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The Living Ancestors

Shamanism, Cosmos and Cultural Change among the Yanomami of the Upper Orinoco

Zeljko Jokic

296 pages, 20 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-817-3 $110.00/£78.00 Hb Published (September 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-818-0 eBook


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“This meticulously researched study with its accessible, clear, and engaging presentation fills a significant gap in the regional study of the Yanomami. Essential. · Choice

“Jokic’s ethnography …is very well written and reads fluidly. Jokic frequently narrates his own experiences of the Yanomami shamanic world, as well as the thoughts he was having as he was witnessing the events he describes in the book or while listening to the testimonies he references. This contributes to the reader’s experience as it makes it easier to understand the motivations and concerns that the author had for producing this ethnography, as well as the conditions upon which it was produced.” · Anthropology Book Forum

“The book is a fascinating account of the experiential qualities of Yanomami shamanism, particularly in relation to shamanistic initiation. In great detail, Jokic relates both the theoretical and the emotional dimensions of Yanomami shamanistic notions, to which he is well suited as he can build upon his own experiences of being initiated during his fieldwork.” · Journal of Anthropological Research

The Living Ancestors is a fine piece of ethnography, straddling several important subjects in contemporary anthropology. Jokic's analysis is innovative and convincing… the message of multiplicity and multiperspectivism is a valuable lesson… and reveals that we still have much to learn and to appreciate about shamanism as an experience of self, other, and world.” · Anthropology Review Database

“A captivating and original ethnographic description of religious/healing practices among the Yanomani of the Upper Orinoco… The author has achieved a deep understanding of the culture, worldviews, ideologies, and cosmology during his fieldwork in two communities. The writing is articulate, fluent, and incisive, and still remains plain enough to attract a wide range of academic and non-academic public." · Diana Riboli, Panteion University

“…the work as a whole is superb… a meticulous documentation of shamanistic experience and practices.” · Jadran Mimica, University of Sydney

This phenomenologically oriented ethnography focuses on experiential aspects of Yanomami shamanism, including shamanistic activities in the context of cultural change. The author interweaves ethnographic material with theoretical components of a holographic principle, or the idea that the “part is equal to the whole,” which is embedded in the nature of the Yanomami macrocosm, human dwelling, multiple-soul components, and shamans’ relationships with embodied spirit-helpers. This book fills an important gap in the regional study of Yanomami people, and, on a broader scale, enriches understanding of this ancient phenomenon by focusing on the consciousness involved in shamanism through firsthand experiential involvement.

Zeljko Jokic is a Visiting Fellow at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, and Research Assistant at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Formerly, he worked at the Amazonian Centre for Investigation and Control of Tropical Diseases and as a consultant for the Inter-American Organization for the Elimination of Onchocerciasis.

Subject: General Anthropology Religion
Area: Latin America



Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction

  • Shamanism: Origins and Key Features
  • Yanomami Shamanism: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
  • The Book’s Subject Matter and its Guiding Principles
  • Fieldwork Setting and Methodology
  • The Book’s Outline

Chapter 1. Life on Top of the Old Sky: Yanomami Habitat, Ethnographic Setting and Local Histories

  • Yanomami Habitat
  • Historical Migratory Movements and Encounters
  • The Sweeping Winds of Change and its Consequences
  • Platanal and Sheroana-theri at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

Chapter 2. Inside the Boa’s Abdomen: The Yanomami Cosmos

  • Holographic Totality of the Yanomami Cosmos
  • No Patapi tëhë: The Ever-present Mythical Time of Creation
  • Origin Myths

Chapter 3. Hekura, Body and Illness

  • Shamans and Hekura
  • Epena: Transformative Substance and Aliment for Hekura
  • Shamanism in Myths and in Contemporary Context
  • Yanomami Conception of a Person and Causes of Illness

Chapter 4. Hekuraprai: Corporeal Cosmogenesis

  • Summary of the Initiatory Ordeal
  • Transformation into Hekura: Day-by-Day Process
  • Cosmic Body and its Dynamism
  • First Trance: Re-experience of Death and the Beginning of Hekuramou

Chapter 5. Oneiric Encounters

  • Hekuramou and Expansion of Shamanistic Powers
  • Dreams and Shamanism
  • Dream Lucidity and the Transitional States of Dream Consciousness
  • Dreams, Illness and Healing

Chapter 6. Shamanic Battlefield: The Pendulum of Life and Death

  • Shapori’s New Identity and Social Obligation on the Intracommunal Level
  • The Dialectics between Defensive and Offensive Hekuramou
  • Body Intrusion and the Dynamics of the Cosmic Flow
  • Shaporimou and Intersubjective Knowledge Diffusion

Chapter 7. Two Pathways to Curing and in Between: Biomedical and Shamanic Treatment in the Life of Yanomami

  • Shamanism and Biomedicine: Compatibility and Differences
  • Dynamics of Doctor-Shapori-Patient Interaction
  • Yanomami Responses to Diarrhoea, Malaria and Respiratory Infections

Chapter 8. Return of the Ancestors: The All-pervading Shawara, The End of the World and the Beginning of a New Epoch

  • The Origin of Shawara Epidemics
  • Further Expansion of the Shawara Concept
  • The End of the World and the Beginning of Another Cosmic Cycle

Postscript: Recent Developments

Glossary of Yanomami Terms
Bibliography
Index

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