Spears of Twilight, 21 & 23-24


21. (pp. 335-349)

pp. 335-6 varieties of tsentsak




Shamans of different tribes "regularly swap tsentsak and supai, their Quichua equivalents -- ... each of which he designates metaphorically by the name of an animal, a plant, or an object ... :


the electric eel type, for its powerful electric charge;


the candiru` type, named after the tiny barbed fish {lamprey?} reputed to lodge


itself in the natural orifices of bathers;


the ray type, for its redoubtable sting;


the spider-money type, for the strength of its prehensile tail;


the humming-bird type, for its pointed beak and its rapid movement;


the harpy-eagle type, for the power of its talons;


the toucan type, for its huge beak;


the leech type ...;


the chonta type, for the long thorns of this species of palm;


the kuichip type, called after a plant with very sharp leaves;


the stramonium type, because the drug ‘brings on madness’;


the mirror type, because of the brilliance of its refracted {read "reflected"} light;


the cold type that freezes one’s bones;


the yellow type".

pp. 336-8 maen; empowerment to control tsentsak

p. 336

"Each type of tsentsak exists in its own ‘mother-saliva’ (maen), a sticky substance in which they develop ..., which a shaman can draw up from his chest into his mouth ... .

There are also types of saliva without tsentsak, reserved for minor shamans, ‘spittle shamans’. They use these to ... cure external lesions ... -- ... leprosy, leishmaniosis, and so forth ... . As in the case of fully formed tsentsak, each of these subsidiary types of spittle can only be neutralized by saliva of the same type.

It is also said that that the saliva of shamans is a powerful love philtre, which they deposit in jars of beer without the knowledge of the women whose favours they seek to obtain."

"The transmission of tsentsak ... does not take long.

p. 337

Holding the head of his [compadre], the [donor of tsentsak] blows tobacco smoke on the crown of his head and then into his mouth. He is giving him darts of the ‘lightning’ type, ... to destroy recalcitrant tsentsak in the patient’s body. [Also donated is] the namur corresponding to these tsentsak, which up to this point has been soaking in a bowlful of tobacco juice. It is a ... pebble with a hole in the middle through which one can blow to direct the missiles with greater accuracy."


[autobiographical description of a "first initiation" "in the techniques for controlling the darts and preventing them from promptly returning to their former owner" (during which initiation the tsentsak were quite visible, because natem was imbibed in order to render them visible, and darkness of night was praesent in order to enhance the tsentsak’s visibility) :] "The first night I drank natem with [the donor of the tsentsak] and we took tobacco juice through our noses. He blew tsentsak on to the top of my head and on to my shoulders and between my fingers. Then he passed his saliva to me, into my mouth, and he told me the names of the different kinds :

‘Take the saliva of the anaconda!

Take the saliva of the rainbow!

Take the saliva of iron!’ ...

Then we stayed awake and all night long we played the tsayantar, to please the tsentsak. The first night you must not sleep, or the tsentsak think you are a corpse and they go back to the person who gave them to you. The next day I ate nothing and

p. 338

drank nothing. I couldn’t speak, for the tsentsak would have escaped if I had opened my mouth. ... We drank natem again [during the 2nd night] and [the donor of tsentsak] sang all his anent; I whistled them, to learn them. ... The next day again I ate and drank nothing. ... In the evening we drank natem again and I began to learn [the donor of tsentsak]’s anent. That night ... the tsentsak were by then used to me. The next day I again fasted. ... On the last day ..., ... I had to eat pimentoes, little yantana pimentoes, the strongest ones. ... Then [the donor of tsentsak] told me that now I would be able to blow my tsentsak. His wife served me ... some tiny boiled fish. ... Then I went home."

p. 339 food-prohibitions for practicing shamans

"shamans ... subjected to a diet" : "Certain foods that are eaten by the profane are banned for ever for them :

... the sapajou monkey, the squirrel or the moustached tamarin,

whose agitated movements might upset cohabitation with the tsentsak, unstable even at the best of times.

... the armadillo or the wampi fish,

are forbidden because they sport a hard carapace that might make it difficult to reach the tsentsak embedded in the bodies of their patients.

