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Shamanism and Its Discontents Author(s): Michael Fobes Brown Source: Medical Anthropology Quarterly, New Series, Vol.

2, No. 2 (Jun., 1988), pp. 102-120 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: Accessed: 11/04/2010 00:53
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of Department Anthropologyand Sociology WilliamsCollege

Shamanism and Its Discontents

Shamanistic healing is often represented in the anthropological literature as a dyadic transactional process in which the shaman helps the patient find meaning in the face of the disordering impact of an illness. A close textual analysis of a curing session among the Aguaruna Jivaro of Peru reveals that the experience created through the ritual is markedly polyphonic rather than dyadic, the clients subtly vying with the shaman to shape the session's discursive contours. While generating a highly charged atmosphere, the event's fusion of political and medical themes betrays the contradictions inherent in a belief system in which shamanism and sorcery are inescapably linked. While there may be a degree of symbolic closure in the session itself, the shaman's revelations only shift disorderfrom the body human to the body politic.

ike depictionsof the Romangod Janus, the anthropological image of shamanismhas two opposed faces. The firstportraysshamansas charismatic of values, helping theirclients to maintainstructures protectors traditional to of meaningor to constructnew ones appropriate changingcircumstances.The second face, more rarely documented, is admirably captured in Christopher of Crocker'scharacterization Bororo shamans as "ambiguous, suspicious personages . . . socially approved if fundamentally distrusted" (Crocker 1985:237).

Perhaps the most influential investigation of shamanism's heroic face is Levi-Strauss'sanalysis of a Cuna Indianchant performedfor women experienclabor(1963). Througha series of comparisonswith contemporary ing protracted by psychoanalysis,Levi-Straussshows how symbols, skillfully manipulated the shaman,effect important changes in the patient-changes that, he concludes, are ultimatelyexperiencedat the somaticlevel. The shamanmobilizes a profoundbut to largelytacit knowledge of the society's collective representations craftthe appropriate"myth" that will rebuildthe shatteredexperience of the patientinto a of shelteringarchitecture significance. Yet the shamanismof Levi-Strauss'sanalysis is curiously asocial. The pathe tientsthemselvesappearonly as passive participants, shaman'sassessmentas unquestioned orthodoxy. When the analyticalperspectivesituates shamanismin 102



its social and political space, a more troubledimage tends to emerge (e.g., Atkinson 1987; Steedly 1988; Taussig 1987). One sees that the stories shamans weave exert only a provisional,contestedcontrolover theirpatients'understanding. The shaman'spower is grantedgrudginglyby society; shamanicrevelation may be subjectto challenge by those who both need and fear it. in Througha textual analysis of rhetoricand counter-rhetoric an Aguaruna Indianhealing session, this article assesses shamanism'ssecond face in an Amazoniansetting. My generalgoal is to lift the veil of romanticismfrom the session so thatit can be seen in a way that more closely resemblesthe participants'view of it: as a highly chargedevent involving elements of struggle, uncertainty,ambivalence, andpartialrevelation.If thereis a "social myth" enactedin the ritual, it is a collective and interactiveone, not simply the inventionof an autonomous ritual specialist (cf. Joralemon 1986). And that "myth" may only replace one type of chaos with another.At its heart, the Aguarunahealing session is the kind of encounterthatFoucaultcalls an "agonism," that is, "a relationshipwhich is at the same time reciprocalincitationand struggle;less of a face-to-face confrontationwhich paralyzesboth sides than a permanent provocation" (1982:222). Aguaruna Shamanism in the Alto Rio Mayo, Peru Like most Amazoniannatives of the late 20th century,the Aguarunaof Peru are partof a local culturalmosaic that includes other tribal groups, recently arrivedpeasantfarmers,and the usual host of entrepreneurs swindlersdrawnto and regionson the marginsof civil control. The Aguarunanegotiatea place for themselves in this social arenaby defendingtheirlandrightsandby respondingcannily to suddenshifts in economic conditions. In the Alto Mayo valley, Aguaruna communities are now integratedinto the local system of cash-crop agriculture.Yet
despite economic transformation, the proselytizing efforts of Protestant mission-

aries, and the impactof primaryeducation, the Aguarunamaintaina strongculturalidentity-an identityreflected, among other ways, in the continuedvitality of shamanicpracticeand its darkalterego, sorcerybeliefs. ' The key featuresof Aguarunashamanismare typical of the native societies of WesternAmazonia. Shamans(iwish[n)are men who have acquiredthe ability to communicatedirectly with powerful beings during visions induced by psychoactiveplants.2When serious illness strikes, people suspect that sorceryis behind it. Sorcerers(tunchi or wdwek) may secretly introducetiny darts into the bodies of their victims, darts that fester and produce illness. By drinkingan infusion of the hallucinogens datem (Banisteriopsis caapi) and ydji (B. cabrerana)

to (referred as ydji when mixed together),a shamanentersa trancethathe uses to search the patient's body for such darts, which can sometimes be removed by fanningandsucking. While in this alteredstate, the shamanmay also bearwitness to distantevents and combatthe community'shiddenadversaries.Ordinarily,the patients themselves do not take hallucinogens during healing sessions, though many have had experiencewith psychoactiveplants in othercontexts. The sociological implicationsof shamanismare, of course, much more tangled thanthis simple good-against-evildescriptionwould suggest. For a number of reasons, it is dangerousto be an iwishin. First, shamanicpracticenecessitates regularuse of hallucinogens.In the throesof a healing vision, the shamanis vul-



