Sunday, July 29, 2018

One more on the Matses and Nu-Nu use

Nu-Nu is a snuff the indigenous Matses use in conjunction, generally, with sapo, the frog sweat medicine burned into their arms. The nu-nu, as hunting tool, compliments the sapo in that the sapo fine tunes your vision and the nu-nu snuff brings out the hues and color values of the greenery of the jungle, so that instead of looking at a wall of green, it becomes very three-dimensional, allowing a hunger to look "through" the thick foliage to see animals they might want to hunt hiding in the greenery. It also makes you feel slightly drunk and after a failed hunt the hunters would often take copious amounts of it, and the more they did the more fantastic their stories--of the animals they almost got that day--became.
   Someone asked me if they could eat nu-nu and I had to say no, as the primary ingredient in it was wild tobacco, a very strong poison. Someone else responded that a Matses said they ate it for hunting. This was my reply, based on my experience:
Never heard of that. Now among the Bora and AucaiƱo, they make an ibu coca that is activated with liquid extract of tobacco that is used like chewing tobacco and placed between the cheek and teeth. Some of that winds up being swallowed and they seem to survive just fine. But the tobacco content is small compared to the ibu-coca (jungle coca, not very strong) and is not nearly as high a dose as the Matses' nu-nu. And considering that when two hunters get together they might do 100 shots of it each, about 3-4 ounces per person over the course of a couple of hours, that would be, if eaten, like eating 3 or more ounces of pure tobacco, and you would be dead in certainly less than an hour. Unless you speak dialect, I would refrain from believing most of what the Matses say. The old ones who know things do not think in Spanish, so do not communicate very well in that language. The younger ones just try to tell you what you want to hear. Now the really old ones still communicate mostly telepathically, so language is not a barrier, but there are not 10 of those left in all of the nearly million hectares of Matses territory.

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