In this paper Dr. Pfister describes two examples of magical healing among the Navaho Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. He argues, in both cases, that the shaman's unconscious correctly interpreted his patients' symptoms, and that symbolic rites which he prescribed tended to remove the real cause of the anxiety or inhibition.
The first patient, who had been perfectly healthy till about the age of fifty, dreamed that his children were dead. After this he suffered from such anxiety and depression that he could neither eat nor work. The lame medicine man, whom he consulted, told him that, as a small child, he must
- 269 -
have seen a sacred bear which was either sick or dead, and that a ceremony was necessary to propitiate this holy beast. Now since the bear god was a fathersymbol, the shaman told him, in effect, that he had hated his father, and that this was the ultimate cause of his present fear. He then prescribed a ceremony which symbolized the patient's reconciliation with his father, and the acceptance by his friends of their share in the guilt. The cure was instantaneous and complete.
The second patient, a woman, was evidently sterile—a condition perhaps due to a fatherfixation and to the frigidity this may involve. At all events, the curative treatment consisted in a series of symbolic acts of coitus, first with the bear god to remove the guilt of incest, and then with ordinary mortals to overcome the incestuous fixation. The result of this procedure is not recorded.
- 270 -
Money-Kyrle, R. (1933). Applied Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 14:269-270