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Observations placeholder

Reichel-Dolmatoff – Amazonian Cosmos - Shamanic transformation



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff – Amazonian Cosmos

The power of transformation of a paye is one of the most important aspects of the office that he fulfills in his group. This ability to transform himself is called ye'e mahsa uari/paye-people-to pass from one place to another. On a horizontal plane, within the biosphere, the paye can transfer himself geographically, for example, to a hill, or can convert himself (dohpa ye'ege/to take the place of) into a jaguar or into an anaconda.

The transformation into a jaguar can have two different objectives: the paye might turn into a feline in order to protect a maloca or a solitary hunter; in the latter case the jaguar remains invisible to human beings and is only perceived by supernatural beings. Or he can change himself visibly into a jaguar (ye'e dohpa yege/making himself like a jaguar) in order to attack an enemy.

He also assumes the latter attitude when he changes himself into an anaconda. In this case the paye takes the form of a large manioc squeezer and, floating in the river, attempts to devour his victim when he is bathing by squeezing him to death.

In a tri-dimensional plane the paye transforms himself in order to fly up to the Milky Way. This transformation is generally induced by the ingestion of a hallucinogenic drug (viho or yaje), but it is said that an experienced paye can fall into a hallucinatory trance even if he does not take any drug.

It is very probable that changes in the body chemistry of an individual, whether he is a paye or a solitary hunter, can be produced by prolonged social isolation, sexual repression, fasting, or a specific diet.

The source of the experience

South American shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps