Totemism - the decorative totem in indigenous culture

To the artistic manifestations have always been forms of communication and records (tangible and immaterial) of the human development , the incorporation of companies and history - from “primitive” to “civilized” peoples. In this context, both art as the elements and the purpose of their creation are precious foundations for understanding the social transformations , that is, to understand and base relationships, behaviors and social institutions it became essential to look at ancestry.

In the transition period between the 19th and 20th centuries, the totemism emerged as the object of study of the social anthropology to understand the origin of natural and social phenomena. Thus, three lines of thought supported the research: the evolutionary theory , in the perspectives of Durkheim and Freud ; the vision ritualistic , assumed by Radcliffe-Brown and the structuralist theory by Lévi-Strauss.

Here we will consider the concepts of Sigmund Freud articulated in the book “ Totem e taboo ” (1913), which were substantial for the foundation of psychoanalysis and the Freudian psychology , as well as his understanding of the relationship between primitive societies (Polynesian peoples) with the taboo and the creation of the totem with its consequent transformation into holy symbol that is religiously protected and respected - a practice we call totemism .

The etymology of totem derives from the Ojibwe "dodaim" which means clan or sacred symbol.

Totem derives from the word dodaim of culture Ojibwe (Canadian Aboriginal civilization). It is about a monumental pole understood as a junction of sacred symbols that represent natural entities (animals, plants, family members, etc.) or supernatural ones with particular meanings, whose totemic character is not attributed only to the pole, but to all individuals of the clan that it is part of.

In the book, Freud explains the creation of totems and the sense of clan using as an object of study the totemic system of the Australian aboriginal peoples and the prohibition of incest, that is, of people of the same totem getting married, rescuing concepts of exogamy and Oedipus complex of Sophocles - the hostility towards the father and the desire for the mother - which gives rise to taboo .

At the totemism , the religious belief of totem as a spiritual element, there is an attempt to mitigate the feeling of guilt by worshiping it at the same time that one is satisfied with the triumph over it. As, for example, children of a clan who rebel, commit parricide and raise a totem to represent the figure and soul of the father.

Freud uses social anthropology to explain the relationship between the origin of the totem and taboo.

He also explores the interdicted (taboo) relationship by looking at animism, the belief in a spiritual essence in everything that exists, relating it to the emotional ambivalence , or rather, the reversal of meaning or between something considered sacred, such as totem animals worshiped by a certain clan (which cannot be touched or consumed), which at other times are desecrated (and ingested).

The evolutionary reasoning followed by Freud becomes more visible when he points out the totemism as a synthesis of particularities and hierarchy social needs of primitive civilizations , which are related in three phases of representations of the universe: animist , religious It is scientific .

In the animist phase, the principle of omnipotence of thought , in which men attribute to themselves the power over all things, whose behavior is compared by Freud to that of neurotics; in the religious phase power is transferred to the totem (god, divine, holy or father); already in the scientific phase there is the recognition of human smallness before the universe.

Totemism is present in many primitive cultures with symbols peculiar to each one.

In short, the totemism it's not just one religious practice tribal , but a system that underlies the social organization of primitive people and their perspectives of the world, which we managed to establish similarities of thought with “civilized” cultures to understand the paths of development and social institutions .

Be sure to check out the collection of decorative totems of our virtual store !


Milene Sousa - Art & Tune

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