Real Ethnography vs. Anthropologically Inspired Fiction: Shabono and Yanoáma Compared
Part 2: Sample Excerpts

Comparison I.
From Biocca’s Yanoáma pp. 50-51:

An old man arrived one evening at the shapuno; his name was Shoamao. He had both his eyes, but from one eye he could not see us. He was carrying a large earthenware pot. The old man said: ‘I have come to invite you to the Hekurawetari. They have many ripe pupugnas; they invite you.?He spoke much; he sang as he spoke, as they do when they come to invite people. The tushaua replied: ‘I cannot come now; I have only just cleaned up the shapuno; the bananas that I have hung up are not yet ripe; the pupugnas are ripening. If I come, they will all go bad. If I come, the Kohoro-shiwetari will come here and destroy all my trees. I want to await the Kohoroshiwetari here: our men have killed so many of their sons and captured so many of their women. They will come for sure; if they don’t find me, they’ll say I have fled. I want the Kohoroshi-wetari to come here to kill my sons in the shapuno, I don’t want them to find me travelling. On a journey one is unprepared and the women are following behind. In the shapuno we leave the women and children; we go out into the forest nearby only with great care.?/p>

Then Shoamao came to the father of Xoxotami and said, ‘You come, if the tushaua does not wish to come; at least you can come to the Hekurawetari, who have sent me to invite you.?Xoxotami’s father replied, ‘Yes, I’ll come. I don’t mind leaving the fruit. Other people can eat my bananas and my pupugnas too if they want to!?But the others did not want to go, partly because Shoamao had said that the Shamatari were about to come and fight the Hekurawetari.

From Florinda’s Shabono, pages 133-34:

[A] stranger walked into the shabono carrying a large bundle. His hair was still wet from a river bath; his face and body were extravagantly painted with onoto. Placing his bundle, as well as his bow and arrows, on the ground, he stood silently in the middle of the clearing for a few minutes before he approached Arasuwe's hut.

"I've come to invite you to my people's feast," the man said in a loud singsong voice. "The headman of the Mocototeri has sent me to tell you that we have many ripe plantains."

Arasuwe, without getting up from his hammock, told the man that he could not attend the feast. "I cannot leave my gardens now. I've planted new banana saplings; they need my care." Arasuwe made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "Look at all the fruit hanging from the rafters; I don't want them to spoil."

The visitor walked over to our hut and addressed Etewa. "Your father-in-law doesn't wish to come. I hope you will be able to visit my people who have sent me to invite you."

Etewa slapped his thighs with pleasure. "Yes. I'll come. I don't mind leaving my plantains behind. I'll give others permission to eat them."

[Within the next couple of pages, Florinda indicates that a threat of violence from the Mocototeri and the shabono’s own plans to attack them are what motivated Arasuwe to decline the invitation.]

Comparison II.

From Biocca’s Yanoáma pp. 71-74

Chapter 9 "Apprentice Witch-Doctor"

When the Shamatari heard a strong wind, they often shouted: ‘Take the children, the Hekur?are arriving!?or: ‘The Hekur?of the white men are coming from the great river!?Then they would look into the distance: ‘There they go, there they go, far away. . . .?When they said this, I thought: ‘Can the great river be near??But I said nothing to anyone.

In the middle of the compound of that great shapuno, there was an isolated hut or tapir? Inside that tapir?a young man went to live, with his hammock and nothing else. They told me that he was going to learn to be a Hekur? No woman could approach the tapir?where that young man was, not even his mother, because, they said, the Hekur?detest women and flee from them. Only one boy, who was not yet fifteen years of age, went to sleep with his hammock in that tapir?to blow the fire and put wood on it. He who was learning must not bathe and must try not to touch the ground with his feet, otherwise the Hekur?would return to the mountains from which they descended to come to him. The young man could eat almost nothing. He was absolutely forbidden to eat meat. After he had been isolated a couple of days, the men went to get bees?honey, put it in one of those conical earthenware pots and gave him a little of it in a small, white, well scraped cuia; they had scraped it with those leaves which are rough as files. In the night they gave him a little more, again in the morning, again towards midday, and so on. When the honey came to an end, they had to go and look for some more. At last the men said, ‘We can find no more honey.?Then the tushaua replied: ‘Go away early in the morning and seek it a long way off, until you find it.?/p>

He could never go out of the hut. When he was tired of lying down in the hammock, he could sit on two pieces of tree-trunk, well smoothed with those tough herbs of theirs. One day, while the old Shapori master was instructing the youth, some neighbours started to burn the hair of a monkey, to cook the animal. The old man began to shout and run, saying that the Hekur?spirits were abandoning the shapuno and returning to the mountain from which they had been called. During the night the old man’s song could be heard as he repeated: ‘We Hekur?will not come again to you; we live very far off and we will not return.?Then the young man wept and despaired.

