Why Hippies Are Sometimes Called Bohemians

Written by on April 11, 2016 in Conscious Art, Films and Music with 5 Comments

By Omar Cherif
https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/boheme/hippies.htmWe find that the terms “Hippies” and “Bohemians” are often used interchangeably. But why is that so? And what is the link between flower children of the 60s and people from Bohemia? 

For someone residing in Venice Beach, a Bohemian neighbourhood full of Hippies, and who is jokingly called a Bo-Bo, I was keen to know the answers.


Let
us first begin with the definitions.

In its literal sense, Bohemian means someone from Bohemia, the region in the Czech Republic.

The secondary meaning of Bohemian, the one we’re interested in here, is: A socially unconventional person, especially one who is involved in arts and its various forms; a writer or an artist living an unconventional life, usually in colonies or communes with others.

The synonyms of ‘bohemian’ in Oxford are: Nonconformist, unconventional person, beatnik, hippy, avant-gardist, free spirit, dropout, artistic person.


Informal: Freak.


In Merriam Webster, Bohemian is a vagabond, wanderer; especially: gypsy.

According to Wikipedia, Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.


So what or who is a hippie?

In Merriam Webster, a Hippie (or Hippy) is defined as someone who is usually young and who rejects the mores of established society by dressing unconventionally or favoring communal living and advocates a nonviolent ethic, especially in the 60s.

A slightly more stereotyped definition of a Hippie appears in Oxford, and it is: A person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.

Synonym: Flower child, bohemian, dropout, free spirit, nonconformist, unconventional person; (hippies) flower people.

And according to Wikipedia, a Hippie is a member of a subculture, originally a youth movement which started in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world.


Now
let us review the history and origin of ‘Bohemian’.

Bohemianism first emerged in France in the early nineteenth century when artists and creators began moving to the lower class, lower-rent Romani neighborhoods; first it was the Latin Quarter then expanding to Montmartre. Bohémien was a common French term for Gypsies and Romani people of France, who, in fact, were mistakenly thought to have reached France in the 15th century via Bohemia — the only protestant and therefore heretic country among Western Christians at the time.

The meaning of Bohemian then took the meaning of an artist or littérateur who, consciously or unconsciously, withdraws from conventionality in life and arts. Though many participants regarded Bohemia as a state of mind rather than an actual place.

Terence McKenna had another view on why freaks are called Bohemians, and it goes back in history into the 17th century. In a 1996 Talk held in Mannheim, Germany, McKenna shares that Frederick The Fifth, who was King of Bohemia for only one year (1619-1620), and his wife, Elizabeth Stuart, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth the 1st of England, had plotted a revolutionary alchemical renaissance.

They were the center of a movement of alchemical reformation and revolution, that sought to take the Protestant Reformation an enormous leap forward into a new world of spiritual freedom, and to my mind, a very sort of psychedelic world.

Despite the fact that this short-lived revolution didn’t end well for Fredrick and his wife, it had indeed triggered the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War, which has later reshaped Europe. 

Since that time, ‘Bohemians’ meant outcasts with marginal political position involved with bizarre sexual practices, strange drug use, and ‘funny’ ideas.

The use of the modern sense of the word ‘bohemian’ first appeared in the English language in the nineteenth century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities. Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political and social viewpoints, which were often expressed through free love, frugality, drug usage, and, in some cases, voluntary poverty.

Bohemianism rejected the comfortable bourgeois lifestyle. It rejected materialism and the pursuit of money by leaving their middle class lives, having no permanent residence, and by living solely for art and literature’s sake; it rejected strict moral values by living carefree, indulging in drugs — mainly hashish and opium — and alcohol, and adopting sexual freedom.

In some cases, Bohemians were associated with a more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic circle, which was sometimes referred to as haute bohème — “high bohemians”.

By 1850, the term ‘Bohemian’ began appearing in America when Bohemian nationals began to arrive to the country. In New York City in 1857, a group of some 15–20 young, cultured journalists flourished as self-described “Bohemians” until the American Civil War began in 1861. Similar groups were also born in other cities, like the Bohemian Club in San Francisco.

Mark Twain, for one, was one of those American writers who self-identified as Bohemian; while Oscar Wilde was known to have attended the Bohemian Club in America as a guest speaker.

Much more about Bohemianism can be found on this informative Website.


The
story of how “hippie”came to mean what it does is equally captivating.

It all began in the early 1900s with the word ‘hip’ — also ‘hep’ — which then meant “aware and informed” or “in the know”. Their exact origin remains unknown.

There are speculations suggesting that it derives from the word ‘hipi’ from Wolof, a language widely spoken in Senegal and The Gambia; its meaning is “to open one’s eyes”. The problem with this theory, according to lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower, is that Wolof does not use the letter ‘h’ and said word is actually spelled ‘xippi’.

By the late 1930s and early 40s with the rise of counterculture movements like the Beatniks then the Hipsters, — also called Hepcats — ‘hip’ replaced ‘hep’, and the more modern sense of ‘hipster’ was developed; it meant “stylish and currently fashionable”, “up-to-date”. ‘Hipster’ was commonly used among African American Jazz musicians.

At some point, the word ‘hippie’ made an appearance as a variant of hipster; and it was first meant to describe those who were not genuine hipsters, or hipsters wannabes.

However, ‘Hippie’, in the counterculture flower children sense, came to the limelight in mid 1965 as a Haight-Ashbury slang word.

Interestingly, ‘Hip’ lived on in the subculture world when it made it to Hip-Hop in the late 70s. Today, ‘hipster’ is back into the lexicon and it usually depicts young educated bohemian.

More on the history of ‘hip’ can be found on this OxfordWords Blog.

 

 

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About the Author:

Omar Cherif Omar Cherif is a trilingual writer and researcher, photographer and blogger with degrees in journalism, psychology, and philosophy. After working in the corporate world for ten years, he took writing as a vocation and is currently finalizing his first book about dreams, the subconscious mind, and spirituality among other topics.

You can follow Omar on Facebook and One Lucky Soul and you can check his Photography here.

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5 Reader Comments

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  1. 1047337108631948@facebook.com' Bunny Brando says:

    lots of lad taken on commune site of Bohemian Highway in Sonoma co california

  2. 471174186394808@facebook.com' Roxii Love Vernetti says:

    #PROUDGYPSY

  3. 490618547769602@facebook.com' Stephen Ambrosich says:

    The underlying connection is the Gnostic tradition and the alchemical heritage as sponsored and supported by Emperor Rudolf of Bohemia…and yes, Terence McKenna explains this history well how those earlier investigations of the Philosopher Stone blended with the contemporary counter cultural icon of the Stoned Philosopher.

  4. 219947721728469@facebook.com' Richard Burgin says:

    Different.

  5. 259432724394417@facebook.com' Shibshankar Chakraborty says:

    Nice,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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