Sunday, November 4, 2012

#115. In Addition to Facts and Logic...

ARCHIVE. For a list of all my published posts: 

This is the 15th in the series of blog entries I began with #101-- a collection of notes and essays (and book reviews, I'm just realizing) from my files all dealing in one way or another with the emerging new religious consciousness. They are mostly things I've written over the last decade or two to clarify my own thoughts but which I would like to make available for anyone who might be interested.

Post #115 is a collection of notes on books I looked at in the early 1990s, all dealing with what might be called our "mythic imagination"-- if that term had a clear meaning in our culture.   

If you have questions and think I might be of help, you're welcome to send me a note:


THE SACRED PAW, Shepard, Paul and Barry Sanders
Viking, 1985

Reviewed Mar 1992. There's even more information here than in the recent book on bear rites, GIVING VOICE TO BEAR.

See the footnote reference, page 188, for a Book of Hours in the British Museum which depicts 30 scenes of hunting culture rituals. I wonder if that's available anywhere?


1966 HarperCollins

Reviewed Mar 1992. Initiation rites are essentially death-rebirth rites; ultimately, all are based on puberty rituals. They find their full flower in shamanic initiation rites. The shaman is the ideal type of the "re-made man." He is exemplar of humanness, which is essentially religious. (I don't think I'd previously read this book, yet almost nothing here is new!)


Pieter Hovens, ed. 1981, Gottingen, Edition Herodot

Reviewed Apr 1992. Two volumes (2nd: 1984). These essays vary immensely; they are poorly translated, often pompously academic, and deal to a great extent with sociological data.

I made the ILL request (it came from Princeton) to see the article by Rolf Krusche (of the Leipzig Museum of Anthropology), "The Wabeno Cult as a Adversary of the Medewiwin." It's very disappointing. Talks mostly about Wabeno's "bad press" as being created by the Medi; offers an example of Parry Island where the opposite happened: Wabeno is the established religion and Mede is "devil worship." Other than the fact that they danced all night (ending at dawn) and handled hot things (the way Hekoka do), and were 'founded' by Morning Star the article gives no information about them.

Volume I contains an interesting essay about the Castaneda books. Volume II has a long article by Ake Hultkrantz about Swedish contributions to NA (especially NA religions) studies; the Swedes really do deserve much credit. The only other essay of interest is Franco Meli (U of Rome), "Charles A. Eastman: A Parabola of Integration." (Very sympathetic. Claims that SOUL OF AN INDIAN is his most important book, and that it remains valid today as profound critique of white culture's lost-ness.)


TENDING THE FIRE, The Ritual Men's Group, Wayne Liebman. Ally Press, 1991

Reviewed Apr 1992. This is a gem of a book. Only 57 pages total, and the main points are made in the first forty. Highly confirming of our men's group process and my personal understanding of ritual. 'Verification' might be a better word than 'confirming.


INNER TRADITIONS OF MAGIC, William Gray. Samuel Weiser, Inc. 1970.

Reviewed Apr, 1992. By the same author: SEASONAL OCCULT RITUALS; it might be worth looking at. This is the first real book about 'magic' I've ever read. It never uses the words "craft" or "witchcraft" and doesn't seem feminist or earth goddess oriented in a contemporary sense.

The author plunges right in, in chapter one, with a discussion of images as divine energies which are the basis of our existence, and of ritual as the process by which we make them our own. The language is exotic, to be sure, but the concepts are quite clear. Far more even than Wayne Leibman's book, this is highly confirming of my own understandings.

The real essence of the work (of magic) seems to be creating of sacred space via the circle/cross; here the guardians of the four directions are called by the names of archangels, but there is also an above and below and emphasis on the individual as the center of it all. Not unfamiliar, to be sure! At least from this book I see a difference between this kind of activity and shamanism: it's the work of individuals or small groups, and perhaps even "for all" in some sense, but never do I get the idea that the practitioner acts to help another, less able, to come in contact with the powers. I.e., there's no sense of the kind of healing and/or diving rites so characteristic of shamanism.

The author says very many good things about the importance of a modern calendar which keeps ties with the important ancient dates. He says something like "This recovery is one of the most important things needed in our time."

This book contains the only authoritative description I've ever read of the Black Mass. Essentially it is the intentional use of power to do evil, specifically by conceiving a child which would in some way be an incarnation of evil powers. There's also a description of an "incarnation of God" ceremony, where twelve "potent males," representing the fullness of masculine attributes, donate semen used to artificially inseminate an "untouched virgin." The resulting child, after 32 years, becomes a sacrificial victim. Overall view: despite odd things like these rites, this is a remarkably sensible book.



