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Vai-mahse


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Literal meaning: ‘master of animals’. The Tukano Indians of the upper reaches of the Amazon look upon Vai-mahse as the most important spirit of the forest. A dwarf with a body painted red, Vai-mahse controls the game of the hunter, the fishes in the rivers, and the herbs beneath the trees. Certain hillocks are sacred to him and care is taken not to earn his displeasure. Vai-mahse's deadly weapon is a short wand, highly polished and red in colour. His overriding interest in fecundity explains his unkindness to pregnant women and young mothers, to whom he sends sickness—because he was not the cause of their pregnancy.

Other forest spirits are the Boraro, ‘white ones’. They are tall, with hairy chests and huge phalluses; their ears stick forwards and their feet backwards; while the lack of a knee joint causes them difficulty in rising from the ground after a fall. Should a Boraro be seen carrying a stone hoe, it is certain that he is on the lookout for someone to devour.

Subjects: Religion.


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