What similarities and differences do humans see between themselves and animals? Why do people commonly make metaphorical comparisons between human beings or social groups and animals, and to what degree are people’s attitudes and beliefs about animals parallel to or contingent upon their attitudes and beliefs about human beings and human society? This collection of articles considers these issues. The issues are basic in any study of "totemism," or human and animal relationships, and they have been discussed in anthropological literature since the time of Lewis Henry Morgan’s work on Iroquois social organization.
The contributors to this anthology have not limited themselves to the notion that clans and moieties are the only sources and objects of metaphorical comparisons between humans and animals. They suggest a shift in perspective that has metaphorical comparisons generated by conceived similarities and differences between animals and particular types of human beings. Some examples of this include macaw fledglings as adolescents; pumas as fully initiated men, and foxes as young married men. With this shift of emphasis, a significantly different analytic focus in the study of human-animal relations is produced.
W. Y. Evans–Wentz, great Buddhist scholar and translator of such now familiar works as the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, spent his final years in California. There, in the shadow of Cuchama, one of the Earth’s holiest mountains, he began to explore the astonishing parallels between the spiritual teaching of America’s native peoples and that of the deeply mystical Hindus and Tibetans. Cuchama and Sacred Mountains, a book completed shortly before his death in 1965, is the fruit of those explorations.
To Cuchama, “Exalted High Place,” came the young Cochimi and Yuma boys for initiation into the mystic rites for their people. In solitude they sought and received guidance and wisdom. In this same way, the peoples of ancient Greece, the Hebrews, the early Christians, and the Hindus had found access to inner truth on their own holy mountains: and in this same way must the modern person find the path to inner knowing.
Surveying many of the most Sacred Mountains in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, Evans–Wentz expresses the belief that the secret power of these high places has not passed away but only awaits the coming of a New Age. This new age, in accord with the oldest prophecies of our continent, will be a time of renaissance, the long–waited era of harmony and peace among all peoples.
This renaissance shall be uniquely American, a renewal based on the values so long honored by the Americans before Columbus, and so ruthlessly trampled by the “civilized” Europeans who overran them. No other race of people has been as spiritual in their way of life than the original Americans, notes Evans–Wentz. Perhaps none other has known such martyrdom. Yet the secret greatness of the Indian religion still lives, ancient as the Earth itself, yet ageless in its power to renew.
Decoding Andean Mythology
Margarita Marín-Dale University of Utah Press, 2016 Library of Congress F2230.1.R3M28 2016 | Dewey Decimal 398.20898
Decoding Andean Mythology is a comprehensive analysis of Native Andean oral tradition spanning five centuries. Based on twenty years of research and a wide range of scholarship, this book departs from the Cuzco-centered focus of many published Andean narratives and includes myths, stories, and folktales from diverse regions and ethnic groups. Among them are full translations of thirty-two ancient and modern Native Andean stories. Colorful illustrations and a comprehensive glossary of Quechua, Aymara, and Spanish loan words supplement the text.
In an accessible and engaging discussion suitable for students, the author explores a number of recurring themes and characters in Andean stories. These include shape-shifting animals, the inversion of time-space (pachacuti), anthropomorphic and supernatural beings, and conflicting attitudes toward sexuality. The text also presents a fresh perspective on traditional, non-Western concepts such as huacas (sacred objects and places), suggesting some act as portals or mediating spaces between the natural and supernatural worlds. Of particular significance for current events is a lengthy chapter on social protest, explaining the rise of indigenous movements in the Andes and highlighting the contemporary use of Native Andean folktales as an avenue for social and political dissent.
Winner of the 2018 Wayland D. Hand Prize by the American Folklore Society.
