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Matt Norman

The Marubo Shaman Ceremony

Posted from: Parana
An amazing sunset disappeared behind the longhouse while inside a night of Marubo line dancing was just kicking off. Philippe informed Rob that Robson the shaman was to later use his shaman powers to treat a young boy who was very ill, so we made ready our equipment for what could be an interesting evening.

An amazing sunset behind the longhouse
An amazing sunset behind the longhouse

After many hours of dancing the elders were sniffing snuff from a long blowpipe and Bruce was keen to try some. The elders taking snuff was an amazing sight as the chief sat on the opposite log and held the pipe up to their nose. He then made a hard sharp blow with a great puff noise. It almost blew the head off the recipient with powder blowing out of their other nostril into the air and being back-lit by the candle light. As Bruce watched, Philippe whispered some advice that it helps to blow out very slightly as you take the hit.

Bruce stepped out of the shadows into the hot seat and the scene looked amazing, with the old chief sat opposite him and the younger warriors crowding around. The pipe was placed against Bruce's nostril and the chief slowly held the pipe against his mouth. There was silence. The chief took a breath and as he blew Bruce suddenly blew even harder with his nose and the chief ended up coughing madly with a mouth full of snuff. The Marubo burst out laughing as the chief almost fell off the log. Later Bruce stepped back in line for another hit and this time the chief took no chances and quickly fired a snuff bomb up Bruce's nose that almost came out of his ears.

It was 02.30am and, having filmed hours of dancing, Pete and I were exhausted and thinking that surely the shamanising wasn't happening and it’s maybe time to wrap. Even Robson, the shaman who had been singing all night, had fallen asleep in his hammock. Rob asked us to hang on for just a while longer when suddenly Robson sat up, took another hit of snuff and made his way over to the other side of the dark longhouse to crouch down next to a sleeping boy. Five other elders joined him to form a circle around the boy and so begin an intense time of shamanistic chanting.

The Marubo shaman ceremony
The Marubo shaman ceremony

The chanting was very hypnotic and the boy, sweating from a fever, remained asleep in his hammock, unaware of the commotion around him. Rob held the battery light with a warm orange gel over it and we tried to keep the lighting as unobtrusive as possible, yet enough to capture the mood and intense emotion of the scene. Some scenes have a real tingling energy to them and being there felt that we were witnessing a rare and truly unique moment. Once we felt we had enough, we backed off quietly and the chanting continued for many more hours.


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