Return to SOUL VINE SHAMAN

SACHA RUNA RESEARCH FOUNDATION Occasional Paper No. 5. Copyright © 1979, 2007 by Norman E. Whitten. Jr. All Rights Reserved

Soul Vine Shaman

I. BACKGROUND NOTES

II. NOTES ON THE RECORDING

by Norman E. Whitten, Jr. with the assistance of Julian Santi Vargas María Aguinda Mamallacta William Belzner

I. BACKGROUND NOTES

Shamanism

Shamanic performance takes us to the realm of an ancient set of powerful experiences. The real, everyday world comes together with a supernatural universe of souls and spirits. The cosmic conjoining is accomplished by an especially knowledgeable and capable person, the shaman. The shaman travels, so to speak, back and forth between the “here” and the “there,” reporting on his travels to the people present. He travels to gain power which he uses to control humans, spirits, events, actions, or conditions. The powers he seeks are bound up in some sector of a vast universe containing cosmic forces that may be personalized as spirits, gods, devils, visions, or apparitions. Shamanic performance is real, concrete, empirical, and it is also allusive, metaphoric, and allegorical. Such dramatic performance involves the shaman himself (female shamans are very rare among the Amazonian Quichua-speaking people), his social group in its immediate setting, and the forces and beings of the universe revealed by the shaman.

The word “shaman” (feminine “shamanin”) comes from the Tungus language of Central Asia and Siberia (Eliade 1964:4) where hunter-leaders achieved ecstatic states by ingesting an hallucinogenic mushroom known as fly agaric (Amanita muscaria). The history of this mushroom has been traced all the way from remote Siberia into India and identified as Soma, the Divine God of Ecstasy (Wasson 1968). It is entirely possible that the shamanic complex is an ancient Euroasiatic one going back 50,000 years or more (Furst 1976, 1977), which entered the New World with its first inhabitants. Anthropologists prefer the word “shaman” to alternatives such as “witch doctor,” “medicine man,” “sorcerer,” or “magician,” because it lacks the connotations often attached to them and allows us to draw contrasts with non-ecstatic specialists in religious affairs, such as priests. Shamans have certain special qualities, summarized by Peter Furst (1976:4):

At the center of shamanistic religion stands the personality of the shaman and the ecstatic experience that is uniquely his, in his

crucial role as diviner, seer, magician, poet, singer, artist, prophet of game and weather, keeper of the traditions, and healer of bodily and spiritual ills. With his spirit helpers or familiars, the shaman is preeminently guardian of the physical and psychic equilibrium of his group, for whom he intercedes in personal confrontation with the supernatural forces of the Upperworld and Underworld, to whose mystical geography he had become privy through initiatory crisis, training, and ecstatic trance. Often, though not always or everywhere, the shaman's ecstatic dream has involved the use of some sacred hallucinogenic plant believed to contain a supernatural transforming power over and above the life force or “soul stuff” that in animistic-shamanistic religious systems inhabits all natural phenomena, including those we would classify as "inanimate."

Every quality mentioned by Furst is evident in the present recording, and to appreciate it, some brief orientation to the area, its peoples, and the special properties of shamanic performance there is necessary.

Amazonian Ecuador

In Ecuador the great Amazonian rain forest rises against the foothills of the Andean Cordillera to form a rugged, canopy-covered terrain. The Napo River flows out of Andean streams and drains an area in the middle of these forests. This area is inhabited today by Quichuaspeaking native people. Quichua is the northern designation of Quechua, political and trade language of the Inca. The Amazonian Quichua-speakers of the Napo River region, who call themselves Napo Runa, have northern indigenous neighbors known as Cofán, Tetete, Siona and Secoya and southern neighbors known as Wao, or Waorani. Still further south live other Quichua-speaking peoples, sometimes called Canelos or Canelos Quichua, and Achuar, Shiwiar, Shuar, Zápara, and Andoa groups. Looking westward, rain-forest dwellers can view the snowcapped volcanoes and the jagged skyline of the Andes. Trade, by foot, has taken place between Andes and tropical lowlands since long before the Spanish conquest.

Historically it is false to think Amazonian peoples of Ecuador as isolated from contact with western civilization. Rather, these peoples and their descendants have witnessed centuries of penetration aimed at extraction of gold, spices and slaves, and missionary activity aimed at conversion. Over the past century the Amazon Quichua and their neighbors have experienced the severe disruptions of the Amazonian rubber boom, the growth of plantations, oil exploration, stepped-up mission activity, a Peruvian invasion during early World War II years, and a return of the petroleum exploration companies over the past four decades. Native peoples of the moist tropics of Amazonian Ecuador have witnessed repeatedly and convincingly the destructive might of western civilization on the frontier territories. Through knowledge, creativity, and perseverance some cultures have survived, while many have been destroyed (Whitten 1978).

In the case of the Amazonian Quichua-speaking peoples of the Napo River region, shamanism provides a focal point for confronting and containing the real forces which could dismember their lifeways. In the performance heard on this CD, the shaman brings together geography, history, contemporary events and ethnic relations. Among other things, he chants of marching soldiers from Peru, a trip to the Andes mountains, aggressive Shuar (Chirapa) peoples to the south, the roaring of planes overhead—all of these matters are empirical. But, the soldiers from Peru are water jaguar (giant otter) spirits; the shaman travels to the Andes to enter the depths of a frozen lake and returns riding on a dancing horse; warriors come to him as chanting spirits; and he controls the airplanes overhead from his carved wooden seat of power as a spirit sits on him as its seat of power. These matters are allusive, metaphoric, and allegorical.

Amazonian Quichua Shamanism

To appreciate this CD, and the accompanying transcription, a few notes are necessary as to the people present, the intents of the session, and the minimal paraphernalia employed. The shaman is known as yachaj, literally “one who knows.” A powerful shaman, sinchi yachaj, controls knowledge and vision processes so that he has power. Power comes from certain realms of cosmic force, wellsprings of both health and illness. Strong health and weak health, life and death, stem from the same cosmic force. That which causes illness can be combated (and patients cured) only by tapping the power source of causality. Because he has power the powerful shaman can cure; and he can also kill. Illness which the shaman cures comes from the spirit projectiles sent by a malevolent shaman; the shaman who cures “sees” the darts, lances, or other sharp projectiles, gains the power to remove them, sucks them out of the patient, and sends them back to the malevolent agent of causality. But such an enemy shaman is nearly invulnerable to such a counterattack and the spirit missiles glance off him and lodge in the body of an innocent person. The attack-counterattack pattern is therefore cyclical and repetitive (Whitten 1976).

The shaman is aided by an hallucinogenic brew often called ayahuasca (soul vine) which produces L.S.D.-like psychedelic effects. The vine is Banisteriopsis caapi, of the Malpighiaceous family. Juice from the crushed vine is brewed with the leaves of another Banisteriopsis plant, or with Psychotria viridis leaves to produce the chemical bonding necessary for vision. The psychedelic alkaloid is N,N-dimethyltryptamine (Furst 1972, 1976; Harner 1973, Reichel-Dolmatoff 1975). The Amazonian Quichua generally think of ayahuasca as a beautiful female spirit. On this CD she is called Huasca mama, vine mother. The shaman is assisted by his wife and daughters. They brew Guayusa tea (which he drinks to cleanse his mouth of the bitter soul vine brew), roll tobacco cigars for him to smoke (to cleanse his drinking bowl or leaf bundle), and often “clarify” a vision for him by softly, gently, whispering to him from a dark area of the room. Women who help the shaman often snuff tobacco water, as well, to “make their vision strong.” Women helpers serve asua, a nourishing, yeasty, slightly fermented drink made from cooked and masticated manioc (cassava, yuca) mash, to visitors and other household members who are not drinking ayahuasca.

The powerful shaman drinks ayahuasca in order to cure; he travels to other realms to gain power, then he transmits power. Eventually, he garners the powers to “see” illness, to tell about it, to cure it. His patient in this session is a woman; she has been brought by her husband, and there are quiet conversations with patient, husband, and some onlookers as the shaman gathers information about the illness to complement his garnering of spirit powers. The shaman is also vividly aware that he is performing for an outer world through the medium of the tape recorder, and he makes reference to this from time to time.

