Occult Life of Things









Artifactual Anatomies


Objects ... in Northwest Amazonia

Stephen Hugh-Jones



Alterity among the Mamainde^

Joana Miller



Urarina Technologies of Companionship

Harry Walker



Subjectivized Materialities


Being a Thing in The Yanes^a Lived World




Masks and Flutes among the Wauja

Aristo`teles Barcelos Neto



Valuables ... among the Kayapo`

Terence Turner



Materialized Subjectivities


Matis Theory of Materiality

Philippe Erickson



Cas^inawa Image-Making

Els Lagrou



Textual Objects in Runa Worldview

Mari`a Guzma`n-Gallegos



Materiality in Wakue`nai Ontology

Jonathan D. Hill


articles 1-3.


1. (pp. 33-59) Stephen Hugh-Jones : "The Fabricated Body ; Objects and Ancestors in Northwest Amazonia".

p. 34 prae-existence

"The idea of creation ex nihilo is virtually absent from indigenous cosmologies. Things and beings normally originate as a transformation or something else. ... Where we find notions of creation at all, what is stressed is the imperfection of the end product." (Viveiros de Castro 2004:477-78)"

{This is likewise the usual doctrine in India : whether Astika, Jaina, or Bauddha.}

"Tukano myths from the Uaupe`s region ... are indeed about creation ex nihilo and squarely in the idioms of parenthood."

{Because redincarnation of souls is commonly believed among South American (and, for that matter, likewise North American) Indian tribes, a metaphor of parenthood would not regularly imply any creation ex nihilo.}

Viveiros de Castro 2004 = Eduardo Viveiros de Castro : "Exchanging Perspectives". COMMON KNOWLEDGE 10(3):463-85.

pp. 35-6 creation from thought

p. 35

"Tukanoan creation myths are unusual both because they do indeed tell of a creation from nothing, of gods who bring the universe and its contents into being through their thoughts, and

{Thought, however, is itself not ex nihilo, but always dependent upon praevious thought, in an endless chain of dependent origination. This fact (of requiring antecedents) is as true of processes as it is of substances.}


because their main focus is on objects rather than animals.

The myths ... can be found in ... the Colec,a~o narradores indigenas do Rio Negro".

p. 36

"Starting with an initial, dark, formless, and invisible state,

{Note that a "dark, formless, and invisible state" is not by any means identical with nihil ‘nothingness’. It is more like the primordial condition (designated "Former Heaven") before the praesent-day Heaven (designated "Latter Heaven") was separated from the Earth in Chinese cosmogony.}


these Tukanoan creation myths run through several attempts at creation that culminate in the emergence of the fully human ancestors of today."


2. (pp. 60-80) Joana Miller : "Body Ornaments and Alterity among the Mamainde^". [Nambikwara-speakers in northwestern Mato Grosso (p. 60), northern end of the Wapore` valley (p. 61)]

pp. 62-3 internal bodily threads/bands

p. 62

"internal body ornaments ... can be seen only by shamans ... during curing sessions. ... During curing sessions, the shaman often removes the internal ornaments of his patient".

p. 63

"The Mamainde^ affirm that these threads/bands are our path, our memory, and also that which causes us to dream. Without these bands, we do not know where we are; we fail to recognize our kin and we become lost and sick. ... If the shaman does not retrieve the lost thread/band, the person may die."

pp. 67-8 divine owners of threads/bands

p. 67

"The spirit of the da>yukdu cannibal monster – identified as the "owner" (wagin>du) of the spider-monkey and described as a hyper-version of this

p. 68

species – is said to steal the inner threads/bands of the Mamainde^ while they dream and replace them with his own. A person whose thread/band has been stolen by the spirit of this monster grows very ill, forgets her kin, and loses her way. Her spirit goes away to live in the forest, accompanying the spirit that took her body ornaments. The Mamainde^ also assert that the person whose thread/band has been swapped/stolen or swapped by the da>yukdu marries him and starts to see her kin as beasts (nadadu, "large and dangerous beasts" or "predators"). ...

