Monday, May 16, 2011

Home Ec at the Brain Lab

Of course, here at the lab, we combine Anthropology, Non-Western Religions, and Metal Shop with our Home Economics course.

"Shrunken Heads," Josh Agle
 Class, your assigned reading is from this website, which is a very interesting and thorough study of the head-hunting culture of the Shuar (also called the Jivaro) people.

Especially pay attention to the following paragraphs, Students!
   To understand the motives behind the preparation of tsantsa (shrunken head) it is necessary to realize that the tsantsa itself possesses tsarutama or magical power. Immediately following the battle the head was taken as a trophy, which indicated that the maker had properly fulfilled the obligation to his lineage in taking blood revenge.

   Most Jivaro Indians would consider any victory over the enemy as incomplete, and perhaps the whole war expedition a failure if they were unable to return without one or more trophies. Furthermore, possessing the tsantsa itself would benefit the warrior's good fortune as well as please the spirits of his ancestors. The warrior could expect the spirits of their dead relatives to bestow them with good crops and fortune. Consequently, one could anticipate corresponding misfortune if their murders were not properly avenged. The Jivaros gave much more thought to the harm that might come to them through the ill will of the neglected dead relatives ghosts, than they did to the malevolent actions of enemy ghosts.
He laughed at my theories

    More importantly, the reason behind the preparation of the tsantsa is to paralyze the spirit of the enemy attached to the head so that it cannot escape and take revenge upon the murderer. This also prevents the spirit or soul from continuing into the afterlife where it could harm dead ancestors. When the warrior kills his enemy, he is not only after the victim's life, but more importantly he seeks to possess the victim's soul. Acquiring trophies after a battle, was also an instrument of increasing a warrior's own personal power, known as arutam. The idea behind killing the enemy and taking his head as a trophy, brings the victim's arutam to the warrior. The power of the dead man's soul is still considered dangerous to the victorious tribe and therefore the motive behind shrinking the head of the enemy is to conquer and destroy the spirit or soul.
   In addition to satisfying the notion of blood-revenge and possessing the dead man's soul, the transformation of the head into a tsantsa implies a deadly insult not only to the dead man himself, but also to his whole tribe.
   The head means to the warrior what the Medal of Honor means to an American soldier.

And now for the Home Ec portion of our lecture: Follow this recipe!
For extra credit, go watch "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake."

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