The Terrible Tucandeira

The initiation ritual of tucandeira is typical of the Sateré-Mawé people stationed along the Amazon River on the border between the states of Amazonas and Pará of Brazil.
The ritual is named after a giant ant (the Paraponera clavata, also known as “bullet ant”) whose painful sting, 30 times more poisonous than that of a bee, causes swelling, redness, fever and violent chills.

This test of courage and endurance sanctions a tennager’s entry into adulthood: every young man who wants to become a true warrior must submit to it.

The tucandeira takes place during the Amazonian summer months (October to December).
First the ants must be captured and taken from their anthills, usually located at the base of hollow trees, and they are enclosed in an empty bamboo called tum-tum. A mixture of water and cajú leaves is then prepared, and the ants are immersed and left in this anesthetic “soup”.

Once they are asleep, the ants are inserted one by one within the knitting of a straw glove, their fearsome stingers stuck on the inside of the mitten. They are then left to awaken from their numbness: realizing that they are trapped, the ants begin to get more and more angry.

When the time for the actual ritual finally arrives, the whole village meets to observe and encourage the adolescents who undergo initiation. It is the much feared moment of the test. Will they resist pain?

He who leads the dance intones a song, adapting the words to the circumstance. The women sit in front of the group of men and accompany the melody. Some candidates paint their hands black with Genipa berries and then drink a very strong liquor called taruhà, based on fermented cassava, useful for reducing pain and giving the necessary strength to face the ritual. Those who undergo the tucandeira for the first five times must apply to certain diets. When the ants awaken, the actual ritual begins. The dance director slips the gloves on the candidates’ hands and blows tobacco smoke into the gloves to further irritate the ants. Then the musicians begin to play rudimentary wooden tubes while the boys dance.

(A. Moscè , I Sateré Mawé e il rito della tucandeira, in “Etnie”, 23/01/2014)

The angry ants begin to prick the hands of the young, who are made to dance to distract themselves from the pain. In a short time their hands and arms get paralyzed; in order to pass the test, the candidate must wear the gloves for at least ten minutes.

After this time, the gloves are removed and the pain begins to manifest itself again. It will take twenty-four hours for the effect of inoculated neurotoxins to subside; the young man will be the victim of excruciating pain and sometimes prey to uncontrollable tremors even in the following days.
And this is just the beginning for him: to be fully completed, the ritual will have to be repeated 19 more times.

Through this ritual, a Sateré Mawé recognizes his origins, laws and customs; and from adolescence on, he will have to repeat it at least twenty times to be able to draw its beneficial effects. The whole population participates in the ritual and observes how the candidates face it. It is an important time to get to know each other, gather, and contract future marriages.
The tucandeira is also a propitiatory rite, through which a boy can become a good fisherman and hunter, have luck in life and work, turn into a strong and courageous man. People come together very willingly for this ritual, which in addition to its festive and playful aspect is also an opportunity to recall the cosmogonic myths of the origin of the stars, the sun, the moon, water, air and all living things.

(A. Moscè, Ibid.)

In this National Geographic video on tucandeira, the chief summarizes in an admirable way the ultimate meaning of these practices:

“If you live your life without suffering anything, or without any kind of effort, it won’t be worth anything to you.”

(Thanks, Giulio!)


Arriva la Piccola Libreria Lunare!


Da oggi apre i battenti la nostra Piccola Libreria Lunare!

L’idea nasce dalle sempre più numerose richieste, fra i commenti e nelle mail private, di indicazioni e suggerimenti bibliografici relativi ai temi trattati; quindi, perché non creare uno spazio virtuale per tutti gli amanti delle letture bizzarre?

Nella Piccola Libreria Lunare troverete un buon numero di testi, suddivisi secondo le diverse categorie del blog – Animali & Natura, Mondo Macabro, Meraviglie Umane, ecc. In alcuni casi si tratta di libri già segnalati nella rubrica La biblioteca delle meraviglie, ma per la maggior parte non ne abbiamo mai discusso direttamente qui.

Ci teniamo a chiarire subito che Bizzarro Bazar aderisce al programma di affiliazione di Amazon. Questo significa che se uno dei libri segnalati vi piace, e lo acquistate attraverso il link fornito (che contiene anche un codice identificativo univoco), una piccola percentuale del prezzo di copertina verrà riconosciuta a Bizzarro Bazar. Voi vi potrete godere il vostro libro e, allo stesso tempo, senza sovrapprezzi di alcun tipo, avrete aiutato il blog a tenersi in piedi e a continuare le ricerche.

Detto questo, la nostra speranza è che la Piccola Libreria non resti una pagina a senso unico (del tipo “Bizzarro Bazar consiglia”), ma possa diventare nel tempo, grazie ai vostri interventi nella sezione dei commenti, un vero e proprio punto di discussione, di scambio di informazioni e di confronto su strane letture, favolosi libercoli e letteratura non convenzionale.

Non vi resta che cominciare a esplorare la Piccola Biblioteca Lunare. Trovate il pulsante proprio sotto l’intestazione del blog (oppure cliccate qui). Questa nuova pagina sarà in continuo aggiornamento anche grazie ai vostri suggerimenti.

Buona lettura!