nerableto attackby sorcerersand theirspiritfamiliars.But the immediatethreats to the shaman's life are more prosaic. Because the shamancan identify sorcerers-people who may be markedfor death because of this accusation-he inevitablyhas enemies. Moreimportant,becauseall shamansarethemselvespotential sorcerers,possessing the ability to kill if they so desire, they are prime suspects when thereare deathssuggestive of sorcery. Indeed, the good name of a shaman is always contextual:his skills areextolled by close kinsmenbutcited as evidence of his homicidalpropensitiesby non-kin. It is a commonplaceto note the equivocalpolitical statusof shamansin Amazonian systems of social control, especially among Jivaroanpeoples, and I have little to add to existing accounts (e.g., Colajanni1984; Descola and Lory 1982; Hamer 1972; Seymour-Smith1982). Whathas not been exploredin detail, however, is the extent to which even a shaman'sclose kinsmenand allies are uncomfortablein the presence of his powers. In the Alto Rio Mayo, if one poses the question, "Do you have an iwishin in your community?" the reply is likely to be: "No, we get along well here. We have no problems."'The most recentexpression of local attitudestowardshamanswas an attemptby an inter-villageorganization, the Organizaci6nAguarunadel Alto Mayo (OAAM), to establish an ofdoctors" and to requireall iwishin ficial list of fees for the services of "traditional to seek formalrecognitionfrom the organization(OAAM 1984). An informant close to OAAM leaders reportedthat there was also some discussion about the advisabilityof imposing a tax on practicingiwishin, though as of 1986 such a policy had not yet been implemented.The intentof the proposal,accordingto the people I spoke with, was to force all shamans to identify themselves, thereby bringingtheirpower into the public eye so that it could be more easily observed and controlled. All the evidence at my disposal suggests that this ambivalence towardiwishinhas been partof Aguarunasocial realityfor decades andcannotbe attributed rapidculturechange. to In view of the dangersof the role and its dubious social status, why would anyonebecome a shaman?The shamansto whom I spoke emphasizedtheirdesire to assist afflictedkinsmen.It bearsmentioning,however, thatthe rapidsettlement for healers. of the Alto Mayo has openednew economic opportunities enterprising Local peasantfarmers,who associate the Aguarunawith the powerful and shadowy spiritsof the forest, are willing to pay substantialfees for the ministrations of a sympatheticiwishin. Factorsof individualtemperament-including curiosity aboutthe spiritworld, a desire for influence in one's community, and an ability to endureor even enjoy the perils of frequentintoxicationby powerful hallucinogens-also undoubtedlyattractcertainpeople to the shaman'srole. Late in 1977, I took up residence in the communitywhere the most active shamanin the Alto Mayo resided. The local preeminenceof this iwishin, whom I shall call Yankush,rested in parton the belief thathe had acquiredsome of his shamanicpowers among Spanish-speakingmestizos of the Peruviancoast. Far frombeing an assiduousguardianof culturaltradition,he had introduceda numof ber of idiosyncraticmethods into his practice, including the abbreviation the traditional healing session3and the occasional use of alcohol to help him arriveat of a trancestate. He had also integratedthe prescription pharmaceutical products into his healing performances. Highly regardedby mestizo colonists, he was sometimes referred to as "Professor Yankush." His fame among colonists



seemedto raiseratherthanlower his standingamongthe Aguaruna.It is Yankush who presidesover the session that is the focus of this article. Healing Session, 18 January 1978 The session begins after sunset, for the iwishin needs absolute darknessto be able to find the sorcerer'sdartsin his patients. As night falls and the patients and otherinterestedpartiesassemble in his house, Yankushdrinksthe hallucinogenic preparation, ydji. After a time, he begins to yawn in a curious, exaggerated fashion. This signals that the hallucinogen has taken effect: powerful beings calledpdsuk areenteringthe shaman'schest to assist him in his curingacts. Yankush's utterancesencompass several distinctive styles or, as I shall call them, "registers": (1) a normal discursive register consisting of simple declarative statements;(2) a normal shamanicregister, performedas song, which includes divinatoryand metaphoricalstatementspresentedin a compressedstyle still inand telligible to otherparticipants; (3) a crypticshamanicregister,also sung, employing an esoteric lexicon.4 The cryptic registerresembles Cunahealing chants (Sherzer1983:134) in that its specific meaningis opaqueto laymen, though they do have a generalnotion of the register'scontent. In the following text, both shamanicregistersare markedin bold type.5 The performancealso includes the energetic participationof the patients' kinsmen, who shout words of encouragementto Yankush, move his divinatory in pronouncements certain directions with their questions, and make their own strongdeclarationswhen their fears of sorcery are confirmed. So polyphonic is the texture of the session that I was unable to transcribeall of the comments, questions, jokes, and cries of dismay utteredduring the two-hour event. There was simply too much going on. The following text focuses principallyon the utterancesof Yankushand his two main interlocutors,the husbandsof the patients.

A groupof people have arrivedfrom anothervillage in the Alto Mayo valley thatis approximately day's travel away. The group includes two couples: Chaa paik and her husband Katan, and Yamanuanchand her husband Shimpu (all pseudonyms).They have prevaileduponYankushto takeydji in orderto diagnose the illnesses that have afflicted both Chapaikand Yamanuanch.Neither woman is seriously ill, but both complain of chronic pains of various sorts. Yankush's wife, Tumus, is also slightly unwell, and she receives treatmentat the end of the session as the patientsand their families file out of the house. Because no one is of ill, dangerously the overallatmosphere the healing session is intensebut genial. Severalother residentsof Yankush'scommunityare also present, includingtwo Van Bolt and the author.With the exception of the ananthropologists, Margaret thropologists,all of those who participateconsider themselves to be kin, though the two patientsandtheirhusbandsareonly distantrelativesof Yankush(see Figure 1).6 The Event

At about 7:00 p.m., the anthropologistsarriveat Yankush's house with Utijatand Chimi, close kinsmen of Yankushwho reside in the community.




A Utijat


* Mariana


I 3


h Chapaik


A Katan



Yamanuanch * Yankush

Key to participants

Yankush= Shaman Yamanuanch - Patients Chapaik Katan=Chapaik'shusband Shimpu= Yamanuanch'shusband C 01 a Anthropologists Figure1


Mariana - Observers Ajues Chimi Utijat

Adultspresent at shamanic healing session, 18 January 1978.

