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Matsés Indian Tribe

The Cat People - Page 3 of 5

The "pelejo" (two-toed sloth, Choloepus cf. hoffmann) is a common pet in Matsés homes. It is also frequently hunted and eaten. The "pelejo" plays an important role in the ceremony of the singers ("comoc"). "Comoc" is a ceremony in which singers are covered from head to toe with capes. The caped singers are said to be spirits and they provide game for the women, especially "pelejo."  A variation of this ceremony involves punishing men who have abused their wives. Interestingly, the ceremony of "comoc" shares many characteristics with "mariwin" which is practiced by the Matis Indians of Brazil.

Another ritual practiced by the Matsés involves the application of a frog emetic. To the Matsés, this frog emetic is not poison, rather it is a medicine. Indigenous medicines often function by cleansing the system through vomiting. The exudate ("sweat") is scraped off the skin of a poisonous tree frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor). The frog is not injured and is released afterwards. Points are burned on the arms or chest and the frog poison is applied, resulting in a rapid heartbeat, extreme lethargy, and vomiting. After resting, the recipient of the frog poison is ready to go hunting.  Indeed, the Matsés often refer to this remedy as "hunting magic" and believe it enhances the user's hunting ability.


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