< Sexual Paradox Dhushara Home >
Sexual Polarization in Warrior Cultures
We now examine a spectrum of societies from the greater Amazon to see sexual relations in dynamic evolution, particularly in the context of warrior conflict and violence, but also in terms of partible paternity and matrilineal sexual relations and parenting. These show interesting features relevant to understanding similar divergences between matriliny and patriliny in the emergence of urban cultures central to human history.
Carol Ember (R190, R192) has calculated that 90 percent of hunter-gatherer societies are known to engage in warfare, and 64 percent wage war at least once every two years. W. T. Divale (R169), investigated 99 groups of hunter-gatherers from 37 cultures, and found that 68 were at war at the time, 20 had been at war five to twenty-five years before, and all the others reported warfare in the more distant past (Pinker R544 57). Donald Brown (R84) thus includes conflict, rape, revenge, jealousy, dominance, and male coalitional violence as human universals . Most attacks in traditional societies are ambush attacks, often well coordinated to take advantage of the element of surprise, and often with numerical superiority. A description of such attacks would differ little from the description of a male chimpanzee raid (Low R427 223).
Amazonian Indian societies, including the Yanomamo and Jivaro provide an example of the extreme consequences of male domination and its ensuing tendency to conflict and violence. The death rates of Yanomamo men from warfare or homicide for example are 25-40% and Jivaros of 60%. By comparison with these figures !Kung rates of male homicide are as little as 0.3%. Although these societies are very different from modern urban cultures, they provide an insight into how male dominance leads to patterns of violence, polarization, instability and deprivation which have direct relevance to our own futures. .
Yanomami: The 'Fierce People'
Return to the rainforest: A son's search for his Amazonian mother BBC Aug 13
The Yanomami have been referred to as 'one of the most aggressive, warlike, and male-oriented societies in the world' (Sanday R609 45). They live in southern Venezuela and adjacent portions of northern Brazil in some 125 scattered villages ranging from 40 to 250 inhabitants. In the 1960s they were still actively conducting warfare. Chagnon (R111) called them 'the fierce people' because, he says, "that is how they conceive themselves to be, and that is how they would like others to think of them". Traditionally they were hunters and gatherers. Today 85% of their diet consists of cultivated plants high in calories but low in protein. Hunting and fishing are the only source of protein, and men spend as much time hunting as they do gardening. They are aware of their need for animal protein. They have two words for hunger: One means an empty stomach and the other means a full stomach that craves meat. Game animals are not abundant and an area is rapidly depleted, keeping groups constantly on the move. Hunting often provides barely enough protein but at other times there is an occasional abundance sufficient to fed the whole village (Sanday R609 45).
Chagnon (R111 205) notes: "Among the more significant results of my analysis were the following facts, which put the nature and extent of violence among Kaobawa's people into regional perspective:
Approximately 40% of the adult males participated in the killing of another Yanomamo. The majority of them (60%) killed only one person, but some men were repetitively successful warriors and participated in the killing of up to 16 other people.
Approximately 25% of all deaths among adult males was due to violence.
Approximately two-thirds of all people aged 40 or older had lost, through violence, at least one of the following kinds of very close biological relatives: a parent, a sibling, or a child. Most of them (57%) have lost two or more such close relatives. This helps explain why large numbers of individuals are motivated by revenge.
Because of the emphasis on warfare and hunting, male babies are preferred. Men make it known that their wives had better deliver a son or suffer the consequences. Women will kill a female infant or allow it to starve to avoid disappointing their husbands. The shortage of women produced by infanticide is exacerbated by taboos prohibiting sexual intercourse at certain periods and by the tendency for influential men to have more than one wife. In one village, for example, there were 122 males and 90 females. About 25% of the politically important men in that village had two or more wives. Sexual intercourse is prohibited when a woman is pregnant or nursing. This creates considerable concern within the village over the acquisition and possession of sexually active females. Teenage males frequently have homosexual affairs because the females of their own age are usually married. By the time a young man is 20, however, he is anxious to display his masculinity and becomes an active competitor for the favors of sexually active women. This leads to considerable friction between men within the village.
Percentage of male deaths caused by warfare, Jivaro and Yanomamo (Pinker R544)
Although boys spend most of their time with their mothers, they quickly learn that there are status differences between males and females. From an early age, boys are treated with considerable indulgence by their fathers. Boys are encouraged to be 'fierce' and are rarely punished for beating girls in the villages, as their fathers beat their wives. Many Yanomamo make statements like 'Men are more valuable than women ...boys more valuable than girls.' Female children assume duties and responsibilities in the household long before their brothers are obliged to participate in comparable useful domestic tasks. Little girls are obliged to tend their younger brothers and sisters, and expected to help their mothers in other chores such as cooking, hauling water, and collecting firewood (Chagnon R111 122).
By the time girls reach puberty they have already learned that their world is decidedly less attractive than that of their brothers. Most have been promised in marriage by that time. Girls have almost no voice in the decisions reached by their elder kin in deciding whom they should marry. They are largely pawns to be disposed of by their kinsmen, and their wishes are given very little consideration. In many cases, the girl has been promised to a man long before she reaches puberty, and in some cases her husband-elect actually raises her for part of her childhood. In a real sense, girls do not participate as equals in the political affairs of the corporate kinship group and seem to inherit most of the duties without enjoying many of the privileges, largely because of age differences at first marriage and the increase in status that being slightly older entails. Marriage does not automatically enhance the status of the girl or change her life much. There is no 'marriage ceremony,' and the public awareness of her marriage begins with hardly more than comments like 'her father has promised her to so-and-so.' She usually does not begin living with her husband until she has had her first menstrual period, although she may be 'married' for several years before then. Her duties as wife require her to continue the difficult and laborious tasks she has already begun doing, such as collecting firewood and fetching water every day.
Firewood collection (redrawn from R111).
Firewood collecting is particularly difficult, and women spend several hours each day scouring the neighborhood for suitable wood. The women can always be seen leaving the village about 3 or 4 pm and returning at dusk, usually in a procession, bearing enormous loads of wood in their pack baskets. By the time most women are 30 years old they have "lost their shape" because of the children they have borne, the children they have nursed for up to 3 years each, and the years of hard labor; and they seem to be much more often in 'bad moods' than men. They seem, in these moods, to have developed a rather unpleasant attitude toward life in general and toward men in particular.
Many Yanomamo women show the effects of brutal treatment by men: They are covered with scars and bruises from violent encounters with seducers, rapists, and husbands. By displaying their ferocity against women, men show other men that they are capable of violence and had better be treated with respect and caution (Sanday R609 45).
Women must respond quickly to the demands of their husbands and even anticipate their needs. It is interesting to watch the behavior of women when their husbands return from a hunting trip or a visit. The men march dramatically and proudly across the village and retire silently into their hammocks, especially when they bring home desirable food items. The women, no matter what they are doing, hurry home and quietly but rapidly prepare a meal. Should the wife be slow at doing this, some irate husbands scold them or even beat them Chagnon (R111 124).
Patterns of migration of Yanomamo settlements including fissioning of villages
illustrate impacts of migration of a warlike patriarchal society (Chagnon)
Some men seem to think that it reasonable to beat their wife once in a while as if the objective is 'just to keep her on her toes'. Most physical reprimands meted out take the form of blows with the hand or with a piece of firewood, but a good many husbands are more severe. Some of them chop their wives with the sharp edge of a machete or ax or shoot them with a barbed arrow in some nonvital area, such as the buttocks or leg. Some men are given to punishing their wives by holding the glowing end of a piece of firewood against them, producing painful and serious burns. The punishment is usually, however, more consistent with the perceived seriousness of the wife's shortcomings, more drastic measures being reserved for infidelity or suspicion of infidelity. It is not uncommon for a man to injure his sexually errant wife seriously and some men have even killed wives for infidelity by shooting them with an arrow. Women who are not too severely treated might even measure their husband's concern in terms of the frequency of minor physical reprimands they sustain. I overheard two young women discussing each other's scalp scars. One of them commented that the other's husband must really care for her since he has beaten her on the head so frequently!
A man in one of the villages Chagnon (R111 124) studied shot his wife in the stomach with a barbed arrow. Considerable internal injury resulted when the arrow was removed and the girl nearly died. Another man chopped his wife on the arm with a machete. A fight involving infidelity took place in one of the villages. The male culprit was killed in the club fight, and the recalcitrant wife had both her ears cut off by her enraged husband. A number of other women had their ears badly mutilated by angry husbands. The women wear short pieces of arrowcane in their pierced ear lobes; these are easily grabbed by the husband. A few men jerked these so hard that they tore their wife's ear lobes open.
A woman can usually depend on her brothers for protection. They will defend her against a cruel husband. If a man is too severe to a wife, her brothers may take the woman away from him and give her to another man. It is largely for this reason that women usually abhor the possibility of being married off to men in distant villages; they know that their brothers cannot protect them under these circumstances. Women who have married a male cross-cousin have an easier life, for they are related to their husbands by cognatic ties of kinship as well as by marriage (Chagnon R111).
The Yanomamo have a concept, buhi yabrazi, that I thought, at first, could be translated into our notion 'love.' I asked ... "Do you 'love' so-and-so?" naming their brother or sister. "Yes!" "Do you 'love' so-and-so?" naming their child? "Yes!" "Do you 'love' so-and-so?" naming their wife. A stunned silence followed, then peels of laughter. "You don't 'love' your wife, you idiot!" The divorce rate is about 20% but marriages seldom last till children reach maturity. Few children are still part of an intact nuclear or polygynous family by the time they reach ten years of age. There is a somewhat rare way a woman can escape the tragedy of marriage to an especially cruel or undesirable husband. They have a word for this: shuwahimou. This is applied to women who, on their own initiative, have fled from their village to live in another village and find a new husband there. It is rare because it is dangerous. If her own village is stronger than the one she tees to, they will pursue her and forcibly take her back - and mete out very severe punishment to her for having run away. They may even kill her. Most women who have done this have done it to escape the savage treatment they have received at the hands of a cruel husband (Chagnon).
Where women are captured during fighting, or are simply kidnapped, their feelings may carry little or no weight. All women fear being abducted by raiders and always leave the village with this anxiety at the back of their minds when their village is at war. They take their children with them, particularly younger children, so that if they are abducted, the child's future will not be put in jeopardy because of the separation of the mother. They are therefore concerned with the political behavior of their men and occasionally goad them into taking action against some possible enemy by caustically accusing the men of cowardice.
