Canela, Shamanism, Altered Consciousness, Curing, Ghosts


In this article I recount the stories of various shamans I have worked with throughout many decades of fieldwork among the Ramkokamekra-Canela (Eastern Timbira) of central Maranhão state, Brazil. Along with their narratives, I provide ethnographic context in order to address the following questions: (1) Who is a shaman? (2) What is shamanism? Is shamanism better understood (3) as a process or a method that is carried out to achieve certain ends, or is it better understood (4) as a particular set of beliefs associated with particular cultures? Additionally, (5) are altered or shamanic states of consciousness found in Canela shamanism, and (6) are they brought about by certain practices? I do not attempt to answer questions regarding shamanism’s efficacy, that is, how/whether it works.