Marubo - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Marubo admit the existence of two categories of spirits: the yové, which have human appearance and engage in social life, are generally benevolent, immortal, highly adorned, powerful, and healthy; and the yochi, which are like humans or animals but are harmful and lack adornments and social life, although they are powerful and immortal. Human beings have several souls, but probably these coalesce into two—that of the right side and that of the left side.

The land was created by Kana (reference to a section)

Voã; the flora were created by Kana Mari (the same name as the rodent Dasyprocta aguti ), who it appears also made the river and its living beings; cultivated plants were created by Oni (the same name as the Banisteriposis caapi , meaning "the single one"). Slaughtered animals' meat and bones were the main raw material for these creations. Human beings emerged from the ground near the mouth of a big river, each section through a different hole. In the long walk up the river basin, the Marubo learned the items of their culture, several of them from animals.

Religious Practitioners. When one of the few Marubo shamans is present, frequently at night, his right-side soul travels to some yové huts, where a series of yové come successively to occupy his body, animating it and making it talk, sing, and dance. Although the shaman's performance can be promoted for practical purposes such as curing, its main purpose seems to be to arrange contact by men and women with the yové.

Ceremonies. Major rites mark the maize harvest, the visit of invited domestic groups for a big meal or to drink beer, and the arrival of a new wooden drum into the hut. There is no information about initiation rites.

Arts. The wooden structure of a hut, the delicacy of the strings of beads, the details of liana or string tying and knotting, the variety of cooked dishes, and persistence in reciting chants are all expressive forms.

Medicine. Long curing chants over the body of a sick person or a pot of porridge the patient will eat are common treatments. Curing singers use tobacco powder and Banisteriopsis caapi juice before each chant. The shaman, who use the same substances, invites some of the spirits he receives to cure the patient. The subcutaneous application of the secretion of the frog Philomedusa bicolor, the touching of a species of stinging nettle, and the bite of the ant Dinoponera grandis are used to dispel laziness and to bring good luck in hunting. A resin colored with Bixa orellana is used to paint aching parts of the body. Many medicines are prepared from plants.

Death and Afterlife. In the past Marubo practiced osteophagia after the incineration of a corpse. Today they bury the body. At physical death the soul on the right side takes a path to reach a certain celestial layer (there are several layers above and below the ground where humans live). If the dead person had lived according to Marubo rules, his or her soul escapes more easily from the dangerous and seducing yochĩ, which wait for it along the way and try to destroy it or transform it into one of them. If the soul overcomes all the obstacles and reaches the end of the path, a mythical being, whose name is the same as that of a species of monkey ( Pithecia monachus ), will change its skin for a new one and the soul will be transformed into a yové.

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