A woman gains increasing respect as she ages, especially when she is old enough to have adult children who care for her and treat her kindly. Old women also have a unique position in the world of intervillage warfare and politics. They are immune from the incursions of raiders and can go from one village to another with complete disregard for personal danger.
Headmen can be violent warriors who are oppressive despots, or more astute leaders experinced at conflict resolution. Kaobawa as a headman stands at the mild, quietly competent end of the spectrum. He has had six wives - and temporary affairs with as many more, at least one of which resulted in a child that is publicly acknowledged as his. When Chagnon first met him he had two wives, Bahimi and Koamashima. Bahimi had two living children, others had died. She was the older and enduring wife, as much a friend to him as a mate. Their relationship was as close to what we think of as 'love' in our culture as any seen among the Yanomamo. His second wife was a girl of about 20 years, Koamashima. She had a new baby boy when I first met her, her first child. Bahimi was pregnant, but she destroyed the infant when it was born - a boy in this case - explaining tearfully that the new baby would have competed for milk her youngest child, who was still nursing. Kaobawa claims he beats Bahimi only 'once in a while, and only lightly' and she, for her part, never has affairs with other men (Chagnon R111 27).
Kaobawa and his wives (R111).
We also find patriarchal sexual sharing in Yanomamo families. "There was speculation that Kaobawa was planning to give Koamashima to one of his younger brothers who had no wife; he occasionally allows his younger brother to have sex with Koamashima, but only if he asks in advance. Kaobawa gave another wife to one of his other brothers because she was beshi ('horny'). In fact, the earlier wife had been married to two other men, both of whom discarded her because of her infidelity" (Chagnon R111 27).
Clandestine sexual liaisons often take place at daybreak, having been arranged the previous evening. The lovers leave the village on the pretext of going to the toilet and meet at some predetermined location. They return to the village, separately by opposite routes.
Another form of permitted affair is called hoimou 'to befriend' or 'act like a friend' to a woman. This type of relationship might occur, for example, when the members of a village have to take refuge with an ally. The allies invariably enter in nohimou relationships with the women of the refugees. The refugees are reluctant to give their women as wives to the men of the host village, but they are obliged to permit them to have sexual access to the women. These kinds of affairs also develop within a village between a man and the wife of a friend, or, with single girls. Again, when men go on visits to other villages and bring trade goods, they frequently are permitted to have affairs with the hosts' women, particularly if the men have brought goods that are highly prized by the hosts (Pasternak et. al. R529 173).
Gregor (1995 29) mentions the game of Kanupai ('taking a wife', marrying), and Ukitsapai (being jealous'). The latter game involves the children sneaking off on cross-marital assignations, 'only to be surprised by furious spouses'. Becher (R51 140) notes:
"It is especially popular to play 'mother and child' or 'married couple'. In the latter game sexual activity is already often involved. As long as the children have not yet reached puberty, the adults laugh about it. It is only the mothers of girls who are a little annoyed when they hear about it. They do not regard it as tragic, however, since they themselves were reprimanded about it by their mothers when they were little girls".
"Marriages are arranged by older kin, usually men, who are brothers, uncles, and the father. It is a political process, for girls are promised in marriage while they are young, and the men who do this attempt to create alliances with other men via marriage exchanges. Ideally, all Yanomamo men should marry a cross-cousin. Patrilineal descent, combines with the maintenance of complementary patrilines to make a bilateral cross-cousin marriage ideal. This creates a unique kinship system in which a wife may be both a maternal and paternal cousin of the husband and vice versa, combining the mother's brother's daughter and father's sister's daughter linkages. This also means that women who marry cousins have more kin support among their in-laws. Mother's brother's are conveyors of affection because of the implied link to marriageable cousins.
Population pyramid for remote Yanomamo groups illustrates the effects of female infanticide and young male homicide on particular age groups. There is also a pronounced female mortality a decade after the male which may be due to childbirth. Inset bilateral cousins resulting from reciprocation between kin groups (Chagnon R111).
Most fighting within the village stems from sexual affairs or failure to deliver a promised woman, or out-and-out seizure of a married woman by some other man. This can lead to internal fighting and conflict of such intensity that villages split up and fission, each group then becoming a new village and, often, enemies to each other" (Chagnon R111 7).
The headman has somewhat more responsibility in political dealings with other Yanomamo groups, and very little control over those who live in his group except when the village is being raided by enemies. Most of the time men like Kaobawa are like the North American Indian 'chief' whose authority was characterized in the following fashion: 'One word from the chief, and each man does as he pleases' (Chagnon R111 27). This has led to the Yanomamo being described as egalitarian, however in reproductive matters nothing is further from the truth (Low R427 117).
Chagnon (R111 205) notes the reproductive advantage being a killer: "The most unusual and impressive finding, one that has been subsequently discussed and debated in the press and in academic journals, is the correlation between military success and reproductive success among the Yanomamo. Unokais (men who have killed) are more successful at obtaining wives and, as a consequence, have more offspring than men their own age who are not unokais. The most plausible explanation for this correlation seems to be that unokais are socially rewarded and have greater prestige than other men and, for these reasons, are more often able to obtain extra wives by whom they have larger than average numbers of children. Thus, 'cultural success' leads, in this cultural/historical circumstance, to biological success. Unokais had, on average, more than two-and-a-half times as many wives as non-unokais and over three times as many children".
Among the Yanomamo, the reproductive context of men's warfare is clear. Men who participate in revenge raids and ambushes have more wives, and more children than others, and men who avoid warfare suffer reproductively. Because sexual selection can rapidly amplify alleles for male violence, the population becomes dominated by aggressive young males (Low R427 223).
The effects of this sexual selection for mutual competition and warfare are regionally pronounced (Chagnon R111 87):
"The most startling difference is the degree to which violence and warfare-and the consequences of these distinguish highland and lowland groups from each other. Warfare is much more highly developed and chronic in the lowlands. Men in the lowland villages seem 'pushy' and aggressive, but men from the smaller, highland villages seem sedate and gentle. Not unexpectedly, alliance patterns are more elaborate in the lowlands and dramatic, large, regular feasts are characteristic, events in which large groups invite their current allies to feast and trade. Larger numbers of women in lowland villages are either abducted from or 'coerced' from weaker, smaller neighbors, including highland villages. By contrast, highland villages have fewer abducted women, and when they do, they usually come from other small highland groups, not from the more bellicose, larger, and more powerful lowland villages. Fewer of the adult men in the highland villages are unokais, who have participated in the killing of other men. There, the average fraction of adult males who have participated in the killing of another person is over twice as high (44%) but the average number of victims killed per unokai is only slightly higher in the lowland villages, 1.13 compared to 0.96. The percentage of females in the lowland villages who have been abducted is significantly higher: 17% compared to 11.7% in the highland villages".
What of women's costs and benefits in this polygynous society? In some societies, polygyny, despite its likely costs, could have real resource benefits for women-if men vary in wealth. But Yanomamo men do not, so a polygynous Yanomamo woman must share the re- sources of her husband with co-wives, even though he has nothing more than a monogamous man. Furthermore, Yanomamo men have a large say in arranging marriages. Polygynous households tend to have smaller gardens for their family size than monogamous house- holds, but economically, the only difference between polygynous and monogamous households is that polygynous households receive more food from others. A high-status Yanomamo man, therefore, though he does not directly provide wealth, may indirectly create some benefits for his wives (Low R427 117).
Some leaders are mild, quiet, inconspicuous most of the time, but intensely competent. Other men are more tyrannical, despotic, pushy, flamboyant, and unpleasant to all around them. They shout orders frequently, are prone to beat their wives, or pick on weaker men. Some are very violent (Chagnon R111 27). The men of a village are constantly fighting among themselves or going off to raid other villages. An enraged husband who has caught another man with his wife will challenge him to what is called a club duel, in which the two will flail at one another's heads with heavy clubs resembling pool cues, 8 to 10 feet long. When the blood starts to flow from one of the blows, almost all of the men in the village will rip a pole out of the house frame and join in the fight in support of one of the contestants (Sanday R609 47).
Warfare between villages is commonly for abducting women, due to the unbalanced sex ratio created by female infanticide. Yanomamo regard fights over women as the primary cause of their wars. Male supremacy is part of a self-perpetuating cycle of violence. Males are reared to be fierce in order to compete for protein resources, garden plots, and women. To display their fierceness, men beat women, fight other men, and go to war. To defend against counterattacks, more fierce males are needed, and male infants are favored over female infants. Infanticide is necessary in order to achieve a balance between population size and protein resources. The shortage of women causes sexual frustration and jealousy. Having several wives is the insignia of power and influence, which only increases the level of sexual frustration and the motivation for going to war (Sanday R609 45).
The Yanomamo cosmos is comprised of four parallel layers, analogous to historical stages, lying horizontally, each on top of the other. The upper-most layer is at present considered to be 'empty' but long ago some things originated there and then moved down to the other layers. This layer is called the 'tender' plane and is sometimes described as 'an old woman', a phrase used to describe an abandoned garden or a female no longer able to produce offspring. The next layer is called hedu, 'the sky'. Its top surface is made of earth and is the eternal home for the souls of the departed. Its inhabitants are spirits of men who garden, make witchcraft, hunt, and eat. Everything that exists on earth supposedly has its counterpart in hedu. Its bottom surface is the visible portion of the sky. Man dwells below the sky on what is called 'this layer' or hei. It originated when a piece of hedu broke off and fell to a lower level. It consists of a vast jungle in which the numerous Yanomamo villages are dispersed. Finally, there is another place underneath this layer, which is almost barren. A single village of spirit men, the Amahiri-teri, live underneath the earth layer. It was formed after the earth layer when another chunk of hedu fell down and crashed through the earth. It hit earth where the Amahiri-teri lived and carried their village down to the bottom layer. When this happened, only their garden lands were carried to the lower layer; the Amahiri-teri thus have no place in which to hunt for game and must send their spirits up to earth, to capture the souls of living children and eat them (Sanday R609 47).
Men can become shamans, called upon to heal the sick, help the someone in need, or to send demons to endanger enemies. They also are known to be able to cast spells on people using plants. To become a shaman, a man must go through difficult training, including a fast from food and abstinence from sex. When someone is ill among the Yanomamos, they believe that the sickness is caused by an enemy shaman, making their hekura, or spirit, sicken their body. To cure the person, a shaman must see what is specifically wrong and "pull" the demon out. The shaman prepares with a ritual and will inhale yopo to help get in contact with the hekura. They also use a variety of herbal remedies as cures. Yanomamo men take hallucinogenic Anadenanthera snuff ebene or yopo containing dimethyl tryptamines almost daily (Chagnon R111 54) and spend a great deal of their time in shamanic encounters using the many kinds of colourful spirits or hekura to devour enemies souls or to help their hosts cure sickness in the village. Sexual restraint accompanies the shamanic quest, which is encouraged partly as a way of reducing sexual friction in a polygynous society where women are in short supply. However an experienced shaman in tune with his hekura can abandon these restrictions (Schultes and Hofmann R625).
