THUNDER SHAMAN by A. M. Bacigalupo (2016)

thunder shamanThunder Shaman: Making History with Mapuche Spirits in Chile and Patagonia

By Ana Mariella Bacigalupo

University of Texas Press, 2016

The first study of how Mapuche shamans make history, Thunder Shaman challenges perceptions of shamans as being outside of history and examines how shamans themselves understand notions of civilization, savagery, and historical processes.

From Robin Wright’s review: “The book cover of Ana Mariella Bacigalupo’s Thunder Shaman displays a striking portrait of Francisca Kolipi Kurin, an elderly Mapuche machi (shaman), wearing a

blue and orange headscarf, a royal blue blouse, a shining silver breastplate, holding in her right hand a bunch of branches with dark bluish green leaves. With her left hand, she points to the cloud-filled sky, as though invoking the power of thunder. The image is prophetic, biblical, something like the Book of Ezekiel, when God approaches Ezekiel as the divine warrior, riding in his battle chariot, and commissions him as a prophet and watchman in Israel.  I make this comparison because the book is intended to be a shamanic “bible”, written in collaboration with the anthropologist. As such, this project is unique though it can be included within a new and exciting genre of co-productions that have emerged in South American studies of shamanism.

The Bible, of course, is the single most widely read book among indigenous peoples the world over.  But for indigenous peoples to produce their own ‘bibles’ containing the powers of outstanding shamanic leaders is extraordinary. To be sure, there are Mapuche “mystics” who have written their own “mystical bibles” parallel to the Hebrew texts. But Thunder Shaman does not follow in the same line as the Mapuche mystical bibles which seek to legitimate Mapuche shamanic practice in the eyes of the Chilean majority by linking it to broader Chilean notions of religions.

The author was an apprentice/helper to Francisca Kolipi, a Mapuche thunder shaman, whose life-history deeply influenced the Mapuche of her community, Millali, in southern Chile. Francisca always worked with a Bible in her curing rituals. Before she passed away, she made an agreement with the author to write her (Francisca’s) “Bible”, a book that would contain her powers, explain where they came from, and how they were returned to the ancestral shamanic spirit. Thunder Shaman is thus imbued with Francisca’s powers.  Actually, it is a blend of many powerful elements, for the author, with characteristic elegance and dedication, weaves multiple narratives, and analytic modes/ perspectives into a superbly crafted gem. This review can only touch upon why I believe this book is a ‘tour-de-force’ in studies of shamanic historical consciousness, Mapuche historicity, and machi relations to the images and processes imposed on the Mapuche by the Chilean state. It is, in many ways, highly relevant to Lowland South American ethnography.”

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