Issue 8: Psychology of Kiting

Satire by Joseph Samuels


The history of kites was recorded more than 2500 years ago in China, Egypt and Greece. World history and culture contains many fascinating stories about kiting – stories from China, Japan, India, Indonesia that had underlying moral messages for their times. In modern times we know about the use of kites in war to spot enemy targets, to train fighter pilots and in spying. We also know of its importance in the development of cross-ocean radio, and rescue kites at sea. Kites, kite building and kite flying have been used in different societies to define status, and develop group-binding activities. In many cultures it is an important art and craft form. In Japan kite fights were used as a technique to prevent war among hostile groups. Though there is documented material about kites and/or kiters in early world history no archeological evidence has been found to substantiate any of the stories. Early kite materials, unlike modern ones, were ecologically politically correct – they were all biodegradable.

Kiting Today

Men and children have been described as the main players in the field of kiting until the modern era. Kiting today in the advanced nations is a gender and nationality conflict free activity, and could serve as a model to the national governments on all continents. Women freely enter kite building and kite flying projects and programs. In kite flying families [those who fly together, hang together], it is women who fly and the men who sew and design. In only one area, that is age related, have I witnessed ugly behavior-when children have asked their parents to permit them to fly the kites that had been purchased for them. A common response- “I’m still testing the kite for you, so stop nagging”.

Freudian Theory as Applied to Kiting

To truly understand kiting, one has to have a fundamental grasp of the psychological underpinnings of the kiting Movement. Kiting connects directly to man’s phylogenetic and ontogenetic development. This is so obvious that no explanation is required. Books can be written on this subject. An outline will be presented below because of the limitation of space. Freud, had he been alive today, would no doubt have said after witnessing kiting’s development, “A cigar is many times a cigar but a kite is prettier and more active [with exceptions noted in recent newspaper articles].

Prenatal and Postnatal States

1. Prenatal state- swimming or floating in amniotic fluid is equivalent to flying. Kiting is natural sublimation of return to the womb fantasies. Being pulled – hither and thither- by the wind is reminiscent of hither-thither feelings in the womb.

2. Postnatal state- umbilical cord dependency is created once the kite is in the sky. 2, 3, and 4-string kite flying increases this dependency. Personal correspondence has revealed desires of flying up to 100 string kites as a means of gaining complete fulfillment- please correspond with the author of this article if you know of anyone who has reached this level of ecstasy.

Post Postnatal

1. Passive stage- just holding string, intake through eyes, coping with birth trauma as kite falls.

2. Separation from love object stage- kite moves away, flies higher, or string breaks. Coping with this early separation anxiety leads to developing skills to deal with adversity, sadness, curiosity and finally mastery.

3. Castration anxiety and penis envy stage has not been documented to date. Relevant data, research, and personal communication would be appreciated to cope with the paucity of material in this sensitive area.

4. Latency- group activities, friendly aggression and competitiveness are characteristics of this period. Some flyers never develop beyond this stage and live contented lives ever after.

5. Adolescence- characterized by power kiting, showing off, [demonstrating bigness or prettiness], and dressing the part: pins, T-shirts, hats and habitually wearing bizarre clothing.

6. Adulthood- attending conventions and festival, helping novices, designing and building kites, but mostly talking about the big one or the best fly. [The cigar still remains the cigar].

7. Old age- a stage that most kiters never reach. It is characterized by sitting and watching, tall stories, reminiscing about the day when…… Denial is also a major characteristic re: desires to buggy, bungy, power kiting. This major defense mechanism prevents many broken limbs and loss of life.

8. Terminality- a category related to kiters only. Having been connected to Big One Above, it is a natural step to even better flying days.

The above material is a summary, an overview. Many technical and cogent aspects have had to be omitted. Comments about important psychological issues that have been missed will be respectfully received. My apologies are sincerely extended to Adlerians, Jungians, Electologists and Cognitive Psychologists and the myriad of psychiatrists, social workers and psychotherapists whose views could not be presented as a counter point. I am sure that each one has a different view of the dynamics of kiteflying in our society today and what its effect will be on the next millennium.

Joseph is a 73 year old flier living in the Galilee, about 30 miles south of the border with Lebanon. He flies sportkites, fighters, and single lines, and also builds several kites a year. He runs kitebuilding classes for immigrant Ethiopian children, an enjoys teaching all children to fly. If you ever heading to Israel, contact KiteLife and we will tell you how to find Joseph!