The Xo'on, a selk'nam shamán
Each haruwenh had a shamán denominated xo'on, who was feared and respected by the community and considered almost as a supernatural being because of he looks different from the rest of humankind. It was made of "edredón" or smooth duvet (waiyuwenh) that could be small out of the body of its possessor or could grows and spread adopting its contour inside of him.
Waiyuwenh was transmitted to shamán in a dream. It was like a second "I" that made everything what shamán had plan. It was guest to appear through song. The song was a powerful help of shamán that lead him to escape from his conscience to establish communication with "the forces". Moreover, It was unique and characteristic and more than to identify the author, the song induce special state through physiological modifications. Those produced a kind of " sickness ", that could isolate the shamán from distractions and thus lead him to introspection.
The face paintings and cure
The main occupation of xóon is the cure, which supposes that the body of the patient has been embarrass by a foreign body: cwake (disease). The foreign body was generally conceived as intrusion caused by a rival xóon. Therefore, the cure began with a suitable face painting: fighting painting. Shamán was at war with the disease.
It is about two lines made with finger that went from the base of the nose to the ears; three points were also applied: two in the cheeks, one in the base of the nose. The rest were applied vertically in the cheeks. After the operation, shamán get closer to the patient who remained laying to the entrance of the hut. A kind of dance began, in which shamán spit continuously; and he gave heavy bumps with feet, accompanied by rhythmic movements of arms around the patient. Therefore a ritual space was created:, the place of fight. Finally xóon get closer to the patient exploring it at great length through his eyes. In the body , he began to massage taking the cwake to a determined position, from where it was extracted by suction. Generally a small mouse, a bloodstained arrow or a duvet was extracted. These were the visible manifestations of cwake. With a guttural shout the curative session finished.
The power of spell
The most of the condemnable actions came from feminine shamanes. Protected in their power of xóon, two cruel women governed in the past. The moon (Kree) had deceived the men let them think that their power of witchcraft had a divine and immutable character. Otherwise, Taita also protected by its power of xóon, prevented them to leave hunting (to the Selk·nam people) condemning them to famine.
The magic under observation
The Selk´nam Shamán took care to take the pain of its patient in a system of thought compatible to the patient. The organic pain was considered irrational and had to be taken to a universe with sense.
"The cure consisted of transform an affective situation into a thought and make acceptable the pains that the body is refused to tolerate for the spirit. The mythology of shamán does not correspond to an objective reality: the disease believes in that reality, and it is member of a society that also believes it. The protective and the malignant spirits, the supernatural monsters and the magical animals join a coherent system that founds the indigenous conception of the universe. The patient accepts it, she never has put it in doubt. The incoherent and arbitrary pain is not accepted and constitute a strange element to their system that thanks to the myth of the shamán is relocated in a set where everything has sustentation ". (Levi-Strauss, 1973).
Source:The medicine among the Selk´nam people in Tierra del Fuego, by Alfredo Prieto, Archeologist of the Instituto de la Patagonia.