... with sharp teeth, ... husea fish,

are banned because they might sever the tsentsaks’ tele-guiding threads.

... the white-headed saki monkey with its sad, almost human countenance, are themselves said to be shamans,

so eating them would be a kind of cannibalism. ...

... the macaw

because it flies very high, as it were beyond the reach of tsentsak;

the yawa aikiam, a large, spotted cat-fish,

because it evokes the pelt of a jaguar, always associated with shamans; and

palm-tree grubs that make holes in rotten wood,

because tsentsak similarly perforate the bodies of human beings."

{Any eating of these might be taken by the spirit-owners of these animals as a signal from shamans that the shamans wish to dismiss their own tsentsak, in which case those spirit-owners might liberate from the shamans the shamans’ tsentsak.}

p. 342 tsentsak acquired in dreams

"A shaman from the Copataza [a tributary to the Pastaza river (map on p. 32)] ... renewed his supplies of tsentsak in his dreams {apparently dreams similar the type described on p. 303}, often taking tobacco juice just before going to bed. He was visited in his sleep by uwishin now deceased but known personally to him, who supplied him, free of charge, with what others were ... paying very high prices [for]."

pp. 344-5 panku & praeternatural voice

p. 344

"The panku constitute a special class of uwishin, for ... they can ... give an infallible prognosis of how the malady will develop. They receive this power from the souls of the dead, who become embodied in them when they drink natem and who speak through their mouths ... . People also turn to them when they require a mediumistic autopsy, during which the panku embodies the wakan of someone recently deceased ... . Here, the panku is the subject of a veritable possession ... .

Panku are believed to possess tsentsak that are invisible to ordinary practitioners and ... obtain them directly from the dead. ... . ... in the Quichua language the word panku designates what the Achuar call a kutank, that is to say the little bench reserved for visitors : the panku would thus become the ‘seat’ of the souls of the dead."

p. 345

[praeternatural voice] "a nasal voice had soon made itself heard ... . ‘I come from the depths of the Tungurahua volcano,’ declared this sepulchral voice,

{Souls of the dead enter a volcano according to the C^amoru of Guahan ("GLCh"); in Flores ("KMTL"); in Luzon ("BHM"); and even in Dante’s Divine Comedy ("VL").}


‘to see the tsentsak hidden in your body. Nothing escapes my clairvoyance, for I am blind in the light and exist only in darkness. . I see metal tsentsak that gleam ... . I see many tsentsak in your legs ... .’ "

"GLCh" = "Guam Legend of Chaifi" http://roland.web.gu/fire.htm

"KMTL" = "Kelimutu : The Mysterious Tricolored Lakes" http://www.indonesia.travel/en/destination/78/kelimutu

"BHM" = "Banahaw, Holy Mountain" http://www.malapascua.de/Volcanoe-Map/Mount_Banahaw/hauptteil_mount_banahaw.html

"VL" = "Volcanoes : the Legend" http://library.thinkquest.org/C003603/english/volcanoes/thelegend.shtml


23. (pp. 363-383)

pp. 367-8 metamorphoses of the soul after death

p. 367

"the wakan leaves the body shortly before death and is changed into an Iwianch, which haunts the house of the deceased until the body has totally decomposed.

At this point the Iwianch-wakan undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes an animal. The wakan has no precise seat in the human body [but instead is constantly moving around within the body], so the species whose form it takes depends on the part of the body where it was residing immediately before its departure :"


it will be a __

if it was residing in the __








morpho butterfly

auricles or lungs





"The wakan of men become embodied in the males of the species,

the wakan of women in the females.


However, some people believe that the wakan returns to the placenta of the dead person buried close to the house in which he or she was born and there, throughout all eternity, leads the vegetative life of a foetus,

{"The Toba-Bataks in Northern Sumatra hold ... that in the placenta rests one of the seven souls which a man possesses. This particular soul remains with the buried placenta" ("PL&L", p. 234). According to the people of Achinsk in Siberia, the soul of the placenta can leave to play with the child, an event they believe to have taken place when the child laughs in its sleep." ("PL&L", p. 235) According to the Buganda of Uganda, "the placenta ... has a ghost." (loc. cit.)}


while the various parts of the body become autonomous and change into animals according to the same

{According to the Icelanders, "the child’s guardian spirit resides in the placenta – hence its name "fylgia," ... in the shape of a bear, a wolf, an eagle, an ox, or a wild boar" ("PL&L", p. 236).}

p. 368

rules as those mentioned above.