"Bierhorst offers access to more than primary texts here: he maps a way of reading and the necessary apparatus for that reading (including pronunciation guides, reminding us they are oral performances)." —World Literature Today
"This comparative application of the epic poetry tradition to Amerind literature is a scholarly success.... this book is a most noteworthy item in the field of American Indian studies, and is not to be missed by any serious devotee." --Library Journal
"Biehorst's introductions and notes are brilliant, thorough, and an important contribution to the scholarship on these works. His new translation of the Quetzalcoatl is also excellent." --Choice
Originally published in Mexico in 1970, Indigenous and Popular Thinking in América is the first book by the Argentine philosopher Rodolfo Kusch (1922–79) to be translated into English. At its core is a binary created by colonization and the devaluation of indigenous practices and cosmologies: an opposition between the technologies and rationalities of European modernity and the popular mode of thinking, which is deeply tied to Indian ways of knowing and being. Arguing that this binary cuts through América, Kusch seeks to identify and recover the indigenous and popular way of thinking, which he contends is dismissed or misunderstood by many urban Argentines, including leftist intellectuals.
Indigenous and Popular Thinking in América is a record of Kusch's attempt to immerse himself in the indigenous ways of knowing and being. At first glance, his methodology resembles ethnography. He speaks with and observes indigenous people and mestizos in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. He questions them about their agricultural practices and economic decisions; he observes rituals; he asks women in the market the meaning of indigenous talismans; he interviews shamans; he describes the spatial arrangement and the contents of shrines, altars, and temples; and he reproduces diagrams of archaeological sites, which he then interprets at length. Yet he does not present a "them" to a putative "us." Instead, he offers an inroad to a way of thinking and being that does not follow the logic or fit into the categories of Western social science and philosophy. In his introduction, Walter D. Mignolo discusses Kusch's work and its relation to that of other twentieth-century intellectuals, Argentine history, and contemporary scholarship on the subaltern and decoloniality.
The Jealous Potter
Claude Lévi-Strauss University of Chicago Press, 1988 Library of Congress E59.R38L6313 1988 | Dewey Decimal 398.208997
As Lévi-Strauss freely explores the mythologies of the Americas, with occasional incursions into European and Japanese folklore, tales of sloths and squirrels interweave with discussions of Freud, Saussure, "signification," and plays by Sophocles and Labiche. Lévi-Strauss critiques psychoanalytic interpretation and defends the interpretive powers of structuralism.
"Electrifying. . . . A brilliant demonstration of structural analysis in action. . . . Can be read with pleasure and profit by anyone interested in that aspect of self-discovery that comes through knowledge of the universal and timeless myths that live on in all of us."—Jonathan Sharp, San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle
"A characteristic tour de force. . . . One remains awed by him."—Colin Thubron, Sunday Times
"With all its epistemological depth, the book reads at times like a Simenon or a Lewis Carroll, fusing concise methodology with mastery of style."—Bernadette Bucher, American Ethnologist
"[An] engagingly provocative exploration of mythology in the Americas. . . . Always a good read."—Choice
"A playful, highly entertaining book, fluently and elegantly translated by Bénédicte Chorier."—Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, New York Times Book Review
Landscape is a powerful factor in the operation of memory because of the associations narrators make between the local landscape and the events of the stories they tell. Ancestors and mythological events often become fixed in a specific landscape and act as timeless reference points.
In conventional anthropological literature, "landscape" is the term applied to the meaning local people bestow on their cultural and physical surroundings. In this work, the authors explore the cultural and physical landscapes an individual or cultural group has constructed to define the origins or beginnings of that cultural group as revealed through shared or traditional memory. The cultural landscapes of origins in diverse sites throughout the Americas are investigated through multidisciplinary research, not only to reveal the belief system and mythologies but also to place these origin beliefs in context and relationship to each other. In a continual interaction between the past, present, and future, time is subordinate to place, and history, as defined in Western academic terms, does not exist.
All students of the past bump into what seem to be impenetrable walls and are left looking longingly beyond the barrier for the lore that seems hopelessly lost. This book is an argument that all that information is not necessarily lost. It may just need a different approach–perhaps multidisciplinary, perhaps a new method, or maybe just with a new hypothesis for testing. Vanished societies have left behind masses of raw data, but it is up to us to discover new ways to look through these windows into the past.
