Andrej Kocan. Completed the Master in Master of music in 2018/06 by The Royal Danish Academy of Music, Bachelor in Faculty for Mathematics and Physics in 2008 by Univerza v Ljubljani and Bachelor in Bachelor of Music in 2015/06 by The Royal Danish Academy of Music.
Nixi pae chants of the Peruvian Huni Kuin: ritual, performance, and healing in the Amazon
This is an ethnographic study resulting from fieldwork carried out between 2021 and 2023 among the Huni Kuin (Cashinahua) communities living on the Peruvian side of the border between Peru and Brazil, within the Amazon region. Focusing on their ayahuasca (nixi pae) chants performed during ritualistic sessions, I delve into the integral role of these chants in the spiritual practices of the community.
According to previous studies, healing, as a cure for physical ailments, has not been the primary aim of ayahuasca sessions for the Peruvian Huni Kuin. My argument centers on the notion that these rituals primarily serve the functions of fostering social cohesion and maintaining the spiritual fabric of the community. Healing, in their worldview, is conceived as a transformative process—an alignment towards wholeness and balance. This transformative journey is encapsulated in their concept of xinan, characterized as an integrative consciousness, mediated and provided through experiences during ayahuasca ceremonies, other communal rituals, and daily life.
Since the 1960s, missionaries have been, in the absence of other agents of change, such as the state, corporations, and tourists, the main generators of transformations in Huni Kuin society in the highly isolated Peruvian Purús area. The diminishing presence of elders possessing spiritual knowledge and the reduction in the frequency of communal rituals have led to a shift in the community's worldview from the spiritual to the secular. This transition has impacted the balance within the community, affecting its collective self-healing capabilities. Consequently, this study re-evaluates anthropological categories such as shamanism, performance, ritual, healing, and cosmological systems. It also explores how the concepts of illness and healing are conceptualized within the unique perspective of the Huni Kuin.
Keywords: Cashinahua, Huni Kuin, Peru, ayahuasca, chants.
Funding: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (PD/BD/150615/2020)