Snuffing pipe (R625).
The present-day Yanomamo are descended from the 'first beings', or 'those who are now dead'. The 'first beings' lived on earth and departed for hedu after a major disaster in which most of them were killed. The chain of events bringing an end to the 'first beings' and resulting finally in the creation of the 'fierce people' is set off by meat hunger, cannibalism, and rape. Cooperation and sharing are conspicuously absent.
A mother who keeps her knowledge of fruit cultivation a secret gives a piece of fruit to a child, who then dies. Hungry for meat, another woman, who is the daughter-in-law of the offending mother, asks if she may eat the child, and her request is granted. Also hungry for meat and out of revenge, the father of the eaten child eats the mother of the child eater. This man is killed by the sons of the mother, who then become afflicted with sex hunger, which may be equated with meat hunger since the Yanomamo use the same verb for eating and copulating. To satisfy their sex hunger, the two sons rape the daughter of another 'first being'. They then change the girl's vagina into a mouth, with teeth that bite off the penis of the next man who seduces her. One of the brother's sons gets very thirsty, and to quench his thirst, the father digs a hole too deep from which water flows endlessly, causing a great flood in which many of the 'first beings' are drowned. Those who escape do so by climbing mountains, which is why the first beings may be said to have ended up in the sky, or hedu. The mother of the girl who had been raped and whose vagina had been changed into a mouth plunges into the lake caused by the flood, and eventually she makes it recede. She still remains there, having been changed into a serpent-like monster by one of the brothers. To this day, the Yanomamo are afraid to cross large rivers, for fear that she will eat them or create large waves (Sanday R609 48).
Among the very few original beings left after the flood was the Spirit of the Moon. He comes down to earth from hedu to eat the soul parts of children. Eventually some earth beings (it is not clear whether these are 'first beings') manage to pierce his flesh with an arrow, causing him to bleed profusely. Where his blood hit the earth, a large population of men (no women) are born. Most of the Yanomamo alive today are descended from the blood of the Spirit of the Moon. Where his blood fell the thickest, wars were so intense that the people in that area exterminated themselves. Where it was thinner, the people were less fierce and did not become extinct. The most docile Yanomamo are thought to have been created from the right leg of one of the blood men, and women from the left leg. Thus, there are three types of Yanomamo - fierce men, docile men, and women (Sanday R609 49).
According to the tale, only men appear to have survived the flood, with the exception of the raped girl's mother. Only men are thought to have been created from the blood of the moon spirit. This, in addition to the idea that there are different types of Yanomamo, suggests the theme of a group of migrating males who, long ago, came from another land and, along the way, killed or incorporated men from other groups to obtain sexual access to women and rights to hunting territory (R609 49). The treatment accorded Yanomamo women certainly appears to perpetuate the relationship between conquerors and the conquered in a harsh environment. The cycle of violence and sexual inequality we observe among the Yanomamo can be viewed as part of an extreme adaptation to extreme circumstances in the struggle for survival. In their origin tale, cannibalism, rape, and murderous revenge are responses to the tensions created by a precarious existence and by the perception that the universe contains powerful and uncontrollable forces that may at any moment destroy all life. These forces are set in motion by the minds of men in their struggle to maintain the upper hand in a losing battle. If the Yanomamo believe that they exterminated themselves once before, they must live with the fear that it will happen again.
The Yanomamo are animists who believe the plants and animals around them have spirits called xapiripe which they can see under yopo, which they claim gives them the power to manipulate the spirits in the animals and plants, giving the person increased spiritual power. They also believe that there is a god called Omama who blessed them with the forest, trees, and animals. They believe that animals were once humans a long time ago, but were made animals because of bad things they did. They believe that the universe consists of four parallel layers or levels. The top layer, duku ka misi, is believed to be empty, but at one time was inhabited by ancient beings that now have dropped down into lower levels. The second layer is called hedu ka mis or the sky level. It is where the spirits of dead men and women reside. It is a lot like earth, except the men and women there are young and beautiful, the hunting is better and easier, and the food tastes better. Hei ka misi or earth is the next layer, and the last layer is the hei ta bebi or "underworld." The amahi-teri live in the underworld and bring misfortune and harm on humans.
When someone dies, immediately there is mourning, singing, and chanting. Usually the body is burned by the men in the village. The women and children have to leave the village so they don't become polluted by the smoke. After the body is burned, the mean gather and crush the bones, and the bones are stored in gourds that are in the village. After a year or so, the Yanomamo people gather together and have a ceremony called a reahu. The people will mix the ashes of the loved one in a soup to consume. This shows respect and love for their loved one that has passed on, while insuring that the soul of the dead will travel up to hedus, the paradise in the sky.
Elena Valero, a Brazilian woman was kidnapped by Yanomamo warriors when she was eleven years old at a time when intertribal warfare and raiding for women was still endemic. No sooner was she kidnapped than Elena Valero's captors were themselves attacked by rival Yanomamo. Again she was taken captive and handed over to one of her abductors as a wife. She would spend the next twenty years among the Karawetari, marry twice with different captors and bear three children before finally escaping. She would witness, and hear about, many more raids. But none were so horrifying as the second one: 'They killed so many. I was weeping for fear and for pity but there was nothing I could do. They snatched the children from their mothers to kill them, while the others held the mothers tightly by the arms and wrists as they stood up in a line. All the women wept'. They fled before the raiders, taking their children with them. 'The men began to kill the children; little ones, bigger ones, they killed many of them. They tried to run away, but [the Karawetari raiders] caught them, and threw them to the ground, and stuck them with bows, which went through their bodies and rooted them to the ground. Taking the smallest by the feet, they beat them against the trees and the rocks. The children's eyes trembled. Then the men took the dead bodies and threw them among the rocks, saying, 'Stay there, so that your fathers can find you and eat you.' One woman pleaded, 'It's a little girl, you mustn't kill her.' Another gambled desperately to save the life of a two-year-old snatched from her arms by telling the raider, 'Don't kill him, he's your son. The mother was with you and she ran away when she was already pregnant with this child. He's one of your sons!' The man mulled over this possibility before replying, 'No, he's [another group's] child. It's too long since [that woman was] with us.' The man then took the baby by his feet and bashed him against the rocks. When much later, anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon interviewed different Yanomamo groups, people told him about women being kidnaped, their infants merely left behind to starve. (Hrdy R330 241).
Hrdy (R330 468) notes: that in some Amazonian tribes too much or too little hair on a newborn can be seen as a sign of sexual misconduct. When she gave birth to a 'half-caste' Elena Valero was told by the other women "kill hm at once", but the man who had taken her told them to go away saying "Let her bring him up, even if he has no hair".
Jivaro: People of the Shrunken Heads
The Jivaro are even more extremely violent than the Yanomamo, having a war homicide rate of about 60% of men, although modern changes are leading to social resolution of physical conflicts. They are renowned as the one Amazonian tribe who practised head-shrinking. They refused to be suppressed by the Inca and revolted against the Spanish Empire and thwarted all subsequent attempts by the Spaniards to conquer them. In the year 1599, the Jivaros banded together and killed 25,000 white people in raids on two settlements. The attack was instigated over the natives being taxed in their gold-trade. After uncovering the unscrupulous practices of the visiting governor, molten gold was later poured down his throat until his bowels burst. Following his execution, the remaining Spaniards were killed along with the older women and children. The younger useful women were taken as prisoners to join the clan.
Like the Yanomamo, perpetual animosity existed between the neighboring tribes of the Jivaro. The Shaur and Achuar Jivaros, once deadly enemies have only recently formed a tribal federation. Among the Jivaro, as among the Yanomamo, there is no stratification - but egalitarian warriorship. During times of peace there's no chieftain. When wars erupt, older experienced men who have killed many men and captured many heads are chosen as war chiefs. No Jivaro can be chosen if he has not killed. Bloody feuds, reported as functioning to obtain women, are frequent and follow familial lines (Low 192). A fundamental difference between wars enacted within the same tribe and against neighboring tribes is such that wars between different tribes are in principle wars of genocidal extermination. A significant goal of these wars was geared toward the annihilation of the enemy tribe, including women and children. This was done in order to prevent them from seeking revenge against the victors in the future. There were however, many instances where the women and children were taken as prisoners and forced to become a part of the victors families. A woman who fights, or a woman who refuses to accompany the victorious war-party to their homes and serve a new master, exposes herself to the risk of suffering the same fate as her men-folk. Up de Graff (R713 273) describes a foray with the Jivaro:
"A Huambiza woman who had fallen in the fight wounded by 3 spears. Little did we imagine what the ultimate issue might prove to be, when we attacked that morning. The woman lay there where she had been borne down by the spear-thrusts. The Agurunas eager to collect her head, went to work while she was still alive, though powerless to protect herself. While one wrenches at her head another held her to the ground, and yet another hacked her neck with his stone-ax. Finally I was called upon to lend my machete, a far better implement for the work in hand. This was truly an act of mercy, to put the poor creature out of her misery as soon as possible. It was truly a hideous spectacle."
On the whole, the Jivaro Indians attributed each death to supernatural causes rather than accepting natural death. Following each death a vicious cycle of retaliation ensues in which someone is always held accountable for the murder of another. This cycle of blood-revenge is perpetuated by religious reasons by which the soul of the victim requires that his relatives should avenge his death. Because witchcraft and sorcery can account for the majority of murders and natural deaths within a tribe, it is not surprising that the medicine men, or shamans, are most susceptible to attack as they are frequently accused of using their powers against others. If the surviving members do not retaliate against he slayer, the anger of the vengeful spirit may in fact turn against themselves. If blood-revenge cannot be directed to the actual slayer, it may be directed toward one of his relations. Once a murder has been avenged, blood-guilt or tumashi akerkama is atoned for and the offended family is satisfied. Younger males, often as young as six, listen to fathers describe the various crimes that had been committed against them. A strong sense of family justice is instilled and expectation to avenge previous injustices committed against family members.