Yankushhas taken the ydji and is resting in the bedroom. He gets up and arrive. At ambles out to chat. Katan, Chapaik,Shimpu, and Yamanuanch about7:30, Yankushgoes out, saying he will defecate. People chat informally. He returnsand sits on a stool with his backto the room. He whistles, holding a fan of sdmpi leaves. He sings softly, then talks informallywith people, still facing the wall. He yawns in a drawn-outfashion, indicating thatpdsuk are enteringhis body. He begins to shake the fan. He takes off his sweater, then combs his hair, still facing away from the participants. YANKUSH: "I, I, I, I, I. With Tsunki [spiritbeing of aquaticrealm and ultimatesource of shamanisticpower] I am seated." He falls silent. He spits, then shakes his fan while breakinginto wordless song. He standsup, still facing the wall. KATAN, shouting: "Let's listen! He's intoxicatednow, so let's listen!" Yankush sits down again, still singing. His daughterbrings him a small bottle of an unidentifiedliquid. He rubsthis liquid on his neck. KATAN: "Sing to your own body so that others won't bewitch you."






UTIJAT:"Othersknow you are curing. They can hurtyou. Be careful!" Yankush faces participants. Katan brings in two large banana leaves. Shimpumoves the lanternto put Yankushin shadow. YANKUSH(to Katan):"Mother'sbrother,bringyourwife." Both patients come forwardand sit in front of Yankush. They take off their dresses but remaincoveredwith blanketsbelow the waist. One woman turnsover to lie on her stomach. KATAN: "Take the dartsout. See where the sickness is!" SHIMPU (indicating Yamanuanch):"She can't eat. Her throat hurts." UTIJAT: "Think powerfully!" Yankush looks at Chapaik, sucks on her back, and spits. He drinks from a bottle (later identified as kistidn dmpi, "mestizo medicine"), faces towardwall, and vomits. KATAN: "If you can't cure her, tell me the truth. Throw it [the sorcery always receive you well in my house. Throwit [sorcerysubstance]away!" Yankushturnsto face Yamanuanch.Shimpuand others begin to shout. VARIOUS:"Show him where it hurts!" Yankushappearsto suck on chest of Yamanuanch. YAMANUANCH:"My throathurtstoo." YANKUSH:"You'll get well." Yankushtakes off his shirt, facing the wall again. He turnsto look at Yamanuanch. KATAN: "Sit well, think well!" YANKUSH (shaking fan in directionof Yamanuanch):"Her chest is bad [i.e., diseased]." He sucks the afflicted spot and spits noisily. He turns quickly to Chapaik. VARIOUSMEN: "Tell him where it hurts!" YANKUSH: "You can give her an injection." KATAN: "Nephew, look at all the places that hurt!" YANKUSH: "Give her an injection. She will recover. She is not sick with He sorcery,buta cold in herthroat."' looks at Chapaikwhile singing, touching her with his left hand. He sucks on Chapaik's back, spits, then sings above Chapaik. He yawns noisily, then kneels to suck on her back. He hawks noisily and spits. YANKUSH: "You can give her an injectionof wichu [unidentified; probably a corruptionof the name of a pharmaceutical product]. You can give her three injections. She will get well." KATAN: "TomorrowI'll get the medicine." YANKUSH: "With various injections she'll get better." Turns to Yamanuanch."She has sickness in her stomach." SHIMPU:"Is she going to die? If so, tell me!" Yankushleans over Yamanuanch,sucks, and spits. when they come to visit. Why bewitch my wife? I'm angry." Yankush stands singing over Yamanuanch.He drinks from the bottle of "mestizo medicine." He sings over Yamanuanchfor several minutes: "If my enemies want to bewitch me, here I am. They can't hurt me. I see everything. She had darts in her stomach, and I took them out." UTIJAT:"See well in orderto cure!"
KATAN: "Why would they want to bewitch me? I always give people food substance] out! . . . Look, stand up to the intoxication. If you cure her, I'll














YANKUSH: "Your throat is sore from vomiting. I will heal you. Your stomach hurts right there. I'll heal it. When I first began curing, few people came. Now many come because I can cure. If they are weak, I can heal them. If they have rheumatism, I can cure them. You will return to your house. I see your soul dancing there, getting drunk at parties. Perhaps you've been given an injection. This makes your stomach hurt. There are a few darts there." CHIMI:"If there are any dartsthere when she gets back home, they may say that Yankushput them there. So take them all out!" KATAN: "There are no sorcerersthere [in the patient'scommunity].Who will have done this bewitching?If my wife dies, I could kill any man out of anger. Little nephew, cure my wife well. I don't want to be botheringyou here. I live far away." AJUES: "Why hasn't Uyum [a kinsmanin a distantcommunity]come? Is he makingwar?" (Here Ajues is calling on the shaman'svisionarypowers to see events in a distantlocation.) YANKUSH: "Did your wife ever have colic [kuliku]before?" SHIMPU:"No, never." YANKUSH: "Now colic wants to grab her. You can give her ten dropsof
a medicine for colic . . . [still singing over Yamanuanch]. Colic wants to

grab her. Her body is weak, sick." He sucks noisily, spits. "Colic does not heal quickly. It gets better, then comes again. I will cure it completely. In this part [indicatingthroat?]there is no sickness. You vomited so much 80 that a piece of a sorcery dart is stuck in your throat. I'll remove it." He sucks on her throatand spits. "How have you been bewitched? Sometimes it is done so that a person will be sick for years but not die. I can cure this. If you have a piece of dart in your throat, the vomiting has made it more painful. I can take it out." (Speaking now) "Before you 85 had much sorcery inside you. Now I'm taking it all out. You are better. Receive an injection, and you'll get better." He sucks and spits. UTIJAT:"Make her well! You are a good curer." YANKUSH: "I'll see everything. Nothing will remain." KATAN: "If she has a lot of illness andyou can't take all of it out, take out 90 half so that I can cure her easily with medicine. You are a curer, you can do this for me." Yankushsucks on Chapaikand spits. He yawns loudly, and looks at Chapaik. YANKUSH: "In Achu they killed a person. A sorcererwas killed." OTHERS:"Who could it be?" Yankushdrinksfromthe bottleof "mestizo 95 medicine," then puts it down on the floor. He looks at Chapaik,touching her with his left hand. He sucks, spits, then vomits. KATAN: "Cure well! You are a shaman!" YANKUSH: "When I'm intoxicated, I cure well. Don't say that I wasn't intoxicatedenough." 100 KATAN: "Thereareotherswho arenot as braveas I" (alludingto his anger if his wife dies of sorcery). YANKUSH:"On a piece of iron I walk on tiptoes . ." (restof segment of curing song is inaudible).