The youth took much epen? a vegetable powder that causes visions; it was not the master who blew epen?into his nose, but a boy who had not yet known a woman. He blew three times into one nostril, three times into the other, then retreated. He also continued to take epen?into his nose by night; his face grew dark with the epen? The master, who went to him early in the morning, checked to see that the boy remembered to blow into the pupil’s nose, and said: ‘Remember always to blow epen?into his nose.?The old Shapori who was teaching also took epen? it was the other men who blew into the master’s nose.

So the apprentice began to know the Hekur? first he learnt to invoke the Hekur?of the toucan, then the Hekur?of that smaller toucan, of the little parrot, and of the wood peacock with the white wings. Then came the more difficult Hekur? the great armadillo, the little armadillo and so always new Hekur? which only the oldest know how to invoke. The master taught so many things: one does not know really what, because he taught only at night. He made them put out the fires, because, he said, the Hekur?cannot approach if there is light. We, who lived around, could not make a fire. The old men said: ‘Put out all the fires.?Once I was reviving the fire and the old Shapori master shouted: ‘Whose daughter is making a fire? I will beat her with this stick.? The old woman said to me: ‘Put the fire out at once!?and I threw banana skins on it. As soon as the old master finished speaking quietly, he began to chant: then one could light the fire again.

When the apprentice was so drunk with epen?that he could not even stand on his feet, a man stood behind him and held him up, while the teacher went back and forth chanting, so that the youth should do the same. He had to repeat the chants that the master was teaching. He repeated the first and the second chant; then the old man walked away, saying: ‘Sing more loudly; I cannot hear anything; more loudly.?The youth sang more loudly; the old man went further away still and repeated: ‘Sing . . . I can hear nothing,?and sent someone to blow more epen?into his nostrils. If the youth made mistakes over the words, or forgot them, the old Shapori repeated and repeated them, until the pupil had learned them. The master made the youth, who was stupefied by the epen? get up, made him go back and forth, shouting and chanting with his arms open. He had to go slowly, because, he said, if he had gone quickly the route of the Hekur? which was not yet well formed, would be broken and the Hekur?would not come again at his call.

The other men, who were already Shapori, were sitting and saying: ‘Good! That’s good!?After some time the old man who was teaching said to another old Shapori: ‘Now you teach for a few days.?The master could change. One evening I heard the young man chanting by himself: ‘Father, the Hekur?are already arriving; they are many. They are coming dancing towards me, father. Yes, now I shall be a Hekur?too! From today on, let no woman come near my tapir? again!?A woman, painted with fragrant uruc? passed near the hut; then the youth despaired and wept. ‘Father, this evil woman has passed near me; now my Hekur?are leaving me. Already they are taking away their hammocks.? He was truly in despair: ‘Father, the Hekur?have left me alone; those whom you had put into my breast have already departed.?Then the old men shouted and shouted against us women. For one woman alone who had passed by thus painted and scented, we were all given the blame.

The youth had, after a few weeks of taking epen?and eating so little food, become so weak that he could scarcely any longer stand on his feet. Then his mother began to weep, because her son had not even voice enough left to answer his master. The mother, the aunts, began to say from a distance: ‘Our son has no more strength; do you really want to make him die of hunger? It’s time to leave him alone.?But the old Shapori were not worried. At length the master called the boy who had always blown the epen? ordered him to heat water in the earthenware pot and to wash the youth, rubbing him well down; then made him dry him with bark. Another youth, who knew how to paint, painted beautiful wavy lines on his legs, body and face with uruc?mixed with coal.

Replica Watches  Replica Watches

When he finished, after so many days, perhaps a month, he really was weak. They said that he could easily have lost his Hekur? He had a young girl, who had been promised to him; but he left her with his mother without going near her.

They say that if the young men, who have just learned to be Hekur? commit any misdeeds with women, the Hekur?speak to them thus: ‘I was coming to live with you, but you have soiled me. I am going away with your other Hekur? do not call us again, for we will not come.?I have often heard, in the dead of night, a youth chanting and weeping: ‘Father, the Hekur?are leaving me; come and keep them here for me.?Then came the old man who had instructed him and said: ‘Do not weep, invoke.?The youth continued: ‘Hekurá’s daughter has turned her back on me and gone away; all the Hekur?now despise me, call me shami (dirty). Hekurá’s daughter now speaks to me; she says: "I thought you were our father, but you have soiled me, you are worth nothing, so now you will be alone." ?Sometimes the master said: ‘Very well; you have gone with women, you have not respected what I had told you; now your Hekur?have fled.?Then the youth wept and wept. At other times two or three old Hekur?[Shapori?] came, took epen? blew it into the youth’s nostrils, and then said: ‘Call; we too are calling the Hekur?for you,?and they chanted: ‘Hapo he, Hapo he, Hapo he . . .?Through their mouths the Hekur?replied: ‘We are never coming back; he is shami, he is dirty, he is worth nothing.?Then the old men said: ‘It is no use calling them; their hammocks are already mouldy; they have left you.?They say that those who are old Hekur?can, for the sake of mischief, frighten off with their Hekur?those of the young men.