The thread of the owner of the spider monkey is described as a black, greenish, or grey thread that, to the shaman’s eyes, appears like a spider web. The beads used to make the bands of the owner of the peccary are made from annatto seeds instead of the fragments of tucum palm used by the Mamainde^.

pp. 68-9 the soul, according to the Wari>

p. 68

"Aparecida Vilac,a (2005) ... on the relationship between ... "body" and "soul," ... observes that, for the the Wari>, a Txapakuran-speaking people from the Brazil-Bolivia border, all beings that possess jam- ("soul" or "spirit") can be ... potentially human. ...

p. 69

According to Vilac,a :

However, ... for the Wari> ... the soul gives this body ... instability. This ... capacity ... to ... transformation may always be the result of the agency of other subjects than the ego’s desire. (Vilac,a 2005:452-53 ...)"

Vilac,a 2005 = Aparecida Vilac,a : "Chronically Unstable Bodies : ... Amazonian Corporeality". J OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE 11(3):445-64.

pp. 69-70 affixing of soul to body

p. 69

"at the same time as they affix spirit to the body, ornaments make the body visible to other types of beings, conferring on them the "instability" mentioned by Vilac,a. ... it is ownership of ornaments that makes a person visible to the da>yukdu cannibal monster. ... The same thing happens in dreams – the preferred locus for the actions of spirits – when the dreamer meets the spirit (yauptidu) of a dead kinsman or the spirit owner of an animal species : they [dreamers] may see their [spirits’] bodies covered in ornaments. The anaconda, for instance, may appear in dreams as a man decorated with

p. 70

harpy eagle feathers. The spirit owner of the tortoise may appear as a man draped in necklaces made from tortoise shell."


"on ... the body among the Juruna, a Tupi-speaking people of the Xingu basin, Ta^nia Stolze Lima ... explicates this point :

If I a spirit sees me, it only sees an aspect of myself that I am unable to see : my soul ... . (Lima 2002:12)"

Lima 2002 = Ta^nia Stolze Lima : "O que e` um corpo?" RELIGIA~O E SOCIEDADE 21(1):9-20.

pp. 71-2, 78

p. 71

[In his dream?] "The future shaman is beaten with the club of the spirits of the dead and

p. 72

faints (/do-/ = "dies"). When this happens, the spirits of the dead give him a variety of ornaments and objects, such as bands of black beads, cotton bracelets and anklets, toucan feather headdresses, gourds, arrows, and


the waluka>du, a wooden sword that some Mamainde^ refer to as "the shaman’s sword."

[p. 78, n. 11 : "The waluka>du was also described ... as a lightning ray that, when manipulated by shamans, can make holes in rocks and tree trunks in order to retrieve the spirits of people that are held captive."] {This retrieval is done during shamans’ dreaming?}


These items are called ... "magical things" (wa>nin wasaina>a~), and are the basis of a shaman’s power."

[p. 78, n. 12 : "The term wa>nindu is often translated by the Mamainde^ as "magic" ... . ... Consequently the term wa>ninso>ga, used to refer to the shaman, can be glossed as "he who has magic/spirit." Marcelo Fiorini (1997) glosses the term wanin, as used by the Wanairisu – who speak a southern Nambikwara language – as "soul" or "vital principle.""]

Fiorini 1997 = Marcelo Fiorini : Embodied Names : ... Nambiquara Personhood ... . PhD diss, NY U.

pp. 72-3 spirit-wife of shaman; acquiring the perspective of spirits

p. 72

"Future shamans also receive a spirit-woman from the spirits of the dead, who will become "his wife" (na de>du). This spirit-woman is said to be a jaguar (yana~ndu), who from then onwards accompanies the shaman, always sitting next to him during curing sessions ... . A shaman refers to his spirit-wife as "my pet" (da ma~indu), "my jaguar" (da yana~ndu) ... . ...

After obtaining these ornaments and objects from the spirits of the dead, shamans come to see the world as these spirits do. ...

A shaman once explained ... that the da>yukdu spirit, the owner of the spider monkey, steals ornaments from the Mamainde^ in order to have shamans of its own. ...

In order not to lose their shamanic power or "magic" (na wa>nindu) ..., shamans must ... ensure that their spirit-wives will not abandon them, taking away their ornaments. When this happens, the shaman’s wasain>du, or "things" – including both his ornaments and his spirit-wife – are said to have "gone away" (na wasain>du >ailatwa). [p. 78, n. 14 : "a powerful shaman should always drink ... for his spirit-woman."]

p. 73

Shamans must ... consummate their marriage with their spirit-wives. ... Married to spirit-women ... from the spirits of the dead, shamans become these spirits’ companions and call them "my kin" (da wainta~du, literally "my many"). People say that shamans are never alone : whatever they do, the spirits of the dead will do with them. Hence, whenever a shaman makes an object, he must remember to leave a pot of manioc beer beside him


so that the spirits of the dead can drink while he works."

