Arutam Etc.

Today I ventured into the shuar library to try and get a grasp on the nature of native religion. I have been tempted to do so for some time, but have been less keen on abandoning the isolation of my pretence of work. I have reached a point where I have done nearly all I can do with the resources at hand and, as I just finished the audio book I was so entranced by, have no distraction to fritter away the time with as I wait. I have always had an interest in the smaller, less ethereal religions of tribal and ancient cultures; I suppose it started with my Rainbow Mountain grounding in Greek Myth, which was encouraged by my mother’s dinner-time reading of a compendium of mythology. From time to time I have come in contact with other small (or ancient) religions through my studies of history and various digressions on the net: Aztec Quetzalcoatl, Mayan Maiz myths, Nordic mythology, Egyptian Mythology, the creation stories of several North American indigenous groups. I was unsurprised, then, to find in my hazy comprehension of the pages I read that the Shuar had a hierarchical and competitive system of deities. Arutam, I believe, is a Brahman like omnipotent being which is not often expected to intervene in the lives of men directly. There are, however, several smaller deities who compete over control of the Shuar people. One is a ruler of life and death who competes bitterly with another god who was charged with creating man and wanted to make them immortal but was foiled (this has something to do with lost stones that haven’t been returned to her and are key to the completion of her power, which seems greater than that of her rival). Also there is a witch-goddess who seems to be always waiting around the corner waiting for men to make some religious slight against her so she can punish them with violent death or some such. After this my understanding gets fuzzy. The force of life resides in the head, which has lead to the ritual head-shrinking of offenders against the balance of society, however it is not clear to me whether this means that a person who’s head has been shrunk has been removed from the cycle of reincarnation, or is just shamed and laughed at by men and gods seeing their life-center contorted in such a way. There was a lot of emphasis on the decision to shrink someone’s head not being allowed to be an act of jealousy or rage, and that the person making the decision must fast, go into a trance, and then perform some sort of ceremony involving smoking and drinking tobacco and trying your best not to offend any gods. The heads also seem to be used in other rituals as a sort of talisman, but how exactly I am not sure. After reading 10 or so pages of Spanish from aging periodicals I begin to get a headache.


This brings me to the periodicals themselves. It seems that some man with a strong vision undertook the in-dept study and compilation of upwards of 7 series of periodicals based on shuar culture and history. The topics range from the Evangelization of the Shuar Villages to Plant identification. The thickest one by far was the edition on Shrunken Heads, which seems as fascinating a topic for the Shuar themselves as it is for the outside world. They all date back to the mid 70’s when the missionaries had a large and influential presence in the area, and I am struck by the professional illustrations of the type I associate with novels and informative texts printed in the period and a bit before. Who was the illustrator I wonder? Was he or she a native or a missionary? The booklets are bound in square glue-spine style of National Geographic, yet the publication page locates it as a Sucua produced commodity.

This leads me to remember something I might not have mentioned in my rather negative review of the offices; in the Lands department there is a large printer which must have been purchased in the late 80’s or early 90’s, as I recognize the design styling. It is a mouthwateringly fine machine which appears capable of printing full-color posters off of a 4 foot broad paper spool, yet it sits in the back of the office in it’s dust cover, doing nothing. I asked the good natured man who’s name I have misplaced that calls me Carlos (a result of our initial miscommunication on my first day in the office when it appeared I would be working under him making maps) if they still printed posters, and if they had printed any of the ones on the walls. He replied no, it didn’t have any ink. That was the first seed of my exasperation. The existence of that printer, and the enviably well-outfitted recording studio I am sitting in at the moment indicates that in the past the Federation was taking on the world with an optimistic gleam in it’s eye and investing in the technology and expertise to accomplish great things. Yet now it seems only individual fights against the unremitting flow of bureaucracy glimmer in this way, this recording studio under the supervision of the technophilic Leonardo as one example, and his compatriots operating the radio station as another. The radio station is, in itself, something of a mystery to me. It functions, and is listened to widely, yet the programming is quite obviously only semi-professional. They have the nerve-pinching habit of running songs full volume and intermittently using a cross fade to interject local news and notifications. Yet it unquestionably functions, but under who’s guidance I have no idea as the position of Director of Communications is left vacant along with the directorship the Labor department.

I am digressing into negativity once again, and so must make a note that I think the reason for some of these perceptions is that I am located in the main office, which has long since stopped being the central point of work. I believe the Federation has gone Republican in the sense that most of the work is undertaken on-site at the Associations and sub-center locations rather than in the main offices, and the central administration has become a tool for answering the needs of these groups rather than the strong Federalist administration that would be printing, recording, and organizing in earnest. The Health Center, under the guidance of the Health Department of FICSH, seems to function admirably well, my diagnosis was quick and professional and the location sees a substantial amount of foot traffic, especially from mothers. SERBISH where I am located now I cannot quite get a handle on. Sometimes groups of children flit about from room to room, employees meet in jolly bands in various offices, and the supply store seems well stocked. But the bathroom is still a dismally dirty affair, though by no means the pit of damnation that is the abandoned bathroom of FISCH, the library lacks any apparent organization that I can see, and many doors remand closed and inactive. I am intrigued by a door labeled “printing” but haven’t yet found an excuse to peer into it. Perhaps they might be better suited to take control of that magnificent beast twiddling its thumbs in the Lands department. I suppose I might see or I might not, but for now I must be heading off, lunch is calling.

A few tweaked photos I have been experimenting with

Also, Happy Holloween!


~ by twist9 on October 31, 2008.

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