Paraphernalia is minimal, but important: it includes violin and flute, a carved wooden stool, called bancu, on which he sits, and a bundle of leaves from a small palm which grows to only a few feet in height. The bancu of the shaman symbolizes the seat of power emanating from the underlying feminine force of the water. But the concept of bancu goes beyond the carved seat. Eventually, the shaman himself becomes a bancu, the seat of power for a powerful spirit, and as such he is the vehicle by means of which the spirit communicates to others present. The shaman’s leaf bundle is called suru panga; it provides the shu shu shu shu shu shu sound that you hear in the CD. As the ayahuasca takes effect the spiny tips of the lancelet leaves appear as flickering snake tongues to the shaman, as the reptilian power bound to the water world and to the land world seeks out the source of mystic and dangerous spirit penetration.

Finally, we must mention motion. Throughout this performance the shaman is sitting, shaking the leaf bundle up and down, rhythmically—shu shu shu shu shu. He “sees” spirits coming to him in a pattern that women use when dancing and singing—swinging the body to one side, to the other side, to one side, to the other side—swing left, swing right, swing left, swing right. This sideways swinging invokes concepts of ancient peoples and is the spatial analog to a

two tone hum: hm hm hm hm, or je je je je (like English "hey") which was the way that the ancients “spoke” in mythic time-space. He also sees himself as traveling—going out and coming back—and sings of his travels while “in motion.” Picture a dreamer who describes his ongoing dream both as an actor in the dream and as a witness of the dream.

Musical Analysis (by William Belzner)

The music on this recording is entirely consistent with the traditional formal and structural patterns of Amazonian Quichua, Shuar, and Achuar indigenous peoples of lowland Ecuador, and shares many traits with other Native American musical cultures widely spread across the Americas. The tonal materials are essentially tritonic; the three predominant tones being the “tonic,” and the major third and perfect fifth above this “tonic,” giving the impression of Western music's major triad. This material is occasionally expanded by adding a flatted third which shades into the major second above the “tonic,” and by the use of the fourth. This can best be noted in the lengthy violin introductory section. The octave occasionally occurs, and once, in the extended flute section, the minor second below the “tonic” is used as a leading tone back to the “tonic.”

The phrases usually have the range of a fifth, with movement from high to low. The motifs, generally quite short, use the third and fifth as primary melodic materials. and move down to an ostinato figure consisting of the “tonic,” a limited number of rhythmic variations, and occasional embellishments generally created by vocal pulsations. These pulsations, almost tremolos, occur only on the “tonic,” and appear to imitate the rhythmic shaking of the shaman's leaf bundle. All of these features frequently occur in much of the indigenous music of both North and South America. The singing style is typical of much of lowland South America's indigenous cultures: a characteristic feature includes fairly high vocal tension, but with an unforced (head) sound. The rhythm of the music is never consistently metrical, also a common trait in Native American music of Amazonia.

Unusual and striking is the degree to which the entire musical sound spectrum of the Napo Quichua has been utilized by this shaman in a single performance. What is especially interesting is that predominantly musical events—song, instrumental performance, and whistling—alternate with normal speech, rhythmically patterned speech (an intermediate category between speech and song which occurs in conjunction with the shaking of the leaf bundle), and the use of the flute for predominantly nonmusical purposes. If we treat song as the core musical element we can easily see that the flute, violin and whistling sections represent repetitions or expansions of the basic song material.