KATAN: "Cure well! Don't let her be sick!" Yankush stands over Cha105 paik, fanningher with his leaf-fan. He touches her back with his left hand. He sucks and spits noisily, then begins to sing. (Segment is indecipherable on tape.) KATAN: "Blow the sickness away!" (To Chapaik) "You said that your head and neck hurt.Tell him where so thathe will cure you." 110 YANKUSH (turningto Yamanuanch,shakinghis leaf-fan):"If she has illness, I will see it and take it out." He sucks on Yamanuanch'sstomach and spits. "She can't die. I will heal her." KATAN: "She can't die, because I have few family left. We will be few if she dies." 115 YANKUSH: "Tumus [Yankush's wife] is sick [with naturalillness], not bewitched." UTIJAT:"Once I was sick like that, but aftertaking medicine I got well. I almost died." UTIJATand KATAN: "Fan her! Blow the sickness away!" 120 YANKUSH: "Her stomachis stucktogetherinside. I'm going to loosen it. I'll take out the sickness." Sucks, spits. "Sickness has hit several times, but I've removed it so that it will heal." He begins to sing, facing the wall behindhis stool. KATAN: "You all, don't talk so much! If you speak, the healer won't be 125 able to see. Be quiet, or he'll make a mistake!" YANKUSH: "There is a war in anotherplace and they've killed someone. His kinsmen returncrying." He faces Yamanuanchand begins to sing. "This person is weak inside. I'll make her well and strong. The earth never dies. When I heal her, she will be the same, never dying. You are 130 well. You lack only a little treatmentto be completely healed. I'm taking out the darts.Afterwards you shouldhave an injection, but you will recover slowly. Take off yourblanketso thatI can see your chest. Stainsor wounds come out on your breast. Have you had this before?" YAMANUANCH:"Yes." 135 YANKUSH: "Can you give her an injection?" SHIMPU:"Yes, I can." UTIJAT:"See how the birthof the woman's child will be." YANKUSH: "I can't see that." To the patient:"I'll returnto you again." (Turnsto Chapaik.) 140 UTIJAT:"Look at me to see if I shouldtake the name 'Tobacco'." (People laugh because Utijat is known in the village by several humorous nicknames, some of which he inventedfor himself.) KATAN: "Look there! She says that her liver hurts. Show him where it hurts.In her stomachit is hard.There's a line of pain there. Look therefirst, 145 look where the ydji tells you. Her chest is tight. It won't let her breathe." Yankushsucks on Chapaik'sstomach,then spits. Those presentremarkthat thereis much kaag (the sorcerer'sspecial saliva) in the saliva that Yankush spits out. KATAN: "It's understandable a strangermight want to fight with me, that 150 but why bewitch my wife? Yankush says that there is something in her body. Since he has strength,he should look carefully and blow away the












sickness." To Yankush:"If there's only a little, take it out. If thereis sickness, see it. Look to see what will cure her as fast as possible. Cureit! Cure it! See what will happen next! This woman came far to be cured. Some women don't want to live, and they take their own lives with poison. She doesn't want to die. Who can cure her? Look at them [i.e., the patients]. Many come here and leave recovered. Sometimes shamanscan't see. But look carefullyanyway! Look!" UTIJAT:"Look to see if my soul is marriedto a mestizo woman!" (laughter) KATAN: "Show him where it hurtsin your liver." YANKUSH: "She could get well fast, but the 'tobacco' [i.e., curer]hasn't discoveredthe sickness yet. Her body is weak." KATAN: "Now thatyou are withydji, look well! Throwout the sickness!" UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: "She says she has tsuak [a powerful hallucinogen, Brugmansiasp., sometimes used for self-cures]. Can she take it?" YANKUSH: "You can take two injections, then you can take tsuak." KATAN: "After looking into her, you should tell us what medicine to buy." YANKUSH (indicating Chapaik): "She doesn't have much, just a little sickness." KATAN: "Can I give her injectionsfor her liver?" YANKUSH: "Yes, that's all right." To Chapaik:"Mother, I'll fan you. I'm concentrating to throw out sickness, like a tireless jaguar. My song continues, continues. With my help she will become like the tapir, which doesn't know how to refuse any kind of food." KATAN: "It's true that tapirsnever reject food. When I eat tapirit tastes a good. Delicious!'"(Tapiris traditionally prohibitedfood item for the Aguaruna,thoughit is now increasinglyeaten in the Alto Mayo because game is scarce.) YANKUSH: "When she gets well she can eat the monkey wdjiam. The pains in your stomachhave made you weak. But with this fanningyou will get better. We'll see how it will turnout. I speak to you like the mankup [species of bear], which never gets sick." KATAN: "Tell him if you don't have pains in your head. Little nephew, she says thather head seems to swell, then her ears close up tight." YANKUSH:"Fromhere in her head I took out dartsandthrewthem away. TomorrowI will see all, and then we can leave this curing." CHAPAIK(gettingup): "I want you to see into me again on Saturday,and when I come again." YANKUSH:"When you come again, bringme a gift of cloth. Withanother healing session you will recover." YAMANUANCH:"What kind of injection should I get?" YANKUSH: "An injectionfor colic. You can take drops of Diafa [apparently a commercialmedicine] in waterseveraltimes. You can take dropsof Diafa withoutan injection. This is the only sickness that is hurtingyou." To Shimpu:"There was somethingsticky in her body, but I took it all out. Only a little colic remainsthere. She'll get well soon. This colic made her body weak."



