Thursday, 12. June 2008
The Worldwide Web of Belief and Ritual

Anthropologist Wade Davis muses on the worldwide web of belief and ritual that makes us human. He shares breathtaking photos and stories of the Elder Brothers, a group of Sierra Nevada indians whose spiritual practice holds the world in balance.

Wade Davis: The Worldwide Web of Belief and Ritual (19:12)

See also:
Sierra Nevada Indians - If they protect their sacred mountain home, the Indians of northern Colombia believe they will keep the entire planet in balance. It's getting more and more difficult.


About Wade Davis:
A National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Wade Davis travels the globe to live alongside indigenous people, and document their cultural practices in books, photographs, and film. He's a passionate advocate for preserving what he's dubbed the "ethnosphere."
He believes humanity's greatest legacy is the "ethnosphere," the cultural counterpart to the biosphere, and "the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness." He beautifully articulates the intellectual, emotional and moral reasons why it's in everyone's best interest to preserve the world's cultures.

Davis serves on the councils of Ecotrust and other NGOs working to protect diversity. He also co-founded Cultures on the Edge, a quarterly online magazine designed to raise awareness of threatened communities. Perhaps his best-known work is 'The Serpent and the Rainbow', an international bestseller about zombification practices in Haiti.
Category: Ethno & Shamanism |

Saturday, 31. May 2008
Handbook of Native American Mythology

This work introduces you to the mythologies of Native Americans from the United States to the Arctic Circle - a rich, complex, and diverse body of lore, which remains less widely known than mythologies of other peoples and places.


In thematic chapters and encyclopedia-style entries, this book examines the characters and deities, rituals, sacred locations and objects, concepts, and stories that define mythological cultures of various indigenous peoples.

By tracing the traditions as far back as possible and following their evolution from generation to generation, it offers also a unique perspective on Native American history, culture, and values, shows how central these traditions are to contemporary Native American life.

With more than 40 photographs, illustrations, and maps.

Handbook of Native American Mythology by Dawn E. Bastian & Judy K. Mitchell
ABC-CLIO, 2004 | 313 pages | PDF | 2.0 MB

Navajo man sand painting. (Danny Lehman/Corbis)
Category: Books & Magazines | Ethno & Shamanism |

Monday, 19. May 2008
A Passion for Mongolia

The native religion of Mongolia is, like the language, related to the Turkish tradition and would also have similarities with the Tibetan Bön. In general this religion is referred to as shamanism. Rather often shamanism refers to a specific form of this religious phenomena present in Siberia, and although there is a relation with this form it is not the same. Above this `shamanism´ implies that a religious specialist is needed and central to it’s faith and practices while in fact it is an animist religion with an arsenal of beliefs and practices in which a shaman not necessarily is involved.

This native religion is not unequivocal, with a unequivocal doctrine, but rather a diversity of local beliefs and practices, which by a number of common characteristics can be lumped together. Central in this belief is the worship of the Blue, Mighty, Eternal Heaven (köke tngri, erketü tngri, möngke tngri). There is a total of 99 tngri or heavenly creatures of which Köke Möngke Tngri (Eternal Blue Heaven) is the chief. According to European sources from the thirteenth century this would be one god, from whom it is believed he is the creator of the visible and invisible .

Religion in Mongolia






During communist purges in the 1930´s most monasteries in Mongolia have been destroyed. Monks have been killed or taken to Siberia, to be never heard from again. Since the fall of communism however there is a real revival of Buddhism taking place. Lama´s are trained again, old monasteries are being restored or rebuild at a different place and new monasteries arise.

In general a monastery would consist of various buildings on a compound. One of these buildings is the main temple, where often - though not always - the main ceremonies take place. Like the door of a ger, the entry of a temple should be pointing to the south.

Monasteries and Temples in Mongolia

Here you will find information on Mongolian traditions and culture, religion and much more: Mongoluls - A passion for Mongolia.

At BluePeak you can find a wide variety of images on Mongolia and other countries in the world. The Mongolia section features a virtual tour that takes you from the crowded capital to the pristine nature of the scarsely populated countryside.
Category: Ethno & Shamanism | Monks & Ascets |

Friday, 09. May 2008
Icaros, Sacred Songs of the Amazon

Icaros are medicine songs, used as part of the toolkit of Shamans and Curanderos in the Peruvian Amazon Basin. They claim the spirits of the plants communicate with them through Icaros. Every being in the rainforest has an Icaro and its melody alone is believed to possess curative powers. These songs have been described as the "quintessence of shamanic power".

