Quote of the Day – Alan T. Campbell

On the arrogance and ignorance of an uninformed academic declaration of what is “superstitious,” anthropological theorist and student of the Amazonian Wayapí tribe says most succinctly and in a direct manner that warms my rebel heart:

Who gets to draw the line between what is a ‘coherent set of beliefs giving moral shape to a world’ and ‘scrambled relics’ (superstitions)? Radio, televisions, and public debate all around me are flooded with God-talk. The three monotheisms that encircle the world (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) appear in ever more strident and intolerant forms. Presidents and Prime Ministers, judges and police chiefs, journalists and media pundits are all up to their ears in God-talk. In rites and incantations –heaps of scrambled relics – and yet their kind of behavior and their kind of talk are considered respectable. It’s only the vulnerable and the oppressed that get tagged ‘superstitious’ and ‘unreasonable.’

Campbell, Alan T. “Submitting.” In Shamanism: A Reader, edited by Graham Harvey. London: Routledge, 2003.53-54.

Potential Chapters

Ok I’m at the wrangling stage of this monster and here are my chapters as I have proposed them.  It seems that I desire to cover quite a bit of ground. My committee chair Mara Keller has told me that maybe I oughta combine some of these chapters so that I can get through more efficiently.

I think that this part of the process is like making a good poem. It is economic, no filler, no gratuitous words, although there are tons of repetitions in academic writing that makes the poet and journalist in me bored. I would say to be true to my Indigenous Ontology that I am striving for practical efficacy. However, here we go. I am working on laying the mental crystal egg and refining and consolidating my thoughts so I birth a mental, emotional and spiritual baby. Righteous.

1. Retrieving Women’s Voices and their Contributions to European History
      a. Soul Retrieval as a Personal and Collective Journey
      b. Mythology as a Metaphysical Template and Guide to Spiritual Realities
      c. Ritual as Engagement of Deep Relation
      d. What in the World is a Witch
2. The Mysteries of the Goddess: Self-Replication as Natural Law
      a. The Primordial Goddess of Indigenous Europe
      b. The Sexual Creative Power of European Goddesses
      c. The Original Creation Myths
      d. Parthenogenesis: The Power of Two
      e. Abundance and the Myth of the Greek Demeter
3. Ancient Science and the New Sciences
      a. Quantum Physics, Consciousness Studies, and the New Biology
      b. The Neurobiology of Trance and ASCs
      c. Memory and the Holographic Model
      d. Paleolithic and Neolithic Art as Tools of Entrainment
      e. Indigenous Female States of Consciousness
      f. Invocation of Ecstasy and Joy as a State of Consciousness
4. Shamanic Initiation: Being Eaten by the Bear
      a. Initiation as a Historic Tool of Transformation
      b. Personal Initiations into the Priestess Mysteries
      c. Personal Initiation into Faerie Witchcraft
      d. Descent and the Myth of the Greek Goddess Persephone
5. Journeys to the Spirit Worlds
      a. Trance and ASCs
      b. Techniques of Shamanic Flight
      c. Techniques of Healing
      d. Techniques of Battle
6. The Patriarchal Transformation of Europe
      a. From the Goddess to the God
      b. The Christianization of Pagan Europe
      c. The Falling of Women
7. The Perpetuation of Trauma
      a. The biology of Trauma and Stress
      b. Disassociation and Cultural Amnesia
      c. Myths that address Susto and Battle
8. The Great Reversal: Widdershins
      a. Othering: the Making of Enemies
      b. The Inquisition
      c. Maleficium, Witches & Demons
      d. The Appropriation of Female Sexual Power
      e. The Loss of the Collective European Soul
      f. The Seven Deadly Sins:
9. Retrieving the Wisdom of our Mothers
      a. Reversing the Reversal Shamanically
      b. The Open Heart & Active Spirit
      c. Reestablishing Relations with our Ancestors
      d. The Resurrection and the Myth of Greek Maiden Kore

Methodology & Ontology for the Dissertation

This is what I turned in this semester for my dissertation. It is my methodology, which is Feminist, Metaphysical and Multidisciplinary, and my ontology, which describes an Indigenous model. Caveat: this is part of a much larger work, obviously.  I am not saying I am indigenous and I am not usurping, appropriating, or essentializing wisdom from those cultures that are. Also I use the term Persons as described in

Harvey, Graham. Shamanism: A Reader. London: Routledge, 2003. xvii.

Methodology & Ontology (pdf)

More Gunn Allen Greatness Feeding the Ontology Section of my Dissertation

“But the oral tradition has prevented the complete destruction of the web, the ultimate disruption of tribal ways. The oral tradition is vital: it heals itself and the tribal web by adapting to the flow of the present while never relinquishing its connection tot he past. Its adaptability has always been required, as many generations have experienced.” 45

What if we couldn’t see a freakin supernova?