From Shabono pp. 182 ?189:

A few days later, Puriwariwe announced that Xorowe, Iramamowe’s oldest son, was to be initiated as a shapori. Xorowe was perhaps seventeen or eighteen years old. He had a slight, agile body and a narrow, delicately featured face in which his deep brown eyes seemed overly large and glowing. Taking only a hammock, he moved into the small hut that had been built for him in the clearing. Since it was believed that hekuras fled from women, no females were allowed near the dwelling--not even Xorowe's mother, grandmother, or his sisters.

A youth who had never been with a woman was chosen to take care of the initiate. It was he who blew epena into Xorowe's nostrils, who saw that the fire was never out, and made sure each day that Xorowe had the proper amount of water and honey, the only food the initiate was allowed. The women always left enough wood outside the shabono, so the boy did not have to search too far. The men were responsible for finding honey. Each day the shapori urged them to go farther into the forest for new sources.

Xorowe spent most of the time inside the hut lying in his hammock. Sometimes he sat on a polished tree trunk Iramamowe had placed outside the dwelling, for he was not supposed to sit on the ground. Within a week, Xorowe's face had darkened from the epena. His once glowing eyes were dull and unfocused. His body, dirty and emaciated, moved with the clumsiness of a drunkard.

Life went on as usual in the shabono, except for the families living closest to Xorowe's hut, who were not allowed to cook meat on their hearths. According to Puriwariwe, hekuras detested the smell of roasting meat, and if they so much as caught a whiff of the offensive odor, they would flee back to the mountains.

Like his apprentice, Puriwariwe took epena day and night. Tirelessly, he chanted for hours, coaxing the spirits into Xorowe's hut, begging the hekuras to cut open the young man's chest. Some evenings Arasuwe, Iramamowe, and others accompanied the old man in his chants.

During the second week, in an uncertain, quivering voice, Xorowe joined in the singing. At first he only sang the hekura songs of the armadillo, tapir, jaguar, and other large animals, which were believed to be masculine spirits. They were the easiest to entice. Next he sang the hekura songs of plants and rocks. And last he sang the songs of the female spirits--the spider, snake, and hummingbird. They were not only the most difficult to lure but, because of their treacherous and jealous nature, were hard to control.

Late one night, when most of the shabono was asleep, I sat outside Etewa's hut and watched the men chant. Xorowe was so weak one of the men had to hold him up so Puriwariwe could dance around him. "Xorowe, sing louder," the old man urged him. "Sing as loud as the birds, as loud as the jaguars." Puriwariwe danced out of the shabono into the forest. "Xorowe, sing louder," he shouted. "The hekuras dwelling in all the corners of the world need to hear your song."

Three nights later, Xorowe's joyful cries echoed through the sbabono: "Father, Father, the hekuras are approaching. I can hear their humming and buzzing. They are dancing toward me. They are opening my chest, my head. They are coming through my fingers and my feet." Xorowe ran out of the hut. Squatting before the old man, he cnied, "Father, Father, help me, for they are coming through my eyes and nose."

Puriwariwe helped Xorowe to his feet. They began to dance in the clearing, their thin emaciated shadows spilling across the moonlit ground. Hours later, a despairing scream, the cry of a panic-stricken child, pierced the dawn. "Father, Father, from today on let no woman come near my hut."

"That's what they all say," Ritimi mumbled, getting out of her hammock. She stoked the fire, then buried several plantains under the hot embers. "When Etewa decided to be initiated as a sbapori, I had already gone to live with him," she said. "The night he begged Puriwariwe to let no woman near him I went to his hut and drove the hekuras away."

"Why did you do that?"

"Etewa's mother urged me to do it," Ritimi said. "She was afraid he would die. She knew Etewa liked women too much; she knew he would never become a great sbapori." Ritimi sat in my hammock. "I will tell you the whole story." She snuggled comfortably against me, then began to speak in a low whisper. "The night the hekuras entered Etewa's chest, he cried out just as Xorowe did tonight. It is the female hekuras who make such a fuss. They want no woman in the hut. Etewa sobbed bitterly that night, crying out that an evil woman had passed near his hut. I felt quite sad when I.heard him say that the hekuras had left him."

"Did Etewa know it was you who had been in his hut?"

"No," Ritimi said. "No one saw me. If Puriwariwe knew, he didn't say. He was aware Etewa would never be a good shapori."

"Why did he get initiated in the first place?"

"There is always the possibility that a man may become a great shapori." Ritimi rested her head against my arm. "That night many men stayed up chanting for the hekuras to return. But the spirits had no desire to come back. They had left not only because Etewa had been soiled by a woman, but because the hekuras were afraid he would never be a good father to them."

"Why does a man get soiled when he goes with a woman?"

"Sbapori do," Ritimi said. "I don't know why, because men as well as shapori enjoy it. I believe it's the female hekuras who are jealous and afraid of a man who enjoys women too often." Ritimi went on to explain how a sexually active man had little desire to take epena and chant to the spirits. Male spirits, she explained, were not possessive. They were content if a man took the hallucinogenic snuff before and after a hunt or a raid. "I'd rather have a good hunter and warrior than a good sbapori for a husband," she confessed. "Shapori don't like women much."

. . . .

A week later, Xorowe's mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins started to wail in their huts. "Old man," the mother cried, "my son has no more strength. Do you want to kill him of hunger? Do you want to kill him from lack of sleep? It is time you left him alone."

The old sbapori paid no attention to their cries. The following evening Iramamowe took epena and danced in front of his son's hut. He alternated between jumping high in the air and crawling on all fours, imitating the fierce growls of a jaguar. He stopped abruptly. With his eyes fixed on some point directly in front of him, he sat on the ground. "Women, women, do not despair," he cried out in a loud, nasal voice. "For a few more days Xorowe has to remain without food. Even though he appears weak, and his movements are clumsy, and he moans in his sleep, he will not die." Standing up, lramamowe walked toward Puriwariwe and asked him to blow more epena into his head. Then he returned to the same spot where he had been sitting.

"Listen carefully," Ritimi urged me. "Iramamowe is one of the few shapori who has traveled to the sun during his initiation. He has guided others on their first journey. He has two voices. The one you just heard was his own; the other one is that of his personal hekura."

Now Iramamowe's words sprang from deep in his chest; like stones rumbling down a ravine, the words tumbled into the silence of people gathered in their huts. Huddled together in an atmosphere heavy with smoke and anticipation, they seemed to be barely breathing. Their eyes glittered with longing for what the personal hekura of Iramamowe had to say, for what was about to take place in the mysterious world of the initiate.

"My son has traveled into the depths of the earth and burned in the hot fires of their silent caves," said Iramamowe's rumbling hekura voice. "Guided by the hekura eyes, he has been led through cobwebs of darkness, across rivers and mountains. They have taught him songs of birds, fishes, snakes, spiders, monkeys, and jaguars.

"Although his eyes and cheeks are sunken, he is strong. Those who have descended into the silent burning caves, those who have traveled beyond the forest mist, will return with their personal hekura in their chest. Those are the ones who will be guided to the sun, to the luminous huts of my brothers and sisters, the hekuras of the sky.

"Women, women, do not cry out his name. Let him go on his journey. Let him depart from his mother and sisters, so he can reach this world of light, which is more exhausting than the world of darkness."

Spellbound, I listened to Iramamowe's voice. No one talked, no one moved, no one looked anywhere but at his figure, sitting rigidly in front of his son's hut. After every pause, his voice rose to a higher pitch of intensity.

"Women, women, do not despair. On his path he will meet those who have withstood the long nights of mist. He will meet those who have not turned back. He will meet those who have not trembled in fear by what they have witnessed during their journey. He will meet those who had their bodies burned and cut up, those who had their bones removed and dried in the sun. He will meet those who did not fall into the clouds on their way to the sun.

"Women, women, do not disturb his balance. My son is about to reach the end of his journey. Do not watch his dark face. Do not look into his hollow eyes that shine with no light, for he is destined to be a solitary man." Iramamowe stood up. Together with Puriwariwe he entered Xorowe's hut, where they spent the rest of the night chanting softly to the hekuras.

A few days later, the youth who had taken care of Xorowe during his long weeks of initiation washed him with warm water and dried him with fragrant leaves. Then he painted his body with a mixture of coals and onoto-- wavy lines extending from his forehead down his cheeks and shoulders. The rest of his body was marked with evenly distributed round spots that reached to his ankles.

For a moment Xorowe stood in the middle of the clearing. His eyes shone sadly from their hollow sockets, filled with an immense melancholy, as if he had just realized he was no longer his former human self, but only a shadow. Yet there was an aura of strength about him that had not been there before, as if the conviction of his newfound knowledge and experience were more enduring than the memory of his past. Silently Puriwariwe led him into the forest.