May, 1992. Wonderful photos from around the world. The LIFE magazine issue printed most of the best things.


BY STANDING STONE AND ELDER TREE, by William C. Gray (Llewellyn, 1990).

Reviewed May 1992. In the Cotswold area in England there is a very old circle of stones which the author, via ESP, has tuned into and come up with this book about how the stones were used; it also includes much theory behind such activities. Main idea: stone (including crystal) is especially able to hold psychic 'vibrations' that can be 'read' by someone willing to make the effort. He claims the Cotswold circle is much older than Stonehenge.

It's quite interesting. Gray is also the author of the above reviewed INNER TRADITIONS OF MAGIC. Ads in the back mention one book which might be worth looking at: THE NATURE AND USE OF RITUAL, Dr. Peter Roche de Coppens. 0-87542-675-1 (Llewellyn, 19??). (I never got to it.)


TURTLE ISLAND ALPHABET, A Lexicon of Native American Symbols and Culture, by Gerald Hausman. St Martin's Pr, 1992.

Reviewed May, 1992. Eighty or so NA-related items are described here: From arrow, basket, bead, bear... to yucca and zigzag. The style is somewhat fuzzy ("poetic") but readable for the most part. Nothing new, as far as I can see, but much appreciation of NA perspectives, which is good enough. The author is from New Mexico and the references are all heavily southwest oriented, so it's not as interesting as it might be for my taste. For example, "pipe" here means only a sacred object, not a way of life. Many old and fascinating photos, which are merely credited but not, alas, described.


SPIRIT, SPIRIT. Shaman Songs and Incantations
David Cloutier
1973, Copper Beach Pr
ISBN 0-914278-30-4

Reviewed April, 1992. A small book. It contains poem-like versions of some shaman songs originally published in classic texts around 1900: Siberian, Eskimo and Northwest Coast. "Limited edition, 1000 copies." Not clear who the author is or why it was published.


1990, Bantam
ISBN 0-553-07096-7

Reviewed, Apr 1992. Much here is of basic interest. Several things I want to note.

1. "To put on airs" means "to put on Ares (= Mars); i. e, male ego pretensions.

2. Concerning inner, psychological work: "At best, this kind of work is a dialogue.... Imagination is followed by interpretation (and response, if needed) and more imagination again-- Image: Idea: Image, and so on."

This basic pattern seems to be the way in which creativity best unfolds: "inspiration" and "perspiration" follow each other in a rhythm....(p 219) (If I can claim anything, it is faithfulness to this process.)

3. "It is wonderful and gratifying to see people improve their feelings of self-worth, not through the aggrandizement of the perennially inflated ego, but through realizing that in their own depths lie transpersonal wisdom figures and an inexhaustible and creative life force."(p 233)


MAKE PRAYERS TO THE RAVEN, A Koyukon View of the Northern Forests, Richard K. Nelson
1986 U of Chi Pr. ISBN 0-226-57163-7

Reviewed Apr 1992. Unlike Nelson's earlier books, here he tries to make sense of the "supernatural" aspects of the world experienced by "Northern Hunters."

This work was done in the late 1970's. Data was collected in a small village along the Yukon River, among the Koyukon people. He tries (and succeeds nicely) to codify the principles and to some extent the practices underlying this people's experience of nature. They are an Athapaskan people-- hunter-gatherers-- to whom the Navojos and Apaches are related. The author is personally unsuccessful; as he says, "I don't understand the spirits." But it's a good attempt. He lists numerous individual 'inanimate objects,' places, plants and animals, along with something about their natural history and what kinds of taboos need to be observed and the consequences of breaking the taboos. But he himself quite literally cannot feel into the worldview, nor thus pass it on to the reader. (So close! I guess it's good that a WASP anthropologist can go as far as he did!)


Donald Bahr, Juan Gregorio, David Lopez, and Albert Alvarez.
1974, U of AZ Pr
ISBN 0-8165-0303-6

Reviewed Apr 1992. A willing Piman shaman was extensively interviewed over a period of a year and a half, on the nature of certain afflictions, here called 'staying sicknesses,' which affect only Pimans, and which come about by violation of various taboos (mostly disrespect of various kinds shown toward certain objects and animals).

