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Michael F. Brown, Tsewa’s Gift: Magic and Meaning in an Amazonian Society. Smithsonian Institution Press. 1986.


A.10 In worn-out soil I make a garden

In the thicket of the bird chuchumpiú

I make a garden

Mother Nugkui, mother Nugkui

Let me know your manioc

I am an orphan among enemies

Almost dying I live

In worn-out soil I make a garden

In the thicket of chuchumpiú

I make a garden

Mother Nugkui, mother Nugkui

the child of others cry like birds’ offspring

“Chianana” they cry, suffering

My child does not do this

Mother Nugkui, mother Nugkui

Let me know your manioc.


“Emphasis on the suffering of the singer seems to be a characteristic shared by many supplicatory songs known to the Aguaruna....”  ....songs used to...recruit Nugkui’s assistance in the garden attempt to manipulate powerful beings by stressing the wretchedness of the supplicant.” Tsewa’s Gift 110-111.


  1. A.11

I go, I go

I leave the old soil of the deer [deer are associated with abandoned gardens]

You are old

I go, I go

On the edge of the garden The stems are rotten

You shout “chiya”

Calling my children  (Tsewa’s Gift 111).


Gender of plants:

“Although Karsten (1935:123) reports that the Shuar regard the soul of manioc as being female, Alto Mayo women reason that since manioc plants are “people,” there must be both male and female plants, as well as adults and children.”  Brown, Tsewa’s Gift 110-111.


Women “leave a few of the largest plants unharvested so that these will “call” new plants to replace the ones just uprooted”.     According to one woman Brown interviewed “The large plants.... sing to the replanted stems to make them grow well.”


The dynamic behind plant growth seems to be closely related to the idea of “Llaquichina.”    On the one hand the large plants left in the garden (manioc mothers) sing to the new cuttings calling them into growth by causing the emotion of  /love sorrow in the new plants with their songs. On the other hand abandoned tubers cry like babies causing sorrow/love (Gow’s compassion) in the other manioc plants (the manioc mothers) causing the manioc to withdraw.  

Brown found that Aguaruna treat the manioc tubers as babies.  For this reason “not even the tiniest tuber should be left behind lest this “baby” begin to cry because it has been abandoned:

“The other manioc plants come to console the baby tuber saying, “Why did our mother leave you behind?  If she does this, how will the manioc grow so that she can make beer for our father?”  To avoid this, you must always collect every tuber when digging up a plant.”  Michael Brown quoting an Aguaruna informant, Tsewa’s Gift, 106.