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Róheim, G. (1950). Gregorio, the Hand-Trembler. A Psychobiological Study of a Navaho Indian: By Alexander H. Leighton and Dorothea C. Leighton with the assistance of Catherine Opler. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass.: Published by the Museum, 1949. 177 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 19:110-112.
(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:110-112
Gregorio, the Hand-Trembler. A Psychobiological Study of a Navaho Indian: By Alexander H. Leighton and Dorothea C. Leighton with the assistance of Catherine Opler. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass.: Published by the Museum, 1949. 177 pp.
Review by: Géza Róheim
Anthropology is rapidly gaining in the precision of field work and detailed observation. This is the first of a series of publications on the Ramah Navaho. In the Introduction to the report on the Ramah Project, Clyde Kluckhohn explains the aims of what certainly looks like a new phase of field anthropology.
'During 1940 the conception of the project crystallized during discussions with Alexander and Dorothea Leighton. To the fundamental idea of charting the fortunes of individuals and their culture through time were added the principles of multiple observation by different persons and of multiple approaches by individuals who had received their training in various disciplines' (pp. v—vi).
The Leightons who, next to Kluckhohn, have given more time and work to this project than anyone else, present a very thorough and detailed study of the life of a Navaho who practiced hand trembling. The authors however, have no hypothesis to offer on the meaning of hand trembling or the reason why Gregorio took this as a profession. They are thinking in terms of 'psychobiology' and not in terms of the unconscious.
Let us see how Gregorio describes his first experience of hand trembling. His father was a Navaho, but on the maternal side he is a Chiricahua Apache. Four members of the family, three maternal aunts and a maternal uncle, practiced it. He relates how he first saw his aunt practicing hand trembling. She orders all the children to be sent out of the house; only adults are permitted to be present. She sits beside the patient for a while and then her hand starts shaking. 'It got shaking more and more till she reached over on the patient, just kind of felt over the body, on the arm, head, chest, and all over. While she did that I watched her face and she closed her eyes. After she quit she was breathing pretty heavily, seemed as if she had been running. After a little while the father of the patient asked her what she had found out. She said that when the patient's mother was carrying the patient before he was born, the father killed a snake, chopped the head off.
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