Levi Yanomami

Levi Yanomami

Anh Crutcher and Dale Stover on Yakoana, Ya̧nomamö shamanism, and “the breath, of the planet”

[52] [Anh Crutcher (AC):] Bruce Albert, an anthropologist had spoken with Davi [Yanomami] and Davi had told him the creation myth of the Yanomami, and it had been transcribed and somehow along the road I had gotten a copy. And in the copy they talk about Yakoana, and they spelled it y-a-k-o-a-n-a, and I realized that’s what it is, it’s not Akwana, it’s Yakoana. During the Amazon week conference that Parabola flew me out for, Davi Yanomami was there. I was trying to make sure that everything I did was okay by the indigenous people, that I wasn’t accidentally screwing up or disrespecting them. So, I showed him all the footage and everything and I said, “I want to name it Yakoana, is that okay with you?” And that’s when he said, “Yakoana.” And he was the one who said “Yakoana helps us to hear the voice, the breath, of the planet and the song of the earth.” He’s the one that told that to me verbally. So, Yakoana is a sacred hallucinogen that’s used in ceremony.

[53] [Dale Stover (DS)]: Have you ever been in a ceremony where it’s been used?

[54] AC: No, although it might have been used when Davi and Levi [Yanomami] did that ceremony, which may be why he said that. But I didn’t see because the way it’s given is that one person stands there and the other stands here, there’s a huge reed that’s hollow, and if you were taking it you’d put it in your nose and I would blow. And apparently it hurts like hell, and only shamans do it. And I think in the Yanomami tribe only men are shamans. From what I understand, I learned this about the Kayapo, which is another tribe from the Amazon, is that shamans are the people that can cross through this spider web, or the membrane between life and death and come back sane. People who go insane are not able to be shamans, and people who die are not able to be shamans. Shamans are the ones that can go to both worlds. And that’s why only shamans can take this. And what it does, apparently, is it brings the Shaburi. Shaburi are the little creatures in nature that are on the bottom of the Yakoana poster that look like little people. They are the spirits of nature, so when you take the Yakoana or Ayahuasca or other ceremonial medicines from an indigenous point of view, from what I’ve been told, it is the Shaburi who come and talk to you and help you to see how to help nature. That’s the essence of the film, enabling us to be the song of the earth.
— Anh Crutcher as interviewed by Dale Stover (San Francisco, California: January 29, 1999) regarding her film “Yakoana” (Brazil; USA: Under Your Nose Productions, 1998). Transcription available as “The Story Behind YAKOANA: an Interview with Anh Crutcher” in The Journal of Religion and Film, Volume 3, Number 1, (Omaha, Nebraska: University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of Philosophy and Religion, April 1999).

Related Media: “Yakoana” on YouTube