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Etnicidad, economía y simbolismo en los Andes

Silvia Arze
Rossana Barragán
Laura Escobari
et al.

Tradicion oral

The sound of light

Speech, Script and Metaphor in the Southern Andes

Tristan Platt

Texte intégral


1This talk is part of wider study of shamanic discourse and history in the Southern Andes which has involved considering the distinctive attitudes towards writing and speaking found among the Macha of Northern Potosí who, in the strictly alphabetical sense, are today largely illiterate.

2My main purpose today is to put before you a transcription and (provisional) translation of part of séance taped in 1971. I shall analyse the way in which this text illustrates a specific approach to constructing a communicative channel between the Andean Christian divinities and their congregation, through the mediation of spirit possession and trance. I shall suggest that certain scriptural and oral metaphors, derived from the workings of the Colonial State bureaucracy, serve as a sort of template which underpins and frames even such eminently oral procedures as a shamanic session carried on in pitch darkness. Linguistic attitudes are therefore determined by the experience of colonization, and reflect the incorporation of Macha religious practices within the overarching universe of the so-lilunar Colonial State.

3In such a State, the exercise of political powers is founded on a combination of oral and written procedures. Briefly, we can observe the act of dictation of an order, decision, etc. by a State authority followed by the act of documentary writing by a scribe, notary or secretary; the diffusion of copies to subsidiary authorities and others directly concerned; the reception of the copies by subsidiary authorities with various gestures of respect and obedience (kissing them and placing them on their heads are traditional forms); and finally their communication through oral reading to those unable to read.

4Among these subsidiary authorities were the (often unofficial) local lawyers, abogados (or disdainfully tinterillos, "penpushers") who would act as legal consultants to the indian communities, representing their views and queries to the higher authority and relaying back the decisions taken, spoken, dictated and written from on high. It is, I shall argue, the Andean experience of this political and legal system, and their understanding of the workings of the post-Conquest Andean State, that provides many of the concepts and practices upon which the dramatic performance of modern shamanism is modelled and constructed.

5This, therefore, is a form of Andean shamanism marked in its inmost message by the great imperial-bureaucratic revolution introduced into European statehood by Spain’s development in the 15th and 16th centuries of the most elaborate documentary and archive-based methods of Government thitherto known in Europe. Such an interpretation should be contrasted one reported for other areas in the Andes (eg the Aymaras of La Paz, or the region Ayacucho), where the mountain spirits have been reported as non-Christian, "pure Andean" powers who can even be mobilized to express rejection and resistance to the Peruvian Nation and Catholicism. The Macha experience suggests a different attitude towards the State, involving greater acquiescence in a negotiated settlement, or "pact", with the instances of State power. Whether this is something we can attribute specifically to Bolivian Quechua speakers, or whether the model has a wider distribution, is something that requires further research.

6However, these secular-literary influences on Macha shamanism cannot be separated from the religious or scriptural, for (as is well-known) many Andean peoples perceived the colonial and early Republican States as theocratic order. The had also interpreted the Conquest in relation to their own forms of historical understanding, while at the same time recasting these in the mould of the Joachi-mite preachings of Franciscan and Augustinian friars. This meant that their understandings were indelibly marked by the European Biblical experience; indeed, there is reason to suppose that early Amerindian understandings of European alphabetic writing often saw it as the European shamanic art par excellence, analagous to the visual patterns perceived in hallucinogenic visions, captured in graphic design, and then glossed and interpreted by many Amerindian shamans.

7It is possible here to suggest a contrast between post-Hispanic Andean attitudes toward written procedures (which can also be detected in the introduction to the oral tradition of Waruchiri) and those reported from certain lowland societies. In the famous case of the Shipibo, for example, von Humboldt reported in the late 18th century seeing among them "books" of esoteric patterns derived from shamanic trance, indicating again a natural convergence between European and Amerindian approaches to divine script combined within a Western book-like integument. These books were unfortunately lost, but modern ethnographers report the same attitude underlying modern Shipibo design-patterns, and a similar assumption lies behind Reichel-Dolmatoff’s systematization of hallucinogenic trance elements ("phosphenes") among Colombian shamans. However, one important difference between the South Andean experience I shall describe and these Amazonic examples may be that the sources of shamanic writing in the Andes express the inseparability of divine Christian from secular instances of power in the South Andean perception of the Spanish and créole State.

8This paper falls into two parts. First I shall indicate the wider context from witch the transcribed text emerges, particularly concerning the significance of writing and documentary procedures in modern Macha consciousness. This will involve us in what can only be described is an anxious debate raging in Northern Potosí over historical changes to occur shortly with the arrival of the year 2000. I shall suggest that the conflation of the colonial State apparatus with sacred hierarchies of Andean Christianity can detected even in such non-alphabetical kinds of writing as those engraved by flashing lights during the miraculous hierophanies, such as are frequent today on the eve great cosmic transformation which people are expecting.

9Then I shall discuss the transcribed text of the shamanic dialogue, and point out the literary metaphors that pervade and frame it. I hope that this analysis may suggest the almost inseparable relationship between graphic inscription and oral procedures in Andean perceptions of communication and history.

1. Myth and Archive

10Let me start from a recent book by Roberto Gonzalez Echevarría, Myth and Archive: a theory of Latin American narrative (CUP 1990), which puts forward the idea of three founding myths or hegemonic discourses with which Latin American literature has been in close historical relation, and which lie at the foundations of what he calls "Latin American identity".

