the structure of Marechera’s shamanistic development

There are five shamanic stages to be found in Marechera’s life

1. THE STABLE “GOOD” WORLD—idealised as such, even if not so in actuality.

2. THE INTERVENTION OF EVIL AS DESTABILISING FORCE (LEADING TO DEPERSONALISATION AND DEREALISATION)

3. THE INTERNAL “TAMING” OF THESE FORCES FOR CREATIVE AND PRODUCTIVE ENDEAVOUR

4. THE ACQUISITION OF POWER (INCLUDING KNOWLEDGE AS POWER), POWERS OF TRANSFORMATION AND INSIGHT INTO HOW THINGS ACTUALLY WORK ‘BENEATH THE SURFACE”

5. THE STRUGGLE TO MAINTAIN INTERNAL EQUILIBRIUM “ON THE FENCE” BETWEEN TWO WORLDS.

5 shamanistic features to be found in Marechera’s work:

1. autodestruction and regeneration of the self
2. the use of imagination to supplement reality (tragic sense that life is in need of repair)
3. rebirth through shamanistic initiation to become no longer the child of one’s parent/s
(anti-oedipal/self-generating creativity)
4. the doubling of the self; The shaman’s body always projects a double shadow on the ground. A subtle tragic vein seems constantly to underlie every shamanic ritual performance. Just so. Without leaving any way of distinguishing between the faces and the masks. [From “shamanic solitudes” p 87]
5. the sense that one’s being is the tenuous bridge between the ‘here and now’ and ‘the spirit world.’

READING MARECHERA’S THE HOUSE OF HUNGER ‘AT THE HEAD OF THE STREAM’.

READING MARECHERA’S THE HOUSE OF HUNGER AS ‘AT THE HEAD OF THE STREAM’.

There is a key to both understanding and misunderstanding Marechera’s first published work of fiction – and it lies in the restoration of its intended name, “At the head of the stream.” For is it at the head of the stream – a shamanic designation, as I shall explain – that we find the author’s restored self, in the character of the old man at the end of the novelette. The other sections of the book, apart from the novelette, are nine short stories, semi-autobiographical, which reveal aspects of the author’s life experiences and psychodynamic states. The works in all were published under the name of The House of Hunger, and received recognition as a Joint Winner of The Guardian Fiction Prize in 1978. At the award ceremony, Marechera notoriously expressed his disdain by throwing items from his table at various presiding officials’ heads. He went on to write books that were not highly appraised as they were perhaps not so well understood. This early misunderstanding can be traced to the dropping of one name for the novel and the appropriation of another. David Pattison, a critic of the writer’s life and works points out that in the publisher’s strategic renaming of the work from “At the head of the stream” to “The House of Hunger”, the work obtained a broader and more poignant political focus than it would otherwise have had. This change of name was no doubt calculated to suit the marketing interests of the publishing company, who would been able to rely upon the negative publicity concerning the Rhodesia regime in order to generate interest in a book that seemed to be critiquing it. Whilst the change in emphasis made Marechera out to be a more conventionally political writer than he in fact was, Pattison points out that it also raised expectations for a certain level of conventional political service and engagement from the writer that was not to be forthcoming. That which was later viewed as the author’s failure to reach his audience was actually a failure of communication from the start, set into motion by this marketing ploy which misrepresented the author’s interests as being of a narrow, political variety, when his engagement would have been better understood in shamanistic terms, as suggested by his own title. Perhaps it was due to the overboiling of the author’s frustration at feeling wilfully misrepresented in his views that ended up with flying plates and bottles.

The concern of the writer was, and always has been, a shamanic one: He wanted understand as to the nature of trauma afflicted through political oppression. His writing was intended to give meaning to the afflictions of those who were fighting to liberate Zimbabwe from colonial interests, and who were dying by the day. He spoke on this when he accepted his award. His approach showed an intention to bring to light the suffering of his people in a transpersonal way, rather than to head a political movement in a way that objectively transcended the actual experience of suffering.

In order to understand that which Marechera as shaman wants us to understand, it is necessary, in shamanistic fashion, to cross an experiential and metaphorical bridge between the living and the dead. Discussing “the phenomenon of the ‘perilous passage,’ Eliade notes that whereas in illo tempore, everyone could pass easily over the bridge connecting heaven and earth, now, with the advent of a mysterious fall and consequently of death, that passage can be negotiated only ‘in spirit-either through actual physical death or in the simulation of death constituted by “ecstatic” practice.” [p 49, Perkinson] Michael Taussig’s concept of shamanic wildness as “the death space of signification” may also assist us here.

