The Canela (Eastern Timbira), I: An Ethnographic Introduction.
By William H.Crocker
Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology,
Number 33, 487 pages, 11 tables, 51 figures, 78 plates, 1990.

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Part IV: Ceremonial and Belief Systems

The Religion may be defined as broadly as the relational system that ties man into the world in which he lives, or as narrowly as what is seen in each culture as being supernatural in contrast with what is natural. In this monograph, the broad relational approach, including ceremonial and belief systems that tie individuals to each other and to the world they live in, is used. Thus, Canela religion can be found in their festivals, individual life cycle rites, mythology, cosmology, shamanism, witchcraft, and positive chanting, as well as in their concepts of pollution, of purgative medicine, of affirmations, and of transformational practices.

There are few generally accepted, recognizable forms of religion or religious practices among the Canela: no obvious praying, no worship, no services led by priests, and no attempts to influence supernatural forces to intervene on behalf of the people. (Nimuendaj, 1946:231234, also found little evidence of the existence of formal religion.) In earlier times, supernatural phenomena were recognized by the Canela and brought into their daily lives mainly through contacts with ghosts [IV.D.1.c.(1)]. These supernatural spirits were of the recently deceased and were not considered superior or supreme beings to be venerated. On the contrary, they were placed on the same level with humans but were very much pitied.

The ecological niche that the Canela occupied in precontact times and at present is relatively benign, which may account for their this-worldly oriented religious system, along with other factors. The Canela and Apanyekra, as culture carriers, project relatively few of their ideas onto the supernatural, but rather onto the physical world. There are no earthquakes, droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, fires, or other natural disasters around which religions have often been formed by peoples seeking help or solace. The worst Canela disasters are rattlesnake bites and rare invasions by plagues of caterpillars. Formerly, there was seasonal intertribal warfare [IV.C.1.c.(2)], but this only occasionally had drastic results. The 18th and 19th century pioneer incursions and their consequent diseases were far more devastating [II.B.1.b] but probably occurred too recently to be formative factors in the evolution of the traditional Canela religious system. The Canela messianic movement of 1963 was an exception to their reliance on largely this-worldly religious solutions and must be understood through the analysis of acculturative factors. The increasing involvement of the Canela in the backlanders folk Catholicism is another exception.



The Canela are well known for their vast festival system in the South American ethnological literature through Nimuendajs monograph (1946). The complexity of the many moieties and their interlocking nature are crucial aspects of the festival system, and notable when found at the Canelas technological level of development (Carneiro, 1967). The purpose of this chapter is to present a comprehensive view of this system. Outstanding aspects of each great dry season festival and some obvious interpretations are presented. Comparisons with the festivals of other Eastern Timbira tribes are not attempted here.

The festivals (Glossary), an aspect of Canela religion in the broadest sense, are ceremonies (Glossary) that instill, especially in the young, profound feelings for and beliefs in the Canela way of life. The festivals provide guide lines for acting out traditional roles, thereby sanctioning them, as well as social settings in which the individual can experience joy and express love. The festivals contribute in this way to the unusually high social cohesion [III.D.3.f] that is characteristic of the Canela sociocultural system.

[IV.A.1] In and Out of the Festival State

Many of the festival performances look the same as daily activities to an outsider, but the Canela know whether a particular performance is an aspect of the ongoing daily life cycle [II.E.1.b] or whether it is part of a festival. The expression amyi-?khin n (self-liking in: euphoria) means roughly festival in but might be more accurately translated as being in a festival state. Among all the festival groups, only the age-set moiety system to a major extent and parts of the Red and Black Regeneration season moiety system to a smaller extent transcend the festival system and operate outside as well as inside it. As such, the age-set moiety system may well be the most important component of the festival system, uniting the real and model worlds [II.E.1]. When assembled in their village, the Canela may have daily races between the age-set moieties, and may work or hunt in their age-set moiety divisions. In addition, the W?t girls (Glossary), representations of high festival honor, are treated with prestige outside the W?t festivals. Thus, on the same day that these nonfestival activities take place, the Canela may also go into a festival state.

[IV.A.2] Festivals as Pageants and Role Models

Canela festivals, which are really pageants sometimes lasting several months, portray the Canela way of life as well as most of its beliefs, values, and roles. Models of traditional behavior are provided in these festival-pageants for all Canela individuals to see, learn, and eventually internalize. A sister rushes to aid and comfort a brother hit by a firebrand, pouring water on him. Mothers-in-law parade holding strings attached to their sons-in-law (Plate 40a,c,e).

A festivals acts and scenes are very much like the sections of a Western play, except that there is no obvious plot that holds the many performances together. One scene follows another (singing, dancing, and sometimes athletics) with no obvious continuity except to the Canela or to the person who has studied and analyzed the dramas. Viewed as a whole, most scenes, almost every act, and all the festival-pageants make sense, have a certain continuity, and can be seen as an understandable totality. For instance, as the Pepy novices come out of their long internment, they let the villagers see a little more of their bodies in each successive act. First they live away from the village for several weeks; then, they appear marching behind mats around the village for several days; later, they file through the village at dusk; and finally, they take their position in the plaza in full sunlight.

During their internment, the health of the novices is considered fragile, but as they emerge they become progressively stronger. If, nevertheless, a villager with an evil eye (an antisocial kay) views them just after their emergence and before they regain strength, this evil might hurt them. Thus, they emerge from their internment gradually, in stages. Knowledge of the novices weakness while secluded and of the potential dangers [IV.B.2.c.(1)] they might encounter as they emerge from internment, facilitates comprehension of a series of nonconsecutive acts occurring on different weeks and days.

All the kinship roles, consanguineal and affinal, and almost all other roles in the society, are acted out at one point or another in these festival-pageants. These traditionally repeated dramatic festival roles define how individuals in such roles should ideally behave. The enactment of the roles reaffirms traditional values and operates against social change.

Special roles in the pageants are provided for a number of individuals, giving some of them high ceremonial status and therein a strong basis for satisfaction in the society. The status acquired through carrying out festival roles is often transferred to private life, thereby structuring some relationships in an otherwise classless society. Such transferences apply to the roles of the hmren girls [III.C.9] and to a larger number of males, such as age-set file leaders, commandants (Glossary), deputy commandants [IV.A.3.c.(1).(c)], Ceremonial-chiefs-of-the-whole-tribe, and the leader of the Visiting Chiefs. (The expressions high and low ceremonial honor are mine and are meant to describe the relative ranking the Canela give to the various hmren positions [III.C.7].)

The festivals of the annual cycle [II.C.4] occur as follows (Table 4): Regeneration season (Ayrn, Katm-re, Wakm-re, Katm-ti, Wakm-?ti), Sweet Potato, Corn Harvest, Plr, Opening W?t, one of the five great W?t festivals, Closing W?t, and again the Regeneration season. The five great summer festivals are the Khtway, Pepy, Pepkahk, Fish (Tepyalkhwa), and Masks (Ku?khrt-re-?h). The W?t season is presented first in this chapter, since it epitomizes festivals, and the annual cycle festivals and rituals are placed afterward.

[IV.A.3] Wè?tè (Dry) Season

The W?t (Glossary) season is the time for one of the great festivals, beginning during the late spring or early summer of the Western calendar year and ending in the late summer to early fall. It might be called the extramarital or the self-enjoyment season. The great festival interrupts the domestic continuity of the married couple. Wives partially give up their husbands and husbands their wives to the gaiety and fun of this season. The five great festivals of the season are the only ones that can be referred to as an amyi?khin (state of euphoria).

The sexes are supposed to move somewhat apart during the W?t period so that a woman can mix and have sexual relations more easily with her other husbands (m mpy-?n: they husband other: a womans other husbands) and a man can do the same with his other wives (m ?pr-?n: they wife other: a mans other wives) [III.E.3.a.(6).(a)]. Certain men are sometimes removed from the daily scene by festival internments, so that in principle they cannot have sexual relations at all. This makes it easier for their wives and the noninterned husbands to associate freely. In the Pepkahk festival mature men are secluded away from the village, in the Masks festival a mens society is removed from daily circulation, and in the Pepy festival novices are restricted to cells in their maternal houses. Sex is prohibited for all the individuals of these special groups.


The W?t season is opened with a log race (W?t Y-Pï ) between the age-set moieties. Sexual freedom and the opposition of the sexes is very apparent in the symbolism of the Opening W?t festival (Nimuendaj, 1946:163166). Female and male groups march separately to the center of the plaza, shouting hostile phrases at each other. The following day, 30 to 40 women who are in the opposite W?t houses from their husbands go out hunting into the woods and take several male associates (m kuytsw) along, chosen so that each woman will have at least one man, other than a relative or a Formal Friend, with whom she can have sex. The male associates hunt meat for the women. When the women return in the late afternoon, after having had sexual relations with the men, they put on the Hat-re act (Nimuendaj, 1946:165166) (Plate 52d), in which women demand and take the meat, hung on a tall pole, from the men in a disorderly dash (m ?prt) [IV.B.2.d.(6)] that is expressive of extramarital sex and hostility between the sexes. (For a discussion of far sharper antagonism between the sexes in a tribal society, see Murphy and Murphy, 1974:136140.)

Prior to the beginning of the festival, the tribal political chiefs lecture their followers extensively on how each husband must control his jealousy and let his wife move freely with her other husbands. Although extramarital sexual relations may occur outside the W?t festival, both in festival situations and informally [III.F.8.a], the structured emphasis is very clear: during the W?t season spouses must look the other way and accept what happens. During the rest of the year, the sexes are supposed to be more serious in their attitudes toward each other, to work harder to maintain their household for their children, and to make every effort to be closer personally. (For more extensive information on the Canela extramarital relationship system, see W. Crocker, 1964a, 1974a.)


After the Opening W?t festival of two days duration, one of the five great W?t season festivals commences in late March through May. The diachronic structure of each great festival is strikingly similar: (1) an opening period (in which the theme is presented, the festive groups of men segregated, and the girl associates selected); (2) a middle period (which includes the performance of characteristic daily acts and several great days); (3) the hunting phase (to provide and prepare meat for the terminal phase), and (4) the terminal phase (which includes the most dramatic and ceremonial events of the festival).


For any one of the five great W?t season festivals, the opening period lasts two to four days, depending on the particular festival. The special male group of the festival is designated and set apart from the rest of the society, and the girl associates are either chosen by the Pr-khmm or by the groups they are to join. Then, the special festival performers are selected by the Pr-khmm or, if they are traditional name-set or haakhat performers, they are reminded by the Pr-khmm that their participation will be expected.

During the middle period, daily festival acts occur each day. In the Masks festival, these daily festival acts take place each morning directly after the council has finished its meeting. In the Fish, Pepkahk, and Pepy festivals, the characteristic daily acts take place in the late afternoon. During the Khtway festival their principal daily act occurs at any time, as many as six times a day. Thus, the festival acts continue to be enacted daily during the whole (1 to 3 months) middle period.

All of the festivals have characteristic 1 to 4 great days (dias grand: amkro kati: day great), which usually require considerable preparation and expense on the part of the principals, and special performances by the designated male festival groups. These performances take place several weeks apart and tribal spirits build up to these dramatic high points of the mid-W?t season.


After six weeks to three or four months, the Pr-khmm or the leading festival mens group decide to terminate the middle period and begin the terminal one. For this, they put on the A?tu ?Pk (grass it-burns) (Plate 44a) ceremony during which villagers burn the grass between the village radial pathways. This activity is reminiscent of a cerrado hunting practice used to scare game out of protective cover to encircle it. The hunters sing Waytikpo (Glossary) songs [II.F.1.c.(2)] (Plates 43a,c; 44a,e) in the plaza, shooting their shotguns into the air at dramatic points. They also hunt game, by shooting at various animals enacted by the boys near the flames in the grass. The boys pretend to be killed as the prey of the hunters, who carry them back to the plaza. This enactment is intended to bring success in the real hunting that follows.

To provide enough meat for the terminal period, the two age-set moieties hunt for two to three weeks away from the village (m ht wl: they sleep go-toward: they go on overnight hunting). Each moiety takes four to six female associates with them to maintain the daily housekeeping, smoke the game, and have sexual relations with after the game has been caught and cooked. These women smoke the meat over a very low fire. Each piece is suspended separately on thin, weak platforms made of green sticks of wood that will not burn. I could place my hand between the coals and the meat because the fire was so low. This smoking is an entirely traditional method for cooking and preserving meat. (The backlanders do not preserve meat this way; they cut it into thin continuous strips which they salt thoroughly.) This Canela smoked meat becomes black on the surface and well done inside, and is, in my opinion, the most delicious form of cooking the Canela practice.

The hunters celebrate the last night before returning to the village with great hilarity. They paint themselves black, dance all night, and have sex with the women. The two moieties return separately the following morning, filing into the village from different directions at sunrise, carrying smoked game in baskets on their backs. They march along the boulevard to their respective W?t houses where they leave the game. That afternoon or the following evening the formal activities of the terminal period of the festival begin.


The terminal periods (hikhul ts: ending thing) of each of the five great W?t season festivals are characterized by a series of dramatic acts, the Pepy and Pepkahk ending in a particular climactic performance, the Waytikpo sing-dance [II.F.1.c.(2)] (Plate 43a,c, Plate 44e), followed by all night singing by the principal group involved. One of the purposes of all night singing and the ensuing log race is to test the endurance of the performers. These are spectacular occasions.

After these several climactic acts, high drama gives way to low comedy, including extramarital intercourse arranged within the context of the festival.


The Khtway and Pepy festivals, called the Nkrel-re (Glossary), are the initiation or socialization festivals which introduce the practice of food and sex restrictions [IV.D.3.f] to the youths. The Pepkahk festival continues this practice for mature men and portrays high honor roles and their values and restraints [III.B.1.d.(3)]. The Fish festival, in sharp contrast, portrays defiance of high honor values and emphasizes individuality. The Masks festival is foreign in origin (Krah) and, therefore, not integrated into the socialization and restraint versus individuality themes of the four principal festivals. Social leveling and economic distribution are epitomized here through emphasis on goods being dispersed to all through the legitimizing of begging [III.B.1.a.(4)]. (For more comprehensive and detailed descriptions of these festivals, although less structural, comparative, and interpretive, see Nimuendaj, 1946:163230 and W. Crocker, 1982.)

[IV.A.3.c.(1).] Khêêtúwayê Festival (Nimuendaj, 1946:171179)

This festival begins during a late afternoon sing-dance with the sudden presentation to the plaza by a Pr-khmm of a ceremonially painted staff partly covered by pea green parakeet down. People recognize it as the Khtway (Glossary) symbol and thereby know this festival has begun (Plate 41).


Immediately after the showing of this ceremonial staff, catchers previously designated by the Pr-khmm catch [II.D.3.d] the members of the youngest age-set and place them in two rows in the plaza (Plate 41c) [II.F.1.c.(1)]. Each boy is placed in a northern or southern row according to plaza moiety affiliation [III.C.5], which is determined by name-set transmission. All these young males, who range from infants to boys of 7 or 8 years old, are to be members of the same age-set [III.C.3]. The catchers (m-hapn-kat: them catch master: those who catch them) then march the novices (in two single files and in opposite directions) from the plaza into rooms of internment ( Plate 41a). These rooms are prepared for them on either side of the plaza in two traditional matriline locations, one in the east, the Upper plaza moiety (Khy-rum-m-nk-ts), and the other in the west, the Lower plaza moiety (Har-rum-m-nk-ts) [III.C.5,6.a]. The novices may remain interned for as much as two months before they are released during the terminal period.


Every day these novices are called upon to present themselves in the plaza ( Plate 41b) a number of times and to sing a traditional set of songs. The length of time singing in the plaza varies with each appearance. Sometimes they remain in the plaza singing for more than an hour and sometimes only for 10 minutes. When performing, they face each other in two rows (each composed of a plaza moiety) in the center of the plaza, one row with its back to the north and the other with its back to the south [II.F.1.c.(1)]. They have headbands on the backs of their heads with two or three, or sometimes even five, macaw tail feathers pointed upwards [II.G.3.b.(1)] (Nimuendaj, 1946, pl. 35a) ( Plates 41d, 61a). Behind the novices is a row of female relatives, each one holding her male relative by his ribcage while he is singing to save him from ghosts, from which these songs come and attract. Behind the varied female relatives (Z, Z, M, M Z), several meters away, is a group of uncles (MB, MB, B, B, MF) (Glossary) of the novices who sing along with their nephews and their female relatives [III.A.2.n]. (See diagram of positions of all parties in Nimuendaj, 1946:174,fig. 12.)


Each row is led by a sing-dance master, and also by a file leader (mam-khy-?ti: front-pull-great) who was appointed by the Pr-khmm. Each file has one girl associate (kuytsw) and one messenger boy (m ?krat to-ipa kat-re: their bowl it-going master-dim.: their bowl-carrying person). The two file leaders (Glossary), messenger boys (Glossary), and girl associates (Glossary) form a group of six who always eat together and do not freely associate with the rest of the novices. They are seen as being somewhat superior, because the two girls and the file leaders are appointed by the Pr-khmm and, therefore, are hmren in status [III.C.7]. There are also two commandants (m-?kapõn-kat: them-sweep-masters), one for each file, who come from higher and opposing age-sets, and two deputy commandants (m-?kapõn-kat-?kahk-re: them-sweep-master-lesser-dim.: the lesser sweepmasters, or caretakers) who are selected from the age-set of the novices by the Pr-khmm. The commandants and deputy commandants are not hmren, being more political than ceremonial [III.D.1.i.(2)], but eat and associate with the elite group.


During the course of the two to four months duration of the festival, there are two or three ceremonially great days during which the novices sing a special series of songs (Ayk) that they do not sing in their many daily outings in the plaza. As they sing the Ayk songs, they kneel and sit on their ankles in two rows facing each other, rubbing the palms of their hands back and forth on their knees. Since all of their songs are believed to attract ghosts, the female relatives and uncles, as well as the macaw tail feathers worn by the boys, serve to protect the boys from these dangerous ancestors from the world after death [III.A.2.n.(1)]. (According to a myth, the daily songs and the Ayk ones were brought from the world of the ghosts by a Canela youth.) When research assistants were asked if any songs could not be sung casually in daily life, they invariably spoke of these Khtway songs, almost their only sacred ones in this sense [IV]. Almost any other festival song can be sung casually, they said. I have often heard the Waytikpo songs sung by women grating manioc.


During the terminal phase of the Khtway festival, the novices gradually come out of seclusion. After an all night sing, the Waytikpo high ceremonial chanting takes place on a late afternoon, after which the artifacts of high honor of the Waytikpo performers are bestowed on the great singers and dancers of the festival [II.D.2.f,3.e], [II.F.1.c.(2)], [II.G.3.a.(1),(2),(6),(7),b.(7)], [III.A.3.b.(3)]. The following day a race with heavy logs (Krwa-ti: buriti-large) takes place in which the Khtway novices are too young to participate, except for the older novices during their second or third Khtway performance. Then comes the Wild Boar festival day for adults during which extramarital sexual favors are exchanged [IV.A.3.f.(1)]. After two more days of such activity, the festival is terminated.

[IV.A.3.c.(2)] Pepyê Festival

There are likely to be two or three Khtway festivals and two Pepy festivals (Nimuendaj, 1946:179201) to complete the training of an age-set over a period of 10 years [III.C.3.a]. Thus, a Pepy festival in this sense is a continuation of the Khtway training. Instead of protecting the novices from ghosts and teaching them to appreciate the roles of their female relatives and their uncles, a Pepy festival trains a young person in self-discipline through the observance of food and sex restrictions.


The Pepy novices are interned (formerly in a beehive-shaped cell) in their maternal houses and fed by female relatives according to prescriptions ordered by their uncles. At first, they are given very little to eat until a specified period is over. Then for several weeks they are fed great quantities of a few kinds of foods that are thought to be almost entirely free of pollutions [IV.D.3.d, f] so that they will grow robust in size and be enhanced spiritually.

During the great days of the middle period, each youth is inspected for his progress or growth by an older man who is playing the role of his naming-uncle. This man is in theory a member of the youths and his naming-uncles plaza moiety group [III.C.5.b]. This uncle screeches at each novice in turn, as done in the hprl act [II.E.7.b], asking the Pepy internee if he is ready to go out to kill the enemy [IV.C.1.d.(1).(c)], if such a force were to appear nearby in the cerrado. (The term pepy means warriors or warrior people, though the Canela do not know this meaning themselves anymore. Cognates of the word pep (or pp) are found among the Kayap, and other Northern G tribes; T. Turner, personal communication.)


Later, the Pepy novices come forth as a group and carry out a number of specified activities, including living outside the village in a campsite where they practice singing ( Plate 32c) the great songs for the terminal part of the festival. Every morning a sing-dance leader (Glossary) walks out to their campsite to train them in this singing [II.F.1.a.(1)]. They also try raising logs out of water to develop strength and balance, and they foot race to improve these abilities. They make Formal Friends and Informal Friends by either entering the water looking away from each other in shame ( Plate 39a), or by going into the water together, coming up facing each other in Informal Friendship ( Plate 39b) [III.E.5,6]. Their commandant and his deputy march them around from place to place to instill group discipline [II.D.3.d] [III.B.1.d].


When it is decided to start the Pepy terminal phase, the novices are summoned by their catchers from their campsite and approach the village in stages ( Plates 36c,d), moving closer with each daily act (Glossary) and gaining strength and resistance against pollutions (Glossary) at each stage. In the terminal phase, all-night singing once more tests the endurance of the novices and other performers, and the festival climaxes in a Waytikpo ceremony [II.F.1.c.(2)] at which awards are given [II.D.2.f,3.e] [III.A.3.b.(3)]. The next day a great log race (Krwa-ti) is put on to test the strength gained by the novices during their internment. This test of endurance is especially important during the race of the final graduating festival. This log race is also important to those Pepy individuals who want to demonstrate their newly gained strength to relatives and other wives [III.A.3.c.(3).(j)].

Next is the Wild Boar day (which includes arranged extramarital sex for the novices [IV.A.3.f.(1)]), which is followed by a solidarity day [III.B.1.d] when the novices go off together into the woods to decorate each other in a jocular manner with black paint (Glossary) (arm hk). When the novices return to the village after this final day of fun, the girl associates and messenger boys are dismissed. The following morning the novices are given a new age-set name, and after the performance of their last Pepy festival, are considered a newly graduated age-set [III.C.3.a] ( Plate 40b). They are novices no longer.

[IV.A.3.c.(3)] Pepkahàk Festival (Nimuendaj, 1946:212225)

This festival is a continuation of the Khtway and Pepy festivals. This time, however, the festival is oriented around the catching and internment of grown men who have already graduated as part of a formed age-set. One of the purposes of the festival is to make it possible for the internees to experience once again the practice of supervised food and sex restrictions.


The Pepkahk troop is interned in a hut that is about 150 meters outside the village. The troop is under the leadership of a special file leader appointed by the Pr-khmm for the whole festival. During the day, the Pepkahk are supposed to undertake jobs that serve the whole tribe. However, they must first make paths for themselves from their hut to the village and to their swimming spot ( Plate 5a). These paths, wide enough for two people to walk side by side, have to be arrow straight [III.B.1.f.(1)].

As Pepkahk (Glossary) individuals, who are persons of high ceremony (hmren), they must carry out jobs to perfection and experience great shame when faced with certain undignified (and therefore affronting) activities of the non-Pepkahk villagers, called p katy (cerrado people). They are never supposed to leave their hut to return to their wives and families, but most of them do so occasionally. In theory, if it is known that they have had sexual relations during this period, the troops file leader can order them tied to a post in their hut by the troops messenger boys and whipped several times with light wands.


The dramatic daily act of the Pepkahk troop is to file counter clockwise around the village ( Plate 44c) just outside of the circle of houses (a?tk-m) to collect food in the late afternoon. They march by with great pride, looking neither to the right nor left, nor up or down, and keeping very serious faces. As they pass by, they are given food by the women of their affinal or natal houses. When they return to their hut, the food is redistributed and shared.

Around nine oclock in the evening when all is quiet, the Pepkahk start their series of songs, which in theory are sung every night of the middle festival period. These songs start very low, proceed with a distinctive and precise rhythm, and increase slowly in volume. When the troop stands up, they sing with such great volume that everybody in the village can hear them well. According to their haughty reputation, however, if there is any interference on the part of anything in the village (that is, if a dog should bark intermittently, or if somebody in the village should begin to sing) the Pepkahk instantly cease even if they are in the middle of a song. The haughty Pepkahk do not brook competition. They are either accepted as they are or they withdraw.


During the several ceremonial great days (Glossary), each separated by a few weeks of regular daily events, each of a Pepkahks several other wives [III.E.3.a.(6).(a)] tries to find and take small hidden cords from his body. These wives wait in a group all day for the Pepkahk files surprise appearance in any direction from the cerrado, and upon sighting it, dash in its direction in a disorderly manner (m ?prt), falling on their other husbands to feel for and retrieve as many tiny cords of fine buriti bast as possible from hidden places on their bodies. The dignity of the Pepkahk is not respected by their other wives.


Finally, after a hunting phase, the terminal period of the festival begins. Again, a number of increasingly dramatic acts culminate in the honor ceremony of the Waytikpo sing-dance [II.F.1.c.(2)]: its awards for good performances given by the Pr-khmm [II.G.3.a.] and its slow sunset-lit procession to the plaza. This daily, progressive rise in drama begins with acts of low ceremonial honor during which the Clowns harass the Ducks (Glossary). Then the Pepkahk sing all night while their Formal Friends protect them from the cold of the early morning. These Formal Friends form a circle around the singers, standing with mats encircling their backs and bodies against the cold ( Plate 45e). Then on the same day, the following acts represent high ceremonial honor [III.C.7.a] and increasing drama: (1) the Ceremonial-chiefs-of-the-whole-tribe (Glossary) intervene between the Falcons and the Pepkahk (Plate 44b), preventing mock warfare [II.B.1.d.(1)]; (2) the Visiting Chiefs (Tmhk) parade down all radial pathways to the plaza (Plate 44d), demonstrating their hmren-level style, and (3) the hmren and non-hmren status persons (Wetheads/Dryheads) separate and march past each other in parallel files marking this distinction. Finally, culminating the rise in degree of drama portrayed, the Pepkahk girls perform the celebrated Waytikpo sing-dance (Plate 44e), which they and male sing-dancers had practiced daily in the cerrado campsite (Plate 32c). After the dramatic procession to the plaza of this special sing-dancing group, the Pr-khmm present awards to the best festival performers of the whole tribe [II.D.2.f,3.e] [III.A.3.b.(3)]. The next day the Wild Boar ceremony occurs with its extramarital sexual exchanges, this time with the Wetheads in the fields hut and the Dryheads in the village. After several more days of athletics, fun, and low comedy, including log races, taking each others pots, painting each other with black paint, and conducting an arrow-shooting contest (i?tk) [II.F.2.c.(1)], the festival ends.


The internees in the Pepkahk are not the only important group performing in the festival, as they are in the Khtway and Pepy . The Pepkahk festival might even have been named, The Hmren, their role is so central to the overall meaning of the festival. Although the Pepkahk troop is cast in the principal daily role during the middle period of the festival, the hmren (Wetheads), share a very important act with the non-hmren (Dryheads) in the terminal part of the festival, completely excluding the Pepkahk. Likewise, the Visiting Chiefs (Tmhk: tm-hk: raw/uncultured-falcon) play the important role in a festival act during which no Pepkahk appear. These chiefs are all hmren in state and status just because they are Tmhk members, whereas the Pepkahk, as individuals, may or may not be hmren.


Comparing the three internment festivals, the Khtway teaches novices about the dangers of ghosts (the unknown) [IV.C.2.c] as well as about the supporting roles of relatives. The Pepy festival teaches them how to use food and sex restrictions as aids [III.A.3.b.(2).(a)] for developing their athletic skills, their endurance, and their personal abilities in many activities [IV.D.3.f]. Both of these initiation festivals inculcate in individuals the desire and need to move in groups [II.D.3.d.(1)], like wild boar. The Pepkahk festival reenacts the practice of restrictions through the internment. Moreover, additional protective devices are emphasized in the Pepkahk. Instead of relatives protecting, Khtway novices against ghosts, and food and sex restrictions protecting Pepy novices against pollutions, Formal Friends protect the Pepkahk internees against almost any of lifes social dangers [III.A.3.c.(2).(b)]. Thus, the three festivals parallel each other in the sense that they serve to teach methods of protection to prepubertal, postpubertal, and adult individuals against the particular dangers of their respective ages. (An analysis of this parallel structure of the three internment festivals is presented and developed in W. Crocker, 1982:147158.)

[IV.A.3.c.(4)] Fish Festival (Tep-yalkhwa: fish mouth/talk/language) (Nimuendaj, 1946:225230)

This festival contrasts starkly with the three internment festivals. In Canela dualism, these three internment festivals are each paired (Glossary) in a complementary relationship with each other. In contrast, research assistants see each of the three internment festivals as paired in an oppositional relationship with the Fish festival, with the Pepkahk being in the most striking opposition [V.A.5.a.(1).(c)]. The Clowns are Dryheads (m ka?khr-nkr) [III.C.7.b], which means they have little ceremonial prestige, whereas the Pepkahk are a high honor group, although as individuals they may be either Wetheads or Dryheads.

Clown (Glossary) society members control the festival rather than the Pr-khmm. Once the Pr-khmm agree to have the Fish festival put on, they remove themselves from the day-to-day governing and directing of festival acts [III.B.1.d.(3)].


Six plaza groups [III.C.5], three in each plaza moiety, are the performing societies: the Tswtst-re (Stingray-dim.), Tt-re (Otter-dim.), and Tep (Fish) are stationed on the east side of the plaza, while the Tepr-?ti (small fish species), Apn (Piranha), and Tep (Fish) are on the west. (Two of the Tep groups do not have specific names.) The Clowns constitute the seventh grouping, and are the principal performers of the festival.

Each of these six plaza groups erect well-made huts on the eastern and western sides of the plaza. The huts face each other in parallel formations in sets of three (Figure 17). Five of these plaza groups have two girl associates, but one, the Tt-re (cf. Nimuendaj, 1946:225) or river Otters, has just one. The Otters hut is also different from the others; it is high and conical instead of rectangular like 20th century Canela backland-style houses. The one Otter girl associate is high in ceremonial honor [III.C.9], though not hmren. This festival has the fewest hmren persons of any of the great festivals.

Finally, after a delay of several days, the Clowns erect their own hut on the northern edge of the plaza facing south. In contrast to the six other finely constructed and squared houses, the Clowns hut is an incredible sight. No straight lines exist throughout its structure [III.B.1.f.(1)], and it has no complete walls nor a full roof. In theory, everything that could possibly be wrong is built into this house. Following the same spirit, the girl associates wear grotesque fake pigtails with straw wrappings extending their hair to reach their buttocks (Plate 46b).


The daily act occurs in the evening during which each plaza group separately sings its special song. Then the Clowns usually sing the special Pepkahk songs of the Pepkahk festival, but often the Clowns choose to be absent. They sing them well and correctly, however, but between each song several Clowns separately add hideous commentaries. They shout them in loud, descending voices so that everybody can hear the offensive remarks and feel apprehensive. These derogatory cries [III.B.1.g.(2)] are often sexual or about deformed human beings such as dwarfs and hunchbacks or certain particularly reprehensible backlanders [III.A.3.a.(2).(d)].

When Clowns finish their Pepkahk songs, they wander back to their homes singing these same songs separately and out of key, unlike the Pepkahk, who do everything in unison. This simple act characterizes the Clowns as individualists (amyi-?kht: self-following) who will not take commands from the Pr-khmm or from the tribal chief during the festival. The Clowns have a troop leader of their own, who invariably is the worst of them all in humor, improper behavior, brashness (Plates 77b,d), and surprising initiatives (Plate 46d).

During one of the special great days of the festivals middle phase, the girl associates of the Clowns put on a special act. One of the girls nurses a baby doll (Plate 46c), which she proceeds to drop on the ground, causing it to cry. The girl then does everything a good mother should not do, such as slapping her baby. In one of the scenes in this drama a girl associate is caught in an act of mock incest with her brother. All of these dramatic events are carried out in hilarious gaiety and with comical gestures. Of course, most of the village is watching and expecting more amusement and looking for funnier performances each time.


When the terminal phase of the Fish festival begins, the Fish (Glossary) sing for most of the night, and the Clowns build a weir into which the Fish are herded. The Clowns symbolically capture the Fish in this way. The Fish, however, try to escape and run for one of the houses on the boulevard where they will be safe. As they sprint to escape the weir, the Clowns try to capture them individually by snatching a small meat pie shaped in the form of a fish off their shoulders. The game is a crafty one, with Fish dodging in and out of the weir, and cooperating with each other to tempt the Clowns out of position to gain an advantage in a race to one of the houses on the village circle. Then they may also run from house to house taunting the Clowns. Finally, however, all the Fish are caughttheir meat pies [II.G.3.b.(9)] are snatched from their shoulders as they run from one base to another. At dawn, more singing occurs and the festival ends.

[IV.A.3.c.(5)] Masks' Festival

Nimuendaj (1946:201212) called the fifth and final W?t season festival the Mummers festival. For simplification, I call it the Festival of Masks or the Masks festival, as the Canela say in Portuguese: A Festa das Mscaras (Plates 48, Plate 49).

The Canela also call this festival the Ku?hrt-re-?h these days, but more traditionally it was the K-?khrit-re-?h (water monster-animal diminutive its-hair). In this case, its-hair really means its-straw since ?h refers to whatever is pendant on a body or on an object, and the masks are made of buriti palm straw [II.G.3.h.(10)]. Research assistants say the Masks festival came from the Krah when a Canela who was visiting there saw it and brought it home.15

The members of the mens society of Masks have received their membership, as well as their right to make certain kinds of masks, through name-set transmission. The masks are painted in a variety of ways (Plate 48a); each of the designs represents a set of different personality traits that the Mask assumes while performing in the village.


At the opening of the Festival of Masks, the Mask society members walk out to a spot 2 or 3 kilometers from the village where they build a lean-to, which shelters and houses the masks while they weave them.16 Women are prohibited from the area, except for the Masks two girl associates. If other women were to appear, the men could not make the masks properly.

Each morning in the village, Jaguar society members (Rop) pounce upon Agouti (Glossary) ones (Kukhn). If however, the particular Agouti happens to be hmren, a Jaguar cannot pounce upon him and eat him. If the Agouti is not hmren, he is pushed to the ground, sat upon, and generally abused, as everyone laughs.

To begin the terminal phase of the Festival of Masks, a grand parade of all Masks is staged (Plate 49a). They march in single file with great dignity from the cerrado hut into the village itself. The masks are head high and about three-quarters of a meter wide, so the owners inside are well concealed. Users support masks by carrying a traverse beam on their heads. Owners weave the front and back mats of the mask so that they cover their bodies from head to waist, below which a skirt of pendant palm frond leaves reaches almost to the ground. The front mat is slit so its user can see but go unrecognized. He opens, closes, and shapes the slit by pulling strings, giving the face of the mask various expressions (Plates 48c).

Arriving in the village, the Masks perform a number of traditional acts (Glossary). One is a dignified single file procession of Masks at twilight, another is a hilarious drama with Clowns dragging and insulting Masks, and another is a show requiring skill in which Masks enter doors of houses while running (Plate 48b). The difficulty in this last act is that each mask has horns. These are pointed poles made of purple wood which would pierce a person in the way. Nevertheless, Masks run through a low and narrow doorway, one after another, ducking the front pole to enter and lowering the back one when inside, demonstrating a high degree of skill. The crowd goes wild when a Mask misses, piercing a house wall or splintering a horn.


The chief occupation of Masks, when free from carrying out traditional performances, is begging (Glossary) from villagers (Plate 48e). The Masks are seen as strange, almost human animals, who have emerged from river waters (k-?khrit: water-beasts). They are supposed to have certain personalities consistent with how they are painted. For instance, the tall Khen-pey (hill-beautiful), never runs. He just parades everywhere serenely and sedately and is leader of the Masks troop. The Tkayww-re and Espora (Spur) Masks, in contrast, are always running after one object or another. Masks do not speak, but each kind of mask has its own way of grunting. Specific body and facial movements are also significant. One posture indicates shame (Glossary) (pahm) (Plate 48c): head bowed to the ground, backing away. A gesture implies begging (a-?n w: something-on beg): repeated jerking of face slits, up and out impatiently. A number of additional expressions, such as anger (in-krk tsii: she/he/it-angry inherently) are part of the repertoire.

As the Masks arrive at the entrance of the village on the day of their great procession, they are chosen by women to be pets, but to fill this role the women must be other wives. Thus, the Mask will give a sign for the woman to avoid him or these women peek into the masks before choosing in order to avoid Formal Friends, relatives, and certain affines. These women, once having chosen and accepted a Mask, refer to them as their pets or their children (to disguise the other spouse relationship), and the Mask calls this woman his mother. At the end of the festival, the Mask members leave their masks with their mothers.


The most important purpose of the Masks festival is to sanction begging [III.B.1.a.(2),f.(4)] (Plate 48e). All of these immense palm straw beings have strong desires and feelings and are easily pleased or hurt. They all beg, some with dignity and some without. This is their principal activity during the two terminal days of the festival.17

The system of begging (almost nonexistent by the 1970s), which the Masks dramatize, ensures a swift distribution of foods coming into the village, whether from hunting or agriculture. When the Canela were a hunter-gatherer people, only somewhat dependent on food production, it was important for foods, especially valued meat, to be passed around to any people in need. This was not done automatically except for certain relatives. Hungry people had to go to where food was and ask for it without shame [III.B.1.a.(4)]. The Krah of the mid-1960s gave food only to relatives (J. Melatti, 1967), but the Canela and Apanyekra extended this generosity to any hungry person [III.B.1.b]. The Canela even gave food to non-Canela persons and backlanders of the region.

Food distribution through begging (Glossary) was a significant factor in maintaining Canela morale and social cohesion at a relatively high level. It was also an expression of the intensity of their feelings and caring for each other, especially in the late 1950s. It is consistent with their greatest traditional good: generosity (h?kayren), and with their greatest traditional evil: stinginess (hts).

The Canela are a very loving people, but they are losing this generosity of spirit to the extent they become ashamed of begging and desirous of building up stores of material possessions. Today they have to be at least somewhat stingy to be in accord with newly established customs.


The Festival of Masks is different from the other four great festivals because it is really part of the Closing W?t festival. The Opening W?t festival continues directly into the Festival of Masks without a break, and the end of the Festival of Masks continues directly into the Closing W?t festival. The Masks, Jaguars, and Agoutis of the Masks festival continue their performances with similar behaviors in the Closing W?t festival.


The origins of all Canela festivals, as reported by research assistants and Nimuendaj (1946:202203), are introductions by individuals with special experiences in other worlds. The Masks festival and Arrow Dance [II.F.2.c.(4)] came from the Krah in postpacification times.

The origin of the Khtway festival is attributed to a youth who learned it from the ghosts while wandering alone in the cerrado (Nimuendaj, 1946:171172). He watched the ceremony, and was allowed the privilege of taking it back to the Canela as a presentation from the ghosts [IV.C.2.c]. However, one result was that the singing of the Khtway songs would attract ghosts who would come and remember the old songs that they used to sing.

The Pepy festival was brought to the Canela by the youth Khen-ku?n (hill/rock grating-instrument), who, with his younger brother, Akr, lived with their grandparents away from the tribe (Nimuendaj, 1946:179181). Their grandfather put them in an internment cell that was built over the waters of a stream, where they underwent a high level of food and sex restrictions [IV.D.3.a]. Thus, they grew rapidly and acquired great strength. When they came out of their internment, they realized their special task was to kill the two great birds who were carrying away and eating their people one by one. Every now and then the large birds passed overhead carrying one of the tribes members in its claws. Akr was killed by one of the birds, but the older and stronger boy killed both birds and returned to his village. He brought with him the basic experience of the Pepy festival and its internment to ensure the proper use of restrictions and bathing in water for rapid maturation. In this case, the surviving youth was not cured of any disease and did not become a kay.

The Pepkahk festival was brought back to the Canela tribe by a youth who had a seriously infected ear and had remained behind alone in the cerrado while his people were on trek (Nimuendaj, 1946:247). In this condition he was visited by one of the great birds out of the skies. After being cured, he was taken to the skies to visit the great birds. They taught him their Pepkahk festival, which he later brought back to his tribe.

The Plr ritual (not a great festival; Glossary) was learned by a youth, Khrwapu, who was sick and weak from eating clay. Feeling especially ill, he went down to the stream to get some water. As he sat there he saw a large alligator come to the surface. The alligator, Mĩĩ-ti, talked to him kindly, and invited him to go on a trip to the underworld of alligators. While there, Khrwapu saw a number of festivals, including the Plr ritual and the Red and Black Regeneration moiety racing styles. When the alligator returned the boy to the Canela world, he cured him of his sickness and also made him a shaman. He was then able to show his uncle and the tribe how to sing and dance the Plr ceremony in a stronger more affirmative way [IV.D.5] than they had done (W. Crocker, 1984b:195203).

Other than the Masks festival, there is little likelihood that any great W?t festivals will be lost in the near future. The two novice-forming festivals, the Khtway and Pepy, are too necessary for training young people. The Fish festival is not likely to be lost because its participants have so much fun in it. Furthermore, a majority of girls win ceremonial belts through the Fish festival because it offers more positions for girl associates. The Pepkahk festival however, is the hardest to prepare for and requires the most food. This festival could be lost, especially since it was traditionally performed only once every five years. During my time, closer to ten years elapsed between performances (1958, 1970, 1979, 1988). The Pepkahk series of songs are likely to survive however, because they are performed in the Fish festival which takes place more frequently. They are also sung on Good Friday evening every year as part of the new folk Catholic customs developed by the Canela in Sardinha and Escalvado.

The Festival of Masks, probably will be lost because of the large amount of work necessary for weaving the 40 to 50 body-size masks. Many men have lost the technique of making the masks and have to ask other men to do it for them. Time spent on fabricating these masks is in direct competition with time devoted to clearing and preparing farms, and acculturation is giving farm work an increasingly higher priority over festival participation. In addition, while older men still retain the power and influence to intern younger ones, the older men do not like the daytime internment they have to undergo when the membership goes out to their cerrado hut to weave masks for about six weeks.

When a great festival ends, the Canela seem to want to linger in the W?t season, even without the daily acts of a great festival to enjoy. Thus, except after the Masks festival, when the Closing W?t follows immediately, two weeks to two months pass before the Closing W?t festival is put on, usually in September or October. The higher priority of preparing fields accounts for delays and for the occasional omission of the Closing W?t festival. This is the annual festival most likely to be omitted in the future.


In contrast to manifesting the two W?t girls, as the Canela say of the Opening W?t festival (W?t to-ayp: W?t manifested/shown), the Closing W?t festival (W?t to-amtsu: W?t hidden) hides them or puts them away. Thus, married couples must return to relative fidelity and work, and singing and dancing can take place only in the plaza, not along the boulevard by the houses, though a man can sing while jogging up and down the radial pathways. The two W?t girls (Figure 45) represent the spirit of the W?t season, during which they are said to be out in the boulevard so that everybody can play. When they are back in their houses, life becomes serious again.

These two girls also represent the ceremonial elite; they are pep-khwy, or hmren, in rank (Glossary). Thus, without the example of the W?t girls model behavior and their potentially restraining presencethey can and do stop excessive male activities [II.F.2.a.(3)]full enjoyment cannot be risked. The lack of their ceremonial presence places the responsibility for the control of excesses more on the individual and on the political leaders.


The W?t girls reflect the stability of family life rather than the playful sexual life of the girl associates (m kuytsw) (Glossary). Each W?t girls family has the responsibility to hold open house for and to act as relatives for the age-set moiety opposite to that of the particular W?t girls father. Thus, whether in festivals or in daily life, the two W?t families provide food and shelter to half of the male adolescent and adult population of the tribe. They even provide platform beds for extramarital sex on certain ceremonial occasions, with two to six women having sex with the men of the opposing age-set moiety to their husbands [IV.A.3.f.(6)].

Age-set members address their W?t girls family members in kinship terms, both on certain ceremonial occasions and in some daily situations [III.E.10]. Thus, one of the roles of the W?t girl and her family, in and out of the festivals, is to provide for age-set members a respected, family-oriented place away from home for food, water, rest, and sometimes even sex, when the W?t girl is out in the boulevard. Her presence restrains male jealousies and antagonisms.

One of the principal acts of the Closing W?t festival is called the Hwa?ky by the Canela, after the artifact worn in the occipital hair of each of the men ( Table 8, item 49) of the age-set moieties who perform in this act. These moieties form two rows in the center of the plaza facing each other along a north-south axis. The eastern W?t girl stands in the northern end of the eastern row of men and the western W?t girl stands in the southern end of the western row of men. While the entire repertoire of Hwa?ky songs are being sung, the men perform various dancing maneuvers. At the termination of the singing and dancing in this formation, the two W?t girls return to their respective houses on the eastern and western rims of the village circle.

As the two W?t girls walk slowly back to their houses, they are accompanied by the ex-W?t women and also by their rejoicing Formal Friends. The latter are attached to the W?t girls by long ropes by which they are pulled along. The W?t girls' Formal Friends perform grotesque comic acts (Plate 39c-e) to demonstrate the joy they are experiencing because the W?t girls, their Formal Friends, are being honored through their performances in the Hwa?ky ceremony. The summer W?t season is essentially closed when the two W?t girls enter their respective houses, where they will symbolically remain until they are ceremonially brought out again at the Opening W?t festival the following year.


During one of many the acts of the Closing W?t festival, a cage (Figure 46) is erected before the house of a W?t girl. The cage is shaped like an early cerrado foragers hut (ikhre yirn: house rounded [the top]; W. Crocker, 1978:5). This cage is made of stripped and curved sapling branches about 1 to 2 centimeters in width, which are tied together in the form of a hemisphere about 1.5 meters high, with a strong pole (610 cm in width) placed vertically in the center, 4 to 5 meters high. A vine is tied to the top of this mast, and the Little Falcon, standing on the cage, swings on the vine, holding onto it with his hands. He throws himself off the cage into the air, hanging onto the vine (as if trying to fly) falling back onto the cage for other foot thrusts out into space (Figure 46).

If a girl has become pregnant before being chosen a girl associate, she can win her belt only by climbing onto the cage with the Little Falcon as he attempts to fly, and later by running behind him in the boulevard as he dashes out and back to his cage, trying to escape the harassment of members of the Agouti mens society. In this fashion, she wins her belt the quick way without having had the maturing experience of multiple extramarital relations [II.D.2.e.(3)] [III.A.2.j.(6).(c)]. One to three girls obtain their belts this way every year.


The fact that the W?t girls have been taken away, ending the season, is symbolized by the erection of the K-?khre log (water its-hole: a spring) in front of one of their houses (Figure 45). This log is their replacement. It is erected vertically and placed directly on a line from the center of the plaza to the front door of the maternal house of one of the girls to show that both girls are now in (their houses).

The log is made of a buriti palm trunk cross-section and stands about 1.5 meters high, with its base dug into the ground. A vertical trough facing the plaza is cut through the bark into the core of the log, and the pulp of the sides and flat bottom of this hole are blackened by fire. The emptiness of the opened space inside the log symbolizes the absence of the W?t girls and the termination of the W?t season.

According to Darrell Posey (in Ham, 1987), people of the Kayap nation (all the Kayap communities together) call themselves the Mbnkkre, or people from the waters source. The Canela cognate of this expression is m p k ?khre (we[people] are waters hollow[source]), which is paralleled by m p Apn-y-?khra (we are piranha-pl.- children: we are Apanyekra). Thus, the K?khre log may be referred to as a waters source, or a spring.



The pleasure derived from the extramarital network of sexual relations engendered by the W?t season is one of the most important factors maintaining the characteristically high Canela social cohesion. Information on the extramarital system was not given me during my first year of fieldwork because the Canela were very embarrassed about the extent of these practices [I.B.2.a] and wished to avoid an anticipated negative reaction on my part. They think the backlanders and urban dwellers are shocked even to hear about such practices and look down on them for their animal-like behaviors. The Canela are right in sensing that these non-Indians do not appreciate the generosity [II.D.2.e.(3)], the feelings of solidarity, and the expressions of generalized mutual affect, or love, that are generated among the members of the group, and in the society at large, through these practices [III.B.1.a.(4)] [III.F.8].

During the W?t season all the young girls in the tribe have to earn their belts by serving as girl associates to a mens festival group in one of the five great W?t season festivals [II.D.2.e.(3)] or by climbing on the Little Falcons cage and running with him in the boulevard in the Closing W?t festival (Figure 46). Thus, to win their maturity belts [IV.B.1.h.(2)] (Figures 48, 49), they should have had multiple sexual relations as part of their socialization [III.A.2.j.(6).(b),(c)].

W?t season extramarital relations (even when carried out privately) are sanctioned or encouraged in festival acts, and play an important role in the operation of the entire sociocultural system. Only one of these sanctioned occasions must occur during the W?t season (the Wild Boar Day), but I am presenting all of the occasions here because the positive attitude toward extramarital relations is best dramatized in the Opening W?t festival and is carried out generally and informally in all five of the great W?t season festivals.

The W?t season encourages informal extramarital relations and makes it easier for individuals to carry them out, but the opposite is true for festival internees who are forbidden to have sexual relations and who are punished if they do. The Apanyekra have a special ceremony in which Pepy internees have to sit in the center of the plaza opposite their partners in sex, whether their wives or not, for all the tribe to witness their shame if they have broken the internment rules (Plate 37b,c). During the Pepkahk and Pepy festivals the interned men are not supposed to have sexual relations, so other men find it relatively easy to have sex with these internees wives. During the Masks festival, the Masks spend most of the day away at their camp, so other men may take this opportunity to have sex with their wives. In the Khtway, the interned boys are usually too young to be concerned about sex; and in the Fish festival, the men are not interned, but extensive extramarital sex is available for most of the plaza group members and the Clowns, within the formal context of the festival.

[IV.A.3.f.(1)] Wild Boar Day

This day (Kr-y-p: boar its racing-log) occurs in each of the three internment festivals, that is, in the Khtway, Pepy, and Pepkahk festivals. This day occurs after each of the climaxes of the three festivals in the Waytikpo ceremony during the late afternoon of the preceding day. Thus, a day of enjoyment and relaxation follows the day of high ceremony and tension.

On this day of relaxation the tribe is divided into the Upper and Lower age-set moiety dichotomy for the Khtway and Pepy festivals and by the wethead/dryhead dichotomy for the Pepkahk festival. The males of one moiety go out to a farm plot while the males of the other moiety remain in the village. The wives of the males in the farm plot stay in the village, while the wives of the men who remain in the village walk out to the farm plot. Thus, a clear separation exists between any formal spouses and Lower age-set moiety dichotomy for the Khtway and Pepy festivals and by the wethead/dryhead dichotomy for the Pepkahk festival. The males of one moiety go out to a farm plot while the males of the other moiety remain in the village. The wives of the males in the farm plot stay in the village, while the wives of the men who remain in the village walk out to the farm plot. Thus, a clear separation exists between any formal spouses.


The people of both sexes in the village dance around the boulevard most of the morning in the M Aykh manner [II.F.1.b.(2).(c)] and then go to the stream to bathe. They have refreshments in the W?t house of the male age-set moiety that has stayed in the village. Here, partitions are erected between raised platform beds or between platforms on the ground with mats. A woman is installed in each, and men come to them, in turn, for sexual intercourse. The position is the usual one for quick encounters: the woman lies on her back, and the man squats between her raised and partly folded legs; her calves rest on his thighs. This extramarital activity may also take place down by the stream near one of the bathing spots.


After a light early-afternoon meal, the men walk or run from the village to where the Wild Boar log race is to be held. The moiety that went to the farm plot in the morning has been preparing the two racing logs, which are fashioned from one buriti palm trunk.

The age-set moiety of males that goes out to the farm plot rests there in the morning, telling stories and jokes, one man singing while leaning on a ceremonial lance. The interned novice group is always part of the moiety that goes out to the farm hut. In the early afternoon, when most of the work has been done to prepare the great meat pies that are necessary on this occasion, small unescorted groups of women can be seen going off into the woods. It is known that groups of men are already out there in the shrubbery and that these women are joining them for sexual purposes. When they return, separately, they invariably have black charcoal-and-latex paint (Glossary) smeared on their limbs and faces. This kind of body paint implies they have had sexual relations [II.F.5.c]. These days, most of the women in the farm hut who prepare the great meat pies do not go out and have sexual relations with waiting men. The possibility is always there, and this is a culturally sanctioned arrangement, but times are changing. It was evident from watching the groups go out into the woods that the older women are not very much involved. It is only the women in their teens and twenties, and possibly their early thirties, who participate in such activities these days. I was led to understand by my research assistants (both female and male), that formerly most of the adult women in the tribe had sexual relations with somebody other than their actual spouse on such a ceremonial day.

[IV.A.3.f.(2)] Ayrën Day

On the morning after the W?t season is closed by the terminating of the Closing W?t festival, the Ayrn (Glossary) ceremony begins.18 Women and men walk along one of the roads that leads out of the village to where a barricade of dense foliage has been erected.

The hedge is a little more than a meter high, so that when people are sitting on the ground, no one can see through or over it (khwk). Members of the Red Regeneration season moiety sit between the fence and the village, while members of the Black Regeneration season moiety sit beyond the fence along the road (Nimuendaj, 1946:168170) (Figure 47).

Two male representatives of each moiety are the only people who go back and forth between the two groups on either side of the fence. These representatives take requests from the women of their side and then walk, singing, to the other side of the fence and tap the indicated male with a wand. Along with the tap on the males shoulder or back, the representative whispers the name of the woman who has chosen him to be her hunter for the day. When all the women have had the chance to indicate different men [III.F.4.f], the two moieties disband and move along trails out into the woods where hunting can take place. Quietly, without making any fuss, the designated pairs find each other and eventually leave the trail to go off into the woods as a couple.

FIGURE 47Red and Black Regeneration season moiety membership sitting locations during the Ayrn ceremony. The two Red Regeneration season groups (the two sexes) sit on the village side of the fence while the two Black groups sit on the cerrado side of the same fence to prevent husbands from seeing who their wives have chosen. Red women choose Black lovers and Black women choose Red lovers.