Especially in light of the growing relationship—and tensions—between cultural traditions and scientific inquiry, Lankford’s breadth of knowledge, long-term engagement with the issues, and excellent writing style bring clarity to this issue. It is not an easy process, but it is engaging. Any puzzle-solver will find this sort of historical detective work worth the effort.
"The earth is my mother, and on her bosom I shall repose."
Attributed to Tecumseh in the early 1800s, this statement is frequently cited to uphold the view, long and widely proclaimed in scholarly and popular literature, that Mother Earth is an ancient and central Native American figure. In this radical and comprehensive rethinking, Sam D. Gill traces the evolution of female earth imagery in North America from the sixteenth century to the present and reveals how the evolution of the current Mother Earth figure was influenced by prevailing European-American imagery of America and the Indians as well as by the rapidly changing Indian identity.
Gill also analyzes the influential role of scholars in creating and establishing the imagery that underlay the recent origins of Mother Earth and, upon reflection, he raises serious questions about the nature of scholarship.
"Mother Earth might be modern, stressing the supposed biological ground of native life and its rich mythic tradition, but it hardly frees the native people from their long, lamentable involvement with the white man. For making this point clear, Gill deserves high praise."—Bernard W. Sheehan, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"In one of the finest studies of recent years we have an ambitious attempt to satisfy scholar, Native American, popular reader, and truth."—Thomas McElwain, Western Folklore
"The Naked Man is the fourth and final volume [of Mythologiques], written by the most influential and probably the most controversial anthropologist of our time. . . . Myths from North and South America are set side by side to show their transformations: in passing from person to person and place to place, a myth can change its content and yet retain its structural principles. . . . Apart from the complicated transformations discovered and the fascinating constructions placed on these, the stories themselves provide a feast."—Betty Abel, Contemporary Review
"Lévi-Strauss uses the structural method he developed to analyze and 'decode' the mythology of native North Americans, focusing on the area west of the Rockies. . . . [The author] takes the opportunity to refute arguments against his method; his chapter 'Finale' is a defense of structural analysis as well as the closing statement of this four-volume opus which started with an 'Ouverture' in The Raw and the Cooked."—Library Journal
"The culmination of one of the major intellectual feats of our time."—Paul Stuewe, Quill and Quire
Eighteen essays provide an accessible, entertaining look into a system of millennia-old legends and beliefs.
Mythology is one of the great creations of humankind. It forms the core of sacred books and reflects the deepest preoccupations of human beings, their most intimate secrets, their glories, and their infamies.
In 1990, Alfredo López Austin, one of the foremost scholars of ancient Mesoamerican thought, began a series of essays about mythology in the Mesoamerican tradition, published in México Indígena. Although his articles were written for general readers, they were also intended to engage specialists. They span a divers subject matter: myths and names, eclipses, stars, left and right, Méxican origins, Aztec incantations, animals, and the incorporation of Christian elements into the living mythologies of Mexico. The title essay relates the Mesoamerican myth explaining why there is a rabbit o the moon’s face to a Buddhist image and suggests the importance of the profound mythical concepts presented by each image.
The eighteen essays in this volume are unified by their basis in Mesoamerican tradition and provide an accessible, entertaining look into a system of millennia-old legends and beliefs.