SHIMPU:"Can she eat wdjiam[a species of monkey]?" YANKUSH: "She can eat it when she's better, aftera week. Through her body I say the sickness will not continue. The agile dog never tires, hopping about. She should be this way. I say that her stomach should never reject food, as the tapir never rejects food. It's all right. She won't die. It's nothing." I KATAN: "How are the grandchildren left behind in Shimpiyacu?" YANKUSH: "All right. They're fine." KATAN: "Will I arrivehome safely?" YANKUSH: "Yes. Don't worry any more." Marianahelps Tumus lie down in frontof Yankush.Othersare saying goodbye and leaving. MARIANA:"Tell him to fan your head. Lie down. Show him where your liver hurtsmost." YANKUSH: "She has sugku. [In this context, stgku means "natural"or "epidemic" illness as opposed to sorcery-inducedillness.] After much suffering, she'll get better." OTHERS:"Surely she will die of suffering!" YANKUSH: "Her othersickness is gone. Now anotherillness has grabbed her, the same that infected the others. The offspring of the tapir never becomes ill. Be like this." Chimi and Utijattake theirleave. All the others have left except Yankush, his wife Tumus, and Tumus's motherMariana. The anthropologists leave. It is 9:05 p.m. First Reading: Shamanic Clarification and Transference To gain some analyticalpurchaseon an event of this complexity, we must identifythe centralfeaturesof the session and follow the developing roles of the of protagonists.In doing so, I shall firstoffer a conventionalinterpretation Yankush's therapeutic efforts, one that stresses his attemptsto grapplewith the chaotic effects of illness and wrest from them some meaning so as to assure the patientsthattheirsufferingswill soon come to an end. I shall then advancea second readingof this event thatchallenges the firstby questioningthe alleged ordercreated throughhealing discourse. The central acts ponderedby the participantsin this encounterhave to do with "seeing" as it is effected throughthe powerfulagency of the shaman'sgaze. The participantsrepeatedlyurge Yankushto "see where the sickness is" (line 16). In response, Yankushreassuresthem thathe can "see everything" (line 54). Laterhe describes Yamanuanch'sillness as resembling "wounds or stains" on her chest (line 132). Yankush'sgaze encompasses not only the ability to see the hiddendangerin his patientsbut also to observe events distantin space and time, includingviolent acts in other communities(lines 93 and 126). Though not realized in this session, the ultimateachievementof the shamanicgaze is the identificationof the sorcererwho sends the illness. Thus Yankush's power lies in his abilityto searchthe darknessfor the glimmerof hiddenforces andveiled motives. His manifestability to see the illness inside his patientsis enhancedby the darkness; paradoxically,the shaman'spenetratinggaze is most effective when others cannotsee at all. Accordingto the ideology of Aguarunashamanicpractice, the acuity of the shaman'sgaze is based on two factors: (1) the quantityand strengthof the ydji



thathe has consumedbefore the session, and (2) the presence in his body of the that he seeks within his patients. Throughoutthe sesvery tsentsak(spirit-darts) vision. He sion, Yankushemphasizes the intensity of his hallucinogen-induced declares, for instance, "Don't say that I wasn't intoxicatedenough," which is presaged by Katan's imperative "Stand up to the intoxication" earlier in the event. The bitteryaji enables him to do his dangerouswork, but his willingness to submitto its rigorsis also keenly notedevidence of his commitmentas a healer. Ultimately,however, even the power of yiji as the catalystof the shamanicgaze the dependsupon the strengthof the shaman'sown spirit-darts: Alto Mayo Aguarunaassertthatydji will not intoxicatesomeone who lacks them. In otherwords, the shaman's spirit-darts give the vision form and meaning, permittinghim to neutralizethe venomous tsentsaklodged in his patient'sbody.7 Althoughthe centraldiscursive focus of the healing session concerns sight, the principalchannelsof communicationare almost exclusively auditorybecause of the enfoldingdarkness.Thereis, of course, a tactile dimensionwhile Yankush workson the bodies of the patients,butin essence he translates visual experience a into an acousticone. He employs the three speech registersmentionedearlier;he also whistles, hums, shakeshis fan of sdmpileaves, yawns extravagantly,noisily sucks on the patients, and is periodically convulsed by paroxysms of hawking, spitting, and vomiting. As a speech event, the ritualcan be roughlydivided into four parts. (1) The session opens with Yankushand the participants talking informally in the ordinary discursiveregister.As the hallucinogenbegins to takeeffect, however, the shaman's messages change registers and expand into other communicative "channels" and "codes" (Fitzgerald1975:208-209): his explosive yawns heraldthe arrivalof the pdsuk spirits;he shakesthe leaf-fan;conspicuousspitting thanspeak. Katanandothermen shoutwords commences;he begins to sing rather of encouragement. at (2) By the time curingbegins in earnest(beginningapproximately line 18), Yankush'sactions shift to sucking, utterancesin the shamanicregister, andretching. (3) Beginningat line 93, the exchangesof Yankushandthe otherparticipants of jump fromthe particulars the cases at handto events in distantplaces: the murder of a sorcererin Achu and a violent encounterin an unidentifiedcommunity. (4) As the session entersits finalexchanges (fromline 161), Yankushmoves graduallyback to ordinaryspeech as he and the patients' families work out a schedule for additionalsessions and plan the dietary and medicinal regime that will hastenrecovery. Whatdoes this nervous movementbetween registersmean, and why should Yankush'scommunications expandinto otherchannelsduringthe session? At the most superficiallevel, the unusualsounds and shifting registersmarkthe event's "otherness" for the participants,for they are indices of Yankush'sentry into an alteredstate of consciousness and his struggleagainstthe evil work of sorcerers. of The variousforms of communicationalso show considerableredundancy coding (Fitzgerald1975:228) that serves to emphasizethe event's key symbols. The noise of fanning or energetic sucking, for example, reinforcesthe repeatedreferencesto the extractionof spirit-darts.