  • the first of these, and the most important for present purposes, constitutes for Gonzalez Echevarría the root image of Latin American narrative. This is the Archive and the dominant legal discourse of the 16th century -the "notarial arts" and the immense accumulation of documentation which gave Latin America an existence, in the contract drawn up between Columbus and the Catholic kings, before America was physically "discovered", and was thereafter multiplied in the incesssant flow of reports, visitas and relaciones, questionnaires, composiciones, mercedes, encomiendas, situaciones, etc etc.. which were housed in the vast imperial Archive at Simancas till the 18th century, when the American sections were moved to Seville.
  • the second is the scientific and positivistic discourse of the 19th century travellers and research missions (here his key text is Sarmiento’s Facundo).
  • the third is 20th century anthropology, embodied in various ethnographic journeys in search of the Other, with their tributaries in Indigenismo and the Novela de la Tierra.

11The key text Gonzalez Echevarría offers to illustrate this contention is Los pasos perdidos of Alejo Carpentier, whose hero -a musical composer- engages in a retrospective search for fresh inspiration and natural innocence, travelling through layers of discourse (anthropology, the scientific mission) to the heart of the jungle, only to find there the City, already constituted in legal charters, whose founder, the Adelantado, provides the anti-hero with official paper on which to write his musical compositions. Paper and writing, the Archive of legal documents, are, in this account, the founding myth at the heart of Latin American identity.

12Now, in presenting an archaeology of previous discourses as part of a search for the charter myths for Latin-American identity, Gonzalez Echevarría at one point suggests that these hegemonic discourses all come from "outside" and are in that sense "colonialist". He then continues.

However, in Latin America in every realm, from the economic to the intellectual, the outside is also the inside; García Márquez and Vargas Llosa hardly think like llaneros or campesinos. This duality, which is for the most part a stance, or in the worst of cases, a posture, in present from the start, for instance, in Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca. Latin America is part of the Western world, not a colonized other, except in founding fiction and constitutive idealizations (pp. 41-42).

13In this statement, the mestizo Garcilaso, who modelled his own recovery of the authentic voice of the Inkas for a European audience on an Erasmian hermeneutic derived from Biblical criticism (Zamora 1988), is included in the embrace of Latin American identity, leaving the "llaneros and campesinos" in a marginal limbo.

14Now, as a matter of methodology as well as politics, it not possible (I believe) to understand "indian" or "mestizo" or "créole" culture in isolation from each other (or for that matter in isolation from the history and culture of Europe and the North Atlantic with which their identity has become embedded). And I want to argue against the irreduceable rupture between "peasant" and créole or mestizo literati, affirmed by Gonzalez Echevarría in his brilliant and stimulating book. For -in contrast with the romantic view of Andean shamanism mentioned above- the symbol of the Archive has struck firm roots in the consciousness of the ayllus of Northern Potosí. The "Myth of the Archive", the hegemony of legal discourse and of the "notarial arts", is in fact a unifying symbol: in modern times, it is indians as well as Latin American, and it is partly through the omnipresence of such symbols of alphabetical writing that many indians would today argue for their essential contemporaneity as members of the modern Bolivian nation.

15I say "symbol" because, unlike the literate Paez chiefs whom Joanne Rappaport (1989) has shown successively reinterpreting the past and its documents in present political context through their ability to use pen and ink and even the rhetorical tropes of national Colombian discourse to express Paez political views, written documents in Macha cannot always be read by their owners and are invoked more often as sources of authority for a legal position articulated orally, than as alphabetical text which can be "read out". Nevertheless, a hierarchy of documentary holding extends upwards from the local (generally land-holding) unit, with its titles, written certificates of obligations fulfilled and expedientes of past border disputes, to the Archive of the moiety, kept by the moiety lord of one of the Macha moieties (Alasaya), in which are contained a wide range of documents which embody the historical and mythical constituents of Macha identity.

16The moiety Archive consists of two sheepskins, bound together with a woollen soga. Between them are conserved a wide range of legal genres: a copy of the 16th century deslinde and amojonamiento of all the ayllus of Macha during the Composición of Josep de la Vega Alvarado in 1646, pleitos concerning disputes with the neighbouring K’ulta ethnic group over the latter’s valley maize lands 100 kilometres away surrounded by distant Macha valley plots, recibos for the contributions of potatoes, barley and ch’uñu made by the moiety to the Bolivian Army during the Chaco War, órdenes received from the MNR local command during the post-Revolutionary years of the 1950s, a copy of a pronunciamiento subscribed with thumb marks in 1963 by the peasant leaders of Macha against the then President Paz Estenssoro and the MNR, a copy of a carta sent to the chiefs of the opposing moiety refusing to help them against a border threat from the neighbouring Pocoata ayllu, empadronamientos of all the moiety tributaries updated regularly by the local kura-ka (State revistas ceased in Macha at the end of the last century), decisiones sent in the 1970s by the Prefect of Potosí concerning a rise in the rate of tribute (tasa), and so on. Today the kuraka continues to add copies of letters sent by using an old typewriter, which enables him to articulate a form of legal discourse in dealing with Macha administrative affairs.

17One of the most interesting documents is a reclamación, called the kintali sut’i by the late kuraka of Alasaya, who said it dated from the time of the arrival of the priests, when all the gold and silver of the Inka entered the earth and the ferocious battles, or ch’ajwas, over ayllu borders are said to have begun. This document threatens anyone who sells ayllu land with a "quintal de azotes (cf. sut’i)" and summarizes the natural and legal bases of the rights of the three brothers: black, indian and mestizo, solemnized by the juramento with the cross on a stone altar. Blacks receive no further mention. Mestizos are said to be guaranteed their rights -but in Spain. Indians rights to all cultivable land and pastures are said to be guaranteed from the foundations of the world, through the amparo given by the Inka, the Ordenanzas of don Carlos Rey (Nuevas Leyes?), the Composición by the Bishop of Quito in the 1590s, the Composición already mentioned of 1646, and so right through to the Decreto Supremo of 1871 which annulled the sale of community lands by Mariano Melgarejo (when the original of the present document seems to have been scripted). Finally these lands will remain theirs "till the Judgement" (hasta el juicio), when the indians must give account to God. All this was carefully legalized and copied in 1969 by René Mendivil Rivera, Notario de Hacienda in Potosí.