Recording and Transcription

The recording was made in the Napo Region of Amazonian Ecuador in November, 1976, by Neelon Crawford, who was taken to the area and the session by Dan Weaks. This particular shaman cures nonindigenous national colonists of the area as well as indigenous peoples, and so is sometimes called el Doctor. Neelon Crawford states his experience as follows:

This recording offers a remarkable opportunity to explore the frontiers of imagination and human consciousness. Imagine, if you will, a balmy night in the upper reaches of the Amazon region of eastern Ecuador. The nightlife sounds of chirping crickets, croaking and peeping frogs, numerous birds singing, and many other unknown creatures form an intense, natural, three dimensional symphony. The near full moon floods the foliage around a small clearing, in the center of which stands a simple wooden platform house on stilts with a thatched roof. Under the large, steeply pitched roof, most of the house is open, combining kitchen, living area, and porch. By the fire in the kitchen area sits the shaman and at his feet lies a sick woman. The woman has been brought to him to have her body cleansed and her illness spirited away: for hours the shaman works to cure his patient.

This recording is an audio image of events as they took place, a single stereo recording, not a mixed creation. What you hear is how it sounded at the time, but condensed considerably to edit out some of the conversation and especially the repetitive lapses.

In June, 1977, Norman E. Whitten, Jr. took a cassette duplicate of this recording with him to Amazonian Ecuador, to a site near the Pindo and Pastaza rivers where he and his wife, Dorothea Scott Whitten, have been conducting field research intermittently for a decade. (They continue this work annually and are now in their thirty-ninth year of research in Upper Amazonia.) There, under the auspices of the Sacha Runa Research Foundation, Julian Santi Vargas and María Aguinda Mamallacta made a full transcription (which Whitten wrote down for them) of the text, discussing with him the metaphors, symbols, parables and allegories embedded in virtually every single word chanted and mumbled. Julian Santi is not from the Napo area, though his grandmother came from that region and he has recently visited shamans there to cure his own little son. María Aguinda, Julian’s wife, is from the shaman’s area, and indeed knew the shaman who was chanting. Together, with Whitten recording their activities, they teased out the material, and then went over the transcript and the recording many more times to be sure of accuracy. In September, 1977, Whitten translated the transcript, condensed it, and prepared the accompanying interpretive text.

The Napo shaman performed for outsiders because he wanted this recording made, and Julian Santi and María Aguinda took great pains to transcribe his words and intents, for they too want the shamanic complex, so central to their world view and sense of order, set forth for the “outer world” to hear. It is from this outer world that disease and destruction now come, and it is to this world that the Napo shaman's recording is now directed.

The following text is highly compact and highly allusive. All of the above information plus some degree of concentration is necessary to follow it. For the most part the shaman is actually stating, or alluding to, the sequence of trips that he makes, to his power, to his possession by a spirit, to the many spirits who come to him, and to those spirits that he actually “sees.” Ambiguity often exists and is deliberate. There is no way to simplify this material beyond the present flow, and to elaborate further would introduce more confusion. Here and there a parenthetical phrase or two is inserted to guide the listener/reader, but we try to keep this intrusion to a minimum.

II. NOTES ON THE RECORDING

Napo Yachaj

As the CD begins, the yachaj, whom we refer to as shaman, had already begun his cure of the woman lying on the floor in front of him when Neelon Crawford and Dan Weaks arrived. He has ascertained that the illness is of the spirit world, which is also the visionary world. The shaman has entered this world many times by taking huanduj, the powerful, overwhelming Datura (Solanacea Brugmansia suaveolens species) hallucinogen. Long familiar with the huanduj supai (Datura spirits) the shaman is ready to deal with them, in their world, and simultaneously with people in his world, the world of the waking. To do this the shaman drank a small calabash cup of ayahuasca about an hour earlier. Ayahuasca (soul vine) is thought of by Amazonian indigenous people as inducing a dreamlike state which mediates between the human domain of dream visions and the spirit domain of Datura visions. Under the influence of ayahuasca the shaman can “come and go,” so to speak, traveling between the world of spirits and the waking and dream worlds of the people in his household, where the patient to be cured is lying, and into which the foreigners have just entered.

The shaman begins to play a visionary song, called taquina, on his three-string violin. Melody and harmony are carried by the first two (higher) strings, and the third (lower) string is a drone. The bee-like buzz of this third string calls the spirits, and as he begins to see them approaching as flickering sparks and vague shapes he asks his clients, who have also drunk ayahuasca with him, if they are beginning to “feel.” They say that they are, and he plays his bird-bone flute and thinks of the well-known words that are associated with two powerful spirits—a female forest spirit and a female water spirit.

