Spears of Twilight, 1-2 & 6-10 & 13-14 [Ac^uar of the Makuma, Huasaga, Pastaza, Capahuari, Conambo, and Pindoyacu river-valleys in the region along the Ecuador-Peru` border]









Early Morning



Garden Magic









Reflections in the Water



Selective Friendships



Images from Within & Without



Traveling Downstream



To Each His Due



Drinking Party



Paths of Revelation



Shaman’s Song



Craftsmen of the Imaginary



The Dead & the Living





[p. 413 orthography : author’s /j/ is /h./ (as in Spanish)]


1-2. (pp. 33-51)

pp. 39, 45 carven wooden lozenges repraesenting reptiles’ heads

p. 39

"a chimpui is a small, wooden, sculpted stool" having a "little lozenge ahaped like the head of a reptile," to repraesent "yantana nuke ... ‘cayman’s head’." {vide p. 143 for an explanation of this}

p. 45

"the tuntui ... is a huge drum made from a hollowed-out tree-trunk, which ... is also extended at each end by lozenges shaped like reptile heads." {so, is the sound of this drum intended to repraesent the splashing sound of caymans’ tails slapping the river-waters?}


6. (pp. 84-102)

pp. 84-5 a dream about a goddess, indicating the location (in the waking-world) of a nantar

p. 84

"the dream he has just recounted" : "During the night, Nunkui, the spirit of gardens, has appeared to him in the form of a stocky little female dwarf with her face painted with rocou.

{cf. name of goddess /NINKUM/ = /Ninki/ ("N-g")}


Seated on a log, ... serenely still ...,

{cf. the wooden chair made by Nergal ("MN&E:As")}


she was surrounded by a shimmering red halo. ...


{The dreamer] was surprised, for Nunkui is more inclined to visit the dreams of women ... . {Would this imply that the dreamer was aware that he was dreaming?}


Bidding him follow her, she led him to a steep bank of the Kapawi. There, with a forceful jerk of her chin, she drew his attention to a pebbly promontory projecting from a little landslide. Amid the stones a speck began to glow red ... . In a thin ... voice Nunkui then hummed a song".


"this unusual dream is a ... prefiguration of the discovery of a Nunkui stone. These extremely powerful charms,


also known as nantar,

{cf. how NAmTAR went "livid" ("MN&E:As"), similar to the "red halo" of Nunkui}


favour the growth of cultivated plants

{cf. Namtar’s being sent "to fetch a share of the food for" ("MN&E:Ar") goddess Eres^kigal}


by passing on to them the energy they contain. ... .

... we set off in search of the magic stone. [The dreamer] finds it in the spot indicated, ... downstream ... .

p. 85

It is a little sliver of silicate, its reddish surface sparkling here and there with shiny little specks."

"N-g" = "Ninki-goddess" http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/cams/cbd/qpn/qpn.x000920.html

"MN&E:As" = "Marriage of Nergal and Ereshkigal, Assyrian version" http://www.mindwidth.com/ereshkigal/index.php?ID=1009&cat=3

"MN&E:Ar" = "Marriage of Nergal and Ereshkigal, Armana version" http://www.mindwidth.com/ereshkigal/index.php?ID=1010&cat=3


7. (pp. 103-119)

p. 106 kuntuknar (prognostic for hunting) dreams


its meaning

"tearful women’s faces floating in the trees like ripe fruit"

"a successful hunt for wooly monkeys"

"a fat, dimpled little baby"

"a plump agouti"

"wan face"

"the pale little visage of a sapajou monkey"

"gaze of an impassioned warrior painted with rocou"

"a jaguar poised to spring"

"shooting at birds upon in the branches of a tree

augurs well for a fishing expedition"

"catching fish

foretells of success in a bird hunt."

p. 107 kuntuknar dreams by women -- "the ability of women to have kuntuknar dreams for their husbands"

"When a woman dreams that she is threading beads,

this means that she will soon have to gut the intestines of some hunted animal;

to dream of spinning cotton

means that she will soon be plucking the white breast of a hocco bird; and

to dream of carrying a wicker hod brimful of manioc

tells her that she will soon have a peccary, killed by her husband, to carry home on her back."

pp. 113-7 deams

p. 113

A true dream, penke karamprar, is a soul’s visit to someone we know. We see those whom we know and we talk to them ... . ...

p. 114

Sometimes we dream of the dead, soon after their passing. The dead come to us to complain. They bewail their solitude and


beg insistently for something to eat, as they are always hungry. Then we have to fill bowls with food and manioc beer and place them on their tombs".

