Culina - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Traditional belief is in animal spirits who are collectively known as tokorime. A culture hero, Kira, lives in the sky above the clouds, whereas animal spirits live in the underground world called nami budi. Tokorime spirits include most animals known to the Culina plus a variety of other, monstrous tokorime who populate the forest. Kira is considered remote; having created the Culina, he retreated to the sky and has no more contact with this world. Protestant missionaries in Peru identify Kira with God but consider the tokorime satanic; a few Peruvian Culina profess to be Christian, but the Culina as a whole retain their traditional religious beliefs.

Religious Practitioners. Shamans are active in curing rituals and when a death occurs; they call white-lipped peccaries from the nami budi to the forest for hunting. Shamans are always men, and, traditionally, all adult men were shamans. Shamans may also be accused of witchcraft, particularly by members of other villages.

Ceremonies. Ceremonies are conducted in the dry season, roughly from April to September. The largest ceremony centers around drinking and then vomiting up large quantities of a fermented manioc beverage. This ceremony ritualizes themes of hunting versus horticulture and male versus female economic roles. Shamans also conduct curing rituals during the dry season, nighttime ceremonies in which the witchcraft substance causing a person's illness is sucked out of the body. Although the Culina say that formal rituals are only held during the dry season, rainy-season hunting is done collectively, and a brief ceremony of meat distribution follows.

Arts. The Culina make feather ornaments, necklaces and bracelets of small seeds or beads (when available), and woven cotton arm bands. Adolescent boys make small flutes. Singing is an important component of all rituals.

Medicine. A variety of leaves are used for minor cuts, scratches, aches, or pains; leaves said to "smell good" are thought to be curative. More serious illness is the result of a substance called dori injected into the victim's body by a witch. It can only be extracted by a shaman, who uses tobacco to induce trance, becomes transformed into a spirit, and sucks out the harmful dori. The Culina also turn to Brazilian medications if they are available but do not consider Brazilian medications effective against witchcraft-induced illness.

Death and Afterlife. Death occurs when the soul, korime , leaves the body. A shaman ritually leads the soul to the underworld, where it enters a village much like its former earthly home but populated by white-lipped peccaries. A ceremony is held for the soul, during which it is eaten by, and then transformed into, a white-lipped peccary. These peccaries are later called back up into the forest, where they are hunted, eaten, and finally transformed back into living Culina in a cycle of death and "rebirth." A witch who is killed in revenge will not be conducted to the underworld. The witch's soul wanders the forest for several days, and is finally eaten by a jaguar, into which it is transformed. Because the Culina do not eat jaguars, the soul is never reincarnated again.

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