Ticuna - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Ancient religion, some portion of which remains, teaches that the world is controlled by spirits and forces that determine the course of events. Both Portuguese and Spanish missionaries began their evangelical work during the first centuries of discovery and conquest, so the majority of Ticuna are now Catholic. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, there have been various messianic movements. Ta'e is the divinity who inhabits the World Above, and who gives the Ticuna their souls. The most important mythical beings are the Yo'i and Ipi, two brothers who function as culture heroes and who confront several demons of the Intermediate World and the World Below. Nutapa was the first man, from whom the mythical brothers and their sisters were born. Me'tare was a powerful shaman who conducted the first female initiation ceremony.

Religious Practitioners. Formerly there were many more shamans than there are today, and they were believed to be more powerful than their contemporary counterparts. Magical power is derived from the shaman's relationship with the spirits of certain trees. Curing is done by means of sucking and tobacco smoking. Some shamans also cause harm by emitting invisible thorns.

Ceremonies. The most important ceremony is la pelazón (Spanish: "hair cropping") or môça nova (Portuguese: "new girl"). During her first menstruation, a young woman is isolated so that men will not see her. A festival is organized, at which there is dancing to continuous drum playing. Indians from various local groups come together for three days. Some of the guests disguise themselves with masks that personify different beings. Then, the girl is brought out of seclusion; she is adorned, and her hair is cut. Following this ritual the initiate begins her adult life.

Arts. Songs, sung exclusively during the female initiation ceremony, are very special because of the vocal technique in which they are performed. Both men and women sing them, and the topics can either be freely chosen or deal with mythical passages.

Medicine. The practice of traditional medicine has diminished considerably as Western medical practices have become prevalent. Medicinal plants are still used, however, and purification rituals are performed.

Death and Afterlife. For the Ticuna there are two kinds of beings: mortal and immortal. Immortals do not die because of any inherent qualities of theirs, but because they go to enchanted places where life is eternal. Although the location of these places is known to the living, nobody can reach them because of their inaccessibility. The souls of the mortals, of which there are two, just as in the case of the immortals, set out in different directions at the moment of death: one goes to the World Above, while the other one remains roaming around the place where the dead person lived.


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