Having established contact with the powerful forces of the forest and water domains, the shaman speaks very rapidly to his patient and her husband, saying that he can cure her affliction. He says he is singing into the foreigner’s tape recorder so that “everyone will hear.” For awhile he alternates between playing his flute and talking with the patient’s husband. During this period the spirits’ visionary world and the humans’ waking world are seen, by the shaman, as interacting within the space of his household, which itself is symbolically expanding to encapsulate the sector of the spirit universe which his powers enable him to control.

The spirit presence established, the shaman begins to prepare for the actual curing, rapidly moving his attention back and forth between the mundane social event and the spirit world. He asks his wife to warm up the asua, takes down his shaman’s leaf bundle, called suru panga, and calls for water with which to cleanse it. He brings up some spirit helpers from his own stomach and gently blows, suuuuuuuuuuu. By blowing over the paraphernalia that he will use, his spirit helpers within his breath cleanse the bundle, drinking gourd, violin, flute, and surrounding air of unwanted, free-floating, spirit substance. The shaman sprinkles water on this unwanted substance, and blows it away. He begins to shake the bundle and, as a child begins fussing, he orders it not to cry. Then, silencing the people present and concentrating on the words of his shaman's song and rhythm of the leaf bundle, he whistles his taquina song, and observes the snakes that now surround him. As the visionary snakes (which others who have drunk ayahuasca should also see) writhe around the room and around the bodies of all present in the room, the shaman begins to see clearly the world of the spirits. He begins to chant his first song.

SONG 1

The shaman sits down on his wooden stool, called bancu, which he carved in the form of a water turtle to represent the mystical seat of power of the water spirit, Sungui. He chants of beauty (suma suma suma suma, which often sounds like toma toma toma toma); of spirit killing power (taririri, which derives from Jirijiri, a guardian of spirit monkeys who lives under certain sacred hills, has a face in front and in back of its head, and eats humans with its rear face); of his pleasure in the merger of killing spirits with beauty, all of which come from ayahuasca. Then, singing of the beautiful spirit of ayahuasca herself, the shaman both talks and sings of the appearance of a male forest spirit, who then arrives.

This spirit-being is at first unidentified. Arriving, dressed in red feathers, with bandolier-like adornments, he swings his entire body from side to side, side to side. The shaman, sitting on his seat of power, becomes the spirit—singing, playing, seeing, ready to travel beyond to bring more spirits to him. He next experiences a flying sensation as though he were a great condor, soaring, going out, coming back. He sings about this.

Danger exists everywhere for the shaman as he experiences this flying state, for now he must fend off flying death in the form of spirit darts and lances. He chants about all this, singing that he is protected by a powerful shield of Sungui, master spirit of the water domain (in this part, Sungui is male). As the spirit darts come toward him, first from one side, then from the other side, he swings his body and his shield rhythmically, left to right, right to left, blowing suuuu — suuuu. The darts glance off the waterpower shield, and are blown away by his spirit-infested breath. He sings that the shield itself is made up of powerful medicine and spirit substances, called jambi, which come from a store, tienda. Not only does the shaman assume the protective role of Sungui and bring to him the killing power of monkey protector and human eater Jirijiri, he also becomes a “Doctor” who buys medicines in a spirit drug store on the banks of the Napo River. (Here, and continuing, we see a mixing of ancient Amazonian shamanic concepts with those of the modern intrusions into the Napo regional system. In this case the very real tiendas of the Napo River are also seen as existing in the world of spirits.)

Still chanting, the shaman asserts that he has embodied the shamanic power of Sungui, which came to him out of a great lagoon, and that he has strong medicine with which he can cure. This chant stresses the vision of the spirit that the shaman alone sees. The shaman still does not identify the spirit, but rather sees it as a sort of force field. He sings that it is arriving, swinging from side to side, and that it is adorned with feathers, bird bones and a beautiful headdress. This unnamed vision dances and arrives right in the place of the shaman himself. Now a force field of dancing spirit power occupies the same space as the chanting shaman though they are on different cosmic planes. The spirit sits on the bancu, and chants. It is not clear at this time whether the shaman himself has become the seat of power for the spirit or whether the spirit is just sitting on the shaman’s carved wooden stool. Such ambiguity pervades much shamanic activity in Amazonian Ecuador, as elsewhere.

