Friday, September 24, 2021

Something about the indigenous Matses and Frog Sweat medicine


I was asked to join a thread on sapo/kambo, the frog medicine from South America that is being utilized by a lot of practitioners in the US, Europe and elsewhere today. As I was the first to bring it out to the Western world, and as the indigenous group who shared it with me, the Matses, are the first indigenous group known to utilize it -- there were stories but nothing concrete prior to the Matses -- I was asked to weigh in on whether collecting the frog and tying it up like a green trampoline to collect it's "sudor" or sweat, a protective device, was wretched or not. Of course it is. But it beats the alternative. Somehow that morphed into a small diatribe on a few different aspects of this indigenous group, from my experience and from what early missionaries recorded about them. Here it is:
I want to clarify a couple of things. During all my time with the Matses (Mayoruna, Matis, Matsis), which has been at least a couple of weeks a year -- and early on a couple of months -- for 36 of the past 37 years (not this year because I was too ill to travel) I have never known them to know about or utilize ayahuasca. They have no story of how they came to use the frog. These are not a people of mythology. They also do not dance, make music, can't weave, until very recently did not bother with agriculture of any kind, and did not know how to make canoes — first known Matses canoe, Alberto, 1994. Up till then large villages stole and blinded a good mestizo canoe maker and he, with the help of the Matses, made what few canoes they had. Or else they stole canoes, fairly typical for an indigenous group known for outlandish savagery in stealing women after killing their families, etc.
Historically they have no known spiritual beliefs (Handbook of South American Peoples; Vol 8 I think, The Forest People; compiler of info I forget this second), though I challenge the anthropologists on two points on that claim. First, they believe the spirits of their dead go into the physical bodies of jungle deer, which keeps them from hunting deer.
Second, when they have an abortion, miscarriage, or a baby dies, they make an oblong clay pot in which the fetus or body is put that is kept over a low fire -- always tended -- for three days, after which the mother and father consume the ashes so that the spirit can return. I call both of those spiritual practices.
All of this goes to this point: People on this thread are discussing whether tying up the frog for a few minutes to extract its "sudor" or sweat is cruel or not. Of course it is. But the alternative is being tossed into a pot of boiling water and eaten. Not sure the frogs actually do the math on that equation but I will bet that if they could or would they would opt for being inconvenienced for 10 minutes every month or two rather than dying in a pot. Just my two cents and while I got more I've probably put most of you to sleep already. Forgive me for rattling on.

1 comment:

Luke said...

One of the things I most admire about your books is that your descriptions are beautifully unvarnished. You don't romanticize these people at all, or project any reflex to glamorize them with some Western ideal. Given your extensive and intimate experience, you don't have to! This brief description is no different.

Personally I hope you "rattle on" LOTS more. Maybe another book or two worth!