Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Both human and non-human knowledges allow the celestial traveler to view
things from a multiplicity of angles, examining in detail and naming the exquisite
beings that inhabit the various cosmological domains. Whether under the influence of
hallucinogenic drugs or not, these religious leaders survey the geography of disputed
lands making use of animal and human attributes alike. The jaguar and the anaconda,
as well as other strong and fierce animals, figure prominently as key characters in the
making of Suyá, Guarani, Kayabi, Juruna, and Xavante, among other Amerindian
worlds. This is very clear in “Dombá's Spirit Kidney,” when Intoni and Romdó Suyá
incorporate their shamanic bird-like selves and fly all the way from the Xingu Park
to Hospital São Paulo, in Southern Brazil, carrying a medicinal substance in their
beaks to help Dombá recover from a kidney transplant in 1998 (Scheper-Hughes
and Ferreira 2003, 2007). And Sabino Kayabi, after suffering a stroke that left him
partially paralyzed, was finally able to undertake cosmic voyages, in dream and
in trance, to survey Kayabi ancestral lands and reconstruct in detail the history of
his People's relocation from northernmost Mato Grosso into the Xingu Park in the
1950s and 60s (Ferreira 1994a).
A highly developed sense of smell, ordinarily attributed to animals and not to
humans, is an essential faculty the Gê-speaking Suyá of the Xingu Park resort to
when mapping the world they live in and fashion at the same time. While hearing and
speaking are eminently social faculties for this people, vision and smell are deemed
as eminently antisocial or animal-like faculties. Like animals, however, shamans
develop an especially keen sense of smell and classify all human beings, human or
not, according to their odor. Large animals and fish, such as jaguars (
Felis concolor
tapirs (
), for
instance, are classified as strong-smelling. At the other extreme are most birds and
small fish, which are bland-smelling animals. The Suyá consider strong-smelling
beings antisocial and dangerous, while most social beings have little or no odor
(Seeger 1981:88). Farmers, goldminers, loggers, and government officials are
accordingly classified and appear as strong-smelling or pungent creatures in the
discourses of shamans Romdó and Intoni Suyá.
The acquisition of animal-like attributes can also be clearly felt in other instances
of Suyá daily life. Curing, therapeutic chants sung by shamans make use of the
metaphoric naming of a certain animal that possesses the desired attribute a sick
individual desires to attain. For instance, an individual stricken by malaria will evoke
the cayman's (
Tapirus terrestris ), and the endangered giant catfish (
Caiman crocodilus ) ability to stay still and cool underwater, which
counteracts the high temperature and the intense shivering caused by this tropical
disease (Seeger 1981:212-213). Suyá body paint using the ochre dye urucu (
Genipapa Americana ) mimics the ornamental
patterns of animal skins, such as the ochre-black pattern of the spotted jaguar. The
perception and ornamentation of the body is especially important in Amerindian
societies where clothing is little used. Ornaments contrast one society to another
as part of each one's ethnic identity, as much as the decorations help form cultural
identities in each social group.
) and the black genipapo (
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