Kagwahiv - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The cosmological frame is laid out in the myth of Pindova'umi'ga, the powerful ancient chief who, annoyed by quarreling among children, lifted his house and the best natural resources to the sky. He is to be distinguished from the trickster/culture hero Mbahira (Mair of other Tupí mythologies), who originated many important cultural items and processes but has little to do in the current world. A third ancestor, the "Old Woman" (Gwaivi), was cremated by her sons and transformed into Kagwahiv crops. These myths and a few others form the core of Kagwahiv mythology. Food taboos are an enduring and central part of ritual life. One set applies to all parents, from the birth of their first child until old age. Others obtain during pregnancy and the months following birth; still others apply to sick individuals and their primary relatives. Agouti, which makes one lazy, is prohibited for young warriors. Handling manioc in any form is dangerous to a sick person. Sexual activity is also prohibited under certain circumstances; during a fish poisoning by timbó it will interfere with the action of the poison, and between parallel cousins it will cause the death of parents and/or children of the offenders. Certain acts will make a hunter panem, unable to kill a particular species or any species with a particular weapon.

Religious Practitioners. Curing, beyond the herbal level, was done by a shaman ( ipaji ) in a ceremony called tokaia. The ipaji went into trance (without drugs) behind a small screen or shelter (tokaia) set up in the plaza and made a spiritual journey through the various levels of the cosmos, concluding with an encounter with Pindova'umi'ga, chief of the Sky People. The ipaji (or a helping ipaji outside the tokaia) greeted each spirit encountered on the journey and asked for its help; the spirit replied in a characteristic song through the voice of the ipaji in trance. Dreaming is associated with shamanism. An ipaji or a layman may encounter spirits in dreams or predict (and, for a shaman, alter) the future through them. Dream predictions are mostly of success in hunting or of illness and death. Ipaji were born via dreams; a shaman would dream of a particular spirit of Sky Person, who announced that he would be born to a particular woman as a future ipaji. Her next-born son would then be marked for apprenticeship to the dreaming shaman, and the spirit reborn in him would be his rupigwara, the spirit agent of his power. The chain has been broken by the death of the last Kagwahiv ipaji before he could pass on his knowledge to his "dreamed one.

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