The Jivaro believe that "witchcraft is the cause of the vast majority of illnesses and non-violent deaths" (Harner R291 142) in the world and that they are only part of a large spiritual world. The Jivaro believe in a total of three souls for humans. The Arutam soul is acquired through a vision quest at the sacred waterfall. Attainment of the Arutam soul is not, however, guaranteed by this quest. This soul is considered vital to the possessor's health and safety. Arutam possession is almost assured protection from death by physical violence, poison or sorcery. Only after obtaining the Arutam soul, can the second soul be obtained. This soul, Muisak, is known as the avenging soul. Muisak avenges the death of a person who has died as a result of physical violence or of sorcery. The soul attempts to kill the murderer, but at times misses the target, harming innocent family members. Commonplace accidents, such as drowning or being bit by a snake, are believed to be the result of a Muisak. The concept of the Muisak furnishes the Jivaro the rationale for head taking and shrinking (tsantsa). By shrinking their enemies' heads, they prevent attacks from the avenging soul. Because of its seemingly minor role in their day-to-day survival, the Jivaro place less emphasis on the third soul, known as Nekas Wakani. This soul enters the body at birth. It leaves the body at death, and is believed to roam the deceased's former home. It is the task of the living to feed the Nekas Wakani soul. If this task is not performed properly, the third soul may take a demon form and cause harm to the living.
The Jivaro have two kinds of shamans that help them control the supernatural forces: bewitching shamans and curing shamans. Each type of shaman is a specialist who uses hallucinogenic drugs to deal with the spirit world including Yaje, Caapi or Ayahuasca, This is an extremely powerful indole hallucinogen containing an admixture of two plants, Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caapi, the first containing dimethyl tryptamine and the other harmine as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor potentiator. Yage is one of the world's most potent hallucinogens with a folklore of telepathic and remote viewing powers.
The most important spirits are the tsentsak, called spirit helpers. Individuals who are not shamans cannot access this spirit world, however, so there is great demand for 'specialists who can cross over into the supernatural world at will to deal with the forces that influence and even determine the events of the waking life'. This means that a great deal of the vision quest is preoccupied with potentially homicidal events in the supernatural world colouring their entire spiritual cosmology with the motifs of male combat and retribution. Harner noted that 1 out of every 4 men in the village were shamans, and this was especially true for males whose fathers were shamans. However, women were welcome to become shamans as well; all that was required was the acquisition of tsentsak and the ability to use natema. When a curing shaman drinks hallucinogenic brews, she will enter a trance at which point she can see through the patient's body "as though it were glass".
The Jivaro divide work according to the sex of the objects worked with. They believe everything in the world is either male or female. Women should prepare food because fire is female. Women should make and clean pots because clay, being part of Mother Earth, is female. They have declared cotton to be one of the few male plants. The Jivaro men therefore do all the spinning, weaving, and making of clothes. Fiber, the Jivaro believe, is male. So the men make all baskets. Baskets themselves are female, so women tote the heavy loads. On the role of women Jivaro note man (the sloth) is son of Sun and Moon, while woman (wife) comes from the egg of the Chingaso. Thus man is lazy - most of work being done by women!
Anne Christine Taylor in "The Gender of the Prey" (R682) explores relations of matrimony and the web of connections between conjugality and taming, between women and game animals, between seduction and predation. Through an examination of Jivaroan notions about parent-child relations, she shows how the complex of predation, linked to affinity, is articulated to a representation of identity figured by vegetal cloning, a form of reproduction that is both monosexual (purely feminine) and mono-generational, 'mothers' being their own 'daughters' and vice-versa. Thus, the production of 'true persons' depends crucially on the masculine capacity to kill, insofar as homicide is viewed as the principle responsible for the separation between generations, hence the creation of kinship.
The women of the Aguaruna Jivaro of northern Peru kill themselves more frequently than do men in a ratio of from 2:1 to 9:1. In 31 percent of the cases, their relatives say that the motive for death was because the woman was scolded or beaten by either her kinsman or her spouse for failure to perform domestic duties. Women have little control over their marital situation: "men are often reluctant to protect their daughters or sisters from abuse by a brutal husband, except perhaps during the initial trial period of a marriage. This state of affairs changes dramatically when a woman kills herself, for then her kinsmen angrily demand an explanation from her husband - and they also seek compensation or exact retribution through a vengeance killing. Women thus use the implicit or explicit threat of suicide to gain leverage over their husband, as a way of preventing beatings or discouraging the formation of a polygynous household ... in some cases the husband may face actual physical danger if his wife's family holds him responsible for her death" (Brown M R87 7). It seems that female suicide is so common among the Aguaruna that it has lost its effectiveness as a way of influencing male behaviour: men become inured to it. "some men ... were quite fatalistic, arguing that it didn't matter how they treated their wives since women are likely to kill themselves anyway". Because of the demand for women a girl may be promised as a wife when she is as young as five and some are betrothed shortly after birth (Chagnon R83 48).
Although changing times and cultural influences are causing the warrior mentality to be moderated by dialogue many of the founding motifs remain. As with the Yanomamo political power among the Shuar Jivaro, is a quality of individuals. Spiritual power, rather than having been an abstraction of social control, has similarly expressed this individualism, which refers primarily to individuals and not to groups of persons, such as kin-groups castes or classes. The vision quest forms the precondition for the achievement of power: In the course of visionary rites people can integrate the invisible power and endow them with certain abilities in dealing with their natural and social environment .
One of the major preconditions for a 'good life' is successful conflict management. Only those people who can stand their ground in a conflict, lead a good life. On the one hand this means being able to successfully carry out a conflict, and on the other hand it also comprises a talent for peaceful settlements. The victorious warrior, who kills instead of being killed, the charismatic speaker, who succeeds in creating alliances, the woman, whose strong words settle domestic quarrels, they will all gain their influence in the community through their strength in conflicts (Mader R430).
All traditional male 'positions of leadership' are directed to conflict resolution: The warrior distinguishes himself by settling a feud by force; the influence of the 'Great Old Man' endows him with an important vote in deciding about the manner of dealing with conflicts, which reach beyond the local group (for example whether a member of his alliance-group should carry out a blood revenge or not. In contrast to this, female power in this society is connected to a greater extent with the woman's role as the provider of food, although conflict management does constitute an important aspect of a woman's mastering of life and her social actions. In this, women attain a vital function in the solution of domestic quarrels. They also performed important duties in the course of traditional warfare.
Women and shamans are always mentioned in one breath as the main causes for the high potential for conflict in this society. "This is why there were so many wars in the former times ... The issues were not land, or any treasures, or any market, issue was either women or witchcraft." This is again reflected in an origin myth based on antagonism between male and female spirits in which war is instituted to the antagonism remains perpetual (Sanday R609 181). Conflicts in connection with unpermitted sexuality and witchcraft can go from misunderstandings or altercations between husband and wife to strained relations between local groups due to accusations of sorcery, and on to armed conflicts between groups of allies. This again could lead to protracted cycles of blood revenge.
The connection between amoral or deviant behaviour and blood revenge ensues from the conception of shamanic power on the one hand, and the sanctions for adultery on the other hand. In the traditional culture of the Shuar and Achuar adultery represents one of the worst violations of the social order. It endangers the alliances which have been formed through marriage and threatens the stability of the political framework. Fathers and husbands are the authorities who control female sexuality. In the case of an infringement of the rules, it is their duty to impose sanctions. Among other forms of punishment, these can also take the shape of the death of both accessories. Should one of the two perpetrators be killed in a concrete case, the conflict usually expends to a blood revenge feud: 'You can kill a woman out of jealousy, but then this woman's family will declare war on you. Let's suppose a man had a wife. If another one did not respect this fact, he became jealous. He killed and started a war. Thus war came about and this war was endless, until everybody was dead'.
In this culture female attraction and shamanic power are both conceived as forms of power with a great ambivalence: Just like the shaman can use his power not only for healing but also for bringing about illnesses and calamities, a woman can also, apart from making her husband happy, attract suitors and lovers. Female beauty is always subject to a touch of immorality, while the productive qualities of a woman have a very high social rating. As one Jivaro put it:
"In former times, when you had a lover, this was a matter of outmost secrecy, so it would not be found out. Only the two people concerned were allowed to know, nobody else. No look, no greeting, no smile must betray you. There were experts in this, who could keep their affairs totally secret: They were lovers only when they were alone, but in public nothing was to be seen. My lover can publicly insult me, she can spit in my face, but we both know that we are lovers. But you don't let anything on in front of other people, thus you avoid death. But today, what with the young Shuar, as soon as a young girl grants them a smile, they say: She is my lover! ... The young men talk: She is like this, her body is shaped like that - they make their relationship a public affair and everybody starts commenting on it. These things, this lack of respect, this is what happens today, whereas in former times nobody knew anything."
Tukano: The Mournful Sound of Hidden Trumpets
An elaboration of the nexus of warrior male and the power of female sexuality permeates the mythology and ritual practices of the Tukano, another north Amazon tribe, described here in the contest of the Desana group.
Male initiation is climaxed by an hallucinogenic rite called Yurupari. Yurupari dances have been widespread, especially in western Amazonia. They characteristically use sacred bark horns and are taboo to women, who are forbidden to see them and flee to the forest at the first sound. The ritual communicates with male ancestors, propitiates fertility spirits, effecting cures of prevalent illnesses, and improving the male prestige and power over women and is centered on the taking of the hallucinogenic drink Yaje, or Ayahuasca.
"A deep booming of drums from within the maloca heralded the appearance of the mystic Yurupari horns. With only very slight urging from one of the older men, all females from babes in arms to withered, toothless hags betook themselves to the fringing forest, to hear only from afar the deep, mysterious notes of the trumpets, sight of which is believed to spell certain death for any woman..." . Payés and older men are not above aiding the workings of the mystery by the judicious administration of poison to any over-curious female. "Four pairs of horns had been taken from places of concealment, and the players now ranged themselves in a rough semi-circle, producing the first deep, lugubrious notes... Many of the older men had meanwhile opened their boxes of ceremonial feathers and were selecting brilliant feather ruffs, which were bound to the mid-section of the longer horns... Four oldsters, with perfect rhythm and dramatic timing, paraded through the maloca, blowing the newly decorated horns, advancing and retracting with short dancing steps" (Schultes and Hofmann R625 123).
Maloca, Yurupari trumpets and uterine yaje urn (Reichel-Dolmatoff R570)
The initiates are deemed to be menstruating (Jackson R337 190). Both the maloca and the jar are symbolic of the uterus. The shamanistic descent is a return to the uterine state at the beginning of existence.