18From the Foundations of the World till Day of Judgement: the document leaves little out. The problem is that, according to many in Macha, the day of Judgement is now at hand, for the year 2000 from the beginning of the Christian era is coming. The gentile Chull-pas, in Macha belief, came to an end in a miracle of fire after 1000 years of high waters following the flood (cf. Bouysse 1987), except for a few who managed to escape as the chullpa puchu, the Chullpa remnant, namely the Uru-Chipayas studied in a recent book by Nathan Wachtel (1990). In the same way in seems that the Christians will now be destroyed, except perhaps for an equally tiny remnant. And it is this which inspires fear and apprehension among those in Macha who still consider themselves faithful kristyanus. They foresee that they are indeed about to render their accounts to God, as the kintali sut’i document says.

19Summarizing many different testimonies, it appears that these Macha perceive a cosmic battle raging around them, in which (as one man put it) the God of the lower world (ukhupacha dyus) wishes to conquer the Christians. Who, then, is this ukhupacha dyus?

20There seem to be two possibilities: 1. either he is the Devil (dyawlu, supay), and here people point to the success and of those mestizo and subtle indians who worship the diabolic descendents of such reknowned 16th century wak’as as the old triple deity Tanka-tanka (Gisbert) (now converted into a phallic serpent, "as large as a baby with a beard and whiskers"). Or else, 2. he is the Holy Spirit (Espíritu), the third Age announced in the Joachimite prophecies, based on the book of Revelations, which were brought by the Franciscans who first evangelized the Macha in the 16th century.

21This crisis is expressed in local terms. All around them, the devils, breaking out from the inner world (ukhupacha), are being held in check only by the miracles (milagrus). These have been increasing in Macha since the late 1970s. Defenders of the Christian order, yet linked with the subterranean powers of the Holy Spirit, in 1986 these also helped to stiffen ayllu resistance to the threat represented by Paz Estenssoro, proponent of liberal individualized land reform and the creation of a land market. Paz was apparently associated by some with the Devil: he was said to have had a skull, such as is used by witches, and was said to be of "another Law" -a diabolic law-, whereas the indians had their own Law, the "law of the Holy Spirit". Local peasant resistance to the individual land tax (impuesto único), so far successful, is clearly fuelled by these millen-arian beliefs, influenced by Joachimism, which seem to represent the neo-liberal President as little short of the Anti Christ himself.

22Now these miracles involve another kind of "writing", non-alphabetic, which is nevertheless also thought about in terms derived from a notarial vocabulary. The miracles I have heard about tend to appear in dangerous places, closed ravines or exposed hillsides, hitherto marked by the presence of devilish beings such as the snake, the toad or the lizard. With the arrival of the miracle, this toad turns into a dove, a process of transformation also associated with the transition from the wet season to the dry season (Torricos 1990). Then there appears a flashing light, "like a mirror", which vanishes to leave behind stones called lanti, inscribed with natural tracing (like a seal or stamp, perhaps) whose signification must be "read" through shamanic consultation with Santiago of Pumpuri.

23The word lanti means substitute, something which replaces another, as in the notion of a lieutenant, or as when exchanging one, thing for another (the cognate term rantiy, today often translated as "buy"). Through consultation with Pumpuri, then, it is possible to discover the source of the miracle, and, in the cases I asked about, the images traced on these stones (which would become the focal point for a new Church and cult) were often said to have been "copied" (kupiasqa) from the original Saint in Pumpuri. This again suggests the notarial vocabulary, as though the lanti stones were "copies" of (or "substitutes" for) an "original document" stored at Pumpuri.

24At the same time, the new miracle was said to be "united with" (qunchawisqa) the underground miracle of the Holy Spirit, whose major shrine is at a miraculous sanctuary near Potosí called Manqhiri; famous for its volcanic fissures. What is the meaning of this double affiliation?

25As in the case of Santiago throughout the Andes, Pumpiri is also associated with the lightning and the tempest, and has incorporated the attributes previously attributed to Illampu, the Aymara god of lightning. He marks out those destined to become shamans by sending a lightning bolt to kill them, quarter them and reassemble them, in a process that parallels the three days of the Christian Resurrection. Santiago also receives the epithet Star-Birth (istrilla nasim-yintu), a phrase which may indicate a parallel between the birth of Christ and spiritual of the shaman. The similarity between the lightning which kills the shaman and the flashing light which embodies the arrival the miracle is explicitly marked with the term surti parisirun (where the luck appeared), so the making of the shaman is itself likened to a little individualized miracle. Moreover, with the lightning flash, Santiago of Pumpuri wields the arquebus of the Spanish invaders (Illapa is given in Bertonio’s Vocabulario as arquebus), and he is glossed in ritual invocations today as "España". When striking the future shaman he also sends "bullets" (balas), -little round metallic balls, bronze-coloured, and with a hole in them through which the shaman will "whistle" during séances (like the sound of bullets flying through the air, one of the minimal sememes in modern Andean musicology) to summon the mountain-spirits (jurq’us) who act as messenger or "couriers" between Santiago and each domestic congregation.

26Now, Santiago has two sources of lightning (glorias), one in the upper world and the other in ukhupacha. His ukhupacha gloria is also called "root", saphi, a concept which I have elsewhere suggested (Platt 1987) is linked with the ambiguous earth-spirits of fertility. These have both a diabolic and a nurturing aspect (Harris 1982). This double affiliation suggests an alternative and complementary source of glory, one that instead descending from the stars emerges from the volcanic fires of the earth. Indeed, many people believe that there are two sorts of lightning, one celestial arriving from above (gloria), and another which is darted from the forked tongues of two-headed lizards belonging to ukhupacha. We can see the ambiguity of this chthonic fire, which on the one hand is associated with the creatures of the devil, and on the other is associated with the Holy Spirit beneath the ground (Manquiri). Hence the recurring doubts of the majority of Macha believers today.

