Friday, April 01, 2005

Felicitas Goodman

Word comes of the passing of Felicitas Goodman on 31 March. She was in her early nineties.

Born to ethnic German parents in Hungary, she attended the University of Heidelburg. She came to the United States after World War II and worked as a scientific translator before entering graduate school as a "nontraditional" student and earning a PhD in anthropology. She taught linguistics and anthropology at Denison University until retiring in 1979.

And then she began to devote herself full time to some very interesting research in the anthropological reconstruction of shamanism, culminating in the publication of her book Where the Spirits Ride the Wind: Trance Journeys and Other Ecstatic Experiences (Indiana University Press, 1990). Get it if you can, perhaps through some service like Advanced Book Exchange.

I was fortunate enough to persuade her to write the lead chapter of my 1994 anthology Witchcraft and Shamanism.

She purchased some land between Santa Fe and EspaƱola, New Mexico, and founded the "Cuyamonge Institute" for the study of shamanism. It never became as large as Michael Harner's Foundation for Shamanic Studies, but I tend to think of Goodman and Harner as somewhat parallel: anthropologists who "went native." Goodman, however, taught shamanic techniques perhaps more in Europe than in the United States, particularly in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Nikki Bado-Fralick, one of her former academic students, wrote of her today, "I learned from Felicitas that we need to be brave adventurers in what she called the 'alternate realities.' There seemed to be no aspect of the alternate reality that we should not investigate, no spiritual territory that we should not explore. Felicitas warmly and generously gave to others, supporting them in their adventures without pause."

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