Totem And Taboo

.. desires of others and awakening the ambivalent conflict in them.” It is clear that the violation of certain taboo becomes a social danger that must be punished by all the members of society. If they did not punish the violator, they would therefore become aware that they want to imitate evil. Among these races, taboo has become the general form of law imposed by chiefs and priests to insure their property and privileges. Freud explains theyre still remains a large group of laws related to enemies, chiefs, and the dead. First, lets talk about enemies. The punishment when you kill an enemy is different in every tribe.

For example, in Timor the leader of the expedition cannot return to his house under any circumstances. A special hut is given for him in whom he spent two month engaged in various rules of purification. During this period, he may not see his wife or nourish himself: another person must put his food in his mouth. In the Dayak tribe, warriors returning from a successful expedition must remain sequestered for several days and abstain from certain food. They may not touch iron and must remain away from their wives. The behavior of primitive races toward their chiefs, kings, and priest, is controlled by two principles.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

They must both be guarded and be guarded against. They must be guarded against ruler, because they are the bearers of that mysterious and dangerous magic power which communicates itself by contact, like an electric charge, bringing death and destruction to any one not protected by similar charge. All direct or indirect contact with this dangerous sacredness is therefore avoided, and when it cannot be avoided, a ceremonial has been found to prevent the consequences. For example, the Nubas in East Africa, for instance, believe that they must die if they enter the house of their priest king, but that they escape his danger if, on entering, they bare the left shoulder and induce the king to touch it with his hand. The necessity of guarding the king from every danger arises from his great importance for the weal and woe of his subjects. He is a person who regulate the “course of the world”.

His people have to thank him not only for the rain and sunshine but also for the wind that brings the ships to their shore and for the solid ground on which they set their feet. Every king just like his subject is tempted by taboo. For example, on “Shark Point at Cape Padron in Lower Guinea (West Africa), a priest called Kululu lives alone in a woods. He is not allowed to touch a woman or to leave his house and cannot even rise out of his chair, in which he must sleep in a sitting position. The honor of being a priest or a king ceased to be desirable; the person in line for the succession often used every means to escape it.

On Niue a coral island in the Pacific Ocean, monarchy actually ended because nobody was willing to take responsibility. In some part of West Africa, a general council is held after the death of the king to determine upon the successor. The man that is chosen is seized and kept in custody in a “fetish house” until he is willing to accept the crown. Among most primitive people, the taboo of the dead is the most important. The taboo customs after bodily contact with the dead are the same all over Polynesia, Melanesia and in part of Africa. Anyone who had touched a corpse or who had taken part in its interment became extremely unclean and was cut from intercourse with his fellow beings; he could not enter a house, or approach persons or objects without infecting them with the same properties.

He could not even touch his food with his own hands. His food was put on the ground and he had no alternative except to seize it as best he could with his lips and teeth while his hand were behind his back. Among the Shuswap in British-Columbia widows and widowers have to remain segregated during their period of mourning; they must not use their hands to touch the body or the head and all utensils used by them not be used by anyone else. Among the Agutainos, who live in Palawan, a widow may not leave her hut for the first seven or eight days after her husbands death, except at night. On eof the most surprising taboo customs of mourning is the prohibition against pronouncing the name of the deceased.

In South American tribes, it is considered the gravest insult to the survivors to pronounce the name of the deceased in their presence. If the deceased had the same name as an animal or an object, the animal or object names must be changed to new ones in order no to be reminded of the deceased when they mentioned them. In chapter three, Freud talks about animism, magic and the omnipotence of thought. According to Freud, animism is the theory of psychic concepts and in the wider sense, of spiritual beings in general. Animism is a system of thought; it gives not only the explanation of a single phenomenon, but makes it possible to understand the totality of the world from one point, as continuity. According to Freud, sorcery is essentially the art of influencing spirits by treating them like people under the same circumstances. Magic however, is something else; it does not essentially concern itself with spirits, and uses special means, not the ordinary psychological method.

Magic serve the most the most varied purposes. It is subject to the process of nature to the will of man, protect the individual against enemies and dangers, and give him power to injure his enemies. One of the most widespread magic procedures for injuring an enemy consists of making a duplicate of him out of any kind of material. This magic thecnique, instead of being used for private enmity can also be employed for pious purposes and can thus be used to aid the gods against evil demons. Other method can be used to injure enemies.

One other method that is used to injure your enemies is to get a hold of his hair, his nails, anything that he has discarded and do something hostile to these things. This is just as effective as if you had dominated the person himself. Freud explain that there is a great mass of magic actions which show a similar motivation, but Freud only stress upon only two: the art of causing rain is produced by magic means, by imitating it and by imitating the clouds and storm which produce it. For example, the Ainos of Japan make rain by pouring out water through a big sieve, while others fir out a big bowl with sails and oars as if it were a ship, which is then dragged about the village and gardens. Freud adopted the term “omnipotence of thought” from an intelligent man, “a former sufferer from compulsion neurosis, who, after being cured through psychoanalytic treatment, was able to demonstrate his efficiency and good sense.

He had coined this phrase to designate all those peculiar and uncanny occurrences which seemed to pursue him just as they pursue others afflicted with his malady”. This means that if he happened to think of a person, he was actually confronted with this person as if he had conjured him up. In this last chapter, Freud decides to empathize the meaning of totemism. Totemism is a religious as well as a social system. On its religious side it consist of the relations of mutual respect and consideration between a person and his totem, and on its social side it is composed of obligations of the members of the clan towards each other and towards other tribes.

Freud also brings up the origin of totemism. To explain the origin of theory of totemism, he divided into three groups: The nomalistic theories, the sociological theories, and the psychological theories. According to Herbert Spencer, “the origin of totemism was to be found in the giving of the names.” The attributes of certain individuals had brought about their being named after animals so that they had come to have names of honor or nicknames that continued in their descendants. To explain the sociological theories, Freud affirms that “the totem is the visible representative of the social religion of these races. It embodies the community, which is the real object of veneration.” To explain the psychological theories, Freud says that the totem was meant to represent a safe place of refuge where the soul is deposited in order to avoid the dangers that threaten it.

After primitive man had housed his soul in his totem he became invulnerable and he naturally took care of himself not to harm the bearer of his soul. To also explain the origin of totemism, Freud explains the relation between human and animals. At first the child attribute full equality to the animals; he feels more closely related to the animal that to the adult that is still mysterious to him. At a part of his adolescence, the child suddenly begins to fear certain animal species and to protect himself against seeing or touching any individual of this species. Also one of the oldest form of sacrifice, older than the use of fire and the knowledge of agriculture, was the sacrifice of animals, whose flesh and blood was eaten by the God.

According to Freud, “psychoanalysis has revealed to us that the totem animal is really a substitute for the father, and this really explains the contradiction that it is usually forbidden to kill the totem animal, that the killing of it results in a holiday and that the animal is killed and yet mourned.” In this book, the attempt was to find the original meaning of totemism through its infantile traces. Both totem and taboo are” held to have their roots in the Oedipus complex, which lies at the basis of all neurosis” and, as Freud argued, it was also “the origin of religion, ethics, society, and art”.