27It, however, we take the view which favours the final arrival of the Holy Spirit (as many do), the double link of Pumpiri with the upper and lower glorias is understandable. Pumpiri appears as a channel for the glory that is entering the world from below, almost like a volcanic crater through which the new age of the Holy Spirit will eventually be born. According to one persons, the whole world is slowly becoming full of the glory emanating from tat Pumpuri. This is why the new miracle was "copied" from Pumpiri but "united with" the Holy Spirit. The new World will come about by world-overturning in the classic Andean pattern (pachakuti), but within a spirally unfolding Joachimite framework.

28In analyzing these elements of esoteric belief that surround tata Pumpiri we find, then, that religious, legal and medical vocabularies are merged. In the cult of Pumpuri, spiritual health depends on obeying divine law. Through his intermediaries, the mountain spirits or jurq’us, tata Pumpuri diagnoses harms, faults and mi fortune, and suggests ritual ways of restoring the moral framework which has been impaired. These spirits are called up by the shaman who thus offeres a second mediation between the spirits and the domestic congregation. Shamanic curing may involve making propitiatory offerings or going on a pilgrimage; failure to do so, or more serious offences, may bring "punishment" (kastigu), for Pumpuri is "wrathful", phiña, and inspires great fear in his clients, patients and devotees.

29With this preliminary information we can now turn to the text of the seance I have transcribed. We are in the presences of a dramatic ritual designed to bring Macha runas into communication with the greatest miracle of their high Puna, who commands a following throughout Bolivia, from Chapare to Yungas, and from Southern Peru to Northern Argentina. He alone is thought to have the power to save Christians from the world-overturning that is imminent, and I want now to indicate a few ways in which, in the of this shamanic performance, the Christian congregation can be brought into verbal harmony with the jurq’u or mountain spirit, messenger of their divine patron and protector.

30In line with my general argument I shall also suggest that the spirit is also the local lawyer (abogado) who represents Macha views and problems to the higher auhority at Pumpuri and interprets the divine law to them. In this way the functions of the séance can be compared with those of the consultations offered by local town tinterillos who provide a similar service in relation to the colonial and Bolivian State.


31Liq’unipampa, agosto de 1971

32[Cabildo Pichihichua, Ayllu Alaquyana, Mitad Alasaya]

33Transcripción y traducción realizada con la ayuda de Santiago Carvajal y Wagner Oporto

34Escena: un pequeño cuarto oscuro en la estancia de la casa de Carvajal en la región de la puna baja cerca de Castilloma. Durante su visita los cerros (jurq’u) se posan invisibles sobre la mesa ritual, batiendo sus alas y de vez en cuando chupando alcohol que les ofrece el yachaj-intermediario (su muchacho).


35Jurq u

36¡winas nuchis, wawas kristyanus!

37¡Buenas noches, wawas cristianos!

38i “hunkaiskayniyuj chakutiani” niwaychij”, kristyanus. “jisus maria waqaychiri” niwaychij, kristyanus.

39Llamenme “Doce Chakullani”, niwaychij, kristyanus, cristianos, diganme “Jesús María Protector”, cristianos,

40¿ima ofrisisunkichij, wawas kristyanus?

41¿qué se les ofrece, wawas cristia nos?


43kuman kay chimpapi kanman, nin, uj chullpa santus kanman, nin, ¿kanmanchu? tatay, chayta wa ukuy munayku.

44Ahora, allá al frente, dice, un sartos de los chullpas habrían, dice, ¿habría tatay? eso queremos preguntar


46¡asi ti pikaru pis! awir, ¿kay wirjintachu parlachiy munankichij, awir, kristyanus? o sinu ¿kay uj qullu-tachu, wawas kristyanus, awir?

47¡Así es [sin] pecado pues! Bueno, ¿quieren hacer hablar a esta virgen, bueno cristianos? o si no, ¿a un cerro de éstos wawas cristianos, a ver?


49“kanmamchu chaypi santus? Nispa kay wiraquchi watukuy nunan arí.

50“Habrían santos allí” diciendo este wiracucha quiere preguntar pues.


52¡isu pikarus! winu, awir pusarqamusaj, winu

53¡Eso pecados! Bueno, a ver, saldré a traerlo, bien?



56A ver....


58¡a siñur satyagu miriku glurya istrilla nasimyintu, awir, tata santisimu mustramu! ¿ima niwasunchus, wawas kristyanus, winú?

59Al Señor Santiago Médico Gloria Estrella Nacimiento, a ver, tata Santísimo Nuestro Amo, ¿me pregunto que nos dirá, wawas cristia nos, ¿bien?



61bay tata santyagu tata

62¡Vaya! tata Santiago tata

63a “¿chay wirjintachu munankichij,qullutachu, mayqinta wajachiymunankichij?” - “chay wirjinwajachij munayku, kanchus imachusawir chay a chullpaj santun a?”ninaychij a.

64Así “quieren aquella virgen, aque!cerro, a cuál quieren hacer llamar?”Uds deben decir, “queremos hacerllamar a aquella virgen, habríanque habrían a ver allá un santo dechullpa o qué?”


66a chayta mana asirtakuchu a.

67Si, eso no estamos seguros pues...


69“¿kanchus imataj chaypi?” nispaninkichij a

70Deben decir diciendo “Me pregunto¿qué habrá allá?”


72aaaaa ...

73Aaaaa ...


75bay tata santisimu!

76Vaya, tata Santísimo Nuestro Amo [ch’allando y mascando coca]

77mana niqanchij jinatajchu parlanku,ratu tatay paykuna parlanku

78No hablan como nosotros, en un rato, tatay, ellos hablan.