{cf. the Bauddha perpetual offerings of beverage to preta-s (homeless spirits of the dead)}

pp. 73-4 serving food to the dead in order to enable the dead to assist in curing

p. 73

"During curing sessions, the spirits of the dead act as the shaman’s auxiliaries, helping him to recover the ornaments stolen from his patients so that he can place them back into their bodies. On such occasions, the spirits of the dead can bring new threads/bands for the shaman to pass on to the person being cured. ...

p. 74

In order to continue acting as the shaman’s auxiliaries, the spirits of the dead must also be offered large quantities of manioc beer during the curing sessions. ... Most of the curing songs ... proclaim that the spirits of the dead are coming to eat, referring to the food as a form of "payment" (na yohdu) for the ornaments they bring to the shaman. ... Curing sessions can thus be described as a type of exchange in which the spirits of the dead give threads/bands to the living in exchange for food and drink."

p. 74 protecting from disease by placating spirit-owners

"The confection of other ornaments, such as the buriti palm-leaf loincloth used in rituals, as well as moth-of-pearl earrings, also depends on the establishment of exchange relationships with spirits considered to be the "owners" of the buriti palm and of the shells from which the earrings are made. When they gather the raw materials needed to make either the loincloth or the earrings, the Mamainde^ must offer food and manioc beer to their spirit "owner" in exchange for the raw material.

Through these exchanges, the spirits are placated and made to refrain from sending diseases to harm the living – particularly young children, whose spirits are more vulnerable to their attacks."


3. (pp. 81-102) "Urarina Technologies of Companionship". [Peruvian Amazonia]

p. 82 the 2 souls each human

"Unlike the body soul (suujue) – bound up in notions of hardness, interiority, and

the "heart" (suujua), as ther seat of thought and emotion --

the shadow soul (corii) is associated with reflections, doubles, and companions."

p. 82 birds as informants to humans

"birds may act as companions to people as these accompany those walk in the forest, giving advice through song on a range of topics from rising water levels to the imminent death of a loved one."

{While the bird is chirping, a praeternatural voice clearly uttering some phrase may be heard simultaneously. ["A little bird told me ... ."] I have undergone this experience often, every time a bird chirped; I even coached the voice on what to say.}

pp. 82-3 mutual companionship between pairs of tree-species, of animal-species, and of cultigen-plants




"Trees may act as companions to each other ... – for example,

aguaje palms are companions of shebon palms;

mahogany is the companion of moena;

lupuna is the companion of caupuri."


"Lupuna is always conversing with caupuri ... . They coordinate their work together ... they are neighbors."


"Large game animals ... each have a special type of companion, known as its cojoaaorain, which takes the form of a small bird who advises that animal on a daily basis. The bird is "like its soul" and "for its protection," warning of approaching predators and other dangers.


Cultigens have companions "in order to produce."

Sweet potato, the companion of manioc, is the latter’s "support" and "resistance," and each helps the other to grow."

{Such inter-species mutual conversations would be known to humans by humans’ telepathically eavesdropping on (overhearing) them – perhaps with the assistance of psychedelic herbs.}

p. 83 life, spirit-owner, and soul of objects

"All things may, on occasion, be attributed

life (ichaoha),

a Mother or Owner (neba or ijiaene), and

an animal or vegetal soul (suujue or eeura, respectively). ...

A shaman’s ceremonial breast band is credited with a vegetal soul (eeura) when first fabricated, but ... after repeated use ... it displayed affection for its owner by .. transforming into a boa and licking his face during a healing session."

p. 84 ritual chant for baby’s emergence

"The hammock is prepared for use, and the child for emergence from the birth annex, through the performance by the father or another male relative of a chant cycle known as the canaanai mitu baau.

{There were "Tuamotuan chants "sung at the birth of a high chief."" (K, p. 177)}

This blesses a preparation of achiote and the roots of a piri-piri plant, with which the child and hammock are each subsequently painted in order to "maintain the body" and protect it from harm. Performed throughout the night directly prior to the child’s emergence from the jata and lasting for as long as several hours, the chant invokes an extensive repertoire of beings –

from mythical ancestors

{cf. Kumulipo "repeating the genealogies" ("F&MK", p. 290)}

to species of birds and fish

{cf. Kumulipo "listing the births of plant and animal life" ("F&MK", p. 290)}

to the sun, moon, and celestial jaguar – with the aim of appropriating desirable qualities or relations.

