Wanano - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. In Wanano thought the animal world is organized into brotherhoods analogous to those in the human social world. Each animal brotherhood is guarded by a spirit, known as the "oldest brother," that will retaliate in order to protect his kin. The locations of these spirits are known as "houses" and are generally avoided by hunters and fishermen. Disease is thought to be the consequence of sorcery. Disease occurs when a sorcerer sends a foreign object into his victim. Treatment of disease involves removal of the object causing the malady. The Wanano in Brazil are practicing Catholics. Each major village houses a small chapel, and a trained Wanano catechist conducts worship services each week.

Religious Practitioners. Wanano healers are male practitioners who learn their skill through apprenticeship to a senior shaman. A village may have several practicing shamans of various levels of reputation and ability. A shaman is obliged to subscribe to strict rules of abstinence and self-discipline.

Ceremonies. The Wanano practice several rituals marking transitions in the life cycle. These include female puberty ceremonies and menstrual seclusion, as well as initiation rites for males. Such rites are performed with less frequency and less formality today than described by early-twentieth-century reporters. In addition, Wanano sibs participate in ongoing cycles of deferred reciprocal exchange. In such exchange ceremonials, items of food or craft are presented as gifts from one sib to another. In principal Wanano ceremonials the sacred substances tobacco, coca, and ayahuasca ( Banisteriopsis caapi ) are imbibed or inhaled by specialists.

Arts. Wanano men specialize in the manufacture of wahpanios, shallow palm-fiber baskets of complex geometric design. The baskets are used by the women in the preparation of manioc products. Women make a strong rope from the fiber of the palm Astrocaryum tucumoides.

Medicine . The Wanano recognize a large number of medicinal plants. Chants passed from one shaman to another contain information regarding plant characteristics and application.

Death and Afterlife. The sib dead are buried near one another, not far from the village. When longhouses were in use, the dead are said to have been buried under the house floor.

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