80ratu a turwachikun chaytaj

81En un rato, si, eso nos hace confundir...


83chayta tata Griguryu allinta tapuriy tapurinkichij a.

84Eso tata Gregorio, pregunta bien pregunten [bien].


86awir tatay ...

87A ver tatay ...


89sinu “¡yasta kawiltu!» nipullawasunchij a payqa ¿i? ujta apaykamuytawanqa.

90Si no nos dirá no más “¡Se terminó el cabildo”, ¿n?, tan pronto como haya traido a otro [jurq’u...]


92arí a

93Si, pues ...


95kuntistajtin atintiwasun, mana kuntistajtinqa ratu chay “¡yasta kawiltu!” nispa phinksupullanqa payqa a.

96Si hay respuesta nos atenderá, si no hay respuesta en ese rato diciendo “¡ se terminó el cabildo!» brincara no más [silba con bala y ch’alla]

97¡bay maria kunsiwira bay!

98¡Vaya María de la Concepción vaya!

99parlakuychij, tatay, parlakuychij, parlakuy tata Griguryu, imallatapis ...

100[A los demás] Hablen, tatay, hablen, habla tata Gregorio, cualquier cosa ...


102bay tatay ...

103Vaya tatay ...



105¡minaman, tatay!

106!A la mesa, tatay!


108¡winas nuchis, wawas kristyanus!

109¡Buenas noches wawas cristianos!


111¡winas nuchis tatay!

112¡Buenas noches tatay!


114a “chunka iskayniyuj chakullani awugaru” niwaychij, wawas kristyanus

115Y ¡diganme “Doce Chakullani Abogado”, wawas cristianos!


117¡chunka iskayniyuj chukullani awugaru!

118¡Doce Chakullani Abogado!


120a “jisus maria anjilawarta waqaychi-” ru niwaychij, kristyanus. ¡wa! ¿ima okasyun tiyan? ¡wa! awir, dun santyagu, ¿awir pis?

121Y díganme “Jesús maría Angel de la Guardia Protector” cristianos! ¡Wa! “Qué ocasión hay? Wa! ¿A ver, don Santiago, aver pues?

122[Toma alcohol. Al yachaj:]

123¡a dyus pagarasunki muchachu!

124A ¡que dios te pague, muchacho!


126jina, tatay, wirjinta waturikuyta munashan, chayta kawalta waturipuy, tatay a.

127Así, tatay, está queriendo pregun tar a la virgen, preguntala correcta mente para él, tatay.


129¡wa! “jisus maria” niwaychij, wawas kristyanus.

130Wa! ¡Diganme “Jesús María”, wawas Cristianos!


132¡jisus maria!

133Jesús María!


135winu hunan, qan ¿imata munanki, awir, dun Griguryu? aqir ¿imataj asuntusniyki, awir, waway kristyanu?

136Bueno, ahora, vos, ¿qué quieres, a ver, don Gregorio? ¿A ver? ¿Cual es tus asuntos, a ver, mi wawa cristiano?


138“chay ... chay qullapi ¿kanmanchu, tatay, chay chullpaspata santus?» nin

139“En aquél... aquél cerro, ¿habría, tatay, santos de aquellos chullpas?» dice


141¡isu ti piru, waway, mana kasqachu.

142¡Eso es [sin] pecado! Pero, mi wawa, no había habido.


144¿manachu kasqa? ¿No había habido?


146mana kanchu, waway, chayqa mana kau chullpa, inkalla.

147No hay, mi wawa, eso no era chullpa, era Inka no más.


149aaaa ...

150¡Aaaa ...!


152ri timpumanta pacha rumi t’ujyarishajta ruwasqanku, nara mas, quya jinallamin kasqa, mana imapis kanchu chay ukhupiqa.

153Desde el tiempo del Rey habían he cho estallar la piedra, nada más, había sido como una mina, no hay nada allá adentro.


155aaaa yasta tatay

156Aaaa, ya está, tatay.


158¡isu pikaru!

159¡Eso pecado!


161ujta tapurikuyta munallaykutaj kay ripimanta, ¿imamantataj kay wiraquchista disgrasya muman? kay ripisitunta p’akikunku ari.

162Hay solamente una cosa más que queremos preguntar sobre este jeep, ¿porqué la desgracia quiere seguir a estos wiracuchis? Se ha roto este su jeep, pues.


164¡isu pikaru pis! “jisus maría anjilawarta waqaychiru” niwaychij, kristyanus.

165¡Eso pecado pues! “Jesús María Angel de la Guardia Protector, diganme cristianos!

166winu, dun santyagu, glurya miriku istrilla, waturimusaj waway, awir, imachus jucha kasqan waway, ¿winú?

167Bueno, don santiago, Gloria Médico Estrella, iré a preguntar, mi hijo, a ver qué habrá sido la falta, mi wawa, ¿bueno?


169awir tatay ...

170A ver, tatay


172¡isu pikaru pis isu! Patrun waturimusun waway ¿winún?

173¡Eso pecado pues eso! Iremos a preguntarle al patrón, mi wawa, ¿bueno?


175yasta tatay

176Ya está tatay


178¡wa! sumaj ura wina ura kashaykichij, wawas kristyanus, ¿winun?

179¡Wa! Están en linda hora en buena hora, wawas cristianos, ¿bien?


181yasta tatay

182Ya está tatay


184¡wa! tukuy sunqu tukuy alma kashankichij, waway, ¿winún?

185Wa! Están con corazón entero, con alma entero, mi wawa, ¿bueno?



187ya tatay ya ...

188Ya, tatay, ya ...


190“mana kanchu” ninqa

191“No hay nada” dice pues


193“Santos no hay” dice,manankanchu nin chay jusk’upi.

194“No hay santos”, dice, no hay nadaen este hueco.


196mana kanchu, ri timpupi urqusqanku ninsina, ¿manachu?