“The colonized space of death has a colonizing function, maintaining the hegemony or cultural stability of norms and desires that faciliate the way the rulers rule the ruled in the land of the living. Yet the space of death is notoriously conflict-ridden and contradictory; a privileged domain of metamorphosis, the space par excellence for uncertainty and terror to stun permanently, yet also revive and empower with new life.” ( p 374)

Thus, wherever life is prohibited from developing smoothly, a “death space” of signification (something that evades the possibility of speech and language) occurs. Yet this evasion of the dominant discourse also opens up a space for rewriting reality on one’s own terms. The concept above is particularly relevent to what occurs when societies are so oppressive that those living within them cannot express an adult identity except in a broken and shattered sense (as we shall see later in Marechera’s reference to himself perched upon the precipice of manhood but seeing only an “ape in the mirror”). Jim Perkinson, in his argument that blackness is a shamanic category in the myth of America, expresses the idea that certain groups of people can be “shamanised” as a result of their oppressive social contexts. For instance:
“W.E. B. DuBois articulates the pain of enduring racial oppression in terms of the affliction of “double consciousness” that he also describes as the experience of “being born with a veil and gifted with second sight in this American world.”‘ This latter description (“born with a veil,” “gifted with second sight”) is itself a veiled reference to being born with a “caul” (or gauzy film covering the eyes) in African American culture-a sign of a peculiar shamanistic ability to see beyond the ordinary.” [ p 19, Perkinson]

It is my argument in this chapter that the inability of the author and protagonist, the writer Dambudzo Marechera, to command a place in society as an adult citizen, with associated qualities of respectability, internal complexity, and ability to transcend some of the violence of subjection to the whims of others, leads to this shamanisation. According to Perkinson, shamanisation occurs when one is reminded of one’s inferior standing in society because of one’s skin colour. This produces a shift in consciousness whereby the subject who is so accosted is thrown backwards into an historical investigation in search of reasons for his current subjection. Such a backwards shift denies the validity of the current state of subjection and the identity associated with such devaluation. It also consolidates an alternative identity from that which is implied by the insult about one’s race. For instance, Fanon, when sudden insulted on the street, may find that his consciousness is suddenly thrust back to the nature and identities of his ancestors. This occurs in the process of being unable to defend his position as an adult worthy of respect in the present. As Perkinson interpets it, there are shamanistic aspects to this occurrence for the oppressive circumstance compels a moving away from the consciousness of time in the present and its associated normal state of bodily awareness into something ressembling the world of spirits:

[I]n the moment of encounter on the street, where a little white boy says, “Look, a Negro!” and then continues, “Mama, see the Negro! I’m frightened!” the [slow composition of my self as a body in the middle of a spatial and temporal world] crumbles. For Fanon, the moment is “an amputation, an excision, a hemorrhage that spatter[s his] whole body with black blood.” Indeed, the world itself shatters: “All around me the white man, above the sky tears at its navel, the earth rasps under my feet, and there is a white song, a white song. All this whiteness that burns me.”‘ His corporeal schema is replaced by an epidermal one. He ceases to be aware of his body “in the third person” and instead becomes aware of it “in a triple person.”13′ He suddenly exists triply, responsible at once for his body, his race, his ancestors. {41, Perkinson]

It was as if the subject, being so assaulted, separates from his bodily sense of being in the present and is thrown back to encounter the spectres of the past — in all of their qualities of blessing or horror. According to Judith Lewis Herman, writing on Trauma and Recovery, “traumatic events generally involve threats to life or bodily integrity, or a close personal encounter with violence and death. “ ( p 33). Psychological trauma is also “an affliction of helplessness” ( p 33). There are some similarities between what the shaman makes of trauma and Michael Taussig’s notion of the “death space of signification”. Putting the two theoretical postulates together it would seem that a “death space of significaiton” (Taussig’s term) occurs when normal ego-based consciousness moves away from the ego’s normal construction of space and time, into a zone that cannot be represented in these everday terms of time and space. When one is denied the power – because of various state or social mechanisms, such as the institutionalisation of slavery – to transcend one’s extreme subjectification to the will of another, one enters this death space of signification. In shamanistic terms, one “crosses the bridge” [Eliade] between the living and the dead. In similar conceptual terms, one leaves one’s body (and the present) and enters the “spirit” world of the non-present. It would also seem that the oppressive force that compels the negation of one’s present persona in time and space also pressures one backwards to the past in some sense, — in Fanon’s case, back to the origins of his ancestors. This backwards movement can also be understood metaphorically in Marechera’s terms as a movement towards being “At the head of the stream” of life’s problems and dilemmas. It ought to go without saying that one must have encountered experiences of extreme oppression and of the extreme curtailment of one’s subjective will, in order to intuitively understand this notion of “death spaces”. This will not have been the case for most – hence the difficulty of engaging with much of the imagery and conceptual paradigms that Marechera loves to tease us with, in his writings.

