Monday, December 16, 2019

Where Dreamers Have a Roving Eye

The Mehinaku of Amazonian Brazil recognize three souls in each person - a shadow soul, a sweat soul and an eye soul - that operate in different ways in life and have different fortunes after death. The eye soul is especially active in dreaming. It resides within the iris of the eye. While the body is sleeping, it goes out and about on excursions, meets other people, living and dead, and steps across time as well as space. After death, it goes to a "sky place".
     For this indigenous dreaming tradition, a dream is "the individual's awareness of the nocturnal wanderings of his eye soul. The dream experience is therefore ego-alien, since the eye soul is detachable and its nightly expeditions are outside the control of the individual; at the same time, however, it is ego-involving, since the eye soul is a perfect replica of the individual and its adventures are psychologically real.” [1]
    The eye soul, in its wanderings,may operate quite independently from the ordinary self. A villager may recount its adventures in the third person, like an observer in a movie theater. "My soul walked to a village beyond the river and met a beautiful white woman he did not trust."
    The Mehinaku share their nocturnal adventures as soon as they return, swinging towards each other in their hammocks. They are polyphasic sleepers, rising several times during the night to feed the wood fires that are their only source of heat - and because they have stories to tell.

1. Thomas Gregor, "'Far, Far Away My Shadow Wandered' The Dream Symbolism and Dream Theories of the Mehinaku Indians of Brazil" in American Ethnologist Vol. 8, No. 4 (November, 1981) 717

No comments: