Friday, August 20, 2010

Indigenous Rite: The proof of ants

Glove prepared for the tucandeira ritual. 

AMAZONAS state – At the region of Andirá river, that borns in the state of Para and empties into the Amazon, north of Brazil, are situated the lands of the indigenous tribes of the Sateré-Mawé people. 

There are 38 villages recognized by FUNAI (National Foundation of Indigenous) along the River Andirá.

The Sateré-Mawé, like many peoples of all the cultures of the world, including the post-modern culture, they have a iniciation ritual by wich all the young have to pass when they reach a certain age. In the case of indigenous Sateré-Mawé this ritual is the tucaneiras ants proof.

The tucandeiras ants (Paraponera clavata), that are also named cabo-verde ants in portuguese, Bullet-ants in english, "Hormiga Bala" or, still, "Hormiga 24 horas" in spanish (ants 24-hours), this specie is famous for their extremely painful bite. The Spanish name refers to the duration of the pain caused by the bite of this insect.

The initiation ritual of Sateré-Mawé consists in suffer the extreme pain of the bites of many of these ants. 

For the occasion, ants are stored in a cylinder of bamboo. The insects can not leave because the cylinder is sealed with leaves of white-cashew. 

The ants hate it. In the preparation of the ceremony, the ants are introduced, one by one, inside a sleeve made of straw-caranã.

The heads of the animals remain at the side out of the gloves, the stingers, inside the glove. The whole process irritates the ants. 

When the gloves are ready, beginners should wear these gloves and keep them for 15 minutes while the hands are being bites by these ants, hostiles. While the boys are suffering from pain, the tribe sings and dances.

The ceremony of the Tucandeira is a religious rite. Besides being a test of courage is an act of bravery and a protection for the body. 

The indigenous Sateré-mawé believe the sting of ant-tucandeira has medicinal properties, like a kind of vaccine.
The people says that if someone that is with a fever wears the tucandeiras gloves, the fever goes away.

The ritual must be repeated twenty times in twenty different days. If it miss a single day, the protection of the rite is broken, and the curse falls on the defaulter.

For the afraid youngs, who desire avoid the proof, the Tucandeira's curse is a thing to consider. He will be tormented by the Tucandeira. 

The elders say that the tucandeira is a woman. She appears in the dream of the men as a beautiful woman and offers a food that is not of this world. Who eats of this food becomes very ill. 

A native who made his twentieth ritual this month (August 2010) says, relieved: If I had not finished, I would die, I become ill and paunchy, because she "impregnates" (the person). You stay like a pregnant but, in true, begin to grow tucandeiras within the man.

Ritual leva meninos a colocarem mão em luva com formigas.
IN Portal MS – published in 16/08/2010
Tribo Sateré-Mawé. IN Missão Novas Tribos do Brasil MNTB

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