Nambicuara - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practices. Despite contact with missionaries since the 1930s, the traditional Nambicuara religion has changed little. "Power" is a basic religious concept and it is believed to be present in all humans, animals, and inanimate objects. According to Lévi-Strauss, the Nambicuara consider lightning to be a Supreme Being. Additionally, the forests, bushes, and hills are thought to be inhabited by spirits and demons, which can be exorcised or propitiated in times of need. In the rainy-season settlements, men gather in the flute-hut to make music and to ask ancestors for fertility. Major events in the life cycle are marked by ceremonies, with name giving to the newborn and initiation of youths especially significant events. Almost every territorial group has a shaman who leads the ceremonies, contacts the supernatural forces, and heals the sick.


Arts. Instrumental music and singing are important activities, both for ritual and recreational purposes.


Medicine. Illness is believed to be caused by malevolent spirits. "Easy" ailments, such as headache or indigestion, can be treated by massage administered by anyone in the community. More complicated disorders require intervention by the shaman, who uses herbs and the sucking out of the evil from the victim's body. To appease the spirit causing the illness, he must also chant, as he must win the assistance of the spirit in order to discover the cause of the illness.


Death and Afterlife. The dead are buried in a hunched or a fully extended position, with their feet toward the east. The souls of the dead are thought to linger about the grave for a few days before finally departing to the rocky hill that the Nambicuara consider their original homeland.


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