Typically, but not always, they are used in Ayahuasca ceremonies to fulfill such purposes as removing bad spirits from an afflicted person. Typically, icaros are sung with the accompaniment of a Chakapa.

Below is a great article found at Ross Heaven's Blog (You really must have a look at that amazing site about Shamanism.)

Plant Spirit Shamanism: Icaros, the sacred songs

Integral to any ayahausca ceremony are sacred chants sung by the shamans to call the protective jungle spirits, summon the essence of nature, and to provoke the mareacion or effects of the ayahuasca by making a plea to the spirit of the vine. In the words of Javier Aravelo, quoted in my book, Plant Spirit Shamanism, icaros “render the mind susceptible for visions; then the curtains can open for the start of the theatre”.

Icaros may be magical chants or a melody that is whistled, sung, or whispered into the ayahuasca brew. They may also be sung directly into the energy field of a person who is to be healed during a ceremony.

An icaro can be regarded as an energetic force charged with positive or healing intent that the shaman stores inside his body and is able to transmit to another person or to the brew itself so that this positive energy is ingested when the mixture is drunk.

These songs are taught to the shaman by the spirit of the plant allies he has an affinity with, and the longer his relationship with the plants, the more icaros he may learn and the more potent they will be.

The power and knowledge of an ayahuascero (ayahuasca shaman) is therefore measured in part by the number of icaros he possesses. Javier, for example, has worked with many different plants for 15 years and now knows the spirit songs of some 1,500 ‘jungle doctors’, including the icaro del tabaco (the song of tobacco – one of the most sacred of Amazonian plants), the icaro del ajo sacha (the song of ajo sacha) and the icaro del chiric sanango, amongst many others.

There are precise and specific icaros for many different purposes - to cure snake bites, for example, or to clarify the vision during ayahuasca ceremonies, to communicate with the spirit world, or even to win the love of a woman. Huarmi icaros - from the Quechua word ‘huarmi’ (which, loosely, means “woman”) are of this latter category.

There are also icaros (called icaros de la piedra) which are taught to the shaman by encantos (special healing stones which offer spiritual protection), and icaros to the spirits of the elements, such as icaro del viento, which calls upon the spirit of the wind.

Other icaros, such as the ayaruna - from the Quechua words ‘aya’ (“spirit” or “dead”) and ‘runa’ (“people”) - are sung to invoke the “spirit people” – the souls of dead shamans who live in the underwater world - so they may help during a healing or an ayahuasca ceremony.

Icaros can also be transmitted from a master shaman to his disciple but, once again, it is nature that is regarded as the greatest teacher and the most powerful songs are those learnt directly from the plants themselves. To learn these songs the shaman must fast or follow a special diet for many weeks as he treks deep into the rainforest to find the appropriate plants and places of power where the magical music of nature can be heard.

Art by Ross Heaven

The words of the chants he then learns are symbolic stories telling of the ability of nature to heal itself: how the crystalline waters from a stream will wash clean and purify a person who is unwell, for example; or how bright-coloured flowers attract hummingbirds whose delicate wings fan healing energies. You might also see such things in your ayahuasca visions as a response to these icaros, but what actually heals you is more likely to be the insights that arise from the experience and which allow inner feelings to unblock so that bitterness and anger can change to ecstasy and love.

A few verses from the icaro madre naturaleza (‘song of mother nature’), which was taught by the jungle to Javier Arevalo, demonstrate the deep bond between the shaman and the natural world, and the healing that is available to us all.

In English:

Don't leave me, don't leave me
My mother nature
Don't leave me, don't leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I would die or of the pain
My tears of desperation
My mother nature
Yes you have the gift of life
Sacred purification in you hands
Blessed mother nature

Don't leave me don't leave me
My mother nature
Don't leave me, don't leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I would die or of the pain
Tears of desperation
The white veil that your you have
As it covers this child
Clean my body and spirit
With the breath or of your lips
Dearest miraculous Mother.

Don't leave me, don't leave me
My mother nature
Don't leave me, don't leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I will die of the sorrow
My tears of desperation
In the mountains or upper jungle
Where you give me peace and prosperity
Without regrets neither bitterness
Dearest pure Mother

Don't leave me , don't leave me
My mother nature
Don't leave me , don't leave me
My mother nature
For if you will leave me
I would die or of the pain
My tears of desperation
Where you Take a bath with the plants
Blessed Child put onto me
Your crown of health
Eternally in my heart
Category: Articles & Essays | Ethno & Shamanism |

Saturday, 19. April 2008
American Indian Tribes

This two-volume treatment of American Indian tribes is organized into two parts: "Culture Areas" and "Tribes and Traditions." The first part is further divided into ten distinct and well-organized thematic essays on regions that include the Arctic, California, Great Basin, Northeast, Northwest Coast, Plains, Plateau, Southeast, Southwest, and the Subarctic. Further some chapter contains photographs and graphics to complement the text.