{In the Marquesas, the Vavana chants "recapitulate the conception, birth, growth, and so on of the child, linking these with the mythical birth of the gods" (K, p. 176).}

"F&MK" = Martha W. Beckwith : "Function and Meaning of the Kumulipo Birth Chant in Ancient Hawaii". JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE, Vol. 62, No. 245 (Jul. - Sep., 1949), pp. 290-293. http://www.jstor.org/pss/537203

K = Martha Warren Beckwith : The Kumulipo : a Hawaiian Creation Chant. U of Chicago Pr, 1951. http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/ku/ku29.htm

p. 87 qualities transmitted to baby from body-parts of animals which are fastened to the baby’s hammock


of __

in order to __


sloth ("an animal said rarely to defecate")

"to build the child’s resistance to diarrhea"



"to develop its vocal abilities"



"to transmit this animals ability to find honey and avoid snake-bites"



"so the baby’s ear doesn’t grow too big" {cf. hearing the ocean-surf in conch-shell; and, conchoidal process of inner ear}

p. 89 baby’s souls

"pieces of wood carved by the mother for the baby’s shadow soul (corii) to "play" with. Their location behind the head and out of reach reinforces this plaything’s immaterial nature."

"The baby’s spirit or shadow soul is said to return to the placenta and umbilical cord after death, ... to find and identify its family and birthplace".

pp. 90-4 egaando

p. 90

"experienced shamans ... engaged in intimate companionship with small, naturally occurring stone bowls known as egaando."

Animals having "immunity to attach by egaando are invoked in turn :"

p. 91

otter chief,


water jaguar,

water thundre people,

ponpon duck.

"their shared Mother or Owner " is "nacanocari, a kind of alligator".

"To utilize an egaando, one must first capture and "tame" it (irilaa). ... Once an egaando is found, a shaman immediately blows tobacco smoke on the bowl and places it at the foot of a Brugmansia tree (Brugmansia svaveolens), where its cooperation is gradually enlisted through forms of ritual dialogue (cojiotaa and chairetaa). The Mother of Brugmansia and the egaando are

p. 92

directly addressed in turn ... . ... After several days at the foot of the Brugmansia tree, the bowl is transferred to a baichaje jar and brought inside the house. ... . In further chants addressed to the egaando, the shaman uses his new role as "owner" to ask it to serve him obediently ... and to share its knowledge with him. ... the egaando eventually capitulates to the requests in Brugmansia visions. It is used as a vessel for drinking concentrated tobacco juice, ingested continuously in conjunction with tobacco smoke. The shaman must learn to listen to the egaando "darts" (batohi) ... which sing their songs "through" him as he drinks the tobacco juice".

p. 93

" "The shaman is getting drunk with the tobacco juice ... . The darts are making him sing. The darts are always singing. ..." Said to resemble tiny worms, the darts are full of life (ichaoha). ...

In exchange for the bowl’s continued cooperation, the shaman submits to stringent ... prohibitions.He avoids ... animals with strong colors or patterns, which cause the egaando’s darts to "flee in fear." He leads a solitary existence, eating and sleeping alone ... . ... The bowl is placed by his head when he sleeps and will approach him in his dreams, interrogating his motives for seeking it out ... . He will be asked about his wife, children, and relatives, and


the bowl may make clear its desire ... to "eat the liver" of one of them ... .

{The "Oval ... dish or platter" (HD, s.v. "kaloa") is the name of the lunar-nights sacred to god Kanaloa, who hath (s.v. "Kanaloa", in "Glossary of Hawaiian gods" section of HD) as his "form ... the <ala<ala-pu-loa ...)." (/<ala<ala/ is ‘squid’s LIVER’.)}


The shaman must have mastered the art of dreaming in order to dissuade it and contain its aggressive instincts."

p. 94

"One of my informants recalled that his grandfather, after many months ... with an engaando, had successfully tamed it to the point where he could communicate with it in ... waking ... context. He taught his engaando to watch over and protect his house while he traveled ..., instructing it to "insult," in their dreams, any passing travelers tempted to sleep in the house. Persons so insulted have been known to leap from their beds, shouting, and rung out of the house into the night."

HD = Pukui & Elbert : Hawaiian Dictionary. U of HI Pr, Honolulu.


Fernando Santos-Granero (ed.) : The Occult Life of Things. U of AZ Pr, Tucson, 2009.