The difficulty of understanding some of Marechera’s texts can be reduced by having an intellectual familiarity with what shamanism is, and how it can be found in this writer’s works– for there is a band of social and aesthetic logic running through Marechera’s oeuvre that by both accident of fate as well as artistic design, is shamanistic. “Three shamanic behaviors […] are the initiation crisis, mediumship, and shamanic journey.” [p 101 Roger Walsh, The Psychological Health of Shamans: A Reevaluation] In this chapter I will examine both his novelette and several of the short stories within the earlier section of his works published under the name of The House of Hunger. I will show that the novelette covers in a very psychologically comprehensive fashion his “shamanic initiation” and subsequent recovery to become a writer of a shamanic genre. I will focus primarily on the novelette published with this group of stories – which, like the title of this collection of writing also goes under the name of The House of Hunger.

The central feature of the novelette is the writer’s semi-fictionalised account of his life in Vengere Township in colonial Rhodesia. The writer gives vivid pictures of an “iron net thrown over the sky” (p 74, 75) in the sense of hungering for fulfilment and transcendence of what was effectively “a ghetto”, and yet being unable to attain that. His character, in similar fashion to that of Stephen Hero, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is a mixture of arrogance and uncertainty about women. Above all, he is a character who disdains the vulgar level of survival necessitated by life in the black slums. His disdain of this kind of lifestyle is passed on as a disdain of women, whom he feels are dangerous as well as dangerously inhuman because of their ability to survive and nurture, even under the impossible terms of poverty and violence. The author’s attitude is one of hatred, nurturing a little seed of hatred until it grew:

“I found a seed, a little seed, the smallest in the world. And its name was Hate. I buried it in my mind and watered it with tears. No seed ever had a better gardener. As it swelled and cracked into green life I felt my nation tremble, tremble in the throes of birth – and burst out bloom and branch.” ( p 17)

This hatred, planted within the “house” of his mind – a hatred which is also represented as longing for “the black heroes” — was the likely force behind the his “shamanic initiation”. The inertia of everyday life in the “ghetto”, the reckless determination to hate the degradation of life in this environment, along with an intellectual and artistic drive that could not find nourishment within this limited environment was what pushed the writer and his protagonist to the point of crisis that undermined his sanity. It seems reasonable that such an upsurgance of destructive effect from within was necessary to clear the space from which the author could construct a different platform for identity:

When the forces of growth overwhelm the forces of inertia, then a developmental crisis occurs. The symptoms of this crisis may vary depending upon the individual’s personality and maturity. They may range from primitive pathology to existential, transpersonal, or spiritual concerns (Wilber, Engler, and Brown). In the latter case the crisis has come to be known as a transpersonal crisis, spiritual emergency, or spiritual emergence (Assagioli; Grof and Grof 1986, 1989, 1990), and it is these that seem closest to and most helpful in understanding the shamanic initiation crisis. [Walsh p 116]

Walsh goes on to speak of the shamanic initiation (in Marechera’s case, understood as a loss of sanity and control over language) as a maturation crisis – thus accounting for the change in the author as he no longer sees himself positioned as a social victim of his circumstances so much as one who has learned to tell tales and master reality from a position of self-knowledge, having harnessed his own vivid imagination as a tool of self-nourishment. The novelette depicts what is really an involuntary shamanic initiation, in the sense that the writer didn’t set out with the goal in mind to become a type of shaman. Yet his hatred of reality nurtured and watered the psychosis that was to overtake him in the form of four hallucinated figures following him everywhere, when he was at the point of stuyding for his school leaving exam.

“They could not have been the black heroes whom I sought – or perhaps they were. I don’t’ know. There had been four of them; three men in threadbare clothes and the woman of the faded shawl. This had happened a few weeks before my sixth form examinations – which I then had to write with the assistance of a massive dose of white tranquillisers and pink triangular pills.”( p 28)

The shamanic initiation can sometimes take the form of “madness” according to [expert on the topic…] So much for the involuntary aspects of the process of becoming “shamanised”. The wreckless watering of the seed of hatred no doubt had a voluntary aspect – at least in the form of the will of wanting to depart from reality. The writer also confesses, in autobiographical tone, to having enjoyed dagga (marijuana) ( p 3), which, as a drug, would have increased his chance of “shamanic initiation”.

