History of Afterlife in Different Religions Kalapalo Brazilian Indians

About the views on life after death and the afterlife and history of the beliefs in the Kalpalo or Brazilian Indian religion.


KALAPALO (Brazilian Indians)

The Kalapalo believe a person's shadow travels upon death to a village located in the sky, far to the east near the point where the sun rises. After the body has been buried, that night the shadow visits the grieving family for the last time in their house and consumes food that the family has prepared for him. The next day he leaves the village and travels to the east (in the direction of the sunrise) until he reaches the sky. Still traveling east, the shadow approaches the entrance path to the village of the dead. Here he first encounters a side path leading to a smaller settlement. The shadows who live in this village always try to persuade the newly deceased to join them, and if the traveling shadow turns to look at them as they call to him, he is compelled to live in their village without ever seeing the main one.

If he is successful in avoiding this detour, the shadow then comes to a stream over which are placed logs covered with a thick layer of moss. The shadow has difficulty walking over this slippery bridge and must be met by a deceased relative (frequently a parent or a sibling) who assists in the crossing. Finally, the shadow is conducted to the plaza of the village of the dead, where he is seated on a stool and presented to Sakufenu, out of whose body all men originally came. Sakufenu has one breast swollen with milk (some say she has only one breast, the other having been cut off by her creator, Kwatini). The newly arrived shadow drinks from her breast or from a gourd dipper into which the milk has been squeezed. Then a seclusion chamber is built, and the shadow enters for as long as it takes to grow strong again. During this period of isolation, the male shadows are visited by Sakufenu, who has sexual relations with them. Female shadows are visited by the men of the village. Finally, when the soul is strong once more, he or she joins the rest of the community in continual ceremonial dancing and singing. Sakufenu, rejecting the newly strengthened shadow, takes as her lover the next newly deceased man who arrives. The people of the village of the dead are able to spend all their time singing and dancing in ceremonies, for they do not have to cultivate manioc. In the center of the village is a large manioc silo, filled with flour, which never becomes empty. Although the village is very large, consisting of several concentric rings of houses, no one ever goes hungry because of this magical silo.

SOURCE: Kalapalo Indians of Central Brazil by Ellen B. Basso. Copyright 1973 by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

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