What follows is a taped interview with a shuar shaman. It took three days of walk up and down muddy hills. We waded across some creeks and finally did the last part in a pirogue. After few days of stay, we sit down in the afternoon and the interview started. It lasted until the sundown. Then we took natem together.
In the world have existed and exist hundreds of autochthonous groups that at the contact with the western civilization have been excluded, unknown and devaluated in the whole environment of their culture, either because one ignores their form of life or because of the ethnocentrism so marked of the western culture.
Each culture has its civilization; inside of which it can demonstrate itself: the form of organization, the work, the beliefs, the techniques, etc.. At the same time the culture is fundamentally the experience of peoples that have ideological manifestations in the philosophy and religion. For this reason all ethnic group has somebody in who they have faith, that faith is expressed in rites and myths, with the purpose of acquiring of that somebody the blessing for a better life, and that being's name varies taking into account the peculiarity of each ethnic group.
Our Shuar culture with the same purposes that the other cultures, in their search of the foundation of the existence, recognizes a being considered superior, the one that always offered the Shuar all the spiritual support that we needed from the supernatural world. The Shuar calls it Arutam. I leave for who wants to deepen in the theological sense, the meaning of that name; I take it rather as the expression of that being's entirety, just as conceived it our grandparents and such as they have lived him up to now from the antiquity.
This being, powerful and mysterious, is the one that has supported the survival of the people and of each Shuar inside the Amazon forest.
Although the Shuar culture has been considered "savage, without religion and without God" by some famous investigators that have published different texts, not only diffused in this country but also in the countries of Europe, stimulating this way others that have transformed sacred rites into folkloric demonstrations of recreation and distraction in the height of the cultural aggression; we continue lifting our voices to make understand who doesn't understand that anthropologically no culture is the summit of the other ones but rather each one organizes the world its own way, according to its own principles and according to its necessities it elaborates its techniques (rituals).
There is not right to minimize our world, neither to deteriorate our values. Arutam in spite of all that mistreatment, by who doesn't understand it, continues being the one that is. Arutam goes beyond all that can be saying of him who try to embrace it or to reduce it to folklore. Arutam continues living in the Shuar soul "in his house", the cascades will continue transmitting its power and its force to the children that request it of him; in spite of all the intentions of those that seem that they want to destroy us, destroying the reality of Arutam in the first place or making us doubt of him with their easy interpretations.
It is also true another aspect. The presence of strangers that with a conscience that I judge mistaken, have come to take out pictures, to film movies, etc.. to later publish them and some of us losing maybe the identity has been lent to demonstrations in our forms of ceremonial dresses only so that they take out them in the magazines. I don't approve these expressions. I believe that with Arutam the things are serious. Nobody will, without permission, arrive at the president's house of our country, or the White House of North America to film or to take pictures without previously requesting audience.
I respect the ideas of my elders that say that one can not make at cascades expressions that are not characteristic of the place, neither to carry out the acts without the spirit of the same; I mean that if somebody goes there to take a bath or to sing the anent (a holly song) only so that they can photograph or film him, it will be seen by Arutam that instead of giving him his blessing, he can curse him.
God willing, the following pages are as clear as my thought.
Maikiua: the hallucinogenic drink made of floripondio (Brugmansia sp. and Datura sp.).
Natem: the hallucinogenic drink made of ayahuaska "spiritual liana" (Banisteriopsis sp.)
Tsaank: the hallucinogenic drink made of tobacco (Nicotinia sp.)
Arutam: the incarnation of the spiritual force that a human looks for in his life to become a complete and powerful man.
Ayamtai: a hut built in the forest for ceremonies and activities associated with the search of Arutam.
Payank: the ceremonial cane.
Natip: the ritual cup used for hallucinogenic drinks.