held to be centralto all symbolic Yankush'sutterancesmarkthe transference healing (Dow 1986). The patient's struggle is taken on by the healer, who attemptsto define and resolve the issues at hand and to restorethe patientto some formof wholeness. In the case before us, the shamanremovesthe sourcesof pain, neutralizes theirharmfulpower, and assimilatesthem into his own shamanicsubstance. As Levi-Straussnotes, in the therapeutictransferencesought by the shaman "the manipulationmust be carried out through symbols, that is, through meaningfulequivalentsof things meantwhich belong to anotherorderof reality" (1963:196). Here the patient's experience of suffering constitutes a disordered whole involving differentaspectsof bodily function. Duringthe ritual, a complex bodily experience is transformedinto an intricate auditory experience which, throughthe extractionof spirit-darts, eventuallybecomes focused and simplified. Healing symbols, like religious metaphors, "recast the inchoate (and ineffable) whole of primary experience into various manageable domains" (Fernandez 1977:126). Althoughthe level of mythicdetail elucidatedby Levi-Straussin his analysis of a Cuna ritual is not to be found in the Aguarunarite, Yankushdoes employ figurativelanguage to suggest to his patients that he has removed the source of theirillness andput them on the pathto recovery. "You will returnto yourhouse. 62). And laterYankushmakes ample use of tropesto weave his fabricof healing images:"The earthneverdies. When I heal her, she will be the same, neverdying
[lines 128-129]. . . . The agile dog never tires, hopping about. She should be I see your soul dancing there, getting drunk at parties . . .", he sings (lines 61-

this way. I say thather stomachshould neverrejectfood, as the tapirnever rejects

food" (lines 222-224).

Beginningwith line 178, Yankushemploys a series of animalsimiles, some of which are picked up for discussion by Katan. Yankushclaims to concentrate "like a tireless jaguar" to make Chapaik "become like a tapir, which doesn't know how to refuse any kindof food. " Presentlythereis a discussionof permitted food items for the patient-specifically, whetherChapaikcan safely eat the flesh of wdjiam, a species of monkey. This exchange is representativeof a broader patternof interestin the links between humans and animals prominentin Aguarunahealth care practices. The treatmentof most identifiableillness includes a set of appropriatefood avoidances or prohibitions, called wakemtdi, that are linked to the illness symptoms by analogical reasoning. People suffering from skin lesions, for instance, should avoid eating armadillo"because the lesions will then dig into the flesh as the armadilloclaws into the ground." Analogies to the animal world can be used therapeutically well. In a special healing chant for as infants,the sick child may be likened to the offspringof vultures, "which can eat rottenthingswithoutharm." The goal is to transferthe resistanceof the vulture's chicks to the sufferingchild.8 Yankush'sstatements,then, drawon a sharedetioframework extendsbeyondthe specialcase of sorcery. that logical andtherapeutic The dramaof Yankush'smulti-channelcommunicationis intensifiedby the contribution Katanand Shimpu, who shout words of encouragement,urge the of healer to protecthimself against the dangershe willingly incurs on their behalf, declaretheirconcernfor theirwives, anddirecthis visionarypowers emphatically in ways that are of interestto the gatheredparticipants.The weighty exchanges between Yankushand these men are leavened on two occasions by the humorof



Utijat(lines 140 and 159), who is known in the communityfor his idiosyncratic wit. most of the session, Althoughthe patientsthemselves arepassive throughout one can reasonably suppose the event helps them to redefine themselves as "healed" or at least moving towardrecovery. Yankushrepeatedlysays that he has takenmuch of the sickness from theirbodies and thatthey will soon feel better. Besides providingthemwith provisionalexplanationsfor theirailments,Yankush also suggests specific therapeuticmeasures that include recommendations for diet and commercialpharmaceuticals, well as the use of the hallucinogen as tsuak to obtain healing visions (cf. Brown 1978). Moreover, the patients have been the objects of intense expressions of concern by the session's participants. Chapaik'sbrisk remarksnear the end of the ritual ("I want you to see into me again on Saturday")imply that she is satisfiedwith his efforts, thoughhardlyin awe of his powers. Second Reading: Dissident Subtexts of Having developed a ratherorthodox symbolic interpretation the healing of session, I wish to advanceanotherinterpretation the session's exchanges, one that illuminatesthe subtle negotiationsbetween Yankushand his clients, especially Katan,who plays a prominentpartin the proceedings. Katan'sinitial contributionsto the ritual take the form of shouts of encouragement(e.g., line 30, "Sit well, think well!") and blandishments(lines 22-23, "If you cure her, I'll always receive you well in my house"). His mood changes to indignation,however, as he contemplatesthe possibility that his wife is the victim of sorcery: "Why would they wantto bewitchme? I always give people food when they come to visit. Why bewitch my wife? I'm angry" (lines 50-51). But it is Chimi's sub"If sequentremarkthat offers a clue to the subversive undercurrents. there are dartsthere when she gets home," she shouts (lines 64-65), "they may say any thatYankushput them there. So take them all out!" Chimi's remarkis an unusually frank renderingof a threatimplicit in all Aguarunahealing sessions. The natureof shamanicpower is believed to invite malfeasanceon the part of the healer. People see that he can heal; they suspect of that he can also kill. A demonstration a shaman's commitmentto healing (as opposedto killing) is his willingness to take on patients, the intensitywith which he workson themduringthe healing session, and theirsubsequentrecovery. If he declinesto treatpeople, if he provesreluctantto workhardat healing, if too many patientsdie, troublingquestionsmay arise. Is the shamanreally a sorcerer?Is he of takingadvantage his credulousclients to pursuesorceryunderthe guise of healing?9 So Yankushis underpressureto demonstratehis efficacy and good will by a thorough of treatment the two patients.On the heels of Chimi's comment, Katan interjects:"Who will have done this bewitching?If my wife dies, I could kill any man out of anger" (lines 66-68). This is echoed later by his comment, "There areotherswho are not as braveas I" (line 100). Katan'sboastfuldeclarationsare rhetoricwith a purpose. Aguarunamen argue that the best means of protecting one's family from sorceryis to make direct threatsto suspectedsorcerers.Katan uses this healing session as a social stage on which he can publicly emphasizehis



