Oct 12, 2011

Serial Murder of Peruvian Shamans

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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Well, this is horrible. As per The Wild Hunt, Peruvian shamans are the targets of a serial murder spree. To date fourteen shamans are believed to have been murdered over twenty months. Seven have been found dead and another seven have been reported missing. In a recent press conference, deputy minister of foreign affairs Vincente Otta and an Amazon rainforest expert Roger Rumrrill described the brutal slayings and said suspicion has fallen on a local mayor.

Mr. Rumrrill, said: "The healers were murdered in a brutal way, hacked by machetes and axes, stoned, and even shot with rifles, and their bodies then hurled into rivers where they were devoured by piranhas."

Mr Otta said that prosecutors are investigating Balsapuerto Mayor Alfredo Torres and his brother Augusto in connection with the murders.

According to Mr Rumrrill, Mayor Torres "is a religious fanatic and Protestant fundamentalist who considers the shamans his enemies'' and "people possessed by demons''.

Bautista Inuma, who was mistaken for a shaman, survived a machete attack, but lost an arm. He directly accused Augusto Torres, brother of the mayor. And one of the alleged gunmen, Solomon Napo, confessed to one of the killings and claimed to have been hired by the mayor's brother.

Mayer Torres denies involvement and has pointed the finger at villagers displeased with the shaman's failed cures.

District Mayor Alfredo Torres Balsapuerto, has consistently upheld the charges. Until recently went underground, but recently appeared in the media and said "political reasons" trying to discredit him. Vehemently rejected the accusation of the alleged assassin Solomon Napo and downplayed the alleged involvement of his brother Augustus in the crimes. He said the killings were due to possible "revenge" for shamanism wrongdoing, but he denies having been involved in them. It reiterates, firmly, that he believes in "witchcraft".

Otta, I think fairly, characterized Torres's statements as an attempt to "'legitimise the killings' by blaming the victims for the high level of infant mortality in the area."

[Rumrrill] alleged that the mayor, who is an evangelical Christian, ordered the killings on hearing that the shamans planned to form an association. He said the mayor's brother was known in the area as a matabrujos or witch killer.

"For Protestant sects, the shamans are possessed by the devil; a totally sectarian, primitive and racist concept," he said.

Shamans in the Peruvian Amazon use psychoactive plants such as the jungle vine ayahuascafor spiritual ceremonies. As early as the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese missionaries described its use by native people in the Amazon as the work of the devil.

"Until now the death of 14 curanderos [healers] who are the depositaries of Amazon knowledge wasn't worth the attention of the press," Rumrrill said. "That's an expression of how fragmented and racist this country is. A centralised country which continues to look at its interior with total indifference."

The incursion of  fundamentalist Christianity into third world cultures causing problems for "witches" is certainly not unheard of. When Sarah Palin made headlines for pallin' around with Kenyan witch-hunter Thomas Muthee, she unwittingly brought attention to the problem. As I wrote here, it's a phenomenon riddled with irony.

The Peruvian government is taking the problem seriously, however, and has launched an official investigation; ostensibly at the behest of the accused mayor. And the Foundation for Shamanic Studies is currently seeking help and support for the endangered Peruvian shamans.

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