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.