to determination repay sorcery with violence. Although an event such as this is the not public in a strictsense, it will be widely discussed throughout Alto Mayo in the days to follow. Katanhopes that his show of strengthwill deter sorcerers are fromcontinuingtheirsecretassaults.The declarations also for Yankush'sbenefit, shouldhe be temptedto pursuesorceryhimself. Soon afterthese veiled threats,Yankushdivines the killing of a shamanin a neighboringvalley, reportingit first in the shamanicregister, then discursively (line 93). He immediatelyrefocuses on a patient, enteringinto a period of noisy suckingand violent retching, afterwhich he comments, "Don't say thatI wasn't intoxicatedenough" (lines 98-99). These rapidmoves between distantpolitical events and the specifics of healing, repeated several times during the session, markYankush's trance as significantly different from the classic form of spirit mediumshipin which the medium is totally separatedfrom his or her ordinary self, with no subsequentrecollectionof tranceutterances(Lambek1981:73). The discretenessof the latterform of trancegives the mediumthe license to speak of world" that "chalforbiddensubjects and even to elaboratean "antistructural lenges the larger society throughits creation of new norms that upend conventional morality" (DeBerardi 1987:330).' world of the Aguarunashamancannotbe a desired soBut the antistructural cial norm;it can only be invoked to defend againstthe antistructural antagonism of of one's enemies. Nor can Yankushdeny the authorship his shamanicpowers, despite the assistance of his pdsuk spirit-helpers.He must thereforetread carefully, stressinghis own willingness to heal while distancinghimself fromthe work of sorcerers.In the sequence underscrutiny(lines 93-99), he declaresthat a sorcererhas been assassinated,therebyvalidatingbelief in the existence of sorcerers and in the power of his shamanicgaze. The revelation also implicitly reaffirms the notionthatsorcererscan and shouldbe killed. Finally, he emphasizeshis own strenuousefforts at curing, which are public signs of his good intentions. These quick rhetoricalshifts are representativeof his approachto the entire session, which consists of abruptmovementsbetween the shamanicantistructure (constitutedby his song) andthe demandsof his clients, who advancetheirown agendas wheneverthey can. Yankushand his clients thus find themselves caughtin a labyrinthof contradiction. By calling on the services of a shaman, the patients and their kinsmen implicitlyvalidatethe very system of shamanicpower that threatensthem. They take some comfort in the fact that Yankush, as the most public of practitioners, pursueshis activities in the frontregions of society, where he is subjectto intense scrutiny.Yet they also use the healing session to make theirstatementto Yankush and all shamans, in effect saying, "We are strong. We will give no quarterto hiddensorcerers." For his part, Yankushuses the persuasivepower of metaphorand the broad communicative powersof ritualin an attemptto imbuethe patients'sufferingwith a sense of meaning. But to supporthis precariousstatusas a shamanicpractitioner in the frontregions of social life, he must arousethe participants'moral outrage at the work of unknownshamanswho work their evil craft in the back regions. This inevitablysuggests the possibility that the healing effected throughthe ceremony is provisionalor, worse still, a deadly form of hypocrisy. Aguarunashamansandtheirclients are thus locked into an uneasy "dialectic of control" (Gid-



dens 1979:93) in which they constantlyrenegotiatethe termsof theirrelative autonomyand dependence, even as they reproducethe shamanicsystem itself. Conclusions My intenthas been to lay barethe powerfulfusion of psychological and political elements takingplace within the crucible of Aguarunashamanicpractice. Muchof the discussionduringthe healing session has an explicit political quality: even when communicatingin the shamanicregister, Yankushalludes to conflicts andkillings, public acts andprivatemotives. The emotionalintensityof the event is engenderedby the shamanin concert with the other participants,whose outburstsare often quite self-consciously directed to a wider audience. This intricately texturedsocial experience is broughtto bear on the physical condition of specific patients but may come to affect the political condition of larger social units in the region. Both the shamanand his interlocutorsmake effective use of rhetoricin an attemptto asserttheir controlover the session. Yankushavails himself of an Aristotelian rhetoricalform called the enthymeme,the manipulationof reasoning basedon public opinion (Burke 1950:56), the purposeof which is to persuadethe patientsof his healing skills and his good intentions. Against the enthymemic of rhetoricof Yankush is pitted the more oblique counter-rhetoric Katan and Chimi, which stresses the power of the communityover the sinister schemes of This exchange elevates the emotional intensityof the encounsorcerer-shamans. to that ter, contributing an atmosphere the Aguaruna regardas bothdangerousand therapeutic. But does this ritual serve to create, in the words of Fitzgerald(1975:232), in "an islandof structure an otherwiserather disorderlysocial world"?This question can be answeredaffirmativelyonly from a synchronicperspective-that is, by ignoringthe session's place in the ongoing history of Yankush, the patients andtheirkinsmen, and the Alto Rio Mayo as a whole. Looked at diachronically, each shamanicperformancehas an element of incompleteness, for the shaman's motives and behaviorare always subjectto public scrutiny. Closure is achieved only at the shaman'sdeath, if even then. Although the session may help the pathe tientsunderstand source of theirphysical discomfort, it also raises and leaves unresolvedalarmingpossibilities. The suspicion that Chapaikand Yamanuanch are troubledby sorceryis now confirmed.But who are the sorcerers?When will they strikeagain and will it be in a more lethal way? Could Yankushbe using his cover as a healing shamanto do them secretharm,perhapseven duringthe curing session itself? Does a recurrenceof illness signify a new episode of sorcery, or does it mean that the shaman's claims of efficacy are exaggerated?These questions will echo throughlocal politics long afterthe healingsession witnessedhere. Althoughthere is a provisionalorderforged in the ritual, it can never be definitive-for if it were, all sorcererswould be identifiedand eliminated, all mysterious illnesses banishedfrom the Aguarunaworld. The vexing questionsraised in the shamanicencounterand the contested natureof shamanicknowledge itself of the complex. guarantee social reproduction the shaman-sorcerer of is Yankush'sreputation built in parton his appropriation symbols of nonThis inIndianculture, most notably "mestizo medicine" and pharmaceuticals.