Each essay presents the language groups and tribes of the region in question and a variety of subtopics, such as environment, material culture, art and architecture, linguistic history, postcontact changes, and regional prehistory. The essays, which reflect the diversity of each region, are well written, clear, and concise. The "Tribes and Traditions" section, which takes up the second half of Volume 1 and all of Volume 2, covers every group, from the Abenaki to the Zapotec, including precontact groups, such as the Hohokam or Hopewell. Brief discussion is given to subsistence patterns, material culture, post-contact changes, prehistory, religion, and history.

American Indian Tribes
by Salem Press (Corporate Author), R. Kent Rasmussen (Editor).
Salem Press, 2000 | 718 pages | PDF | 11.1 MB
This title focuses on the North American Indian tribes. Major Mesoamerican groups such as the Aztec, Maya, and Toltec are also included.

Category: Books & Magazines | Ethno & Shamanism |

Friday, 28. March 2008
The African Labyrinth



The labyrinth in its many shapes and forms has, throughout the ages, been recognized and used as an archetypal symbol of healing, rebirth, re-generation and transformation. The spider-web labyrinth design is based on the sand drawings of the Tchokwe people of northeast Angola. These drawings (sona) are linked through dots in the sand and show the skill of a visionary/sangoma.

According to Credo Mutwa, African labyrinths have existed for eons in Africa and are an integral part of every tribe in some shape or form. Apart from divination, the labyrinth is also used as an initiation tool into Umlando, the Great Knowledge.

The African Labyrinth

Every culture uses the path as an initiation; the sanusis and sangomas have to walk through several gates to reach the center where they perform certain procedures before they can exit. In some traditions one has to follow the path encountering seven dangers to find the green chief (representing the Earth God) without a leg in the center dome, receiving a gift for your journey forward. On the way out various people wearing different masks try to take the gift away, reminding one to take great care of the gifts of life bestowed on us. In the Zulu tradition kings were exposed to nine temptations (representing the nine months in a mother's womb) before they could finally enter the cave of rebirth, where they would find a young virgin sangoma that would usher them into this world giving them a blessing.



Category: Buildings & Places | Ethno & Shamanism | Symbols & Geometry |

Tuesday, 11. March 2008
Carole Bourdo Art


Carole, who was born in 1938, spent ten years in close association with the Chippewa people some 50 miles south of her native Chicago.

These early, formative years left an indelible print and she fondly remembers the old Chief Evergreen.

Carol's work is not limited to traditional presentation on canvas and art board. She has painted scenery on cabanas, illustrated a children's book, and painted a 40 foot eagle on Colorado Springs Bi-Centennial Building in 1976.

Recognizing the need for authenticity, Carole studies people and animals in their own habitat. She attends and participates in Indian Pow Wows, historic Indian and Mountain Man Rendezvous.

She has traveled to Alaska to study and photograph the grizzly and eagle in their natural habitat.
She has conducted research on the Indian tribes at the Anthropology Archives of the Smithsonian Institute and has done research on the Bald and Golden eagles at the National Eagle Research Center where three of the prints are on permanent display.

She is a strong supporter of the Native American Rights Fund and has participated on the National Support committee.

Carole's ability to blend absolute reality with spiritual essence is without peer. She is a great talent with complete dedication to her field and a tireless proponent of her work and her belief.

Carole Bourdo Art


Category: Art & Visions | Ethno & Shamanism |

Monday, 03. March 2008
African Drums

African drums were musical instruments, ceremonial objects and means of communication. The large exhibit focuses on the traditional drums of the Yoruba, Senufo, Kuba, Akan, Chokwe and other peoples, plus slit drums of the Yaka, Dan and Yangere. The drums range from everyday objects with monumental, simple forms to ornate pieces bringing status to the owner, connoting power and the honoring of ancestors.

