Animism in Rainforest and Tundra, 5 & 7 & 9 [Amazonia]



Food among the Kanamari of Amazonia

Luiz Costa


p. 98 Kanamari tribe

"The Kanamari ... people spread out over ... the Jurua` river basin and most ... inhabit the tributaries of its middle course."

pp. 98, 109 plants and animals never eaten (prohibited as food for humans)

p. 109, n. 4

"certain Siberian peoples ... refuse to eat vegetables (e.g., Willerslev 2007:78)".

{Even worse, very usually in feasts served to retinue at mediaeval European castles, only flesh-meat was proffered (which is a severe dietary restriction, resulting in gout if neither organ-meats nor vegetables are ingested).}

p. 109, n. 5

"The Kanamari diet ... excludes those animals that are never ... consumed as food by Amazonian peoples : large predators, such as the jaguar, the anaconda and the black caiman; those that are excessively aggressive, such as snakes and bush dogs; or scavengers, such as vultures. The Kanamari also avoid bats and opossums".

p. 98

"the only species that are consumed by the Kanamari's neighbors but prohibited among them are animals of the Pilosa order, namely sloths and anteaters."

Willerslev 2007 = Rane Willerslev : Soul Hunters. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr.



Amazonian Cosmos of Alterity

Casey High


pp. 133-4 geographical location

p. 133

"The Waorani live on a ... reserve {reservation} of more than a million acres between the Napo and Curaray rivers in eastern Ecuador."

p. 134

"Until recently the Waorani were referred to as aucas, a derogatory term meaning 'wild' ... in Kichua".

p. 135 being spirit-possessed during sleep, manifested in somniloquy (a` la Edgar Cayce "the Sleeping Prophet")

"people do not themselves choose to become shamans. People who suffer near[ly-]fatal illnesses are ... particularly vulnerable to becoming shamans, especially if the calamity was caused by witchcraft. It is instead the jaguar-spirit who imposes its own perspective on an adoptive human ... while dreaming, literally inhabiting and speaking through the shaman's body while he sleeps.

As Laura Rival has explained : 'Waorani shamans ... let the spirits possess them' (Rival 2005:296). The relationship between shaman and jaguar-spirit is one of adoption because jaguar spirits are ... seen as orphans."

Rival 2005 = Laura Rival : "The Attachment of the Soul to the Body among the Huaorani of Amazonian Ecuador". ETHNOS 70.3:285-310.

p. 137 communicating with a spirit-pet-animal

"Waorani people ... describe ... relations between shamans and their adopted jaguar-spirits ... particularly the case where shamans assert their ability to control spirit-animals. ... In describing this process ..., ... Waoarani ... compared the relationship between shamans and animals to a person['s] having a domnesticated 'pet'. Whereas in some cases the jaguar ... perspective inhabits the body and voice of a human shaman, witchcraft appears to be a reversal of this relationship in which animal{-spirit} pets are controlled or domesticated by shamans ... . Shamans who practice witchcraft may engage not only the services of a jaguar but also a variety of different animals, such as poisonous snakes and {venomous} insects. Like the jaguar-shaman (men~era, men~i), other shamans are identified with the name of the animal{-species} with whom they are involved in this kind of relations."

p. 138 keeping of tame bears in eastern Siberia {cf. the Ainu practice, in Yezo}

"The process of capturing bear cubs and fostering them in captivity in preparation for a 'bear feast' ..., in which bears were ritually killed and eaten, was associated with marriage and the 'growing' of children.

Kwon [1999] suggests that 'bear play' constituted a double dialogue of hunting and marriage".

{["C&I" :] "bears ... may be said to be shamans themselves, or to be able to transform themselves into humans. Shamans are likewise said to be able to transform themselves, or parts of themselves, into bears (Hallowell, 1926: 86; Kwon, 1999: 373-87)."}

Kwon 1999 = Heonik Kwon : "Play the Bear : Myth and Ritual in East Siberia". HISTORY OF RELIGIONS 38.4:373-87.

"C&I" = Schweitzer, P.; Skold, P.; O.Ulturgasheva. "Cultures and Identities." In :- Fondahl, G.; J. N. Larsen; H. Rasmussen (edd.) : Arctic Human Development Report, II. Copenhagen : Nordic Council of Ministers, 2015. pp.105-150.

pp. 138-9 shaman's kith & kin as co-respondents

p. 138

"a shaman's household may be directly responsible ... . This is because household members

p. 139

who are present when a shaman is inhabited by his 'jaguar-spirit' may speak to the latter".