197No hay nada, lo habrán sacado en el tiempo del rey creo que dijo, ¿no es cierto?


198 [Desde la Sesión 3]


kunan, ¿chay chullpa santusqa unay timpu kanmanchu? ¿manachu kanman karqa?

Ahora, ¿habrían esos santos de los chullpas hace tiempo? ¿No habría habido?


a tiyan a, kay santuariusmanta kayqa a, tata ri, tata ri lisyinsyamun ... u ... algun día, algun timpu a chaymanta kashan waway, jurq’uspi piru jurq’uspis kashanpunitaj kashan

Hay pues, de estos santuarios aquí, pues, el tata Rey, el tata Rey les hacía licensiar ... u ... otro día, otro tiempo pues, desde entonces son, mi wawa, pero en los jurq’us en los jurq’us también están de veras pues.


¿may jurq’upitaj kashan?

¿Y dónde en los jurq’us están?


santuarius kashan, chullpa q’asapi kashan, waway kristyanus ...

Están en los santuarios, están en el Paso del Chullpa, mi wawa cristia-nos...


¡aaa ...! chullpa qása nin ...

¡Aaaa! [A los demás] Paso del Chullpa dice ...


¡isu pikarun!

¡eso es pecado!



¿Solo ahí?


chullpa qásapi kashallantaj a, altu qullun, chunka iskayniyuj tanka achachilapi, chaypi kallantaj, wawas kristyanus.

En el Paso del Chullpa están pues, su Cerro Alto, y en Doce Tanka Achachila, allá están también, wawas cristianos.



2. The Text: literary metaphors in shamanic speech

199The shaman’s effort to construct the conditions for communication between congregation and spirit messenger is a difficult and risky undertaking The "bullets" which arrive like meteorites in the tempest when a yachaj (lit. "knower") is killed, quartered and reassembled by three revelatory lightning-flashs, must be taken to hear Mass in a Christian church to prevent them "eating" the initiates by draining them of energy till they die. As so often in South Andean thinking, sources of sacred power are inherently dangerous and can only be tamed partially for the benefit of human society if they are placed under the aegis of the Catholic Church.

200Spirit-possession is itself dangerous and exhausting: the spirit enters in the shape of a bird -generally a condor- and possesses the shaman, giving him extra intelligence and changing his voice, to the point where the audience can hear him and the spirit conversing as though they were two separate people. To reach this pitch of spiritual suceptibility he must normally chew quantities of coca-leaf, drink neat alcohol and grape spirit, and pour libations for the sacred sources of power while approaching the state in which he can suddenly fall into a state of trance and spirit possession. But on person, who had been struck by lightning resisted the call to become a shaman, suffered from a long-drawn-out illness, one symptom of which was the arrival of a condor in his bedroom while he was asleep, eager to occupy his body. The experience left him frightened and shaken and he eventually died.

201The seance (Kawiltu; cf. Cabildo, or municipal council) I attended and taped in August 1971 consisted of six separate sessions, divided into two group of three. Before they began the candle was extinguished and the spirit was heard to enter and speak in complete darkness. Within each group there were pauses between the sessions when people talked in darkness, commenting on the answer given by the spirit and phrasing new questions. The candle was relighted during the central "Intermezzo" which separated the two groups, and the again at the end. The overall frame for the event was therefore given by this oscillation between light and darkness, establishing an elementary visual code within which the aural experience was inscribed.

202Most of the elements that contribute to the global signification of the event have therefore been caught on the tape -except, of course, smells, touch, and the intimate feeling of familial warmth shared before the invisible "action" on the altar-table. Intonation, murmurs and rustles, hestitations, the clinking and blowing of bottles, the "whistle" of the shaman’s bullets the "slurps" of the condor drinking alcohol offered by the yachaj, and especially the rhythmic flapping of his wings as it perched invisible on the altar table, all combine with distant background noises (dogs barking or children crying) to make up an overwhelmingly aural field of meaning, that dispenses with the bodily gestures or the wider scenario of a visible drama.

203I have tried to decompose the condor’s speech into types of speech act-greeting, self-introduction, formulaic repetition of sacred names or liturgical phrases, incitation to consult, terminating remarks, etc, and though I have no time to present these results in detail they show the repetition of certain sequences from one session to the next (e.g. the self-presentation is generally followed by the formulaic repetition of sacred names, which in turn leads to the incitation to consult). In general there is an important catechetical element -invitations to the audience to repeat his words with the phrase ni-waychij, wawas kristyanus-, and the development of the whole seance across six sessions reflected the audience’s increasing confidence and ability to join in the responses. This gradual emergence of the capacity to make easy verbal exchanges is part of a process by which the relationship between spirit and congregation is progressively established, and I and want to locate the rest of my comments within this framework.

204Session 1. A look at the first session show both the failure to construct a connected exchange of sentences, and initial efforts on both sides to correct the failure. The jurq’u first appears with the sound of wingbeats descending down from the roof and repeatedly striking the improvised altar-table (misa) on which the yachaj has placed coca, wrapped in a cloth (inkhuña), as well as bottles and alcohol. Blowing and whistling the spirit greets his "Christian children" and then at once tells them how to address him by name, Chakullani, with the sacred number Twelve (chunka iskayniyuj) occupying the place of a title (libations in Macha are sometimes poured for tata chunka iskayniyuj). "Twelve Chakullani Lawyer", to give the spirit his full identification (see Session 2), is therefore giving audience, as in a court of session or council (cabildo, hence kawiltu), to his Christian children.

205But people are still taken by surprise, they don’t respond to the spirit’s instructions or answer his questions directly. He tells them to pray to Jesus Mary Guardian, and repeats his own sacred name, but they still don’t answer. Then, to bring them to speak, he asks them directly what the matter is (¿ima ofrisisunkichij, wawas kris-tyanus?).

