Totem and Taboo

Good Essays
Topics: Sigmund Freud
Cameron
Cultural Anthropology
11 November 2013
Totem and Taboo In the book Totem and Taboo by Sigmund Freud he brings together four essays to explain psycho analysis and its application to social psychology. Freud states that his two sources for Totem and Taboo were William Wundt and Zurich school of psycho-analysis. Wundt’s work centered on non-analytic psychology while Zurich school focused on social Psychology. In his book Freud looks at the life of primitive man and uses psycho-analysis and social psychology to try to explain when totems and taboos originated. In addition, he tries to explain how totems and taboos played a role back then and how they still play a role today. The first essay in Totem and Taboo, The Horror of Incest talks about the savages from the aborigines of Australia. The aborigines were a population of people that lived in a band society—they were foragers and lived like the earliest people alive who believed in ‘totemism’. Freud describes a totem by writing “It is a rule or an animal and more rarely a plant or a natural phenomenon, which stands in a peculiar relation to the whole clan. In the first place the totem is the common ancestor of the clan” (5). These ‘totems’ are in place for these people because without them interbreeding and incest might come about. They do this by not allowing the people to marry within their own totem. Freud does an excellent job in clarifying that a totem passes down to children through the mother’s side. This method is called matrilineal descent. By having these totems, it restricts the children from marrying anyone or having any sexual relations with their mother siblings and sometimes cousins. The second Essay entitled Taboo and Emotional Ambivalence emphasizes that taboo plays hand in hand with totems. Freud explains in his essay, “Taboo restrictions are distinct from religious or moral prohibitions. They are not based upon any divine ordinance, but may be said to impose themselves on their



Cited: Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. London: Ark Paperbacks, 1983. Print.

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