‘We learn with the great spirits’
For the Yanomami of the Brazilian Amazon, the spirit world is a fundamental part of life. Every creature, rock, tree and mountain has a spirit.
Omama, our creator, made us think and talk with the soul of the forest, the soul of the mountain and with the soul of the moon, sun and stars, says shaman Davi Kopenawa, who describes here how Yanomami shamans look after the world.
The word, ‘shaman’, is thought to have originated with the Evenk people of Siberia, but shamans have a pivotal role in many tribal societies. Typically, they are men and women who specialise in communicating with the natural world and its spirits; people who have a heightened awareness of the divine and the intangible.
Shamans have many roles. They are variously healers and priests, custodians of their peoples’ sacred rituals, weather diviners, cosmologists, dream tellers and keepers of botanical knowledge.
Guided by spirits (xapiripë) and the wisdom of their ancestors,Yanomami shamans (xapiripë thëpë) command thunder storms and caution the winds.They prevent the sky from falling down and use their powers to ensure hunting successes, cure human diseases and put flight to hostile spirits.
The shamans give orders to the sun, and instruct the spirits to speak to the moon.