tense interest in alien shamanic practices, which has a long-established tradition in Jivaroan societies (Harer 1972:119-125), is usually interpreted as being founded on the belief that the foreign is more powerful than the local. One wonders, though, whether the search for knowledge in distant places represents instead an unconscious impulse to acquire forms of power free of the constraints and counterclaims of local political life-in other words, a wish to escape from the dialectic of control that troubles both the shaman and his clients. In his use of pharmaceuticals Yankush searches for a form of domination that is uncontestable. Aguaruna laity express a similar wish when they speak of "eliminating iwishfn once and for all," thus ridding society of the threat of sorcery. In both responses we see the implicit acknowledgment that shamanism is more than the ritual enactment of cosmological principles, more than spiritual ideology. It is also a robust instrument of social control, which like all forms of power generates its measure of opposition and discontent. An analysis that directs itself to the fissures in the social edifice runs the risk of overlooking the ways in which practices contribute to social solidarity (Ortner 1984:157). It cannot be denied that Aguaruna healing rituals provide a focus for kin-group unity and the expression of key cultural values. The cathartic exposure of the hidden sources of illness, accompanied by dramatic demonstrations of concern, puts healing sessions among the strongest expressions of the cohesiveness of the group (however defined) available in Aguaruna society. What I have tried to show here is that this solidarity is achieved at substantial cost-for the participants vanquish illness from the physical body only by shifting the locus of uncertainty to the body politic.

The field researchon which this analysis is based was supported Acknowledgments. Foundationfor Anthropological by grantsfromthe DohertyFoundation,the Wenner-Gren version of this essay was presentedat the Research,and Williams College. A preliminary 45th International Congress of Americanistsin Bogota. I would like to thank Michael J. Hamer, Alan Harwood, RobertJackall, Jean E. Jackson, William L. Merrill, Donald K. Pollock, MarkC. Taylor, and an anonymousreviewerfor thoughtfulcommentson earlier draftsof the essay. of Correspondence may be addressedto the authorat the Department Anthropology and Sociology, Williams College, Williamstown, MA 01267. 'The particulars my field researchamong the Aguarunaof the Alto Rio Mayo are of describedin Brown (1984, 1986). Althoughmy most extensive researchwas conductedin 1976-78, some of the materialpresentedhere was collected duringbrief visits in 1984, of 1985, and 1986. Brown (1984:227-232) includes a complete transcript anotherhealing session over which Yankushpresided. 21 recordedone instance of a woman who practicedas an iwishin, but her case was consideredhighly unusualby people in the Alto Mayo. Nor have I found any referencesto women serving as healing shamansamong neighboringJivaroansocieties. Women may, however, be identifiedas sorcerers,though sorcery accusationsagainst women are infrequentand, to the best of my knowledge, rarelylead to homicide. 3Iknow of no sourcesthatprovidetranscripts healing sessions from otherJivaroan of populations.Such descriptionsas are available, however, do suggest that iwishin traditionallyworkedwell into the night when they treatedtheirpatients.None of the sessions I witnessedin Yankush'shouse lasted more thanthreehours, and severalwere substantially shorter.



4In their detailed analysis of psychotherapeutic interviews, Labov and Fanshel (1977:35) distinguishamong several "fields of discourse" thatbear some resemblanceto what I have called registers because they demonstratemarked differences in content. Nevertheless, the term "register" (Halliday 1978:35) betterexpresses the lexical differences betweenordinaryspeech and shamanicutterance,as well as the shift from speech to song. 5Toobtainthe text presentedhere, I reviewed a tape recordingof the healing session with an Aguaruna and Yankush'ssongs and informant,who helpedme transcribe interpret the statementsof otherparticipants.Although my relationswith Yankushwere generally of cordial, he declined to assist me in the transcription his songs, on the groundsthat the words were a professional secret. Several passages in the cryptic shamanicregister are markedas "untranslatable" "indecipherable"because lay informantscould not underor standthem. AlthoughI regrettednot being able to obtain a complete transcript, these difficultiesmademe awarethatthe specific contentof muchof the shaman'ssong is unknown to otherparticipants thereforeperipheralto the session as they experience it. Readers and interestedin complete translationsof Jivaroanshamanicchants should consult Pellizzaro (1978). 6Ihave not elaboratedon the specific genealogical links among the participants,because they do not seem especially germaneto an understanding the events that follow. of The fluid kindred-basedgroups found among the Aguarunaand other Jivaroanshave a developmentalcycle that can exert a profoundinfluence on local politics (see Colajanni ritual. 1984), but such factorsshed little light on the events of this particular 7Pellizzaro(1978) states that for the Shuar, Jivaroanneighborsof the Aguaruna,a of curing shamanmust have spirit-darts the same category as the darts he removes from patients.If he attemptsto extracta dartof a category previouslyunknownto him, he can be overpoweredand killed. 8Detailsof Aguarunafood prohibitions,healing chants, and the perceived links between humansandanimalsin Aguaruna ethnomedicinecan be found in Brown (1984:174200, 243-258). 9Thisoccupationalhazardof shamansis outlined in Colajanni'sdetailed account of the murderof an Achuarshamanin Ecuador(1984). His informantsreportthatgood shamansneverrefuse to undertake healing session, nor do they considerbewitchingpeople. a Said one man, "I always advised a shamanthat he should never bewitch anyone, that he should cure well, that he ought to suck deeply [at curing sessions], and that if he were murdered would avenge him" (1984:239, my translation).Laterin the same essay, CoI lajannimentionsthatsuspicionsabouta specific shamanintensifiedwhen he was perceived to have begun to treathis kin negligently with regardto their need for shamanichealing (1984:243). '?Lewis(1981) arguespersuasivelythatthe distinctionbetweenspiritmediumshipand a shamanism largely terminological.Because of space limitationsI have not undertaken is detailedcomparisonof the literatureon shamans and mediums, but it bears noting that studiesof the latterhave traditionallybeen more alert to issues of social power than have workson New Worldshamanism.

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