"Lévi-Strauss is a French savant par excellence, a man of extraordinary sensitivity and human wisdom . . . a deliberate stylist with profound convictions and convincing arguments. . . . [The Raw and the Cooked] adds yet another chapter to the tireless quest for a scientifically accurate, esthetically viable, and philosophically relevant cultural anthropology. . . . [It is] indispensable reading."—Natural History
Modern Westerners say the lights in the sky are stars, but culturally they are whatever we humans say they are. Some say they are Forces that determine human lives, some declare they are burning gaseous masses, and some see them as reminders of a gloried past by which elders can teach and guide the young—mnemonics for narratives. Lankford’s volume focuses on the ancient North Americans and the ways they identified, patterned, ordered, and used the stars to light their culture and illuminate their traditions. They knew them as regions that could be visited by human spirits, and so the lights for them were not distant points of light, but “reachable stars.” Guided by the night sky and its constellations, they created oral traditions, or myths, that contained their wisdom and which they used to pass on to succeeding generations their particular world view.
However, they did not all tell the same stories. This study uses that fact—patterns of agreement and disagreement—to discover prehistoric relationships between Indian groups. Which groups saw a constellation in the same way and told the same story? How did that happen? Although these preliterate societies left no written records, the mythic patterns across generations and cultures enable contemporary researchers to examine the differences in how they understood the universe—not as early scientists, but as creators of cosmic order. In the process of doing that, the myth-tellers left the footprints of their international cultural relationships behind them. Reachable Stars is the story of their stories.
Rethinking History and Myth explores narrative and ritual expressions of mythic and historical modes of consciousness among indigenous peoples of the Andean, Amazonian, and intermediate lowland regions of South America. Focusing on indigenous perspectives of South American interaction with Western colonial and national societies, the authors trace the interrelationships between myth and history to demonstrate how these peoples have developed a dynamic interpretive framework that enables them to understand their past.
Examining specific cultural and linguistic traditions that shape the social consciousness of native South Americans, the authors show that historical and mythic consciousness work together in forming new symbolic strategies that allow indigenous peoples to understand their societies as at least partially autonomous groups within national and global power structures. This complex process is used to interpret the history of interethnic relations, allowing both individuals and groups to change themselves and alter their own circumstances.
Why does Argentina’s national anthem describe its citizens as sons of the Inca? Why did patriots in nineteenth-century Chile name a battleship after the Aztec emperor Montezuma? Answers to both questions lie in the tangled knot of ideas that constituted the creole imagination in nineteenth-century Spanish America. Rebecca Earle examines the place of preconquest peoples such as the Aztecs and the Incas within the sense of identity—both personal and national—expressed by Spanish American elites in the first century after independence, a time of intense focus on nation-building.
Starting with the anti-Spanish wars of independence in the early nineteenth century, Earle charts the changing importance elite nationalists ascribed to the pre-Columbian past through an analysis of a wide range of sources, including historical writings, poems and novels, postage stamps, constitutions, and public sculpture. This eclectic archive illuminates the nationalist vision of creole elites throughout Spanish America, who in different ways sought to construct meaningful national myths and histories. Traces of these efforts are scattered across nineteenth-century culture; Earle maps the significance of those traces. She also underlines the similarities in the development of nineteenth-century elite nationalism across Spanish America. By offering a comparative study focused on Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, The Return of the Native illustrates both the common features of elite nation-building and some of the significant variations. The book ends with a consideration of the pro-indigenous indigenista movements that developed in various parts of Spanish America in the early twentieth century.
Tracing the Relational examines the recent emergence of relational ontologies in archaeological interpretation and how this perspective can help archaeologists better understand the past. Traditional representational approaches reflect modern or Western perspectives, which focus on the individual and see the world in terms of dichotomies that separate culture and nature, human and object, sacred and secular. In contrast, ancient societies saw themselves as connected to and entangled with other human and nonhuman entities. In order to gain deeper insight into how people in the ancient world lived, experienced, and negotiated their lives, contributors argue, archaeologists must explore the myriad relationships and entanglements between humans and other beings, places, and things. As contributors unravel these relationships, they demonstrate that movement is an inherent feature of these relational webs and is the driving force behind a continually shifting reality. Chapters focus on various regions and time periods throughout the Americas, tracing how movements between other-worldly dimensions, spirits and deities, and temporalities were integral to everyday life.