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Amazonian Asceticism

Everything either trying to eat you or have sex with you is a common theme in most Amazonian myths. This is no surprise considering they reflect the environment they are from. The law of the jungle is strongest and most apparent in the jungle after all.
This is why it is very strange how the many different tribal groups of Amazonia, belonging to different language groups, come to the same conclusions and ideas regarding sex, shamanism, and spirits…
“Young men anxious to obtain a vision from an ajútap spirit are enjoined to observe the strictest sexual purity, since the taint of sexual pollution is anathema to the spirits. A myth explains that long ago a certain man who failed to remain chaste actually became pregnant. He was forced to endure the mockery of the entire village until an ajútap removed the fetus (which, the myth implies, was not a true child but a reified form of pollution) and granted him a powerful vision. Other myths recount cases of men losing special skills or powers when they succumbed to feminine charms. Today the Aguaruna continue to insist that for both sexes abstinence from intercourse is essential for recovery from a serious illness.”— Michael F. Brown (Awajún)

“During the period of fasting, the novice must also be sexually continent, for the hekura are said to dislike sex and to regard it as shami: filthy. The novices must attempt to attract particular hekura into their chests, a process that takes much time and patience, for the hekura are somewhat coy and fickle, apt to leave and abandon their human host. The interior of a shaman’s body is a veritable cosmos of rivers, streams, mountains, and forests where the hekura can dwell in comfort and happiness. Only the more accomplished shamans have many hekura inside their bodies, and even they must strive to keep the hekura contented. Once you are on good terms with your hekura, you can engage in sex without having your spirits abandon you.”

― Napoleon A. Chagnon (Yanomami)

“The common archaic motifs that the Yanomami shamans and others across Amazonia share with their counterparts from other parts of the world include (to mention but a few): fasting, sexual abstinence, initiatory sickness, symbolic death through dismemberment, ecstatic trance, involvement of helping spirits, metamorphosis into animals, soul loss and retrieval, lodgement of pathogenic objects and their extraction through sucking and blowing, a stratified cosmos and cosmic axis, secret languages, great ancestral proto-shamans and culture heroes, divination, telepathy, weather shamanism and assurance of game in hunting (Crocker 1985; Eliade 1989) [1951]; Furst 1987; Wilbert 1972).”

― Zeljko Jokic

“All River Campa shamans are males, in no way abnormal, achieving their status after more than a year of rigorous apprenticeship that involves restriction of diet, abstinence from all sexual activities, and continual ingestion of psychotropic drugs, especially tobacco in syrup form and the hallucinogenic ayahuasca.”

“…sexual activities are understood to sap the power of anyone trying to contact the good spirits by the heroic consumption of psychotropic drugs.”

― Gerald Weiss (Ashaninka)

“The pajé’s initial power derives from his abstinence from sexual relations, his fasting, and the constant intake of pariká which transforms his body-soul entirely. Celibacy for ten years signifies a great deal of (libidinal) power or likai, the same word that is translated as “semen” or “essence of power,” which, as one knowledgeable person stated, accumulates within his body to be transformed into shamanic spiritual power (malikai).”

― Robin M. Wright (Baniwa)

“In order to become a payé an individual must have demonstrated since childhood a profound interest in the religious traditions of his culture besides having a good knowledge of myths, geneaologies, and invocations. He must know how “to sit on his bench” and reflect; he must practice sexual abstinence, and he must also be a good drinker of chicha, a good dancer and singer, and he must be able to give sound advice to others. He should not be too fond of women, and he must channel his sexual energy toward other goals; however, he should be a family man. The most necessary quality is that he have the capacity to achieve well-defined hallucinations when he takes a concoction, and to be able to interpret them. Also, in the learning of myths and traditions what is involved is not so much a good memory but a capacity for interpreting their symbolism, and of “hearing the echo” of the tales told by tradition.”

― Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff (Desana)

El autor:
Living in South America for 10 years. Living in Chachapoyas, Peru for 9 years. Investigating archaeological sites on and off the map as well as photographing important evidence for posterity. Expert in the prehispanic world and all related subject matter. Studying world history, archaeology, and anthropology since childhood and adolescence. Trying to know why humans do what they do.

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