Younger men were beginning the first of the savage whippings, and the master of ceremonies appeared with the red, curiously shaped clay jar containing the Yaje. The thick, brown, bitter liquid was served in pairs of tiny, round gourds; many drinkers promptly vomited ... Whipping proceeded by pairs. The first lashes were applied to the legs and ankles, the whip flung far back in a deliberately calculated dramatic gesture; the blows resounded like pistol shots. Places were immediately exchanged. Soon the whips were being freely applied, and all the younger men were laced with bloody welts on all parts of the body. ... About a dozen of the older men were outfitting themselves with their finest diadems of resplendent guacamayo feathers, tall, feathery egret plumes, oval pieces of the russet skin of the howler monkey, armadillo-hide disks, prized loops of monkey-hair cord, precious quartzite cylinders, and jaguar-tooth belts. The men formed a swaying, dancing semi-circle, each with his right hand resting on his neighbor's shoulder, all shifting and stamping in slow unison. Leading he group was the ancient payé, blowing Tobacco smoke in benediction on his companions from the huge cigar in its engraved ceremonial fork, while his long, polished rattle-lance vibrated constantly. The dignified ceremonial chant was intoned by the group; their deep voices rose and fell, mingling with the mysterious booming tones of the Yurupari horns (Schultes and Hoffman R625).
The Tukano believe that when, at the time of creation, humans arrived to populate the Vaupes, many extraordinary happenings took place. People had to endure hardship before settling the new regions. Hideous snakes and dangerous fish lived in the rivers; there were spirits with cannibalistic proclivities; and the Tukano received in trepidation the basic elements of their culture. There lived among these carly Tukano a woman; the first woman of creation, who 'drowned' men in visions. Tukanoans believe that during coitus, a man 'drowns' - the equivalent of seeing visions.
In the beginning of time, when the Anaconda-Canoe was ascending the rivers to settle mankind all over the land, there appeared the Yaje Woman mother of the Yaje vine:
"The canoe had arrived at the House of the Waters, and the men were sitting in the first maloca when the Yaje Woman arrived. She stood in front of the maloca, and there she gave birth to her child; The Yaje Woman took a plant and cleaned herself and the child. This is a plant the leaves of which are red as blood on the underside and so was the long umbilical cord. It was red and yellow and white, shining brightly"(Halifax R280 224-6).
"Inside the maloca the men were sitting, the ancestors of mankind, the ancestors of all Tukano groups. To each one the yaje vine was to be given, and they had gathered to receive it. Then the woman walked toward the maloca where the men were sitting and entered through the door, with the child in her arms. When the men saw the woman with her child they became benumbed and bewildered. It was as if they were drowning as they watched the woman and her child. She walked to the center of the maloca and, standing there, she asked: 'Who is the father of this child?' The men were sitting, and they felt nauseated and benumbed; they could not think anymore. The monkeys too could not stand the sight either. They began to eat their tails. The tapirs, too, were eating their tails which, at that time, were quite long and the squirrels, too. There was a man sitting in a corner and saliva was dripping from his mouth. He rose and, seizing the child's right leg, he said: 'I am his father!' 'No!' said another man; 'I am his father!' 'No!' said the others; 'We are the child's fathers!' And then all the men turned upon the child and tore it to pieces. They tore off the umbilical cord and the fingers, the arms, and the legs. They tore the child to bits. Each one took a part, the part that corresponds to him, to his people. And ever since each group of men has had its own kind of Yaje. The Yaje woman became pregnant from the old man, the Sun Father; he was the phallus. She looked at him and from his appearance, from the way he looked, the seed was made because he was the Yaje Person. The Sun Father was the Master of Yaje, the master of the sex act. In the House of the Waters, by looking at the Sun Father she became impregnated through the eye."
"The Yaje Woman had come with the men. While the men were preparing cashiri the Yaje-woman left the maloca and gave birth to the Yaje vine in the form of a child. It was night. The men were trying to find a way to get drunk. The animals that were eating their tails were cohabiting because they had become intoxicated. The Yaje should have produced only pleasant visions, but some became nauseated and so they rejected it. The woman had walked to the center of the maloca. There was a box of feather headdresses; and there was a hearth. When she walked in, only one of the men had kept a clear head and had not become dizzy. The men were drinking when she had her child, and at once they became dizzy. First they became dizzy; then came the red light and they saw red colors, the blood of childbirth. Then she entered with her child, and when she stepped through the door they all lost their senses. Only one of them resisted and took hold of the first branch of Yaje. It was then that our ancestor acted like a thief; he took off one of his copper earrings and broke it in half, and with the sharp edge he cut the umbilical cord. He cut off a large piece. This is why Yaje comes in the shape of a vine. They all tore off bits and pieces of the child. The other men had already taken their parts of the child's body when at last our ancestor, bmika, took the part corresponding to him. Our ancestor did not know how to take advantage of Yaje; he became too much intoxicated."
There are many themes entwined here. Firstly an admission that the agent of the male vision quest has been stolen from the female horticulturists. The blood of birth is intermingled with the blood of death. The tradition is founded on murder of the child as well as vegetative propagation and this murder comes from male conflicts over paternity. Finally the visionary experience is also sexual merging and has become a representation of coitus and the power of women as mortal danger, which is however at once the goal and final destination of the mystical and supernatural quest.
The impregnation of the Yaje woman is also central in the falling out between the sexes at the cosmic origin. This is another version of the creation myth in which incest and female lust conspire to cause a primal schism associated with menstruation and incest and their taboos. The sun and moon are brothers and the sun first issues three principles, that of order of the day, that of corporeality and bodily health, and centrally that of hallucinogenic powder. But the daughter of the sun scratched is penis and found that powder epena snuff which is thus called 'the semen of the sun' (Reichel-Dolmatoff R569 28):
"The Daughter of the Sun had not yet reached puberty when her father made love to her. The Sun committed incest with her at Wainambi Rapids, and her blood flowed forth; since then, women must lose blood every month in remembrance of the incest of the Sun and so that this great wickedness will not be forgotten. But his daughter liked it and so she lived with her father as if she were his wife. She thought about sex so much that she became thin and ugly and lifeless. Newly married couples become pale and thin because they only think of the sexual act, and this is called gamuri. But when the Daughter of the Sun had her second menstruation, the sex act did harm to her and she did not want to eat anymore. ... When the Sun saw this, he decided to make the invocation that is made when the girls reach puberty. The Sun smoked tobacco and revived her. Thus, the Sun in his remorse established customs and invocations that are still performed when young girls have their first menstruation" and the rules of exogamy. Relaters of this tale state that the daughter was the instigator of this incest by being too 'frolicsome'."
Tukano ayahuasca ritual at which both sexes are present (McKenna R460)
The incest of the Sun and his daughter/wife, who may be identified with Venus, is complemented by the saga of the Moon. In various twists to the tale, the Moon became jealous of the Sun's wife and tried to abduct her. The Sun and Moon danced and the Sun took the Moon's crown leaving only a single silver feather and copper earrings causing him to be diminished (R569 24). It is also said that the Moon cried for three nights and hid when the act of incest took place, and when he shows his full face the spots of blood of the Daughter of the Sun are seen upon it (R569 60). The moon is nyambi abe - the nocturnal sun a negative, evil part, associated with illegal love rather than legitimate affection, and since then has continued to be a seducer and nocturnal adulterer - since he showed no remorse when he abducted the Daughter of the Sun. Consequently an eclipse of the Sun by its dark brother is fearful, but an eclipse of the moon is a lucky night for provocative action. He descends in the night to cohabit with (the Tukano word is the same as to 'eat') women in their sleep and in their nightmares to incite them to sexuality and adultery. He is even believed to frequent cemeteries in acts of necrophilia. However he is also associated the dew which is his saliva a seminal fluid which fertilizes nature and beneficially influences the gestation of women who are pregnant. In the nights of the full moon these women will sit talking outside of the maloca, receiving the fecund power that emanates from the lunar rays (R569 72).
The Tukano know that only by a mixture of semen and the woman's secretions can an embryo be created, but they believe the quantity of semen is very small, requiring several copulations to achieve fertilization. It is considered proof of this that children are said to be more like their mothers (R569 73) an example of partible paternity.
The Tukano have ceased warfare for at least fifty years and have resolved the incessant round of male violence by developing ideas of 'closing the circuit of exchange' through exogamic and reciprocity which extends to language group exogamy where husband and wife do not speak the same language. Marriage is achieved by the careful exchange of daughters between groups. This is a close variant of the kinship pattern we have noted in the Yanomamo and indeed cross-cousin marriages are preferred.
Almost all marriages are monogamous and polygamy is reduced to about one percent confined to headmen and regarded as somewhat selfish because it deprives another man of a tradeable wife (Jackson R337 130). The monogamous trend is possibly partly due to the influence of Christian missionaries as we shall note about the Shipibo. Monogamy has the effect of reducing female scarcity and male friction, but finding a wife is a complex intersocial exchange which ideally involves 'pair marriages' by exchanging women preferably sisters of the respective husbands, but it may involve owing another group or trading an under-age girl, because of imbalances in the number of young females. People say pair marriages are more stable because each depends on the stability of the other and sisters may be called back if one of the liaisons breaks down. Possessions cannot be substituted for a deficit in traded females, so the debt has to ultimately be repaid in like kind. Like the Jivaro, human activities are assigned a sexual nature and are for example forbidden to cook their own food as this is a female activity. On the social plane men are identified as hunters and women horticulturists. Following a classic division Jean Jackson (R337 190), consistent with Sherry Ortner (R517) (p 145), says Tukanoan society defines the men as more 'cultural' and the women more 'natural'. Only men are thought of as true spiritual beings.
Regardless of who is responsible for beginning a flirtation the least disruptive view is that the outsider women are the troublemakers. Male solidarity must be maintained and a rift between brothers is a serious matter. Themes of women being sexually provocative, demanding or even voracious appear and reappear in the myths. To be seductive a woman must make an overture, not just 'look' sexually inviting. Mock abductions still occur in the form of elopements with ritual parrying exchanges between the groups.
Consistent with the pattern of sexual segregation, in public spouses almost never show affection, not even touching one another, except when joking or grooming or administering healing. They play down any highly charged emotional encounters and politeness prevails to keep the collective peace. This can make it easier for newly weds to accustom themselves to their new environment. When problems do surface a new bride finds herself more powerless than she ever will be again. Nevertheless the women do form strong bonds together, sharing the same dilemmas and vulnerabilities - a coalition of exogamous females in the 'affine' patrilineal kinship group.
Male sexual activity is linked to a general loss of male potency and purity. The themes of woman as outsider and polluter are pertinent to this, as is the overall theme of potential danger resulting from excessive contact with women regardless of the activity. There is a story about the Yurupari horns that shows that males view their sexuality as essential to break up the solidarity of the females and to separate and continue the generations:
"The women who were not as lazy as the men, got up before dawn to bath and being clever obtained the horns and hid them in their bodies, first in the arm bone then the vagina. The women grew very strong and refused to have sexual relations or bear children. The men, realizing the people would cease to exist consulted a shaman, who managed to find a trick to recover the horns. Since then men get up before dawn to bathe and the women cannot see the horns for they would fall sick and die" (Jackson R337 188).
Even when female power is seen as neutral or good, it still must be supervised by men. Even mothers milk must be made safe by the shaman before being fed to babies. Couvade or sympathetic pregnancy likewise instills in the male a compensation for the uninterrupted continuity of conception and birth for the female which is punctuated by the male life-giving semen, 'soul stuff' and names.
The cultural focus of the Desana is the hunt, and as hunters they live in close contact with their natural environment and seek to restrain the tendency to overexploit it. The principle underlying this interdependence is the concept of the great circuit. There is only one Creation, only one potential of energy in which all participate, both men and animals, society and nature. The hunter needs animals to be able to live and to procreate new generations and must, therefore, foster the increase of the species. The game animals, on the other hand, according to the Desana, acknowledge the interest of the hunter in their increase and thus become his dependents. But at the same time they fear that human sexuality, which always diminishes the total potential, may set a limit to their own powers of procreation. The sexual act executed freely leads to multiplication; repressed, it leads to the restriction of the species. Only its selective control, by man, establishes a balance and guarantees survival.
When an animal is killed, the energy of the local fauna is displaced into the field of society. This must eventually be replaced by masculine energy called tulari. Anything perceived as having force, power, and impulse is tulari. Anything that attracts or is a recipient is boga. Hunters represent tulari and animals boga. Hunting is a courtship and a sexual act, which must be prepared for with great care. The verb to hunt translated means 'to make love to the animals.' It is said that 'to kill is to cohabit.' The hunter must make himself sexually attractive to the animals. One of the principle conditions in preparing for the hunt is sexual abstinence because, in the words of a Desana male, 'The animals are jealous.'
The central preoccupation of Desana religious thinking is thus the control of human and animal fertility. It is not sex in its carnal, erotic meaning that preoccupies them but the simple fact of male fertilizing power that acts upon female principle and thus creates a new being. Sexuality is thus the most simple expression of an economic principle.
Over time there has been a growing scarcity of game and an increase in the female sphere of horticulture (to supply other groups). This means to men that male energy is being depleted and causes them to become anxious about their sexual and procreative powers. Sexual repression is one means by which men seek to restore these powers to original levels, as well as excluding women from male ritual equipment and certain ritual activities. By so doing, men ensure that human female energy (boga) will not contaminate male energy (tulari) needed for success in hunting. This causes psychological problems, expressed 'in the high incidence of homosexuality' and 'acts of aggression'. Men order women around, occasionally subject them to sexual assaults, and exclude them from the ritual activities.
The Desana insist that they are hunters but meat furnishes only a small proportion of the total daily food supply They say that many of the plants grown by them were introduced in recent times. They fish, but this activity also seems to be an introduction from other groups. They illustrate cultural and demographic effects of a dependence on hunting in an area where hunting is neither profitable nor easy which causes stress and instability.
The Creation of the Universe was the primordial fertilizing act that established the great model for the continuity of life thus created. But Creation, for the Desana, resulted in essentially two beings, man and animals, the hunter and his prey. Since then, the fertility and fecundity of both have been the great framework within which existence and life are developed. Outside of this framework, there is no possible place for the Desana (Reichel-Dolmatoff R569 97, Sanday R609 191).
However although the relations between the sexes are segregated and opposed, they are still understood as completing between them the potential for the continuity of existence of the people as family and kin, which is the prime motive for all cultural activity.
Mundurucu: Stealing the Women's Trumpets
An explanation for the hiding of the Yurupari trumpets is suggested by the story of he Mundurucu, another tribe in the Eastern Amazon. Women originally found the sacred trumpets, after hearing them by a lake, and catching the fish who were their guardians, using a soporific nut. The women gained ascendancy over the men and the sex roles were reversed, with the exception that women could not hunt. During that time women were the sexual aggressors and men were sexually submissive and did women's work. Women controlled the "sacred trumpets" (symbols of power) and the men's houses. The trumpets contained the spirits of the ancestors. The brother of the women who found the trumpets complained that the ancestors insisted ritual offerings of meat. The men demanded the trumpets. At first the women marched round the village playing the trumpets and insisted the men went into the dwelling houses but the men agreed to go for one night only. The women entered the men's house and forced the men to return with them to make love all night so they became slippery. In the morning the men stole the trumpets. Since women did not hunt and could not make these offerings, men were able to take the trumpets from them.
The trumpets are long, hollow tubes in which the ancestral spirits are believed to dwell, "just as the real cavities of women contain the regenerative potential of the people and the clans." The sacred trumpets have a wide mouth, and on certain ritual occasions a gourd of meat is placed before the mouth of each instrument, a symbolic offering of food to the totemic ancestors who are contained within. In the mouth of the trumpets there are two strips of the wet and pliant root of the paxiuba palm, placed side by side and bound together near each end. Blowing through the mouth causes the halves of the unbound middle section to vibrate, making a deep, rather mournful-sounding note. It is believed that the ancestral spirits are pleased by the playing of the trumpets, as they are by being fed meat after a successful hunt. Feeding the spirits and playing the trumpets is a form of fertilization; it pleases the spirits and the game increases. The pliant, wet opening of the mouth of the trumpets and the internal cavity containing the ancestral spirits suggests vaginal and uterine symbolism. By taking the trumpets, men symbolically seize ownership and control of female generative capacities. The trumpets are secured in special chambers within the men's houses and no woman can see them, under penalty of gang rape (Sanday R609 39, Murphy and Murphy R495).
In order to please the trumpet spirits, men bring back heads of non-Mundurucu they have taken in warfare. Men also seek enemy trophy heads to offer to the spirit mothers of animals, who must continually be propitiated to ensure success in hunting. Trophy heads are believed to charm the spirit mothers into improving the supply and availability of game. Just as men once gained control from women by robbing them of the sacred trumpets, men attempt to gain power over the spirit mothers. This can only be done by shamans, men believed to have special powers to contact the supernatural world. The shaman acquires power over the spirit mothers by killing certain animals when they are pregnant and extracting the fetus. But the spirit mothers also have power over the shaman: If he is not careful to observe certain rituals, they can turn the shaman into an animal (Sanday R609 39).
The men sleep in a men's house and the and the women and children in the village dwellings and men relate to men and women to women in a sexual division. Females are excluded from all formal leadership and religious positions. Fear of women dominates their male dominant myths. The Mundurucu believe that women's vaginas were originally shaped from the creator hero's clay models by bestiality in sexual intercourse with animals. A Mundurucu male who sees a woman sitting with her legs apart will call out that his mouth is open. The armadillo-trickster is said to have smeared rotten Brazil nuts on them to give the vagina its 'bad smell' (Sanday R609, Murphy and Murphy R495).
The Mundurucu are patrilineal but they are matrilocal, so a woman is likely to be living with maternal relatives. This gives the women a great deal more practical autonomy and their own sphere of existence. This means that although the men dominate the women in leadership and myth, much of the life goes on around the homes frequented by women, children and male family relatives. Some men keep an extra hammock in the dwelling house to lounge in during their visits, but they sleep in the house only when ill or they need the care of their wives. The solidarity of the mother-daughter and sister-sister extends to a union of all the women of the household and ultimately the village. Most work is done by the women in companionship, or cooperation with other women.
Talk among the women continues whenever they are together. They gossip about the men and one another. The women exchange notes about the sexual escapades of others, or their laziness. A woman who has loose sexual morals becomes a butt of gossip, partly because she breaches the moral solidarity of the females as a group and invites the intervention of the men who may stage a gang rape which is an assault on the women as a whole, however a woman who engages only in occasional dalliance and protests seduction suffers only female gossip. If a woman even looks at a man directly or sits with her legs apart it is a blatant invitation to sex. Thus women and men do not touch and women keep a contained distance from contact with men folk. They consider a woman who is promiscuous has been the victim of male witchcraft, but if all cures fail, gang rape ensues. Up to twenty men from the village drag her out to the fields and violate her because she has threatened their sexual superiority (Murphy and Murphy). A woman who goes alone out of the village is always considered to be heading for a tryst and even if she is not, any male has the right to accost her and demand that she have intercourse. Women always travel together to avoid being sexually assaulted.
Antagonisms between the sexes are very real and evident, ritualized by the men and verbalized by the women. Women say a man mever comes home except for water and sex. The women dislike gang rapes however rare and the separation of the men in the men's house instead of a family unit. They complain that the men are lazy. The men are regarded as exploitative and dominant but not superior. Men give little help with infants but take a measured interest in children once they can walk. However there are few physical attacks, between men or against women, even in cases of perceived adultery.
Marriage is a simple practical affair generally preceded by a relationship. Its primary evidence is bringing the days hunting kill to the bride. Polygyny is no longer accepted. It is vehemently opposed by the women who refuse to cohabit with another 'wife'. Divorce and death is frequent and most married people have had several previous partners, thus practising a form of serial monogamy. There is a lot of passion and little trust in the early phases of marriage. Some sexual mistrust continues even in established relationships. Women complain that they are kept pregnant at the behest of the men or that they are lazy. The primary loyalty of the women lies with her female house mates and not her husband.
Sex is not restricted to the house and hammock and couples go into the forest to secluded grassy areas to have sex. Intercourse is customarily in the missionary position. Orgasm is sometimes reached by women, but mostly only by the man. There is little foreplay and sexual encounters are brief in consummation. The woman usually derives far less satisfaction, but she knows sex is the means to get and hold onto a husband. Although opportunities are restricted, most men and women occasionally have adulterous relationships, men for variety adventure and sexual gratification, women for complex reasons including revenge for male adultery. Infanticide is infrequent but common enough to affect population size.
Ache: Dimensions of Partible Paternity
A fascinating perspective on the extent and nature of affairs and sexual intrigue in such societies is given by the Ache, who live in eastern Paraguay, in the southwestern part of the Brazilian highlands. As in many tribes, including the Mundurucu and Yanomamo, the Ache believe fetuses are a composite product of several different men with whom the mother had sexual relations - that a baby is sired by more than one man, a biological fiction anthropologists refer to as 'partible paternity.' That is, fetuses are thought to be built up over time, like the luster on pearls, by repeated applications of semen. This both makes affairs less of an immediate threat to the husband who is regularly with his wife and leads to significant ambiguities and multiple paternity.
