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Sayings of the Ancestors

Sayings of the Ancestors: The Spiritual Life of the Sibundoy Indians

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Sayings of the Ancestors
    Book Description:

    The Sibundoy valley of southwestern Colombia is the home of a unique Indian culture -- one that blends Incan elements with those of the aboriginal natives. Moreover, Sibundoy bridges two domains, the Andean highlands and the Amazonian basin, and inter-mixed with all of these elements are European influences, particularly folk and orthodox Catholicism. From this cultural enclave, John McDowell presents here a body of oral material collected from the Santiago Ingano community.

    This corpus of material is made up of some 200 "sayings of the ancestors," proverb-like statements, many concerned with dreams and the forecasting of future events. From an analysis of these sayings emerges a cosmological view of the Sibundoy Indians, a glimpse of their spiritual world. It is a world where spirits constantly impinge on the activities of everyday life. It is a world where the sayings can both warn of spiritual sickness and offer the way to spiritual health. For the Sibundoy the sayings go back to the first people, the "ancestors," who established for all time the models for a proper life. The study of the sayings is rounded out with references to the parallel fields of mythology and folk medicine as these contribute to a clearer understanding of their roles and functions in Sibundoy life.

    Sayings of the Ancestorsprovides a fascinating body of original folkloric and ethnographic material from a unique cultural locus. It is also an engrossing demonstration that what seems a miscellaneous group of small beliefs can be seen as the components of a larger world-order. The book and its interpretive findings will be a valuable resource for folklorists, anthropologists, and many Latin Americanists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6395-6
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Religion, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    Tucked away in its mountain fastness, the Sibundoy Valley of Colombia houses a fertile plain that has nourished the evolution of a remarkable South American civilization. The Sibundoy natives are renowned for their agriculture and weaving, for their colorful indigenous carnival, and for the prowess of their native doctors. This inquiry examines the spiritual life of these peoples, which enters into all facets of the daily routine and imposes a distinctive orientation to reality. The natives of the valley inhabit a world charged with spiritual presence, where the intervention ofanimas(souls of the departed) andsacha huayra(spirits of...

  5. 2 Muscuycunarnanda
    (pp. 27-63)

    The sayings of the ancestors occupy a position of modest respect in the canon of traditional verbal art cultivated by speakers of the Inga language. Among the Santiagueños, the sayings are savored as pithy allusions that tumble off the tongue in an agreeable fashion and capture the spiritual implications of mundane human experience. Lacking the phonological intensity of ritual language speeches and the drama of sustained narrative discourse, these short statements of belief possess instead the beauty of the miniature: they draw together in their brief compass phenomena that are normally encountered separately and thereby perform the miracle of the...

  6. 3 Tapiacunamanda
    (pp. 64-103)

    This chapter presents an inventory of sayings that take notice of signs and portents residing in the wakeful experience of individuals. These sayings alert people to the underlying significance of apparently accidental or unmotivated occurrences in the natural world. Everything from the internal physiology of the body to the behavior of various animals may become a theatre of signification. Even the slightest twitch of a muscle may carry information concerning the likely path of future events. Moreover, many of these manifestations are thought to reflect on the spiritual condition of the person and her or his family. The Inga term...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. 4 The Ancestral World
    (pp. 104-126)

    The sayings of the ancestors conjoin two distinct temporal frames, the ancestral past and the current arena of human experience. Belief in an ancestral past, a moment of decisive beginnings and formative events, pervades the mental life of the native peoples of the Sibundoy Valley. Their traditional worldview is founded on the primacy of the ancestral model, which establishes agencies, patterns, and boundaries determining the character of all subsequent history. Contemporary events are viewed as pale reflections of their ancestral prototypes, since the spiritual forces that guided the creation of the world and the establishment of human society, and that...

  9. 5 The Spirit Realm
    (pp. 127-152)

    According to the indigenous worldview, spirits abound in the Sibundoy Valley: “We believe that all places are full of spirits. These spirits, at certain hours, are not congenial one might say. And so when they are not in a good humor, they attack people. One can speak of the evil wind of the cemetery, of the rivers and streams, of the cliffs, one can speak of the evil wind of the forest. So the world is full of spirits, sometimes even in our houses.” The object of this chapter is to provide an introduction to the domain of the “evil...

  10. 6 The Cycle of Code Application
    (pp. 153-173)

    The sayings of the ancestors are imbued with the aura of ancestral times, that period of unbridled spirituality that continues to reverberate in the underlying reality of the spirit realm. In view of their continuity with the wisdom of previous generations, it might be tempting to think of the sayings as an antiquated heirloom, but nothing could be further from the truth. The sayings and the system of belief and practice surrounding them remain a vital force in the lives of the present-day generations. As one young Ingano told me, in reference to the corpus of sayings: “And so one...

  11. 7 Sibundoy Falk Religion
    (pp. 174-193)

    Sibundoy folk religion is a nexus of popular religiosity defined by three major strands: a pan-Andean cosmological bedrock, a tropical forest ecstatic shamanism, and an overlay of folk and doctrinal Catholicism imposed by the missionaries. Over a period of several centuries, Sibundoy natives have woven these strands into a distinctive spiritual fabric with a remarkable reach among Indians and non-Indians alike throughout the northern and central Andes. Moreover, as Sibundoy migrants have carried their shamanism into the popular sectors of Bogota, Caracas and other major cities, the impact of Sibundoy folk religion has been felt in regions even further removed...

  12. Appendix: A Note on the Inga Language
    (pp. 194-197)
  13. References
    (pp. 198-202)
  14. Index
    (pp. 203-206)