206My friend Santiago now stutters out the questions prepared beforehand. A few days before we had visited a Chullpa Church (chull-pa inglisya), a hole in a hill, said to date from the time of the pre-Inka gentiles called Chullpas and to contain an underground altar with a cross on it. I had crawled in and found a passage that wound down and then divided, one way going further down but blocked by a fall of earth, the other coming out on a different part of the hillside. We had resolved to ask the jurq’u whether there might be Chullpa saints inside.

207The jurq’u then enunciates a standard exclamation, apparently derived from the old greeting "Ave Maria -Sin Pecado", and asks whether we want to consult a mountain peak. Without answering the jurq’u directly Santiago repeats the question. The jurq’u thereupon announces that he will go out and bring back- something unspecified, probably the answer.

208Then a torrent of sacred names precedes his parting shot of "What will he tell us, Christian children, well?" The sacred names make it clear to all what sort of a spirit they’re dealing with: he cites his patron, Lord Santiago of Pumpuri, the doctor, associated with the Glory, the Star and the Holy Sacrament and the body of Our Lord as incarnated in the Sun and the Host6 We Know, therefore, that speaker is a messenger from the Region of Glory (glorya parti) and from patron of shamans and curers, Santiago of Pumpuri.

209Interval 1. This includes a very important discussion of how to talk to mountain spirits. Here, the shaman himself gave the congregation some quick indications on the correct way to address the spirit, in constructing sacred meaning through dialogue. These comments include a key passage of "speech about speech", indicating the rules of the linguistic behaviour which the congregation must follow for communication to be successfully achieved.

210As the wingbeats fade away towards the roof of the house, the shaman goes over the spirit’s questions and tells the audience what they should have said. He instructs them to be on the ball, to put their questions with promptness and clarity. After all, "they don’t speak like we do, they speak all in a moment". "Yes", answers Santiago, "so quickly that one gets muddled (turwachikun)". The shaman insists that the questions must be "well formed" (allinta tapu-riy), or else the spirit will put an end to the kawiltu right away. He continues: "If we answer him he’ll attend to us, if we don’t answer him he stop the kawiltu". Then, blowing a long-drawn-out poignant whistle with his bala, he calls the spirit back, saying first to all present, "Talk among yourselves, talk among yourselves, anything...".

211The most important thing of all, then is to keep speaking. While questions must be clear and prompt, the most importante thing is to keep up a to-and-fro hum of conversational sound if the spirit is not to abandon the kawiltu. And the spirit can only appear at all if there already exists an expectant buzz of conversation, a formless murmuring with no specific semantic content at all. It is as though the raw material of speech -sound- must be present as the crucial support upon which the dominant voice of the spiritual Lawyer can construct itself in order then to elicit the form of dialogue. And his own liturgical repetition of sacred names is itself a ploy of the same order: he repeats the sacred names in a continuous stream, both to constitute the relevant universe of sacred referents, but also to give the audience a clear discursive model to follow and thus keep generating the dialogic text of the kawiltu.

212Silence among the audience is compelled by the swishing wing-beats of the condor-lawyer’s poncho, followed by his strident greeting which is always the same, and is so easy to remember that even the children, thrilled with excitement before the session, tumble around repeating winas nuchis, wawas kristyanus, winas nuchis wawas kristyanus amidst laughter and giggles. It is a measure of the impact of the spirit’s first entry that in the first session only one person answered his greeting.

213Session 2. The second session is more successful. Santiago gives the spirit back his name "Twelve Chakullani Lawyer", the spirit sips noisily the little cup of alcohol offered him by his "boy" (muchachu, i.e. the shaman), and everyone responds finally with "Jesus Mary" at the spirit’s invitation. More expansive, the spirit again asks his Christian children what their problem is, and Santiago repeats the question.

214Now at last the spirit gives the answer. There is no Chullpa Saint inside the hill. The hole belongs to the Inka-Hapsburg period, it is just a mine from the time of the King. Santiago quickly moves on to his next question, also discussed previously. On a visit to Pumpuri, miraculous shrine of Saint James of Spain, the spirit’s patron, my jeep had broken a spring, and Santiago wanted to know why misfortune (desgrasya) was pursuing us. Again the spirit says he will leave to find out what fault (jucha) we have committed, this time by asking his patron directly; and he flaps out again.

215Interval 2. An interesting feature (of which there are other examples in later sessions) is the way the condor’s answers can be glossed, expanded and reinterpreted in discussion between the yachaj and the congregation until a consensus is arrived at. There is room here for members of the congregation to feed in their own views, and the conclusion sometimes considerably different from what the condor originally said. In this case we find a significant modification: the yachaj says that the Chullpa Saint was taken out in the time of the King (ri timpupi urqusqanku ninsina), implying it to be there bu was removed in the Inka-Colonial Christian period, with the surreptitious interpolation marked with ninsina, "I think he said?", where the suffix sina denote hesitancy and doubt. This clearly diverges from the spirit’s actual words, which where that the stone had only been blasted out (rumi t’ujyarishajta ruwasqanku) during Colonial mining explorations (quya jinallamin Kasqa).

216This leads us to an important point: we can observe a reflection in the relation between the two types of speech considered (shamanic dialogue and "interval") of the way in which State hierarchies are themselves founded, both in the colonial and the Republican periods, on the egalitarian ethic of the local community. Vertical enunciation from positions of power (shamanic dialogue) is contrasted with the communal chewing over of the pronouncements of authority and their reinterpretation through local debate (intervals).

217Session 3. I’ve included in the handout a short from the third session on the same subject. After hearing that was no Chullpa Saint in the hole I’d entered, I asked for a further question on whether there were such being as "Chullpa Saints" at all. In fact I had independently noted’ that San Gerónimo was brought to be a Chullpa Saint, but I was curious to know what the spirit would say.

