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He uses examples to illustrate the taboos on rulers.

He says the kings of Ireland were subject to restrictions such as not being able to go to certain towns or on certain days of the week.

"The Horror of Incest" concerns incest taboos adopted by societies believing in totemism.

Freud examines the system of Totemism among the Australian Aborigines.

He accused Freud of ignoring criticisms directed against his theories, and objected to Freud's basing his investigations on the theory of the Oedipus complex.

He credited Freud with providing a "compact survey" of the confusing state of research into totemism, but believed that it was difficult for psychoanalysts to deal with the subject because they could not base their conclusions on "first-hand experience", and that Freud attached too much importance to "the belief of totemistic acolytes that they are descendants of the totem animal." He criticized Freud's attempt to explain totemism through parallels with the "psychological life" of children, arguing that the analytical results Freud employed were of questionable accuracy and did little to provide a "solution of the problem of totemism", and that Freud failed to explain why the totem was represented as an animal.

The animistic mode of thinking is governed by an "omnipotence of thoughts", a projection of inner mental life onto the external world.

This imaginary construction of reality is also discernible in obsessive thinking, delusional disorders and phobias.

It is a collection of four essays inspired by the work of Wilhelm Wundt and Carl Jung and first published in the journal Imago (1912–13): "The Horror of Incest", "Taboo and Emotional Ambivalence", "Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thoughts", and "The Return of Totemism in Childhood".He also talks about the widespread practices amongst the cultures of the Pacific Islands and Africa of avoidance.Many cultures do not allow brothers and sisters to interact in any way, generally after puberty.Freud comments that the omnipotence of thoughts has been retained in the magical realm of art.The last part of the essay concludes the relationship between magic (paranormal), superstition and taboo, arguing that the practices of animism are merely a cover up of instinctual repression (Freud).

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