{cf. hungry preta-s, to whom offerings of food and drink are made}

p. 115

"Unlike kuntuknar and mesekramprar dream omens, which set up silent tableaux, a karamprar dream is a real dialogue of souls."

p. 116

"As well as making it possible to speak with the wandering souls of both the living and the dead, the karamprar dreams are a valued means of communication with ... : guardian spirits, representatives of animal species, personal genies, magical helpers, etc. ...

p. 117

Dreams provide a practical demonstration of ... natural entities, which are receptive to the anent sung to them".


"dreams ... do not all prophesy in the same fashion.

Some are a prerequisite to some future action with a positive outcome (kuntuknar);

others presage unfortunate or confrontational events to come (mesekramprar)."


8-9. (pp. 120-146)

pp. 129-30, 143 animal-pets of deities

p. 129

"the amana of the collared peccaries ...

p. 130

is Jurijri ... . ... He ... speaks every language ... . ... At the nape of his neck he has a mouth with big teeth. And with that mouth he eats people, the ones who mock the animals and kill them for no reason, just for pleasure. He lives underground ... . There are many of them there and they come out through burrows and hollow trees. The collared peccaries live with them" as pets.

p. 143

"Anaconda is one of Tsunki’s domesticated animals and obeys him in everything, just like a dog."

pp. 130-1 Humans likewise keep as pets "many species ... and some Capahuari houses resemble ... menageries resemble [menageries], in which many species of Amazonian fauna have resigned themselves to living together : macaws, marmosets, toucans, sapajou monkeys, parrots, pacas, trumpet-birds, woolly monkeys, etc."

pp. 143-4 divine world entered, in dreams of a shaman, via whirlpool

p. 143

p. 143-4

"[A certain shaman] had built himself a little "dreaming hut" on the river bank and withdrew there regularly to have his [dreams]. He would get drunk on tobacco juice and also natem. On night ..., a young Tsunki woman sought him out in his visions ... . She told him that her father wished to get to know him, to converse with him, and she took him down to the depths of the river, at the spot where there is a big whirlpool, enveloping him with her hair. ... The old Tsunki man was seated on a coiled anaconda and his had [the dreamer] sit on a big tortoise that poked out its head to take a look at him with its round eyes. Other Tsunki were seated on a cayman lying alongside the wall and enormous jaguar prowled round him, barking like dogs."

p. 143 "while ... the stools and benches used by my companions are symbolic representations of the animals used as seats by the Tsunki in their homes beneath the water, the reason for this parallelism between the

[p. 144] two worlds is still not immediately apparent." {The reason would be, evidently, that the Tsunki deities are pleased by humans’ shewing regard for them by sitting in such seats; and that such regard could help the dreaming shaman in reaching the Tsunki’s world, and in obtaining favorable rapport with the Tsunki whilst so visiting them.}


10. (149-164)

p. 156 sexual reciprocity in "certain Tupi tribes"

[Tupi tribes :] "a joyous sharing of body and spirit that extends quite naturally to wives. These friendships are sealed between married couples and involve free nocturnal access to one’s partner of the opposite sex."


13. (pp. 201-209)

p. 206 musical instrument for accompaniment during natem intoxication

"tsayantar, a kind of mouth bow made from a reed strung with opossum gut which one gets to vibrate in one’s mouth, rather like a Jew’s harp."

pp. 205 207-9 psychedelic drugs & their effects [to music played by musicians]

p. 205

cultivated "lianas of the Baniteriopsis genus" :

natem (Baniteriopsis caapi);

yahi (Baniteriopsis rusbyana).

p. 207

"phosphorescent circles begin to swirl, then merge and separate ... .

... lozenges first red, then yellow, then indigo,

delicate traceries, crystalline prisms, iridescent scales,

the eyes of butterfly wings, feline pelt markings, reticular carapaces.

... the water-marked skin of an anaconda merges into tortoise-shell scales that elongate into the stripes of an armadillo, then reshape into the crest of an iguana against the intense blue of the wings of a Morpho butterfly, then stretch into black stripes which immediately fragment into ... haloes standing out against the silky fur of some large cat."

p. 208

"It is ... an agreeable fragmentation of the body, in which every element has become autonomous ... . ...

p. 209

The state of my body, shattered into a thousand pieces, the persistent feeling of being a stranger to myself ... ."


14. (pp. 210-230)

pp. 222-3 names of tribes



tribe’s name in Ac^uar dialect



apac^ (‘grandfather’)












tawis^iur "who go naked"



s^iwiar ("origin of the word ‘Jivaro’ ")

In Ac^uar "shuar means ... humanity".


Philippe Descola (transl. from the French by Janet Lloyd) : The Spears of Twilight. New Pr, NY, 1996.