Another aspect of shamanic consciousness was more obviously creative: “Friends who acted out of character affected me in the same way [as a tropic storm from which one needed to take shelter. …I was] creating for myself a labyrinthine personal world which would merely enmesh me within its crude mythology. That I could not bear a star, a stone, a flame, a river, or a cupful of air was purely because they all seemed to have significance irrevocably not my own.”

The crude mythology forms the basis for his escape from reality. This is acknowledged very directly and precisely by the writer, yet in terms that invoke the shamanic elements, of earth, fire water and air, as well as the heavens and the earth. What he is escaping, (in the same paragraph), is that which he cannot allow himself to overlook – the nonspiritualisation, the non-transcendence of his human experiences. “On a baser level I could not forgive man, myself, for being utterly and crudely there. I felt in need of forgiveness. And those unfortunate enough to come into contact with me always afterwards consoled themselves and myself by reducing it all to a ‘chip on the shoulder’. This is a very well-written account of a kind of attitude and situation that could lead to a break with reality. In fact, disapproval of oneself and others is a factor that may contribute to the experience of hallucinations and paranoia – both of which the protagonist suffered from in the novelette.

The author’s acute observations of his psychological state are excruciating in their exactitude in terms of depicting a society’s psychological dynamics, and a young man’s psychic disintegration. […author.] has stated that shamanic initiation might be understood as the result of an internal pressure towards personal growth that breaks apart unconscious patterns of resistance. The tearing apart of the fabric of one’s being is a motif the writer has used more than once in the pages of the novelette. “I looked up. As I did so the old cloth of my former self seemed to stretch and tear once more.” ( p 17) Yet, the writer is also clearly driven to grow and develop despite his own limitations, thus the internal opposition that developed within him: “My fear of heights had not restrained me from climbing the cliffs of my nerves. And the demons, finding the House unattended, had calmly strutted in through the open door. Had I been a good atheist perhaps….” (p 29).

The writer is beset by voices and rain that seems to knock upon his head, the metaphoric house of spiritual hunger. “For it was a strange thirst. An unknown hunger. Which had driven him from himself, from his friends, from his family, from the things of his first world.” ( p 79) There is one violent event after another. In the opening scenes the author’s cat is killed by a children’s gang, and by the end of the book the violence hasn’t quite relented. The impossibility of nurturing is visited in the nature of a beaten and not dead yet cat which still seeks affection. The author resists Immaculate’s affections, because he cannot quite understand how she could be so, within the context in which she lives. The lack of personal transcendence becomes a limitation of subjectivity – a trap wrought around his wounded and stitched up head: “Those stitches like a net cast up into the sky tightened around my mind, and with the needle bit sharply into the tenderer parts of the brain.” The life in the land of gansters has already taken its toll on the sensitive young man by depriving him of speech, earlier in the book.

The descent into madness is as a result of not relating to the dominant social orders as a whole (although he does relate to it already very strongly in terms of his masculine-identified desire to keep himself apart from the contamination of women – at least in part an experientially founded attitude). In terms of the traditions of Shona culture – his culture of origin – he had shown his proclivities to be other than those of an obedient and respectful son. This had been as a result of unintentionally speaking English to his mother, and earning a hiding. Nor could he identify in totum with the colonial English speaking culture, which seemed to impress upon him the culture of the oppressors. If the “Symbolic register” is taken to encompass the social and cultural values of each of these rather geographically circumscribed social milieus, then surely both would have represented equally alienating alternatives in terms of choosing an adult life and set of values to support it. Both could have been felt as extremely threatening in terms of undermining his happy connection with life (p 85) as a child. The tension that has built in him regarding gender is the tension that, according to Lacanian psychology, comes from language and the ability to speak it. For sexual difference takes place as part of a induction into the organisational principles of language – Perhaps, then, it is also his unhappiness regarding gender, as well as the lack of spiritual fulfilment in the ghetto, which breaks the protagonist apart?

