The potency of indigenous “bibles” and biographies

Mapuche shamanic literacy and historical consciousness

by Ana Mariella Bacigalupo

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Mapuche oral shamanic biographies and performances—some of which take the form of “bibles” and involve shamanic literacies—play a central role in the production of indigenous history in southern Chile. In this article, I explain how and why a mixed-race Mapuche shaman charged me with writing about her life and practice in the form of such a “bible.” This book would become a ritual object and a means of storing her shamanic power by textualizing it, thereby allowing her to speak to a future audience. The realities and powers her “bible” stored could be extracted, transformed, circulated, and actualized for a variety of ends, even to bring about shamanic rebirth. Ultimately, I argue, through their use and interpretation of this kind of “bible,” Mapuche shamans expand academic notions of indigenous history and literacy.