Choosing of male partners is done in such a manner that the husband of the chooser does not know whom his wife has chosen, so they say. I tried to point out to research assistants, however, that this is not necessarily the case. If the husband is of a different moiety from his wife [III.C.4.b], he could be sitting next to the man she has chosen when the representative comes to tap his neighbor on the shoulder. Of course, the representative is supposed to exercise his sense of tact in that he does not say the name loudly enough so that the husband can hear. Moreover, as they all walk along the trail, the man whom the woman has designated has to join her in such a way that the husband does not see who he is. Perhaps the husband does not want to look around very much so that, although he knows his wife is going with another man, he does not see this person.

Out in the woods the designated male leaves the woman at some spot where she can sit out of the sun, maybe in a temporary hammock made of buriti fronds, and goes off to hunt for several hours. As soon as he has killed some suitable game, he returns and presents it to her as her reward for having chosen him. Then, she is supposed to have sexual relations with him [III.C.4.c.(2)], although I have heard that some women do not choose to go through with the exchange. In any case, she is not obligated to do so, and cannot be forced [III.F.9.a]. Thus, even though the W?t season is over, extramarital relations in a ceremonial context are sanctioned.

Whether or not sexual relations have occurred, the couple separate and go to the site where the great log race of the afternoon, the first Katm-ti, has been scheduled to begin. At this site the women sit in one place while the men gather in another spot, working at preparing the logs that have already been cut by designated log cutters. At three to four oclock in the afternoon, the men return to the village, racing with logs, while the women walk together with the game they have received from their chosen males of the day. This first log race of the Regeneration season is with large Katm-ti logs and is done only once. The following race is with small Katm-ti logs, which increase in size with each following race until the original size logs are attained again.

That evening the young woman makes a small meat pie using the meat of the animal her lover had killed for her, and takes it to her mother-in-law. This acceptance by the mother-in-law of her daughter-in-laws meat pie, made with the meat killed by her daughter-in-laws lover instead of by her son, demonstrates the mother-in-laws full acceptance of her daughter-in-laws sexuality and extramarital interests [III.F.4.f].

The Apanyekra have three or four of these Ayrn days, each about two or three weeks apart, but the Canela have only one. For the Apanyekra, the Ayrn days are the principal occasions when they can experience festival-sanctioned extramarital relations, because their Wild Boar days and other festival occasions do not sanction extramarital sex.

[IV.A.3.f.(3)] Male Work Groups on Tribal Projects

Maybe half a dozen times a year, the agent of the Indian service or the chief of the tribe organizes work groups by age-set moieties [III.D.1.c.(2)]. The two age-set moieties go out more or less to the same place but work apart. In this way, repairs and improvements are done on the road connecting Escalvado with Barra do Corda, and the reservation boundaries are cleared to keep them free of shrubbery. This age-set moiety activity is a modern correlate of former times; the Canela actually had racing courses, which were like roads with the small trees and shrubbery cleared. Thus, two whole teams could run parallel to each other within the track pa-?khre (our hollowed-out-space) without having the intermittent interference of trees and bushes hindering their progress. Moreover, separate age-sets rather than whole age-set moieties performed similar tasks.

Such a work day might be considered a secular daily activity rather than a ceremonial one, but such distinctions are difficult to make among the Canela. Before going out to the work area, at least two age-sets of the opposing moieties usually sing-dance around the boulevard in the M Aykh manner thus making it a ceremonial day if not a festival one.

Traditionally during the morning council meeting, the chief designates certain women to walk out to where the work is being done and make themselves available for sexual relations early in the afternoon before the log race back to the village. These days, women without husbands are usually chosen [III.F.4.b.(2)]; but it is hard to oblige them to go, and they often do not obey, even when designated by the chief [II.E.5.f]. It was felt by research assistants that women without husbands and without children really should go out on such occasions. In former times, any woman, except one with many children, was asked to help the men work on various projects and keep their morale high.

While these work days are relatively few, the general log racing days are many, and the village chief may appoint women to serve in this way for any log racing day. But again, it is much harder to find women who will cooperate.

[IV.A.3.f.(4)] Moieties Hunt During Great Festivals Terminal Phases

The terminal period of the great festivals lasts from five to ten days, depending on the particular festival. For this relatively long period of time, enough meat has to be collected so that everybody in the village can pass the time enjoyably, eating meat as they desire. In preparation, both age-set moieties file out in different directions to go hunting (m ht wl: they over-night[hunting] [go]toward) for two or three weeks to accumulate enough game to last the required period of time [IV.A.3.b.(2)]. Female associates are designated by the chief to go out with the opposite moiety from their husbands, which means that these women will be away from their husbands for two to three weeks. Each day, while the men hunt, these women stay in camp and tend game collected on earlier days.

Sexual relations are prohibited on evenings of hunting days. It is thought that sex will bring bad luck to the hunt. However, on the night before the return to the village, when hunting has been completed, sexual relations occur with the women who have been cooking the meat. Then everyone dances and sings special songs.

In the morning the troop marches back to the village and enters single file. Each person is loaded with the blackened meat which they carry in fresh green baskets made of buriti palm fronds. This allows everybody to eat well and have a good time during the festival without doing much daily maintenance work.

[IV.A.3.f.(5)] The Festival of Oranges

This festival does not have a certain place in the annual festival cycle, nor does it have a name in Canela. It is simply called A Festa das Laranjas (The Festival of the Oranges) (Glossary) and is put on for entertainment at any time, once or twice a year, usually during the late spring or early fall months. Sexual antagonism is more fully and formally expressed here than in any other ceremonial context, including the Opening W?t festival [IV.A.3.a].

Zarur (1979:650) writes that sexual antagonism is more fully expressed and sexual opposition more obviously concrete among the Xinguanos than among the G, citing J. Melatti (1978) on the Krah. I agree with Zarur. Murphy (1973) writes about antagonism between the sexes among the Munduruc and the symbolism involved. In contrast, such antagonism among the Canela is muted, like any other hostility. A pertinent question is whether sexual antagonism was greater in earlier times when men without children slept in the plaza, which was therefore almost like a mens house. However, women without children also slept there, having sex with the men of the opposite age-set from their husbands, if they had one [III.A.2.s.(2)]. Symbolically, such extramarital exchanges neutralize the mutual antagonism [II.B.1.c.(1)].

Another pertinent question is why the Festival of Oranges only came into existence during post-pacification times, and a similar question is why women were only made ceremonial chiefs (Glossary) in recent times [IV.A.3.f.(6)]? I suggest that the relative balance of control over the other sex is shifting closer to equality with acculturation, so that women can now express the difference in the balance more openly.

While all the other festivals are run by men, this is the womens own festival. It is a remnant of the ancient practice of going on trek. The women choose four or more male associates (m kuytsw [the expression is the same as for female associates]), and one of the young sing-dance leaders, to accompany them and go off to some backland settlement, usually Leandro (Map 3), where they gather foods, such as oranges, babau nuts, brown sugar blocks, sugar cane stalks, and many other easily purchasable and transportable items. The male associates who are chosen by the women are in their late teens or early twenties, and are expected to have multiple sexual relations with the women during this period.

On their return, they camp just outside the village and sing all night, wearing body adornments of buriti bast identical to those of the Clowns in the Fish festival (Plate 47b). They behave like warriors about to attack the village the next day. All that follows is role reversal. At dawn they mock-attack the village. The defending men are in the plaza and the women march up several adjacent radial pathways. They throw food at the men who try to dodge it, especially the hard babau nut. Then they race in to tackle men (usually lovers) but are invariably bowled over instead. Then, a woman takes a gourd rattle and imitates a sing-dance leader. She stands before the line of men who bend their knees in time to the singing and the maracas beat just as women do for the daily sing-dances. This exchange of sex roles continues into other acts until a final dramatic performance symbolizes the reintegration: the women and men march parallel to each other (Plate 54b) and then sing in unison against other tribes (Plate 54 a).

[IV.A.3.f.(6)] Ceremonial Chief Days

When the Canela want to honor any individual, or make her or him a ceremonial chief (m hpa?hi: their ceremonial-chief) (Glossary) [II.D.3.i.(2).(b)], they put on a festive day during which they sing-dance frequently, eat well, and have extensive extramarital relations. The honored persons family provides the food. Such occasions occur during the installation or reconfirmation of (1) a Ceremonial-chief-of-the-whole-tribe (Glossary), (2) a ceremonial chief from another tribe (Glossary; Plate 28 e,f), (3) a town crier (Glossary), and (4) a sing-dance leader (i.e., ceremonial chief) of an age-set. Distinguished city-dwellers (including some anthropologists and certain esteemed Indian service personnel) may be honored by the tribe in the same manner.

While foods (which must include meat) are being prepared in the morning, age-sets sing-dance around the boulevard in the M Aykh manner [II.F.1.b.(2).(c)] and go down to the several stream bathing spots frequently to refresh themselves (Map 5). The wives of the other age-set moiety brought into an age-sets dancing line are taken to the age-sets W?t house or down to the stream for sex. The other age-set moiety uses their W?t house and a different and hidden stream bank for the same purposes.

Log races usually take place between the age-set moieties in the early afternoon; meat pies are cut up and distributed by members of the moieties in the late afternoon; and well attended sing-dances are held in the afternoon, evening, and early morning. Meat is so scarce that a piece for everybody and a good supply of rice and manioc flour goes a long way toward providing sufficient energy and good spirits to make the sing-dancers loud and active. Extramarital sexual intercourse, which is often associated with meat, serves a similar purpose.

Sometimes women have log races on these ceremonial chief-making days, and on other festival occasions. When they do, they race in teams that are opposite from their husbands age-set moiety membership. Such racing, like the M Aykh boulevard dancing above, implies freedom from their husbands for sexual purposes. They are not members of the opposite moiety from their husbands; they just group themselves in this manner for racing. It is notable among the Krah that a woman belongs to her fathers Wakmey/Katmy moiety before marriage and to her husbands after marriage (J. Melatti, 1979a:47). It seems from this difference that their festival system provides women with less formal freedom for extramarital sexual relations [III.F.8].

The Canela made one of their women (Hmyĩ-khwy) a ceremonial chief along with her husband (Rrk) in 1966, and they treated an Apanyekra woman (Tep) similarly in 1975. They did not do this in the late 1950s, and research assistants considered this inclusion of a woman with her husband a change in 1966. This trend is reminiscent of Laves (1979:38) second consistent difference between 1935 [Canela] and 1965 [Krĩkat], the increasing participation of [Krĩkat] women in ceremonial activities. This trend is clearly the case because of acculturation, though less so, among the Canela.


In Summary, there are six occasions on which ceremonially sanctioned extramarital sexual relations occur: (1) internment festivals Wild Boar day, (2) Ayrn day, (3) age-set moiety tribal work days away from the village, (4) age-set moiety hunting weeks to provide meat for the terminal phase of each of the five great W?t season festivals, (5) Festival of Oranges, and (6) ceremonial chief installation and reconfirmation days. These practices are being lost or becoming covert if they are visible to outsiders (W. Crocker 1964a, 1974a).

The Apanyekra have Ayrn and Wild Boar days also, but they practice no extramarital sexual relations on the Wild Boar days. These practices do not occur even though the tribe is divided along age-set lines and the one moiety stays in the village while the other goes out to a farm plot area to prepare great meat pies before racing back to the village with logs, as do the Canela. The men who go out to the farm take their actual wives with them to make the great meat pies.

During the Ayrn ceremony, on the other hand, exchange of sexual partners is practiced, in fact more often among the Apanyekra than with the Canela, maybe three or four times during a Red and Black Regeneration moiety season.

I have tried to find reasons for the difference in frequency of extramarital practices between the Canela and Apanyekra. No doubt exists that the Canela extramarital system is far more frequently carried out (informally between individuals and formally in festivals) than the Apanyekra one. It is not clear whether the extramarital practices among the Apanyekra have been reduced because of earlier and more complete acculturation around the turn of the century or whether they practiced it less traditionally, since the system is not as principal a focus in their culture [III.C.10.b].

[IV.A.4] Red and Black Regeneration Moieties Season (Wet)

The Regeneration season (Glossary) moieties are literally the continually changing ones (M-ipimrk: they continually-changing) [III.C.4]. The Red Regeneration season moiety (Glossary) is called The Indians of the plaza (K-m-?khra: plaza-of-Indians) and the Black Regeneration season moiety (Glossary) is referred to as the Indians from just outside the village (A?tk-m-?khra: outside-the-village of Indians). Nimuendaj (1946:84) called them the rainy season moieties, but the central part of the rainy season occurs in January through March, well beyond the period when the Mipimrk season is in operation (September into January). Although some rain may fall in October and November, the heavy rains are delayed by two to three months in this part of central Maranho [II.C.1.a], unlike in western Maranho and points still further west or north. Thus, an interpretation of the actual Canela expression will be used here. (I have capitalized Regeneration to make it clear that the word is a name as well as being a description of the time of the year.)

Similarly, with the summer season, June through August, the Canela have an exact expression that is easy to use: W?t season, or W?t ?n (W?t on/during).


The erection of the K?khre log marks the symbolic end of the W?t (dry) season (Figure 45), although the brief Pyk-re Y (roadrunner-dim. its-food) (Plate 52c) and Tsp-re Yalkhwa (bat-dim. song) acts follow consecutively the same afternoon. Then, after a few minutes, the first event of the Black and Red Regeneration (wet) season moiety takes place. For all the activities of the Regeneration season (sometime in September or October), men will organize themselves according to their memberships in the Black and Red moieties rather than according to the age-set moieties of the W?t season.

The second event of the Regeneration season is the Ayrn day ceremony during which women chose men of the other moiety to hunt for them and give sex in exchange for meat.


The day after the Ayrn ceremony the first of the regular Regeneration season log races takes place, with the Blacks the first moiety in ascendancy. The Reds hinder and harass them as they try to reach their log-racing sites. The Black logs (called Katm-re, see Glossary), with their longitudinal black stripes, are small enough to be supported by one hand. Each day for several weeks a larger one is substituted until the logs become full-sized (Katm-ti) [III.C.4.c.(1)]. Then, the Reds take their turn at domination, cutting small disc-shaped logs (Wakm-re) of buriti that can be carried in one hand and are painted red with urucu at the center of each circular cross section. These Red moiety-styled logs are cut increasingly larger until after several weeks they are full-sized Wakm-?ti logs.

Then the Blacks resume the ascendancy and cut logs in their style: the length being much greater than the diameter. This relationship between the dimensions is called ir (long). The logs are made full-sized every day and painted with black longitudinal stripes with black axis points at the center of the cross-sections. After a month or more, the Reds take over the ascendancy again and cut large logs in their fashion, the diameter always being slightly larger than the longitudinal axis, but almost equal, a relationship called hayoo (round, square) [V.A.5.a.(1).(b)]. The central points of the axis on both sides are painted red in the form of a filled-in circle, the radius of which is about one-quarter the radius of the cross-section of the log.


The M-ipimrk (Regeneration season) activities are oriented toward social leveling, which is demonstrated in the continual ceremonial alternation of ascendancy between the Black and Red moieties. The men in ascendancy, instead of having their way and overpowering their opponents, are the ones who are harassed and have simple possessions taken from them by the men of the subordinate moiety. The situation is then reversed. This activity represents the new growth (sprouts, shoots, leaves) that overcomes the old established growth, until an exchange of relationships takes place. This replacement through regeneration continues until this years new growth has fully replaced the old vegetation.


There were different points of view among experienced research assistants about when the season of the M-ipimrk system began and ended in much earlier times. Some assistants placed it between September and February and others between June or July and March. All agreed that its season had been longer (up to half the year) and had been emphasized far more in earlier times.

I think of the M-ipimrk season as formerly beginning in the first half of September, with their new environmental year. This is the time when the first dew (a?tl) falls, and when the first wild flowers and green shoots begin to appear (Table 2). This season could continue until some time in February or even March, completing the growing and changing time of the year. If so, the Black and Red M-ipimrk racing would have had to have taken place during the time of the Sweet Potato and Corn Harvest festivals, which it does not do now. M-ipimrk racing comes from one origin myth (Khrwapu) (W. Crocker, 1984b:195203), while the sweet potatoes and corn complex come from another (Star Woman) [IV.C.1.b.(4)]. Perhaps the present ending of the M-ipimrk season in January, well before the time of the Sweet Potato (February) and Corn (March) festivals reflects very early tradition, contrary to what some old research assistants have been suggesting.

On the other hand, in the origin myth of Khrwapu, both the M-ipimrk and the Plr racing were brought from the alligator world to the Canela one. Since the Plr ritual traditionally occurs in March or April, the termination of the Regeneration season could be extended even to these months.


When the time comes to end the Regeneration season moiety racing in January, the Canela hold one big final Red moiety Wakm?ti race. The day after this race, the age-set moieties make Corn logs (Ph y p: corn its-log) (Table 4) of buriti palm trunks and race back to the village m hakhr khm (in the age-set moiety style). All subsequent activities are organized by age-set moiety formations for approximately the next nine months, until just after the W?t season is closed with the erection of the K?khre log. Then traditionally, they return to racing in their Regeneration season moiety formations. Thus, it is essentially two moiety groupings that race during the entire yearRegeneration season and age-set, the exceptions being the mens society racing moieties (Pepkahk and Masks festivals) and the Fish plaza group moieties.

Although the Apanyekra carry out the Regeneration season practices in a more prolonged manner than do the Canela, I do not know to what extent they still practice their Regeneration season moiety racing. The Canela have all but forgotten their Regeneration season moiety racing practices, and utilize the Regeneration season formations perhaps only three to six times a year: Ayrn day, the first Black moiety race, the final Red moiety race, and then maybe one or two Red- or Black-styled races.

[IV.A.5] Unnamed Ritual Period

Between the last Regeneration season race and the first day of the Opening W?t festival is a period two to three months long for which the Canela have no name. During these months (February, March, and maybe April), three small rituals take place: Sweet Potato/Grasshopper, Corn Harvest, and Plr. Conceptually, the first two have more in common with the M-ipimrk season, because they express the concepts of growth and change. For the transmission of ceremonies, however, they are all river-oriented (Glossary) in that they are haakhat-oriented (Glossary) like the Fish, Masks, and Closing W?t festivals [III.C.8.a,10.b]. The Plr ritual, besides two name-set transmission roles, has the matrilineal haakhat of the Plr log cutter, and thus is a river-oriented ritual. Its role performers (Ts?kat-re) [IV.A.7.d], however, are more closely connected with the W?t period and the three internment festivals in the incidence of their roles performances.


Sometime in late November or December (before the end of the Regeneration season) the Corn Planting ceremony takes place. A sing-dance leader with a belt rattle (ts or ak) sits on a mat in the center of the plaza and sings before a large red-lipped (urucu) gourd filled with corn that is to be planted the next day (Plate 53a). Then just after the end of the Regeneration season a Corn-style log race opens the age-set moiety season. Finally the Corn Harvest ritual usually occurs in mid-February or near the end of March at the latest, at the time when the corn is ready for harvesting.


While reconstructing the Regeneration season practices, research assistants pointed out that a ceremony, the H Krwa-ti Y-ti (massed-ball-of buriti-aug. inner-mass/mush-aug.: wet buriti pith formed into a ball), which I had seen during the dry season just following a Pepy performance, took place in much earlier times just after the Regeneration season terminated and before the Sweet Potato ritual (Nimuendaj, 1946:19899).

Early in the morning a sing-dance leader throws balls of the soft wet inner pith of the buriti tree at youths who have aroused him abruptly from his sleep beside a fire. In 1957, the same P?t performed this ceremony as he had for Nimuendaj (1946:199) in 1933, and it was essentially the same.


In early February, the Grasshopper (gafanhoto) and Sweet Potato (yt: Batatas edulis) rituals (Glossary) take place. Both of these ceremonies (Glossary) occur during the same evening, and are referred to jointly as the H-tswa (leaf-pointed: the sweet potato leaf is pointed). The Canela refer to the Grasshopper ritual as their carnival, which approximates the Brazilian carnaval. The entire haakhat of Grasshopper performers paint their faces with white chalk [II.F.5.e] and hop and skip with great hilarity in a line before a sing-dance leader (Plate 47a,c). Then, late in the evening, maybe around 11:00, the Sweet Potato ritual act is put on. The women stand at the entrance of the radial pathways leading from their respective maternal houses to the plaza, while a sing-dance master goes from female house group to female house group, chanting a song to help increase the sweet potato harvest.


Some three weeks to a month later, usually in March, the Corn Harvest ritual (Glossary) (or simply the Corn ritual) takes place. The principal participants of the Corn ritual are virtually the same as the individuals who are involved in the Sweet Potato and Grasshopper rituals. It is the largest ceremony outside of the two W?t festivals and the five great W?t season festivals, requiring a considerable amount of preparation and a whole evening and part of the next day to perform. The first of the three acts of the Corn ritual is a race with a pair of Corn-style logs. The second act is a throwing event early the next morning during which men hurl lances padded with cornhusks at an opponent to test his dodging abilities [II.F.2.c.(2)]. The third and principal act of the Corn ritual occurs around noon of the same day when the sun is in its highest position. The objective of the act is to see how many times a shuttlecock can be batted up into the air with the palms of the hands without its touching the ground (Plate 53b,d), occasionally 40 to 50 times. The purpose of the ritual is to increase the corn harvest.19


The next ceremony is the Plr log race and its concomitant acts. This log race is said to bring on the W?t festival. Thus, when it is more or less time to put on the great summer W?t festival, the Plr ritual is started.

After the evening council meeting on the day before the Plr log race, a special Plr ceremony is put on in the plaza, during which a master sing-dance leader sings on his knees surrounded by the men of both age-set moieties. The next morning the two age-set moiety teams go out 5 to 10 kilometers from the village to a place where the challenging team has placed two large (over 100 k), non-buriti logs in a rectangular area from which all grass and shrubbery have been removed. Ex-initiation festival, cloth-adorned female associates paint the coin-shaped logs red on their cross-sections (Plate 50a), and two Ts?kat-re performers line up on either side of the logs (Plate 50c), the round sides of which are facing down track toward the village. An old ceremonial singer chants with a moving wand pointed at the logs from their village side, and a sing-dance master leads the singing of the two age-set moieties (Plate 50b,d). When the Ts?kat-re give the signal, the two teams grouped on either side of the track rush up to the logs, raise them onto their chosen racers left shoulder, and follow their first log-bearers down the track (Plate 51a-c).

Halfway to the village, there is a second rectangle of bare earth prepared in the grass where the two logs are deposited side by side. The teams switch logs and race off again toward the village. Unlike most of the other races, the Plr race requires the runners to pass across the boulevard, go down the nearest radial pathway, and drop the logs within the plaza.

The Plr ceremonies are the only ones that can be repeated during the year out of their annual cycles traditional position (April, May). I have known them to take place in November, but when put on then, they are not meant to bring on the W?t season.


When asked why this ritual exists, and how it relates to the other festivals, Canela say that it pulls (puxa) the W?t season festivals because the two Ts-?kat-re (ts-master/owner-diminutive) (Glossary) who perform in the Plr ceremony are relatives of the W?t girls. This means that they are similar in status and mystique to the W?t girls and part of the Canela ceremonial elite. They are hmren through name-set transmission inheritance and are controllers of ceremonies.

The Ts?kat-re wear a ts, a ceremonial belt-rattle with many hanging tapir hoof-tips (Plate 60c,d), which makes a precise percussion sound when shaken [II.G.3.a.(3)]. It is used to mark the rhythm of the performance, and is tied just below the knee or held in the hand and shaken. Wild tapirs no longer inhabit the area, but tapir hoof tips can be obtained from other tribes to the west. Undoubtedly the hoof tips were always a scarce commodity and highly valued. Thus the Ts?kat-re had great prestige.


A plr is both a platform bed and a nonburiti log made for racing. A Plr race is the only occasion on which the Canela race with nonburiti logs (necessarily hardwood (Nimuendaj, 1946:137, heartwood) for the special occasion) but often the racers cut logs of soft buriti (Plate 51a-c) for the Plr race rather than of hardwood. At an evening council meeting, the Pr-khmm ask the special Plr logs cutter, the Plr yitep kat (Plr-log cut owner/master), to try to cut the logs the next afternoon. This ritual is still held matrilineally in a haakhat (Glossary). Thus, year after year, the same traditional Plr cutter, Paapol, age 43 in 1970, goes out to find a suitable tree and proceeds to chop it down with an axe and to fashion two segments of the trunk into racing logs. That evening, he is asked by the Pr-khmm in the plaza to report on any strange events that occurred, such as a wood chip flying into someones eye. If all the circumstances are auspicious, then that evening or the following one, they begin the ceremonial proceedings.


After the Plr racing logs are dropped in the plaza, an older man, usually the town crier [II.D.3.i.(4)], chants a ceremony through which new name-sets are given individuals who wish to change their names [III.E.4.d]. In the center of the plaza, he faces west with his back to the low morning sun (Plate 51d). The name-giver and name-receiver stand directly behind him, also facing west. In the same manner, names are put on artifacts such as ceremonial lances, war bonnets, and pets. An individual may have his name changed for a number of reasons: when his naming-uncle dies while he is still an adolescent; when his mother develops an unacceptable relationship with his naming-uncle; or when he is ill too much of the time so that his mother thinks a new naming-uncle may bring him better health. A girls name is changed for similar reasons. The Canela place names on outsiders in this way at any time of the year (Nimuendaj, 1946:10).


The Apanyekra have the Khtway, Pepy, Fish, and Closing W?t festivals but do not have the Opening W?t, Pepkahk, and Masks festivals. They had, but have lost, a form of the Pepkahk festival called the Krokrok (papa-mel, lontra, or irara: fresh water mammals (a kind of otter); J. Melatti 1978:200), which is similar to the Krah ceremonial of this name (J. Melatti, 1978:90).

The Apanyekra have allowed their festival system to become relatively non-functioning, so by now they have lost far more of their ceremonials than the Canela have. For instance, they do not process youths into age-sets with four or five initiation festivals. The youths go through each festival only once. This deterioration may be attributed to the Apanyekras low population numbers and more extensive culture contact with backlanders during the first half of this century, but this is only a hypothesis.

Krah festivals (J. Melatti, 1978) seem similarly deculturated in contrast to Canela ones.

[IV.A.7] Elements Used for Associating Festivals

The analyst of festival systems derives meaning, and abstracts interpretations, from associations between elements of the system, such as the associations between elements presented below. Eventually, I hope to carry out more extensive studies [III.C.10] and to include similar festival materials from other Timbira tribes, especially from the Krah. Cooperation with J. Melatti and the use of his excellent volume on Krah ceremonialism (1978), would considerably enhance such studies.

A careful study of all the Canela festivals and ceremonies suggests they can be grouped according to certain characteristics. Among others, the most obvious characteristics are (1) recruitment to membership, (2) presence of mens societies and plaza groups, (3) use of Plr-like logs, (4) presence of signal-giving Ts?kat-re, and (5) internment of male groups and practice of pollution-avoiding restrictions.


Individuals are recruited into ceremonial groups according to several criteria: (1) relative age, (2) name-set transmission, (3) matrilineality, (4) matrifiliation, (5) patrifiliation, (6) appointment by the Pr-khmm, and (7) individuals and memberships choice [III.C.2].

Induction by relative age is characteristic of only the two initiation festivals, the Khtway and Pepy (the Nkrel-re) festivals. Thus, these most frequently performed age-set moiety-oriented festivals use a very non-characteristic form of recruitment when all the festivals are considered.

