More Random Thoughts While Writing “Neopagan Totemism”

Coming down the home stretch on the manuscript of Neopagan Totemism, for which Llewellyn gave me a deadline of October 14. Had a few random brief thoughts, not all particularly serious.

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Carl Jung’s Shadow is no doubt quite acquainted with the evil that lurks in the heart of men (and women, and everybody else…)

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I just figured out one thing that makes my eyelid twitch about both Michael Harner AND Joseph Campbell: Harner’s “core shamanism” and Campbell’s “monomyth” are both attempts by middle-aged white male Eurocentric academics to erase cultural nuances in shamanic practices and mythologies, respectively, faux “culturally neutral” one-size-fits-all theory that actually favors what (at least some) white, male, Eurocentric academics think is important. Or as my partner put it, “they’re both academic reductionists”.

Or one could look at it as intellectual laziness–“Look! Everything fits neatly into this one universal template! I don’t have to think about anything else! Okay, so that in and of itself is reductionistic; however, I’ve met entirely too many people who think these “universal” models really ARE universal and everything ultimately can be shoehorned into them and somehow zombies.

…okay, maybe not the zombies.

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You know what my mental image of the Wise Old Wo/Man Jungian archetype is? The Old Women with potions and the Old Men with swords (and occasionally broken doors) in the original Legend of Zelda game for the NES. Or, alternately, Carl Jung holding up a battered old copy of The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious and saying “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”

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6 thoughts on “More Random Thoughts While Writing “Neopagan Totemism”

  1. While it may not be viable or feasible for a draft due in 5 days, I’d suggest that with your next book, delve into some of the anthropologists that have talked about shamanism. There are the shamanistic theories of Campbell and Harner that were tweaked, attacked, disintegrated, considered, upheld, and many other verbs by various anthropologists.

    There are hundreds of different ethnographic examples that modern theoretical anthropologists have drawn upon for the current interpretations of shamanism. Being a psychological anthropologist and a neoshaman myself, I thought you might be interested in that vein of research. I imagine that you may have tapped into it already, but I was just curious if you had gone in that direction and if so, what you had found.

    • I haven’t done as much research in that regard as I’d like, in part because until recently all my academic reading was strictly psych-based and specifically centered around counseling. For now, I’m taking a break from heavy reading, but it’s a thought for later when my brain cells recover from the grad school workout!

  2. While I agree to an extent, I don’t know if I’d call either Harner or Campbell (and I discovered the former a year or so after getting deeply into the latter, oddly enough…?!?) “academic” properly speaking. Campbell is still heavily criticized in academic mythologist circles for these very reasons (and others), and rightly so.

    • I see what you’re saying; however, I also think that perhaps both of them were heavily affected enough by their academic careers to take on that reductionism, which is where I think both I and my partner were using the term.

  3. NeoPaganism seems to be filled with universal generalities these days – if it ever wasn’t. The mainstream Totem and Power Animal idea co-opted from other cultures to fit into a post-modern western model never seemed to fit with my experience of such a phenomena. However, what you have done with the subject is different and I admire that. I see it as being fluid variables of essence within and without as connection points to a reality beyond human experience (the more world). For me, they do and have changed and sometimes the quantities are different, it very chemical like for me. My experiences, observations, and studies have never fit into any of these universal models people seem to be so jazzed about.

    • *nods* While I do consciously create within my own social location, I do feel that if something I create works for someone of another culture/etc., so much the better. The “I am a [insert label]” thing isn’t territoriality; it’s acknowledging my limits and biases.

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