Dr. Meason - EMRTC Director
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Dr. Meason - EMRTC Director

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, not even the flip-flop of thonged sandals, and no talking except when necessary, and then softly: this, in a culture outstanding for its amount of talk-noise. Chapin says quiet is considered necessary because the souls of noises fly through the air an

d jolt the weakened soul of the patient. We should note as well that Sherzer includes the treatment of epidemics along with that of snakebite, and that for dealing with epidemics an island-wide rite lasting eight days and involving the entire population is undertaken; it also involves the use of many life-sized wooden figurines. The image of General Douglas MacArthur described previously, with powder-blue jacket, pink breast pocket, and what appeared to be a German Iron Cross was one of these apsoket figurines. When it's a matter of treating a snakebite victim, the smaller wooden curing figurines (nuchus) are placed around the patient-just as the life-sized figurines are placed around the island to protect the community as a whole. Now the fascinating thing is that the baron was told of a medicine man who collected "all sorts" of pictures from trade catalogues and illustrated periodicals, so that when someone was bitten by a snake, or seriousl

y ill, the medicine man would then burn these illustrations and strew the ashes around the patient's house. The rationale was that this burning released the soul of the pictures, thus forming, in the baron's words, "a vast shopping emporium and the evil spirits that were congregating upon the house got so busy looking at all the wonderful things contained in that store that they had no time to spare for the sick person." He added that the great seer and political chief he called nele collected pictures in large variety, although Ruben Perez had no idea how he used them. (366, 398, 533) It seems to me that the Western presence is here invoked as much as any particular picture. Indeed, if there is one expression more fit to invoke that presence than consumer commodities then surely it is the image of them. It should also be remembered that the image of a Western commodity bears a triply-determined spiritual connotation- as when Charles Slater, quoted above, writes "image," the Swedish text translates it as "spirit"; as

when Chapin gives us "photograph" as a meaning of purpa, or spirit/soul; and as when the baron, describing the Cuna land of the dead as stuffed with white men's commodities, says that many of the spirits/souls of these objects are already there. But why does the illustration have to be burned? Perhaps the use of parrots to acquire a foreign language may shed light on this question. The baron re

ported that parrots that can speak words in a foreign language were bought at fabulous sums and eaten or (more often, so it appears) burned, in which case the ashes are daubed on the

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