Kuntanawa Rapé – Heart of the Boa
This Rapé was made with natural Sabia Mapacho, ashes of the Sapota tree and a vine called “heart of the boa constrictor” because of its heart shaped leaves. The vine is also known as “Vein of the Pajé” (Pajé=medicine man).
In the words of the maker, this is a very reserved and powerful blend. For that reason those who use this medicine must do so with clarity and intention, in order to achieve the spiritual alchemy in a good dimension. In their tradition the medicine is known to keep at bay the negative and attract the positive. It is used to protect against jealousy and spiritual persecution. Most of the medicines used in Rapé are also used to make herbal baths and medicinal teas. This particular one is used to attract good things, love, and success hunting and in general to bring luck and prosperity? However it is advised to firm and focus the mind on the good intentions that one wants to achieve and not call what one doesn’t want.
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The Kuntanawa were allegedly exterminated during the armed persecution of the indigenous peoples, the so-called raids, which accompanied the opening and installation of rubber plantations throughout Acre in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The last known descendants of this group are the members of an extended family, known until recently in the upper Juruá as “the caboclos of Milton”, in reference to the name of its patriarch (Milton Gomes de Conceição). The resumption of its indigenous origin, which now results in a deep sense of indianity, was supported by the indigenous ancestry and the particular history of the group: the recent struggle for the creation and maintenance of the Alto Juruá Extractive Reserve; the contact relations with neighboring indigenous peoples; the resumption of rituals with ayahuasca and rapé; and the perception of ethnic and political discrimination.
Initially, the ethnonym was written Kontanawa, meaning by this name “coconut people”. This is also how the press and government documents refer to them. In bibliographical references, the name Kontanawa, or Contanaua, is the most cited (Tastevin, 1925 and 1926, Macedo, 1988, Aquino and Iglesias, 1994).
Most recently, the group began to pronounce and engrave its name like Kuntanawa. The fact is that in the Pano languages, more specifically the Hashta Kuin (spoken by the Kaxinawa), the word kunta, which refers to the fruit “cocão” (Scheelea phalerata). Kuntanawa could be translated as “people of the coconuts”, or “people of the coconut”.
The Kuntanawa live on the banks of the upper Tagus River, inside the Extractive Reserve (Resex) of Alto Juruá, located in the extreme west of the state of Acre, in the municipality of Marechal Thaumaturgo. They are progressively agglutinating in villages, the main one being known as Seven Stars. This group has pleaded for its ethnic recognition and the identification and delimitation of its Indigenous Land, which overlaps with a portion of the above mentioned Resex. The Kuntanawa were estimated, in the year 2008, in 400 individuals.
Since the 1960s, Tajo rubber tappers have known ayahuasca through neighboring indigenous groups, but it was in the late 1990s that Milton and his sons met the ancestral drink, of which the late Regina, mother-in-law and grandmother , he was talking about the culture of his people. The narratives of Dona Regina were recalled in this context, thus gaining new meanings. The diffuse ethnicity that marked the self-identification of the “caboclos de Milton” as a group received, through the experience of ayahuasca, an emotional and positive reinforcement. The reference to indigenous ancestry has become more present, with the past being valued. In 1989, his Milton and some of his children participated in the trip that the singer Milton Nascimento made to the Kampa Indigenous Land of the river Amônea, near the area of the future Reserve. In 1991, they integrated teams of the survey and registration of the population of the Reserve, in particular those that crossed the high river Tagus commanded by Antonio Alves and Terri Aquino. The latter took advantage of the trip to visit the neighboring Indigenous Lands Kaxinawá of the Jordan River and the river Breu. In these two trips, they had contact with renowned pajés of the region and participated in several sessions of ayahuasca. After these trips, at least two of Milton’s sons began to prepare ayahuasca and perform rituals with the drink. The assemblies of rubber tappers held since 1989 were now attended by representatives of the neighboring Indigenous Lands, and one night was always reserved for those who wished to try ayahuasca in sessions led by shamans, such as the late David Lopes Kampa.
Several accounts speak of contacts, under the influence of drinking, with beings from the indigenous universe. Osmildo, one of Milton’s sons and current leader in the struggle for indigenous recognition in 1991, recently arrived on the journey of registration and visit to Indigenous Lands, incorporated indigenous elements in his costume, such as necklaces and hair bands. In ayahuasca sessions, he used to sing in the indigenous language the songs he had learned with his friends from the Indigenous Lands of the rivers Amônea, Jordão and Breu. He longed to become a shaman. Among Milton’s sons, he most frequently invoked and publicly assumed Indian descent. Another son of Milton, Pedrinho, at the same time also began to prepare himself ayahuasca, which was after a marked experience under the effect of the drink in which he was “authorized” to such. Gradually, Milton and his sons formed a family nucleus, mostly male, that periodically happened to meet to take ayahuasca – custom until today in force. Today, as they say, having ayahuasca as their guide and teacher, the Kuntanawa explore unfathomable dimensions and bring back to their people body paintings, songs, and magical and ethnobotanical knowledge. It is under the command of ayahuasca, and with the support of Ashaninka shamans, that Kuntanawa shamanism emerges. Young Kuntanawa, grandsons of Milton, learn from ayahuasca and the guidance of the more experienced to “listen” to nature in quiet, outdoor rituals. Songs relating the Kuntanawa story are composed and become known to all the people; indigenous songs are also sung under the inspiration of the ritual drink, and also the ayahuasca songs of the Kaxinawa and Yawanawa “kinsmen”. It is under the visceral experience of this drink held as sacred to these peoples that Milton and his sons claim to be accessing deeper dimensions of Kuntanawa indianity. Ayahuasca can not be dismissed as a powerful mechanism of subjectification throughout the ethnic Kuntanawa emergence.