Cinta Larga - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Cinta Larga creation myth is a richly detailed story of how Gora created human beings (that is, members of the various tribes that people the area) and conferred on them specific identities and characteristics. On the other hand, animals, birds, and other living beings were created through the transformation of human beings, some of whom were turned into jaguars, others into tapir and other animals. This, too, was Gorá's accomplishment. Along with the minor culture heroes who people Cinta Larga mythology, Gorá is responsible for everything positive that exists in the sociocultural universe. The counterpart to those beneficial beings and deeds of creation is a spirit that lives in the forest and incorporates the dark aspect of existence. His name is Pavu. He roams the forest looking for victims. As soon as he finds a solitary hunter or anyone who wanders through his domain, he throws himself on them in a deadly attack. No one can resist his power, and an encounter with Pavu results in fever, followed by death.

Ceremonies. The Cinta Larga are one of the rare groups affiliated with the Tupí Language Stock that do not include tobacco in their culture. Ritual curing involves the recitation of efficacious words, the laying on of hands, and shamanistic blowing. This ritual finds minor expression within the framework of indigenous ceremonies, similar to the ritual of female seclusion and the perforation of childrens' lower lips. They are of minor importance when compared with the festival of bebé-aká (bebé/caitutu, peccary + aká, kill), which is the main expression of male and warrior values. On hunting expeditions men keep a sharp lookout, hoping to capture a young peccary alive. Later, in the village, it will be fed and treated with care similar to that given small children: it will suckle at a woman's breast, receive previously chewed solid food, be taken for walks, and receive many other marks of attention so it will grow up healthy. In the ceremony of bebéaká, the adult peccary is taken to be sacrificed and its flesh is distributed among the participants, according to rank. The most prized pieces will be given the brothers, brothers-in-law, and father-in-law; the rest is distributed according to rank, in descending order down to domestic animals, which will scarcely receive some viscera and bones. During the ceremony flutes are played, personal warrior songs ( berewá ) and dances are performed, and decorated arrows are presented to the owner of the peccary. The songs and praise express the bravery of a warrior and, consequently, male prominence.

Festivals similar to that of bebé-aká are held on other occasions, but without peccary sacrifice. They are held during important social events—for example, as recompense for collective work in the fields, to commemorate a raid on other Cinta Larga subgroups, to avenge grave offenses (kidnapping of women, for example), and earlier (approximately mid-twentieth century), according to the oldest Indians, for the performance of cannibalistic rituals after intertribal warfare. Ranches and cities have since been built on indigenous territories, isolating tribes from one another.

Medicine. Because they prize individual self-sufficiency, the Cinta Larga are ever attentive to their bodily health. At the first sign of illness they lie down in their hammocks and try to identify the causes of their discomfort. They can count on a wide array of knowledge and practices to help them cure illness. Of the many hundreds of plant species in the forest, some are noted for ensuring protection, preventing illness, and even for furthering the development of skills that directly or indirectly guarantee well-being. This knowledge is shared by all and increases with age. For example, some plants are regularly used to increase female fertility, to guarantee male vigor, to ensure a good delivery, to keep a woman from aborting, to diminish uterine contractions, to purify the parents of a newborn child and to ensure its well-being, to keep it from crying continuously, and to relieve pain in practically all parts of the body. Special leaves or roots are used for all these purposes. Plants are also used to make a child sleep soundly, to make adults sleep lightly, to keep a baby from biting its mother's breast when suckling, and so on. Once health is assured, another group of plants meets needs of another type: success in hunting and the correct use of weapons. There are even plants that the hunter uses to attract animals by rubbing their leaves on his body. Finally, there are plants that serve the totally different purpose of wreaking vengeance. Some poisons are used against women—to cause mortal hemmorhages, abortion, or death. A plant that can be used against anyone is the po sut which, when mixed with food, causes a person to get progressively thinner until he or she dies.

Death and Afterlife. With the exception of deaths that occur as a result of conflicts with non-Indian invaders or of intergroup conflicts, almost no death is considered natural. Illness, accidents, and old age are not considered to be factors that can cause death. Instead, death can only be caused by Pavu or poison, both of which act in an irreversible way, leaving the victim no possibility of recovery.

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