Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The Secret Power of Nü-nü, the Matses' snuff

Nu-nu, a snuff used by the indigenous of the border area between Brazil and Peru near the Alto Yakirana, is a hunting tool that is used in conjunction with sapo, a frog medicine that is applied to the subcutaneous layers of a hunter's skin. Nu-nu adds a dimension of visual aid and calmness that improves hunting ability among people who depend on hunting to eat. Someone asked me about it and I responded from my experience, dating back to 1985 with the Matses, and 1986 with the Matses and nu-nu.
While other indigenous groups make several types of snuffs, the Matses generally only make nü-nü, which is made from the inner bark of the cacao tree (reduced to ash), mixed with nicotiana rustica (what was wild tobacco but is now grown). Part of its strength is that it is always made by two hunters, who each impart some of their spirit into the medicine. When administered traditionally--at least in my experience--among people who depend on hunting to eat, it is always the best hunters who administer it, so that the recipient is getting spirit from three separate hunters along with the actual snuff. (Unless the receiver is also one of the makers of the medicine, of course.) The hunters' spirits make for better hunters; the medicine makes for better eyesight, a sharpened sense of accuracy, a steadier hand on the bow and arrow. The cacao in the medicine relaxes the hunter so that he is not tense when hunting, which will affect the trajectory of the arrow. The visionary effects of the tobacco will allow--in large quantities, say 20 1/2 grams in each nostril over the course of half-an-hour, to have visionary prescience as to where animals can be best hunted the following day. Crazy, right? But real and real magic stuff.

1 comment:

spiral347 said...

Hey peter, thought you might dig this song