Spirit of the Rainforest: a yanomamo shaman's story Paperback – Aug 1 2000
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shamans caught lying about Jesus. The Indians know Jesus as "Yai Pada" and the Father, who they call "Yai Wana Naba Laywa". They knew of Jesus before the first white man came. The evil Spirits only wanted to lead these Indians to a life of war and revenge. Which reminds me about what Father Amorth a Catholic Exorcist wrote about these demons: "I have heard demons tell me many times that they suffer more during exorcisms than in hell. When I ask "Why don't you go to hell, then?" they answer, "Because we are only interested in making this person suffer."
Jungleman the Shaman wrote: "I wish I had known the truth about Yai Wana Naba Laywa when I was a young man--it would have saved me so much pain and misery. But how could I? My spirits lied so much to me and tricked me. They were so beautiful, so wonderful, so hard not to want. They were the best at telling me split-truth. Now I'm at the end of this life, and I'm ready to begin my real life with Yai Pada."
Jungleman, the omniscient narrator, tells how the Yanomamo Indians lived and suffered because of their association with bad spirits. I would describe it as a classic study in anthropology, not necessarily meant to be of any significant religious importance, but full of religious implication nevertheless.
The Yanomamo had always known of the Great Spirit, who made all spirits, but believed that he was too dangerous to approach. They were surprised that (A) the nabas (white men) knew of the Great Spirit and insisted that the Indians throw away their lesser spirits and let the Great Spirit in, and that only then would they be happy; and (B) that so many of the nabas, even though they knew of the Great Spirit, had not, themselves, let him in, and therefore were not happy. A few of the nabas were reasonably happy, in the knowledge of the existence of the Great Spirit, even though they had not actually let him in. But the Indians who had not let the Great Spirit in and continued their association with their lessor-mostly bad--spirits suffered (and the degree to which they suffered is the most astounding part of the book) for centuries with their eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth warrior mentality, killing their enemies, stealing and raping their women, and far worse.
Among the things that ran through my mind as I read Spirit of the Rainforest:
1. The now-extinct 15th Century pre-Columbian Arawak Indians, who associated themselves with good spirits-called Zemis--and lived in peace for 10,000 years and were happy
2. The continuing tragedy of the Israelis and Palestinians under their eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth rule
3. The teachings of Jesus
I had devoured a good chunk of the book by the time I turned on my computer and learned the terrible news from New York. I kept reading; there seemed to be a connection. The book is an absolutely mind-blower of a story, but if we were to translate the events it describes into a thesis, one sub-point of that thesis would be: "Mass murder and sincere spirituality are not mutually exclusive, by any means." As Ritchie put it, "(Ex-shaman and Yamomamo Indian Shoefoot) has no problem understanding the Columbine High School massacre or any other killing spree. The spirits of anger and hatred that own and drive a person are spirits he has known personally." It occured to me that we have the same choice as confronts the "converted" village in this book: to seek justice with mercy and caution, and danger to ourselves, or to pass on forgiveness and descend to the level of our enemies. While in Taiwan, I was asked to speak about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and found myself wishing I'd brought the book along. Jungleman puts so many things so well.
This is not a book you want to read your children to sleep by. It might not even work for your church (still less, coven) book-of-the-month club. Besides being full of violence, its message will be a challenge to skeptics and those who are attracted to the occult. But anyone who is untouched by it, by the pain, beauty, pathos, irony, and danger of being human that it reveals, of living in a spiritual jungle as responsible beings, must have a heart of stone.Read more ›
On Shagnon's bragging that he dissuaded a shaman from listening to a priests words Ritchie writes, "It is an interesting question whether a missionary is guilty of mind manipulation when he tells an ignorant savage that an all powerful being will destroy his world with fire.... The missionary would respond that the savage in question is far from ignorant. The shamans say that they had no need of missionaries to inform them of the concept of hell. It was with them long before any whites came. So one could argue that a discussion between two men of spiritual interest - a missionary and a shaman - about God's intent for His creation might provide a provocative interchange. While the missionary relies on holy writ for such conclusions, one wonders on what authority an anthropologist relies when he tells the savage about the horrible fate that will befall him if he convert to Christianity."
The only downside of the book is that it is written in first-person and is somewhat disjointed, which is no suprise since the book was translated directly from the mouth of a shaman. The books style is soon gotten used to, given the shocking, intruiging stories therein.
Most recent customer reviews
Must reading for anthropologists, missionaries, new-agers, skeptics, and believers. A shaman from the Yanomamos of Amazonia speaks of his spiritual journey and his encounters with... Read morePublished on Oct. 31 2005 by L. Chen
An unbiased look at the kingdom of darkness in action thru the eyes of a shaman in the amazon.Carefully read how the people are manipulated ,taught to kill, kept in fear and... Read morePublished on Sept. 3 2001 by Lyn H. Conley
Ritchie has found a way to present the Yanomamo people as fully human. Their humor, passions, insights and strong-wills are displayed alongside the brutality of their society. Read morePublished on Sept. 25 2000 by JunkyardWisdom
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