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Freeman, D. (1968). Thunder, Blood, and the Nicknaming of God's Creatures. Psychoanal Q., 37:353-399.

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(1968). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 37:353-399

Thunder, Blood, and the Nicknaming of God's Creatures

Derek Freeman, Ph.D.

Paul Schebesta (100p. 87) has described how one night in central Malaya in a forest encampment he awoke during a violent storm to find the Semang, a nomadic Negrito people with whom he was living, terrified and in turmoil. As the thunder crashed overhead a Semang woman agitatedly stabbed at her shin with a piece of bamboo until the blood poured from it. A little of this blood, mixed with rain water, she then sprinkled on the earth; the rest she scattered toward the skies as, in a fearful voice, she pleaded with the storm to have done.

This sacrificial act, in which blood taken from the leg is offered to a thunder-god in expiation of sin, is, as Rodney Needham, a social anthropologist, has recently pointed out in a stimulating paper (89), also found among an entirely distinct nomadic people in Borneo, the Penan. Associated elements include strict taboos against the burning of leeches and the mockery of certain animals, acts which, it is said, bring down the revengeful fury of the thunder-god who in his rage uproots trees and turns the guilty into stone.

Needham's paper is dedicated to the memory of C. G. Jung and in his attempt to account for the symbolic behaviors common to the Semang and the Penan, he makes use of some Jungian concepts which are of a transempirical kind. There are certain objects, claims Needham (he instances stone, blood, fire, water, and tree), which 'make a primordial impress upon the unconscious mind of man as a natural species producing an affective response which is as natural to the organism (to its distinctive brain) as the motor language of bees or the phototropism


From the Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, Canberra.

I am indebted to my wife, Monica, for the drawings that illustrate this papers, as for discussions with her during the course of its writing.

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