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Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Dark Sorcery: Horrific Ritual Murders in South America

Kanaima is a form of Amazonian assault sorcery. It involves the ritual stalking, mutilation, lingering death, and consumption of human victims. It is a practice still observed among the Indians of the highlands of Guyana, Venezuela, and Brazil. Prof. Neil Whitehead, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote a book explaining the power and perseverence of kanaima violence in the modern world. David Medaris wrote a profile of Prof. Whitehead for AltWeeklies.com:

A kanaima practitioner first stalks the victim, at night or on isolated forest trails, announcing the intention to kill with a whistling noise but then waiting until the victim is deemed vulnerable, as Whitehead describes in a paper published in 2001. The initial attack is swift and incapacitating, resulting in broken fingers, dislocated shoulders and spinal injury but leaving the victim alive with the knowledge that he or she is almost certainly doomed.

The fatal attack may come months or even years later. Once again, the victim is set upon. The tongue is pierced with snake fangs to cause swelling, rendering the victim speechless and unable to eat or drink. The anal cavity is stripped out by the friction of an iguana or armadillo tail. Part of the sphincter muscle is forced out and cut off. Herbs are packed deep into the victim's rectum to induce auto-digestion, the body is rubbed with natural astringents and the victim dies a lingering death due to diarrheal dehydration...

Whatever their functions in antiquity, for example, kanaima rituals appear to have metamorphosed during 19th-century colonial encounters to become a cultural performance that was explicitly understood as a means to resist and reject the white man's materiality and spirituality
Dark Sorcery: Horrific Ritual Murders in Amazonia [AltWeeklies.com]
Dark Shamans: Kanaima and the Poetics of Violent Death [amazon.com]

related:
Becky Gates / medical aviation program in the jungles of Guyana, South America:
Emergencies, Superstition and Death -- One afternoon near the last of April... I noticed a commotion down by the river. It was a boat from San Juan bringing a critically ill patient, a young lady in her early 20's. She was unconscious (had been for almost 24 hours), burning up with fever, her eyes rolled back and her arms and legs were stiff... During that time I heard all sorts of stories about what had happened...

The villagers peeking over my shoulder shook their heads sadly. One whispered in my ear, "That's the work of Kanaima, you know!" Several others nodded in agreement. It's hard to describe Kanaima except to say it is an evil force. They tell me it is a man who can convert himself into an animal. It can go where ever it wants to by just wishing to go there. It can do terrible things to you, but you will not remember what it does to you. Shortly afterward, however, you will die a terrible death. The Amerindians, even our church members, strongly believe in it and fear it. I began to pray earnestly that God would overrule in this situation if it could bring honor and glory to His name...

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