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Observations placeholder

Reichel-Dolmatoff – The Tukano Indians - Viho-mahse



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff – Amazonian Cosmos

Viho-mahse is the divinity associated with the use of the powder of viho (Piptadenia or Virola)  and, by extension, with all the hallucinogenic plants. The name is derived from vihiri/to inhale, to absorb, and refers to the fine powder that the payes sniff through the nostrils by means of a small tubular bone.

The viho-mahsa (the name is used at times in the plural) are the most important intermediaries in shamanistic practices because, for any ritual action, the paye must first put himself in contact with them to ask for their assistance.

They live under the waters and also in the hills where they occupy huge malocas (viho-mahsa vi'i), but their true sphere of action is the Milky Way from whose heights they observe the doings of mankind.

The viho-mahsa are essentially amoral beings because they also serve evil persons who want to cause harm to an enemy. In this case the intermediaries come to be the direct causes of evil because they can disturb the currents of the Milky Way and send sickness to the earth.

At times, the viho-mahsa seek contact with the payes and then manifest themselves in the form of black clouds gathering over a hill or a large cliff. When this phenomenon is observed, the paye puts himself into a trance and establishes contact with them to find out their intentions. In this way the paye of a neighboring tribe can transmit threats, formulate complaints, and convoke a gathering of several payes who then, in their hallucinations, converse and decide the fate of an individual. They decide about the course of sickness or about the way in which hunting or fishing should be carried out.

When black clouds gather over the forest, people say: "This hill wants to do us harm," and the paye immediately reacts by taking viho to find out the desires of the viho-mahsa.

The source of the experience

South American shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Milky Way

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Justicia pectoralis