American Indian writer Vine Deloria, Jr. describes the Western conceptions of a static homogenous understanding of time and a uniform operation of nature as a belief so virulent that explanations of natural events have been forced into this ideological pattern even when the facts were obviously otherwise. In God is Red: A Native View of Religion he recounts the search of present-day astronomers for cross-cultural evidence of a supernova that was visible in the sky in various parts of the world in 1054 c.e. While this event appears to have been recorded in the rock art of American Southwestern Indians, specifically the Anasazi residents of the Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, little about it was recorded in European history. Deloria writes that for centuries in Europe the heavens were understood to be constant and fixed because they were the divine creation of the Abrahamic god. He postulates that because this worldview precluded any chaotic movement in the sky, Europeans did not perceive the event—even though it was observable, because their beliefs overrode their actual experience.

The idea that Indians appeared to have observed a celestial event was lost on the scholars who studied the rock art, and many wrote numerous books on the “primitives,” explaining in salient examples of Western academic ignorance and arrogance, how the Indians could not have known that a very bright star does not exist next to the moon. However, because of the Western worldviews held by these scholars, they were not looking for a record of an event in the sky and because they did not understand the practical efficacy that is foundational to an Indian worldview, they did not see what the art might have been depicting. In light of this type of academic “missing the point,” Deloria questions the entire issue of the interpretation of Indigenous religious symbols and beliefs in Western scholarship.

Despite the racist and colonialist disregard, distortion, and appropriation of Indigenous cultures by Western scholars and the unilinear theories of early anthropology that relegated “primitive” societies to the evolutionarily infantile, it turns out that Indigenous worldviews are incredibly profound and complex, and often mirror theories in quantum physics and the new sciences. In fact, current studies in neuroscience support Deloria’s analysis. Traditionally in Western scientific paradigms, human perception was assumed to be determined by sensory information. However, new data reveals the opposite; that it is our predisposition to see that organizes diffuse visual stimuli into perceptions. It is our “intentional dynamics,” or macroscopic feedback loops driven by the limbic brain, that determine the data we seek and the interpretations we make. It is our emotional expectations and desires that filter what environmental input we focus on, what we process, and what we perceive. This means that what we expect to see we usually find and what falls outside of culturally acceptable parameters, that are usually defined by culturally acceptable narratives, may go unprocessed by the brain as an apprehensible pattern and therefore not be perceived in consciousness awareness.

Vine. Deloria Jr., God is Red: A Native View of Religion  (Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing, 1992). 134.

Michael Winkelman, “Shamanism: A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing,”  (Santa Barbara, Ca: Praeger, 2010). 9.


Fallacies or Fantasies

In Indigenous cultures myth is a complementary religious element to ritual. Unlike in a Western worldview, in which myths are considered fallacies or fantasies that are opposed to linear fact, myths are accounts of actual interchanges between ancestors and other relevant persons accessed through ritual. Gunn Allen makes the distinction that the symbolism in tribal ceremonial literature is not symbolic in a Western literary or psychoanalytical sense and is a way of denoting a sacred phenomenon or fact. “Corn” is not shorthand for dinner and “lake” does not allude to economic prosperity via fishing industries.” [1] In this worldview, the color red as a ceremonial element is not reduced to an explanation of the science of light refraction or the response of the oracular cells to light stimulus, but is the quality of a being (person), the color of whom, “when perceived in a sacred manner is red.”[2] Gunn Allen succinctly illuminates the distinct nature of this worldview as opposed to a Western one when she explains an aspect of an Indian story: “Pretty Shield is not indirectly articulating hidden and disowned psychological drives. She is telling about actual conversations with some chickadees.”[3]

[1] Gunn Allen, Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook. 23.

[2] Ibid.23.

[3] Ibid. 6.

Dissertation Quote

In Pueblo Gods and Myths, Hamilton A. Tyler asks, “Why do the Pueblos still dance? For whom do they dance? What do they mean by their dancing?” His examination of previous research revealed an obvious and conventionally satisfying answer: “For rain.” His response sheds light on the biased Western perspective in regard to Indigenous traditions, one that he did not share. He writes that “Rain is not a wrong answer, but it is a limiting one. My first premise was that these people do not worship rain, they invoke it.”

Tyler, Hamilton A. Pueblo Gods and Myths: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964.- pls note that Tyler was not a scholar, but just fell in love with the Indigenous Southwest. His research is approached with no agenda and I find him refreshing and poignant.

Dissertation Excerpt of the Day

This is a most bitchin’ quote from from Shawn Wilson who is an indigenous scholar. His work is informing my dissertation as I re-write my methodology and get my head blown.

Now as you open your eyes, you can see all of the things that are around you. What you see is their physical form, but you realize that this form is really just the web of relations that have taken on a familiar shape. Every individual thing that you see around you is really just a huge knot – a point where thousands and millions of relationships come together. These relationships come to you from the past, from the present and from your future. This is what surrounds us, and forms us, our world, our cosmos and our reality. We could not be without being in relationship with everything that surrounds and is within us. Our reality, our ontology is the relationships.

Here’s the bib: Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods, Shawn Wilson. Fernwood Publishing 2008.