Fellow Presentations

The Potency of Bibles and Biography: Mapuche Historical Consciousness in Shamanic Rebirth

Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony RinaldoScholars often conceive religious texts and ethnographies as repositories of meaning underestimating their corporeality and potency as ritual objects that communicate across time and space. I analyze why Francisca Kolipi, a non-literate, Catholic Mapuche shaman in southern Chile, charged me to write a “bible” about her life and practice—the physical manifestation of her power—in a larger and wider set of engagements that center on writing, fetishism, materiality, and shamanic force. The potency and transcendental authority of Francisca’s entextualized shamanic power made her “bible” a ritual object with inherent force and the ability to speak to an audience in the distant future. When shamans smoked and chanted over it, the realities and powers it stored could be extracted, transformed, circulated, and actualized for a variety of ends and could even bring about shamanic rebirth.