donderdag 6 januari 2011

The ill will of places

Here is an amusing 19Th century anecdote about the Macushi of Guayana relating to pre-Columbian rock art and psychogeography. Reichel-Dolmatoff writes about the special quality of certain sites that make them stand apart from their surrounding, this adds another piece of evidence to the ethnopsychogeography (duh) of the Amazon.  
Everytime a sculptured rock or striking mountain or stone is seen, Indians invert the ill will of the spirits of such places by rubbing red peppers (Capsicum) in his or her own eyes. Though the old practitioners inflict this self-torture with the utmost stoicism, I have again and again seen that otherwise rare sight of Indian children, even young men, sobbing under the infliction. Yet the ceremony was never omitted. Sometimes, when by a rare chance no member of the party had had the forethought to provide peppers, lime juice, was used as a substitute; and once, when neither peppers nor lime were at hand, a piece of blue indigo-dyed cloth was carefully soaked, and the dye was then rubbed into the eyes. 
This quote is taken from 'Picture-writing of the American Indians' by Garrick Mallery. First published in 1893 but my edition is the 1972 Dover reprint. This is an obsessive collection of examples of mnemonic drawings and proto-writing as found in petroglyphs and rock art in (mostly North) America. The writing is a bit dry but this set of two books are a joy to look at with 1290 (!) illustrations and 54 plates. Get a taste from the Google-books preview. 

The following two images are rubbing from Fairy Rock in Nova Scotia, these are palimpsests pressing into one flat image three layers of habitation:  new (English) , old (French) and very old (Mic Mac tribe, 2000 years old).      

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