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Encyclopedia > Totem and Taboo

Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics was a book written by Sigmund Freud published in German as Totem und Tabu: Einige Übereinstimmungen im Seelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker in 1913. It was a collection of four essays which had been published in the journal Imago from 1912-1913 as an application of psychoanalysis to the fields of archeology, anthropology, and the study of religion. Of the four essays — "The Horror of Incest", "Taboo and Emotional Ambivalence", "Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thoughts", and "The Return of Totemism in Childhood" — the last was the most unique and wide-ranging in its argument. Sigmund Freud (born Sigismund Schlomo Freud) May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939; (IPA pronunciation: [] in German, [] in English) was a Jewish-Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who co-founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. ... Psychoanalysis is a family of psychological theories and methods based on the work of Sigmund Freud. ... Archaeology or sometimes in American English archeology (from the Greek words αρχαίος = ancient and λόγος = word/speech) is the study of human cultures through the recovery, documentation and analysis of material remains, including architecture, artefacts, biofacts, human remains, and landscapes. ... Anthropology is the study of the physical and social characteristics of humanity through the examination of historical and present geographical distribution, cultural history, acculturation, and cultural relationships. ...

Contents

"The Horror of Incest"

The first and shortest of the four essays concerns incest taboos adopted by societies believing in totemism. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... For the Taboo party game, see Taboo (game). ... Totemism (derived from the root -oode in the Ojibwe language, which referred to something kinship-related) is a religious belief that is frequently associated with shamanistic religions. ...


Freud uses examples mostly from the Australian Aborigines - gathered and discussed by anthropologist James George Frazer. He points out, with some surprise, that although the Aborigines do not seem to have any sexual restrictions, there's an elaborate social organization whose sole purpose is to prevent incestuous sexual relations. Aboriginal Flag Australian Aborigines is a name used to collectively describe most of the indigenous peoples of the Australian continent and its nearby islands. ... Sir James George Frazer (January 1, 1854 - May 7, 1941), a social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion, was born in Glasgow, Scotland. ...


Freud discusses various ways in which the exogamy of the totem system prevents incest not only among the nuclear family, but among extended families as well. In addition, the totem system prevents 'incest' among members of the same totem clan who are not related by blood and considers as incest relations between clan members which could not produce children. He explains that the existence of marriage restrictions between the members of the same tribes probably goes back to when group marriages were allowed (but not 'incest' within a group family). This article or section contains information that has not been verified and thus might not be reliable. ... A totem is any natural or supernatural object, being or animal which has personal symbolic meaning to an individual and to whose phenomena and energy one feels closely associated with during ones life. ...


He concludes the essay with a discussion of the mother-in-law taboo, and concludes that the incestuous wishes which are repressed to the unconscious among civilized peoples are still a conscious peril to the uncivilized people in Frazer's studies. A persons mother-in-law is the mother of his or her spouse. ...


"Taboo and Emotional Ambivalence"

In this essay, Freud considers the relationship of taboos to totemism. Freud uses his concepts 'projection' and 'ambivalence' he developed during his work with neurotic patients in Vienna to discuss the relationship between taboo and totemism. . ...


Like neurotics, 'primitive' peoples feel ambivalent about most people in their lives, but will not admit this consciously to themselves. They will not admit that as much as they love their mother, there are things about her they hate. The suppressed part of this ambivalence (the hate parts) are projected onto others. In the case of natives, the hateful parts are projected onto the totem. As in: 'I did not want my mother to die, the totem wanted her to die.' A neurosis, in psychoanalytic theory, is an ineffectual coping strategy that Sigmund Freud suggested was caused by emotions from past experience overwhelming or interfering with present experience. ...


Freud expands this idea of ambivalence to include the relationship of citizens to their ruler. In ceremonies surrounding kings, which are often quite violent, – such as the king starving himself in the woods for a few weeks – he considers two levels that are functioning to be the "ostensible" (i.e., the king is being honored) and the "actual" (i.e., the king is being tortured).


"Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thought"

The third essay examines the animism and naricissistic phase associated with a primitive understanding of the universe and early libidinal development. A belief in magic and sorcery derives from an overvaluation of physical acts whereby the structural conditions of mind are transposed onto the world: this overvaluation survives in both primitive men and neurotics. The animistic mode of thinking is governed by an "omnipotence of thoughts", a projection of inner mental life onto the external world. This imaginary construction of reality is also discernable in obsessive thinking, delusional disorders and phobias. Freud comments that the omnipotence of thoughts has been retained in the magical realm of art. The last part of the essay concludes the relationship between magic (paranormal), superstition and taboo, arguing that the practices of animistic system are cree behind which lies instinctual repression. This article is in need of attention. ... Psychological projection (or projection bias) can be defined as unconsciously assuming that others have the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values, or positions on any given subject as oneself. ... For other things named OCD, see OCD (disambiguation). ... Delusional disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis denoting a psychotic mental illness that involves holding one or more non-bizarre delusions in the absence of any other significant psychopathology (signs or symptoms of mental illness). ... A phobia (from the Greek φόβος fear), an irrational, persistent fear of certain situations, objects, activities, or persons. ... The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse Magic and sorcery are the influencing of events, objects, people and physical phenomena by mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. ... The number 13 is often avoided in public buildings, also floors, doors and this Santa Anita Park horse stall. ... Psychological repression, or simply repression, is the psychological act of excluding desires and impulses (wishes, fantasies or feelings) from ones consciousness and attempting to hold or subdue them in the subconscious. ...


Đ=="The Return of Totemism in Childhood"== In the final essay, Freud argues that combining one of Charles Darwin's more speculative theories about the arrangements of early human societies (a single alpha-male surrounded by a harem of females, similar to the arrangement of gorilla groupings) with the theory of the sacrifice ritual taken from William Robertson Smith located the origins of totemism in a singular event, whereby a band of prehistoric brothers expelled from the alpha-male group returned to kill their father, whom they both feared and respected. In this respect, Freud located the beginnings of the Oedipus complex at the origins of human society, and postulated that all religion was in effect an extended and collective form of guilt and ambivalence to cope with the killing of the father figure (which he saw as the true original sin). For other people of the same surname, and places and things named after Charles Darwin, see Darwin. ... Type species Troglodytes gorilla Savage, 1847 distribution of Gorilla Species Gorilla gorilla Gorilla beringei The gorilla, the largest of the living primates, is a ground-dwelling omnivore that inhabits the forests of Africa. ... William Robertson Smith (8 November 1846–31 March 1894) was a Scottish philologist, physicist, archaeologist, and Biblical critic best known for his work on the Encyclopædia Britannica and his book Religion of the Semites, which is considered a foundational text in the comparative study of religion. ... A totem is any natural or supernatural object, being or animal which has personal symbolic meaning to an individual and to whose phenomena and energy one feels closely associated with during ones life. ... The Oedipus complex in Freudian psychoanalysis refers to stage of psychosexual development in childhood where children of both sexes regard their father as an adversary and competitor for the exclusive love of their mother. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... According to Christian tradition, original sin is the general condition of sinfulness (lack of holiness) into which human beings are born (Psalm 51:5). ...


English translation

The English translation was published in 1918; it met with an initially chilly reception from the anthropological community, reflective of a change in scholarship towards ethnography and away from the more speculative "theoretical anthropology". However in later years, Freud's approach, if not the specific theory advanced, would become much more prominent within anthropological literature as incorporated into the post-structuralist approach. Ethnography (from the Greek ethnos = people and graphein = writing) refers to the genre of writing that presents varying degrees of qualitative and quantitative descriptions of human social phenomena, based on fieldwork. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ...


See also

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External links

  • Extracts from Totem and Taboo

  Results from FactBites:
 
totem (381 words)
Generally, the members of the group believe that they are descended from a totem ancestor, or that they and the totem are “brothers.” The totem may be regarded as a group symbol and as a protector of the members of the group.
In most cases the totemic animal or plant is the object of taboo: it may be forbidden to kill or eat the sacred animal.
The symbol of the totem may be tattooed on the body, engraved on weapons, pictured in masks, or (among Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest) carved on totem poles.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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