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Made-from-Bone: Trickster Myths, Music, and History from the Amazon

Jonathan D. Hill
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Made-from-Bone is the first work to provide a complete set of English translations of narratives about the mythic past and its transformations from the indigenous Arawak-speaking people of South America. Among the Arawak-speaking Wakuenai of southernmost Venezuela, storytellers refer to these narratives as "words from the primordial times," and they are set in an unfinished space-time before there were any clear distinctions between humans and animals, men and women, day and night, old and young, and powerful and powerless. The central character throughout these primordial times and the ensuing developments that open up the world of distinct peoples, species, and places is a trickster-creator, Made-from-Bone, who survives a prolonged series of life-threatening attacks and ultimately defeats all his adversaries._x000B__x000B_Carefully recorded and transcribed by Jonathan D. Hill, these narratives offer scholars of South America and other areas the only ethnographically generated cosmogony of contemporary or ancient native peoples of South America. Hill includes translations of key mythic narratives along with interpretive and ethnographic discussion that expands on the myths surrounding this fascinating and enigmatic character with broad appeal throughout various folkloric traditions.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09151-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface: Introducing Made-from-Bone, the Trickster-Creator
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  5. 1 The Arawakan Wakuénai of Venezuela
    (pp. 1-18)

    The Wakuénai, or Curripaco, live at the headwaters of the Río Negro, a region that is politically divided among the three countries of Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. From a modern perspective, the Wakuénai appear to be located in a marginal area that is far removed from major centers of power and commerce. However, when seen in the long run of history, Wakuénai ancestral lands are anything but marginal. Rather, they occupy the riverine territories that connect the central Amazon floodplains in the south to the Orinoco basin, grasslands, and Caribbean Sea to the north.

    The Wakuénai language belongs to the...

  6. Part 1: Words from the Primordial Times

    • Overview
      (pp. 20-24)

      The primordial times are explored in a cycle of narratives that focus on the invincibility of Made-from-Bone (Iñápirríkuli). These narratives are set in the distant past, before there were cultural distinctions between human and animal beings, men and women, old and young, day and night, here and there. Whatispresent from the very beginning of primordial times is an irreducible principle of violence, deceit, and hostility between kin and affines. The story of how Made-from-Bone originally came into being starts with an act of violence in which a woman’s husband kills her brother. Specifically, an evil animal-person whose name...

    • 2 Narratives from the Primordial Times
      (pp. 25-56)

      Great Sickness had a wife. That woman had a brother. Great Sickness killed his wife’s brother. They gathered the bones. The wife of Great Sickness gathered the bones of her dead brother. She kept them in a hollow gourd and tied the top shut. She never left the gourd. Great Sickness said, “Why is it that she never leaves this gourd? Some day in the future she will leave it.”

      One day the woman left for her manioc garden. Great Sickness went to look for her, but he could see no sign of the gourd. They say that one day...

    • 3 Ethnohistorical Interlude: Historical Themes in the Myth of Made-from-Bone and Anaconda-Person
      (pp. 57-68)

      This chapter arises from a specific connection between the mythic narrative about Made-from-Bone and the Anaconda-Person (Uliámali) and the widespread practice of using necklaces made of shells and beads as a form of currency during the colonial period. Taken in isolation, the occurrence of a single mythic episode about the use of necklaces as “money” in the upper Río Negro provides little more than an interesting footnote on the likelihood that such necklaces were in use and circulating among indigenous groups at least as far south as the northern Brazil–southern Venezuela frontier. However, when this mythic episode is understood...

  7. Part 2: The World Begins

    • Overview
      (pp. 70-74)

      In the narratives set in the times called “The World Begins” (Hekuápi Ikéeñuakawa), the trickster-creator uses his skills of trickery to get things from various animal-persons and mythic beings. Made-from-Bone obtains nighttime and sleep from Grandfather Sleep (Dáinali), fire from a spirit being namedYáwali, and peach-palm fruits from an anaconda-person namedMalíhwerri. Unlike the life-and-death struggles of Made-from-Bone against Great Sickness and other adversaries during the primordial times, the confrontations between Made-from-Bone and others during “The World Begins” are more like puzzles or games in which the trickster-creator must outsmart his interlocutors in order to take away their goods....

    • 4 Narratives from “The World Begins”
      (pp. 75-91)

      Long ago Made-from-Bone lived at Hípana, the place where the world began. There was no night, no night for them. The sun was stuck in a single place; it never moved.

      Made-from-Bone went to work, grew tired, and returned home all the time. He went again, returned, drankpatsiáka, and finished; he was tired. He went again; it was like this all the time. He did not know how to rest. “It’s not good how we are living,” said Made-from-Bone.

      Then some people told him that they lived well elsewhere. “The night falls, then the morning arrives. They work during...

    • 5 Ethnomusicological Interlude: The Catfish Trumpet Festival of 1981, or How to Ask for a Drink in Curripaco
      (pp. 92-108)

      There are a group of musical performances, dances, and other activities that make uppudáli, a tradition of ceremonial exchange that originated in the time of “The World Begins.” The origin ofpudáliand the accompanying subgenre of ceremonial dance music, calledmádzerukái, marked a crucial transition between the earlier period of Made-from-Bone’s violent struggles against his adversaries and the more recent, fully human world created during the lifetime of the first human being (Kuwái). In “The World Begins,” Made-from-Bone’s invincibility and his ability to survive life-threatening challenges are less prominent than his omniscience and capacity for getting things for...

  8. Part 3: The World Opens Up

    • Overview
      (pp. 110-116)

      In the third and final period of mythic history, or “The World Opens Up,” Made-from-Bone continues to display the same powers of omniscience and invincibility that he has wielded since his creation in primordial times and that become the basis of his fame in the period of “The World Begins.” However, in “The World Opens Up,” Made-from-Bone’s powers of creativity are to some extent overshadowed by the powerful musical sounds and naming processes embodied in the primordial human beingKuwái, who is the child of incestuous sexual relations between Made-from-Bone and a paternal aunt, namedÁmaru. Whereas the invention of...

    • 6 Narratives from “The World Opens Up”
      (pp. 117-146)

      First-Woman lived inMuthípani.¹ They lived there as a single family, since there was no other group of people to live with them. Made-from-Bone was there; First-Woman [Ámaru] was his aunt [father’s sister]. He had sexual intercourse with First-Woman, his aunt. They hid their sexual relations from the others in their family. One day First-Woman became pregnant with a child. There was no other group of people.

      “Who could it be who impregnated First-Woman?” the people asked.

      “I don’t know,” said Made-from-Bone, “it’s nothing, just sperm of this world.” He went into hiding to defend himself. Thus it will be...

    • 7 Ethnological Coda: Shamanizing the State in Venezuela
      (pp. 147-156)

      The narrative about Temedawí, the magical city of theYópinai, spirits of the forest, rivers, and air, serves as a historical metaphor for the sociopolitical transformations unfolding at local, regional, and national levels in Venezuela at the time of my fieldwork in June through December 1998. The sociopolitical circumstances of indigenous peoples in the Venezuelan Amazon had dramatically changed since my fieldwork in the 1980s. In large part, these changes reflected the fact that in July 1992, the Venezuelan congress had voted to transform Amazonas from a federal territory into the twenty-second state of Venezuela. In the wake of this...

  9. Appendix A: A Note on Translation Methods
    (pp. 157-159)
  10. Appendix B: AILLA Numbers for Narratives, Music, Dances, and Illustrations
    (pp. 160-162)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 163-170)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 171-176)
  13. References Cited
    (pp. 177-184)
  14. Index
    (pp. 185-196)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-201)