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Drew Cunningham
Dr. Barnsley
REL-1014
2 November 2015
Patterson Cabin Myth/Ritual Analysis
Patterson Cabin is a structure that stands on Transylvanias campus that was originally
built by Col. Robert Patterson. Patterson helped found the cities of Lexington, Cincinnati, and
Dayton and he was a chartering member of Transylvania University. The cabin was built prior to
Pattersons marriage to Elizabeth Lindsay in April 1780, so it is just as old, if not older than, the
University. Patterson cabin sits behind Transylvanias library and is near the corner of Third and
Broadway. It is surrounded by hedges and has a plaque that denotes why the cabin is important
by describing some of its history. The cabin is built from wooden planks and set together with
what looks to be mortar of some sort. It sits upon a stone foundation with the front entrance
facing Third Street. There is a heavy wooden door that is on the left side of the front of the cabin
that is locked, however, there is a small gap between the door and the floor of the cabin. On one
side there is a stone fireplace that has a chimney made from progressively smaller pieces of
wood. On the back side of the cabin there is one window that is deeply recessed into the wall.
The final side of the cabin is plain, except for a small window that is located near the roof. The
roof itself is made of wooden slats that form an apex. Overall, the cabin is simple in design, but it
is fairly well preserved considering that it is one of the oldest structures in the area.
The Patterson cabin provides an interest example of how to analyze myth, ritual, and
symbolism in conjunction with the episodes The Tell-Tale Head and Whacking Day of The
Simpsons. There is clearly mythology and symbolism contained within the cabin that correlates

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to the founder of Springfield. However, the analogy begins to break down when looking at ritual
because Patterson cabin does not have a definite ritual on Transylvanias campus or in the
Lexington community. In this case, The Simpsons are a necessary addition to analyze how rituals
can be construed by various groups.
The Patterson cabin is an important landmark on Transylvanias campus for several
reasons. First, it is a symbol of the founder of the city and a way in which the myth of the city
and the universitys founding is transmitted. Patterson helped to found Lexington and
Transylvania, so this is clearly a foundational myth for the city and the University. The Simpsons
also has a myth that correlates to the founding of the city of Springfield. Jebediah Springfield is
the pioneer that is credited with founding Springfield and his is commemorated with a statue of
his likeness in the city. Just as the statue is a reminder for the people of Springfield, Pattersons
cabin is a reminder to Lexington and Transylvania to their heritage. Although the connection is
not as strong as for Lexingtonians to their founder as the residents of Springfield, the cabin is
symbolic of the story of the citys founding. When looking at theorists in light of the mythology
of Springfield and Lexington there is some definite conflict. Both Eliade and Durkheims ideas
of myth becoming ritualized and ritual leading to myth work in the case of Jebediah Springfield.
The myth of his founding of whacking day works as an example for both of their ideas, but there
is no clear connection with any practices in Lexington. In this instance, The Simpsons help to
understand underlying theory better than Patterson cabin.
Another aspect that the cabin represents is the connection of Transylvania to the image of
the pioneer. Robert Patterson was a pioneer for the United States who served in the military in
the western theater during the Revolutionary War.1 The pioneer became the mascot for the
1 Robert Patterson Wikipedia

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university and having Pattersons cabin is symbolic of the connection between the university and
its mascot. Most people question why the vampire is not the mascot, but knowing the importance
and connection between the pioneer imagery and the universitys founding makes the pioneer
more apt. In this case, the symbol has become the overall connection for a group of individuals
and helps create an identity. To understand the imagery of the pioneer, it is necessary to have the
cultural context behind the symbol. While the name Transylvania makes one think of a vampire,
when translating the name from Latin and knowing the myth of Patterson, it is clear why the
pioneer represents the university.
While Patterson cabin does have myth and symbolism around it, there is not a distinct ritual such
as whacking day making the correlation between Patterson and Jebediah Springfield weaker. On
Transylvanias campus the practice of Raf Week would seem to ritualize behavior more than
anything associated with Patterson cabin. In Whacking Day there is the celebration of
whacking day in which all of the residents of Springfield drive snakes to the citys center and
beat them with sticks. Supposedly Jebediah Springfield founded this practice, but it is pointed
out by Bart that on May 10th 1775, Springfield was at the battle of Fort Ticonderoga. This
discounts the validity of the ritual of whacking day, because it was originally founded with the
snakes representing the Irish. It was symbolic of oppressing this group and the myth caught on
that Jebediah actually founded the practice. In this case the adherents of the ritual abandon it, but
that is not always the case. Patterson cabin actually has been moved about the community of
Lexington and even across state lines to the city of Dayton, Ohio. However, this does not stop
the cabin from having significance to the city or to Transylvania University.

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Works Cited
Robert Patterson Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

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