The most impressive collection in the exhibit are the ten Yoruba ceremonial drums, all deeply carved with figures or heads:

Yoruba ceremonial drums, Nigeria

Bamileke drums, embellished with low relief carving of figures, animals and objects show the creativity and power the Bamileke put into functional objects:

Bamileke drums, Cameroon

African Drums

Traditional African artworks are often not well understood. They all served a nonartistic function, to preserve and convey beliefs and values. The masks were part of full costumes and were used with music and dance in rituals for social control, education, status or entertainment. The figures depicted ancestors or spirits, and were venerated and received offerings in exchange for protection and well being.

See also other African Artifacts.
Or explore the site with the Index by Tribe and/or the Index by Object.

A fetish is a statue or object with magical power, like an amulet, talisman or good luck charm. In traditional, tribal Africa, especially in Zaire, these beliefs are manifested in some of the most expressive and magical power figures ever created:

Mumuye, Fetish, Nigeria
Category: Ethno & Shamanism | Products & Services |

Wednesday, 20. February 2008
Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian

This page is mind-boggling!
A gateway to information concerning approximately 80 western Native American tribes, visited and photographed by Edward Sheriff Curtis from 1890 to 1930.

Invocation - Sioux, 1907

Curtis Caption:
Scattered throughout the Indian country are found spots that are virtually shrines. These are often boulders or other rocks which through some chance have been invested with mythic significance, and to them priest and war-leaders repair to invoke the aid of the supernatural powers. The half-buried bowlder on which the suppliant stands is accredited with the power of revealing to the warrior the foreordained result of his projected raid. Its surface bears what the Indians call the imprint of human feet, and it is owing to this peculiarity that it became a shrine. About it the soil is almost completely worn away by the generations of suppliants who have journeyed hither for divine revelation.

Inscription Rock, 1925

Curtis Caption:
Inscription Rock, or El Morro (The Castle), as the Spaniards called it, is a striking landmark on the ancient trail between Acoma and Zuni. Beginning with Juan de Onate, who passed here in April, 1605, on his return to the Rio Grande from "the south sea," Spanish explorers and the administrators recorded their names and dates on smooth surfaces of the cliff, which reveal also numerous Indian petroglyphs. (See Volume XVII, illustration facing page 88.) Two ancient ruined pueblos are found on the top of the rock.

Geronimo - Apache

Curtis Caption:
This portrait of the historical old Apache was made in March, 1905. According to Geronimo's calculation he was at the time seventy-six years of age, thus making the year of his birth 1829. The picture was taken at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the day before the inauguration of President Roosevelt, Geronimo being one of the warriors who took part in the inaugural parade at Washington. He appreciated the honor of being one of those chosen for this occasion, and the catching of his features while the old warrior was in a retrospective mood was most fortunate.

Dancing Mask - Nootka, 1915

This site presents the complete contents of The North American Indian originally published by Edward S. Curtis between 1907-1930 with the intent to record traditional Indian cultures. The images and descriptions reflect the prevailing Euro-American cultural perspective of Curtis’s time, that Indians were “primitive” people whose traditions represented a “vanishing race”. Contemporary readers should view the work in that context.

In The North American Indian some ceremonial rituals and objects are portrayed which were not intended for viewing by the uninitiated. No material has been excluded or specially labeled in this online edition.

The work comprises twenty volumes of narrative text and photogravure images. Each volume is accompanied by a portfolio of large photogravure plates.

Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian by Northwestern University Library. Nearly 5000 pages of narrative text and over 2200 images!

Alternative Link:
Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian by The Library of Congress.

See also: The Curtis Collection Home Page.
Category: Ethno & Shamanism |

Saturday, 09. February 2008
Psychedelic Shamanism

This book is a bona fide classic of psychedelic literature. It separates its subject into two parts: The Shamanic Hypothesis, and Psychedelic Catalysts. The first part focuses on experience; the second on the plants, their psychedelic chemicals, and how to grow and ingest them. The writing is calm, clear and vivid; and the various warnings and advice given should be taken very seriously indeed.

Here's a brief quote from the "Extraction Prodedures" chapter:

"In most aboriginal cultures, the extraction process for psychedelic plants is quite simple; as often as not, the shaman just boils down the raw materials in a pot and then drinks the concentrated brew.

We come from a different tradition with different beliefs and expectations. For one thing, our 'civilized' tastes have been refined to the point where we have difficulty in ingesting anything we perceive as bitter or repulsive -- this, unfortunately, applies to most psychoactive botanicals.

I know of no plant hallucinogen that actually tastes good, which I would want to eat even if it weren't a psychedelic.


