The Stepbrother

  • 17 January 2024
  • 12 Min Read

Now I’ll tell you a story.

Shamans would traditionally prefer not to explain things and tell stories, then people don’t like that so much, so we also have to explain things. In the Amazon, however, the Shamans didn’t care and didn’t explain anything to us so either you understood on your own or you made do.

This story happens a long, long time ago, it is a Shuar story, when the Shuar did not yet know ways to deal with the spirits of the dead and protect themselves from spirits of the dead that were dangerous.

At that time a Shuar hombre, a Shuar man, had a wife with whom he had only one son, but this son was disabled, because when he was born the soul of his arm had arrived late and therefore he had not had time to enter the body, and then this child was left with a handicapped arm that didn’t grow because it didn’t have a soul, so it couldn’t grow, it remained small.

Of course this son when he became an adult was not good for hunting because he only had one arm and the father worried about him and did everything for him, he also worried about when he would die and this son would be left alone, and therefore he did everything for him, he even spoiled him, but this man, the father, also traveled a lot because he sold animal skins and teeth and other products of the jungle to the settlers, to the whites, and while he was in a settlers’ village he he took a colonist as his wife, the daughter of farmers.

This could be done, it was not illegal, because in the world of the jungle the Shuar were polygamous and could also have wives in other places, who normally remained to live with their family and the husband came to visit them every now and then, bringing gifts . This type of marriage, very ancient, has existed since very ancient times among populations that move, let’s say, and he took as his wife a girl who was the daughter of farmers; he had a son with her, then afterwards he returned to her village and returned every now and then. But he neglected this son a lot, because he was very very busy with the first son who had this handicap and therefore all his resources were aimed at the first son, furthermore the second son was the son of a peasant who was not a Shuar. There has always been a certain racism in the population, so the Shuar settlers are seen as an inferior population, as a weak population that does not have the strength of the Shuar warriors and also for this reason he did not pay much attention to the family, the second family. He would have liked to go to visit this wife with this child even more often, but the Shuar wife he had at home and his son, the handicapped one, always insisted on keeping him and every time he wanted to leave to visit them they kept him with some excuse . Little by little he no longer went to this second family, he never went there. The last time he went there, by a mockery of some spirit, he forgot his medicine bag that he had, that is, a medicine bag, because this man was also an Uwishín, a Shaman, and he had his own medicine bag. medicine, very small, and forgot her at his farmer wife’s house. What happened? That his Shuar wife and his crippled son were very angry that he no longer had the medicine bag, also because the crippled son hoped to inherit it, but the old father was no longer well, having forgotten his medicine bag one night while he was in the forest where he had gone (despite the fact that he was now of a certain age), hunting with the young warriors, while he was in the forest spirits kidnapped his soul and from that moment he became a little stupid, he no longer understood well, he no longer even remembered where he had left the medicine bag or even that he had had it and some time later he died. The son, the peasant’s, learned that his father had died but did not want to go to the funeral (Shuar also have funeral celebrations for their dead), the man did not want to go to the funeral because his father had abandoned him. Some time later his disabled brother also died. Shortly after his father’s death he also died, because it happened that his father feared that he would never manage on his own and so one night he came to steal his soul to make him die.

When this crippled boy fell ill, (he fell ill immediately after his father stole his Soul) he sent a messenger to call his brother, he said: “come and visit me, I am dying because I want to talk about the truths of our father”.

This time, however, the farmer’s son, who had felt neglected by his father in favor of his crippled brother, said “ok, I’m going, I’m going to my brother”, he sat down on his bench shaped like a rolled up boa, like a seat , to “drink chicha” which would be a drink, beer obtained from cassava, to drink chicha for many hours and then calmly set off on his way; when he arrived, his brother was already dead.

Then he said “oh well” and also wanted to go away, but it wouldn’t have been nice, and he stayed for the funeral wake in which the body of his dead brother had been hung on the central pole of the hut as was done in time by the Shuar, that is, it was placed straight, not lying down, and there was a vigil for 2-3 days, until he was then buried. At this point, during the funeral wake, next to his brother’s body, the son of the surviving farmer fell asleep and when he fell asleep his brother’s soul came to take him and took him far away, to a place he didn’t know; in this place there were all the dead of the family and also many dead that he had never seen and everyone was dancing and celebrating and drinking chicha and everyone was dancing, they were all dancing in a very lanky way like skeletons dance who are very loose, and they were dancing everyone practiced free love, they mated as everyone wanted and naturally the dead brother said to the living one “dance, dance with us, look I’ll put this hat made with butterfly wings on your head”; he put a kind of crown on his head, similar to the Shuar crown, made of toucan feathers, which turns all around the head, only this one was made with many butterfly wings, a very very precious thing and he put it on his head . He too started dancing, but in reality his brother, at a certain point, said “ah listen, save my place here at the party while I go back to my house to get my loved ones to come and dance here with me”.

In fact, the farmer’s son had noticed that all the people of the family who were at this party asked him how their loved ones were doing and when they knew that someone was getting old, that he was ill, that he was in bad shape, they were all happy because he was about to come to them, to do party with them. Then the brother, same thing, wanted to bring the women of his family with him, but he therefore said to his half-brother “Save my place, I’ll go get my loved ones and call them to come here to the party” but the other thought “ah no, I know what happens: if I take your place here, I go from trance to death, from sleep to death, I stay here forever” and horrified he ran away to return to earth. When he returned to earth he was very scared and he immediately told everyone that it was very dangerous and that there were spirits of the dead who wanted to lure them to the afterlife.

He remembered at that moment that he was still wearing the crown made of butterfly wings, only that there was no longer a crown made of butterfly wings, there were many small larvae, many small worms that were resting in the middle of his hair , then he, disgusted, shook his hair (the Shuar wear long hair), he, disgusted, shook his hair in the folon, in the fire of the hearth to burn all these worms.

After this he explained to the people, he taught the people to prick their knees with chonta thorns: the chonta is a forest palm, whose trunk is completely covered with slightly poisonous thorns; if you lean on it your hand will sting and become inflamed. Pricking your knees with chonta tips (and also pricking your elbows in the same way) means that you are disabled, you are unable to dance and therefore you cannot come to the dance to dance with the spirits of the dead.

This may seem like a very stupid idea, but in reality the spirits of the dead see our reality as if it were a dream and have bizarre ideas about what can and cannot be done sometimes, as happens to us in dreams too. . And then he also taught how to wear a small “palito” around the neck, a small chonta stick, which served to protect souls from the dangerous spirits of the deceased.

Some time after these events, the wife of the surviving brother (who had married), no longer wanted to make love with her husband; This displeased the husband because he wanted to have more children, he had only had one child who was now 6-7 years old. He feared that there was a lover of the woman who would sneak in at night to copulate with her; then one night he stayed awake and took the juice of a plant from the forest, which is exciting and he stayed awake all night. During the night he heard his wife panting, as if she were having an orgasm, but he didn’t see anyone, he didn’t see anyone at all, so the next morning he asked his wife what it was, his wife told him that almost every night a hand slipped into between her legs and made her enjoy it, and she apologized by saying that she thought it was her husband’s hand. But her husband said “no, I don’t do these things” and that was why she no longer wanted to have sex.

Then the next night, the husband remained in ambush and saw an arm slipping between the poles of the hut, from outside. It is a very hairy arm, like that of a monkey, and he was masturbating his wife so he cut the arm off cleanly with the machete and then ran out to find the owner of the arm but outside he only found a stain of blood and the owner of the arm was escaped.

The following days, the owner of the arm, the spirit that possessed the arm returned to look for another arm, that is, to look for his arm, but his arm had come to a bad end: in fact in the family they had said that it was probably the arm of a monkey and they could roast it and eat it and so they roasted it on the fire. Then they went to the garden to get yuca and other plants to make lunch with this arm and while they were all away this spirit arrived looking for his arm and this spirit had the face of his crippled brother who had died.

He saw his arm all burnt and tried to put it on but it no longer fit; then he asked the child, the only child they had, the only child the brother had, and the brother told him that they had cooked the arm and were keeping it there to eat it then he wanted another arm and grabbed the child, the child tried to run away but he caught him, caught him and cut off his arm with the machete, put it on and it fit perfectly and went away completely satisfied.

Shortly afterwards, when the parents returned, they found the child, their only child, in a pool of blood, now bleeding to death. The mother was terribly horrified and no longer wanted to lie with her husband, she did not want to have other children and so the protagonist of this story and his lineage ended, because he never had other children, his only son had died in this way and he hadn’t had any other children before, because his wife – as I said – didn’t really want to have sex because of that hand, that arm that entered every night.

And so this story ends, very unhappily, because at the time – as my teacher told – the Shuar did not yet know the anent to address to the ancestors nor the ways to deal with the spirits of the dead.

As the fathers have told me, so I tell you.

Núkete, esto solo es.

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