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Selk'nam Spiritual World II

Tenenesk. Chamán Selk'nam

During the eve of 1923, while the south wind, the óruken hayin, swept the camp of Fagnano Lake, the men sought refuge in the cabin of Tenenesk, a Huash (branch of the Selk´nam) shaman and heard a story recorded by Martin Gusinde.:

«At the beginning, nothing. Only Temáukel, the first of the Howenh. Afterwards, the celestial vaults, the firmament, without the stars. Only some immense emptiness penetrates the silence. A crepuscular light spread across the surface of the earth, shaking the dark stillness." In the darkness of night, around the fire, now reduced to ashes, the old man raises a hand toward the stars and with a trembling voice insists: " So that's how, over earth, the sky spreads: behind it is where Temuáukel lives.»

Selk'nam Spiritual World

Familia junto a su ruca

Two anthropologists have recorded the Selk´nam spiritual world of the : Martín Guisinde and Anne Chapman.

They have rescued texts that speak of their worldview.

The gods and fuegian spirits are not represented nor honored. They are no more than names and words to designate what is beyond society.

Their narratives show us the existence of innumerable beings, of diverse characteristics, each one with its own story and place.

They inhabit the sky and earth and even the underground, emerging only for celebrations.

Selk'nam Legend

Kloketen: espíritu del universo

The secret transmitted to the initiates in the Kloketen ceremony was the following one: "in the beginnings men were subordinated women. The important decisions was made by Women for the best for the group. The men was entirely subject to her will dedicated to the domestic workings: they maintained the fire, they roasted the meat, they took care of the children and they worked the leather.

They could not demand because of the ritual of the Hain that was made by women, produced great fear to them.

Thus they remained long time, without discovering that the spirits who frightened them during this ritual, were only the disguised women to maintain their dominion on them.

They painted themselves and a crust masks were placed on their heads... Between all them, the moon woman , Kra, was most powerful. It was married with Kran, the sun man hunting of guanacos. Kran and Kra lived with howenh, but Kran was an astute shaman and discovered that underneath the great hut there were only women presuming to be spirits... Then the men undertook against them. There was a terrible fight. Only some women could escape. The men, after killing almost all of them , restored a new social order: now they are who disguise themselves to frighten the women, those that pretend to terrify themselves and to accept the dominion of the men who claim to be the spirits of the universe."

The ceremony of the Hain

Ceremonia del Hain

The Hain, the main ceremony of the Selk'nam, was celebrated for last time in XX century.

It was a rite of initiation for boys and an educative experience based on the belief that in the old days there was a predominance of women.

The ceremony of the Klóketen or Hain is the widespread aspect of the cultural life, corresponding to the ritual of initiation of the young men in the tribes from a common territory. The boys of between fourteen and sixteen years were separated of their home to become Klóketen in the maturity through the ceremony. The most important and interesting aspect of the Hain ceremony was the harassment. It became on the boy by terrorific representations of spirits and the boy would have to remain full of value. Spirits were performed by actors dressed in disguise to hide their identity and create a permanent atmosphere. Somehow they felt possessed by the spirits they believed to be supernatural.

The candidates to be recognized like adults and hunters had to support hard requeriments of dominion on themselves. Solitary huntings, limitations of movement, expression, dreaming and feeding. It was exhorted to them to correct its character.

The social structure Selknam was based in the submission of the women, for that reason the most important was the initiation and entrance of the men to a masculine brotherhood.

The original myth was narrated to them: formerly the social superiority was into the women hands, directed by the Moon. They disguised themselves of spirits for making believe the men that these were endorsing them. The ceremony finished when young men receive the guanaco leather belt, the Koschel.