“I began to ramble, incoherently, in a disconnected manner. I was being severed from my own voice.” ( p 30). The author goes on to describe the fight, autonomously taking place as if apart from his own will or preferences, between the English and Shona parts of his psyche. Yet he himself has become incoherent. The refusal of the symbolic order is a refusal of meaning on terms other than the subject’s own terms. It is a refusal of the reality of the ghetto and its lack of scope for transcendence in the form of subjective self fulfilment. It is odd then, that such a rejection of language should lead to such an unexpectable outcome – whereby the author in later works comes to refer to himself as a “wordhorde”. Indeed, the exquisite precision of his writing, when it comes to expressing just the right word for each psychological state he undergoes gives testimony to the expressive potency of an absolute master of language. What happened to Marechera or the protagonist if we are to be more exact could have so changed his nature and identity?

Along with the effect of being in a pressure cooker, which is effectively what the ghetto situation was, on a psychological and social level, the author’s own attitude to life was to push the envelope, to climb up to the height of his nerves in order to satisfy his curiosity about life. This openness to knowledge is what ultimately secured a path for him outside of the dominant cultural mores and its status quo. This approach is fully compatable with various shamanistic projects, which according to Perkinson, “entails internal flights of creative daring, laboring inarticulable depths of anguish into forms of self-knowledge that continually elude dominant culture categories and understanding. In this vein, we would also perhaps have to recognize a certain novelty of the enterprise in coming to enjoy shamanistic flight for its own sake.” ( p 47)

The writer’s reckless tendency not to save himself by allowing his life and being to be co-opted by language as both a subtle (value laden) and overt (aspect of public identity) control mechanism may be part of what caused language to depart from him – creating the underlying conditions for his shamanistic initiation. It is also what saved him. Increscunt animi, virescit volnere virtus. “The spirits increase, vigor grows through a wound.” said Nietzsche. [Twilight of the Idols]. The vigour supplied through the experience of being wounded expanded the range of his imagination to take in unconventional insights. The same recklessness that caused his brain to suffer from hallucinations now enables him to master his own psyche and its insights as adventure: Rather than locate his subjectivity within a particular brand of cultural identity, he invites his brain to explode. Towards the end of the book the protagonist welcomes the subtle exploding of his mind as part of a shamanistic journey away from the categories of identity contained by language:

‘White people are shit,’ Doug added with closed eyes.

I agreed.

‘And black people are shit,” Doug blew cinders and ash from his shirtfront.

Before I could agree again Philip interrupted:

‘Everybody human shits, that’s the trouble.’

I nodded, watching my mind explode deliciously.’ ( p 67)

This epistemological destruction of difference is indeed shamanic, for it is a way of giving in to the conventional fear of losing one’s identity and the stability of self, only to find what one had been looking for all the time – the unity of one’s self as a preposterously humourous undermining of conventional tropes of identity. According to Joan Halifax quoted in Perkinson (page 23) “The shaman is a figure “balanced between worlds,” teaching that trauma can be “a passageway to a greater life where there is access to great power at great risk.” Indeed, the shaman often becomes androgynous, “balancing” or equalizing problematic social roles and creating healing through paradox. The initiatory quest here is one that opens the mystery by “becoming it,” transcends death “by dying in life,” pierces duality “by embracing opposites,” reunites fractured forms by fashioning oneself as “a double being.””

If the story is indeed at least partly fact and not fiction, the author’s “shamanic intitiation” must have achieved the effect that turned him into a writer. It must have led to a greater stengthening of mind, insight and creative energy. The elaborate richness, acuteness of observation and humour of the writing in this group of works lends certainty to the idea that there is a salient difference between the person depicted as Marechera in the stories and the writer who completed the semi-autobiographical texts. A lot of the richness of the text is ironical. Marechera’s conscious or subconscious concession to an ironic view of himself as a kind of shaman is indicated through a viewing of his bones after having undergone an X-ray. Shamans, traditionally, count the number of their own bones. “But he let me see the X-rays on the illuminated screen. The sight of my own bones chilled me.” ( p 77) There are shamanic insinuations in the
earlier parts of the text, wherein the writer conceives of himself as prematurely grey, and has his wise old man status affirmed by a bird’s dropping on his head. Perhaps the shaman is necessarily one who is prematurely aged? – As Perkinson says about Freida Kahlo, it was as if life, after her accident, suddenly had no secrets from her. The ‘old man’ speaks of a hunger that couldn’t simply be nurtured by hate. “He fed on hatred of all things; but that did not quench his thirst.” ( p 79) In the terminology of Carlos Casteneda’s don Juan, (whom Marechera read) he longed for “infinity”.

