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"Do Kamo" by Maurice Leenhardt & Jaynes' Theory

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 1:05 am
by Moderator
Do Kamo: Person & Myth in the Melanesian World by Maurice Leenhardt was assigned by Jaynes to his students in the "Mentality of Tribes" section of his course. It describes the culture and customs of the Canaque (or Kanak), the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific.

The book should be read in its entirety, but below are a few quotes relevant to Jaynes's theory.

Chapter 3 - The Living Dead

"The bao is the ancestral god to whom prayer at the altar is addressed. The ritual of this prayer is simple. When the steam begins to escape from the sacrificial pot, the sacrificer raises the lid of bark with his left hand and holds it suspended while he leans into the steam which will carry away his words. He addresses his request to the gods: 'I summon you, fathers, grandfathers, elder brothers, and all the gods, so that you will accept this yam cooked here for you.'

"The bao is the ancestor, male or female, who is sought. Just below the roof of the tall conical native house there is often a kind of platform encircled by a railing from which pieces of old bark cloth hang. When the Canaque wants a place for solitude and meditation, he climbs up here to lie in what he calls, 'the railed bed.' Thus surrounded by bark cloths and their magical influence, he searches for visions and waits especially for a revelation. Then the god comes to find and instruct him" (p. 28 )

"The gods appear without bodies. This is not simply a detail belonging to legend. I saw young people in moments of crisis who heard their ancestral god summon them and who said, 'I see my grandfather. ... I see his hands. I see his head.' Never did they mention the body or the limbs. This vision of the god reduced to head and extremities is found in a variety of places, it is said, even in China" (p. 29).

"Society is composed of the living and the gods, and there is a constant exchange between the two" (p. 34).

"Do Kamo" by Maurice Leenhardt

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 2:18 pm
by Moderator
Chapter 4 – Mythological Intersections and Cultural Stratifications

"...[T]here is clear evidence of ancestor worship from one end of Melanesia to the other. In New Caledonia the bones are scattered and the skulls are carefully stored in an inaccessible nook" (p. 43).

"Do Kamo" by Maurice Leenhardt

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 2:22 pm
by Moderator
Chapter 5 – Affective Life and Totemism

"The psychic or psychological aspect of man's actions are events in nature. The Canaque sees them as outside of himself, as externalized. He handles his existence similarly: he places it in an object – a yam, for instance – and through the yam he gains some knowledge of his existence, by identifying himself with it" (p. 61).

"The totem also dissolves on contact with gods. We have already seen the rise of ancestor worship and the formation of gods. As their representations are imprecise, the gods are sometimes clothed in forms borrowed from the totem. In a certain region, the name of the god, of the totem, and of the moutain may be the same. This can only mean that living tradition has not yielded to innovations related to the ancestors but has shaped the ancestor to normal totemic forms when the ancestor aspired to become a principal god. Moreover, these totemic forms lent to gods offer ethnologists a source of infinite difficulty, because one does not always know how to distinguish between what is the totem's and what is the god's" (p. 71).