Accepted paper:

Smoke as surface: turning the horizontal into the vertical in Andean rituals of the Aymara and the Mapuche.


Juan Skewes (Universidad Alberto Hurtado)
Debbie Guerra (Universidad Austral de Chile)

Paper short abstract:

Smoke is one of the main components of indigenous rituals in the Andean and Sub Andean regions. If considered air is considered as a surface, a new understanding emerges from the relation with ritual smoke. The horizontal plane turns upside down and new passages are traced between the community of humans and non-humans, natural and spiritual beings.

Paper long abstract:

The use of smoke as part of the indigenous rituals in the Andean and Sub Andean regions is widely spread. Here we compare ritual practices coming from the Aymara and the Mapuche ceremonial repertoire. In this context, smoking, burning, producing deep blue smoke, using specific trees for certain fires, are means of creating surfaces that connect the interior of the body with the spiritual world. Likewise, understanding not only the smoke of the volcanoes but also de hot springs as its puffing, invites to reconsidered the world's composition. Instead of stressing the binary oppositions between the up and down, our approach inspired by the vital materialism invites to explore the physical connections between them. The horizontal plane in such a case requires to be turned into a vertical position constituted by stuff of diverse nature: caves, deep waters, trees, branches and roots, air and wind, smoke, clouds and the celestial river and arch, all appear in the ritual life of the indigenous peoples of the Andean region. The interior of the earth as the interior of the human being is physically connected with the otherwise perceived as the outside world in the same way as dreams, conveyed through means of smoke, become part of the collective and spiritually shared space. Air is the surface across which the wheezing world is experienced.

panel WMW12
Surfaces: contesting boundaries between materials, mind and body