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Children’s Dreams: Notes from the Seminar Given in 1936-1940

Professor Jung:

In the life of a primitive tribe, these two personalities are really the decisive authorities.

The chief is violent; he is the strongest man of the tribe.

The moment he is no longer strong, he is killed on the spot.

In the New Testament there is also an example of the slaying of the former king: Christ is sacrificed, and Barabbas is set free.

This referred to an old custom, namely, that a criminal was allowed, on a certain day of the year, to freely walk around the town.

He could rob everything—provided that he was not caught after sunset, in which case he was killed.

He was a king, and had royal power.

This custom stemmed from the fact that the king has absolute authority as long as he is in power.

The moment he shows a slight weakness, he is finished.

Another example is the Nordic kings.

They were allowed to rule as long as the harvests were good.

If the harvest was bad, however, they were killed, because in that case they had not fertilized the country well.

It was uncomfortable to have been king of the primitives.

The counterpart of the powerful man is the medicine man; most often he is the intelligent one of the tribe.

I myself was able to notice that either he is the crazy one of the tribe, or a man of superior shrewdness, simply more intelligent than the others, or dangerous because of his cunning.

He has contact with the spirits and receives their revelations.

He can even rule the tribe, over the chief ’s head, through divine revelation.

There is a wonderful example in the book of Rasmussen on the Polar Eskimos: There is a story told about a medicine man who, when his tribe suffered great hardship because of a lack of food, had a vision of a land offering food.

He persuaded his tribe to go with him over the ice of Baffin Bay.

They came to the shores of North America, where they found plenty of food.

One half of the tribe turned back before that, and perished.

The other half went with him, and was able to be saved by him.

He had the inner certainty of a sleepwalker, with the help of which he led his people to the right place.

This is what the medicine man can do. It need not always be cunning; the idea that will save the situation can also come from the heart, as in this case.

The prophets in the Old Testament also were such medicine men.

There often is a conflict between the chief and the medicine man.

The chief is often afraid of the medicine man.

I have experienced such a situation myself.

A chief wanted to tell me something about the medicine man.

Out of fear he took me into the bush with him and posted sentinels.

He only whispered—when I asked him why he talked in such a low voice, he answered: “If the medicine man knew, he would poison me at once.” ~Carl Jung, Children’s Dreams Seminar, Pages 141-143.