[IV.A.7.a.(1)] Name-Set Transmission [III.E.4.c]

In contrast to induction by relative age, induction by name-set transmission is practiced widely and found in the great festivals and the Closing W?t, Regeneration, Sweet Potato, Corn Harvest, and Plr ceremonies. As such, name-set transmission cannot be used for grouping or categorizing festivals meaningfully because it is so widely spread. Moreover, it is used increasingly these days as the more convenient way of passing down rights. Therefore, name-set transmission is found in ceremonies in which it probably did not exist traditionally [III.C.8.c]. Thus, name-set transmission cannot be applied as one of the categorizing or associating criteria in relating elements of festivals; but it can be used in a general sense, such as saying that the Masks festival is generally name-set transmission-oriented.

[IV.A.7.a.(2)] Matrilineality

Recruitment according to matrilineal principles, as a way of passing on to a receiver (or receivers) a right to own a ritual, or performing a ritual (Glossary) [III.C.8], occurs in all the festivals except the two initiation ones, where recruitment by relative age is used. In general rather than in an absolute sense, a high frequency of matrilineal recruitment characterizes the following festival and rituals: Fish, Sweet Potato, Corn Harvest, and Plr. These four are river-oriented ceremonies. The Closing W?t and Masks festivals are river-oriented also, but the frequency of matrilineal recruitment in them is minimal. My hypothesis is that all group and individually held rituals in these river-oriented festivals and ceremonies were once matrilineally acquired and that some of these rituals have shifted from matrilineal to partial and even total name-set transmission acquisition, thereby letting names and ownership of certain rituals pass outside the boundaries of the rituals traditional haakhat. This shift in recruitment principles has been occurring since contact, I hypothesize. (This trend is especially conspicuous among the Krĩkati; Lave, 1979:36.) This model sets the initiation festivals off from the rest of the festivals and ceremonies as, possibly, not having been river influenced.

[IV.A.7.a.(3)] Patrifiliation and Matrifiliation

Recruitment by patrifiliation (son to father) traditionally occurs in three cases: the Visiting Chief membership (Tmhk), the Ceremonial-chief-of-the-entire-tribe succession, and the Eastern Timbira intertribal membership for males [III.C.7.a.(1)]. All three of these memberships by patrifiliation are only dramatized in the Pepkahk festival and are concerned with Eastern Timbira intertribal relationships or Canela intra-village ones [III.C.10.c]. Today, the Visiting Chief society recruitment by patrifiliation is almost entirely forgotten and would not be practiced at all were it not for a few Canela specialists who remember its principles.

Recruitment by matrifiliation occurs in only one case, except for the domestic one, namely, in Eastern Timbira intertribal membership for females [III.C.7.a].

[IV.A.7.a.(4)] Membership by Appointment Versus Selection

The Pr-khmm appoint many of the individuals who perform roles in all the festivals and ceremonies, but not as many in the Fish festival. Pr-khmm appointment is the ultimate mechanism of transfer for name-set, matrilineal, and patriline transmission, when any of these ceremonial procedures for succession fail [III.C.8.b]. However, the Clowns (Glossary) govern themselves and many aspects of the Fish festival, and their autonomy in this festival demonstrates its principal point: individuality.

A combination of choice by the membership and acceptance or refusal by the individual characterizes the Clown society, including their girl associates [III.C.7.b.(1),(2)]. Canela individuals generally do not choose or select their ceremonial positions. They feel that taking initiatives on ones own (amyi-kht: self-following) is antisocial [III.B.1.k.(3)], because it is making oneself bigger than others [III.B.1.g.(1)]. However, catching unwilling individuals for Clown membership would be pointless, since innovative jocular role performance is so important. Similarly, a combination of these same two principles (appointment and selection) characterizes recruitment of girl associates to most of the plaza groups of the Fish festival [III.C.5.c]. Again, cooperation of the individual is needed for these relatively non-prestigious appointments where so much sexual intercourse is expected. In contrast, the Pr-khmm do appoint the prestigious one Tt-re (Otter) girl associate, who is almost untouchable sexually.

Thus, control of the festivals and role appointment by the Pr-khmm are associated with higher ceremonial prestige than is choice by individuals and groups. Similarly, less group sex and only one (Tt-re) or no girl associate (Visiting Chiefs) [III.C.7.a.(2)] is associated with higher prestige of the group [III.C.9].


Membership in mens societies and plaza groups [III.C.5,6] is based on name-set transmission. This form of recruitment is also used for the Regeneration moieties, the two Ts?kat-re lines, the leader of the Visiting Chiefs line, and others. Mens societies perform in the Pepkahk, Closing W?t, and Masks festivals while plaza groups carry out their roles in the initiation and Fish festivals. Their occurrences do not overlap [III.C.6.a]. Presence of mens societies or plaza groups does not differentiate them with respect to river-orientation. Associating festivals with mens societies or plaza groups appears to be unproductive, unless it is done to characterize the W?t season festivals (mens societies and plaza groups) versus the non-W?t ones. In this broad dichotomy, the Opening W?t festival is the only one that does not have either mens societies or plaza groups, but this exception is a small one since the Opening W?t is really part of the Masks and Closing W?t festivals.


The novices race with miniature plr-re logs [II.G.3.b.(4)] (Plate 67a) in both the Khtway and Pepy festivals (Plate 36a,b). Nimuendaj (1946:88) claims that these logs are associated with ghosts, although my research assistants could not confirm this relationship. They did, however, associate the plr-re logs with the far longer ones of the Awalwrw-re act of the Pepkahk festival [IV.A.3.c.(3).(d)] (Plate 44g) and with the far heavier ones of the Plr ceremonies. All of these logs are made of nonburiti woods and all other racing logs are cut from buriti palm trunks. Thus, the three internment festivals are related in this way, from shorter to longer plr logs, symbolizing a progression from less to more maturation of internees.


The two Ts?kat-re (Glossary) receive their roles through two name-set transmission lines (moieties are not involved). They give the signals for starting or ending some performances in the Plr, initiation, and Fish festivals, though the Ts?kat-re are called the Kutap-ti in the Fish festival. Research assistants say they are the helpers of the W?t girls, who head the ceremonial elite. This connection associates the Plr ceremonies with the three festivals in which plaza groups perform, but the W?t girls themselves do not appear in the Plr, initiation, or Fish festivalsonly their helpers do.


In the three internment festivals, the Khtway, Pepy, and Pepkahk, large groups of males (3050) are separated in different ways from the rest of the tribe, from most of their kin, and from their spouses if they have any [IV.A.3.f]. While they are secluded for two to four months, their practice of restrictions against food and sexual relations to prevent pollutions from entering their blood is a principal focus of their lives [IV.D.3.f]. The practice of restrictions to avoid pollutions occurs only during these three festivals and during certain individual rites. While members of mens societies, plaza groups, the Clowns, the Visiting Chiefs, and the performers of certain other roles avoid sex and certain foods at traditionally prescribed times, they do this for other reasons than to avoid pollutions. Thus, the three internment festivals can be associated with the practice of such restrictions and with most individual rites. As such, the restrictions are associated with maturation, success in warfare (now athletics), and development of kay abilities.  



Individual rites parallel the more public festival system. The same person goes through the tribal-oriented festivals as part of a group and through the kindred-supported rites as an individual. Thus, a girl wins her belt (i?pre) in a public festival performance but is confined privately in her family house, while she observes restrictions alone for the belt. Similarly, a youth undergoes a public Pepy festival initiation experience (which also has a private internment), but his ears are pierced beside his mothers house in a individual rite. A listing of a persons rites of passage in the traditional sense would have to include her or his social processing through certain public festivals as well as through individual rites. The latter are put on for a person largely by her or his matrilateral kin, although patrilateral, across-the-plaza kin (Glossary) sometimes contribute as well.

Individual rites structure the passage through life for the individual. Most of these rites, especially the various steps into marriage, involve more than one extended family, and thus build relationships between the families. This chapter will describe these rites briefly and show how they contribute to the strong social cohesion of the Canela.

[IV.B.1]From Birth to Parenthood

The Canela are considered adolescents, in a sense, until they have children; becoming a parent is seen as a considerably maturing event. Before childbirth they are relatively free and unencumbered [II.D.2.j] [III.F.4.b.(1),(2)], but after it they take on the responsibilities of parenthood. The postpartum rite of couvade emphasizes this transition [II.D.2.k.(2)] [III.F.4.i].


The infant is born into a world of women. Men, especially the father, are not allowed into the house where childbirth is taking place. A male shaman might be called in if there is trouble during the birth process, but usually the female relatives of the mother and certain female self-styled midwives handle the situation.

The expectant mother is helped primarily by her sisters and her own mother, research assistants say. (As a man, I have not seen childbirth.) Ordered into a sitting position, she leans back between the spread knees and against the chest of a sister who holds and braces her from behind. The laboring mother also holds onto a cord which hangs from an overhead beam, partly supporting herself in this way. At the moment of birth, the infant falls (i?-pm: she/he-falls) toward a mat beneath the mother, and her mother-in-law catches the baby and holds it up for all to see. The umbilical cord is now cut with scissors; formerly it was severed with a bamboo knife. Then the baby is washed and urucu is smeared on its body [II.F.5.b]. Soon amulets and cords are made for its wrists, ankles, and knees to protect it from certain dangers [III.A.4.c]. The mother cuts the traditional tracks through the babys hair above its ears. All of the above is carried out by women in the absence of men.


The mother of the husband asks the mother of the baby for the names of the contributing-fathers (Glossary), and a young messenger of the mothers family walks around the boulevard to each house where these men are living to tell them that they have been designated by the mother as contributing-fathers [III.E.9]. These men might be in the houses of their wives at this time, in which case the situation would be quite embarrassing. Expecting his designation as a contributing-father, a man might arrange to be in his maternal or sororal home. In any case, he may have to move to his maternal house to undergo about forty days of internment couvade and its restrictions. If he is hmren [II.E.7.c] [III.D.2.c.(3)], he must present a ceremonial meat pie in the Hkwl ceremony to the Pr-khmm in the plaza before he can return to active social life.

By accepting the baby and the existence of the contributing-fathers, the mother-in-law is accepting more completely her daughter-in-law. Through this acceptance the bonds between the mother-in-laws family and the new mothers kin grow. This procedure also constitutes further steps along the progressive continuum of marriage [III.F.4].


Placing a name on a baby is a relatively simple life cycle rite. The naming-aunt or naming-uncle appears in the mothers house [II.D.1.b.(1)], reconfirming the naming agreement previously made. Then the naming-aunt or naming-uncle mentions the name in her or his name-set (or a new name) that the infant is to use (cf. Nimuendaj, 1946:110) [III.C.4.b]. If the baby is male, the name-giving uncle goes to the door of the mothers house at sunrise and chants the high call of the Regeneration season moiety to which he and his named-"nephew belong. In this way everybody in the village may know that there is a new Red or Black moiety male member in their midst. I have mostly heard such a high call among the Apanyekra; the Canela have all but given up the practice. This is not done for baby girls.

A pair of cross-sex siblings (uterine or classificatory) agree to exchange names with each others children (of the same sex as the name-giver) making sibling ties much stronger [III.E.4.a]. Uterine siblings, who are already close, treat each other more formally after exchanging names. The alternative to name-exchanging between the more distant cross-sex siblings might be to commit incest (to aypr) if they like each other enough physically, thus turning a consanguineal bond into a affinal one [III.F.3].

The extended family becomes more extended through name-exchanging. A distant siblingship, whether of cross- or parallel-cousins, then becomes a close one (Figure 37). The motivation for having more close relatives is that close kin support each other in political matters [III.D.1.h] and in the division of food (Plate 15b,d).

The institution of name-set transmission creates an important ceremonial bond between the generations, especially among males. A ceremonial tie is instituted between a man and maybe half-a-dozen or more named-"nephews. Such ties may be relatively isolated, as between a man and one of his nephews. Because of the ceremonial context of the ties, the name-set may unite people of two to four generations [III.E.4.c]. The most socially visible Canela example of such a corporate group can be seen when, in the Closing W?t festival, the K?khre log groove cutters assemble on the inner edge of the boulevard to take turns in carrying out their roles [IV.A.3.e.(3)]. Among the Krĩkat, because of deculturation, such name-set transmission-formed corporate ceremonial-holding groups have become one of their principal kinds of socioceremonial institutions (Lave, 1979:2426).


Formerly, when a girl was 4 or 5, her mother began to look around for a young man about 10 years older with whom she could contract an engagement for her little daughter [III.F.4.a] (Nimuendaj, 1946:118). She searched particularly within a family with which she would like to become associated. When an eligible young mans mother had agreed to such an arrangement, the two families began bride service practices. The girl and youth had very little to say in the matter.

The youths family left game every now and then at the girls house, and the girls family deposited firewood and gourds of water at the youths house. Then, occasionally the fianc was taken by his family to visit his fiance in her house and later she returned the visit with her family. These arrangements were usually broken when the girl or the youth married someone else.

These engagements were a creation of the mothers, but both families are said to have entered into the relationship seriously. Research assistants said the two families were usually very sorry when these engagements were broken by one of the children marrying someone else. No trace of such early engagement practices exist today, and average age differences between spouses at the time of their first marriage have become dramatically reduced from around 10 years to about 5 (W. Crocker, 1984a:7778).


The ear-piercing experience for boys (Nimuendaj, 1946:4951) [II.D.3.b] is an extensive rite requiring a number of steps for its completion. It has been carried out only sporadically during my time with the Canela.

In the late 1950s, the advising-uncles of groups of youths, maybe three to six in number, arranged for the rite to be held for their nephews. Then the practice was dropped for a number of years and repeated for five or six more boys in the mid-1970s. Very few of the youths born in the late 1950s or the 1960s have had their earlobes pierced.

I witnessed several of these occasions and took still photographs in 1960, 1966, and 1975 (Plates 24, 25) and Super-8 movies in 1975. The youths were about 13 to 15 years in age, but old research assistants insist that in earlier times the proper age for undergoing this rite was about nine to eleven.

The advising-uncle, after arriving at an agreement with his nephew and the latters mother, summons a specialist in earlobe piercing (Plate 68c) and makes the arrangements. At about 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning the youth kneels on a mat, sitting on his ankles, in the shade beside or behind his mothers house. A female relative cuts away the hair from around his ears to facilitate the operation. His mother holds his shoulders from behind and the specialist kneels in front of him.

The ear-piercer marks, with urucu, the points on the earlobes where he is going to make the hole and sits back to give the advising-uncle a chance to approve the locations. He then holds the bottom edge of the earlobe very firmly and thrusts the hardwood awl (hapak katswl ts: ear pierce instrument [Plate 62g]) [II.G.3.d.(7)] through the center of the lobe. The youth should not wince or display any signs of pain [III.B.1.e].

After piercing the earlobes, the specialist slips small wooden pins covered with urucu into them and covers the entire area of the earlobes with more urucu [II.F.5.b]. Finally he gives the lad instructions on how to take care of the wounds. The ear-piercer soon goes on to the maternal house of the next boy whose ears he is to pierce.

The ear-piercer becomes a specialist through experience. He may be asked to do the job by the boys family, especially by the advising-uncle. He can be any older man in the tribe, hunting and preparing his wifes fields like anyone else. He may or may not be a curer.

After the ordeal, each youth is interned in his mothers house in a corner set off for him by mat partitions. He undergoes restrictions [IV.D.3.a] that are similar to, but less severe than, those practiced during a postpartum couvade. Here the youth carves earlobe-hole pins needed for the coming two weeks, each one slightly wider in diameter than the last one [II.G.3.d.(8)], and the specialist comes to dress the wounds each day. The uncle also visits the lad to make sure he understands what to do and to ensure adherence to the restrictions. The uncle uses this time to tell his nephew stories of their ancestors and to inculcate moral values [III.A.2.n.(2),o].

The uncle pays all the expenses which include the awl, urucu, and proper wood for the pins. He also must provide the white cloth the lad puts over his head and ears just after they are pierced. The young man wears this protective cover all the time during his internment and the following week (Plate 41c). Depending on the time of year, the uncle might also supply rice, the special food that is consistent with required restrictions. The uncle also gives the specialist a small present (not a payment) and furnishes his nephew with a suitable gift by which to remember the occasion.

They say that the earlobe holes, and the pins in them, have just been born. Each day the holes and pins increase in size, facilitated by the restrictions their parent (the youth) is maintaining for their health and growth. Later, the wooden pins will be replaced by small spools and then larger ones.


There are no public puberty rites for girls [II.D.2.b,c]. Formerly at the time of her first menses, she was secluded in a portion of her mothers house in an enclosure made of k?pip palm mats. The palm rib spines were stuck into the ground, and the tops tied in place. In such an enclosure, she could not be seen by other people in the house. Inside this small cell she sat on small sections of k?pip mats which she made for herself for the occasion. They were 35 to 45 centimeters square and disposable after use. In this first experience with menstruation, she did not go out in the daylight. Water was brought to her for washing, but in the evening she was allowed to go down to the stream. She wore an urucued band of buriti bast around her waist to indicate her condition so that men would not approach her for sexual reasons. In her seclusion she was required to undergo certain food restrictions (Nimuendaj, 1946:120121). Today, even though she wears cloth, a girl may still be secluded at the time of her first menses.

Regular monthly menstruation seclusions were abandoned a number of decades ago. An important factor contributing to this change was the arrival of cloth about 1910. Earlier, women used the k?pip palm mats to sit on during their menstrual periods. From 1910 until the time of Nimuendaj in the 1930s, women wore cloth increasingly.

Nimuendaj stated that women wore wrapped skirts all the time but that they were not particularly careful about covering themselves when dressing or when near the streams bathing. By my time in the late 1950s, they were careful at all times to avoid exposure to men.

In the late 1950s, young women were beginning to wear panties, which were obtained at very little expense in Barra do Corda or made by themselves at the Indian service post on the Indian service sewing machine. Young men used to joke about this new custom. One youth saw it as a way for women to prevent his access to them should they not happen to feel like being generous on any particular occasion [III.B.1.a.(4)].

My female research assistants, old ones especially, said that even with the arrival of cloth, they still wore the red menstrual band around their waists under the cloth skirt. When asked why they still continued to do this, they said that it was just their practice and that they felt better maintaining the traditions. The younger women, however, ceased to use the red menstrual bands. With the availability of panties in the 1950s, into which pieces of old cloth could be arranged, any further recognition of menstrual periods through outside manifestations was abandoned. When a man approached a woman suggestively, he would not see the red warning band around her waist, and she would have to say the word i-tm (I raw) [III.A.2.i.(1)].


By the time a girl is 13 to 16, she most probably is married in the sense that her virginity has been taken and some man is considered her social husband. A hearing has been held between the two extended families (m aypn pa: they to-each-other listen), and the marriage has become somewhat solidified. Most of the individual rites of women pertain to marriage and are covered in sufficient detail in the chapter on marriage [III.F.4].


Winning her belt (i?pre) [II.G.3.c.(1)] (Plate 59d) is one of the principal attainments of a womans life [II.D.2.e.(2)]. When women talk about and describe other women, they often include references to the festival in which she won her belt, indicating her higher or lower status depending on the festival [III.C.9].


A womans female kin prepare the belt for weeks. It is made of tucum (r-re) fibers, that come from the leaves of a very small palm tree (r-re pl) that is the same size as, and appears to be, grass. They break the central rib of this palm leaf, and rip the fibers from the flesh of the leaf. Then they roll these fibers on their thighs into a thin thread. (The special verb for this activity is hhĩk or a?tĩ) Finally, they take three of these threads and work them together, again rolling them on their thighs into a cord (Plate 18a-c). This line is symbolic of what her relationship should be (long and durable) with her female kin who have made the belt for her, and soon her female in-laws are to be included on the same line after they have painted it.


This belt (Plate 59d), which was worn by women every day, is given by her naming-aunt upon the girls completion of her duty as a girl associate. In earlier times such a belt was kept for the lifetime of the person, but these days they are often sold.

The usual way to earn such a belt is to serve as one of the two girl associates (m kuytsw) to some mens group (Nimuendaj, 1946:119120). Depending on the nature of the festival society to which she is assigned as a girl associate [III.C.9], she has sexual relations with few or most of the men in the society before graduating with her belt [II.D.2.e.(3)].

Experience as a girl associate to a male festival group is socially important [III.D.2.e,3.f]. Its purpose is to make it easy and desirable later for women to join with pleasure in the several extramarital sex festival days [IV.A.3.f]. It also prepares them to be sent out with age-set moiety work forces to keep all the men working hard [II.E.5.f,6.a]. Thus, the importance of extensive festival sexual intercourse [III.A.2.j.(6).(b),(c)] to earn her ceremonial belt (a badge of relative maturity) is a significant factor in the maturation of a girl associate into Canela womanhood [III.F.8].

To gain her belt the quick way, when already pregnant, a girl has to climb on the Little Falcons (Hk-res) cage (Figure 46) during the Closing W?t festival, while he is hanging from a vine and swinging off of it (flying) [IV.A.3.e.(2)]. Then she runs with him around the boulevard, trying to keep up with him as he sprints to escape harassing Agouti members. No more than one to three girls obtain their belts this way every year.


After a girl has won the right to wear her belt (i?pre) by having completed a girl associateship to a mens socio-ceremonial unit in one of the great W?t season festivals, she still has to go through a couvade-like seclusion for the symbolic growth of the belt and herself for several days [II.D.2.f.(1)]. While her uncles go deer hunting for her belt-painting ceremony, which takes place in the house of her mother-in-law, the girl is secluded in a small part of her mothers house, which is partitioned off with mat walls for this purpose. These internments last from three to five days, the length depending partly on the ability of the uncles to find and kill a deer.

The internment of the girl with her newly won belt, and their symbolic maturation together, is likened to the boys internment for his pierced earlobes with their wooden pins, but the restrictions with respect to food and length of time are considerably less for the girl. Both internments follow the postpartum couvade practices with respect to diet, the absence of sexual relations, and various other precautions.

The belt and the pins are considered their owners children, who have just been born, so that these restrictions are necessary for their health and growth [IV.D.3.b]. Whereas the size of the pins grows and the earlobe holes heal, the ceremonial belt can follow neither of these courses. Instead, it is hung out on a post in the boulevard in front of the house of its owner for everybody to see and know that there is a maturing woman in the village.

When the uncles return with a deer from their hunting, the girl comes out of seclusion. Once more she has been taught to rely on her male kin and what they can do for her ceremonially.

Figure 48.Brides female in-laws painting her belt of one long tucum cord by passing it through their fingers, which are greasy with red urucu.


In the morning of the next day, well after the council meeting, a sense of excitement stirs in the village. The female kin of the young brides mother-in-law are preparing to race each other to see which one can first reach their new out-sister-in-law [III.E.3.a.(1),(2)]. The women are moving about outside and watching to see just when the young bride appears in the doorway of her mothers house, so they can immediately sprint to her in a disorderly, individualistic manner (m ?prt) [IV.A.3.c.(3).(c)]. When she does emerge, the young bride comes out running, with a deer slung across the back of her shoulders and its hoofs tied together across her breasts for her to hold. The other women, all her in-sisters-in-laws (Figure 28), are faster because they have nothing to carry, so they meet the young bride, having run at least three-quarters of the way to her house. They then take the deer off her shoulders and carry it themselves while escorting her, walking, to the house of her mother-in-law. Her husband plays no part in the rite.

Once in the house of the brides mother-in-law, the in-sisters-in-law and in-mothers-in-law sit on mats with their out-sister-in-law, the bride (Figure 31). They take the cord of the brides newly won belt and begin to pass the entire length of it through their hands which are covered with red urucu paint (Figure 48). Consequently, all of the brides husbands female kin have had a part in decorating the belt which was made by all her female kin.

When the cord has been painted, the young bride (for this is one of the marital ceremonies [III.F.4.e]) stands before them, formerly naked, but now with cloth bunched between her thighs, on a special mat (ka?t) where she is painted red all over in the usual manner except for her face, scalp, genitals, the palms of her hands, and the soles of her feet (Figure 49). Then, the brides husbands female relatives direct her to rotate as she stands on the mat so that her body draws the cord around her as she revolves. Thus, the belt gradually accumulates around her, resting lightly on her hips, where there may be 150 to 200 loops from a line 4580 meters long. Then the women tie the loose cords together at the back by making about two dozen circular and parallel loops with the end of the cord. The bride takes the belt off her body by passing it up over her breasts and shoulders. That afternoon she sing-dances in the female line in the plaza [II.E.7.a], with leaves (pau de leite: arm-hk) tucked under her belt to conceal her genitalia, even though women now wear cloth, except sometimes in this context.


With the belt painting ceremony over, the young bride is now thoroughly accepted [II.D.2.f.(2)] and integrated into her sisters-in-laws and mother-in-laws longhouse, where she is expected to come quite frequently and work with them. They have one term of address for her, namely, itswyy, while she calls them either toktyy, for the women of her generation and younger, or propky for her mother-in-law and her mother-in-laws sisters as well (Table 11). (It is surely not a coincidence that the belt is called an i?pre, which is very similar to the basic term of reference for in in-laws namely pree. The word pre also means to bind or to tie up.)

The young woman is so completely accepted by her in-laws after this ceremony that she is totally free [III.F.4.e.(1)] (for the first time) to enter fully into any of the sanctioned extramarital activities, whether initiated within the context of a public gathering, or privately by herself with a lover [III.F.8]. Before this time her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law might have objected to her love trysts and to her appearing on any formal extramarital sex occasion [IV.A.3.f].

She has become a Canela woman, although without full social responsibilities. All that is still missing for her to be considered fully mature is to have a child.


The rite to buy the groom, or the son-in-law (Mpa Waw Hmyl Ts: our son-in-law his-payment occasion), consists of the brides family making some very large meat pies (Glossary), each 1 to 1.5 meters in diameter. Then the brides female kin transport them on their shoulders across the plaza, or around the boulevard, to the house of the mother of the groom. The bride and groom do not take any part in this rite. Sometimes, especially today, the son-in-laws family makes and sends similar meat pies to the brides family on the same day, to neutralize the indebtedness.

This simple rite can occur before or after the belt-painting ceremony. Since bride-price practices are so prevalent throughout the tribal world, it is important to stress that the Canela actually speak of paying for the groom: buying him (W. Crocker, 1984a:6768). Also, the goods move from the brides to the grooms extended family [III.F.5,6], while the groom himself moves in the opposite direction, from his maternal house (kh-ts: breasts place: his mothers breasts) to his wifes house (hũlkhwa [not translatable]). Moreover, the Canela do not form marriage alliances between their extended families and most likely did not ever have clans or unilineality [III.C.10.b] (W. Crocker, 1977:268, 1979:237240).

[IV.B.2] Natal Rites

The most elaborate set of Canela rites are the perinatal ones. While prenatal practices are not extensive, postnatal ceremonial traditions are continued for about 40 days, and certain traditional practices for two to three years.


The prenatal traditions scarcely constitute rites because they are not formalized with respect to place and time and involve only one other person at most. (For some limited information, see [II.D.2.h.(1)].)

A woman recognizes pregnancy by one or two missed menstrual periods and knows then that the birth will occur within seven or eight months (moons). She begins mild restrictions on food and sex only about six weeks before the expected childbirth.


When the expectant mothers time is due, a room in her maternal or sororal house is made for her with relatively secure walls of mats and poles. A hole in the ground for wastes is dug, so she will not have to leave her quarters except at night and can have some privacy. The room is prepared well ahead of time for her use during the long period of couvade with her husband who shares a portion of the room, although they are separated by a flimsy partition of mats.