All Ache groups in recent times have been gatherer-hunters. Apparently, for the last four hundred years they have engaged only in hostile interactions with outsiders and have not traded, visited, or intermarried with the other nearby populations. Only four Ache groups numbering about 600 existed in the nineteen seventies when they made permanent contact with outsiders and became 'civilized'. In their traditional gatherer-hunter mode, they live in small bands of fifteen to seventy individuals, moving throughout the forest. Bands comprise closely related kin and some long-term friends. Large sibling groups of both sexes tend to remain together along with additional kin. Men spend almost fifty hours per week getting food. They hunt peccaries, tapir, deer, pacas, agoutis, armadillos, capuchin monkeys, capybara, and coatis; they collect honey, which accounts for 87 percent of the calories in the Ache diet. Men often hunt in ways that look inefficient from standard optimal foraging perspectives, but in fact such men seem to be pursuing a high-risk, high-gain, show-off strategy that may often fail but can produce big, flashy hunting successes - and, with success, more sexual access to women. Women spend about two hours a day gathering; they collect fruits and insect larvae, as well as extract the fiber from palm trees. Women also carry the family's children, pets, and possessions. Their care of children and possessions constrains their ability to forage. Men may travel with the women's group, but more often they set off in small groups to search for game, spending about seven hours per day hunting. In the late afternoon, families gather and prepare food. Hunters rarely eat from their own kills, and much food is shared, leading early observers to argue that the society was completely egalitarian. While meat is apparently shared evenly under most circumstances, honey and gathered items are not. Further, when a man dies, his young dependent children are far more likely to die than if he had lived. While reciprocal sharing of meat is ordinary, when a man has died reciprocity can no longer be extended, so meat is no longer shared with the widow and children. The Ache are polygynous, and during young adulthood they may switch spouses frequently. This pattern seems to have changed little after contact with Europeans. After marriage, residence is typically matrilocal. Many children have multiple recognized fathers. Reproductive success is difficult to measure under such circumstances, but despite the fact that the Ache have little in the way of heritable wealth (which in so many societies correlates with reproductive success for men), status matters: the best hunters have the greatest reproductive success (Low R427 223).
An Ache woman rests during early stages of labor (Hrdy R330 248).
Ache men would donate any spare meat they had to women they wanted to have sex with. They were not doing so in the hope of helping to feed children they had already fathered but as direct payment for an affair. It was not easy to discover. Kim Hill (R330) found that he was gradually forced to drop questions about adultery from his studies because the Ache, under missionary influence, became increasingly squeamish about discussing the subject. The chiefs and the headmen were especially reluctant to talk about it, which is hardly surprising in view of the fact that they were the ones having the most affairs. By relying on gossip, Hill was able to piece together the pattern of adultery in the Ache. As expected he found that high-ranking men were involved most, however, unlike birds, it was not just the wives of low-ranking men who indulged. While Ache adulterers were frequently plying their mistresses with gifts of meat, Ache women were in turn constantly preparing for the possibility that they would be deserted by their husbands; and establishing alternative relationships through affairs. They are more likely to be unfaithful if the marriage is going badly. That is, of course, a double-edged sword: the marriage could break up if the affair is discovered. Hill and others believe that adultery has been much under-emphasized as an influence in the evolution of the human mating system.
When Kim Hill asked the Ache who their fathers were, he found he needed to expand his terminology - 321 Ache listed a total of 632 fathers - an average of almost two "fathers" each. Hence the Ache have a word, miare, for "the father who put it in"; peroare, for "the men who mixed it"; momboare, for "the ones who spilled it out"; and bykuare, for "the fathers who provided the child's essence." Men who provided the mother with meat while the baby was forming are seen as especially likely to have given the child its essence. In addition to the mother's husband, who is the socially designated father, a baby can be born with additional, secondary, fathers, who share some obligation to support this child as he or she matures. All men with whom a woman had sex when she became pregnant, and including the period just prior to when she was detectably pregnant, are expected to provide food for her child. This is a slightly different way of thinking about why the best hunters might get the most lovers. Are they out-competing other men for reproductive success, or incurring more obligations? Probably both. Among the Ache, Hill observed that children with just one father received less help, but when a mother lined up too many fathers, the extreme uncertainty of paternity dissuaded all candidates from helping. Children identified as having one primary and one secondary father had the best survival rates Are husbands jealous? Among the Ache, men deny it, but then later beat their wives. Not surprisingly, Ache mothers try to convince possible fathers that the club is more exclusive than it really is. (Hrdy R330 246)
When a man dies his small children are likely to die: since he can no longer share, other men do not share with his widow and children (Low R427 81). An infant who lost his father was four times more likely to die before the age of two. Even if the father was still alive, Ache children whose parents divorced were three times more likely to be killed than if the marriage endured. When a widowed or abandoned mother takes a new mate, risks to her infants shoot up. Terrible prospects are one reason why some foraging peoples bury orphans alive along with the deceased parent. Mothers themselves sometimes kill fatherless infants after a conscious evaluation of what the future holds (Hrdy R330 236).
Canela: Matrilocal Promiscuity
The Canela of the Eastern Amazon are matrilocal and matrilineal at least over several generations and "have taken the 'touch of polyandry' that crops up so often in the mating behavior of other primates, justified and legitimized it through ideology and magnified its significance many times over through ritual" (Hrdy R330 249)
William Crocker (R139) gives a startling portrayal of Canela relationships. Sexual relations in both boys and girls usually begin as young as possible. A boy is initiated into sexual relations by an experienced woman in her late teens; formerly, he was then ordered by his "grandfathers" to have sex only with older women in their forties and fifties for several years. When a young male takes a girl's virginity, he has the choice of staying "married" to her ("they lie down") or of withdrawing from the relationship, after which his kin must pay a significant fine ("his-having-broken-in payment"). Every effort is made (largely exhortation by his kin and the elders) to keep a couple together, and the girl's family "buys" the young husband by means of a large meat pie ceremonially delivered to his family house late in the afternoon. Today meat pies increasingly are exchanged between both families.
Crocker and Crocker (R140 33) note that boys and girls are segregated at ages 6 to 7. At ages 6 to 14, a girl "is appointed to be a girl associate of a male society for one or a number of successive years. At one or more ceremonial points in the festival, beginning in her early teens, she has sexual relations with the society's members, teaching her that one of her roles in mature Canela life is to keep non-related males sexually satisfied." At age 11-13, "[a] girl's genitals [are] formally inspected by a disciplinary aunt to see if she had lost her virginity. If she had, the name of the male was demanded (Girls are no longer inspected)". After she has graduated as a girl associate, she is secluded under [postpubertal] food and sex restriction. At age 13 to 16, she presents food to her mother-in-law provided by her lover in return for sex with him. The period 13-18 is considered a time for sexual liaisons and few social responsibilities. The average age of first conception is 15. Formerly, girls were engaged to be married when they were 4 or 5 to young men 12 to 15 years older. Now, courtship takes place, and marriage is equated with defloration. "Girls almost always have intercourse before they menstruate, so their experience reinforces the Canela theory that sexual intercourse is the cause of menstruation. Ideally a girl has first intercourse with a young man in his late teens or 20s who has no children of his own".
Families often arranged engagements between children, a practice that is both old and current, but individual preferences prevail later. Just prior to and after puberty these engagements could be broken if the boy's kin made a small payment for his release. In a traditional Canela marriage ceremony, the bride and groom lie down on a mat, arms under each other's heads, legs entwined. The brother of each partner's mother then comes forward. He admonishes the bride and her new husband to stay together until the last child is grown, specifically reminding them not to be jealous of each other's lovers.
Until the birth of a child, young couples did not live in the same house. Although they were "married," young people were supposed to have sexual relations only very infrequently with persons of their own generation (including their spouses). Thus, a young man would only occasionally cohabit with his wife, and then usually just at night, on a platform bed raised high under the rafters for this purpose in her house. He returned to the plaza before the early morning dance. Nevertheless, the Canela do call these liaisons "marriages."
During this early childless stage, before the girl has given a whole deer to her mother-in-law and had her ceremonial belt and body painted red with urucu in return, the public aspects of her extramarital activities are restricted. After the belt-painting ceremony, however, which amounts to her husband's family's more complete acceptance of her, she is expected to be assigned as a girl associate to accompany male groups for the purposes of group sex. Her husband must not be jealous, though he increasingly objects these days, and maybe always did even in aboriginal times. Between the painting of her belt and childbirth, she is classed as a slippery, free person who must please most men with her sexual favors. If she does not, a group of men may waylay her to teach her to be generous.
Women may have great sexual flings between the belt-painting ceremony and the birth of their first child, but later they become embedded in the female matrix of domestic life. Hrdy (R330 247) notes: "in what may be one of the more extreme cases on record, unusual for hominids, ritual sex with twenty or more men during all-community ceremonies left some Canela mothers with an 'array' of candidates for fatherhood ... it is scarcely surprising that just as soon as she suspects she is pregnant, a Canela woman ... attempts to seduce the tribe's best hunters and fishermen". Between virginity loss and belt painting, and from the belt ceremony to conception —a girl might be "married" more than once. With conception and the survival of a child, however, divorce is almost impossible. There are numerous separations, however, some lasting as long as a year. This is remarkable, since matrilocal tribes are noted for their relatively high frequency of divorce.
The Canela marry persons they consider to be "non-related", where the genealogical relationship has been lost: forgotten or very attenuated by social or spatial distance. They also sometimes "commit incest" with relatives as close as third or second cross-cousins. First cross-cousin sexual relationships and marriages, which occur very rarely, are held to be shameful and life shortening. Uterine sibling sexual contacts are thought to cause madness or death. Quite clearly, there are no prescriptive or preferential marriage rules, nor do formal or statistically related alliances exist. The sororate is practiced only occasionally but nevertheless is theoretically favored whereas the levirate is not. Brothers do not marry into the same matrilocal family.
The main point of friction in the Canela sociocultural system is nevertheless between husband and wife. Tribal schisms, while rare, do occur, and political rivalries between age class leaders are relatively mild and suppressed by the high cohesiveness of the social structure and the great emphasis on generosity of spirit. Non-competitiveness and overt cooperation rather than a show of hostility are traits that are considered manly. "Women, animals and local Brazilians fight," the Canela say, "but Canela men bear up under problems and adversity." At least 80% of the cases coming before the tribal council involve marital disputes.
