Mysteries of the Jaguar Shamans of the Northwest Amazon tells the life story of Mandu da Silva, the last living jaguar shaman among the Baniwa people in the northwest Amazon. In this original and engaging work, Robin M. Wright, who has known and worked with da Silva for more than thirty years, weaves the story of da Silva's life together with the Baniwa's society, history, mythology, cosmology, and jaguar shaman traditions. The jaguar shamans are key players in what Wright calls "a nexus of religious power and knowledge" in which healers, sorcerers, priestly chanters, and dance-leaders exercise complementary functions that link living specialists with the deities and great spirits of the cosmos. By exploring in depth the apprenticeship of the shaman, Wright shows how jaguar shamans acquire the knowledge and power of the deities in several stages of instruction and practice.
This volume is the first mapping of the sacred geography ("mythscape") of the Northern Arawak-speaking people of the northwest Amazon, demonstrating direct connections between petroglyphs and other inscriptions and Baniwa sacred narratives as a whole. In eloquent and inviting analytic prose, Wright links biographic and ethnographic elements in elevating anthropological writing to a new standard of theoretically aware storytelling and analytic power.
Robin Wright is a professor at University of Florida specialized in South American indigenous religions, Anthropology of Religion, and Indigenous Religions in general. For 20 years, Dr. Wright was Professor of Anthropology at the State University of Campinas in Brazil where he was also Director of the Center for the Study of Indigenous Ethnology. His principal research since the 1970s has been in the Brazilian Northwest Amazon, although he has done work in Guatemala and the Northeastern US (Six Nations). He has published widely in the area of indigenous religions, indigenous histories and indigenist policies. Among his most important works are a three-volume study of indigenous peoples and Christianity in Brazil; two ethnographies of the histories and religions of the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Amazon; a collection of mythic narratives of the Baniwa Indians; and a co-edited volume on assault sorcery in Amazonia. He has published over fifty articles and chapters in books and, since 1980, has collaborated with non-governmental organizations in Brazil and the US working on behalf of indigenous rights.
This intellectual, aesthetic and sociological diversity is in no way the outcome of the biological differences, in certain observable features, between different groups of men; it is simply a parallel phenomenon in a different sphere.
Levi-Strauss, Claude. Race, History and Culture. 1996.
For publications, books and papers check out Robin's Academia Website
The focus of this course is on healers and healing practices in various religious traditions throughout the globe. The healing traditions we shall study, by ethnic groups or geographical regions, are: (1) indigenous peoples' shamanisms of the Americas, urban mestizos of Latin America, Asian, Eurasian, and Malaysian;(2) Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism; (3) charismatic Catholicism and Pentecostalism; (4) Naturopathy; (5) contemporary Nature Religions. The most important themes discussed are: the 'efficacy of religious symbols' for the healing process; cross-cultural notions of the body, pain, and healing; embodiment of healing powers by religious specialists; ritual performances and their meanings; the importance of sound, sonic imagery, and music to healing processes; the relations of healing practices to cosmology, metaphysics, and sacred narratives; and, finally, the transformations of self and meaning that emerge during or from a cure.
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