Palikur - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. The name "Ohogri" is applied to the Christian God, and Jesus Christ is called "Ohogri Kamkaen" (God-son). The devil is called "Wapetpiyé." Mentioned among the various tiers of heaven are Nikene, Ena, and Inoliku, the last being the lowest level and the dwelling place of Ohogri. The Palikur also refer to the existence of a small but special heaven called "Yonoklin" where the Yumawalí (mythical shamans) live. Among them, Karumayará stands out for having lived for some time on earth and for having performed there great deeds before returning to Yonoklin upon death. The Palikur posit the existence of several hells, among them Minila and Wimpi, and the universal myth of the flood is present in their mythology. Caused by Ohogri, the deluge left vestiges of its occurrence on Mount Karupina, between the Urucauá and the Curipi, where the people took refuge.

According to tradition, numerous spirits are said to frequent the air, rivers, lakes, forests, and mountains. They can turn into animals and trees and temporarily remain in the shaman's paraphernalia and in the places where these are kept. Many of these spirits are thought to live on Mount Karupina. They are also referred to as demons, but without attributing to them characteristics typical of demons in Christian mythology. Despite the assimilation of elements of Catholic doctrine, traditional beliefs continued to prevail until they were supplanted by the Pentecostal religion.

Religious Practitioners . There are shamans and sorcerers (better known as blowers) who, especially the former, have been exercising considerable influence over Palikur society since time immemorial. Among the Urucauá Indians, however, this influence began to diminish after the introduction of Pentecostalism. The native agents of the supernatural renounced their ancient beliefs and the majority joined the Pentecostal church.

Ceremonies. The most important ceremony is called Aramteme (Feast of the Turé), the aim of which is to pay homage to the benevolent spirits. The ceremony is also performed by the Uaçá Galibí and the Karipúna, generally at full moon. Of great importance to the Palikur is the Kisepa ceremony, which is performed to pay last respects to a deceased person, generally about a year after his or her death. Two other ceremonies are the Wasapina (dance of the rattle) and the Mayapina (dance of the clubs). After joining the Pentecostal church, most Palikur have discontinued performing these ceremonies.

Arts. Numerous songs and dances that were known and performed during traditional ceremonies have been replaced by Christian hymns.

Medicine. Although the Palikur make use of numerous native remedies, illness was basically said to be caused by supernatural agents. In the treatment of such illness, shamans act under the influence of these forces, and each shaman's capacity varies according to the power of his tutelary spirits. The sorcerer (blower) no longer depends in his practice on the power of the spirits but on his own power, which he transmits to the sick person through his own breath or the blowing of tobacco smoke. Since the establishment in 1942 of an SPI agency among them, the Palikur have accepted Western treatment and medication.

Death and Afterlife. Formerly, there were both primary and secondary burials, the latter taking place in ceramic urns. According to Palikur tradition, people were buried facing east, with the exception of shamans, who were buried facing in the opposite direction to stop them from doing harm. A dead person's spirit was said to go to the upper world irrespective of his or her conduct on earth. Initially, however, the spirit remains in a kind of purgatory for the same amount of time as the person had spent on earth. After that it is free to enter into heaven. These, like the other beliefs previously mentioned, are being abandoned by the Palikur under the influence of Christian ideology.


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