41 Chapters
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Chapter 7. The Agriculturalists

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

The Agriculturalists as State Societies

The agriculturalist has assured subsistence. All good things come to him, as we read in the Popol Vub, as a blessing from the “House on the Pyramids,” from agencies “on high.” But in order to have them, he has to work hard, earning his daily bread “by the sweat of his brow.” To pay for those good things, all members of the group have to be drafted into a continued and sustained effort. There is no room anymore, as the Popol Vuh tells it, for the venturesome and the proud. What the tillers need to inculcate in their young is conscientiousness, compliance, humility, and obedience.

With permanent settlements, agriculturalists can no longer avoid the problems of conflict by picking up and leaving: Conflict resolution, in other words, cannot be brought about by fissioning. Chiefly, authority comes into being as one avenue of solution. There is more personal property, and the concept also intrudes into the position of women. A man wants exclusive rights to his spouse, and his elevated status leads not only to her eventual disenfranchisement, but also to her ritual inferiority.

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Coyote Comes Calling

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

As told by the Navajo singers, the religious specialists who are the guardians of Navajo oral literature, Coyote is the child of the sky but was born from the embrace of the sky with the earth. It seems that one day, the people saw the sky swooping down:

It seemed to want to embrace the earth. And they saw the earth likewise looming up as if to meet the sky.

For a moment they came in contact. The sky touched the earth and the earth touched the sky. And just then, at exactly the spot where the sky and the earth had met, Ma’ii the Coyote sprang out of the ground. (Zolbrod 1984:56)

Thus in his parentage, Coyote bridges the earth and the sky, the ordinary and the alternate reality. But something else also entered into his makeup, for his birth happened at the same time the elders were involved in an important ritual. They were giving a penis to a boy who had come of age, and a vagina to a girl who had come of age, which they had not had before. Coyote went to where the people were, and meddler that he was and fascinated by sex obviously from the time he sprang from the ground, he decided to make the young people even more beautiful than having a penis and a vagina made them. And so he blew some of his own facial hair in such a way that it landed between their legs. However, First Woman, in charge of uncontrolled impulses, was worried that now the young people had become too attractive to each other, and so she ordered that they cover themselves.

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Thirteen: Life Everlasting

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In the first of the postures treated in Chapter 12, there was a clear indication that life’s story did not end after the vestments of the body were surrendered at the entrance to the Realm of the Dead in the lower world. After arriving there, Bernie received a new form, that of the bear, full of power and joy. This metamorphosis is rather restricted, however. There is another posture, which allows this theme to be played out much more fully. For reasons to be explained further on, we have come to call it the Feathered Serpent posture. It is one of the few postures the origin of which can actually be traced back reliably to our ancient hunter roots.

Plate 58

According to traditions still encountered among hunter-gatherers and some horticulturalists to this day, it was the task of shamans to descend into a cave, the womb of the earth. There they created likenesses of the animals surrounding them, and by no means only of those that provided food. They then lifted the soul essences from the drawings and took them up into the world of the sun, thereby helping the Earth Mother in the task of increase, of propagation.

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Chapter 8: A Legion of Demons

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In addition to the African variant of demonic possession, there are innumerable stories also of another type, which we will here call the Eurasian variant, because it is reported from India and China, as well as from Christian Europe. In a number of characteristics this Eurasian form of possession agrees with its African counterpart. In both, the noxious spirit entities invade their victim uninvited, but have to wait until a path opens for them, a breach of sorts in the personality of their intended victim. Their presence is signaled by illness. If a trance is ritually initiated, the spirits reveal their presence. Healing is accomplished by dislodging, expelling, that is, exorcising, the malevolent being.

But differences emerge all along the line, with the African variant in each instance simpler and at the same time much more sinister, which confirms its greater antiquity. In the African variant, the invaders are always ghosts. In Eurasia, on the other hand, there is a great variety of such evil beings. According to European folk belief, for instance, also fervently held by Protestant fundamentalists in this country, there is a whole slew of demons, associated with Satan as his entourage, fallen angels and unredeemed humans, roaming the earth, eager to possess, corrupt, and plague humanity. In the Christian West, the principal guardian of the tradition about demons is the Catholic church. According to a contemporary catechism,1 devils or demons represent temptation, confusion, deception; they are inimical to humans, barring their entrance to heaven.

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Chapter 9. The City Dwellers

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Humans have lived in cities almost as long as they have in villages. But cities have probably been different from villages from the start. Since this point may not be generally accepted, and since what happens with respect to religious behavior in the city as the last of the human adaptations to emerge is of special interest to us as urbanites, I will include some references to ancient cities here as well. The difficulty is, of course, that no outsider, such as a foreign anthropologist, did any participant observation in the cities of ancient Mesopotamia, and what written records we have are for the most part boastings of the rulers, so I cannot quote any ethnographic material. But historians have made some educated guesses, which might be at least of some value within a comparative framework. We are better off with ancient Rome, where we have a wealth of manuscripts, political speeches, essays, personal letters, and literary creations that give us a pretty good idea about those topics that interest us here.

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