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Observations placeholder

Reichel-Dolmatoff – The Tukano Indians - The Three Worlds



Type of Spiritual Experience


Here we see the problems of trying to understand a spiritually rich culture with the vocabulary and concepts of a culture that is spiritually poor.

reichel-Domaoff is struggling, as is his informant, as the western scientific mind struggles even with the concept of a soul that alone all these part sof the overall package of functions that the desana have observed and have names for.

As far as I can ascertain fom this rather confusing description, the Desana use the concept of the Three worlds and believe the Higher spirit is to be found in the heart.

They believe that possession occurs when a person has met a sudden violent end and is unable to fulfill their destiny.

The ka'i is equivalent to the perceptions.

They appear to believe that animals have no Higher spirit but fish do - and in this I would beg to differ!

I think the Diroa may be the autonomic system or maybe part of the subconscious but here I would be guessing


A description of the experience

Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff – Amazonian Cosmos

Some observations on the concept of the soul are due here.  According to the Desana, the seat of the soul (simpora) is the heart.

The soul is immortal … it is the part of the individual that returns to Ahpikondia, where the body rises again as a hummingbird; however, the soul can separate itself occasionally from the body during life as, for example, during a hallucinatory state or in case of a sudden accident. For example, when a person falls from a tree, the soul leaves the body just before it hits the ground and remains suspended in space.

Such an event represents a great danger because the soul will try to re-enter a body, any body, even that of a passer by. Spots where such accidents have happened are avoided, and there one can hear the lamentations and screams of a soul unable to fulfill its destiny.

The complement of the soul is the mind /ka'i. The ka'i resides in the brain (dihpu ka'i/head-mind) from the time of birth but does not die with the body. It continues existing as a "shadow, a spirit."

The ka'i is the accumulation of experience.

Man thinks through the ka'i, and a paye can influence the functioning of the ka'i , but not the soul, of another person. The soul he can only "obstruct." Animals have no simpora but have ka'i because they "think and reason" in remembrance of past experiences. The only exception are fish; they have, located in the heart, a principle of simpora.

A third component is diroa, a vital quality whose name is related to dii/blood and di'i/flesh. Diroa is health, the "good life," physical well-being expressed through activity and joy. Diroa disappears at the moment of death, and animals as well as men contain this principle.

The source of the experience

South American shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Activity not known