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7712 - On the Track of the Visions: Shamanism, Dreams and Ayahuasca among the Guarani Indians in Southern Brazil

Along the last decade, the Guarani from Mbiguaçu village (Santa Catarina, southern Brazil) have adopted ayahuasca as part of their traditional nightly prayer and chanting rituals. These rituals are held in the opy or prayer house, a dwelling that stands in the center of the village, and is considered by many authors as this indigenous group’s cultural core. The opy is the place where the whole village converges, in rituals held to generate good conditions for living, such as health, strength and joy. On the other hand, ayahuasca is an Amazonian shamanic beverage, known for its psychoactive and visionary effects, and its use by indigenous groups outside the Amazon had not been previously documented. Nevertheless, the Guarani from Mbiguaçu argue that ayahuasca is part of their culture, and a traditional Guarani medicine.  

Based on narrative analysis, this paper discusses how ayahuasca was introduced in Guarani shamanism and what are the meanings the Guarani attribute to this beverage. The narratives of the Guarani from Mbiguaçu about their experiences with this drink show that they establish a relationship between the visions produced by ayahuasca and important aspects of Guarani shamanic praxis and cosmology. These narratives also indicate that the engagement in rituals with ayahuasca contributes to enhance capacities that are central in Guarani shamanism: vision, sensation and perception. Therefore, the beverage is used as a tool in the main attributes of the Guarani spiritual leaders : healing; communicating with the sacred; and mediating between different worlds and beings that compose the cosmos. Furthermore, the narratives show that, as in the case of dreams, these experiences are perceived as messages from spirits and ancestors, and as indicators of how to proceed in daily life. Thus, I argue that the insertion of ayahuasca in the rituals conducted at Mbiguaçu should be comprehended in the context of the pre-existing Guarani shamanic praxis and cosmology.          

Keywords: Guarani Indians, Shamanic Networks, Dialogues

Author: rose, isabel (PPGAS/UFSC, Brazil / Brasilien)

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