{In most cases of spirit-mediumship worldwide, attendance at a se'ance is a communitywide event, and not restricted to merely the household-members of the spirit-medium.}

p. 139 Kic^wa shamanry

"Many Waorani travel to distant villages or even to the regional capital to pay Kichwa shamans for diagnosis or treatment".

{The proclivity to more highly esteeming the abilitites of shamans/prophets in distant localities than more proximate ones, is a worldwide commonplace : "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." (Euangelion kata Markos 6:4)}

Euangelion kata Markos 6:4

p. 141 an indigenous, or an artificial, externally-imposed, contrast?

"In contrast to the positive moral connotations of individual agencies in ... our own anthropological and philosophical traditions,

{The sort of spiritual "agencies" alluded to as "our own" may be those of Sokrates (whose "agent" was his personal daimon), Apollonios of Tuane (who performed miracle by daimones), and the like.}

Waorani people appear to be more concerned with the dangers of specific people who claim or acquire too much agency."

{But this "contrast" is altogether likely to have come about only after the general population of the tribe was mass-converted to Protestant Christianity (which occurred only after 1956, supra p. 134).}

{The contrast is really between "our own" (i.e., ante-Protestant) tradition of miracles performed by hagioi (saints) on the one hand, and on the other hand the repressive, witchcraft-accusing Protestant "missionaries" (from the S.I.L.) who were routed out of Ecuador by the government in 1981 (p. 134).}



Transformabiity in Northern Amazonia

Vanessa Elisa Grotti & Marc Brightman


p. 163 manufactured forms in contact with human bodies

"Recently, researchers focusing on material culture have analysed the relationship between persons and ... the {quasi-animate} objects which come to inhabit their everyday lives : in the case of women, the cotton hammocks in which they sleep, the strings of beads which they adorn themselves with{al}, or the manioc bread they mould and 'scarify' with the same patterns which are used on human skin (Van Velthem 2001, 2003)."

Van Velthem 2001 = Lucia van Velthem : "The Woven Universe : Carib Basketry". In :- Colin McEwan; Cristiana Barreto; & Eduardo Neves (edd.) : Unknown Amazon : Culture in Nature in Ancient Brazil. London : British Mus Pr. pp. 198-213.

Van Velthem 2003 = Lucia van Velthem : O belo e' a fera : a este`tica da produc,a~o entre os Wayana. Lisbon : Museu Nacional de Etnologia.

p. 164 young children are hindred from transforming themselves into monkeys

"The Trio's word for a mother's upbringing of her child is arimika, which literally means 'to undo the spider-monkey'. This does ... mean that the Trio think ... that at birth the elements of the baby's personhood are not yet secure, and it therefore needs to be gradually moulded into kin

to prevent it from being made into the kin of 'other' living beings such as spider-monkeys."

{In Maya cosmogonies (e.g. the Popol Vuh), the first monkeys originated from humans who had become monkeys.}

p. 164 hounds are trained by being humanized (in Trio tribe)

"Hunting dogs are 'moulded', ... morally transformed from a young age, usually by old women, who feed them proper human foods such as cassava bread ..., and address them as 'my son' (jimuku)."

p. 165 domesticated hounds are not sold

"hunting dogs ... with ... Akuriyo ..., although ... considered as property, ... are not traded in exchange for objects or money (Brightman 2010)."

Brightman 2010 = M. Brightman : "Property in Guianese Amazonia". J DE LA SOCIE'TE' DES AME'RICANISTES 96.1:135-67.

p. 165 living implements which function automatically whenever so commanded

"when objects of matrial culture are made by highly skilled individuals they are sometimes believed to have souls : as reproductions of primordial archetypes, if they are recreated too perfectly they may develop their own intentionality.

There are numerous myths describing how certain items of material culture once had intentionality and motive force of their own.

{Such automatically-functioning implements are a major feature in Bon mythology.}

Arrows, for example, flew of their own accord at the bidding of the ancients, until they were treated with disrespect, and from then on they vowed stubbornly to remain immobile and rely on the strength and aim of people (Koelewijn and Rivie`re 1987)."

Koelewijn & Rivie`re 1987 = Cees Koelewijn & Peter Rivière : Oral Literature of the Trio Indians of Surinam. Dordrecht : Foris Publ.

pp. 166-7 eating of food

p. 166

"cooking and eating are performed ... in sections of the household which are open to the gaze of neighbors and passers-by. ...

p. 167

The choice of foods is a marker of peaceful ... intentions : strong foods such as chilli and salt are said to have socialising qualities."

p. 168 Wayana caterpillar-man myth

"after having caught the eye of a young woman in the forest who admired its beauty aloud, a caterpillar transforms itself into a handsome young man, ... and enters the young woman's village ... . Upon arrival, he is admired by all the young women for his ... body paint ... . ... the young Wayana lady .. becomes his wife. But his ... composure eventually raise suspicions ... . Unlike a normal person, whose ... everyday activities wear off the paint, the caterpillar husband remains unchanged. This ... exposes him as a non-human ... . He is eventually rejected and disappears, never to be seen again."

{[Ac^omawi -- "AM", p. 283] "The two Bead girls were sent by their mother to marry Cocoon-Man's son. He was wrapped up and put away. ... It took just one day for them to reach Cocoon-Man's house. ... Cocoon-Man made a trail to the west to walk on. He sent his words out west, put his hand out west and east to make a trail, and immediately it was open. Cocoon-Man sat on the ground in the centre, and made a rainbow reaching from the place where he sat to the home of the girls. ... The two sisters walked on the lower rainbow, the reflection, and reached home safely."}

"AM" = Roland B. Dixon : "Achomawi Myths". J OFAMER FOLK LORE Vol. 23, no. 85, pp. 283-7 [1909].

{Comparable to the Wayana "body paint", cf. the facial paint worn by coastal tribesfolk in the State of Washington while they are are collecting shellfish : with these shellfish compare the "clam" against whom the "caterpillar" Rigi fought in Nauru myth (MB, p. 176; cf. "RSPB", p. 155).} {There is also, in Colombia, a Cubeo funebrial-ritual caterpillar-dance, wherein dancers are diguised as "butterfly larvae (caterpillars), who hoisted themselves onto poles and swung from the rafters." ("COD")}

MB = Sarah Bartlett : The Mythology Bible : the Definitive Guide to Legendary Tales. Godsfield Pr (div of Octopus Publ), London, 2009.

"RSPB" = James Sellmann : "Review of Summoning the Powers Beyond : Traditional Religions in Micronesia, by Jay Dobbin. Honolulu : Univ of HI Pr, 2011".

"COD" = Janet M. Chernela : "Cubeo Óyne Dance ".

p. 169 Trio peccary legend

"a shaman visits the village of the white-lipped peccary, dressed as though for a dance, ... and he engages in a ceremonial dialogue with the master of peccaries (Rivie`re 2001)."

Rivie`re 2001 = P. Rivie`re : "A predac,ao, a reprocidade, e o caso das Guianas". MANA 7.1:253-71.

{Villages of animals posing as humans may be, and sometimes are, visited by shamans in dreams, as is known to, e.g., various tribes in North America.}

p. 170 multiple souls of each person

"Trio and Wayana human beings are said to possess {or to be possessed by?} various souls, such as an eye-soul and a skin-soul, as well as a generic soul which rests in the liver".

p. 170 the condition of "spirits of the dead"

"in the anthropological literature of Lowland South America, ... among a significant number of Amerindian populations, the spirits of the dead are perceived as ... incomplete, miserable beings which cannot see properly and

{According to the Bauddha understanding, the condition of the soul of a dead person as a preta is likewise miserable; therefore seeking to redincarnate as soon as possible.}

crave to inhabit another body (Descola 1993)."

{which they then promptly do!}

{Recent ethnological research hath discovered that South American tropical-forest denizens generally are traditionally aware of redincarnation of souls, a fact which those indigenes (in rightful dread of being persecuted by Christian governments if they were to disclose this fact) did not tend to reveal to earlier anthropologists.}

p. 170 skins of game-animals are eaten

"Among the Trio and Wayana, the skin of game animals, in which one of the souls rests, is cooked and eaten to ensure that the leftover spirit does not come back to attack the hunter and his kin."

{Praesumably, the game-animal's ghost is normally in anthropoid form, and in that form would not assault that animal's killers. If it were to don its animal-suit (animal-skin) -- which would be possible so long as the skin be not devoured by its killers -- however, it would in the resultant animal-form become eager to slay its human killers.}

{Apparently, the term "souls" is intended to apply to parts of the after-death body which, though able to subsist separately, can temporarily redunite for some particular purpose.}


Marc Brightman; Vanessa Elisa Grotti; & Olga Ulturgasheva (edd.) : Animism in Rainforest and Tundra : Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. Berghahn Bks, Oxford, 2012.