The afterbirth (i?kh-?ti) is buried in a deep hole in the ground dug inside the childbirth enclosure. They say that all afterbirths in a matriline are buried in the same place; that is, a womans direct female descendants live in the same part of the circle of each new village from decade to decade and century to century, forever [III.B.1.e.(3)]. Other remains of the birth, including the mat (k?pip) onto which the baby fell, are left to decay in the fork of a tree 100 to 300 meters outside the village in the adjoining cerrado. As the village becomes larger and some trees near the village are cut down for firewood, this practice becomes more difficult to carry out, and thus is seldom done these days.

Sometimes birth occurs unexpectedly before these arrangements have been made. In any case, trouble rarely occurs because Canela women are used to heavy work and so are in good physical condition. Also, their constant use of the squatting position in everyday life helps to prepare them for childbirth. One day in 1959, when I was one of the few persons in the village, Plk (age 38), went off to work on his farm as usual, even though his wife Ppn (age 36), was very pregnant but not yet expected to deliver. Just before noon, several Canela rushed across the village plaza to her house in its northwest position of the old Ponto village. From the sounds and later reports, I knew that Ppn had given birth and had managed the entire delivery by herself. I was told that this timing and isolation was not ideal but does happen often, especially in the farm huts; this birth, however, had occurred in the principal village.


While all parents have to go through the various stages of couvade [II.D.3.g] just after the birth of each child, the full severity and length of the couvade practices are only required of couples who are experiencing childbirth for the first time [III.F.4.i]. Couvade is necessary, they say, for the sake of the newborn, who is very weak, and whose blood is equivalent to its parents blood [III.F.11.a] (Figure 39). Any polluting liquids that enter the parents blood will pass to the infants blood [IV.D.3.b], killing the infant or at least making it cry. In other words, an aspect of the spirit or essence (kar: ghost, spirit, essence) [IV.C.2.e] of the pollution will pass from the parents blood to the babys blood. Thus, the parents have to maintain high food restrictions for the health and growth of the baby [IV.D.3.a].

Because the new father must observe complete restrictions against sex, he has to move into his wifes house to be under surveillance. If the parents were allowed to be out in the village plaza shortly after childbirth, they could not be expected to maintain the restrictions, especially the first time. However, the husband is not allowed in the house until well after the birth has taken place and everything has been cleaned and well arranged for him by his wifes kin.


Until the end of the umbilical cord falls off, the couple must stay away from anything and anybody that might have a kar (spirit, essential substance, trace) that might hurt their baby by passing within their common blood pool through to the baby (W. Crocker, 1971a, 1971b) [III.F.11.a]. At first, this includes the suns rays, the evil eye of certain individuals, dried up old leaves and twigs, people who have had sex recently, and an assortment of other odd things. Of course, an absolute restriction against sexual relations is part of it. Just thinking about sex is said to make ones own blood and hence the babys blood (kapr: human essential substance) somewhat polluted, and to cause the baby to cry. The following are some more of the health-threatening dangers (kur-ts: perigos): dirt (py), trash (a?kht: tangled up stuff), blood of game (pr-re pin kapr: game from blood), menstrual blood (m-kahy pin kapr: women from blood), blood from ghosts, buriti juices, and snake poisons.

The more conspicuous part of the traditional restrictions has to do with food because special foods have to be provided for the first days of the approximately 40-day period. Their indigenous white corn (ph mpe: corn special) used to be the principal food for about the first four days. With the loss of this kind of corn during their stay in Sardinha between 1963 and 1968, rice has become the substitute. From October through March or April, they are not likely to have rice, so it has to be bought.

The couple can wash themselves inside the house, or the husband, if he wishes, can do this outside, but only at night.


The remains of the umbilical cord of a baby, which was cut 1 to 3 centimeters from its body at the time of birth, falls off the body naturally on about the fourth day after birth. Formerly, the part that fell off was wrapped in a small piece of cloth with urucu and kept until a child was about eight or nine. Then it was placed in the hollow of the fork of a large tree far outside the village in the cerrado (Nimuendaj, 1946:107). I saw a number of these wrapped umbilical cords in the 1960s, but this practice no longer took place in the 1970s.

When the end of the umbilical cord falls off, it is the sign that the couple can eat a wider variety of food. The parents do not just start eating these newly allowed foods automatically, however. They test them, taking small portions of the new foods one at a time. If the baby cries, or is upset in some way, they know the babys blood was not ready for the new foods.

By this time, the parents, especially the father, are allowed more mobility, though both must avoid the rays of the full sun. The father, and later the mother, can go down to the stream to bathe in the late afternoon (always testing the effect on the baby) but not at dusk, the time of ghosts.


After about 15 days, the navel heals. They keep the umbilical area moist with a liberal supply of urucu to prevent infections. Up to this time the couple has shared approximately the same diet, though the wife is allowed to be less strict. Her mother is around them, watching, and tending their needs.

By this time, there is a significant change in the couvade diet, in the degree of mobility that the couple is allowed, and in the difference between what the wife and husband are permitted to do. The wife must now eat certain kinds of meat (especially one of the four species of armadillos) to help her milk become more plentiful. The husband has to go out of the village to do this hunting, but he must not let his hands touch blood or the baby will cry. The husband may go anywhere now, except to the plaza. The wife is more restricted in her movements, having to stay in her quarters most of the time, nursing the baby; but she may eat a wider variety of foods than her husband. She may also put urucu on herself as well as the infants body.

The designated contributing-fathers maintain the same pattern of diet, sex, and movement restrictions as the husband, except that the requirements are less strict and are considerably less observed today than formerly.


After about 40 days (there is no serious attempt to count the days), the wifes family holds the H?khrl (h-?-khrl: generalizer-it-eat: eat it), the rite for publicly committing the contributing-fathers to the baby and for releasing them from their couvade. This frees the contributing-fathers [III.E.9] entirely from all restrictions and also gives the husband greater freedom except for sexual relations, certain foods, and going to the plaza.


The wifes close female kin make at least four very large meat pies about 2 meters in diameter. These days, beef is most likely to be bought from backlanders, but formerly her uncles had to go hunting for a number of days until they had accumulated enough meat.

The smallest of the meat pies is reserved for the contributing-fathers, while two pies are carried over to the husbands maternal home for distribution. One pie remains for the extended female kin of the wife.


Sometime late in the morning after the meat pies have been prepared, the wife is sent alone to walk around the boulevard to summon the contributing-fathers. She is completely covered with urucu, which is a sign of health and having completed restrictions [II.F.5.b]. Relatives usually tie several bands of new cloth around her head and waist before she enters the boulevard to show that she is valued by them. She passes each house quietly, walking in the middle of the boulevard scarcely looking in and making only the slightest indication at the house of each contributing-father. The attention of the entire community is upon her, although everybody already knows who the contributing-fathers are. She returns to her home alone and the contributing-fathers come separately to it within about 10 minutes.

The contributing-fathers have charcoal brushed on most parts of their bodies, a sign that they are still undergoing restrictions [II.F.5.d]. They, with the father, assemble around the meat pie that is reserved for them and keep quiet while one of the wifes uncles lectures to them about the conditions of their release.


A strong hunter, the Hakhl-kat (blow master), who has been chosen by the wifes uncles, walks with dignity and self-possession into the room. Hwmr, age 57 (Plate 15c), carried out this role for Tep-hots grandchild in 1979. Without a word, and taking his time, he squats among all the fathers next to the pie, and leans over one edge of it. He may have a pipe or a hand-rolled cigarette filled with strong backland tobacco. He blows the smoke slowly over the pie in several breaths, each in a different direction. The smoke is unimportant, not being aboriginally Canela. The point is that his breath (the essence of a strong man in his late 40s or 50s passes over the pie. With this spreading of his breath, his qualities of strength and forbearance enter the pie to benefit all those who consume it. This has the same effect for the other four pies in the house.

This mechanism for the transference of human qualities is the same here as in the ceremony that takes place in the plaza in the late afternoon: the Hkwl ceremony whereby a Pr-khmm blows his breath on the meat pie presented to the Pr-khmm by a hmren person upon his return to full social activity [II.E.7.c] [III.D.2.c.(3)] (Figure 19). It is also similar to the transfer of strength and human qualities demonstrated in the Pepy festival when a physically strong and healthy man ceremonially passes the smell of the perspiration of his armpits onto the noses and faces of the novices one by one with the palm of his hand (Plate 36c,d).


When the breath blower has left, the contributing-fathers and the father take scratching sticks (amyi kuukhrn ts: self scratch instrument) [II.G.3.b.(2)] (Plate 67c), which they use for eating when undergoing severe restrictions. In unison, these fathers slowly thrust the sharp points of their scratching sticks (about 20 cm long), through the wild banana leaf cover into the meat and bitter manioc body of the pie itself. Then, they withdraw the sticks from the pie and put them almost to their mouths. They do not eat what is stuck to the sticks, symbolizing their state of future high restrictions in which they may eat only the blandest foods and certainly not a meat pie when their contributed-to-child, their one-link biological or restrictions kin [III.E.2.b], happens to be sick [III.F.11.a] (Figure 39).

When the contributing-fathers get ready to leave, a wifes uncle addresses them in a final speech. He tells them that it is all right now to forego their restrictions, that their contributed-to-child is safe and well, and that the crisis has passed. They still do not eat the pie, a symbolic gesture that indicates, when necessary, that they must maintain restrictions for their contributed-to-child for the rest of their lives [IV.D.3.d.(1)].

The uncle does not address the social father who has to stay and continue his restrictions at a lesser level for the continued health and growth of his baby. Even when his child is two to three years old, the social father (who may or may not be the genitor in the Western sense), must not undertake certain activities, such as killing a snake, for the sake of his childs health.


When the contributing-fathers have gone, an unrelated man impersonating a little fox (tsoo-re: fox-dim.) moves furtively from bush to bush, trying not to be seen. He comes to the door of the house, is given food, and withdraws swiftly, afraid of being caught. Research assistants were unable to explain his behavior and activities. I suggest that a contributing-father may be thought of as behaving like this when coming around to help his contributed-to-child from time to time. He must not intrude on the family life of his contributed-to-child, but the social father and the mother must nevertheless recognize him, and they are formalizing the relationship by giving him some food.


As the Little Fox disappears, the wifes female kin start putting pieces of food just outside the door on mats: oranges, babau nuts, stalks of sugar cane, molded blocks of brown sugar, mangoes, portions of meat pies in wild banana leaves, and so on. Then the age-set just older and opposite from the husbands age-set makes a disorderly dash (a m ?prt) to fall upon the food, each individual trying to grab and hold as much food as he can for himself. This group is referred to as the Tepr-?ti (a certain kind of large fish), because such fish dash at morsels of food in the water to devour them.

If the mother has no social husband, but is an mpyapit (Glossary) [III.F.4.b.(2)], for whose baby the contributing-fathers have been holding restrictions, the Tepr-?ti dance with her in the M Aykh style around the boulevard before their m ?py ?n dash to her house [II.F.1.b.(2).(c)]. In a sense, the men of the opposing moietys age-set are her husbands, her m mpy ?n (pl.husband other), and a disorderly distribution is appropriate when extramarital sexual relations are involved [IV.A.3.f.(6)]. Similarly, even if she is married and her husband is present, the disorderly rush of the Tepr-?ti represents the relationship of the opposing and higher age-set to her. The Tepr-?ti represent her other husbands also [III.E.3.a.(6)].

In sharp contrast to the single mothers ceremony, the married mothers female kin give two large meat pies to the social husbands female kin, carrying them to his natal house in an orderly fashion, where they are cut up and eaten by his kin, cementing the relationship between the two extended families.


The H?khrl rite terminates the set of perinatal practices for the couple [III.F.4.j]. This rite is put on only for the first child of a marriage. For later children, the parents do carry out a couvade, but to an increasingly lesser extent as the children grow in number. The couple are thought to have become experienced at testing to see if it is safe to take the various next steps out of the couvade by themselves. They are expected to do this more informally, experimenting with new foods and observing the reactions of the infant. If no crying or other negative reactions occur, the most recent steps obviously are all right for them to have taken.

These days, declaring a man a contributing-father can possibly cause so much trouble with the social father [III.A.5.d,e] that the mother may not designate anyone at all, even though there may be one or two. In a case when the unannounced contributing-father was one of my research assistants, he did keep the food and sex restrictions but not those relating to mobility; he came to work. He was hoping his limited diet would not be apparent to his wife, and that the baby of his other wife would not cry. It did not.

Another reason why the H?khrl rite does not have to be repeated for subsequent babies is that it is also the last marriage rite. With the payment of the meat pies in the H?khrl rite, the marriage is secured, the purchase of the husband is completed, and the couple are left to carry out their own later couvades. Nevertheless, with second and additional babies the contributing-fathers designated by the mother, publicly or privately, are still expected to undergo similar but lesser restrictions.

[IV.B.3] Funeral Proceedings

When a person is perceived to be sufficiently ill to need help from all one-link-away kin, including contributing-fathers, messengers are sent to tell them of the illness. This means that each individual in this equivalent blood category must keep food and sex restrictions to help prevent pollutions from passing to the blood of their sick one-link relative, thereby weakening or killing her or him [III.E.2.b] [III.F.11.a] [IV.D.3.b] (Figures 20, 39).

When someone is obviously dying, the relatives are present, including contributing-fathers, spouses and children. Very old people are with their daughters and granddaughters. In the 1970s, a married man with children was less likely to be taken to his sisters or mothers house when very ill than in the time of Nimuendaj (1946:133). In any case, at this point, the next of kin send messengers to all absent one- and further-link kin to summon them to come as soon as possible. These messengers are paid well (with a machete or axe) because they may have to go to farms 20 to 30 kilometers away or even to backland communities 50 to 100 kilometers away. They are never asked to go far out into the world because no one knows where their kin might be out there. (For the similar but more detailed Krah funeral proceedings, see Carneiro da Cunha, 1977, 1978.)


Until the deceased is buried, most of the attention of the mourners and their Formal Friends is placed on the proper preparation of the corpse. (For a series of photographs on several funerals and burials, see Plates 30, 31.)

For a person who seems to have died, the following sunrise is the significant time beyond which all hope for her or his return is lost. The Canela and Apanyekra believe that when a person has become unconscious, they have died just as when the heart stops beating. Until the moment of the first rays of the following morning sun, however, there is still a chance for the soul (kar) to return to its body (i?-khre-?-kh: its-hollow-its-skin: souls hollow-places covering). Thus, a shaman (kay) is often sought to go after the soul and bring it back to its body [IV.C.2.c.(1)]. There are many stories of this having happened.

This is why nobody must cry or wail before the sun appears, or is thought to be up behind the clouds. During the all-night vigil, uncles are often heard advising and warning their kin about this matter. The Canela used to come to me begging for kerosene to keep a lamp burning during such a vigil.

Canela and Apanyekra sing-crying was one of the most astounding cultural phenomena I witnessed during my first visit. They yodel with meaningful words at the same time they are crying. The tears, nasal fluids, and phlegm come pouring out, wetting their hands, thighs, and clothing, and the bodies of those they are crying over. When the very first rays of the sun shine on some part of the house, or are seen directly, someone starts the crying, and any of the immediate kin present and all others join in. It is quite loud and very moving. All hope has been lost, and any chance that the soul will return has been spoiled by the suns rays and the wailing.

It is notable that Formal Friends, who are not related to the deceased [III.E.5], produce an abundance of tears at will to accompany and help the bereaved produce theirs.

Relatives throughout the village, hearing the sounds of mourning, come across the plaza and walk into the house in waves of maybe half a dozen at a time. As they enter, they too start wailing. The relatives take turns sitting by the corpse, but the closest person, usually a spouse or mother, remains sitting by the head most of the time. The intensity of the wailing rises and then ebbs as each new wave of kin arrives.

Women are more spontaneous at wailing than men, most of them being able to do so at will, even when they are not actually mourning. They do this to keep a mourning person company, to help her or him wail more profoundly. A few men cannot wail at all, or do so only when they have lost a very dear person.

Occasionally during the height of the wailing, a very close relative of the deceased, like a parent or sister, may try to commit suicide by doing a somersault with the intention of landing on the back of the neck and breaking it (Nimuendaj, 1946:133). Special Formal Friends, are waiting and watching to thwart such an action. I have seen this occur several times. When an unusually big, strong young father, Kapi, tried to do this after his small sons death, his somersaulting was especially hard to prevent because of his size, but his Formal Friends succeeded in restraining him.

All mourn the death, and it is a time when jealousies between men must be forgotten. I have seen lovers lie along side their i?pr-?n-tsw (wife-other-deceased), wailing and embracing her, while the widower looked on wailing just as loudly.

As soon as the sun is up, relatives of the deceased, but not the closest ones, put the corpse on its back on mats near the door. Research assistants say the body should be pointed feet first through the door to the plaza, but I have seen the body placed in a number of positions in relation to the door and the plaza. This really depends on where the door is in relation to whatever else is in the room. On one occasion, a woman with severe convulsions whom they thought was rabid (they had shot the dog who bit her), was left with her head to the wall next to the door.

Usually the mother of a child, or the widow, cuts the hair of the dead person in the traditional style. Only women ever cut hair (Plate 28c). The eyes and mouth are closed. Then, the Formal Friend, or the wife of the Formal Friend puts urucu or falcon down on the body in the same style as for the living. Traditionally, only individuals of hmren status were entitled to falcon down [II.F.5.a] [III.C.7]. Traditionally, a mother would cover the body of her child with urucu. However, if it is decided to cover the childs body with falcon down, only the Formal Friend of the child and the Formal Friends helpers (kin and spouse) may apply it, not the mother. Thus, Formal Friends increasingly insist on applying falcon down, even to their non-hmren Formal Friends to earn something from them, especially in times of hunger. This is a significant trend [III.A.3.c.(3).(b)].

One of the jobs of the group assisting the deceaseds principal Formal Friend is to open the front of the house, tearing the straw of the walls away. This is done so that the waves of arriving kin and later a sizable set of pallbearers can gain access to the room easily. By nine or ten in the morning, the grave in the cemetery has been dug by relatives and friends of the principal Formal Friend, and the corpse has been properly prepared. Then a group of four to eight male gravediggers, who have finished digging the grave, briskly enter the room as pallbearers, carrying k?pip mats, several lengths of rough palm straw rope, and a pole about 3 to 4 meters long. By this time the principal Formal Friend and members of her or his group are pulling mourners gently away from the corpse, and when necessary, youthful pallbearers help more forcefully. Then they roll the corpse unceremoniously into several mats and tie it to the pole with palm straw ropes. As they go out of the house, the ends of the long pole rest on the shoulders of two men, and the corpse is slung in its mats longitudinally under the pole (Plate 31b). Very loud yodel-crying breaks loose in the house and, as the volume of wailing reaches its climax, the Formal Friends watch close kin of the deceased who are likely to faint or harm themselves.

The burial practices described here are a fairly recent development. The concept of a cemetery, with many people buried in the same place, was adopted in the last century. Earlier, people were buried within or just outside the village, and for certain individuals there were secondary burials.

I field-tested Carneiro Da Cuhnas writings (1977) on Krah early funeral procedures with Canela research assistants in the field, but found they remembered far less detail than the Krah. The Canela had even forgotten most of what Nimuendaj (1946:133135) published about their own earlier practices. I believe that funeral procedures and eschatology constitute a sociocultural sector that is of little interest to the Canela.

As the group of pallbearers proceeds to the cemetery, about half a kilometer north of both the former village of Ponto and the present village of Escalvado, they talk cheerfully, as if nothing serious had happened, and may even trade jokes with the crowd that usually follows. This was notable to me because these people all know each other so well that they must have felt the loss, whether kin, affines, or unrelated to the deceased. Usually, several distant relatives of the deceased go along to the cemetery to be sure that the corpse is treated correctly and that the grave is dug properly. Otherwise the kin stay in the house of mourning.

At the cemetery, any final work on the grave is completed by men of the Formal Friends group. They are careful to cut a precise cubic rectangle [III.B.1.f.(1)] about 20 to 30 centimeters longer than the corpse at each end. About the same amount of space is left on each side, and the grave is a little over a meter deep. The distant relatives of the deceased make comments if the work is not well done, and report it to the next of kin when they return to the village. These distant relatives may complain publicly, spreading rumors [III.A.3.c.(3).(e)].

The mats are lowered into the grave as the ropes are loosened and the pole slides out. A man jumps down beside the corpse to readjust and close the mats and turn the head so that the face within the mats is turned north (Plate 31a). All graves are dug with their lengths approximately along the east-west axis. The terrain of the cemeteries in both Ponto and Escalvado slopes generally westward toward the Santo Estvo stream, so the feet of the deceased lie slightly downhill and toward the west.

When the man who finished placing the corpse properly is helped out of the grave, three or four strong poles (saplings with their bark stripped off of them) are placed lengthwise over the grave. Then a number of shorter poles are positioned across the grave over the longitudinally located poles (Plate 31c). Afterwards, old mats, four to eight in number are placed over all the poles to seal the air space below (Plate 31d), then dirt is piled on top of the poles and mats so that a mound about half a meter high or more is formed. Finally branches with green foliage are placed all over the top of the mound (Plate 31e). The hope is that none of the dirt will fall through the mats onto the cadaver. Moreover, the traverse poles are supposed to be both numerous and long enough to discourage animals from digging down into the grave and caving in the sides.

When work on the tomb is completed, the grave diggers, pallbearers, and crowds return to the village. On the way, they bathe in a stream to rid themselves of dirt and any contaminations resulting from contact with odors from the corpse. Feelings are strong about the necessity to complete these ablutions to avoid pollution.


After the departure of the pallbearers with the corpse, mourners in the house of the deceased continue wailing for some time, maybe another 15 minutes. The Formal Friends must continue to watch related kin closely to be sure they do themselves no harm. The bereaveds Formal Friend (especially if they are both women) stays continuously by her side, wailing with her even though the Formal Friend cannot be a relative. It is believed that somebody wailing with the bereaved enables her or him to wail that much more. The more wailing the bereaved does, the better it is up to a point, since wailing is beneficial; but the bereaved person must not lose control [III.B.1.d.(3)].

Meanwhile the principal Formal Friend of the deceased is in charge and makes all of the various arrangements that have to be made for the bereaved. There must be ventilation in the house; so besides the front wall, which was torn out soon after sunrise, the back or side wall is also torn out. Thus, plenty of air flows through the enclosure to take all the odors and associations away. In addition, the property of the bereaved person has to be watched, because anything loose in the area of the house is traditionally fair game for the taker. The bereaved lose not only their dear relative but most of their possessions at the same time. The attitude is that material loss parallels personal loss. When a death occurred in the house where I was living, my kin put the more valuable items of the family into my room, which was well built and closed off. (According to Werner, 1984a:95, the same practice exists among the Kayap.)

Relatives of the deceased who are less affected by the loss begin to pull themselves together after half an hour and start assembling and cooking food for the more distant relatives and other mourners who have gathered. Formal Friends of various bereaved individuals take them outside behind the house to bathe, pouring as much as two large calabashes of water over their shoulders (a fee for this help is expected, such as 3 meters of cloth). Everything done by a Formal Friend is an expense in sharp contrast to what is done by a relative. Similarly, the more distant kin who went to the cemetery are bathed by their Formal Friends upon their return, even if they had washed in a stream. It is difficult to refuse the services of a Formal Friend, and this is one of their opportunities for exacting a return.


A week or even several months after the funeral, the uncles of the deceased arrange for the payment of the gravedigger, the principal Formal Friend of the deceased or the male representing her who did most of the digging. Just as the suns last rays disappear behind the landscape to the west, the assembled kin, sitting just outside the mourners house on the edge of the boulevard, begin to wail. Such wailing is never really subdued, although by this time the weeping may be less.

An uncle calls out for the principal gravedigger to make an appearance, and soon he can be seen walking slowly along the boulevard toward the assembled kin. The gravedigger stands directly before the group of mourners who now have become quiet. An uncle says a few words to him and gives him the payment, which may be as much as half a dozen items provided by the deceaseds kin, such as: a shotgun, a machete, two axes, some cloth, and a cast iron caldron. The payment is large partly because this is the final compensation to the Formal Friend for all of her or his lifelong services to the deceased [III.E.5]. Thus, as a parting gesture at the terminal point of the relationship, the amount of the payment must be beyond criticism. Moreover, many individuals are involved in the funeral procedures besides the principal Formal Friend, and she or he has to recompense the others in turn if they are not kin.

As the gravedigger walks away with his earnings (for himself or for the principal Formal Friend, if female), the assembled kin burst again into wailing, and as this mourning finally dies down, the principal bereaved person usually can be heard as the final mourner. Then the uncle addresses the group in solemn tones, reminding them, essentially, to forget the past, to live in the present, and to think of their children and grandchildren [III.F.7].


The purpose of Canela mourning is to rid the bereaved of most memories and feelings related to the deceased so that the bereaved can live a life that is oriented to the present with its human and economic responsibilities. Thus, the process of mourning and the surrounding beliefs are extensive while eschatology is not. The duration and practices of mourning vary considerably, however, with individual needs.


If the principal mourner was the wife of the deceased, her Formal Friend goes, mourning and wailing with her, to all her specially remembered places on the reservation or in the backland area during the following week. They may go to a place on a stream for which the widow has strong memories of her deceased husband; or they may walk out to the farm of a backland family who had treated them well during the lean economic times of the year [II.C.3.g]. In every place they visit, the Formal Friend weeps and wails just as strongly as the widow to keep the widow going, but it is the Formal Friend who must maintain a certain presence of mind in order to watch out for the vulnerable widow. The mourning serves to rid the widow, or the mother, of her initial grief. Later, she is not supposed to think about her deceased husband or her child anymore. To do so would put her in danger of being caught by her or his ghost, who must be longing to have her in the ghosts world [IV.C.2.c]. She still has many children, other kin, and other lovers. The Canela live for the present. The Formal Friend reminds her every now and then of all these important aspects of life. Males do not go to mourn and wail with a Formal Friend in especially remembered places. Fewer weep extensively beside corpses unless the bereavement is for an especially loved relative.


The period of mourning for a spouse or a parent lasts a number of months, two to a year, depending on a number of circumstances. A widower partly returns to his sisters or mothers house but sees his children often, if he has any, who remain in his deceased wifes house, where he spends much of his time. If he pays the gravedigger himself, his affines soon allow him to go free from his mourning; but if he leaves the payment to his deceased wifes family, they hold him to his mourning for a number of months, maybe six or ten. Near the end of this time, if they want to keep him with them for his children, which is usually the case, they try to interest him in an appropriate female relative of his deceased wife [III.F.1]. A parent may remain in mourning for as much as a year and a half for the loss of a grown child.

Mourning practices include avoiding the plaza, singing, and dancing; not putting on any form of body paint except charcoal [II.F.5.d], and letting the hair grow. Some widows remain secluded in their maternal homes for months, and then slowly relax their mourning conditions. Young widows without children may be secluded in their deceased husbands maternal kins house. Sexual relations, especially for a widower, are banned. Mourning does not pertain to foods or to restrictions that exclude polluting liquids from the body [IV.D.3.a].

Mourning for a widow continues at progressively diminishing levels until she has sexual intercourse. The man she does this with is thereby married to her and must pay to leave her just as if he had taken her virginity [III.F.4.b].