This spirit, still unnamed, brings ten “machines” —x-ray, blood pressure apparatus, stethoscope, surgical lamp, intravenous paraphernalia, and more—with which to cure the patient, as a modern doctor would in a hospital. The spirit is making quite a noise, jingling and rattling and laughing, and he is dressed like a beautiful toucan. Now the shaman acknowledges the spirit as Uyarij runa, a noisy person, and as powerful shaman, sinchi yachaj. The spirit shaman is seen as a man dressed for a ceremony, dancing and singing, coming with all his diagnostic and curing machines, swinging from side to side, sitting down on the seat of power, and “everything is pretty, pretty, pretty” chants the shaman.

Now the shaman identifies the beautiful, noisy spirit still further as Runga supai, the water jaguar spirit, or giant otter spirit. As the spirit arrives, he snorts like a peccary and makes the jaguar's cough which is associated with the Jirijiri forest spirit. Now, as the Runga supai sits on the same seat of power as the shaman (or uses the shaman himself as its seat of power—this is ambiguous), the shaman chants of power drawn from the spirit and human waking worlds, and from recent history.

The shaman chants that he has spirit cannons with which enemies will be killed, and that an ancient hill has been pulverized. Then he sings of airplanes around and above—circling, blitzing, buzzing, making a tremendous noise. There are all types, small one-engine planes, and big military ones, company and commercial planes, helicopters and Atlas Hercules. “Here I am,” he sings, “a shaman, on the ground in the center of aviation control, peaceful with the spirit power while all this noise and destruction go on around me in the air.” And he continues to chant of the beauty of it all.

“From down river the soldiers are coming,” he continues, referring to the Peruvian invasion during the brief but devastating war of 1941. “A beautiful line of marching soldiers, all swinging from side to side, left to right, right to left, moves up river. All are water jaguar spirits. More come from the south, and I, as shaman, contact them with radiograms; they come here and sit on the seat of power [which has become], a Spanish seat of pure gold.”

Although the other people present see the shaman sitting on his wooden stool, singing and shaking his leaf bundle, he now sees himself as going outward in resplendent dress, where he swings from side to side, arriving at a high hill where there are many Muja huarmi supai, which are special oblong-shaped, basin-like water spirits. Next the water jaguar spirit comes dancing and singing as Amasanga huarmi—the forest spirit in feminine form. With this set of chanted visions the shaman ceases his song; he yawns, whistles, talks a bit to the two foreigners, and accepts a cigarette.

Then, after more drowsy conversation, the shaman again whistles a snatch of his song, and very briefly signals the presence of the ancient humans and spirits by a two-tone whistle. The two-tone whistle is the musical analog of the spirits' swinging from side to side as they come to the shaman's seat of power. Now, ancient and contemporary spirits are one, a force field has developed around the shaman’s seat of power, and he again begins to chant and sing.

SONG 2

Beauty and spirit killing powers are again chanted, and then the shaman summons the “underwater feminine power” as a chief, curaga. And again the spirit comes as Uyarij runa, the noisy spirit, making the sound of the jaguar, which evokes the fearsome Jirijiri. The shaman is now gathering the power to kill, for only when he possesses this power will he be strong enough to cure his patient of the killing darts sent to her by a malevolent shaman. Instead of calling a spirit shield, he calls a lance with steel tip, and refers to himself as a warrior, chanting the sounds of the Shuar peoples who visited him from their territory to the south to purchase spirit darts from him to use against their own enemies. He sings as the dancing water jaguar spirit and enjoys both the beauty of vision and the noise accompanying the vision.

Now there is no longer ambiguity about the seat of power and the control of power from the world of spirits. The shaman himself is the seat of power for the powerful spirit, and the spirit chants through him.