As stated in the beginning of this chapter, the clue resides in the very name of the book in its original intention: At the head of the stream. The shamanic resolution of the binary aspects of the author’s mind (particularly “spirit” versus “vulgarly there”) has its meaning in this term. In both Lacanian and in interpersonal terms, the shamanic iniitation experience would appear to involve a going backwards; a regression. This is in fact the case; however the regression solves a particular purpose of taking one to a place where the contradictions of life can be seen in a different light. What makes the difference is that Marechera discovers a nurturing aspect within himself, in the reformulation of his father – the “old man” who “died beneath the wheels of the twentieth century” under a train. “There was nothing left but stains, bloodstains and fragments of flesh, when the whole length of it was through with eating him.” ( p 45) – to an older and nurturing version of himself, who is a story teller. This revitalised old man takes the young man under his wing, by telling parables and snatches of stories and amusing him with his absurd ideas agasint the backdrop of his mother’s condemnation that his isn’t growing up quickly enough: “But the old man was my friend. He simply wandered into the House [which the writer tells us is the protagonist’s mind] one day out of the rain, dragging himself on his knobby walking stick. And he stayed. His face was like a mesh of copper wire; his wrists, strings of muscle [….] What he loved best was for me to listen attentively while he told stories that were oblique, rambling, fragmentary. His transparent, cunning look, his eager chuckle, his wheexzing cought, and something of the earth, gravel-like, in his voice – these gave body to the fragments of things which he casually threw in my direction.” (p 79) This old man is, in fact, Marechera the writer as a shaman. Shamans are cunning and perhaps dubious characters by all accounts – however, what defines them is that they have mastered “the spirits” that had previously tormented them, just as the writer has mastered the necessary fragmentation of life, and the need for creative stitches to bind reality together, so as to give it some digestable semblance of form.

“What is unique about shamans is not that they complain of persecution by spirits; it is that they eventually learn how to master and use them [(Eliade; Shirokogoroff) in 112 Roger Walsh]”

If language and its symbols were indeed the young Marechera’s tormentors, then by the end of the book the master has definitively established his mastery over them. This “old man” has also, quite obviously, overcome the younger writer’s hostility towards all that nurtures, which had been fueled by his sense of a gender dichotomy (wherein women foolishly sought nurturing and nurtured, whereas men were tough gangsters.) What has significantly happened is that the young man has matured and overcome his opposition to reality by learning to nurture. “But as he listened to himself, to the thirst and to the hunger, he suddenly said to himself, to the thirst and to the hunger, he suddenly said in words of gold: “I will live at the head of the stream where all of man’s questions began.” One way of reading this is that the shaman lives at a point of experience that precedes and oversees the nature and development of the dichotomies of social meaning. Another way of looking at this comes from the short story, “Burning in the Rain’, in which the writer encounters his own hesitation “on the threshold of manhood” ( p 85) and encounters an apparition of an “ape in the mirror” (a sure sign that his transcendence into manhood is threatened by social limitations in a racist society). In this story, the destruction of his old self (in three different ways) is also counterbalanced by a submerged existence which nonetheless has compensatory value, “at the head of the stream”. ( p 84) . Speaking of a persona of a lover accused of being a whore, he writes, “At the head of the stream, that’s where they had, with great violence, fused inot one and it was among the petunias so unbearably sweet that they had become afraid and listened to the staring motionless thing which made rivers flow. ( p 84) This union that takes place as a form of creativity overcomes the male-female dichotomy that had been limiting his scope within the normative symbolic register of divisive cultural evaluations. It is precisely this refusal of the normal symbolic order and the recovery of a self that exceeds the epistemological scope of the common verities within a particular culture, that enables the shaman to develop into a wiseman: Shamans “show proof of a more than normal nervous constitution.[…] shamans not only recover but may function exceptionally well as leaders and healers of their people [p115 Eliade quoted by Walsh].

The “head of the stream” is the place of recovery, the explosively creative place in which the shaman dwells in the spirit world (along with the “manfish” – another symbol of a drowned soul) – yet it is also, paradoxically perhaps, a place of creative renewal of one’s drowned identity. “At the head of the stream” one encounters the unity of one’s unfragmented self. This is an originatory position, pre-ontological, which lies beyond the comfort zone of humanity and its social organisations. It is the position of the creator, who uses his or her creative insights in order to direct reality, without succumbing to the force of language, himself. It is from this position, that precedes and yet surpasses the conventional organising system of language, that the writer is able to read societies’ dichotomies (from the point of clarifying distance of detachment from humanity) and thus to diagnose societies’ wounds. Meanwhile, the reader is encouraged to recognise that life is reformulated and given new vitality through the creativity of the mind expressed as stream of consciousness.