Shamanic Language And The Memory Burden: A Comparative Examination Of Hup Incantations




Hall, Kelly

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Shamanic language and ritual discourse are vital to the culture of many indigenous people in Amazonia. This discourse often involves the use of poetic features to convey verbal artistry and potentially to alleviate the problem of the “memory burden”, or the burden placed on speakers who must maintain and transmit oral texts in an oral tradition. By examining a set of incantations from the Hup people in the Vaupés region of Amazonia, it may be possible to determine a consistent use of poetic features and structural attributes that characterize the genre as a whole. This paper seeks to identify these defining features and contextualize them in terms of both verbal art and the memory burden. First, I will outline the treatment of memory and shamanic ritual in the context of oral tradition. I will then analyze a set of Hup incantations in order to identify important features and determine the extent of variation of these features along the parameters of the speaker, purpose of the incantation, and category of the incantation. Finally, I will attempt to identify defining attributes of the Hup incantation genre and discuss how these features are relevant both in terms of verbal art and in maintaining oral tradition.



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