Although those present still see the shaman chanting, he himself knows that the chants are coming from the spirit, and he is the spirit’s vehicle to the waking world of humans. The spirit chants that he will cure, that he is part of a bancu (here, the shaman himself is the bancu), and now—in addition to the qualities of noise and vision—the spirit chants of strength. The spirit shaman sings that he is like a sun Pope, a spirit force of the sky analogous to the pope in the world of Catholic Christians. Then the spirit sings that he is the Tsalamanga curaga, chief of the mystical water spirits of magical lagoons in the Andes. He descends into a lagoon of beautiful ice, where he sits on a seat of power, still swinging from side to side, dancing and singing.

So that the intricacy of concepts is here understood, let us repeat that the shaman on his seat of power became the locus of power for the spirit whom he originally summoned (and who he progressively defined in clearer and clearer terms). Then this noisy, colorful spirit summoned unto himself spirits, and traveled to another spirit domain in another territory—the high, cold, deep Andean lakes surrounded by snow, seeing these lakes as filled with ice where he either became, or assumed the role of, the chief spirit of that domain.

The spirit, speaking through the shaman while still within the Andean lakes, next asks the Tsalamanga spirit if he can have a horse to ride; he wants one that looks like the sun. When he returns to Amazonia, he says, he will be riding a dancing horse, rhythmically swinging from side to side, right to left, left to right. He will return wearing a sweater and necktie and be master of all these Andean things which have come from other native Quichua cultures, and also from foreign sources. (Natives of the Andes weave wool clothing, but sweaters and neckties as prestige items of adornment come from Euroamerica.)

Now the spirit, singing through the shaman, chants of his powerful, sentient, living stones (a possession used by all shamans in Amazonian Ecuador as powerful familiars because each contains the bottled up soul of an ancient shaman whose body died long ago). Spirits are being sent to him in the form of sharp, dart-like stones: he grabs them, first from one side, then from the other side, swinging rhythmically from side to side, taking from the left, then from the right. Where, in the first song, the shaman was defending himself with Sungui's shield from the incoming darts, the spirit shaman, working through the shaman, is now capturing the darts in the form of sharp stones, and keeping them for future use. Behind the incoming spirit projectile stones, the Uyarij runa, the noisy, dancing spirit who is a powerful shaman, once again appears to the Napo shaman, and is beautiful.

The shaman, still possessed by the spirit, sings of the “Chirapa” (Shuar) from the right bank of the Pastaza River, far to the south. He says that he is chief of the Chirapa, and will take the ancient specter vision of the Chirapa, however this vision comes. He sings that, while he is dreaming, the ancient specter comes to him all dressed in feathers, with a pure toucan bone shoulder adornment, which Achuar killers wear. All the Chirapa women are brought to him, he sings, and this is both beautiful and powerful. The song ends, and the shaman snaps his attention back instantly from flights of ecstasy to his immediate situation.

He makes a comment about the foreign visitors who have come to record his music, and then turns to curing the woman who has come to him as patient. He converses quietly with the woman's husband, and asks her some questions. He drinks ayahuasca again and offers more to his clients. He intersperses playing his flute with making comments and queries, during which time he thinks of song texts as he sees the spirit beings and questions his clients. He plays the violin, again calling on the spirits whose help he will need in his diagnosis and curing. He says that the tape recorder has captured his spirit songs, and that the music is good.

The shaman examines the patient’s body, looking over it with a practiced eye. He sees the source of trouble—spirit dart-like projectiles, many of them, lodged in her stomach. The darts appear to him as stones, insects, spiders, or reptiles, radiating an intense blue-purple color from within their mucous enclosures. He bends over the woman's stomach and noisily sucks out a dart, mucous and all, taking it into his mouth and rolling it around. His own spirit helpers come up from his stomach, examine the inner substance of the dart, take the essence from it, thereby increasing the shaman's power by the addition of more spirits. The shaman himself is left to dispose of the remaining substance.

As the shaman continues to suck the evil darts out of her stomach, the sick woman says, "I went to my garden to get manioc. A stick of manioc broke and hit me in the side and and I fell. The wound kept hurting and now I am nearly dead."

