Saturday, 11 July 2009


Having been dabbling recently with the notion of species connectedness as the intersection between psychedelics and ecology, it is both timely and encouraging to have Dr Robert Wallis come and discuss Animism from the perspective of anthropology and archaeology, last Tuesday of the month as usual - 28th July, 2009. The ongoing Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness lecture series running at the October Gallery also appears to have taken on a life of its own and so Dr Wallis’ talk fits in beautifully with the warp and the weft of our crooked path through shamanism, psychedelics, magic, wildness, petroglyphs and sacred geographies. Hope to see you there!

October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3AL

(Tel: 44 (0)20 7831 1618). – email: rentals “at”

RSVP so that we can anticipate numbers – Please book in advance by credit card to guarantee a place or pay on the door.

Entry £7 /£5 Concessions, Arrive 6pm for a 6:30pm Start - Wine available

Animism, Ancestors and Adjusted Styles of Communication: Hidden Art in Irish Passage Tombs

Studies of prehistoric art tend to objectify this ‘material’ evidence in a process of disenchantment which has limited interpretative scope. This talk will draw on the theorising of ‘new animism’ in anthropology and religious studies which moves beyond the problematic attribution of spirit to matter and anthropomorphism in the work of Tylor and in other Victorian imaginations of religion, to consider animist ontologies as those which conceive of a world which is filled with persons, only some of whom are human. I argue that this relational approach enables new, re-enchanting insights into Neolithic art in the passage tombs of the Boyne Valley in Ireland, the study of which has tended towards an anthropocentric concept of ‘the social’ and neurotheological analysis of altered states of consciousness. Animist ontologies effectively disrupt the subject/object dichotomy of Western thought, challenge reductionist neurotheology, and offer an extended understanding of agency and personhood. I focus particularly on ‘hidden art’ to demonstrate how a variety of animist ontologies (from animist-totemist to totemist-animist) may have operated at the Neolithic/Bronze Age transition.

Dr Robert J. Wallis is Associate Professor of Visual Culture and Director of the MA in Art History at Richmond University, London, and a Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Southampton. His research interests consider indigenous and prehistoric art in shamanistic/animic communities, and the re-presentation of the past in the present by contemporary pagans and neo-shamans. He is author of Shamans / neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans, and co-author of the Historical Dictionary of Shamanism and co-editor of Permeability of Boundaries: New Approaches to the Archaeology of Art, Religion and Folklore and, most recently, Antiquaries and Archaists: The Past in the Past, the Past in the Present. He is currently working on a monograph on art and shamanism.

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