Westerners generally prefer pure compounds in the form of pills or capsules that can be easily swallowed, an efficiency which makes up in acceleration what it loses in verisimilitude."

Psychedelic Shamanism: The Cultivation, Preparation & Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Plants by Jim DeKorne.
Loompanics Unlimited, 1994-05 | 155 pages | PDF | 3.5 MB
Category: Books & Magazines | Ethno & Shamanism | Lunacy & Psychedelic |

Monday, 07. January 2008
Indigenous Native American Prophecy - Elders Speak

No comment needed … the message says it all!

Indigenous Native American Prophecy: Elders Speak - Part 1 (06:36)
Indigenous Native American Prophecy: Elders Speak - Part 2 (08:42)
Indigenous Native American Prophecy: Elders Speak - Part 3 (07:50)
Indigenous Native American Prophecy: Elders Speak - Part 4 (07:59)
Indigenous Native American Prophecy: Elders Speak - Part 5 (04:29)

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Category: Ethno & Shamanism | Movies & TV | Prophecies & Mediums |

Saturday, 05. January 2008
Totem Poles

"Idols of the British Columbian Indians." (Benjamin West Kilburn, 1827-1909)

When Europeans first came as visitors to the Northwest Coast, they were awed by the monumental totem poles. Later when they became colonizers, they sought to destroy this powerful symbol of indigenous identity by theft and suppression. When a dozen of Alaska's most magnificent totem poles were displayed at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition (left), they were viewed as the products of a dying culture. Yet the culture has not died, but ironically the ancient cedar trees on which the totem carving traditions depend have all but been exterminated.


Today's cross cultural fascination with totem poles is reflected by the surprisingly high number of totem pole sites on the World Wide Web. Although these sites are spread over twelve countries, only two of these - Canada and the USA - have an indigenous tradition of totem poles carved from ancient red cedar trees. This internet resource lists selected totem pole sites by their country of origin: American (47); Australian (1); Austrian (1); Belgian (1); Canadian (72); Dutch (3); English (4); Finnish (1); German (4); Icelandic (1); Scottish (2); and Swedish (1). Out of a total of 150 sites, about one fifth (33) are indigenously owned.

Wrangell Indian Village (T. Richardson)

Totem poles are carved from some of the oldest and biggest trees on Earth. These spectacular biological wonders are the result of 10,000 years of habitat evolution. Sitka spruce, red and yellow cedar, western hemlock and Douglas fir can grow over 300 feet tall and live for over 1,500 years. It is widely recognized that cedar trees are vital to the culture and lives of the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast yet no legal protection exists for these "Aboriginal Heritage Trees."

Despite centuries of theft and colonial attempts to eradicate totem poles, the art has survived and flourishes. Totem poles are raised to mark community events such as the naming of a chief: inaugurating a new house; honouring a family; hailing a marriage; ridiculing a debtor; celebrating a birth; or commemorating a death.

Totem Poles by Dr. Karen Wonders.
Some links are broken, however a great resource!
Category: Ethno & Shamanism |

Sunday, 02. December 2007
The Aztec Empire

Aztec society, culture and religions have been documented to being one of the most advanced civilizations engraving their place in world history. During the same period as the Inca Empire, the Aztec Empire dominated Mesoamerica from Mexico and Guatemala to the territories of Salvador and Honduras for nearly 100 years.

This is a profile of one of the most fascinating civilizations of the Ancient World where beauty was balanced by savagery, and mysticism was soaked in blood. Leading scholars trace the rise of the Aztecs from their island in present-day Mexico City to the pre-eminent culture of ancient America, and reveal how the Spanish were able to bring this mighty society to its knees in mere months! Tour the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan in Mexico City, where ongoing excavations are unraveling some of the enduring enigmas of the Aztecs. Director Eduardo Matos Moctezuma provides a behind-the-scenes look at the seat of the ancient empire and reveals astonishing new discoveries. And see how the long-vanished civilization's influence is still felt in Mexico today.

'The Aztec Empire' by History Channel, 2005 - Duration: 43 minutes.