"As for Iwianch, in their humanoid guise at least, they are believed to be put together in the forest by grosbeaks.


Other Achuar maintain that the wakan is swallowed up by the Sangay volcano – a belief transmitted by the Shuar ... – and it is the liver that changes into an Iwianch, either in the shape of a tall, furry, very thin being with a monkey-like head, or in that of one of the animals already mentioned.

It is also said that a wakan likes to become embodied in an owl or a grosbeak so as to recover the faculty of sight, for it is reputed to become blind as soon as it leaves the body. [p. 345 "I am blind in the light".] These birds are believed to lend their eyes[ight] to the dead".

"PL&L" = E. Croft Long : "The Placenta in Lore and Legend". pp. 233-241. http://www.scribd.com/doc/9921624/The-Placenta-in-Lore-and-Legend

pp. 368-9 Iwianc^ as poltergeist, in house & in forest

p. 368

"In its humanoid avatar, Iwianch ... phantom is usually invisible ... : it is blind and so moves in an erratic fashion about the house, bumping into things;

it is famished and steals food;

it is sexually frustrated and gropes at

p. 369

sleeping women in the night; and

it is terribly lonely and steals dogs for company.

Even in the forest, it manifests itself chiefly through its typical cry of chikiur- chikiur. or by the sound of a twig cracking underfoot ... .

It is true that it sometimes appears to women and to children ... . Children ... allow themselves to be lured by this new playmate into long walks in the forest".

{Is /iwi-anc^/ cognate with Polynesian /iwi/ ‘bone’?}

pp. 380-1 evading the ghost of the dead in the dream-world; feeding the ghost in the waking-world during funeral

p. 380

"The soul of the dead woman is much more to be feared ... . ... .

... green tobacco ... soaking ... into the eyes ...

p. 381

is to stimulate is to stimulate their lucidity so that in the coming night they do not allow themselves to be dragged into bad mesekramprar dreams foretelling their own deaths or, more baneful still, giving the dead woman a chance to appear."


"From time to time, one of the diners tosses a handful of food over his shoulder, to feed the [dead woman]’s famished wakan ... . ... Many people must, silently, be singing to themselves those anent ... : pathetic injunctions addressed to the dead ... :

‘Do not call me son (or sister, or father ...) any more! ...

Do not look at me!

Do not take my soul away! ...’ "


24. (pp. 384-399)

p. 396 dodging death; dodging vengeance

"Death is always designated by the same metaphors, anku anaki or ‘spear of twilight’, ...

{cf. the spear of Tlahuizcalpan-tecuhtli : "Borgia pages 53 and 54 illustrate the Morning Star god Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli spearing a series of deceased persons" ("BGC")}

‘duck spear’ (a fishing haropoon with a lozenge-shaped tip), to the accompaniment of the constantly repeated injunction, ‘Dodge it nimbly!’"

"swallow-woman that I am

I cleave through the ranks of the shrimps

We {including the duck?} both have plumage bronzed in the light ...

We both are nimble at dodging".

"BGC" = "Borgia Group Codices" http://www.famsi.org/research/pohl/jpcodices/pohlborgia7.htm

p. 397 succession of uhah composing "a bizarre fable"

"Show us the slain sloth! ...

my brother has become a midnight-blue anaconda ...

Vanishing into the depths ..., the wamp fish ...

Convulsively opening and closing his talons, my brother the kite".

p. 398 symbolism in that "bizarre fable" according to "the principal themes of the ujaj used by the Shuar in the tsantsa ritual"


its referrent


"the shrunken head and the emesak that emanates from it"

praedators, swallows, & thrushes

"the group of ‘the tobacco-sated ones’ "

anaconda, felines, & wampi

"arutam mounting guard to keep the emesak at bay."


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