For hmren persons, and for most individuals these days, mourning is ended with a meat pie presentation to the Pr-khmm in the plaza. Absence from active social participation in village life for a number of months because of being sick, living away from the tribe, or killing a person is treated similarly [III.D.2.c.(3)].


A seriously bereaved person wails with every grown relative in the sense that if the relative was not at the funeral to mourn, the wailing will be done later when they happen to meet. Thus, a relative who was visiting another tribe or staying with backlanders at the time of the funeral is included upon her or his return. The mourner places a hand on the relatives shoulder, pushes her or him down, and kneels on a mat or on the grass. Sitting on their ankles, they wail together for one to three minutes.

This kind of delayed mourning may occur many months or even years later. This accounts, in part, for the wailing that takes place when a relative has been out in the world for years and finally returns. The returnees kin wail for the absence and return, but also for the deaths that have occurred in the family during that absence. A person in deep mourning may even wail with a nonrelative who had been away at the time of the funeral.



Aspects of religion (belief systems) projected onto other worlds than the one seen as being immediate (physical reality) by the people under study are hard to isolate and identify precisely. The Canela themselves do not distinguish between other and immediate worlds. For heuristic purposes, however, some divisions of this nature must be made. In this chapter, I am isolating the aspects of the Canela belief system that they project onto other worlds: the worlds of the past and the worlds of other places. (Projections onto these worlds may or may not be different from projections onto the supernatural.) Because much of their cosmology (in this case, their worlds of other places) was found by them during their travels in their worlds of the past, it can be taken that their oral history began first, and therefore, is presented here before their cosmology.

[IV.C.1] Oral History

Little is known about precontact intertribal relationships and characteristics of the G-speaking Timbira groups. Many of these tribes became peaceful in the first quarter of the 19th century. This is especially the case with the Canela in contrast to some other northern G tribes, such as certain Kayap groups, who were pacified relatively recently in the 1940s to 1970s. The following data on both inter- and intratribal aspects of the Canela and Apanyekra are based on materials found in about 120 myths and war stories. These tales, a few of which have appeared in Portuguese (W. Crocker, 1978) and English (W. Crocker, 1984b), are faithfully told today by old research assistants as they believe their parents and grandparents narrated them about a much earlier time when Indians were still wild.


While in the field in 1975, I conducted a special study of myths and war stories with old Canela research assistants. We discussed and debated many of the points in this chapter both after the telling of each story and during and after its translation. My research assistants were chosen for their retentive memories and superior abilities to think about their ancestors activities as told them by earlier great storytellers. Consequently, the ideas and concepts pertaining to the Canela prepacification existence come not just from the war stories themselves, but also from these discussions.

Anyone who has recorded and discussed a number of myths knows that oral history is like the proverbial iceberg; a great deal more can be explained than is initially told. Stories are publicly recited with the assumption that the listener knows a large complex of circumstances that the naive outsider can only begin to imagine. For example, research assistants often referred to specific points made by certain famous deceased storytellers in order to validate their accounts.

The Canela tend to view their myths and war stories as accounts of their ancestors but not of their own. It is almost as if they were tales of another people. They try to repeat them faithfully in the manner that they say certain deceased relatives or famous storytellers actually did narrate them. Thus research assistants tend to preserve the inconsistencies between the stories and their own more current view of life, and even point out such discrepancies. This phenomenon should not be surprising since storytelling in the plaza, as an institution, was abandoned several decades ago, and the Canela were pacified almost a century and three-quarters ago. Nevertheless, changes in myths do occur. The younger Kaapltk has Moon going into the water to make children first instead of Sun (cf. W. Crocker, 1984b:20, and Nimuendaj, 1946:244). These materials should not be construed as objective historical facts but rather as ethnobeliefs of a people. The objective here is not to tell full myths but rather to demonstrate their contribution to ethnohistorical sequences of the Canela, but not of the Apanyekra. (For comparative purposes, see the following authors for full Northern G myths that have considerable similarity with the Canela ones: Carneiro da Cunha, 1973, 1986; Chiara, 19611962; W. Crocker, 1984b; Da Matta, 1970; Lukesch, 1976; J. Melatti, 1963, 1974; Nimuendaj, 1946:243249; Popjes, 1982a,b,c,d,e,f; Schultz, 1950; Vidal, 1977a. For anthologies of Brazilian myths, including some G ones, see Agostinho, 1974; Baldus, 1960:137191; Schaden, 1959; Villas Boas and Villas Boas, 1970; Wilbert and Simoneau, 1978, 1984.)


During the earliest period based on myths of the Canela, they were nature-oriented and most were born knowledgeable. To be knowledgeable means that the individual could communicate with nature (both animate and inanimate) and had the gift of self-transformation whereby she or he could become an animal or plant at will. There are several separate stories marking the Canela transition from a more nature-oriented period to a more culture-oriented one. The myth of Sun and Moon provides material for the earlier period as well as for the transition.

The later more culture-oriented period that required effort to obtain and maintain kay (Glossary) abilities must be contrasted with the earlier more nature-oriented period, when most Canela are believed to have been born knowledgeable. The fall from grace inherent in this current Canela belief made much effort necessary in daily work. Obviously, steps in their aboriginal progression from nature to culture were syncretized with backland folk Catholicism, which has influenced Canela thought for at least 150 years.

[IV.C.1.b.(1)] Sun and Moon

The earliest era for beings in human form was that of Sun and Moon who were both male and Formal Friends (hpin: compadres). They walked upon the face of the earth, tricking each other and competing to see who could do things better. In a dozen or so episodes, Sun did or made good things, while jealous Moon tried to do the same thing but failed because his actions or products were not as good as Suns. For example, Sun and Moon both obtained a fiery headdress from the red-headed woodpecker, but Moon dropped his on the ground, setting the dry forests on fire.

Later, Sun told Moon that they would each make children. Sun went into a swimming spot and came out with children whose hair was long and beautiful (straight and black) and whose skin was relatively light. Then Moon went into the same streams pool and emerged with children behind him whose hair was short and kinky and whose skin was rather dark. This was the origin of human beings and of the differences between individuals.

Sun also set iron implements (axes and machetes) to work by themselves, cutting down and clearing woods to prepare a garden. But, against Suns orders, Moon appeared in the garden and approached the tools. Consequently, they stopped working by themselves, and this is why people have to manipulate them to prepare gardens. Thus, Moons interference is the origin of work. Similarly, Moons preferences and shortcomings are the origins of death, floods, and forest fires. Moon is responsible for why the moon has spots (an unclear face), and why the buriti palm tree is so high that its fruit is hard to obtain.

Sun and Moon eventually had to leave the earth because of the shame and concern they felt about their children who were having sexual relations with and fighting and killing each other. Sun showed Moon how they both were to proceed differently in the skies in their location and timing. (Compare Nimuendaj, 1946:243245, and W. Crocker, 1984b:1732.)

[IV.C.1.b.(2)] Eating Sun-Dried Meat

Later, the Canela, being the only people in the world, wandered in peace through the cerrado (Eiten, 1971), eating rotten wood (p yapk: pau podre; p kaakhuu: wood rotten) and sun-dried meat. Although wild fruits and crops existed, the Canela believe they did not know how to use them. They think that they were savages in those days (W. Crocker, 1978:45.)

They already lived in circular villages, and erected simple conical structures as protection against the weather. It is believed that in the absence of the bow and arrow, they killed deer and rheas by running them down and clubbing them to death. Not having fire, they dried meat in the sun (amkro ?te h k: sun-heat done meat dry).

[IV.C.1.b.(3)] Fire Obtained From Jaguar

Fire was obtained from Jaguar by a Canela youth who was a guest in Jaguars house. Jaguar had saved the youths life by rescuing him from a high ledge on a cliff, but was keeping him in his house as a sort of prisoner. The youth obtained his release, however, by shooting Jaguars wifes paw so she could not run after him. He then escaped to his village carrying live coals which only Jaguars family had possessed.

[IV.C.1.b.(4)] Crops and Fruits Identified

When the Canela were living approximately as they did in later times (that is, with houses, fire, material artifacts, log racing, and festivals), Star-Woman (Glossary) (Kats-ti-?khwy) came down from the sky and showed them corn, other vegetables, buriti palm fruits, and, in effect, all foods except wild game about which they already knew. These new foods had always existed in the wild, but the Canela did not know they were edible. It took Star-Womans visit to teach them to eat such vegetables and fruits. When Star-Woman returned to the skies, she took a Canela back with her as her husband.

[IV.C.1.b.(5)] Self-transformation and Its Loss

During the knowledgeability period when only rotten wood and unpolluting sun-dried meat were eaten, most individuals were knowledgeable (amyi ya?khre pey: sabido: self know/show well: know oneself deeply) (Glossary) and were able to talk with wild beasts and even transform themselves into animals and back again. Not all women and men, however, were knowledgeable; a few, lacking these shamanic abilities, were referred to as amyi-ya?khre-?kht (besta: stupid).

After a great forest fire, however, animals lost the ability to speak. The fire was caused by the tapir (kuukhrt) who had challenged the forest deer (gyats: mateiro) and all other animals to attempt to escape through a ring of fire they were to set around themselves. All but the large anteater (pt: bandeira) perished in the blaze.

Similarly, after a period of worldwide disasters, the Canela lost their general capacity for knowledgeability. Because of Indian incest and killing too many animals, God sent catastrophes (flood, wind, and great darkness) to kill almost all the people and start His creation over again on different terms three times. [Backlander origins for these natural disasters are plausible.] This loss also occurred as they increasingly ate certain plant foods introduced by Star-Woman and ate fire-cooked meat, both containing pollutions.

Thereafter, possession of kay qualities was possible only for certain individuals who, during their adolescence, were strong-willed enough to maintain high restrictions (Glossary) (ipiyakri-ts: resguardos) against polluting materials, including all meats, menstrual blood, and some fruits and root crops. Thus, restrictions against certain foods and sexual relations became necessary to maintain good health and to become a strong person, capable of properly carrying out the major adult roles [III.A.3.b.(2).(a)]. The transition from eating raw sun-dried meat and being knowledgeable to cooking with fire and practicing restrictions marked a great transformation from the earlier state of being powerful and capable to the later state of being relatively helpless and dependent.

Research assistants spoke of this later period following the loss of knowledgeability with great sympathy. While they did not refer to the earlier period as being ideal, they saw themselves as having been better off in it.

Research assistants, in group sessions, were not clear about the sequence of events contributing to the loss. All that can be said is that the loss of shamanic abilities, the obtaining of fire, the visit of Star-Woman, the need to work, and the new need for maintaining restrictions to gain some kay abilities, all took place in an indefinable period of mythical time. They were certain, however, about which periods followed each other in their reconstructed mythological history after the times of Awkh, their great culture hero. Research assistants in 1979 were certain that restrictions were not practiced during the era of sun-dried meat, and they were equally as certain that restrictions were maintained during the times of Awkh.

[IV.C.1.b.(6)] Awkhêê and the Acculturation Contract

Eating sun-dried meat, obtaining fire from Jaguar, and receiving the visit of Star-Woman took place in a countryside that was similar to the present closed cerrados, gallery forests, and islands of dry forest. Some time later a very important event is believed to have occurred near Rio de Janeiro, where most Canela were no longer knowledgeable. The great Canela acculturation hero, Awkh (Glossary), was born to an unmarried woman (mpyapit) named Rl-khwy (babau-woman). He came out of the womb to play and then returned, repeatedly. After he was born, he grew up rapidly, frightening his siblings by turning into an anaconda snake in the water or a jaguar behind a cerrado bush. He frightened his uncles with similar feats, so they decided to kill him. On one occasion his uncles took Awkh up a hill and pushed him over a cliff, but Awkh saved himself by becoming a leaf and floating to the ground. Later, after several similar episodes, the uncles succeeded in pushing him into a bonfire, but he survived by turning himself into an ember. (See structural analyses of the myth of Awkh in Carneiro da Cunha (1986:1352) and Da Matta (1970.)

After the uncles had gone away and the fire had subsided, Awkh built a Brazilian-style house in the backlands and created a farm with cattle, horses, chickens, pigs, etc., none of which the Canela had seen before. He summoned a Canela and a backland Brazilian and offered them the use of the shotgun or the bow and arrow. He gave the Canela first choice, but they refused the shotgun and took the bow and arrow, thereby gaining the subservient role in life in relation to the backland Brazilian, who took the shotgun.

Awkh was disappointed in the Canela choice of the bow and arrow because he had tried to help the Canela, his people. In anger (m-khm in-krk: them-in he-angry), he sent them away in disgrace on a trip to the north. There they roamed the countryside for food, tearing their skins with the brambles and dry bush as they traveled for generation after generation, eventually settling by a great river.

Awkh (now believed by the Canela to have been the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II) instituted a kind of social contract to help the Canela in their plight. Since the civilizado (Glossary) had gained the advantage of the shotgun, he would have to support the Indian forever by freely giving him food and anything else he needed. For the Indian, the good backlander became the one who gave generously and freely, and the bad backlander was the one who gave little. This was an acculturative social contractthe Indians excuse for begging and being dependent without experiencing any shame or loss of face [II.B.2.d].

[IV.C.1.b.(7)] Migrations and Acquisition of Cosmology

The Canela believe their ancestors migrated from Awkhs (the Emperors) Rio de Janeiro, first crossing a great river there and then moving toward the north into the dry country of the Brazilian Northeast. Subsequently, they migrated westward into their present location in wetter central Maranho.

The Apanyekra do not speak of such a migration, nor do they believe that they ever lived in the region of Rio de Janeiro, but they do have a similar acculturation legend about a man called Prkup, who was also the Emperor, Dom Pedro II.


During this period of Canela migration, they did not have real chiefs (pa?hi) or even war commandants (m hprl); they just had pack leaders, they say, like the individual leaders of certain animal groups (i.e., wakh: coatimundo), who moved at the head of an advancing column, or pack, because they were personally stronger and more active than others [III.D.1.i.(1)].


The Canela believe they were pursued from Rio de Janeiro into the Northeast by occasionally attacking backlanders who were migrating behind them, forcing them to move onward, generation after generation. Eventually, when they had arrived from the east into their present region, they settled in the Pak-re (scorpion-dim.) area, which is about 40 kilometers to the east of Escalvado village and not far from the backland community of Leandro (Map 3). (Pak-re is just within the boundaries of the present reservation and is the region where the younger Kaapltk is putting in his large farms of the mid-1980s [Ep.4.a].)

During these wanderings they acquired their traditional festivals, when living by a great river [III.C.8], which may be the Tocantins near the present location of the Krah (Map 4), research assistants thought. However, after studying a map of Brazil with me, they thought the Parnaba River was the more likely place of tribal residence at the time they were acquiring their festivals [IV.A.3.d], especially because they believe they came from the east. Their knowledge of their several other worlds (part of their cosmology) comes from these festivals. The Canela express their other worlds of the past (supernatural?) in terms of geographic locations.


Even though the Canela generally think their festivals were acquired when living near the Tocantins River, they nevertheless also say they migrated into their present position from the east. In the Canela story of Amkro-?khwy, this ancestor left her baby behind in a thorny region to the east as the tribe was escaping rapidly to the west, harassed by backlanders.

Their earlier location by a great river is suggested by the existence of egrets, herons, swamp deer (poo-kahk: suapara), otters, and large anacondas in their festivals, animals that do not inhabit their present area. The Canela may have migrated from either the Tocantins in the west (unlikely) or from some area in the east, such as the Itapicuru or Parnaba river basins.

I prefer the hypothesis that the word Rio, which now means Rio de Janeiro to everybody including the Canela, originally meant the Itapicuru or Parnaba rivers (rio: river). The Parnaba may have been the wide river that they had to escape across by boat in the migration story, just after they were sent away from Rio by Awkh [III.C. 10.a]. Nimuendaj (1946, Map 1) reports a Timbira presence west of Oeiras, Piaui, between 1728 and 1769, which is to the east of the Parnaba River (Map 4). A person of the Barra do Corda Indian service [II.B.3.e] who grew up in the Parnaba basin area told me that backland inhabitants of that region celebrate a cornhusk shuttlecock annual ritual during which they hit the missiles up into the air with their hands to enhance the corn harvest, just as the Canela do in their Corn Harvest festival [IV.A.5.d] (Plate 53b,d). (The Krah do this also; J. Melatti, personal communication.)

[IV.C.1 .b.(7).(d)]

The Canela (not the Apanyekra) believe that all other Indian tribes left their Pak-re village site to seek their present geographical locations because of a dispute over the death of a young boy. An older Canela youth had fatally wounded a younger one (Kapr-re: blood-dim.) in the arm with an arrow. To prevent intratribal fighting, the various groups within the tribe (including Tupi speakers) agreed to emigrate in search of new lands. (It is notable that speakers of Tupi were included in this origin of Indian tribes.) These tribal departures ushered in a new periodthe era of warfare. It is noteworthy that the Canela say their period of intertribal warfare came well after their initial contacts and frequent skirmishes with Brazilian backlanders.


From our study of war stories, research assistants distinguished between an earlier, very hostile prepacification phase and a later less hostile phase. During the earlier era of intertribal raiding, members of one tribe shot to kill unknown Indians of either sex, especially after such intruders had failed to identify themselves satisfactorily as members of the tribe (W. Crocker, 1978:9). In fear of being accidentally killed, returning members had to be careful about how they entered the tribal area. They usually sang to announce their arrival, and often still do so.

My hypothesis is that instead of earlier hostile and later less hostile prepacification phases, Canela war practices vacillated between these two phases depending on a number of inter- and intratribal variables.

[IV.C.1.c.(1)] Visiting Among Tribes

Stories from a later, less hostile prepacification era suggest that intertribal access and visiting had become considerably easier. Although there are tales of the massacre of visiting parties during this period, marriages between enemy tribes did take place. Thus entry into still hostile groups was facilitated by the protection of relatives or by in-laws. Occasional adoptive relationships were established between families of different tribes through the equating of identical personal names passed down in the traditions of each tribe (Lave, 1977).

[IV.C.1.c.(2)] Relationships with Other Tribes

The Canela say that they established relatively friendly relations with the Cakamekra (Mateiros; Hemming, 1987:185) in the dry forest of the Rio Flores area to the northeast (Map 3), but that they were constantly warring with the Apanyekra, Kenkateye, and other tribes to the west and southwest in the cerrado (Map 4). Nimuendaj (1946:3233) states that the Cakamekra defeated the Canela (i.e., Ramkokamekra) in 1814, and that this skirmish so reduced the Canela that they had to surrender to the Brazilian authorities for safety. Canela research assistants, however, have no tales of such an event, and they report that they were always allies of the Cakamekra.

Nimuendajs (1946:3233) ethnohistorical sources indicate that quite a different and warlike relationship existed between the Canela and Cakamekra, an account which amounts to a sharp difference between oral history and the published record. This discrepancy in traditional beliefs makes it difficult to accept any event as historical fact without considerable caution, comprehensive interpretation, and critical judgment.

Although in prepacification times a relationship of chronic hostility between certain tribes was clearly normal, annual dry season (June-August) intertribal skirmishing and raiding did not necessarily result in a great number of deaths. In cases of specific tribal revenge, however, the intention was to kill as many of the enemy as possible: ha?pan-ts ?n (return-thing condition: paying it back). Revenge was thought to be more often carried out by war parties retaliating for earlier raids than by individuals avenging their dead relatives (cf. Nimuendaj, 1946:153). The latter method would have been too dangerous.

In the occasional massive defeats, women, children, and babies were slaughtered rather than captured. Someone usually escaped to tell the tale, however, and sometimes children who were not killed in the heat of battle were adopted and raised, and nubile girls were taken in marriage. There are no reports, however, of systematic rape, torture, and capture of children and women, and there was only one Apanyekra tale and one Cakamekra story involving cannibalism. Cases of almost complete annihilation of one tribe by another were probably rare because tribes were usually scattered at the time of a raid and, when outnumbered, tended to disperse before, during, and after an attack.

It is believed that groups of outsiders, in later prepacification times, could enter the village of a hostile tribe by performing the Tired Deer (Poo Tkr: deer tired) ceremony which can be found in a number of surviving festivals (Nimuendaj, 1946:198). The group of outsiders would enter a village and pass down a radial pathway, shuffling their feet along and panting like a tired deer. The behavior of the deer symbolizes docility and submission. A research assistant says the ceremony always serves both to end a dispute and to imply peaceful relations. The research assistant group found five stories and festival occurrences that tended to support this claim. More specifically, it is the act of a tired deer that has finished his external struggle in the hostile natural world and is coming into his home pasture to rest.

It is curious that research assistants say the tribes did not burn or destroy each others gardens. This would have been easy to accomplish since an entire tribe, though perhaps in several groups at different intervals, would leave the village to go on trek (khr-?wn) for long periods while the gardens were maturing between January and April. From time to time, a leader sent runners to observe and report on the condition of the gardens, but apparently this was not motivated by fear of enemy tribes.

The origin myth of the Fish festival (Nimuendaj, 1946:225) tells of a youth, Pure?t, and a companion who were sent to swim across a great river to report back on the condition and growth of the gardens. Root crops were often eaten by rodents and occasionally devastated by plagues of caterpillars (amkoo: lagarta). In either case, such difficulties required the quick return of a portion of the tribe.

A possible reason for the belief that enemy tribes did not attempt to destroy each others unprotected gardens lies with the strongly held opinion of research assistants that the ancestors could not have raided other tribes, or their gardens, during the rainy season growing period because the precipitation would have wet the arrows feathers and thus rendered their bows and arrows useless as weapons.

More realistically, while some members of the tribe went on trek and possibly were caught in skirmishes during the horticultural growing season, I think the massive war raids probably took place mostly during the dry season after most crops had been harvested.

[IV.C.1.c.(3)] Kay Abilities in Warfare

The kay (Glossary) abilities of leaders to bring about significant results in warfare should not be underestimated. Some battles were determined by the relative kay strength of the principal warriors on either side. The great warriors were always knowledgeable (Glossary) and therefore could dodge (hal-pey) arrows at close range. Several warriors (Krt-re, Kh-re, Tut-re) did not attempt to kill their opponents with arrows at all but rather waited until the enemys supply had become exhausted. Then, having avoided the arrows, they moved in closer to pierce the enemy leader and some of his immediate companions with a wooden lance (khrwatswa) [II.G.3.a.(2)] (Plate 56e). These attacking leaders and their followers then pursued the rest of the enemy group, clubbing them down from behind.

Rather than using a ceremonial lance, the great warrior Pp shot scores of enemy during a battle, but only in the eye. Pp aimed the arrow in the general direction of the enemy, putting a spell of witchcraft (hũũts:feitio) on the arrow: the missile flew through the air under its own power (amyi-kht: self-following), successfully seeking out and piercing an enemys eye every time.

Other hprl leaders also used weapons that particularly characterized them. Wayatom used a heavy club (kh-po), Kupm killed only by throwing rocks, and Plpayũ?t and Khrnkwn shot only arrows.

[IV.C.1.c.(4)] Souls of Warriors

There are several stories concerning the almost total annihilation of one tribe by another, which may or may not have resulted from surprise attacks. The principal hprl fighters with kay ability may have thought that their souls had left their bodies a few days earlier, indicating they were going to be massacred in the coming attack because their kay forces would not be powerful enough to protect them. Their ability to fight had thereby become impaired; but because they were expected to have courage, they went through the motions of resistance and more or less allowed themselves to be killed.

Such individuals who possessed the kay qualities were knowledgeable about the coming defeat and massacre because they could see spirits (kar: almas) leaving bodies (ikhre?kh: corpses). They did not spread the story of doom to the others. Research assistants said each person knows when his soul has left him even if he cannot see spirits leaving other bodies as kay people readily can. Consequently, he goes to war anyway, but he daydreams and looks at the ground continuously so that he is weak and sleepy, and therefore, is almost inevitably killed.

[IV.C.1.c.(5)] Special Trips

The war leaders inevitably managed to secure certain special objects of the slain enemy leader or leaders as proof of the conquest and returned home with their trophies to tell proudly the story of their great success. Even though he was not a warrior, the curer-sorcerer, Yaw, made a similar trip to demonstrate his shamanic powers, as did culture heroes in the course of obtaining certain festival rites [IV.A.3.d]. An Apanyekra man, Kupaatep, who had lost face within his own tribe, undertook a trip with an Informal Friend (ikhw?n). But in this situation the purpose was for both to be killed by members of another tribe; tantamount to suicide.

Today, this pattern of leaving the tribe is continued in the form of trips to cities in order to bring back shotguns or other implements [III.D.1.(3)]. Moreover, a shamed individual (as a man of Escalvado did in 1970 [In.4.e]) goes out into the world or visits a neighboring G tribe, sometimes staying indefinitely.

[IV.C.1.c.(6)] Causes of Warfare

Some intertribal attacks and skirmishes were motivated by the custom of superior youths having to prove their special abilities in order to become hprl persons (valiant, fierce, and therefore capable of becoming war leaders and village peacetime organizers). These were individuals who, during their adolescence, had attained the capacity of being kay or knowledgeable, if only to a lesser degree (kay-kahk). Some young men with these skills asked an uncle, most likely a mothers brother, to take them on a trip to a hostile tribe so they could demonstrate their hprl qualities and come back with war equipment, feather headpieces, and bloodstained hands to prove before the assembled tribe what they had done. Some youths were motivated to organize raids of this sort to avenge the death of close relatives.

It is believed that the tribal boundaries following ridges or streams changed sometimes to reflect relative growth in tribal size or successful raids, but that territorial expansion was not a main purpose of warfare. If contiguous territory was unoccupied due to a massacre, the triumphant tribe probably moved into the vacuum to some extent to create a buffer zone and augment its food supply.

The principal reason for intertribal warfare, however, is believed to have been the fear of another tribes growing population. We had to cut them down to size before they could grow to outnumber and overwhelm us later on, is essentially what one research assistant said.

Another motivation was the desire for freedom of movement within and somewhat beyond recognized boundaries in order to hunt and gather enough food. If enemy neighbors became too daring and brought their foraging parties through a tribes lands, the tribe would not be able to move freely in its own territory without fear of being ambushed. It was better to keep the enemy afraid by raiding them every now and then.

[IV.C.1.c.(7)] Village Size

No attempts at estimating the earlier size of Canela-like tribes through the research assistant councils discussing myths and war stories were successful. Research assistants consistently maintained that except for in the Pak-re site (Map 3), earlier tribes were lower in population than Escalvado today (about 600 in 1979), but their evidence and reasoning were not convincing. They believe their ancestors never had villages with two or more concentric circles of houses, which was the way the Kayap and Bororo maintained large populations in one location. The single circle obviously limits village size. Information received from the Canela in 1984, however, suggests that the second, outer circle of houses, which was well started by 1979, was almost complete.

Old village sites of the last century are one-third the diameter of todays villages (Escalvado ~300 m) and their house sites are further apart. This suggests a lower population, but more individuals were attached to one extended family house. Canela and Apanyekra research assistants concurred that the Canela were the largest tribe in the area, about equal to both the Apanyekra and Kenkateye grouped together. They also agree that the Canela were more numerous than the Cakamekra.


It was inconceivable to research assistants that there was much intertribal mixing of persons in aboriginal times because such contacts were thought to have been too dangerous. Quasi-alliances, nevertheless, were formed between some tribes to enhance their strength vis--vis their enemies. Real security, however, existed principally in a tribes ability to organize its forces for defense and surprise attacks. Alliances between tribes were unreliable, either because of frequently troubled relations or because allies could not be summoned in time to be of much assistance in the event of a surprise attack. Intertribal mixing on a significant scale occurred mostly when defeated forces of two or more tribes joined each other in order to increase their population for defense purposes.

