Mapuche – A Chilean indigenous people among whom the revitalization of shamanism was a significant part of the cultural resurgence and political activism that resisted and critiqued the oppressive Chilean regime in the 1970s and beyond. Traditionally, a shaman, machi—whose association with healing is indicated by the similarity of the term machitun, “a healing ceremony”—renewed her (sometimes his) relationship with spirit helpers in complex, communal ceremonies that included renewal of the shaman’s rewe, a totemic post, and altars. Communal rituals, gillatun, were supposed to take place every four years (four being a sacred number) and renewed social and intercommunal relationships. The reorganization of both shamanic and communal renewal ceremonies provided a focus for the indigenous rights movement in Chile. As elsewhere, shamans do not choose the profession, but inherit the role from a parent or other relative who elects his or her successor and passes their spirit on as a helper. The onset of initiation is marked by illness and is usually unavoidable. During trances, the spirit speaks through the shaman, but a special translator, a zugumachife, is required to convey the meaning of messages about healing. Shamans are both ritual leaders (although requiring the support of several other kinds of ritualists) and repositories of knowledge about the past and communal concerns. Mapuche communities are ambivalent about their shamans and about the value of continuing the revitalization of shamanic and other traditional practices.


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


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