Traditional knowledge of the jaguar shamans of Yuruparí


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Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2010 ACAIPI, Fundación Gaia Amazonas. 4 Direcciones Audiovisual. National Geographic T.V.

The mythical and cosmological structures that make up the traditional knowledge of the jaguar shamans of Yuruparí represent the cultural heritage of the many ethnic groups that live along the Pirá Paraná River in south-eastern Colombia, in the department of Vaupés. According to ancestral wisdom, the Pirá Paraná forms the heart of a large area called the territory of the jaguars of Yuruparí, whose sacred sites contain vital spiritual energy that nurtures all living beings in the world. The jaguar shamans follow a calendar of ceremonial rituals, based upon their sacred traditional knowledge, to draw the community together, heal, prevent sickness and revitalize nature. The rituals feature songs and dances that embellish the healing process. The vital energy and traditional knowledge of the shamans are believed to be inherited from an all-powerful, mythical Yuruparí, an anaconda that lived as a person, and is embodied in treasured sacred trumpets fashioned from a palm tree. Each ethnic group conserves its own Yuruparí trumpets, which form the centre of the strict Hee Biki ritual. During this ritual, traditional guidelines for maintaining the health of the people and the territory are transmitted to male children as a part of their passage into adulthood. The traditional knowledge concerning care of children, pregnant women and food preparation is transmitted among women.