[IV.C.1.d.(1)] Alliances and Chiefs

The Cakamekra were groups with the non-G Ha?kh-?po-?ti (lip-broad-large), the H-?ti-ikhm-m?khra, and the Kry, as forest tribes (Irom-katy: forest people), while the cerrado tribes (Apanyekra, Kenkateye, Pukoby, Krah, etc.) were referred to collectively as the Hũlkhway?khra-re. Research assistants believed the Canela, though a cerrado tribe, were allied with the forest tribes against the cerrado ones.


The Visiting Chief (Tmhk) act of the Pepkahk festival [IV.A.3.c.(3).(e)] appears to be a ceremonial survival of the social mechanism by which such tribes, after being joined, became integrated peacefully as one village, nevertheless, still retaining their identity [III.C.7.a]. The initial step of coming together, however, is said to have been taken through the H?kawr ceremony in which the warriors of each tribe had sexual relations with a great female singer (hah mntsii) of the other tribe. This ceremony was carried out between the Cakamekra and the Canela when the former joined the latter in 1900 [II.B.1.c.(1)].

This Tmhk act (more correctly: Poopok-n M-ipikamn: Poopok-condition they-march: [special artifact]-wearing procession) is not found in any of the Canela myths or war stories; however, the act is the major part of an afternoon in the Pepkahk festival. Tmhk persons (Nimuendajs, 1946:99, courtesy chiefs or King Vultures) served to keep peace between tribes that had already joined each other.


The institution of the m-hpa?hi, the protection chief, is structurally the same as the institution of the Tmhk (visiting chief). It differs in name and in antiquity. It did not come into existence until postpacification times. One tribe honors a man from another tribe when he is visiting, making him their protection chief by bestowing many presents upon him and decorating him in the plaza. Then, when they visit his tribe, he must protect, house and feed them. According to the Canela, this institution (whether Tmhk or m-hpa?hi) is not found as a prepacification intertribal mediation device in any of the war stories.

In 1979, the Canela made an Apanyekra couple protection chiefs by cutting their hair and painting their bodies red while they were standing on mats in the plaza in the morning and by depositing presents on the mat (Plate 28e,f). The ceremony was the same as the one for installing age-set honorary singing chiefs [II.D.3.i.(2).(a)], and the painting of the couple was followed by a day of dancing the M Aykh [II.F.1.b.(2).(c)] [IV.A.3.f.(6)].


It is believed that in prepacification times, a peacetime leader of a Canela tribe had to be a relatively young but proven warrior (hprl). The warrior maintained his leadership primarily because others did not dare to challenge his reputation or take chances with the fierceness of his personality (W. Crocker, 1978:18) [III.A.2.k.(4)]. As he grew older and was less able as a warrior, he would relinquish his position in favor of a younger hprl leader while still acting as a respected counselor in peace or in war, supported by the Pr-khmm. It was likely that a village had between two and four such persons, and the oldest, if still respected and capable of leading in battle, was in command.

Each hprl called any other one hpin (Formal Friend); research assistants said that this term of address helped to alleviate competitive pressures and fighting between them [V.A.5.b.(1).(a)]. This relationship, however, made direct communication more difficult (Nimuendaj, 1946:100) and created shame (Glossary) as well as certain social distance. Age was also significant in these relationships; young hprl peace leaders are said to have kept silent in the presence of older ones.

In times of raids, each hprl led a file of warriors who were personal friends and followers, often including kin and affines regardless of age-set affiliation. Several active hprl persons in counsel with the retired hprl leaders developed the general plan of attack. Once the fighting had begun, however, each hprl was in command of his own group while the retired hprl leaders remained in the background.

Because of their observance of a variety of dietary restrictions and their kay activities, it is believed that some hprl warriors fought and even led files to battle as old as in their late 40s.

Members of the Pr-khmm age-set, who today average around 55 years old, are said to have been of a younger age (maybe 45), as an age-set, in prepacification times and were still young enough to be good fighters. In the story of the Canela warrior, Khr?kuurom, the age-set members of the Pr-khmm went out to call on a neighboring Hũlkhway?khra-re tribe (thought to be Krah living just south of the present Canela lands) to obtain food because their sweet potato crop had been destroyed by a plague of caterpillars, but the visit ended in a skirmish with many deaths.


Research assistants could not think of any stories of prepacification tribal schisms with the exception of the great mythological exodus from the Pak-re village. Research assistants agree, however, that especially in postpacification times when hostilities had been curtailed, strong leaders (m hprl) who could not submit to each other parted company, taking along with them a mixture of consanguines, affinals, and nonrelated companions [III.D.1.g]. Research assistants thought that differences had to be extreme for such schisms to occur before pacification, because small groups were at an obvious disadvantage in a hostile environment and because internal mechanisms, such as Formal Friend address [III.E.5], tended to encourage cooperative relations.

The Canela had no mechanism for deciding which faction would leave a tribe, as is found among the Kayap (Bamberger, 1979:138142).


In contrast to the orientation of the Kayap (T. Turner, 1966; J. Turner, 1967; and Bamberger, 1979) and Shavante (Maybury-Lewis, 1967) toward intercommunity relationships, Canela research assistants presented early Canela life as being relatively more inward-looking. Intertribal visits were very dangerous and therefore seldom occurred. On the other hand for Kayap and Shavante travelers, intercommunity movements of families, though difficult and somewhat dangerous, were nevertheless institutionalized and part of the solution to leadership and personal problems. Minority factions moved to other villages or formed a new one, and dissenters departed to find better conditions or survive a crisis. The Kayap use one expression for themselves, though they live in as many as a dozen, widely dispersed villages [II.A.2]. It is m b ng-kre (we are water-hollow [people]: povo de olho dagua: people of eye of-water (a spring) (Hamil, 1987:66). Apparently, the Eastern Timbira tribes have no such name in common, though m-h (people-type: people of the same nature/type characteristics, as a linguistic designation (Nimuendaj, 1946:12), is the best approximation [II.A.l].


The Canela stress the great difficulty and lethal consequences of such prepacification intertribal contacts. Moreover, their expression for a hostile tribe is khrĩ-ts-re (village-hurtful-dim.), for a now friendly tribe is khrĩ-?n (village-another), and for their own tribe is khrĩ ita (village this). Here, the concept of a tribe (khrĩ) is equated to that of a village (khrĩ). Presumably, khrĩ was used for a group of between 1000 and 1500 individuals living together. The way the Escalvado village of today (~903 on 1 March 1989) [II.A.2] is arranged, with close female kin living behind as well as beside each other, it can be seen that such numbers actually could have lived in one village that was only slightly larger than Escalvado is today (diameter: ~300 m). The Canela could build houses along the road to the post, but I am informed that they are completing a second circle instead. (khrĩ, as a verb, means sits.)

Expressed in Portuguese, the Canela of the communities of Escalvado and the Apanyekra of Porquinhos refer to themselves as uma nao (a nation) and to each other and to other Indian tribes as outra nao (another nation). In contrast, the Kayap and Shavante each appear to see themselves more as one people, living in many villages.


Materials from the war stories strongly suggest that Canela-like tribes were more seasonally war-oriented than G-specialists have suspected. They were also more independent and less in touch with each other until postpacification times than was previously thought. The need to raid and keep down the population of other tribes as the ultimate protective measure, the need to annihilate other tribes for minimal reasons of revenge, and the need for a warrior-leader to go on a successful raiding expedition of arbitrary killing in order to prove his abilities and knowledgeability that are all points which tend to convince me of the relative isolation and mutual hostility of prepacification Eastern Timbira tribes.

These comparisons as well as other comparative ethnological materials (Posey, 1979:57) lead me to suspect that the Canela and other similar Eastern Timbira tribes were more warlike among villages on a seasonal basis than specialists have expectedbut not as war-like as the Kayap who are famous for this trait, or the Yanomam (Chagnon, 1968). Correspondingly, the Canela place greater emphasis on internal cohesion [III.D.3.e] and repression of activities leading to factionalism and schisms [III.D.1.c.(1).(b)] [V.A.5.b.(1).(a)]. Such an hypothesis seems tenable when Turners (1979:209) and Bambergers (1979:139) comments on causes of Kayap schisms are compared with my knowledge of Canela factionalism and intravillage disputes [III.D.1.g].


From their oral history, a very general sequence of stages was reconstructed that represents Canela ethnobeliefs about their transformation from an elementary band to a more developed tribe. Later, another set of stages was inferred that accounted for their adjustment to a conquered and submissive people.

The principal step toward becoming a more developed tribe was the knowledge of new foods and their polluting effects: (1) fire-cooked meat, (2) wild fruits, (3) and cultivated staples, such as corn, sweet potatoes, yams, and peanuts. However, these advantages were associated with pollutions that entered the body and caused the system to function so poorly that the earlier transcendental qualities, such as great physical and mental skills based on shamanic capacities were lost. Instead of being born with great shamanic powers, the Indians now had to develop their own strength and forces through the practice of restrictions and the use of certain medicines [IV.D.3.a,4].

The second trend in the Canela ethnobelief progression amounted to a step down to submissiveness and thereby to relatively successful adaptation to the acculturative situation. Through the choice of the bow and arrow rather than the shotgun they could in all honor and self-respect accept any quantity of gifts from the civilizado without having to give anything in return: a situation arranged for them by their cultural hero Awkh.

In the sequence of events of Canela ethnohistory, first came the acquisition of their great festival-pageants, second their splitting into many separate tribes, and third their intertribal wars, all of which took place much later than their original contact with backlanders. This sequence demonstrates how basic their dependence on backlanders and urban civilizados has become, but it also helps them to live with the implied inferiority [III.D.1.c.(3).(a)]. This strong rationalization surely facilitated their relatively successful adaptation to 19th century Brazilian backland life.

Folk Catholic notions of God and the Devil were also acquired from the backlanders during the last century. According to these beliefs, the individual acquired his strength and abilities with help from God and interference by the Devil instead of personally building up capacities through the practice of high restrictions [IV.D.3.f]. This again is a belief pattern that is consistent with the acceptance of their dependency in their acculturative situation. Today the practice of restrictions still exists, but they rely just as much on God and the Devil to explain events.


One of the most striking observations of the study of Canela and Apanyekra myths and war stories is the surprising extent to which it is now believed that personally developed shamanic abilities were used to enable almost any wish to be carried out successfully. Through the practice of certain restrictions and the resulting visitations from ghosts, it was believed that an individual sometimes gained great powers to advance his purposes in peace and war for the good of his people. Thus the rest of the tribal population simply gave into him and followed him, trusting in him completely for their welfare and protection. It appears that in early Canela tribes, shamanic abilities were significant sociopolitical factors.

Other notable observations are the extent to which the now very peaceful Canela were once oriented to annual dry-season warfare, and the possibility that they came from an ecologically different area, which may have been the much drier east, as they themselves believe.

[IV.C.2] Cosmology

The Canela cosmology as found in their current beliefs, myths, and oral tradition is extensive and contains several different worlds. Except for the world of the dead and the armadillos world, the other traditional worlds come from origin myths related to festivals. The most significant other world today for the Canela (but probably not for the Apanyekra) is an untraditional one: the world of Christianity. This world was brought to them through constant contacts with their backland neighbors, through the internment of several young men in the Catholic convent in Barra do Corda (ca. 1900 and 1962), through the annual visits of traveling friars from that convent, and through the extensive, dedicated, and patient work of Jack Popjes (SIL) and his family, who have lived among the Canela since 1968 and say they will be leaving in 1990. (See [II.B.1.c.(3)] [II.B.2] [II.B.3.(a)] for changes in the direction of backland folk Catholicism, urban Catholicism, and SIL Protestantism.) Briefly, almost all Canela these days have been baptized, and so believe themselves to be Catholics. As such, when they die, they expect to go to a certain other world in the sky, which is called heaven, rather than to their traditional other world of the dead.


The Canela world of the dead (m kar khĩr: Timbira ghosts village) is on the same horizontal plane as their existing world but somewhere to the west. Everything there is the same as in the world of the living (m ?tĩl khĩr: Timbira livings village) but is bland in comparison. The water is tepid; people sing mildly; meat is light in weight and almost tasteless. People make love in the mildest manner. After several years have passed, people become large animals, some of which may be caught by hunters. The meat of such an animal tastes bland, and it becomes possible for a person to have eaten his own grandmother, for example. This does not bother anyone, however. If they are not killed, such animals become transformed into smaller ones, maybe into a fox, later a field rat, and so on, until they turn into a fly, or even the sharp stump of a bush that has been chopped down, and finally into nothing at all. Canela ghosts do not live forever, and the Canela soul is not eternal.

Very clearly, life is not as enjoyable in the ghosts village as in the village of the living. Nobody wants to go to the ghosts village; the world of here and now is far better and more desirable. Thus, the Canela live for the present, where everything is more vivid, and they pity the ghosts of the dead.


In earlier times there was also the world above, the one of the great birds, where the youth (Hhk) with an infected ear was taken by a bird and cured (Nimuendaj, 1946:247). He found there the world of the falcons, the king vultures, and others. There he was shown the Pepkahk festival and was given this festival to take back to his people [IV.A.3.c.(3)].

There is also the world below the human level, which was entered at least three times in Canela mythology. An armadillo dug down in the ground until it fell through into a world that was very similar to the world on the ground level, but it did not have an illness and did not come back with anything as did Canela travelers to other worlds (Nimuendaj, 1946:247248). A boy (Khrwapu) who was very sick from eating clay was taken off to the world of the alligators, deep under the waters of a river. He was cured there, and returned as a shaman with knowledge of the Regeneration season moiety festivals [IV.A.4] and the Plr ritual [IV.A.5] (W. Crocker, 1984b:195203). One youth (Pure?t), who was swallowed by an anaconda snake, was taken to the world of the fishes where he witnessed the Fish festival and brought it back to the Canela for their use [IV.A.3.c.(4)] (Nimuendaj, 1946:225230).

In these other worlds, life goes on in a manner similar to the human world. The alligators, birds, or fish take on human forms. The alligators, for instance, run with racing logs on their shoulders, but they still in some way, are alligators, falcons, or fish. (I could not get clear information about such distinctions from research assistants.) Time there passes more rapidly than in the human world. One day in the alligator world was an absence of only about one hour for the boy who went there, and the grandmother to whom he returned from fetching water found him only somewhat late. Furthermore, it is necessary for the traveler to close his eyes when being transported to these other worlds, as in the case of the alligator and falcon worlds, and then open them upon arrival only when told to do so.


Ghosts long for recently lost relatives and tends to haunt them to try to bring them into her or his new world (the world of the dead) for companionship; in other words the ghost tries to kill them. While dying in 1960, the older Mĩĩkhr [I.G.3] was told by his granddaughters to stay away after he had died. It seemed unfeeling to me but was surely very real to the Canela. If a living person sees a ghost, unless he is a shaman, he is going to die (has to die), soon. Spouses are especially good targets. If a mans recently deceased spouse appears to him and they have sex, he dies and joins her right there.

Ghosts do not like crowds of living people and tend to stay away from a village during the day [IV.D.1.c.(3)]. It is dangerous, however, to go down to the stream for water even at dusk, for ghosts might harass someone and cause their death. This happened in the case of the sing-dance master Tmis 18 year old daughter, the younger Kuwr (Plate 8d), during the Pepkahk festival in July 1970. She went down to the stream to fetch water much too late in the day, and on her way back ghosts hit her from behind in the area of the kidneys, causing internal damage. Less than an hour later while singing-dancing in the plaza, she felt severe pains in the kidneys and tried to run home, but fell along her radial pathway. She was carried home and died by three in the morning. The festival was delayed one day so that she could have a proper burial (Plates 30, 3la). (Her death was attributed by Jack Popjes to a fallopian tubal pregnancy that ruptured.)

It is also dangerous for the same reason to travel alone away from the village at night. However, wearing macaw tail feathers (pn-yap: macaws-tail) is a good protection against ghosts [IV.A.3.c.(1).(b)] in such circumstances [I.G.5]. Food and drink are left out behind the house at night for a ghost to consume (Nimuendaj, 1946:135) so that ghosts of the recently departed will not come into the house to bother relatives.


When a person is dying (ra-m ?-tk to m: already person-dead as moves: already going toward death), the soul will sometimes go off to the world of the dead ahead of time. Then it is up to the shaman to bring the soul back and put it in the body (i?-khre ?kh: its-hollows sheath/cover) before dawn if the soul is not to stay there in the village of the dead and if the dying person is to be saved.

Another factor that determines if the soul can return to the body depends upon its participation in the activities of the dead while in their village. If it enjoys the village of the dead, if it sings, eats, or talks much there, it cannot return. As usual, sex is the strongest element of attraction. The soul that has sex in the village of the dead surely never returns. Dreaming of the dead has some of the same implications. If a person dreams of her or his lost spouse, she or he is surely going to die soon.


One curious myth (Nimuendaj, 1946:249) gives an account of a whole village of Indians who marched into a lake and continued to sing under the lake somewhere to the east of the present Canela lands in a place called Formosa. The folk Catholic God in the shape of an anteater brought them there, but the story has the flavor of a postpacification occurrence rather than a myth, so I do not count this world under the lake as being one of the other worlds of traditional Canela cosmology.


Whether because of their century old folk Catholic contacts, or because of their more recent relationships with the Popjes family, most Canela today say they go upon death to heaven, since they are baptized, rather than to the village of the dead in the west. This new orientation became evident during my study of folk Catholic topics in 1976. When I collected materials on the ghosts village in the late 1950s, however, I was told dead Canela went there, and heaven was not mentioned.


The sun, moon, and stars may be thought of as being part of the Canela cosmology. Nobody goes to their realm and comes back bringing something for the Canela to learn, as in the festival origin myths. However, Star-Woman (Kats-ti?khwy) did the reverse, coming down to earth to show them fruits and corn. Then she took a Canela in marriage back to the starry skies (Nimuendaj, 1946:245). They became Castor and Pollux. Research assistants do not speak of the starry world in the context of other worlds. This might be because no festivals came from there and Star-Womans foods were already on earth. It might also be because of their negative feelings about the moon and perhaps, the stars. The mythical creation figure of Moon (Nimuendaj, 1946:243245) is a spoiler who made things less pleasant than Sun would have liked them to have been (W. Crocker, 1984b:1732).

The lack of emphasis on, interest in, or concern about the stars is marked. The Canela do not even differentiate between the mass movement of the stars and the independent movement of the planets. Even though some of their great pageants take place at night, they do not plan for them to take place when there is moonlight, which would considerably enhance the performance of the pageantry. Instead, they make torches by lighting quantities of dry anaj palm fronds. They do have names for a very few constellations in their own tradition; however, most of their names had been forgotten by the time of my first arrival in 1957 when I sought this kind of information. I suspect that even in the time of Nimuendaj (1946:233234), this kind of material was not generally known and that Nimuendaj might have obtained it from an old Canela specialist.


As other aspects of their cosmology, the Canela have two kinds of souls, m kar and me katswn, but the distinction is not very clear. First, the kar (Glossary), an immediately dead Canela, is the one that is frequently spoken of, while the other, the katswn (core: central material) is of a different nature. An example of the second type of soul came from the research assistants concept of Christs appearance to His disciples after His crucifixion and resurrection when He could be plainly seen but not touched. Their example obviously came from the teachings of Jack Popjes, the linguistic missionary [Ep.5.d].

For the Canela, almost all objects, whether living or dead, have some kind of kar, though the meaning of this word has a number of referents in English: soul, ghost, spirit, shadow, image, impression, picture, photograph. Thus plants, animals, and objects have a kar, which is something inherent in them. Kar has no counterpart word in Portuguese or English. The something, however, disappears with the item when it is destroyed. The concept of kar, which might be called animism, does not, however, pervade their thinking these days, nor does it have ramifications throughout their various sociocultural systems.


Besides ghosts, and various other applications of the word kar, the Canela cosmology has few active agents. There is no supreme being, nor a pantheon of gods. There are culture heroes like Awkh and Star-Woman, and even Sun and Moon. But in the memory of any research assistant only Awkh, in 1963, has been used as a powerful supernatural being [II.B.2.f]. There is nothing of this sort attributable to the 19th century, except Awkh as the Emperor of Brazil, their protector.



This-worldly, immediate, and directly applied aspects of the Canela belief system are so numerous that not all types of these religious phenomena can be described and analyzed here. Shamanism is described first, as the most obvious category, including healing, witchcraft, and ghosts. Shamans apply their arts directly to their patients or subjects without seeking authority or permission from ghosts or gods, though ghosts are their original source of powers and may give them needed information. Pollutions, which invade the body, are a different category and constitute an independent belief system, though illnesses caused by pollutions may be cured by shamans. The direct and immediate application of food and sex restrictions keeps pollutions out of the body, preventing or helping to cure illnesses from this source. Medicines, usually infusions, may be used directly to purge the body of pollutions. Other medicines, however, have no relationship to pollutions and constitute still a different belief system, being used to cure or alleviate other sicknesses.

Positive chanting, or thought affirmation, constitutes still another independent belief system, as does breathing strength onto foods for the social good, and hamren-testing of first foods and activities [III.D.2.c.(4)], again for the social good. Finally, there are several sorts of transformations brought about directly by individuals, which may be thought of as being due to psychic or shamanic abilities. These are found in the practices of warriors, shamans, hunters, culture heroes, certain animals and vegetables, and almost all early Canela individuals.

Although some of these systems are interrelated, others are surprisingly unrelated and independent. They were all applied and carried out directly and immediately (that is, they are this-worldly) by individuals without their having to seek the permission or the authority of supernatural or other-worldly entities. (Today, however, God may be invoked and the interference of the Devil feared.) These systems are, nevertheless, held here as being aspects of Canela religion because they operate to alleviate the same needs usually met by otherworldly religions.

The Canela shaman (Glossary) is the intermediary between ghosts and people. If an ordinary Canela person sees a ghost, he must die soon; but a person who is a shaman can see and talk with ghosts at any time without fear of dying. In Canela dualism, ordinary people and ghosts are paired (Glossary) together in opposition to each other, while a shaman and a ghost are paired in complementarity and a shaman and his people are also paired in complementarity. Thus, a shaman, in his relationship to a ghost and to an ordinary person, enables the latter two to be paired in complementarity as well, in a bridge formed by two sets of complementary pairings (Glossary) (a m-hap: their bridge) [V.A.5.b.(1).(b)].


The shaman never makes enough from his profession to support himself and his family. He still has to put in his own farm plot and may go hunting as well. The role of shaman involves an extra personal ability that a man, and sometimes a woman, has to give as a service to others. A person must be generous with these abilities and not seek to make money. Curers (kay) are almost always good, socially oriented people, though somewhat feared because they could turn bad, or antisocial. Most young men are proud to be a kay, and I had no trouble while taking the censuses in getting them to say in front of others that they had kay abilities. They would not, however, admit that they were negative spell-throwing sorcerers.

Nevertheless, they are categorized in a special way. Just as the term m (plural indicator but also meaning Eastern Timbira) cannot be used with kup (non-Eastern Timbira, alien tribe, and specifically in modern times civilizado), m cannot be used with kay, suggesting shamans are basically different or at least unsocialized as Seeger suggests (1981:8688), though research assistants do not say this.


Perhaps the most important general concept with respect to understanding the institution of the Canela shaman is that in his function as a mature kay, he carries out his various roles under his own authority [III.B.1.k.(3)]. He undertakes any activity, such as curing a sick person or throwing a sickness spell on another, through his own initiatives and responsibility (amyi-?kht: self-superlative-following) without seeking the authority or permission from anyone else, not even from the ghost from whom his powers (hũũts: poderes) to perform such activities originally came. A kay of earlier times acted on his own in this way [IV.C.1.h]. Some of the modern shamans say that they are acting under the authority of God or of certain ghosts. With acculturation there has been a tendency to shift the responsibility from the individual and assign its source to something larger, e.g., the folk Catholic God. However, like the Clowns of the festival society, the shamans of old operated on their own, free of both the tribal political chiefs and the council of elders.


A kay receives his powers only through a visitation from one or more ghosts, and these encounters take place under varied conditions.


A person cannot simply wish to become a shaman. No matter how hard he tries and carries out the cultural prescriptions, he still may never receive the prerequisite visitation and powers from ghosts (m kar). These powers enable him to cure sick people, to throw witchcraft spells onto personal enemies making them sick, and to see through space and time, being clairvoyant. A person wanting to become a shaman has to do what is culturally necessary and just hope for a visitation. Other individuals who had not really intended to become shamans have attained the state of being kay while being cured of an illness by ghosts. In this case, the ghosts came on their own initiative to do the curing.


A youth who wants very much to become kay must follow extreme restrictions against certain polluting foods and sexual relations, especially with young girls, but even with the prescribed older women [III.A.2.s.(1)]. Only rarely can he have sex, and then only with certain older women, preferably with those who are personally strong and beyond menopause [II.B.1.e]. His blood must remain relatively unpolluted [III.A.3.b.(1).(c),(d)]. The Pepy initiation internment is set up to practice these restrictions [II.D.3.d], and visitations sometimes do occur in the novices cell [IV.A.3.c.(2).(a)]. Between internments during the several years just after puberty [II.D.3.c.(1)], the youth should practice these restrictions, and will even rub charcoal on his body to indicate his state and to be unattractive to women [II.F.5.d].

In either case, whether the shaman has gained his powers through a visitation during his postpubertal period of restraint, or whether he gained his powers as an older person, the shaman must continue to maintain relatively high food and sex restrictions for most of his life in order to maintain the capacity of being kay, and of having power to cure people. He must be a serious person and remain disciplined [III.B.1.e.(1)]. If he does not, and his blood becomes relatively polluted, he might lose his powers. If he charges high fees for successful curing, people begin to suspect that he has become a sorcerer and could throw evil spells on them, causing them to have diseases or even to die. A shaman is assumed to be a good curer but is always somewhat feared because people never know whether he has turned to casting negative spells [III.A.3.c.(3).(h)].


In either case, whether the youth is working hard to receive a visitation or whether ghosts come on their own volition while an older person is sick, it is usually a surprise when a ghost appears. A ghost visits when the individual is alone in quiet surroundings. For a very sick person, the hopeful relatives sometimes vacate the house at night leaving him alone, or a kay, backed by the chief, may even order the villagers to vacate that part of the village. In the most extreme cases, dogs are taken to farm plots or tied up in the furthest houses in the village and babies that are likely to cry are carried out of hearing range.

In the first visitation, the ghost is likely to take the form of an animal and give instructions about how the individual must proceed if he is going to become kay. Visitations for youths may take place over several months, but for the sick person the entire course of the experience may be overnight.


In contrast to the Krah data of J. Melatti (1963, 1974), young Canela who have been visited by an animal do not have formal or informal apprenticeships with older shamans. When shamanic aspirants go to the plaza to test their powers on a patient, they go under the direction of an uncle (Plate 29). The Canela report having more experiences with ghosts, who are usually known recently deceased relatives, than the Krah. Food and sex restrictions play a greater role in becoming a shaman and maintaining this condition among the Canela than among the Krah as described by Melatti (1974:273), although I agree that abstinence from certain foods... would act to put him [the aspirant] into a condition of physical weakness and a psychological state that would culminate in the supposed contact with spirits. Otherwise, the Krah and Canela data on becoming a shaman are strikingly similar.

The Canela do not emphasize fevers, in contrast to Poseys report (1982a) on how a Kayap becomes a shaman, although a person who is ill probably has a fever. A ghost visits a Canela youth in his dreams without his having to have a fever. Like the Kayap, Canela kay go on journeys in dreams, which are believed to be out-of-body experiences, but they communicate more often with ghosts than with a pantheon of [nonhuman] spirits. The Kayap supernatural (Posey, 1982a) seems more complex and evolved than the Canela one [IV], which may have suffered more loss by acculturation. Poseys (1982a:14) two shamanic teachers were perhaps the most influential men in the village of Gorotire. No shamans of such stature and power lived among the Canela or Apanyekra during my time or Nimuendajs but this claim cannot be substantiated for earlier times [III.D.1.d]


Among the modern Canela, there is the possibility that the powers being received are evil instead of good, in which case the individual may not want the powers being offered by a certain ghost, or set of ghosts, and must thus break the specified restrictions deliberately. One research assistant [In.4.e] told about how he maintained complete restrictions just after puberty and desired strongly to become kay. In due course, he did receive a visitation from a ghost in animal form, and then later, the same ghost came in a human form. But this man was wearing a straw hat like a backlander, which indicated he had been sent by the Devil. When the worried research assistant told his mother, she ordered him to eat immediately certain heavy or loaded (carregado), and therefore polluted [IV.D.3] foods and to have sex with a number of young girls. He did so, and the ghost never came back. A person with such an experience could try to attract ghosts again later, but this particular research assistant did not.


While the ghosts are visiting the trainee, he receives specific instructions. He is told what kinds of restrictions to follow, and is given some idea of the nature of the powers he is going to receive. He is also told to remain silent about the visitations. Most powers are specific, such as the power to cure snake bites, heal illnesses due to restrictions violations, or withdraw intrusive causes of chest ailments. Another power sometimes granted is the ability to find lost items. Whatever specific powers are given, all kay persons have certain general mild curing abilities as well. Eventually, either the trainee cannot keep up with the requirements and withdraws, or he completes the course and the visitations cease.


When a trainee feels secure in his abilities, he tells this to a certain individual in his family, probably a close uncle, who arranges a public curing ceremony when such an event is possible. The likely time is during a festival when most of the tribe is in the village and somebody is ill with the kind of sickness the new kay can cure.

The sick person is taken out into the plaza and the new shaman is given his chance to prove his ability before all members of the village (Plate 29). This takes place in the morning, probably during or just after the council meeting. The sick person is seated on a mat and the curer sits or stands near him, laying hands lightly on various parts of his body, especially on the injured or ailing area. Sometimes the curer blows tobacco smoke onto the ailing parts. Sometimes the kay puts his mouth on the ailing part, and sucks out a foreign element from the body. After 3 to 20 minutes of treatment, the shaman departs and the sick individual is taken home. Then everybody waits to hear about the results. If they are favorable, the person may be accepted as a known curer of certain illnesses. (See Schultz, 1976a:202208, for a more detailed use of tobacco smoke in curing and hunting among the Krah.)


Special powers (Glossary) (hüüts: [no translation]) are said to reside in the left armpit or elbow of the curer, and sometimes they are represented physically as bits of rock, glass, or feathers. The items are said to have entered and to reside inside the curer. The visual representations may be for the benefit of casual outsiders [I.G.1].

The powers of shamans are said to be very weak these days. It was reported that there are many more shamans than there used to be, but that their abilities are greatly decreased. It is believed that excessive salt in food is at least partly responsible for this change, but surely the disbelieving attitudes of backlanders and Indian service agents are factors as well.


Most Canela shamans use their powers to cure, but a few have been accused of casting spells to cause sicknesses. However, these days the spells are not strong enough to kill people. Schultzs (1976b:212) distinction between shamans that are good ones (os bons: vayak: wa yakhaa: I [am]white) and those that are bad ones (os ruins: ki: kay) does not hold for the Canela or Apanyekra, and probably not for the Krah (J. Melatti, 1974:274).

Whether the shamans accused of being negative and involved in antisocial behavior actually carried out such actions cannot be found out because any shaman would deny antisocial behavior. It is said that shamans involved in injuring others use a throwing motion with their hands, sending the hũts in the direction of the victim.

If a shaman succeeds in injuring another person by injecting a hũũts into her or him, some of the spell (the harm) necessarily returns to the shaman, hurting him in certain ways, so that he has to protect himself from his own ability to damage others. In this two-way process, the victim appears to have an advantage because she or he can call in other shamans to help, whereas the thrower of the spell can scarcely do this. Of course, the latter would claim his injury to be the result of somebody elses spell throwing.

This is what research assistants say, but it is a question whether any shaman actually carries out such negative behaviors in current times. There was one old man in the village of Sardinha in 19641966, however, who looked very antisocial and psychologically sick to me, so I wondered if he was an active antisocial shaman. This suspicion was strengthened by the fact that Nimuendaj (1946:238239) mentions him negatively in this same context.

See Schultz (1976b) for a remarkable report on the condemnation and execution in 1959 of a Krah kay, whom the tribe believe killed a number of people by witchcraft. I believe that the execution of a witch could not have occurred among the Canela during my period with them because the Indian service personnel have been too present and aware for too long, and because chiefs brought any gossip or rumors of witchcraft swiftly to the council of elders or to an interfamilial hearing for examination, exposure, and elimination, to the satisfaction of all concerned [III.D.3.c.(5)]. Peace was too highly valued to let talk of witchcraft disturb it.


A shaman is said to be always looking around so that when a person is talking to him, his attention is at least partly directed to some other place. I noted that the old K?kanl in Baixo Prto in 1959 was continuously observing what was going on in the village while I was interviewing him. Some shamans are hmren in ceremonial status and personal qualities, in which case they may be somewhat more refined and delicate than the average Canela, as was Tskh [I.G.14] during his work with me in Escalvado in 1979. (See Schultz, 1976b:2l2213, for more complete descriptions of shamans and their personalities.)


A shaman is respected in his community, but there is no evidence that he is highly honored. The political chief and a great hunter are more highly revered. Those persons who are fortunate enough to have assets (especially shamanic ones) are obligated to share them freely with the community.

A shaman is welcome in every house unless he is seen as being antisocial. People are likely to treat him especially well because they know he could turn antisocial sometime in the future and throw witchcraft spells into them [III.A.3.c.(3).(h)]. For some Canela, like the younger Kaapl, who in principle is oriented to making great efforts to help his people, becoming kay has a great appeal. As the father of the Ceremonial-chief-of-the-whole-tribe, Kaapl is obliged to treat his people well; and benefitting them through his services as a kay would have been very satisfying to him. Unfortunately he did not become kay.


A shaman is concerned about asking for too much or gaining too many things from others. He might be seen as thinking he is bigger than others (m hir--pe kati: them more-superlative-more big: bigger than them) [III.B.1.g.(1)], or as being stingy (hts) [III.B.1.a.(1)], the two great evils. Payment must never be very much, or there will be suspicion of the person being involved in witchcraft.

In the same spirit of having to give what you have if others want it, the Canela never say thank you for anything. If you have something that others want, you give it; so there is nothing to be very grateful for if you have received help from a shaman. You pay him, of course, but only if he has been successful in curing you, not if he failed. The Canela do not pay anyone just for their time.


A woman can also become kay, but she seldom does, because, as believed by men, she does not have sufficient willpower to maintain the restrictions necessary to keep her blood sufficiently unpolluted for ghosts to like her. Ghosts are more likely to make visitations to a woman or man they like very much, and they like relatively pure blood. It is said to attract them.

There are at least two women shamans in Canela mythology (W. Crocker, 1984b:354355). During my time with the Canela, there was one woman kay, Mulwa [I.G.13], one of my regular research assistants in the 1970s. Her standards of personal conduct were obviously high.


No formal instruction occurs on how to become a shaman. I had expected that the old would be teaching their craft to the young, but they had no sort of apprenticeship or training. The young learned from the general tradition, which was available to everybody rather than from the knowledge of specialists. Canela kay said they had been taught by ghosts but spoke of some contacts with certain older shamans. I suspect these contacts were more extensive than they admitted, but that the occasion of receiving powers from ghosts was so overwhelming and central to their shamanic practice that it seemed to them that they had learned almost everything from ghosts, or from a certain ghost.

Wagleys (1976:254257) description of the Tapirap way of becoming a shaman stresses the novices early emphasis on dreams for recognition as potential shamans, their attachment to mentors for support and learning, their reliance on attaining unconsciousness and dreams through tobacco smoke inhalation in order to talk with spirits, and their occasional running out of control requiring restraint by several men to keep them from harm. This description is totally uncharacteristic of the Canela and Apanyekra [III.B.1.g.(4)] whose shamanic learners experience no trances, ecstasy, or violence and for whom dreams, tobacco, and master trainers are not important elements in the process of becoming a kay. The important element is blood purification through food and sex restrictions in order to keep out pollutions and through medicines to cleanse the blood of pollutions that are already in it.

Similarly, out-of-consciousness states and uncontrolled behavior, as found in the Kayaps rop-krre kam aibn condition (Moreira, 1965), are inconceivable for the Canela and Apanyekra who prefer talking problems out publicly with feeling but with restraint [III.D.3.b]. (For outstanding accounts of shamanism from some other Amazonian cultures, see Harner, 1980, and Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1975.)

[IV.D.2] Animal Spells

It is well known among the Canela that certain hunters are particularly good at killing certain kinds of game animals, and that if they kill the same animal too often, they may receive some illness that is thrown by that particular animal. Consequently, even though a certain man has the ability to kill partridges easily, for instance, he nevertheless will be careful not to kill too many too often.

This kind of animal witchcraft is especially dangerous since it can also reach the hunters very young and still soft children [III.A.4.c] (Table 9, stage 11), making them very sick, instead of him. If the baby is still in its mothers womb, it is completely protected; however, from the time babies are born until they are about 3 years old, they are targets for thrown diseases of certain animals their father has been killing (cf. Schultz, 1976a:205206).

This animal witchcraft is the cultural remnant of a formerly extensive and complex ecologically oriented food balance system, which does not operate fully these days. Such fears, however, still cause the hunter to be careful about the number of any particular game animal he might kill.


If a person sees a man who is good at log racing, and asks how he attained this ability, the answer always will be, He must have maintained full postpubertal restrictions and still does to a lesser extent [II.D.3.c.(1)]. This statement, however, does not apply to becoming a good sing-dance master, attaining the chieftainship, or to acquiring any ceremonial positions. Bodily purification is not required for personal development toward these roles, but it is needed to become a kay, a great warrior, a tireless runner, or a reliable hunter.

In the most general sense, attaining any position must be aided by the practice of restrictions. Through restrictions a person builds up self-control and personal strength, which in turn give her or him the stature that can earn internment festival positions, leading eventually to being a chief or other leader. If research assistants are asked how a person became a chief, however, the answer will not be through maintaining a high level of food and sex restrictions.


The basic idea behind maintaining food and sex restrictions (ipiyakri-ts), or just restrictions, is to keep pollutions out of the body in order to enable it to function well. Many foods that are polluting cannot be avoided, so the objective is to reduce, not eliminate, the intake of polluting juices, especially when a person is sick. Also, when a healthy individuals one-link-away relative is ill and, therefore, weak and vulnerable, the healthy individual must maintain high food and sex restrictions in order to help the relative recover (W. Crocker, 1971a, 1971b).


One-link-away relatives are egos mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, and son (i.e., restrictions kin: i-n ipiyakri katy: me-for do-restrictions people: people who maintain restrictions for me) [III.E.2.b]. Egos classificatory one-link kin are not included in the restrictions category because they are more than one link away from ego in terms of blood (kapr: blood) (Glossary) equivalence and attenuation (Figures 23, 39). This one-link away category also includes egos contributing-fathers [III.E.9] and her or his breast-sharing siblings (i.e., those who, though not blood kin, were nursed at the same breast). Such relatives are believed to have common blood with ego, or basic substance (Da Matta, 1982:5152), from consuming the same mothers milk [III.F.11.a]. Two-link-away consanguineal relatives still do have blood in common with each other but not to the same extent, at least not enough to warrant keeping restrictions to protect each other from pollutions when ill (Figures 39, 41).


If a Canela is proud of himself and wants to develop a good reputation, he can do so by observing high restrictions (Glossary), especially during the years just after puberty. If he keeps the polluting juices (ampoo kak ?-khn: somethings liquid it is-bad: somethings polluting liquid) out of his body, at least relatively so, he grows strong and capable; otherwise, he remains as weak as a preadolescent boy [II.D.3.c.(1),d] [III.A.2.q].

The traditional manly attributes are those of the warrior; but the same characteristics of strength and courage apply to hunting, running, log racing, various track events, traveling long distances as a messenger in the noon-day sun, and endurance (awkan) in general. Just after reaching puberty, girls are also expected to maintain food and sex restrictions for the same reasons [IV.B.1.f], but not to the same extent as young men. Girls and women are allowed to be relatively soft and weak, though they are expected to be generous. Their main roles in life do not require the same kind of endurance against hardships and courage against dangers, as are understood in the term shouted between men: awkan (bear up under the hardship, endure!). I have heard this expression many times and in different contexts: carrying heavy logs, singing all night long, being a swift messenger for the Pr-khmm, fasting, staying in a marriage, maintaining high food and sex restrictions [III.B.1.e]. These are principally male practices, and behind each endeavor is the endurance gained in youth by maintaining a high level of postpubertal food and sex restrictions.


Pollutions (Glossary) are found in liquids: meat juices, menstrual blood, and sexual fluids are the principal ones, although some are juices of vegetables and fruits. They are believed to weaken the individual, especially if the individual is ceremonially liminal.


The worst polluting liquids are found in the meat juices of certain game animals, such as, the male cerrado deer (kaar). If a person is sick, or if her or his one-link relative is ailing, this person simply does not eat meat or have sex. Messengers have to be sent throughout the Canela lands to warn one-link kin of the illness so that they too can abstain. This is the one great concern about restrictions kin when they are away, traveling in the world: they cannot be warned. Thus, even though far away, they might be killing any one of their one-link kin who happens to be sick by eating meats and having sex.


Distance does not weaken the connections between blood kin, and the effects of pollutions spreading throughout a one-link kin blood-pool are just as damaging to the weak member whether she or he is near or far. One ameliorating factor, however, is that beef (compared to pork and game) is the mildest and least polluting form of meat (except for fish and certain fowl). Therefore, Canela living out in the world are most likely, when there is meat at all, to be eating beef. Chicken and fish, the other common foods out in the world, are also less damaging than pork or game. Sex with Brazilian women out there, however, is just as polluting to a mans blood-pool kin back home as sex with Canela women in the village would be.


Menstrual blood is special as a pollutant, because the spread of its polluting effects is hard to avoid. If a man touches or is touched by a woman who is menstruating (i?-tm: she-raw), the pollution will enter him. Even traces of blood remaining after a woman has washed well, such as fragments caught under the finger nails, will cause him headaches and slow him in the coming afternoons log race. This is one reason why sex with postmenopausal women is preferred for pubescent youths [II.B.1.e]. Menstrual blood does not hurt the woman producing it, or her children, but will harm her husband and any other persons, female or male. She especially must avoid becoming angry when she is menstruating, because hitting her husband when in a rage would make him very ill.


Like traces of menstrual blood, mere essences or residual smells of sexual liquids can pollute others who were not involved in the particular sexual act, if they are in a weakened condition. Pepy novices and abstaining fathers in couvade conditions must stay away from individuals who have had sex recently. Mothers cannot let their infants be carried by a teenager because it is assumed the teenager is frequently having sex and, thereby, would be likely to pollute the still weak baby with remains of the sexual experience. Older women are more thoughtful, however, and would remember to refuse to carry a baby when they have had sex recently or when they are menstruating. The Canela were very open about their physiological conditions in the late 1950s [III.A.2.i.(1)] but were not as forthcoming by the late 1970s.

Certain polluting liquids can be transmitted through sexual intercourse between the individuals involved in the act. That is, polluting meat juices (hĩĩ kak ?khn: meat its-liquid bad) in either the womans or the mans body can be transmitted to the other person during intercourse. Thus, a somewhat sick and weak woman can receive some of the polluting meat juices a man has recently consumed. If she is healthy, these juices will not harm her, but if ill and therefore weak, these polluting juices will make her weaker and sicker.


In all these potential pollution situations, and especially in sexual activity, the level of bile (i?kaakh), rises, they say, as the person becomes sicker and weaker. By bile they mean the small amount of yellow liquid that may be vomited when there is no more food to throw up. They have heard the Portuguese word for bile (locally blio, correctly blis) and use it as the translation for their native concept, i?kaakh.

Bile rises and spreads through the human system in response to some sort of antagonism, or battle, that takes place between the entering polluting liquids and the bile within the person. It is this conflict that weakens the really sick person and brings death.


I was in a state of disbelief the first time I heard, in response to my inquiry about a death, that a mother had killed her baby. How could a mother kill her child? After a while, I realized that she must not have kept the proper restrictions when nursing the baby or caring for it. Research assistants confirmed this suspicion when they pointed out that a kay had identified and stated publicly that this was the cause of the death. These verdicts become public knowledge (part of history) and remain known facts about a person for years. No woman can deny or challenge such a statement when it comes from a shaman, who is given this information by ghosts.


The epitome of extensive restrictions takes place in the Pepy festival during the internment of the novices [IV.A.3.c.(2).(a)]. They are allowed to eat only certain foods that have low pollution levels. Sexual relations are prohibited for any novice during the entire three to four months of the internment, whether married or not.

Such severe restrictions can be enforced because the novices are interned in small rooms in their maternal family houses [II.D.3.d] where their activities can be well supervised by their advising-uncle [III.D.1.c]. Here they learn the value of such restrictions in terms of self-control and diet. Supposedly, they will internalize and learn to practice such restrictions as a means of developing and maintaining these self-helping abilities [III.A.3.b.(2).(a)] for the rest of their lives.

In Canela dualism, a novice and his restrictions are paired in a complementary manner. Since the procedure of processing a novice into relative maturity takes at least 10 years, the dualism must be diachronic, and thus the third element is the result rather than something paired in opposition to the novice [V.A.5.c.(2)].


The concepts of pollution, blood pools, and bile were thought not to apply to backlanders and urban peoples, though there was some question in research assistants minds. Thus, the practice of maintaining restrictions was not necessary for these outsiders. The concept of restrictions, and the problems they appear to solve, are seen to be particularly Indian in nature but to apply principally to any Indians who speak Timbira. The Canela think that as Timbira Indians continue to eat salt and other backlander foods, and to speak Portuguese and adopt other backlander customs, they will no longer have to be concerned about pollutions and maintaining restrictions against them. As acculturation proceeds, it will not be necessary to think about keeping polluting liquids out of their one-link-away blood pools.

[IV.D.4] Medicine

Besides the practice of restrictions to contend with pollutions, the Canela have medicines (Glossary) (ka?hk ts: curing thing) that rid the body of most polluting liquids [III.A.3.b.(2).(a),(b)]. They also have medicines that act directly on specific bodily ailments in the manner of pharmacy medicine. Both of these kinds of medicines are often herbal infusions using hot or cold water. No clear distinction can be made between the two in some cases. Because research assistants did not agree about the characteristics of medicines and ethnobotanical categories in general, I decided this sociocultural sector was not very fixed or structured in Canela thought. This opinion of the late 1950s was paralleled by my observations on similar materials when I tried to isolate a number of ethnoscientific categories later in the 1970s. Consequently, I did not attempt to complete the ethnoscientific project.


Some medicines are drunk for their general effects, others are applied to the body at the location of the ailment, and still others are placed in bowls of water as infusions. Different infusions serve different purposes. One of the warm vapor-in-eyes infusions serves to clear the eyes for seeing game better. Just as ghosts may seek an evolved Canela to make him kay because they like his purity, game animals are believed to actually like a relatively pollution-free hunter and consequently move toward him. The hunter then can easily kill them with his arrow or shotgun [V.A.5.c.(3).(b)]. Since the Canela believe that animals have a lower value, like enemy tribes or backlanders, it is all right to befriend and then shoot to kill them.

[IV.D.4.b] HERBS

Besides infusions, there are herbal medicines which are prepared as pastes, gums, paints, and drinks, and are made from available grasses, barks, pulps, leaves, roots, or shells. These medicines come from cerrado, gallery forest, dry forest, and other types of ecological land cover. The knowledge and use of such medicines is general and not limited to specialists or individuals with shamanic practices. Apparently, the Cashinahua have generally used medicines as well as those controlled by specialists (Kensinger, 1974).

In 1959, I conducted a study of such folk medicines, using both Canela and backlander research assistants as sources for materials for the Smith, Kline, and French pharmaceutical company of Philadelphia. Some 90 specimens were taken to the Museu Paraense Emlio Goeldi in Belm for identification by the botanist Walter Egler, and about a dozen were finally sent to Philadelphia.

[IV.D.5] Affirmative Chanting

Certain sing-dances (M-hakrel) carried out in the plaza as acts of festivals are said to be rezas (prayers). The distinction between such ceremonies and other sing-dancing was made clear to me only in 1979. Research assistants found such distinctions difficult to make since these were not traditionally verbalized.

In one myth, Khrwapu, an adolescent boy, is taken by an alligator (Mĩĩ-ti) under the water to the world of alligators where he learns several festivals and is brought home cured of a serious ailment and transformed into a kay (W. Crocker, 1984b:195203). To prove his new abilities to his tribesmen he causes a tapir to appear before them for them to hunt and kill. He also carried out a number of other shamanic acts. Confident from the respect gained through these kay endeavors, Khrwapu interrupts one of his uncles while the old man is performing and singing in the Plr ritual before the whole tribe. He tells his uncle that the words he is using in the chant are wrong. In typical Canela style, the older man withdraws and tells Khrwapu to carry on in his place, thinking his nephew will not be able to do very much. The youth then sings the same chant with somewhat different words, expressions he has learned during his stay with the alligators. The uncle had been singing largely weak words, but Khrwapu uses mostly strong words, sung with great assurance, so everybody listening knows the youth is right. (For a more comprehensive version of the myth of Khrwapu, see Cruz and Reis, 1981:3438.)

Strong words are expressions describing culturally strong objects or animals, like rocks and a certain species of armadillo that can move in the cerrado, unperturbed by the heat of the midday sun [III.B.1.e.(3)]. By using mostly strong words that were not too far apart and with only a few weak words in between, Khrwapu was gaining strength for himself and for any of his people who were listening closely and concentrating on the characteristics of the strong words.

To the younger Kaapltk, this meant to pray (rezar) [IV]. He likened such an experience to crossing a swampy area on firm stepping stones that were regularly spaced. The person who knows what she or he is doing steps confidently from one firm stone to the other, passing over the weak ones, without putting a foot into the water or losing her or his balance.

In contrast, the younger Kaapltk (Figure 51) gave me an example of a song in which the opposite of strong words is epitomizedthe song about a soft fruit called bacaba (kaapl). No one sings it, he told me, because a story tells of a youth who sang it too often and grew sick and died from the effects of the song. He also assured me that just because his name was Kaapl, really Kaapl-tk (bacaba-black), it did not mean he was soft or would die young. The harm was only in singing (praying) about a bacaba, with most of the other expressions in the chant being soft as well.

[IV.D.6] Knowledgeability

In early times, when Canela could speak with animals and before the animals lost their ability to speak to the Canela, most Canela individuals had the capacity they refer to today as amyi-ya?khre-pey (self-know-well: sabido: knowledgeability) (Glossary). In effect, most Canela were strongly kay and only a very few were amyi-ya?khre-?kht (self-knowing-blunted/not: besta: stupid, or almost lacking knowledgeability).

Knowledgeability (cleverness) is found almost entirely in myths [IV.C.1.b,c]. In one myth a group of Canela travel while changing their forms from time to time into birds or animals to suit their needs and modes of transportation. There was one besta member of the party who was not able to change her form readily enough and so had a hard time following the group. Eventually, she could not keep up and had to be left behind.

All great warriors had the capacity for knowledgeability to some extent, though usually it was specific to a certain weapon. Pp (W. Crocker, 1984b:356358) put magic on his arrows so that each one hit the eye of an enemy every time he shot. Most great warriors knew how to dodge (hal-pey) arrows with their bodies even at a fairly close range, and this was said to be a kind of knowledgeability [II.F.2.c.(2),(3)].

In the war story told by a Cakamekra woman, Te?hk, a woman kay, was able to see (m-hpu: them-see) the enemy coming from afar the day before their arrival; thus, she avoided being caught in the massacre (W. Crocker, 1984b:354356). As another example in the myth of Sun and Moon, Sun used such knowledgeability tricks frequently, taking the valued fat from Moons capivara (large rodent). The shaman, Khrwapu, caused a tapir to appear in front of his people so they could hunt it, and he made bitter manioc plants in a garden disappear so his people thought they had no manioc and had to go hungryhis punishment for their not believing in him (W. Crocker, 1984b:195203).

Many of the recorded myths, which seem to come from a very early period tell of the Canela utilizing these extraordinary shamanic abilities. By the time of Awkh [IV.C.1.b.(6)], however, only this great culture hero had the ability to change himself into a jaguar, anaconda, rat, leaf, or ash, and to move mountains. He also returned voluntarily as a baby to his mothers womb. Similarly, in the stories about the Canela 1963 messianic movement [II.B.2.f], the fetus of the prophetess Kh-khwy appeared to her outside her womb as a little girl and then returned inside, repeating this exit and reentry several times. (Mythological and actual time had become the same.) This little Kr-khwy (dry-girl), who was believed to be the sister of Awkh, did several other knowledgeable acts. For instance, she accurately predicted that Kh-khwys husband would return from hunting with certain game animals and she also said that if the backland ranchers came to attack the Canela for stealing their cattle, the Canela culture hero, Awkh, would cause the ranchers bullets to miss their targets, thus saving many lives. This prediction proved false. The bullets killed five Canela and wounded six. (This recalls the Plains Indians Ghost Dance movement of the early 1890s; Mooney, 1986.)

[IV.D.7] Summary

Fear of illness or death by witchcraft was probably one of the ultimate supporting factors for orders of the chief and the council of elders in earlier times, although it is only a weak enforcement factor now [III.A.3.c.(3).(h)]. Political authorities did not have the strength, in the form of agents at their command, to back up their recommendations with physical force. Noncompliant Canela could do largely what they wanted (amyi-?kht: self-superlative following) [III.B.1.(3)] except for the fear of being accused of witchcraft and executed. Execution for witchcraft is no longer possible.

Shamanic activities have become weak in the 20th century but probably were a strong mainstay of the power of chiefs [III.D.1.d] and leading warriors in the 18th century when Canela life was still aboriginal.

The practice of restrictions is important as an aid for individuals to protect themselves from supposed or real threats of corporeal invasions by various polluting liquids [III.A.2.q]. It also serves to enhance their personal abilities in the various social arenas of life [II.D.3.c.(1)].

Herbal medicines serve similar purposes, except that they cleanse the body of pollutions, instead of just preventing their entry into the human system. Seen as a part of the general system of social organization, these personal aids [III.A.3.b.(2).(a)] enable individuals to maneuver themselves somewhat independently between the larger, more compelling, and formalized forces of social organization.


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