Survival of the mother's children takes priority over a man's exclusive sexual access to his wife. Traditionally couples with children, that is most of the adult population, would seldom part because of adultery. A man might come upon a man having relations with his wife on their platform bed, but even such a disrespectful act (especially on the part of his wife) would not be grounds for fighting, let alone divorce. Nevertheless, it would be sufficient reason for a payment between the two extended families to alleviate the husband's shame.
Canelas can however divorce and remarry if they are not raising children born to them. There are numerous other childless couples, however, who remain married for a lifetime, although a few separate over infertility. It is likely overall that formerly, men were married to women about ten years their junior. Many couples display great love and devotion to each other. After years of sexual intercourse, it is believed that a couple's blood has become interchanged. It was agreed that this mingling was enough to require the illness taboos to be maintained between the couple, as among uterine siblings, but that spouses were not considered to be of the same 'blood group'.
Only a man's departures are restrained by fines. In contrast, if a woman absolutely does not want a man, he must leave, even if they were married for some time and she had children by him. Whereas a husband can be coerced by pressure from his kin, his age class, the council of elders, and the ignominy of fines, a wife cannot be forced to change her mind through such pressures once she has taken a determined stand. Husbands can be controlled, reasoned with, and restrained. Wives, in contrast, are the immovable solid blocks of society. A man has very little influence in his marital home and in the disciplining of his children. His wife's actual and classificatory brothers and mother's brothers were responsible for counseling and ceremonial purposes and took a hand in controlling the children.
Matrilocal residence and the dominance of their ubiquitous female kin hold women strongly in place. Additionally, there used to be occasional visits from special patrilateral male and female counselors to pressure them into conformity. Fear of vicious female gossip and, formerly, the danger of illness and death through witchcraft, motivated women to be reasonably cooperative and generous. Thus in marked contrast to men, women find their security in the permanence and continuity of generations of strongly maintained social and ceremonial positions. Women are so secure that they can afford to be irritable, changeable, and demanding, while their husbands must put up with such treatment.
Maritally, women are seen as suffering more: possible physical damage in losing virginity and in childbirth, strenuous work when carrying wood and hauling water, and lack of mobility while raising children and maintaining a household for their husbands. Consequently, the husband is continually rebalancing the marital "scales" by working hard and making small payments to his wife's family. In modern times, however, the balance is changing, because the husband, as a son-in-law, is becoming freer — released from the ancient social pressures that forced him to stay with his wife's family for the sake of the children. He is now becoming a great asset because of his ability to contribute economically (sometimes becoming literate and obtaining odd jobs) to the increasingly important family group.
The old-timers pointed out that the ancestors were fierce . It was not that the men fought each other all the time but that they recognized a "pecking order" based on a combination of tribal authoritative power and fighting ability. There were continual showdowns between men but only rarely open hostilities, because internal harmony was most highly prized. There were stories of fierce men pulling weaker ones away from women in the very act of sexual intercourse and simply taking over. Any ensuing hostilities would then be frustrated by other nearby men, and continuing hatreds, pouting, and revenge were very much counseled against and lost in the all-consuming activities of age class life.
We cannot leave this arena of warrior culture without noticing the incidence of female 'subincision' practised by tribes such as the Shipibo, Conibo and Amahuaca. Although said to be 'matriarchal' with women being involved prominently in the cultural crafts trade, the Shipibo traditionally practice clitoridectomy. Female circumcision from any point of view is a means of keeping women in check, it deprives them from pleasure during sex and hence interest in taking lovers. Their bodies do not, in effect, belong to them, but to their husbands. As usual, with African female genital mutilation, women are centrally involved.
The Shipibo girls' initiation involves clitorectomy. This is somewhat of a paradox because of the reported matriarchal aspects to Shipibo culture although they are patrilocal.
Singing is essential to several parts of the ceremony. Several thigh-supports are made of light balsa wood. These are hollowed out of the half-cylinders cut from a single log. It is essential that the men sing well while performing this task. During their songs the male carvers carry the thigh-supports on their shoulders. These men then carry the balsa wood to their wives so that the women can decorate them with special designs. After painting the designs, the women place the thigh supports on their shoulders 'singing, they then dance a ronda among themselves, forming a circle and holding hands.' The women continue drinking and singing while they dance in a circle on the plaza. With song and drink they invite the guests to the feast. In company with these dancing and drinking female singers, the girl's mother seeks out two helpers who will hold the girl during her operation. Next they go in search of a woman expert in cutting the clitoris. They invite the woman by playing on a long bamboo flute called the tiati. The husbands of the women who do the cutting are summoned with a different musical instrument. These are big two-toned signal gongs. When guests arrive for the feast, they arrive at the canoe landing blowing on their own bamboo flutes. A vigil of drinking precedes the day of the cutting. During that night the girl is encouraged to drink herself into a stupor. Special designs are painted all over her body and face. The women painting the girl with these designs must sing. In the meantime, all the guests perform a circular dance and sing the whole night through. On the day of the cutting music is a primary concern for the Shipibo. ... the girl is decorated with all her ornaments... she is also hung with trade bells, 'the seed that sings' in Shipibo. Their tinkling sound is characteristic of the ceremony, and mothers treasure the bells to hand on to their daughters. At the same time she is adorned the girl is sung beautiful puberty rite songs telling her how pretty she is and that she will be made drunk and will feel nothing ... While the girl is brought in with her two assistants, their husbands are playing music on their large bamboo flutes. The girl first dances with the husbands, then is brought to the women, who sing songs with her, then back to the men for more songs, and then finally back with the women (internet).
Significantly under Christian influence, the Shipibo have undergone a population explosion because of the repression of polygyny and its consequent sexual restrictions increased the average number of children a woman would have by an effective 1.3 (Hern R310, R311).
Penis worship in pre-Columbian pottery from Peru, Mexico and Ecuador
Warrior Peoples and the Rise of Male Dominance
The diversity of these warrior societies demonstrate several aspects of Sanday's thesis concerning the rise of patrarchy as a form of polarized response to ecological stress, including stresses caused by migrating warrior groups. They show in graphic detail how male dominance in warrior-hunter violence can lead to a break down of reproductive paradox, in which women are used as tradeable items or objects of rape, abduction and capture.
Associated with these motifs are mythologies of primal sexual conflict and origins wrought in violence, migrational instability and conquest by war. The sexual relations reflect these mythologies, in polarization, sexual dominance and attempts by men to assert control over culture and the instruments of religious power by violence and fear. They also appear to have resulted in practices of female sexual mutilation, wife abduction and patterns of homosexual activity, which themselves have intimations of power and class and the rule of power of one individual over another, be they male or female.
Melanesian cultures of New Guinea express further dimensions of such sexual distortions of dominance, arising from the tensions of warrior society. The Sambia (R449 377) practice wife abduction from neighbouring tribes and consequently there are severe tensions between men and women. The men believe they lose vital sexual energy to the women when they have sex and consequently that they have to store up additional sperminal energy before they enter marriage. They also believe a boy will not fully mature as a man, rather than a woman, who matures early and natuarlly, unless he receives sperm from older men. Boys are thus inculcated to receive as much sperm as possible in homosexual sex. Similar practices occur among the neighbouring Keraki and Kiwai (R83 297). As they mature, like the Greeks (p 204), they in turn become donors of sperm, first to younger boys, and then heterosexually in marriage. Thus the polarized heterosexual tension can be expressed in a two-phase dominant homosexual relationship. At another extreme, Schneebaum (R616, R617, R519) claims, the cannibalistic Amazonian Arakmbut and New Guinea Asmat live a sexually divided existence, in which men sleep together in their own long house, bonding homosexually, in contrast to the distant, unaffectionate relations between men and women.
Australian aboriginal tribes perform male subincision, which reduces the fertilty of men by allowing their sperm to emerge from the base of the penis. Micronesian and some African tribes crush one testicle. Male gential mutilation, including circumcision, appears to be a means to reduce the fertility of younger male competitors in polygynous societies.
Societies in which women are unavailable sometimes tolerate male homosexual relationships as a substitute. Australian aboriginal societies solicit boys as substitute wives for a number of years. The Nambicuarra of Brazil allow 'false love' between adolescent cross-cousins because of the unavailability of girls as prospective wives. But the adults find this a laughing matter thinking of them as infantile. Other societies such as the Nyakyusa of Tanzania allow homosexual relations between boys in adolescence but forbid them in adulthood. Of 42 world cultures, 11.9% have no knowledge of male homosexuality, 21.5% allow, or ignore it, 14.3% ridicule, or scorn, but don't punish it and 52.8% disapprove of it and take social measures against it (Broude R83 296). This demonstrates both that male homosexuality is not a cultural universal and that culture shapes same-sex relations in a variety of ways.
Moche portrayals of homosexual sodomy from Peru. The power, age and class relationships and consensuality of these sexual encounters remain unclear.
There is among warrior societies a clear pattern supporting Joan Bamberger's thesis (R40) that warrior society depends on the myth of matriarchy a previous time in which women were in control which led to chaos, social strife and a rationalization for men to seize control from women. Bamberger notes two further examples which parallel the myths of the origin of Yaje and the stealing of the Mundurucu trumpets. Father Martin Gusinde noted of the Yamana-Yaghan that women had sole power and the men did the domestic duties. The women invented the (now male) kina hut and intimidated the men by impersonating terrifying spirits until the sun man led an overthrow killing the women and transforming them into animals and taking control of the rituals for themselves (Taylor R683 137).
Likewise the Selk'nam of Amazonia claim the women once kept a lodge, initiated the girls in magic arts, and terrified the men, by bringing on sickness or death to those who displeased them. The men then killed the initiated women, waiting for the young girls to come of age, and in fear they might again band together, set up their own lodge whose purpose was to ensure the women couldn't again usurp power (Taylor R683 138).
Paradoxically however, the concept of partible paternity, with its limitations on male expectations of paternity certainty, has served to limit the capacity of men to claim sole paternity rights. This has also reinforced the capacity of the women to retain a primary sense of maternal continuity, while securing paternal support from more than one man, at the same time escaping some of the most immediate and dire consequences of sexual 'infidelity' .
The friction between matrilineal and matrilocal motifs and those of patriarchy, and their capacity to lead to a variety of cultural, sexual, marital, and parenting patterns are also evident and form a counterfoil for examining the rise of militarized cultures, which we shall examine next in the rise of urban societies central to the emergence of our major world 'civilizations' from Sumeria to the present day.