937); G. P. Jackson, White and Negro Spirituals (1943); L. Jones, Blues People (1963); J. Cone, The Spirituals and the Blues (1980).
Curing of an illness or disability by recourse to divine power, without the use of traditional medicine. A healer such as a clergy member or an inspired layperson may act as intermediary. Certain places, such as the grotto at Lourdes, France, are believed to effect cures among believers. In ancient Greece, temples honoring the god of medicine, Asclepius, were built near springs with healing waters. In Christianity, support for faith healing is based on the miraculous cures wrought by Jesus during his ministry. Christian Science is noted for faith healing, and it is also practiced in a more dramatic way in Pentecostalism through such customs as the laying on of hands.
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In North American white and black folk music, an English-language folk hymn. White spirituals derived variously, notably from the “lining out” of psalms, dating from at least the mid-17th century. Where congregations could not read, a leader intoned the psalm one line at a time, alternating with the congregation's singing of each line to a familiar melody; the tune, sung slowly, was ornamented with passing notes, turns, and other graces. A second source was the singing of hymns set to borrowed melodies, often secular folk tunes. Themes included going home to the promised land and gaining ground against sin; typical refrains were “Roll, Jordan” and “Glory Hallelujah.” The songs survive in oral tradition in isolated areas and also in the form of shape-note singings. African American spirituals developed in part from white rural folk hymnody but differ greatly in voice quality, vocal effects, rhythm, and type of rhythmic accompaniment. They were sung not only in worship but also as work songs, and the text imagery often reflects concrete tasks. Like the white gospel song, the modern African American gospel song derives from the spiritual.
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A retreat can either be a time of solitude or a community experience. Some retreats are held in silence, and on others there may be a great deal of conversation, depending on the understanding and accepted practices of the host facility and/or the participant(s). Retreats are often conducted at rural or remote locations, either privately, or at a retreat centre such as a monastery. Some retreats for advanced practitioners may be undertaken in darkness, a form of retreat that is common as an advanced Dzogchen practice in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Spiritual retreats allow time for reflection, prayer, or meditation. They are considered essential in Buddhism, having been a common practice since the Vassa, or rainy season retreat, was established by the founder of Buddhism, Gotama Buddha. Retreats are also popular in many Christian churches, where they are seen as mirroring Christ's forty days in the desert, including evangelical Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism.