Music of the Warao [in delta of the river Orinoco]


section (sub-chapter)








Musical contexts





Canoe people





View of life & death



Musical background


Music for theourgy



Musical instruments








Songs for pleasure







Song texts



Wisiratu shaman songs


Wisiratu shamanism






Hebu illnesses



Curing songs



Bahanarotu shaman songs


Bahanarotu shamanism






Curing songs



Creator-bird of dawn



Hoarotu shaman songs


Hoarotu shamanism



Inflicting songs



Curing songs



hoa curing songs





hoa magical protection songs


the Animals, the Ogres



Song texts



hoa magical love songs








Song texts



Canoe construction


Large canoe



Religious festival music





Habi Sanuka



Music as power


States of consciousness



Belief system





pp. 12-13 shaman & trance, generally

p. 12

"Miha値y Hoppa値 (1987, 91-92) links the Sanskrit term saman [saman], meaning "song," to shamanism, as he writes : "This implies that the shaman is literally the person who sings the song, with long genealogies, to cure, to conjure, to heal."

p. 13

"trance" : "This state of consciousness has been called

ASC or Altered State of Consciousness (Tart ...) and, more recently,

SSC or Shamanic State of Consciousness (Harner ...).

In this book I call it TSC or Theurgical State of Consciousness."

Hoppa値 1987 = Miha値y Hoppa値 : "Shamanism". In :- Shirley Nicholson (ed.) : Shamanism. Wheaton (IL) : Theosophical Publ House, 1987. pp. 76-100

p. 17 shamanic music in non-Warao South American Indian tribes

"the Yanomamo: of Venezuela often buzz their lips rather than sing words;

the Pilaga` of the Gran Chaco sing "monotonously in rising and falling tones" to a melody that has no words ..." ...;

the Jungle Quichua of the Napo River region of eastern Ecuador use ... a bird bone flute ... to contact the supernatural ...;

the descendants of the Moche in the Peruvian north coast whistle to communicate with the spirits".

pp. 26-29 Warao cosmology

p. 26

"In the middle of their cosmic sea is the land mass upon which they live, flat and disk-shaped.

Beneath their earth lies a lower world inhabited by a double-headed snake (Hahuba) that encircles the earth, exposed ... with its two heads spaced apart to create an opening toward the east, just as the mouth (Boca Grande) of the Orinoco River creates an opening into the Atlantic Ocean. {If of the snake痴 2 mouths, one is the Boca Grande, is its other mouth the Can~o Macareo?} Hahuba痴 movements are believed to

p. 27

cause the ebb and flow of the tides.

Beneath his "snake of being" is the goddess of the nadir; believed to be a four-headed serpent with deer horns on each head". {The Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw likewise have as deity a mythic antlered serpent (U). In a Creek myth (LW, fn. 16 citing M&TSI, 24), "the snake has antlers." According to the Cherokee, "Uktena ... had the scaly body of a large serpent, as big around as a tree trunk, with rings or spots of color along its entire body, but it had deer horns on its head, and it had wings like a bird. On its forehead it had a bright diamond-shaped crest that gave off blinding flashes of light. (Hudson, 131, 132)" (WhCh).}


"At the edge of the earth are smaller mountains where other deities live. These supreme beings are known as kanobotuma (plural of kanobo), which literally means "our ancient ones." ... The most powerful of the kanobotuma is Uraro, the god of the southern mountain in the aitona. ... Living nearby on a smaller hill ... is Karoshima, Uraro痴 companion and near equal ... just south of the ... Orinoco River ... . ... it contained a mine (Venezuela痴 first commercial iron mine, dating from 1883)". Karos^ima [然ed Neck (p. 437b)] may bring about {is caused by} "too much sun." "The kanobotuma of the south resemble toads {according to S`atapatha Brahman.a, the moisture of Agni became frogs} in their godly states, although they can assume human forms. They reside on their mountains in great mansions, .. golden" {according to Br.hat-devata 7.61-80, Agni痴 "seed became silver and gold" (OEHM, p. 144)}.


"At the opposite end of the Warao cosmos, on sacred mountains in the north, live Warowaro and Anabarima. The former is believed to be a supreme butterfly living on the northernmost sacred mountain in the

p. 28

aitona, while the latter lives on the Nabarima Hill at the earth痴 northernmost edge inspired ... by the actual Naparima Hill on the western coast of southern Trinidad ... . Anabarima is known as the "Father of the Waves," and his abode contains a cave where Haburi, the culture hero, lives with his mothers."


"The kanobo of the eastern cosmic pillar in the aitona is Ariawara, the unapproachable god of origin ... . Ariawara痴 son, Mawari, called the "Creator Bird of the Dawn" ..., is represented by a swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) ... . ... this easternmost cosmic zone (called hokonamu in shamanic texts) ... is misty like dawn ... and is the cosmological sector associated with bahanarotu shamanism."


"At the western extreme of the Warao universe is the world pillar of Hoebo {cf. Maya /HOBnil/, one of the 4 Bacabob upholding, like pillars, the sky}, the god of the underworld and the supreme Hoa spirit. Hoebo is embodied by a deified scarlet macaw (Ara chloroptera) ..., while his soul resides ... at the edge of the celestial dome ... the ominous end of the universe where the sun sets ... . ... nevertheless, ... he hungers for human souls and appears in dreams to hoarotu shamans, asking them for ... those humans who die of Hoa sickness."


"At the intercardinal points of the southwest and the southeast resides a female supreme being, Dauarani, mother of the forest. Her body dwells on a mountain in the southwest and her soul on a mountain in the southeast. Also known as the goddess of light, she is the patron of male ... canoe makers ... . Astronomically, Dauarani痴 abodes correspond to the midsummer {for the northern hemisphaire, actually, midwinter!} sunrise and sunset. Likewise, at the points of winter {actually, midsummer!} sunrise and sunset are sacred mountains that respectively house Aruarani, the mother of moriche flour, and Oriwakarotu, the god of the dance."

p. 29

"Covering this complex Warao universe of water, land, sacred mountains, serpents, light, and darkness is a celestial dome shaped somewhat like an Indonesian knobbed gong ... . ... The apex or knob of the dome is inhabited by ... Yaukware, the god of the center of the world ... . Yaukware was the first wisiratu shaman, who ascended with his sacred hebu mataro rattle ... . ...

Also at the zenith of the celestial knobbed gong of the Warao is a supernatural guide, an eternal psychopomp who leads spiritual travelers to the east. ...

The third and final resident of the celestial knob is the soul of Hoebo."

U =

LW =

M&TSE = John Reed Swanton, Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians, BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY, 88 (1929).

WhCh =

Hudson, Charles: The Southern Indians. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1976.

OEHM = Wendy Doniger O巽laherty : The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology. 1976.

pp. 30, 32 sacred stone in temple; canoe as tomb



p. 30

"The origin of Kanoboism goes back to the primordial mythic times of the first Warao. Because of an overabundance of pain, suffering, and death among the Warao at the time, a religious elder traveled to the outer reaches of the cosmos to appeal to the gods, begging a supreme being or kanobo to come live with the mortals and bring an end to human suffering.

{Deva-datta was inducer to come to the earth of the Buddha, who came in order to put an end to suffering.}


The kanobo agreed to abide with humans in the form of a sacred stone".

{Deva-datta used a sacred boulder.}


In Cuba, "The ancient Taino shaman-priests presided over a cult in which stones carved into triangular figures called zemi were worshipped".

{cf. the Hellenic sacred omphale stones}

p. 32

"a corpse (waba in Warao ...) is wrapped in a hammock, placed in a dugout canoe, and packed in mud. The canoe coffin is placed above ground on poles in a Warao cemetery ... . According to Warao belief, a certain bird will visit the burial place and leave its tracks in the mud is the deceased was killed by Hoa."

{Similarly as the Chinook ("BC"), the Cowlitz use coffin-canoes held above the ground on poles (D&BC).}

"BC" =

D&BC =

p. 31 survival of soul

"As Wilbert (1975a, 169) explains, "what matters to the Indian is the survival of his soul, mehokohi." A preoccupation for curing illness exists among the Warao because of ... the causes of illness; it is necessary to discover the cause because of what happens to the soul after death. Again, Wilbert (1975a, 169) explains, "All Warao ... arrange their affairs teleologically toward an existence in the heaven of their predilection.""

pp. 38-39 types of shaman and of shamanic curing event

type of shaman

type of ailment cured

p. 38 definition of aitology of ailment (Wilbert 1970, 24)

p. 39 definition by Olsen



"a metaphysical essence, such as an ancestor spirit"

"spiritual essences of any living object"



"some material object"

"spiritual essences of any material object"



"specific properties of all plants and animals"

[p. 40 "supernaturally altered animals and ogres"]

writings by Johannes Wilbert quoted from :-

(1965) "Los instrumentos musicales de los warrau". ANTROPOLO`GICA 1(1956):2-22.

(1969) Textos folklo`ricos de los indios Warao. U of CA, Los Angeles, Latin American Center, vol. 12. 1969.

(1970) Folk Literature of the Warao Indians. U of CA at Los Angeles, Latin American Center, vol. 15. 1970.

(1972b) "Tobacco and Shamanistic Ecstasy among the Warao Indians". In :- Peter T. Furst (ed.) : Flesh of the Gods. pp. 55-83. NY : Praeger, 1972.

(1974) "The Calabash of Ruffled Feathers." In :- Anne Trueblood (ed.) : Stones, Bones, and Skin. pp. 90-3. Toronto : Artscanada, 1974.

(1975a) "Eschatology in a Participatory Universe : Destinies of the Soul among the Warao Indians of Venezuela." In :- Elizabeth b. Benson (ed.) : Death and the Afterlife in Pre-Columbian America. pp. 163-89. Dunbarton Oaks Research Library, 1975.

(1976) "To Become a Maker of Canoes". In :- Johannes Wilbert (ed.) : Enculturation in Latin America. LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES, vol. 37. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 1976.

(1977) "Navigation of the Winter Sun". In :- Elizabeth P. Benson (ed.) : The Sea in the Pre-Columbian World. pp. 17-46. Dunbarton Oaks Research Library, 1977.

(1983) "Warao Ethnopharmacology". JOURNAL OF ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY 8(1983):357-61.

(1985) "The House of the Swallow-Tailed Kite". In :- Gary Urton (ed.) : Animal Myths and Metaphors in South America. pp. 145-82. Salt Lake City : U of UT Pr, 1985.

(1987a) Tobacco and Shamanism in South America. New Haven : Yale U Pr, 1987.

Dale A. Olsen : Music of the Warao of Venezuela. U Pr of FL, Gainesville, 1996.