6609 - The sorcerer and his hybrids. Cures, witchcrafts, faith healings, prayers and possessions among the Xambioá of Central Brazil

The Xambioá, a Karaja sub-group of Central Brazil, have experienced a severe demographic crisis at the beginning of the 20th century. It was overcome by numerous “interethnic” marriages with all sorts of people from different origins. This microscopic melting pot has given rise to a frenetic movement, assimilations or sometimes, after trials, emphatic rejections of a very diverse set of cosmological concepts. From practices of the Catholic world, Umbanda, regional forms of healing, and recent Pentecostal advances, mixed with traditional Indian conceptions about witchcrafts or, above all, accusations of witchcraft, we can draw a picture seemingly chaotic and meaningless.

To some extent, I intend to follow a path in a contrary way to the purpose of this symposium. If the symposium wants to analyze the movement and handling of different forms of shamanism from non-Western matrices into Western cultural environment, my effort is to offer an analytical exercise of symmetrical observation. The question is: what happen when non-Westerners are those who absorb various forms of faith healing, shamanism, Pentecostal performances, etc towards to constitute a “magical” set of practices? From the examination of this intensive Indigenous experience, I purpose to argue what Xambioá are doing when they try every kind of manifestation of religious-magical field that comes to them from abroad.

I suggest that these experiments may be a manifestation of what Levi-Strauss called Science of Concrete. As the experiences of the Philippines made with native plants from Mexico and acclimated them, leading to the “rediscovery” of its medicinal uses, I believe that Xambioá perform an intense experimentation, not with plants, but with cosmologies.

Keywords: Religion - Ritual practices - Hybridity

Author: Cavalcanti-Schiel, Helena (EHESS, Brazil / Brasilien)


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