The Shuar people, once known as Jívaro, is the repository of one of the world's most important
The primeval jungle's Shuar Spirits, such as the arútam and the
tséntsak are the mightiest power I've ever encountered.
It's hard to explain what Arútam is, in the Shuar eyes: we always miss a lot when trying to define
things from the Other Reality.
We could say that Arútam is a divine power permeating Universe and Earth and producing
practical effects which model our Reality.
Arútam takes on different forms to be effective in this world - such forms express
different Powers which are called "the arútams" too.
The arútams in a way are primeval gods ruling living beings'
power, good and bad luck, happiness and misery. They make our lives meaningful or meangingless.
The different forms of the arútam-gods appear like some Amazonian animals or mighty natural events like lightnings
and meteors. They aren't the animal or the lightning, rather they are essences of those powerful
So Jaguar is an arútam, but it's no individual jaguar, it's actually the "jaguarness", i.e. the power
each jaguar originates from.
Such manifestations of Arútam are ancestral, emerging out of the primeval ages and hence
they retain an enormous power. Life's all forces may be tracked back to the arútams.
They play such an important role in understanding the world and in finding our own way across the jungle of life, that I hold several
workshops in Italy on arutams and their interplay.
It's hard to tell how many the arutams are, yet herein below I'll give a list of the commonest.
How the Shuar view the human soul
Christianity has taught us of a unique and indivisible soul which we receive before birth, however all
traditions have a different outlook.
According to the Shuar, we have an "ordinary" soul, called nekás wakán ("true soul") plus no less than 2
souls which come to existence at special times:
- muísak wakán (wakán or wakáni means "soul, shadow, image") is a vengeance soul.
It comes to existence a few days
after a violent death. It longs for a compensation and wanders around or chases
its killers until taking revenge on them.
This kind of Spirit is known in all shamanic traditions and muisaks are the restless Spirits haunting places
where murders or massacres have occurred. They are no "complete" souls,
don't remember but their death, are full of hate and pain, and share few commonalities with the deadperson's
nature and true soul.
- A second "additional soul" is called arútma wakán, "arutam soul".
It comes to existence, if it ever does, during a ceremony.
It has the power of an arútam and is given by some ancestor of ours sharing the same power.
E.g. if we get the Anaconda arutam, then an ancestor of ours lived a life as an anaconda
and he/she still retains
How an "arútma wakán" is won
In the Shuar tradition the arútma wakáni makes the difference between miserable and meaningful lives.
It is born at the time when it's won in the rite and immediately settles in our chest.
However it can get out of our body at its own will and travel to the Land of the Dead,
where it once belonged, due to being
an ancestor's gift. The arútam soul back from the Land of the Dead will bring us wisdom and strenghth,
as a heritage of our kin and of our people's and mankind's ancestors.
This soul's power is huge: arutam owners can't be killed nor can they die of an accident.
They'll rarely get beaten by their competitors and never will they be won.
Natives claim that they die but of epidemics, which means they may only get killed by a very severe and widespread disease.
According to which arutam bore your additional soul,
it will have a special power we'll realize
our Dream with. Dream is the task that Spirits has given us and the arutam will reveal.
Whatever our dream is, it's a real goal making us feel realized both in spiritual and practical life.
For instance, the Crocodile arutam brings the power of curing. This means that curing is
our task and that we'll only be happy when
When natives speak of an "arutam quest" or of encountering the arutam, they always refer to the arutam soul, i.e.
the arútma wakáni.
Rites to win it usually take place near a waterfall or a river because waterstreams are boundaries. As they
boundaries in Our
Reality so they are in the Other Reality, where they separate this World from the Land of the Dead.
That depends on that water leads us across the frontier between life and death and we are born to hearthly life -
to the afterlife too - by crossing water (amniotic liquid).
Ways to attain an arutam soul are:
- You can walk for your arutam out into the jungle in a stormy night, because electric storms are a "catalyst" for
the arutam soul.
- You may encounter your arutam during a shamanic initiation. After a limpieza (shamanic cleansing)
the shaman-teacher sings his/her
anents (sacred chants), blows his/her
spirit helpers all over your body and onto your "crown", perhaps you drink an intoxicating
potion, such as ayahuasca or plain green tobacco juice, then you go to sleep and you may happen to
dream your arutam.
- If the initiation fails, you need to fast 2 days, then
an uwishìn (Shuar shaman) walks you out to a waterfall or a river where
you're to remain 1 or 2 days, still fasting, drinking a bit of green tobacco juice (if you feel like it), chanting the millennia-old
anents the shaman will teach you and invoking your ancestors.
If they decide so, the arutam will come over to you in a dream.
Special people may attain 2 arutam souls in 2 different rites (never both in a single one). People like that can't
die of epidemics either, in a word nothing is able to kill them at all.
Two-arutam men or women are called
kakáram, meaning "power persons".