Blood

Blood – In discussing Amazonian shamanism, Carlos Fausto notes that to many specialists “the most noticeable fact about this myriad of neoshamanic sites and rites is not its profusion but rather the absence of blood and tobacco.” As Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff writes, “Shamans and jaguars are thought to be almost identical, or at least equivalent, in their power, and each in his own sphere of action, but occasionally able to exchange their roles.” The division of all beings between predators and prey typically sees shamans and jaguars sharing predatory roles, even when they are not suspect of being sorcerers. Among the Asurini do Tocantins, people discover that they have been elected to become shamans when they dream about jaguars. Fausto also notes that among the Asurini do Xingu shamans are closely related to spirits who penetrate human bodies and devour them from within. In all these cases, consuming blood is definitive: it is what jaguars, powerful beings, and shamans do. The consumption of tobacco is important not only as a stimulant but also as a means of covering the “stench of blood.” Fausto concludes by defining Amazonian shamanism as “predatory animism.” He explains that the ability to become familiar with other-than-human persons (especially as adopted kin or allies), which permits shamans “to act on the world in order to cure, to fertilize, and to kill,” depends on “predation in warfare and hunting.” Because shamans must be predators in one sense or another, bloodshed (actual or metaphorical) is necessary in every stage of shamanic initiation and performance.

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ IN OUR LIBRARY:

Related Articles

Jaguars

Jaguars – A number of Amazonian peoples identify shamans as jaguars. Usually this is stated strongly (“shamans are jaguars”), not metaphorically (“shamans are like jaguars”).…

Fausto, Carlos

Fausto, Carlos – In an important article with particular reference to the Parakanã, Fausto defines Amazonian shamanism as “predatory animism.” In an elucidating comment, he…

Animism

Animism – Arguably the proper label for the type of religion practiced among traditional indigenous people who employ shamans. Rather than being “shamanists” or adherents…

Warfare

Warfare – While many commentators recognize that shamans may protect their communities by gaining advance knowledge of attack by enemies or predators, Carlos Fausto argues…

Amazonia

Amazonia – The many indigenous peoples of Amazonia (a vast area of South America drained by the Amazon River, including its highland watersheds) traditionally employ…