“Who would do this to you?" the shaman asks. She does not reply directly, but asks, in turn, “can you see the enemy?”

“Yes, he says, “now I’ll do the same to him.”

* * * * * * * * *

An Afterword by Neelon Crawford

The actual time spent in the shaman’s household and immediate surroundings was approximately ten hours, from 7:00 p.m. until about 5:00 a.m. As we perceived it, the actual curing session lasted until about 3:00 a.m., the last two hours involving only the shaman and his patient, as the powerful one continued to sing with a low, soothing chant, on occasion stroking the woman with his leaf bundle. In the morning of the following day, we returned to the shaman’s house to inquire about the patient, and to thank him for allowing us to be present. He said that she was well now, and had returned home with her husband. The shaman invited us to come again. He also said that he would like some blue paint for the addition he was building to his house. The next day we shipped the paint to him by cargo canoe from the nearest town.



References Cited and Recommended Reading

Brodzky, Anne Trueblood, Rose Daneswich, and Nick Johnson (editors).1977. Stones, Bones, and Skin: Ritual and Shamanic Art. Toronto: Artscanada.

Eliade, Mircea. 1964. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton: Bolligen Foundation. (Original French edition 1951).

Fox, Hugh (editor). 1978. First Fire: Central and South American Indian Poetry. Garden City: Anchor (Doubleday).

Furst, Peter T. 1972. (editor) Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens. New York: Praeger.

Furst, Peter T. 1976. Hallucinogens and Culture. San Francisco: Chandler.

Furst, Peter T. 1977. The Roots and Continuities of Shamanism. In, Anne Trueblood Brodzky, Rose Daneswich and Nick Johnson, editors, Stones, Bones, and Skin: Ritual and Shamanic Art. Toronto: Artscanada, pp. 1-28.

Halifax, Joan (editor).1979. Shamanic Voices. New York: Dutton.

Harner, Michael J. 1972. The Jívaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls. Garden City: Natural History Press.

Harner, Michael J. (editor) 1973. Hallucinogens and Shamanism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lamb, F. Bruce. 1975. Wizard of the Upper Amazon: The Story of Manuel Cordova-Ríos. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin. (Original 1971).

Maxwell, Nicole. 1975 Witch Doctor's Apprentice. New York: Collier (Macmillan). (Original 1961).

Naranjo, Claudio. 1973. The Healing Journey: New Approaches to Consciousness. New York: Pantheon.

Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo. 1975. The Shaman and the Jaguar: of Narcotic Drugs among the Indians of Colombia. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Wasson, R. Gordon. 1968. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich (A Harvest Special).

Whitten, Norman E., Jr. 1976. Sacha Runa: Ethnicity and Adaptation of Ecuadorian Jungle Quichua. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Whitten, Norman E., Jr. 1978. Amazonian Ecuador: An Ethnic Interface in Ecological, Social and Ideological Perspectives. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) Document 34.

* * * * * * * * *

New Recommended Reading

The references above are thirty or more years old. Stacks of books have been published on shamanism in South America since the pressing of the original L.P. record, and the writing and printing of this document. The most up-to-date works on Amazonian Ecuador’s indigenous Quichua-speaking people are these:

Uzendoski, Michael. 2005. The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Whitten, Norman E., Jr. and Dorothea Scott Whitten. 2007. Puyo Runa: Imagery and Power in Modern Amazonia. Urbana: University of Illinois Press

The Sacha Runa Research Foundation is a not-for-profit educational organization incorporated in the State of Illinois to conduct scientific research with indigenous peoples of Ecuador and to return to them the results of research. The foundation maintains a medical-care delivery program for these peoples in Pastaza Province, promotes recognition of the artistic value of their artifacts and culture, and disseminates the results of research through publications, lectures, and exhibitions. The foundation is as active in 2007 as it has been since 1975. For more information write to the foundation office: 507

E. Harding Drive, Urbana, IL 61801-6205, U.S.A.



Return to SOUL VINE SHAMAN