Pume - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Pume are polytheistic and have a pantheon composed of five culture heroes and numerous minor spirits called tio. The five culture heroes of the Pume are a woman called Kumañi; her two younger sisters, Hareroñi and Pareapañi; her younger brother Aetanerea, or Ichiai; and Poana, a giant anaconda. Minor spirits provide personal guidance, assistance, or protection and act as guardians of the sky, the water, and the earth. Living in the forests and certain areas of the savanna are evil spirits called yarka , said to cause illness and death.

Religious Practitioners. Each village usually has a religious specialist—shaman—but at some level all men and women are free to communicate with otherworldly beings. The shaman has a dual role in the village. First, he is the guardian of the rocks called tio ikara (spirit box) that contain or represent guardian and assistance spirits for members of that community. Second, the shaman performs most of the cures that involve "sucking" an evil spirit out of the sick person's body.

Ceremonies. The principal religious ceremony, the, is an all-night event of singing and dancing. Practiced once or twice a week year-round, these events are held so the living may communicate with the spirits of dead relatives living with Kumañi in her otherworld located in the western sky. Other important rites and ceremonies are associated with puberty, menstruation, postpartum, curing, hunting, and fishing.

Arts. Women often paint their faces with geometric designs in preparation for a the ceremony. Men carve animal figurines from jet that the women wear on bead necklaces. Men also carve the gourd rattles used during this ceremony with figures representing Kumañi, Poana, the jaguar spirit, and dead relatives. The rattle is the only musical instrument used by the Pume, but song is a well-developed form of Pume expression. The singing at a the is performed by a soloist, who is answered in song by a choir of all the men and women in the village.

Medicine. Illness is attributed to possession or the actions of yarka. Cures are performed with numerous plant remedies and by singing, sucking the evil spirits from the ill person, and spitting water on him or her.

Death and Afterlife. The death of someone is a sorrowful event, but also transcendent because it signifies that a spirit will now join those of previously deceased relatives. The dead are buried in a semiflexed position on their right side at a depth of about 130 centimeters. The grave is marked on the surface with a log up to 100 centimeters in length laid lengthwise to the body. The spirit of the deceased is believed to go to the land of Kumañi, where everything is clean, there is no illness, and no one suffers from hunger.

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