The shaman's answers are given in the original language, then in transliteration, then in translation, then paraphrased and summarized. It is tedious and deadly, yet the content is certainly of interest.

If I had the time and good will to seriously study the text, a fruitful line of approach would be to compare the worldviews of this group (part of the Papagos of the southwest and northern Mexico) with those of Nelson's "hunters of the northern forests" in Make Prayers to the Raven.

For example: In both perspectives, non-believers (or those ignorant of what they are doing) are not affected, for the most part; and a very large number of taboos are sexually differentiated. It would take more time and energy than I have available.

Of special interest: Among the Pimam, girls become women via first menstruation. But a boy becomes a man by doing something for the welfare of the community. Three examples are given: one is a warrior task, killing a tribal enemy; the others are ritual/hunting acts: obtaining eagle feathers from an eagle or a pilgrimage-quest for ocean salt.


1979, U of CA Pr. ISBN 0-520-02653-5

Reviewed Apr, 1992. Read and reviewed previously. (Hard to tell which of H's books I've previously seen; all have very similar titles.)


Carpenter, Rhys. Rutgers U.

Two chapters out of eight deal with the Bear story: death/resurrection forty days after winter solstice. (Shocking that "Bear" shows up in the Homer stories of 25 centuries ago.) "Bear" may be foundational for much of Western myth as well as NA stories!


THE OJIBWAY WOMAN by Ruth Landes, AMS Press 1969. (first published 1938, Columbia U.)

Reviewed May 1992. This book was sent (via ILL) by mistake. I'd asked for some other similar title by the same author. It contains a remarkable amount of interesting information about sexual differences in the Cree-Ojibway culture, gathered 'in the field' by the author. Clearly from anthropology's collecting, rather than interpreting, stage. Nothing so far that I want to note.

The information all was given by one woman to the author, also a woman; it's clear that the informant intensely dislikes male shamans, and perhaps males generally. No question women were second class citizens, but this frequently reads like unremissive feminist bitching. (1938!)


TETON SIOUX MUSIC, Frances Densmore.
1988 Reprint, ISBN 0-317-90156-7

Reviewed May, 1992. A monster book, almost 600 pages! Original published in1915.

This book gives the musical notation and text (both English and Sioux-- Dakota, I think) for numerous songs. It also contains unbelievably uninteresting commentary on the music itself (surely a labor of love), but also the stories which go along with the songs. Who first sang them, under what conditions, ceremonial songs, pipe songs, sundance songs, sacred stones songs, bear healing songs, buffalo songs, hunt songs, war songs, game songs, childrens' songs, etc. Simply to page through and read 'whatever caught my eye' took a week of evenings! (And I never did finish paging through.)


1974, U of Toronto Pr ISBN 0-8357-3991-0

Reviewed May, 1992. This is one of the most awfully written books I've encountered. Admittedly, the material is difficult. But when the author begins his acknowledgments with the comment that he no longer has violent feelings toward the original editorial reader, you can expect less than a perfect job!

There are many hundreds of scrolls in existence, found in an area centering on northern MN and southern central Canada. Many of them make little sense even to the author. They seem to contain origin accounts and descriptions of the four stages of the Mediwiwin lodge.

There are probably not any three consecutive sentences in the book which follow logical one after the other. I think the book may contain some interesting material on webenowiwim, and it definitely contains interesting material on the tent-shaking form of shamanism. But it remains for the most part in accessible. Several weeks of full time study would be needed to sort out the good stuff. Maybe at some later date....


THE OMAHA TRIBE, Alice C. Fletcher and F. La Flesche; 1971 Reprint (2 vols!) ISBN 0-384-16000-X

Reviewed May 1992. I didn't have more than a few days, while I was sick, to look at these two volumes. It constitutes a tremendous summary of Omaha culture, published around 1905 and so including many bits of information from pre-reservation days. Omahas occupied much of present day Nebraska. Worth pursuing at leisure eventually.


MY OLD PEOPLE SAY, Catharine McClellan
1975, Ottawa ISBN 0-660-00064-4 or
ISBN 0-686-88482-5 (2 vols!)

Reviewed May 1992. As with the previous book (Fletcher's The Omaha Tribe), I didn't have more than a few days, while I was sick, to look at these volumes. This work was done in the 60's and 70's in the Yukon area. Three related tribes are studied. Much of interest. Again, as with the previous title, it may well we worth pursuing at leisure, eventually.


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