218He obligingly brought into play another important legal term: the licencia, or "license". The King Inka was said to have given a "license" (tata ri lisinsyamun) for some Chullpa Saints to continue receiving cult in the Sanctuaries, places where a miracle has appeared, or in the jurq’us, the "wild places" above the level of cultivation where the mountain spirits live, lisinsya is also used to address the altar-table (misa, lisinsyaykiwan, ch’allarisun ... paqul-laripaj, etc) asking permission to make libations: it expresses the transfer of Hispanic legal discourse to the relationship between In-kas and Chullpas. And among the names of places where Chullpa cults continued "under license" we find "Twelve Tanka Achachila" -one of the largest mountains in the region and a major pre-Colombian wak’a to which I have already referred.

219Session 6. I now jump forward to the last session which is by far the most successful of all. This can be seen by way everyone joins in sending back the responses to the spirit, first the greeting, then his name with formal title, and then two formulaic phrases which recur constantly. On p. 10 we find this fluent and courteous exchange reaching a self-reflective level. The jurq’u repeats the phrase used at the end of the first interval by the yachaj: "speak", parlakuychij. But it doesn’t now elicit a formless muttering in preparation for the spirit’s arrival: rather the reply is nothing less than an affirmation of communicative competence, "we are speaking" -and with this the success of the kawiltu is formally affirmed.

220From then on the rest is plain sailing. A few additional questions and answers are taken as the pretext for some ritual advice on how to del with the-effects of the Chullpa peaks today (surujchi, wind, etc.) who had provided the point of departure for the whole kawiltu. The jurq’u announces that the kawiltu is now really over, and this is accepted without demur. Finally the spirit gives some general ritual advice to Santiago, and suggests he "copies" it (kupi-arichinki) for the Chullpa wind as well. The phrase again supports my hypothesis concerning the legal framework of written language and ideas within which the oral procedures of the kawiltu are inscribed. It also suggests that when we analyze the structure of ritual offering as a text, there are good Andean reasons for doing so, rather than simply those pertaining to a particular academic fashion.

221Let me expand this point. We have seen that the kawiltu, as a means of communicating with sources of sacred authority, is basically modelled on the consultation with a lawyer (abogado) in touch with the higher levels of the judiciary (Pumpuri and the Just Judge). These higher levels even dictate their messages to the condor as their legal intermediary. Not only does the condor at one point say, imatachus dijtawanqa ("I wonder what he will dictate to me!"; he even refers to Santiago as dijtatur, or dictador, which is a technical notarial term from the 16th century notarial arts, as described by Gonzales Echeverría. Other suggestive terms in modern Macha Quechua include convenio or acuerdo to describe the relationship between Pumpuri and his devotees. Finally the whole structure is embraced by the State: when the spirit has to go to England to find out if my family are well he says he will be going to talk with "uj estadu". The relationship between oral and written procedures in the religious world of Macha is thus directly equivalent to the relationship between them in the colonial and 19th century State. Orders are dictated to scribal intermediaries (a tinterillo) is a man forever dipping his pen in the inkpot), and these hold oral sessions with their ayllu clients. His Quechua is also peppered with even more Spanish terms than are anyhow present in Macha Quechua (Aymara is barely present in this text, apart from choqe, "gold"): ijus, nara mas, asi pikaru, suggest the town Quechua of a local mestizo, which is what you would expect the tinterillo to be. In fact, the relationship so carefully constructed throughout the kawiltu, and which comes to fruition in the last session, is precisely the paternalist relationship that you would also expect between the mestizo and his hijos or wawas kristyanus. His authoritative and condescending voice is complemented by the respectful docility of his clients.


  1. Close examination of the shamanic dialogue enriches are understanding of the indian perception of the theocratic State: the meaning of the messages brought down by the from the higher authorities is renegotiated through the egalitarian ethos of the local community, which tempers the client-patron relationship. The hierarchical messages of the Catholic State are thus subjected to a new interpretation on their content according to local concerns. This constitutes a reflection in the organization of speech-genres of the way that the colonial mining economy was constructed on the continued reproduction of the local ethnic groups.
  2. The condor messenger is a "courier" or chaski, as well as a tinterillo. It is as through the condors on the Gate of the Sun at Tiwa-naku were now carrying the dictatorial messages of the Just Judge. The significant point here is that, unlike other areas of the Andes, the condor is a subsidiary messenger of the higher religious powers (Santiago, Just Judge, the Sun or Moon), rather than himself constituting that higher religious authority.
  3. Although I have no time to develop this here, the flashing of miracles and flapping of wings can -I suspect- both be seen as producing meaning, whose "surplus" carries over into the engraving of a miraculous message or the construction of the sonorous warp upon which the weft of shamanic dialogue can be constructed. Sound and light are both descomposed into their minimal discontinuities to the point where the level of abstraction allows "sound" and "light" to converge, and thus generate the minimal possibilities of meaning in speech or script.
  4. The Condor can even be seen as an Andean transformation of the Pentecostal "dove", descending amidst rushing wind (sound) and tongues of fire (light) to generate new meanings that will interpret and make sense of the crises, both personal and cosmic, that surround his devotees.
  5. The Macha shamanic "reflection" of the oral and written structures of the theocratic State suggests that, here at least, the con-testatory power of popular discourse emerges from within the conception of State-ayllu relations prevalent in other context. Hence the emphasis on the protection of those relations (eg through payment of the tasa or tribute, or through devotion directed to Santiago of Pumpuri) during the cosmic crisis which is felt to be enveloping us all. Whether this "reflection" will appear in the shamanic dialogues of other of the Andes is a matter for future research. The results may, I suggest, affect considerably the political interpretations that can be made of comparable religious experiences in different areas of the Andes.

222Tristan Platt

2232 Winchester Farm

224Cottage Boar Hills Fife KY168PN



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