Monday, May 5, 2014


The following is a list of the sources that I used to create this blog. My personal favorite is probably the head hunter website, because learning about shrinking heads was quite interesting.

Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality
 By Michael Harne

The Tsantsa; Shrunken Heads

This post is going to take a  look at Tsantsa, the Shuar rituals of shrinking heads.

In the Andean area, shrinking heads of the enemy was a very popular thing. The Shuar were warriors and won many battles, however it was not considered a true victory unless they brought back a couple of trophies, and by trophies, I means the heads of the enemy. The Shuar people engaged in many head-hunting wars, even with other Shuar tribes.


In order to shrink the head, the scalp was sliced open, the skull was broken up and carefully removed to make sure that the skin was not damaged to much, the neck area was sowed up, then hot stones were placed into the skin. The hot stones would then dry the skin, which preserved it, and shrank it all at the same time.

Cultural Survival of the Shuar

In the past, before Shuar people knew how to speak spanish, they had to make a five day walk to school. Now, knowing spanish, they attend a different kind of school. The Shuar Bilingual-Bicultural Radio was recently set up by the Shuar Federation. This allows the younger generation of Shuar to attend school in their own village rather then make the long journey to school. Since they are at home, they still have the opportunity to not only become educated in general, but to become educated in what it means to be a Shuar.

Not only are these educational radio  broadcasts helping children, they are also helping the elderly become educated as well. Those adults who are not constantly working all day sometimes take the opportunity to sit down and listen and learn.

However, not all of the traditions are still around today. Just a hundred years ago, clothes didn't exist all that much in Shuar culture. It wasn't until the missionaries came in the early 1900s did clothes become a thing in the culture. And look at what the youth is wearing now-a-days! Thats right, school uniforms...

Shuar Migrations and Diaspora

           I really could not find all to much on the migrations of Shuar people, simply because they have been in the same area for hundreds of years! Since these people are fierce warriors, they have been able to hold on to much of their land, however, lately, Ecuador and Peru have been pushing them out of their lands a little bit, in order to mine for crude oil as well as from the deforestation that is going on in many places of the Amazon.
This picture shows members from Shuar tribes "protesting" the oil mining expansions. These protests are very heated from my understudying, and the Shuar are fighting for what is truly theirs. They have been in this place for hundreds of years; they have fought and died to keep this land. It is wrong of the surrounding countries to try and take that away from these people who have survived out in the Amazon for so long.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shuar and their Neighbors

In recent times, the relationship between the Shuar and their neighbors has gotten better. In the past, relationships have been a little more hostile. In the 1500s, the Spaniards first made contact with the Shuar. At first, this contact was "friendly". There was trading going on between the two and things were looking good. Then the Spanish tried to colonize the Shuar and tax them, but were met with the sheer force of the Shuar. The Shuar resisted, killing thousands of Spaniards and were left alone. In the 1900s, peaceful contact was made by missionaries. Schools were set up along with trading. Recently, many of the Shuar have lost their land from Ecuador and Peru due to oil findings in their land. However, Ecuador has set up a land preserve for the Shuar that is supposed to be protected. Till this day, there is still distrust, even between different tribes of Shuar people. Some men bring rifles into the woods when they are going to gather foods in the event that they "see another Shuar".

Ecuador is also trying to sell off some gold-enriched land to China, however the Shuar occupy this land, and will rest.

Birds of the Shuar

         As you will read in this blog, the Shuar people are animists to a certain point. Everything has a spirit. The Wakani Birds, or spirit birds, are a form of Shuar spirit culture. The Shuar shamans would send in this kind of bird to frighten an enemy and make him vulnerable, and then go in for the attack himself, with Tsentsak, which are pathogenic darts or projectiles. These Wakani birds have also been given Tsentsak by a shaman, to carry and launch from its beak into enemies. This shows that the Shuar shamans had a very tight connection with these birds that they were able to get them to do such a specific request.
        The physical aspects of these Wakani birds are they could be any sort of small bird. This means no large birds such as hawks or eagles.

The Shuar also use birds as a means for survival, or in simpler terms, they usually hunt them.

Cosmos of the Shuar

From my understanding, the Shuar people were mainly animists and had shamans before Judeo-Christian missionaries showed up in the 1900s. The shamans of this culture believed only in the "Middle World" spirits (Cave and Cosmos, Harner, p.63). This means that they tend to be strong on bewitching and sorcery. A decent amount of these once dominant cosmos have since dwindled, due to missionaries who focused on the Shuar. These people came in and began teaching children, and adults, spanish, opened up a trade with the Shuar, and converted many of them into Christians. However, according to Harner's Cave and Cosmos, the Shuar still have a spiritual dependence on a spirit of the element of water, due to its underlying source of sheer power. Although so many cultures around the world have lost many of their traditional ways, including the Shuar, these people still hold on to many of the key values that has kept them independent in their hundreds of years of existence.