The Mapuche People 2

THE MACHI ( doctor, sorcerer, shaman) The machi is the mediator between men and the divinity, and maintains the equilibrium between good and evil forces on the Earth. In earlier times, this task was performed by homosexual men or women, but later it became almost exclusively femenine.

Having a deep knowledge of their beliefs and traditions, Machis act as priests and conduct ceremonies, specially in Chile. They prey for good luck and predict future events. They elevate their spirit to get in touch with protective beings in the celestial world. This trip takes place in a state of ecstasy or trance provoked by the sound of the KULTRUN, dances, ritual songs and occasional hallucinations.

Diagnosis and cure of the sick are specially important tasks. Disease is considered to have a supernatural origin caused by evil spirits (WECUFE) at the service of a sorcerer (KALKU) who induces evil to go into the human body.
The function of the Machi is to drive evil away. In ecstasy, she receives help from the good spirits, who also guide her in the administration and selection of herbs and other healing techniques to restore physical and spiritual fitness to the sick.

The NGUILLATUN is the main religious celebration of the Mapuches. They meet every year to thank and ask deities and ancestors for the common welfare.
In agricultural communities, the celebration takes place in harvest time during the full moon, at the moment when it gives fertility to farms. In Argentina, since the communities of R¡o Negro, Neuqu‚n and Chubut live basically on ovine and caprine cattle, prayers are generally offered in March to ask for the fertility of animals. Floods, earthquakes, long draught or other calamities may also be the reason to call for a NGUILLATUN.

The ceremony lasts four days. It is celebrated in a plain farm where they set a ritual space in "U" shape open to the West., the sacred part of the World.

For the celebration, they set up an altar or REWE made of canes (Chusquea culeou) forming a ladder decorated with yellow, blue or white flags and also with branches of maitenes (Maitenus boaria), lengas (Notophagus pumilia), coihues (Notophagus dombeyi) and other trees. In Argentina, the ceremony is conducted by the NGUEMPIN, a lay celebrant, while in Chile it is directed by the Machi. During the celebration, there are alternate rituals, dances, prayers, sacred songs, riding on horseback around the sacred place (AWUN), and offerings to the Earth, where they spread MUDAI or CHICHA, mate, tobacco and the blood of sacrificed animals. Traditional musical instruments like the KULTRUN, the TRUTRUKA and the PIFILKA play a very important role in the celebration of the NGUILLATUN.

To make the box of the KULTRUN, they generally use the bark of the VOIGUE (Drymis winteri), a sacred shrub for the Mapuches. The drumhead may be made of guanaco, sheep or colt skin. The Machi "introduces her song" in the Kultrun before stretching the skin to leave her soul in it. She also introduces small sacred objects, like stones, feathers or healing herbs, which make it sound as a rattle.

On the head, they draw different symbols representing the Universe. A cross divides the head into four parts, the vertical line representing the cosmos and the horizontal one the Earth. The intersection is the centre of the World, the sacred place from where the Machi gets in contact with their Gods and ancestors helped by the sound of the Kultrun.

For the manufacture of this wind instrument, they select a colihue cane (Chusquea culeou) about 2.50 metres long and a diameter between 2 and 5 centimetres. The dry cane is split longitudinally and hollowed up, the n both halves are tied with wool or leather to form the sound tube. They close it hermetically by introducing it in a fresh animal's intestine that seals the tube completely once it is dried. A bull horn at one end works as a cornet. They slice the sharp end, insert it in the cane and fasten it with a cord adorned with wool pompons or bundles of different colours.
During the NGUILLATUN, they pour MUDAY or CHICHA inside the tube, and the last day they pour in the blood of the sacrificed animals. They blow it as strongly as possible to get to NGUENECHEN and wake him up.

It is a wind instrument made of lenga (Notophagus pumilia), cipr‚s (Austrodecrus chilensis) or oak wood. The external part is carved first, then the sound tube is perforated with a hot iron rod and some fluid grease is poured into it to seal any possible pores or fissures. According to narrations from the XVI century, PIFILKAS were manufactured with the long bones of dead Spanish enemies and they used to play them to express victory during ceremonies and before battles. Then it was used as a religious instrument in the NGUILLATUN.

Weaving is an exclusively femenine task. Skilled weavers or DUWEKAFE are the only ones who know the symbols hidden in colours and designs.

They generally use llama or guanaco wool to weave, but since the arrival of the Spaniards, they use mainly sheep wool. It is washed, disentangled and combed in such a way that threads are stretched. They use a spindle ( COLIU ) consisting of a stick with a heavy stone or a piece of ceramics in one end called CHINQUED.

The Mapuche vertical loom is called HUICHA HUICHAHUE, which means "standing on the floor". The most rudimentary one is formed by four sticks of varying thickness, while the size of the frame depends on the cloth they are going to make.
A more evolved form of the same loom is made of square sticks. The vertical ones have holes carved at a distance of 20 centimetres from each other, where the pegs support the separator.

Parts of the loom:
Vertical sticks: WICHAL OR UCHA
Crossbar: KELO, KILO or KELOU.
Warp thread: TONON or TONONWE.

They generally use vegetal and mineral elements, like dusts of several colours to dye wool, and in earlier times, they used fermented urines to fix colours. Yellow, green and gold are obtained from the roots and stems of MICHAY (Berveris darwini); deep red from ROBLE PELLIN (Notophagus obliqua); purple from MAQUI, dark brown from the bark of RADAL There are "negative" dyeing techniques practised on a set warp or on a woven cloth. The IKAT is the technique used to preserve a part of the wool from dyeing by a tie-and-resist dyeing of the white warp.