You may also like:
The Aztecs at Mexicolore.
Aztec Empire by Minnesota State University eMuseum.
Aztecs / Nahuatl / Tenochtitlan at University of Minnesota Duluth.
Aztec history, culture and religion by B. Diaz del Castillo.
The Aztecs by
The Aztecs by Aztec Indians
Category: Ethno & Shamanism | Movies & TV |

Friday, 23. November 2007
First People


My grandfather is the fire
My grandmother is the wind
The Earth is my mother
The Great Spirit is my father
The World stopped at my birth
and laid itself at my feet
And I shall swallow the Earth whole
when I die
and the Earth and I will be one
Hail The Great Spirit, my father
without him no one could exist
because there would be no will to live
Hail The Earth, my mother
without which no food could be grown
and so cause the will to live to starve
Hail the wind, my grandmother
for she brings loving, lifegiving rain
nourishing us as she nourishes our crops
Hail the fire, my grandfather
for the light, the warmth, the comfort he brings
without which we be animals, not men
Hail my parent and grandparents
without which
not I
nor you
nor anyone else
could have existed
Life gives life
which gives unto itself
a promise of new life
Hail the Great Spirit, The Earth, the wind, the fire
praise my parents loudly
for they are your parents, too
Oh, Great Spirit, giver of my life
please accept this humble offering of prayer
this offering of praise
this honest reverence of my love for you.

H. Kent Craig

More: Native American Poems And Prayers


Over 1400 Native American Legends online and plan to add a lot more.

Read the words of wisdom from such people as Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Chief Luther Standing Bear and others.

Read also Geronimo - His Story.

Over 1800 photographs of American Indians - people, Tipi's, lodges and encampments, canoe's and other sailing vessels, and some old photographs by Edward E Curtis.

All creatures are sacred to the First People. Some, like the American Eagle (47), Wolves (287), Grizzly and Brown Bear (68), and American Buffalo (153), appear in stories and legends. Many of these pictures are "wallpaper" size, so you can use them for backgrounds on your PC.

This and MUCH more at First People by Paul Burke.
Category: Ethno & Shamanism |

Thursday, 18. October 2007
Tribal African Art


Yohure (Snan, Yaoure, Yaure)

The Yohure masks are considered emblems of yu spirits, very dangerous; they have to be handled with extreme caution. Cases of death that jeopardize the social order are the principal occasions for an appearance of masqueraders. By means of their dance, they restore the social equilibrium of the community and accompany the deceased into the ancestral realm. These masks are worn predominantly on two occasions: the je celebration and the lo funeral ceremony. The first purifies the village after a death and helps the deceased's soul on its way to a final resting place. Women may not participate in funeral ceremonies, neither may they look at the masks, for fear that this encounter with death might jeopardize their fecundity. This means that before starting the village’s purification rituals related to a death, for prudence sake the women are gotten out of the way. With the aid of such masks, the people hope to influence supernatural powers, or yu spirits, that can do harm to humans, but that can also ensure their welfare. Painted masks are mainly worn by dancers during this ceremony, while for lo funeral ceremony, masks covered with black pigments appear. The function of each type of mask is not rigidly fixed, which leads to their appearance during either ceremony.

Kuba (Bacouba, Bakuba, Bushongo)

Kuba wooden helmet masks are probably the most commonly produced items, popular with the collectors. These striking masks are wonderfully decorated with geometrical surface designs in dazzling contrasts of color, pattern, and texture. Hide, animal hair, fur, beads, cowrie shells, and feathers ornament the masks, and costumes of bark-cloth, raffia fiber fabric, and beaded elements complete the manifestation of nature spirits, intermediaries between the Supreme Being and the people. One widespread context for masking is initiation. Every several years a group of boys will be inducted into manhood through the initiation which transforms uncircumcised boys into initiated men who possess esoteric knowledge. Funerals are a second important context for masks throughout the Kuba area.



Senufo (Senoufo, Siena, Sienna)

The Senufo produce a rich variety of sculptures, mainly associated with the Poro society, to which adult men belong and which maintains the continuity of religious and historical traditions, especially through the cult of the ancestors. The kpelie masks represent a supernatural spirit living in the invisible realm who responds to the supplications of worshippers. It also represents the ancestor. Such masks have been used by the Lo society, which governed the social life of the tribe. Although the occasions on which it is used may differ, it always represents an ancestor closely connected to the society’s origin. The kpelie is said to remind initiates of human imperfection. The Senufo have a vital masquerading tradition associated with various male societies, including Poro. Masked dancers performed at each initiation, at harvest festivals to thank the ancestor for a good crop, in the funerary rites, to chase away harmful spirits from the village and to fight sorcerers. This is an unusually large kpelie mask.

Tribal African Art - featuring over 1,200 artifacts from 100 ethnic groups. Items on display include wooden and bronze statues, masks, religious, ritual and domestic objects, furniture and weapons. Learn about art, culture and history of each ethnic group.
Category: Ethno & Shamanism |

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