The Cross and the hieroglyphics

Ritual writing and objects among the American Indians of New-France
(17th-18th centuries)

The Cross and the hieroglyphics

Ritual writing and objects among the American Indians of New-France
(17th-18th centuries)

What are the transformation processes of a symbolic form? How are they imported and how do they integrate traditions and rituals that are foreign to them? Pierre Déléage provides us with a fine case study. His survey, at the crossroads of Anthropology and History, focuses on the relationships which were established, during the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, between Catholic missionaries and the Mi’kmaq, an American Indian group that peopled the Atlantic coasts of the modern-day border between Canada and the United States. Among the Mi’kmaq, the cross was a symbol of a diplomatic alliance, warlike and shamanistic. Faced with this situation, the French missionaries made use of pedagogical syncretism to propagate the Christian cross. As for the “hieroglyphics” of the Mi’kmaq, a very unusual recording method, they represent the intersection of autochthonous pictographic traditions and the alphabetic writing introduced by the missions.

This work demonstrates the force of innovation produced by the interactions between different symbolic systems. It describes and explains how cultural heterogeneity constructs the efficiency of objects and rituals, ensures their propagation and beings about the invention of new traditions for a given human group at a particular moment of their history.

The author

Pierre Déléage is a Research Officer at the Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale du Collège de France (Ehess-Cnrs). He conducted a study in linguistic anthropology on the shaman chants of the Sharanahua of western Amazon. His current work focuses on the transmission, distribution and stabilization of ritual traditions. He has published several articles on the formalization of ceremonial language, on ritual institutions and on the logic and uses of intellectual technologies (pictographs and writing). He is the author of “Chants de l’anaconda”. L’apprentissage du chamanisme chez les Sharanahua (Société d’ethnologie, 2010.

Description

  • Format: 19 x 20 cm
  • No. of pages: 156
  • 40 black and white illustrations
  • ISBN: 978-2-7288-0426-9
  • €18.30